Bishop Schneider analyzes Pope’s Amazon text: ‘a glimmer of hope’ despite deficiencies
ROME, February 19, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — In a new in-depth analysis of the apostolic exhortation Querida Amazonia, Bishop Athanasius Schneider has praised what he views as Pope Francis’ decision not to weaken priestly celibacy or open the door to a female “diaconate.” But he has also criticized the “lamentable doctrinal ambiguities and errors” that he says the document contains.
The auxiliary bishop of St. Mary in Astana, Kazakhstan, maintains that Querida Amazonia’s stance on priestly celibacy and female “deacons” represents “a glimmer of hope amid the ongoing confusion,” despite the document’s “theological limitations and errors.”
Bishop Schneider begins his analysis (see full text below) by describing the “spiritual earthquake” that Querida Amazonia caused among the “anti-Christian mainstream media” and “powerful networks” of prelates and lay bureaucrats (particularly in the German-speaking world) who were banking on real change in the Church.
He asserts that the reactions from these “secularized and protestantizing networks” reveals not only their confidence that priestly celibacy would be abolished, and female “ordination” approved, but also that they were using the Amazon people “as a means to ruthlessly achieve their political ecclesiastical goals.”
Likening such reactions to the tumult surrounding Paul VI’s promulgation of the 1968 encyclical Humanae vitae, Bishop Schneider said he believes that Pope Francis’ “stance regarding the law of priestly celibacy and female ordination” ought to come “as a relief to all true Catholics.”
“The rock of Peter, which over the course of the current pontificate has been almost continuously enshrouded in mist, has become at least for a time a rock in the surf, resisting the pressure of the crashing waves, and has been illumined by a ray of the divine promise of Christ,” he writes.
Bishop Schneider says he believes this ray would become a “radiant light” were Pope Francis to proclaim ex cathedra that “the Sacrament of Holy Orders, in its three grades of diaconate, presbyterate and episcopate, is by divine institution reserved to the male sex.”
In his analysis of the apostolic exhortation, the bishop maintains that one must “in fairness” also highlight that “Querida Amazonia as a whole represents an improvement compared to the Final Document of the Amazon Synod,” and he cites several examples.
But Bishop Schneider makes clear that “in noting the improvements made in Querida Amazonia, one cannot be silent about the lamentable doctrinal ambiguities and errors it contains, as well as its dangerous ideological tendencies.”
He specifically identifies as “highly problematic” Querida Amazonia’s “implicit endorsement of a pantheistic and pagan spirituality,” its assertion that Christians may “take up an indigenous symbol in some way, without necessarily considering it as idolatry” (n. 79), and its designation of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the “mother of all creatures” (n. 111).
He also identifies, as one of the document’s “main erroneous tendencies,” the “promotion of naturalism,” and what he calls “slight echoes of pantheism and a hidden Pelagianism.”
“Such tendencies may be detected in the excessive emphasis and value [Querida Amazonia] places on care for natural, earthly and temporal realities” and “weaken considerably” the Church’s mandate to preach repentance for the forgiveness of sins to all nations (cf. Lk 24:47).
Bishop Schneider observes: “Jesus Christ did not say: ‘God gave his only Son, that this planet and its many parts like the Amazon biome should not perish but have abundant natural life.’ Nor did Jesus say: ‘Go and proclaim that the kingdom of Mother Earth is close at hand.’”
“The material creation suffers precisely because of the lack of the supernatural life of Christ’s grace in the souls of men,” he insists.
Calling on the “little ones” in the Church to pray that the “glimmer of hope” offered in Querida Amazonia’s silence on married priests may “develop into a radiant light,” Bishop Schneider recalls the Lord’s words to his Vicar on Earth, through the fourteenth century mystic, St. Bridget of Sweden: “Start to reform the church that I purchased with my own blood in order that it may be reformed and led back spiritually to its pristine state of holiness” (Book of Revelations).
“The current Roman Curia is passing through a great crisis because of a new excessive involvement in temporal and earthly affairs, to such an extent that the Holy See has become … a kind of daughter-house of the United Nations,” Bishop Schneider writes. “The Lord will surely intervene and purify Rome and the papacy, as he did so many times in the past.”
Here below is the full text of Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s commentary on Querida Amazonia.
