April 25, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Maria Santissima in Astana, Kazakhstan, published on April 24 the first substantive criticism of Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia (AL) by anyone in the hierarchy. Bishop Schneider laments the confusion and “contradictory interpretations even among the episcopate” generated by the Apostolic Exhortation, and calls on the hierarchy and the laity to beg the Pope for a clarification and official interpretation of AL in line with the constant teaching of the Church.
While he admits that AL in some parts “contains a great spiritual treasure for Christian life in matrimony and family,” Bishop Schneider warns that some parts of the exhortation “can realistically be utilized to legitimize the abuse” of giving communion to divorced and remarried Catholics. “Analyzing some of the affirmations of AL with an honest understanding, as they are in their own context, one finds that there is a difficulty in interpreting them according to the traditional doctrine of the Church,” says Bishop Schneider.
Decrying the ambiguity of AL, the Kazakhstan prelate makes a powerful comparison to medical treatment:
When one treats of the life or of the death of the body, no doctor would leave anything in ambiguity. A doctor cannot say to his patient: “You should decide on the application of this medicine according to your own conscience and respecting the laws of medicine”. Such comportment on the part of a doctor would, without a doubt, be considered irresponsible. And, yet, the life of an immortal soul is more important, since upon the health of the soul depends its destiny for all eternity.
While there are some statements in AL which suggest holding to the traditional practice, Bishop Schneider deems them inadequate. “Some generic allusions to the moral principles and doctrine of the Church are certainly not sufficient in a controversial matter which is of delicate and capital importance,” he says. “To permit, therefore, these persons to receive Holy Communion signifies fakery, hypocrisy and mendacity.”
Bishop Schneider lays out the consequences for the faith of admitting the seeming logical interpretations of AL which run contrary to the established tradition of the Church.
One would have to accept, with an honest understanding and on the basis of the principle of non-contradiction, the following logical conclusions:
The divine Sixth Commandment which prohibits every sexual act outside of a valid marriage, would no longer be universally valid if exceptions were to be admitted…
The divine word of Christ: “That man not separate what God has united » (Mt. 19:6), would, therefore no longer be always valid and for all married couples without exception.
It would be possible in a particular case to receive the Sacrament of Penance and Holy Communion with the intention of continuing to directly violate the Divine commandments: “Thou shalt not commit adultery » (Exodus 20:14) and « That man not separate what God has united” (Mt. 19:6; Genesis 2:24).
The prelate addresses these grave words of warning to all priests and bishops that would dare to administer Holy Communion to divorced and remarried Catholics using AL as an excuse:
Today, some priests and bishops, basing themselves on some affirmations of AL, are beginning to make the divorced and remarried understand that their condition is not equivalent to the state of an objective public sinner. These tranquilize them by saying that their sexual acts do not constitute a grave sin. Such a mindset does not correspond to the truth. These deprive the divorced and remarried of the possibility of a radical conversion to obedience to the Will of God, by leaving these souls in a deceit. Such a pastoral mindset is very easy, in the open market, it costs nothing…
In admitting, even in only exceptional cases, the ‘divorced and remarried’ to Holy Communion without asking them to cease to practice the acts contrary to the Sixth Commandment of God, by declaring presumptuously, moreover, that their acts are not grave sin, one chooses the easy road, one avoids the scandal of the Cross. Such a pastoral practice for the ‘divorced and remarried’ is an ephemeral and deceitful pastoral practice. To all who pedal such an easy path at a cheap price to the ‘divorced and remarried’, Jesus turns, even today, with these words: “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a scandal to me, because you think not according to God, but according to men! Then Jesus said to His disciples: “If any wills to follow Me, let him renounce himself, take up his cross and follow Me.” (Mt. 16:23-25)
Bishop Schneider compares the current growing confusion over divorced and remarried in the Church to the Arian heresy which brought almost the whole Church into error and even saw the Pope at the time excommunicate St. Athanasius, one of the only bishops who remained faithful to the Church’s true teaching. He notes that the current “great confusion” is all the more deadly since all sides of the debate say that the doctrine of the Church has not been modified. He adds, “there exists a real danger that this confusion expands on a vast scale” without the needed clarity from the Pope.
Bishop Schneider concludes that it is “insufficient to affirm that AL should be interpreted according to the doctrine and traditional practice of the Church” and notes the “duty” of “all the members of the Church, and in the first place, the Bishops,” to “point out respectfully” the confusion and “ask for an authentic interpretation.”
Voice of the Family's full English translation, approved by Bishop Schneider, is here.