Editor's note: See full translation of Bishop Schneider's interview below.
January 13, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) – Bishop Athanasius Schneider is warning the faithful against a “mentality of radical relativism” that has infiltrated the Catholic Church and is threatening the Christian affirmation of absolute and eternal truths.
In a recent interview with the Spanish Catholic blog Adelante la Fe and translated into English by LifeSiteNews, Bishop Schneider remarked on the practice of giving Holy Communion to those who are divorced and “remarried” outside the Church, calling it “truly a very dangerous phenomenon.”
Bishop Schneider covered a variety of topics in the interview, including the increasingly frequent use of the traditional Latin Mass, his hope for a formal recognition of the Society of St. Pius X, and the impossibility of women being ordained to the diaconate. A full English translation of the interview, originally conducted in Spanish and Portuguese, can be found below.
On Communion for the remarried, he told Adelante la Fe: “Yes, it is truly a very dangerous phenomenon, because a mentality of radical relativism is really being created inside the Church, which Pope Benedict already warned us about, speaking of the danger of a certain dictatorship of relativism. This relativism is going to grow.”
“‘Relativism’ means that there are no absolute or permanent norms,” Schneider said. “That is relativism, that we can do this and that, that they’re the same. But this is contrary to divine revelation. This is a lie. Relativism is a lie. It’s not true. There is only one truth.”
Schneider, the auxiliary bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan, called for a declaration of the Catholic Church’s Magisterium, or teaching authority, to correct the morally relativistic claim permitting Communion for those who commit adultery while living in false “remarriages.”
“God did not say, ‘Do not steal’ – the seventh commandment – ‘Do not steal, but also you can steal.’ ‘You cannot commit adultery, but you also can commit adultery,’ and so on. This is contrary to the divine truth, this relativism, and sadly it is being disseminated, and so I think that we must raise our voice and ask the Magisterium of the Church to really pronounce with clarity, to refute, eliminate, this relativism.”
The bishop reiterated his support for the “four cardinals who published their dubia,” referring to several clarifying questions submitted by Cardinals Walter Brandmüller, Raymond Burke, Carlo Caffarra, and Joachim Meisner, as well as the acts of “other priests and laity, who publish petitions, declarations, asking for clarity in doctrine.”
“So I think that this is very serious that they are disseminating this moral relativism, and this, at its root, is an attack against the commandments of God himself,” Bishop Schneider said. “It’s very dangerous because we must see the root of this, the root of all of this moral relativism. … The fundamental question is one of doing my will or doing the will of God. This is the root.”
Moral relativism, Schneider added, brings about an inversion of the prayer, “Thy will be done” found in the Our Father, instead substituting “May my will be done, and may your will no longer be done.”
What brings us “happiness, the greatest happiness,” is following the principle, “May your will be done, Lord, even if I have to suffer,” Schneider said.
In the wide-ranging interview, the bishop also expressed his concern that “gender ideology,” which denies the natural division of the sexes and claims that one’s gender is subjective, is harming the souls of children, and urged parents to protect their children from indoctrination by removing their children schools that teach it.
“‘Gender ideology” … is really a kind of obvious perversion, of a conception of reality that is in rebellion against reality,” Schneider said. “Gender ideology is an ultimate, extreme form of Marxism – we must say that, that it is Marxism in the most radical form possible. It’s a rebellion against reality, and fundamentally a rebellion against God.”
“In this context, I think that Catholic Christian parents, must, if it is possible, remove their children from these schools and, if possible, create their own associations for educational purposes. Thanks be to God, for example, in the United States it is very easy to do this in a certain way, and in France also.”
Schneider has been one of the most outstanding critics of those who wish to allow priests to give Holy Communion to those who are living in objective states of mortal sin, a policy that Pope Francis seems to have endorsed in his recent apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia.
Full Text of Interview
The full translation of Adelante la Fe’s interview with Bishop Athanasius Schneider, translated by Matthew Cullinan Hoffman of LifeSiteNews from the original Spanish and Portuguese, follows.
NOTE: Due to the extemporaneous style of speech, certain repetitions have been eliminated, and other miscellaneous edits were made for readability without altering the meaning, including the addition of bracketed words and phrases. Also, some words that were inaudible but whose meaning was clear in the context were added. Inaudible words or phrases that the translator could not discern are noted as such.