Querida Amazonia: a glimmer of hope amid the ongoing confusion
Bishop Athanasius Schneider
The majority of observers would agree that the publication of the Apostolic Exhortation Querida Amazonia has caused a spiritual earthquake. In his Apostolic Exhortation, Pope Francis did not open the door to the ordination of married men, the so-called viri probati. The Pope also rejected the proposal that women be sacramentally ordained to the permanent diaconate, which had been approved by a majority vote at the Pan-Amazon Synod. Both the anti-Christian mainstream media and the powerful network of cardinals, bishops, theologians and well-paid lay bureaucrats, whose minds have been conformed to the unbelieving and relativistic spirit of the world, were initially shocked and speechless — and reacted with open or repressed frustration.
On the daily news program “Tagesthemen,” on February 13, 2020, the German public-service broadcaster “ARD” let the official commentator criticize Pope Francis with these words: “Pope Francis has surprised us with his decision to interpret celibacy strictly. The world was apparently ready and on his side. It is no longer a secret that the Argentinian personally stands for a relaxation of the Catholic law of continence for the clergy. For many believers, it would have been a logical step to carefully relax the law of celibacy in a first step, as suggested by the Amazon Synod. Even worse than his ‘no’ to relaxing celibacy is the decision of the head of the Church on the role of women. Women continue to be largely denied the opportunity to pursue a career in the Church.”
The President of the Central Committee of German Catholics (Zentralkommittee der Deutschen Katholiken) stated: “Unfortunately, Pope Francis has not summoned the courage to implement real reforms on the issues of the ordination of married men and the liturgical ministries of women that have been discussed for 50 years.” A surprisingly vehement reaction against Pope Francis also came from Fr. Paulo Suess, a German theologian who lives in Brazil and who was a prominent participant in the Amazon Synod. He said that, in parts of the exhortation, Pope Francis’ vision of the Church in the Amazon represents a nightmare.
It is clear from these reactions that all these groups and individuals were sure of victory and confidently expected the realization of their long-desired goal, i.e. the abolition of priestly celibacy and the approval of female ordination. In a February 13 editorial titled “Habemus Coelibatum!!!” [We Have Celibacy!!!] the German Blog “Im Beiboot Petri” made this remarkable observation: “What a day. Journalists in the Western world were besieging the Vatican since the early morning hours in order to be the first to report the pending sensation: ‘Finally the last bastion has been razed.’ This was the logical result, because the ‘majority’ in October had decided it. Now, nothing could go wrong, because if the majority decides, neither God nor the Pope can dispute it. The leftist militant press, also known under the pseudonym MainStreamMedia, already had finished articles in their computers so that once the official announcement had been made, they could simply press the ‘send button’ and be the first to bring the sensational news to the world. But it turned out differently.”
The apostolic norm of priestly celibacy and the divinely revealed truth of sacramental ordination reserved to the male sex constituted the last bastion of Roman Catholicism, and the secularized and protestantizing networks in the Church have not yet succeeded in razing it. They succeeded in seriously damaging the bastion of the perennial law of prayer, the lex orandi, through a universal implementation of protestantizing elements in the form and content of liturgical celebrations. They succeeded, in practice, in introducing divorce through the papal approval of local norms on the admittance of Catholics who are living in adulterous unions to Holy Communion. They succeeded in legitimizing homosexual activity within the Church by the fact that cardinals and bishops have gone unpunished in openly supporting “Gay Pride” events and activists of so-called “LGBT” groups. They succeeded in turning the leadership of the Catholic Church, and concretely the Pope, away from the primacy of the supernatural and eternal in the Church’s mission, so as to give equal significance to the mission of caring for material and temporal realities, such as climate, the environment, or the Amazon biome, equating thereby the natural with the supernatural, the kingdom of heaven with the kingdom of earth, the profane with the sacred — and thereby sacralizing the natural and desacralizing the supernatural. They succeeded in relativizing the truth of the Catholic Faith as the only true religion willed by God, through a relativistic theory and practice of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue. They succeeded in abolishing the First Commandment of the Decalogue through the historically unprecedented act of a cultic veneration in the Vatican (the heart of the Catholicism) of a Pachamama statue, a chief symbol of the indigenous pagan religion of the native peoples of South America.
