(LifeSiteNews) – Editor’s note: The following is the transcript of an interview Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan gave to LifeSite’s John-Henry Westen. The video of the interview is found below. This is the first of three parts of His Excellency’s interview.
John-Henry Westen: Bishop Schneider, it is so good to be with you, Excellency, and thank you for visiting with our studio there in Front Royal. It’s so beautiful to be with you. Now I have a question for you: you just wrote a book on the on the Holy Mass. What’s the name of your book?
Bishop Schneider: The Catholic Mass. And a subtitle is Steps to Restore the Central City of God in the Liturgy.
JHW: It’s a beautiful book and a beautiful cover. I witnessed your conversation about a little bit of it on Raymond Arroyo’s program on EWTN. I had a question, and it’s quite a difficult question with regard to the liturgy. Right now, we know it’s being restricted with Traditionis custodes and how that’s playing out. We’ve already seen various bishops apply to the Vatican for permission to say the traditional Mass, who had that permission granted, but only in very limited parishes, and then a permission only lasting two years.
So very much giving the sense that even that permission will be removed and it might not be renewed. So it very much seems like the desire to fully stop the traditional Mass is very much there. It’s very evident. So in these situations where now many, many, many traditional faithful who don’t have access to the Fraternity [of St Peter], which right now is still able to to offer the traditional Mass. But I think the vast majority of people who experience the Latin Mass were able to do so at their parishes, their normal parishes in diocesan communities, where they’re now being massively restricted. So for a good portion of Catholics who love the traditional Mass, it’s no longer available.
Status of the Society of St. Pius X
JHW: In these situations, at least in the past – I remember in the 1980’s when when when people were looking for traditional Masses and couldn’t get to them – the Vatican gave permission to attend the Mass of the Society of Pius X, even though there was consternation with it: they were not regularized with Rome. But certain bishops, certain cardinals even have suggested that such a thing is not possible, that the society is now in schism, and therefore any participation in the Mass with the society is a schismatic act, so that even if you have no access to the traditional Mass at all, you must forego such a thing because you’re participating in schism. I ask you this question because. And please correct me if I’m wrong, but I think you were the official visitor to the SSPX, to the Society of Pius the X for the Vatican, and so I think your voice on this matter might be quite important.
Bp. Schneider: I think that the Vatican will not succeed to forbid totally the traditional Latin Mass. Even if they will try to do this, they will not succeed. They will cause a wide, large counter-reaction because there will be the good Catholics, who will go underground and they [the Vatican] will not stop them. They cannot, because there is already two generations at least who have grown up in this traditional Latin Mass, and they were shaped [by it in] all their spiritual life. They will not abandon this. Their faith is so strong and this prohibition will be probably a dead letter and it will not last long. This is my perception.
The second question about the Society of Pius X, it’s truly not schismatic, in no way. This is simply not true [to say the SSPX is schismatic] or if someone is saying this, it’s a very narrow, legalistic view of the reality of the Church in which we are now. Such a view is putting the letter of the Canon Law above the primary importance of the fullness of the Catholic faith and of the traditional liturgy. This is above a pure letter of a canon in the Code of Canon Law. And the concept of schism is also not clarified. Not yet. We have to clarify this concept also, because one can have a very narrow view of schism and a broader view, and all these terms are subordinated to the greatest law in the Code of Canon Law, which is the salvation of souls, [which] is the greatest law.
And so schism is only traditionally – in the first centuries in the first millennium – when there was a concrete intent of a bishop of a priest to build up his own parallel church, not to name any more the pope, refusing any connection with the Pope. It’s not only the question of subordination, it is the question of the will to have to desire to have a canonical community with the Pope. And this is expressed firstly in the holy Mass when a priest and a bishop are naming the pope, the current pope, in the canon of the in the Eucharist, because the Holy Eucharist is the greatest expression of the unity in the Church.
Also [a sign of unity] is naming the local bishop, and the Society of St. Pius X is doing this always and even publicly praying and chanting for Pope Francis. So those people who are saying that they are schismatic, I would wish for them to visit at least the seminaries of the Society of St. Pius X. I would wish that they visit the big parishes, the great parishes and the laypeople, the families, the youth of the Society of Pius X. And they will be moved by their true, true attentive Catholic faith and by their respect for Pope Francis, for the local bishop. You will be moved by this, and after you have visited them – in my case I was one of the visitors six years ago sent by the Holy See – you will not be able to say they are schismatics.