Adelante la Fe: Your Excellency, you were given the baptismal name of Anthony by your parents and later when you joined the Canons of the Holy Cross in Coimbra you took the name of “Athanasius.” What brought you to choose this name? Did you perhaps have a desire to follow the steps of St. Athanasius?
Bishop Athanasius Schneider: I didn’t choose this name of St. Athanasius and I didn’t think, didn’t even imagine, that I would have this name really, and that’s why it was a great surprise when my religious superiors gave me this name. So it wasn’t I who chose it. Later, however, I began to read the life of St. Athanasius, because I had received his name and I had to learn about my new patron. And later my superiors sent me to Rome to study Patristics, so out of necessity I read a lot about Athanasius and his doctrine, and especially about his magnificent work in defense of the faith that he carried out with much sacrifice during the Arian crisis.
Adelante la Fe: After reading your book Dominus Est in which you reflect on your memories of your childhood that was characterized by a communist regime in which priests were murdered, the faithful didn’t have churches, and you even talk about purely spiritual confession – [I ask] do you not believe that today we are living in a similar situation? The faithful, for example, don’t have priests to whom they can confess, and they sometimes carry out rites of dubious validity once a year.* This can’t be the only difference with what you experienced, but [is one of them the fact that] laymen are not conscious that they are under attack?
Bishop Schneider: Yes, exactly, there are differences that are historical and in a completely different context. Here in the west they haven’t persecuted priests, at least materially, and there are many priests and churches. We are living in a very different situation, but in a certain sense there are today in the western world, in the life of the Church, places where the priests, sadly, do not understand their sacerdotal mission as Catholic priests, but rather behave and speak more like Protestant ministers or invent their own things, and in this way they do not give spiritual sustenance to the faithful. And as a result there are families in the western world – America, Europe – that must travel long distances, even sometimes one hundred kilometers, to find a worthy mass, one that is Catholic, to receive safe teaching regarding the faith, and participate in a worthy liturgy, so that their children can really receive the Catholic faith as the Church has always taught it. This is the truth. In this sense there is, perhaps, a sort of analogy.
Adelante la Fe: In 1973, when you were a child, you went with your mother to Germany, and you had been warned previously about the abuses that you have said they were committing when they received the Lord. Today we can say that that situation has become a general one; the laity receive communion in the hand – here in Spain it is the normal way. The priests themselves remove the kneelers. How can we speak of the real presence of the Lord in the host if his own pastors are trivializing the sacraments?
Bishop Schneider: Yes. You, as the laity, must give an example of your profound faith, love, devotion, to the Most Holy Sacrament of our Lord, declaring that it is the Lord. Also by praying for the priests, that they again come to recognize the true Catholic faith, the true greatness of the Most Holy Eucharist. And I think that such an example [INAUDIBLE], and also by transmitting catechetical Catholic literature regarding the Eucharist, which, thanks be to God, we have today. Also, by carrying out a doctrinal apostolate regarding the Catholic faith, for example, regarding the saints, how they venerated the Most Holy Eucharist, and by asking priests to supply kneelers so that people may kneel, asking priests to do expositions of the Blessed Sacrament, to do Eucharistic adoration. Because this is the heart of the Church; the Eucharist is the heart of the Church – this sickly, weak heart. The whole body is weak, and so today, looking at the Church in the most general way, we see that we have what I call Eucharistic heart disease. And we aren’t going to have an authentic renewal of the Church without first curing this Eucharistic heart disease again as a clear doctrine that we hold, which John Paul II left us in a magnificent Eucharistic encyclical called Ecclesia de Eucharistia. It’s worth reading – he wrote it with such doctrinal and spiritual profundity. And other popes and saints, no? We must publicize that, the doctrine, and give examples and incentives so that the laity will kneel while receiving the Eucharist in an interior way, in the state of grace. We must explain this to them. We must [also] lead them to the sacrament of penance. So only in this way are we going to have an authentic renewal of the Church. If that doesn’t happen, all other activities that are done in the Church are an empty puffing up, and will not produce fruits. It is through the Eucharist that we will renew the Church.
Adelante la Fe: Your Excellency, at twelve years of age you realized you had a vocation while living in a pious environment. However, today, children at that age are not educated in what are called “values.” They are taught that relations between two men or two women is normal. They are not taught about chastity. Do you believe that it is possible for vocations to the priesthood to occur in this impoverished environment?