In light of such targeted and well-orchestrated attacks on the Deposit of Faith and all that is genuinely Catholic, Pope Francis’s refusal to weaken or change the law of priestly celibacy and to approve a sacramental female diaconal ordination is of historic significance and deserves recognition and gratitude from all true sons and daughters of the Church. The Pope’s stance frustrated many influential participants in the Pan-Amazon Synod. Their annoyance reveals the fact that they had no serious interest in the reality of the Amazonian people and their authentic evangelization but used the Amazon people as a means to ruthlessly achieve their political ecclesiastical goals. In doing so, they have created a spectacle of cynical clericalism. The Viennese theologian Jan-Heiner Tück called Pope Francis’s stance a “provocative refusal.” Giving free reign to his frustration, Tück let the cat out of the bag in saying: “Why the considerable effort of a four-week synod in Rome, if in the end everything stays the same?”
After the release of Querida Amazonia, Pope Francis shared with a group of U.S. bishops his frustration over the reaction to his Apostolic Exhortation. Bishop William A. Wack of Pensacola-Tallahassee reported the following words of Pope Francis: “He said some people say he is not courageous because he didn’t listen to the Spirit. ‘So, they’re not mad at the Spirit. They’re mad at me down here,’ he [Pope Francis] said. ‘For some people it was all about celibacy and not about the Amazon,’ he said.” Bishop Wack added: “You could see his [Pope Francis’s] consternation.”
In their frustration, the clergy and laity who received their posts thanks to the influence of a worldly minded ecclesiastical “nomenklatura” are now desperately engaging in damage control. In their wishful thinking they repeat, like a mantra, phrases such as “The last word has not yet been spoken,” “This discussion will continue,” and “by no means is this off the table.” Sowing further confusion, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn stated: “These decisions by the Amazon Synod can mature further; opened doors were not closed again.”
Others console themselves with the idea that the Final Document of the Pan-Amazon Synod is part of the ordinary papal magisterium. Yet representatives of the Holy See rejected this view. At the press conference where Querida Amazonia was presented, Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, made clear that Pope Francis speaks in the apostolic exhortation about “presentation” but not “approval” of the synod’s final document. Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said: “The apostolic exhortation [Querida Amazonia] is magisterium. The final document is not magisterium.”
With the publication of Querida Amazonia we have witnessed an event somewhat similar, in circumstances and reactions, to the publication of Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical Humanae vitae. Pope Francis’s stance regarding the law of priestly celibacy and female ordination comes as a relief to all true Catholics, clergy and lay faithful alike. The rock of Peter, which over the course of the current pontificate has been almost continuously enshrouded in mist, has become at least for a time a rock in the surf, resisting the pressure of the crashing waves, and has been illumined by a ray of the divine promise of Christ.
In sincerely thanking Pope Francis for resisting the pressure to relax the law of priestly celibacy and approve a female sacramental ordination, one must also in fairness highlight the fact that the text of Querida Amazonia as a whole represents an improvement compared to the Final Document of the Amazon Synod. To cite just a few examples: Querida Amazonia speaks of “interior conversion” (n. 56), whereas the Final Document has entire chapters grouped under the title “integral conversion” and “ecological conversion” that speak even of the “ecological conversion of the Church and the planet” (n. 61). The theme “common home” is extensively discussed in the Final Document, whereas it is mentioned only once in Querida Amazonia, in a quotation. The words “climate change” and “climatic” are absent in Querida Amazonia, whereas the Final Document uses them twice and even speaks of the “emission of carbon dioxide (CO2)” (n. 77). The word “ecology” is used 27 times in the Final Document and almost always in the expression “integral ecology,” whereas the expression “human ecology” is absent in the Final Document. Querida Amazonia, however, uses only once the expression “integral ecology” and speaks three times about “human ecology” (n. 41) in the sense proposed by Pope Benedict XVI.
The Final Document does not speak about the limitations of the culture and way of life of the original people, whereas Querida Amazonia speaks twice about these limitations, in a moral sense (see n. 22 and n. 36). Querida Amazonia warns against an enclosed “indigenism,” whereas the Final Document is silent on this topic. It is worthwhile to quote the following affirmation from Querida Amazonia: “Far be it from me to propose a completely enclosed, a-historic, static ‘indigenism’ that would reject any kind of blending (mestizaje). A culture can grow barren when it becomes inward-looking and tries to perpetuate obsolete ways of living by rejecting any exchange or debate with regard to the truth about man” (n. 37). The Final Document speaks only of “social transformation,” whereas Querida Amazonia speaks more of spiritual transformation and particularly about the need for the culture to be transformed by the work of the Holy Spirit: “The Holy Spirit enriches its culture with the transforming power of the Gospel” (n. 68). The Final Document avoids speaking about a necessary critical attitude towards diverse cultures, whereas Querida Amazonia makes this apt statement: “Cultural challenges invite the Church to maintain a watchful and critical attitude, while at the same time showing confident attention” (n. 67). In the Final Document the words “immanence” and moral “emptiness” are missing, whereas Querida Amazonia utters this realistic warning: “What unites us is what lets us remain in this world without being swallowed up by its immanence, its spiritual emptiness, its complacent selfishness, its consumerist and self-destructive individualism” (n. 108).
