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Bishop Athanasius Schneider speaking at HLI headquarters

HUNGARY, April 22, 2016 (LifeSiteNews)—The Catholic Church is facing widespread internal confusion about doctrine and morals and God can use the laity to preserve the Church’s integrity, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary bishop of the diocese of Maria Santissima in Astana, Kazakhstan, said in a new interview conducted in March.

Schneider spoke of problems with episcopal conferences’ focus on “earthly” rather than “eternal” matters, lamented the discordant voices of bishops on topics of sexual morality, and blasted Cardinal Kasper’s notion of a disconnect between doctrine and pastoral practice.  Schneider also sharply criticized Kasper for his “abuse [of] the concept of mercy.”

In the wide-ranging interview with Hungarian Dániel Fülep, Schneider discussed the recent Synods on the Family, various theological topics including inter-religious dialogue and the liturgy, and various facets of the “crisis” facing the Church.

“The group of Cardinal Kasper and those clerics who support his theory, misinterpret and abuse the concept of mercy, introducing the possibility that God forgives even when we do not have the firm intention to repent and avoid the sin in the future,” said Schneider, who has yet to comment on Pope Francis’s post-synodal exhortation Amoris Laetitia.  “Ultimately, this means a complete destruction of the true concept of divine mercy. Such a theory says: you can continue to sin, God is merciful. This is a lie and in a way also a spiritual crime because you are pushing the sinners to continue to sin, and to be consequently lost and condemned for all eternity.”

During the last two Synods on the Family, Kasper led the charge for an official change in the Church’s approach to those in what it considers objectively sinful situations.  He recently said that it “seems clear” that Amoris Laetitia opens the door for such changes in certain circumstances.

Paragraphs in the Ordinary Synod’s Final Report contained “an objectively grave omission” by not stating that cohabitation outside a valid marriage is sinful, Schneider said.

“The final report says indirectly that for the divorced and remarried the culpability of cohabitation could be reduced or even not imputed because of some circumstances or the passions they suffer,” he said.

Schneider continued:

However, the application of the implied principle to cohabitation outside marriage is completely incorrect. Those who cohabit have the intention to commit the sin continuously, so it is not an instantaneous immoral act. They should have the intention to avoid sexual acts outside marriage. And thus such an imputability of the sin of cohabitation could be applied to the cohabiting young unmarried, too. Admitting such a theory, these bishops annul the sixth commandment of God. And if this principle is accepted, none of the sins against the sixth commandment will be considered a sin anymore. This is in some way the abolition of the sixth commandment.

“When this Final Report fails to affirm clearly the immorality of cohabitation of divorced people, when it fails to state clearly the condition established by God for the worthy reception of Holy Communion,” Schneider said, “others will use this failure to proclaim a lie, so their voice will be against the truth, just like a false voice in music is against the truth of the symphony.”

Progressive German prelates influenced the Synod’s Final Report, and pro-family leaders expressed concern that some of the report’s approaches were incongruent with Catholic moral teaching.

In the wake of Amoris Laetitia, numerous clerics, including three German bishops, have claimed that an ambiguously-worded footnote allows Holy Communion for the divorced and remarried in certain cases.

The current crisis in the Church, which Schneider has previously said is one of the four worst crises the Church has ever faced, is largely due to “the substitution of the [Church’s] main task with secondary ones,” he said.  Bishops’ conferences are too focused on worldly concerns rather than spiritual concerns, he said. 

According to Schneider:

We have observed for many years that many of the official episcopal conferences predominantly deal with temporal and earthly rather than supernatural and eternal matters although the latter should be considered the most important in the life of the Church. To save souls and to lead them to Heaven: this is the reason why Christ came to save us and founded the Church. Therefore the Church has to lead people to Heaven and transmit them divine truths, supernatural graces and the life of God…Dealing with temporal affairs is up to the government…Of course, based on her social doctrine, the Church can advise the government so that social life will be more adopted to the natural law. But this is not the main task of the Church. It is a secondary task.

The history of the Church has been full of crises, Schneider said, and God likes to use the “simple and humble ones” to demonstrate the Church’s enduring strength.

He said:

In the history of the Church there have always been times of a profound crisis of the faith and morals. The deepest and most dangerous crisis was undoubtedly the Arian crisis in the 4th century. It was a mortal attack against the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. In those times it was practically the simple faithful that saved the Catholic faith. In analysing that crisis, Blessed John Henry Newman said that it was the “ecclesia docta” (that means the faithful who receive instruction from the clergy) rather than the “ecclesia docens” (that means the holders of the ecclesiastical Magisterium) who saved the integrity of the Catholic faith in the 4th century. In times of profound crisis the Divine Providence likes to use the simple and humble ones to demonstrate the indestructibility of His Church.

Schneider has spoken before about the necessity of the laity proclaiming the truth even if they face opposition from “semi-heretical” clergy who seek to muddy or even attempt to change Christ’s teachings. 

Schneider also offered his thoughts on the connections between liturgical expressions of faith and their influence on Catholics’ daily lives and the sacredness of the Eucharist. 

Schneider’s words certainly leave the reader wondering what the orthodox bishop will have to say about Amoris Laetitia and progressive interpretations of the document.

Schneider’s full remarks can be read here.