Bishop Schneider: ‘The Pope cannot be silent as he watches the wolves devour the flock’

Bishop Athanasius Schneider speaks out against the German bishops’ ‘synodal path.’
Mon Feb 3, 2020 - 2:47 pm EST
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ROME, February 3, 2020 (LifeSiteNews) — Pope Francis has the duty to prevent bishops in Germany from leading clergy and faithful down the “synodal path” over the precipice of heresy, Bishop Athanasius Schneider has said. 

In a new statement published today on the German-language outlet (see official English text below), the auxiliary of Astana, Kazakhstan, argued that the “synodal path” is “an attempt” to officially sanction the “heretical doctrine and practices” that have been corrupting the Church in Germany for decades.

“The decisive problem in this tragic event,” he said, “is the fact that Pope Francis, by his silence, seems to tolerate those German bishops — first and foremost Cardinal Reinhard Marx [president of the German bishops’ conference] — who openly profess heretical doctrines and practices.”  

Bishop Schneider, himself of German ethnicity, acknowledged that Pope Francis’ June 2019 “Letter to the Pilgrim People of God in Germany” was a “good” first step. But he argued that “it was not concrete enough” and “failed to set limits” to ensure that the “synodal path” is truly Catholic.

He also insisted that, as “supreme teacher” and “protector” of the Catholic Faith, Pope Francis “has the grave duty to protect the ‘little ones,’ i.e. the simple faithful and those priests and bishops in Germany who have been put on the periphery and whose voice has been stifled” by worldly prelates who are charged instead with protecting Christ’s flock. 

“The Pope cannot passively stand by or be silent as he watches the ‘wolves’ devour the flock or the ‘arsonists’ set fire to the house,” he said.

Bishop Schneider, who last year obtained a clarification (albeit a private one) from Pope Francis about the controversial Abu Dhabi document, said he believes the Pope ought to “intervene and demand that participants in the ‘synodal path’ formally profess those truths and universal sacramental practices of the Church” that are currently being called into question. 

The German “synodal path” officially opened with a January 30 to February 1 assembly in Frankfurt, Germany. The goal of the two-year synodal process is to tackle “key issues” arising from the clerical sex abuse crisis. 

The “synodal path” aims at passing resolutions in four areas pertaining to universal Church teaching and governance: “Power and the Separation of Powers in the Church”; “Priestly Life Today”; “Women in Ministries and Offices of the Church”; and “Living in Successful Relationships — Living Love in Sexuality and Partnership.” 

In a February 2 interview with, German Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki said his worst concerns about the “synodal path” have already come true. The Archbishop of Cologne told German media that  “many arguments put forward at the first synodal assembly are incompatible with the faith and teaching of the universal Church.”

Recalling the fourth-century Arian controversy as a historical precedent to the current crisis, Bishop Schneider concluded his statement by encouraging clergy and faithful to persevere in remembering the divine origin and strength of the Church.

“The Church,” he said, “cannot be overcome even by a heretical and schismatic ‘synodal path’ — not even if this ‘path’ were to have the tacit approval of the Pope.” 

Here below is the official English translation of Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s statement:

The entire Catholic Church and the Catholic faith are stronger than German’s “Synodal Path” 

The so-called “synodal path” (Synodaler Weg) is ultimately an attempt to give official approval to truly heretical doctrines, with their correspondent sacramental and pastoral practices. These doctrines and practices have already been corrupting the life of the Catholic Church in Germany for decades. 

For the time being, therefore, the present case of the “synodal path” is one of heresy rather than of schism. Heresy, as defined by the Code of Canon Law, is “the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith.” Schism, on the other hand, is “the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him” (can. 751). In the case of the German bishops, they are formally still submitted to the Roman Pontiff. Moreover, it must also be said that not all of the German bishops support the heretical content of the “synodal path.” There is a group of German bishops (even though few in number) who will not accept doctrines and practices that are clearly heretical. 