The words “right” and “rights” are used in the Final Document in a predominantly humanistic sense. The document speaks insistently and with an obviously ideological aim about the “fundamental right” to the celebration of and access to the Eucharist (n. 109). Querida Amazonia does not speak of the “right to the Eucharist”; instead, it speaks of the original people’s right to hear the Gospel (cf. n. 64), a theme about which the Final Document is silent. The Final Document avoids speaking about the danger of an ecclesiastical community becoming an NGO. Querida Amazonia, on the other hand, makes the following bold statement: “Without that impassioned proclamation, every ecclesial structure would become just another NGO and we would not follow the command given us by Christ: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15)” (n. 64).
The word “adoration” is absent in the Final Document whereas it is mentioned in Querida Amazonia. Instead of speaking of “inculturated theology” (Final Document), Querida Amazonia speaks about “inculturated spirituality.” The Final Document uses only twice the word “grace” and in an anthropocentric way, whereas Querida Amazonia speaks ten times of grace in a more theological sense, as one can see for example in the following formulations: “Christ is the source of all grace” (n. 87); in the sacraments “nature is elevated to become an instrument of grace” (n. 81); God’s presence by grace (footnote n. 105). The indispensable Biblical quotation of 1 Cor 9:16, on the missionary task of the Church, is absent in the Final Document, whereas Querida Amazonia speaks in clear terms about this task with the full quotation of 1 Cor 9:16: “As Christians, we cannot set aside the call to faith that we have received from the Gospel. In our desire to struggle side by side with everyone, we are not ashamed of Jesus Christ. Those who have encountered him, those who live as his friends and identify with his message, must inevitably speak of him and bring to others his offer of new life: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16)” (n. 62). The Final Document does not speak about the authentic sense of the Tradition of the Church, whereas Querida Amazonia speaks of Tradition as of the root of a constantly growing tree. Quoting the famous formulation of St. Vincent of Lerins, it states that “Christian doctrine is consolidated by years, enlarged by time, refined by age” (Commonitorium, 23, quoted in footnote 86).
Yet in noting the improvements made in Querida Amazonia, one cannot be silent about the lamentable doctrinal ambiguities and errors it contains, as well as its dangerous ideological tendencies. Highly problematic, for example, is Querida Amazonia’s implicit endorsement of a pantheistic and pagan spirituality, when it speaks of the material earth as a “sacred mystery” (n. 5); of entering into communion with nature: “we enter into communion with the forest” (n. 56); of the Amazon biome as a “theological locus” (n. 57). The affirmation that the Amazon river is “the hidden eternity” (n. 44) and that “only poetry, with its humble voice, will be able to save this world” (n. 46) comes close to pantheism and paganism. A Christian cannot subscribe to such ideas and expressions.
Jews and Christians were never allowed to “take up … in some way” pagan indigenous religious symbols. God forbade His chosen people to take up the indigenous symbol of the golden calf and Baal. When they set fire to the harbor of Jamnia (see 2 Macc 12:7-8), the soldiers of Judas Maccabee considered it possible “to take up” indigenous symbols “in some way” without necessarily considering it as idolatry, since they were only votive offerings in the temples (cf. 2 Macc 12:40). However, God condemned this “taking up of indigenous symbols in some way” and, as everyone plainly saw, for this cause these soldiers were slain. The entire community made acts of expiation for this sin: “All gave themselves to prayer, begging that the sin committed might be completely forgiven. After this Judas took a collection from them individually and sent it to Jerusalem to have a sacrifice for sin offered” (2 Macc 12:42-43).