And then another aspect we have to to take into account is that Pope Francis granted ordinary faculties of Confession – habitual, ordinary, universal faculties of Confession – to the priests of the Society of Pius X. How the Roman pontiff could grant such faculties, which is a jurisdictional faculty, to a schismatic priest, is a contradiction against Canon Law. And so in this case, the Pope is de facto interpreting the canon law by granting them the ordinary faculties of holy Confession.
By granting them the possibility to assist canonically with marriages, with the approval of the local parish or the ordinary, by these acts of the Roman pontiff, it’s declaring de facto, implicitly, they are not schismatic, but they could not be schismatic.
I repeat, by their own intentions and facts, they are not schismatics, because the situation of the crisis of the Church is so extraordinary. It is such an emergency situation, that the temporary unregularized situation of the Society, of St. Pius X is justified temporarily. And they all desire so much, and Archbishop Lefebvre was the first, they desire deeply to be fully recognized by the Holy See. This was their only desire and this desire continues and because of the presence of this desire to be fully under the control of the Holy See, which Archbishop Lefebvre always had – and I assume also the superiors of the Society today.
But at the same time, because of the Holy See’s [being] occupied by “hostile takeover,” as said Cardinal Müller recently, the Holy See is under a hostile takeover by those who like to dilute the Catholic faith and the Catholic liturgy: because of this temporary situation that the Holy See is occupied for decades, more of the less by powers who like to adapt the Catholic faith to the Protestants, and even worse, to the unbelieving world, this is our situation. And the situation that the Society of St. Pius X is not able currently, temporarily, to be fully under the control of and in submission to the Holy See is justified and is in no way schismatic.
Communion in the hand
JHW: It’s now also been some time since we spoke of Communion in the hand which was forced by most of the Church, most of the bishops, even on the traditional Mass priests, refusing [such permission] either altogether or permitting it only in the hand. Some dioceses still have that in place right now. But you spoke of the abuse that that is, in and of itself because of the trampling of our Lord under people’s feet, as happens when the particles of the host, the Communion host is, you know, consumed from your hand and then the particles go onto the floor. In addition to that, we also had the Church closures for so long, but I’ve heard many priests say “I won’t do that again.” What is your take now? Having gone through and lived through this and watched so many of your brother priests suffer this way, having seen your brother bishops mandate this kind of thing, what’s your take on this situation and where we are now in the Church, on both Communion in the hand and church closures.
Bp. Schneider: First, Communion in hand is one of the grievous phenomenons and evils within the Church. I would say the most grievous because we are trampling our Lord under foot in our churches that the Lord, in His Majesty, hidden in this tiny, small fragment of the host or a particular part of the host, is trampled. And this is so grievous and evil, we cannot simply continue.
We must as soon as possible stop this, uncompromisingly stop. Enough! Enough! We cannot continue to trample our Lord under foot and to treat Him like a cake and so on. So this is the first.
The lockdowns and the closing of churches and so on was even made by bishops where the government did not require it. It was a demonstration, a lamentable demonstration, of the state of faith of these bishops. And in this way also of the Holy See, that today preferred the temporal to the eternal. They considered more important the short temporal life, to the salvation of souls. And it was in some way a logical consequence of the last decades since the Council, where the Church leadership turned one sided, to the temporal affairs, to the to the temporal life, to the detriment of the eternal life, of the supernatural life. And this was simply a logical consequence – the lockdowns or the closing of the churches.
I hope that those priests who collaborated in closing the churches will in future learn from this and gain more courage not to do this in the future, because they have to respond this before the eternal judge Jesus Christ. He will show them all those closed holy Masses, all those closed sources of graces which these priests and bishops closed to the faithful who had a famine for the sacraments, for the eternal life. And so I think, I hope, that they will not repeat this.
And also remember that in the times of epidemics and the plague, let us say, the Church, the bishops on the contrary increased holy Mass. They were creative. Saint Charles Borromeo, in the time of the plague in Milan, ordered that almost in every corner of the city in public and open air, Mass was to be celebrated that people could assist from their windows, to participate in the sacrifice of Christ. And this was an example. And he himself went, at the risk of his life, to administer the sacraments to the people dying of the plague.
But the COVID epidemic was not a plague, because we have clearly to distinguish these. And so it is basically a question of faith. If this was a question of what is the priority in the Church, and the COVID lockdown situation demonstrate it openly to the entire world that the majority of the leadership in the Church preferred the short temporal material life to the eternity. We have to return to the primacy of Christ and to the primacy of eternity.