The decisive problem in this tragic event is the fact that Pope Francis, by his silence, seems to tolerate those German bishops — first and foremost Cardinal Reinhard Marx — who openly profess heretical doctrines and practices, e.g. the blessing of homosexual unions, the admittance to Holy Communion of people living in adultery, and the advocating of the sacramental ordination of women. The letter Pope Francis wrote to the German Catholic Church in view of the “synodal path” was good, but it was not concrete enough, and it failed to set limits in order to guarantee that the “synodal path” would have a truly Catholic character, i.e., that it would correspond to what was believed always, everywhere and by all Catholics. 

In fulfilling his first task as the supreme teacher of the Catholic Faith, the supreme protector of the integrity of the Catholic Faith, and the visible center of unity, Pope Francis ought necessarily to intervene and demand that the participants in the “synodal path” formally profess those truths and universal sacramental practices of the Church, which they are calling into question through the strategic and ideological program of the “synodal path.” 

The Pope has the grave duty to protect the “little ones,” i.e. the simple faithful and those priests and bishops in Germany who have been put on the periphery and whose voice has been stifled by the powerful “nomenklatura” of a new unbelieving and Gnostic caste of so-called “scientific” theologians, by ecclesiastical apparatchiks and by those bishops who have adapted themselves to the ideological dictatorship of the mass media and politics. The Pope cannot passively stand by or be silent as he watches the “wolves” devour the flock or the “arsonists” set fire to the house. 

The “synodal path” that is now underway has already openly shown that there is a division between those who still have the Catholic and apostolic faith and those who reject or question some of its essential contents. It is realistic to imagine a situation in which priests and bishops in other countries will not be able to maintain communion with those German bishops who advocate heretical teachings. The present confusion could even increase if these heretical bishops were still to be recognized formally by the Pope. 

Yet there is precedent for such a situation (albeit rare) in Church history. One of the most notable precedents was the Arian crisis in the fourth century, when the entire body of the Catholic episcopate was divided essentially into three groups: (1)the Catholic and orthodox bishops who professed unambiguously the full Catholic Faith in the divinity of Jesus Christ; they were the minority with the Pope; (2)the second group opted for ambiguous formulations; they were the majority and usually conformed themselves, for the sake of political correctness, to the dominant position of the ruling political power; (3)the third group was comprised of radical and unbelieving Arians; they were also a minority. The criteria and guarantee for being truly Catholic was the communion with the Apostolic See in Rome and with the unchanging and constant doctrinal Tradition. 

If the “synodal path” in Germany approves female sacramental ordination, the legitimacy of homosexual acts, the blessing of homosexual couples, the legitimacy of heterosexual acts outside a valid marriage, there will surely be Catholic bishops as well as many priests and lay faithful, even in Germany, who will not accept this and who could therefore not be in full communion with those bishops who profess such heresies. 

Were the Pope not to correct the heretical decisions of the “synodal path,” he would thereby consent to them by his silence. This would lead to the bizarre situation of a Pope at the same time approving clearly heretic bishops as well as bishops who still hold and safeguard the true Catholic faith. The Church already experienced this kind of situation in the fourth century (although only for a brief time), when Pope Liberius excommunicated St. Athanasius, the champion of the Catholic Faith, and at the same time established communion with the semi-heretical bishops of the East, i.e. the semi-Arians. I hope that God will preserve us from such a disastrous situation.

But if that were to happen — and the Pope were not to intervene with an unambiguous profession of the Catholic Faith and the perennial sacramental practice of the Church — the Catholic Church would  in appearance and practice be similar to the Anglican Communion or to a Protestant Free Church, i.e. a religious system fashioned like “McDonald’s” or an a la carte restaurant. 

Even if this should happen (and God forbid that it does), it will last only briefly, since the Catholic Church is divine and her nature is the clarity, immutability and firmness of the Faith. Indeed, she is built by Christ Himself upon the rock which cannot be overcome even by a heretical and schismatic “synodal path” — not even if this “path” were to have the tacit approval of the Pope. The entire Catholic Church is stronger than this, and the Catholic Faith is always victorious, for Mary, the Mother of the Church, has vanquished all heresies throughout the entire world.

February 2, 2020
+ Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana

  athanasius schneider, german bishops, german bishops conference, pope francis, synodal path

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