The Apostles would never allow the taking up “in some way” of the indigenous symbols of Greco-Roman society, such as the statue of Artemis or Diana in Ephesus (see Acts 19:23ff). St. Paul “persuaded and turned away a considerable company of people, saying that gods made with hands are not gods” (Acts 19:26). The native people of Ephesus protested St. Paul’s uncompromising stand against taking up indigenous symbols and said: “There is danger that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship” (Acts 19:27). With St. Paul we should say: “What agreement has the temple of God with idols and with indigenous religious symbols?” (cf. 2 Cor 6:16). St. Vladimir did not take up the indigenous symbols used in his pagan religion, nor did St. Boniface in Germany. They thereby followed God’s command in Holy Scripture and the teaching of the Apostles. To be sure, none of the Apostles or holy missionaries could calmly stand by and readily accept the affirmation of Querida Amazonia: “It is possible to take up an indigenous symbol in some way, without necessarily considering it as idolatry” (n. 79).
Querida Amazonia’s designation of the Blessed Virgin Mary as the “mother of all creatures” (n. 111) is also highly problematic theologically. The Blessed and Immaculate Mother of God is not the mother of all creatures, but only of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of mankind, and she is therefore also the spiritual mother of all men redeemed by her divine Son. One finds the idea and expression “mother of the creation or creatures” in pagan religions, for instance, in the Pachamama-cult and in the New Age movement, as one can see in the following description: “Earth Mother, in ancient and modern nonliterate religions, is an eternally fruitful source of everything. She is simply the mother; there is nothing separate from her. All things come from her, return to her, and are her. The most archaic form of the ‘Earth Mother’ is an Earth Mother who produces everything, inexhaustibly, from herself” (Encyclopaedia Britannica). The Vedic hymns speak of the “Aditi,” the primal goddess of the Hindu pantheon, as the “mother of all creatures.” St. Anselm gives the right conception and terminology, saying: “God is the Father of the created world and Mary the mother of the re-created world. God is the Father by whom all things were given life, and Mary the mother of Him, through whom all things were given new life. For God begot the Son, through whom all things were made, and Mary gave birth to Him as the Savior of the world. Without God’s Son, nothing could exist; without Mary’s Son, nothing could be redeemed” (Oratio 52). Mary is the “Queen of heaven, the regina coeli” and the “Queen of creation,” but she is not the “mother of all creatures.”
One of the main erroneous tendencies in Querida Amazonia is its promotion of naturalism, and slight echoes of pantheism and a hidden Pelagianism. Such tendencies may be detected in the excessive emphasis and value it places on care for natural, earthly and temporal realities. Such reductionism confines the existence of creatures and mankind predominantly to the realm of the natural order. This naturalistic and neo-pelagian tendency is, in fact, the spiritual disease that has most characterized and damaged the life of the Church since the Second Vatican Council. Querida Amazonia is evidence of this tendency, although in a somewhat mitigated form compared with the Final Document of the Amazon Synod.
The excessive tendency to exalt and promote temporal and natural realities weakens considerably the Church’s mandate, given her by her divine Redeemer in the following clear teachings of the Holy Scripture: “Go and proclaim that the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand” (Mt 10:7); “In his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all nations” (Lk 24:47); ”Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Mt. 6:33); “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world” (John 8:23); “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables[.] … But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:2.4); “If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied” (1 Cor. 15:19); and “The present form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31). The primary and authentic meaning and preaching of the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ is being distorted and shifted towards an inner-worldly aim. The primary mission of Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of mankind, was not to take care of the material wellbeing of the planet or of the Amazon biome, but to save immortal souls for eternal life in heaven: “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). Jesus Christ did not say: “God gave his only Son, that this planet and its many parts like the Amazon biome should not perish but have abundant natural life.” Nor did Jesus say: “Go and proclaim that the kingdom of Mother Earth is close at hand.”
The material creation suffers precisely because of the lack of the supernatural life of Christ’s grace in the souls of men. The Word of God teaches us this: “The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?” (Rom. 8:19-24). The more the Church in our day weakens her primary, supernatural mission and activity, the more she also damages, in the eyes of God and eternity, the redemption and sanctification of the natural creation.
The current shift in the life of the Church (and regrettably even by the Holy See and the Pope) towards the promotion of the natural and the temporal, to the detriment of the supernatural and the eternal, can fittingly be summed up in the words of one of the greatest popes, St. Gregory the Great, who said that the dust of earthly pursuits blinds the Church’s eyes (terrena studia Ecclesiae oculos pulvis caecat): “While earthly pursuits occupy the pastor’s mind, dust blinds the Church’s eyes” (Regula pastoralis II, 7). By her excessive focus and occupation with earthly realities — even to the extent of interfering in scientific, technical and economic matters that do not belong to her competency, such as questions regarding climate or the flora and fauna of a concrete biome — the Church in our day is overstepping the limits of her own power and thereby committing the fault of a new kind of clericalism. Helpful in this regard is the following teaching of Pope Leo XIII: “The Almighty has given the charge of the human race to two powers, the ecclesiastical and the civil, the one being set over divine, and the other over human, things. Each in its kind is supreme, each has fixed limits within which it is contained, limits which are defined by the nature and special object of the province of each, so that there is, we may say, an orbit traced out within which the action of each is brought into play by its own native right” (Encyclical Immortale Dei, 13).
The Church’s current shift towards a hidden Pelagianism and naturalism causes considerable damage to the good and salvation of souls. Again, how timely are the following words of St. Gregory the Great: “The subjects are unable to apprehend the light of truth, because, while earthly pursuits occupy the pastor’s mind, dust, driven by the wind of temptation, blinds the Church’s eyes. … No annoyance of dust may darken the eye which is placed aloft for looking forward to the onward steps. … The ornament of the Church, i.e. the shepherds, should have been free to penetrate internal mysteries as it were in the secret places of the tabernacle, but they seek out the broadways of secular causes outside” (Regula pastoralis II, 7).
St. Irenaeus said that the glory of God is man fully alive. However, the true life of man is not natural but supernatural and consists in the vision of God. The truest man is Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God: “Gloria enim Dei vivens homo, vita autem hominis visio Dei” (Adversus haereses IV, 20). The following affirmation in Querida Amazonia, on the contrary, excessively stresses the value of material creatures: “Because of us, thousands of species will no longer give glory to God by their very existence, nor convey their message to us. We have no such right” (n. 54). This statement seems to ignore the harsh reality of the spiritual death of so many human souls, created in the image and likeness of God (see Gen. 1:27), who through their life in sin and ignorance do not give glory to God but rather offend Him. So many human beings offend God and do not give Him glory because of the sin of omission committed by the Church of our day, which relaxes the proclamation of divine Revelation by tolerating doctrinal ambiguities and heresies. As a consequence, many people do not know the uniqueness of Jesus Christ and His redeeming work; they also do not know God’s holy will and therefore no longer give glory to Him. The situation in which the Church in our day has left humanity and the world may aptly be summed up in the words of St. Paul: They “run aimlessly and box as one beating the air” (1 Cor. 9:26).
Interspersed with its many problematic, doubtful and ambiguous theological expressions, Querida Amazonia also contains valuable affirmations, such as the following regarding priests: “That is his great power, a power that can only be received in the sacrament of Holy Orders. For this reason, only the priest can say: ‘This is my body.’ There are other words too, that he alone can speak: ‘I absolve you from your sins.’ Because sacramental forgiveness is at the service of a worthy celebration of the Eucharist. These two sacraments lie at the heart of the priest’s exclusive identity” (n. 88); “The Lord chose to reveal his power and his love through two human faces: the face of his divine Son made man and the face of a creature, a woman, Mary” (n. 101); “We believe firmly in Jesus as the sole Redeemer of the world, we cultivate a deep devotion to his Mother” (n. 107); “We are united by the conviction that not everything ends with this life, but that we are called to the heavenly banquet” (n. 109). Pope Francis offers a supernatural and piously Catholic vision at the end of Querida Amazonia in praying: “Mother, bring your Son to birth in their hearts” (n. 111), “Mother, reign in the Amazon, together with your Son” (n. 111).
What the Church of our day and the authorities of the Holy See in Rome need is not a conversion to inner-worldly realities but to the supernatural realities of Christ’s grace and His redeeming work. In affirming that “this interior conversion will enable us to weep for the Amazon region and to join in its cry to the Lord” (n. 56), Querida Amazonia seems to misjudge and underestimate the urgent need for true conversion to God. The entire Church, and first and foremost the Pope, ought not to weep for the Amazon region, but for the spiritual death of so many immortal souls because of their rejection of divine Revelation and the divine will as it is revealed in His commandments and the natural law. The Pope, the bishops and the entire Church ought to weep because of the horrendous sins of apostasy, betrayal of Christ, blasphemies and sacrileges perpetrated by not a few Catholics and members of the clergy, even high clergy. In a special way, the Pope, bishops, and the entire Church must also weep over the unspeakable and horrendous genocide of innocent unborn children.
The most urgent conversion is not an ecological conversion, nor a conversion to weep for the Amazon biome. The most urgent conversion is conversion to God, to His reign, to His grace. The Pope and bishops are the first who must pray with tears: “Convert us, O Lord, to thee, and we shall be converted: renew our days, as of old (converte nos, Domine, ad Te, et convertemur, sicut a principio)” (Lam. 5:22). The Lord also says: “Turn to me, and I will turn to you (convertimini ad Me, et convertar ad vos)” (Zech. 1:3). How beautiful and consoling are the words of Psalm 84, which in the constant form of the Roman Rite, the most ancient use of the Roman Rite (usus antiquior), the priest and the faithful pray at the beginning of every Holy Mass: “Deus, Tu conversus vivificabis nos, et plebs Tua laetabitur in Te (Turn to us, O God, and bring us life and Your people will rejoice in You).”
Taking into account the dramatic spiritual attacks against the rock of Peter, the publication of Querida Amazonia — with Pope Francis’s stance in upholding the apostolic norm of priestly celibacy and the divine truth of sacramental ordination reserved to the male sex — is, in spite of its theological limitations and errors, a glimmer of hope amid the ongoing confusion.
Let all the little ones in the Church — who have been put on the periphery by the worldly ecclesiastical establishment — now pray that this glimmer will develop into a radiant light, and that Pope Francis will proclaim with the highest teaching authority, i.e. ex cathedra, the divinely revealed truth, which the universal Magisterium of the Church has always believed and practiced; namely, that the Sacrament of Holy Orders, in its three grades of diaconate, presbyterate and episcopate, is by divine institution reserved to the male sex.
Such a radiant light shining from the rock of Peter would increase still more were Pope Francis to publish a declaration regarding the Apostolic norm of priestly celibacy that corresponds to the stance taken by all Roman Pontiffs. For despite pressures to relax the law of celibacy, all of the Roman Pontiffs have always resisted and stood firm. Such a declaration could be similar to the one made by Pope Benedict XV, in which he said: “Being one of the chief ornaments of the Catholic clergy and the source of the highest virtues, the law of the celibacy must be retained inviolate in its purity; and the Holy See will never abolish or mitigate it” (Consistorial Allocution,16 December 1920).
May we all listen to these timely words of Our Lord, which He spoke to St. Brigid: “O Rome, if you knew your days, you would surely weep and not rejoice. Rome was in olden days like a tapestry dyed in beautiful colours and woven with noble threads. Its soil was dyed in red, that is, in the blood of martyrs, and woven, that is, mixed with the bones of the saints. Now her gates are abandoned, in that their defenders and guardians have turned to avarice. Her walls are thrown down and left unguarded, in that no one cares that souls are being lost. Rather, the clergy and the people, who are the walls of God, have scattered away to work for carnal advantage. The sacred vessels are sold with scorn, in that God’s sacraments are administered for worldly favours.” (Book of Revelations, 3, 27).
And these are the words of Christ directed to the Pope, His Vicar on earth: “Start to reform the church that I purchased with my own blood in order that it may be reformed and led back spiritually to its pristine state of holiness” (Book of Revelations, 4, 142).
Historically, the root cause of the particularly disastrous crises in the Roman Church has always been the turning away of the Pope and Roman Curia from the primacy of supernatural and spiritual tasks to temporal and earthly realities. The current Roman Curia is passing through a great crisis because of a new excessive involvement in temporal and earthly affairs, to such an extent that the Holy See has become — according to some commentators — a kind of daughter-house of the United Nations. In fact, the Holy See is being used as an effective tool for the implementation of a unique global naturalistic ideology through the “Global Pact on Education,” and of an equalization of all religions through the fascinating concept of “Human Fraternity.” The Lord will surely intervene and purify Rome and the papacy, as he did so many times in the past.
We can be hopeful that the prayers, sacrifices, and fidelity to the Catholic faith of the little ones in the Church will obtain the grace needed for Pope Francis to perform at least the two aforementioned indispensable acts of his Petrine ministry, for the greater honour of Christ’s priesthood and the sanctification of the sacred hierarchy, since every true reform of the Church must start with the head and then pervade the entire body.
“May the Lord preserve the Roman Pontiff and deliver him not up to the will of his enemies (Dominus conservet eum et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius).”
February 18, 2020
+ Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of Saint Mary in Astana