Bishop Schneider: It’s very difficult, exactly. By way of miracles perhaps. Yes, I think that what you’re talking about, so-called “theory of gender,” “gender ideology,” which is really a kind of obvious perversion, of a conception of reality that is in rebellion against reality. Gender ideology is an ultimate, extreme form of Marxism – we must say that, that it is Marxism in the most radical form possible. It’s a rebellion against reality, and fundamentally a rebellion against God. In this context I think that Catholic Christian parents, must, if it is possible, remove their children from these schools and, if possible, create their own associations for educational purposes. Thanks be to God, for example, in the United States it is very easy to do this in a certain way, and in France also, and I think that Catholic politicians [INAUDIBLE] or jurists must work and struggle for the fundamental right of parents to educate their children – it is the right of the parents, not the state – and to at least have the right of freedom of education. And in this way, certainly in these contexts of a good human and religious education, there will be vocations, but especially in large families.
Adelante la Fe: We’ve recently read some declarations on your part in Rome, very important ones, related to the sacrament of matrimony. However, the average layman, so to speak, the Catholics who are in the parishes, when they hear about Amoris Laetitia, understand it to mean that the whole world can receive communion. If a pastor does not permit a person to receive communion, he simply goes to another parish, and it is given to him. [The reasoning is that] the annulment is being facilitated if it takes too long, or it is the via caritatis (way of charity), because the whole world can receive the Lord. If mortal sin no longer exists, what becomes of our faults, or venial sin, of our struggle for sanctity? None of that exists any more.
Bishop Schneider: Yes, it is truly a very dangerous phenomenon, because a mentality of radical relativism is really being created inside the Church, which Pope Benedict already warned us about, speaking of the danger of a certain dictatorship of relativism. And this relativism is going to grow. “Relativism” means that there are no absolute or permanent norms, that is relativism, that we can do this and that, that they’re the same. But this is contrary to divine revelation. This is a lie. Relativism is a lie. It’s not true. There is only one truth. God did not say, “Do not steal” – the seventh commandment – “Do not steal, but also you can steal.” “You cannot commit adultery, but you also can commit adultery,” and so on. This is contrary to the divine truth, this relativism, and sadly it is being disseminated, and so I think that we must raise our voice and ask the Magisterium of the Church to really pronounce with clarity, to refute, eliminate, this relativism. And this was done by the four cardinals who published their dubia and by other priests and laity, who publish petitions, declarations, asking for clarity in doctrine.
So I think that this is very serious that they are disseminating this moral relativism, and this, at its root, is an attack against the commandments of God himself. It’s very dangerous because we must see the root of this, the root of all of this moral relativism, which is also concretely [INAUDIBLE] for the divorced and remarried and their communion and so on. The fundamental question is one of doing my will or doing the will of God. This is the root. May my will be done, and may your will no longer be done. [To the contrary,] “Fiat voluntas tua” (“Thy will be done”) – this is greatness. This is the key to all of the history of humanity, in each one of us. “May your will be done, Lord, even if I have to suffer.” But this brings me happiness, the greatest happiness, if I do the will of God even when I have to suffer. Today, this, fundamentally, this moral relativism, that has entered into the life of the Church, in the practice of the sacraments. As you indicated, what we fundamentally want is that God do our will, and that we not do the will God. Today, we make God serve us and we are his lords and God becomes our servant and serves us. And we are his lords, like gods. That’s the first thing the serpent said, the devil, when he tempted [INAUDIBLE] Eve. So no, we are servants of God, and we want to do his will. He is the Lord. “Tu solus Dominus. Tu solus Altissimus” (“You alone are the Lord. You alone are the Most High.”) This is what brings us happiness.
Adelante la Fe: Your Excellency, some four years ago, in 2012, you gave an important talk called “The New Evangelization and the Sacred Liturgy,” and you spoke about the five wounds of the mystical liturgical body of Christ. You made reference to the female altar servers. Today, in 2016, we are talking about a female diaconate as if it were a reality that is going to take shape in 2017. Do you believe that in 2021, within four more years, women will officiate at the Mass? Might this be our role, the role of women in the 21st century?
Bishop Schneider: No, it is not the role of women. I think that this will never be the case in the Catholic Church, because it contradicts the nature of the Catholic Church, because the diaconate is an impossibility, it is a sacrament that forms a unity in the sacramental ordination of the episcopate, of the presbytery, and the diaconate. It is a sacrament. We have sacraments, seven sacraments. The ordination to the diaconate is part of that, and the whole history of the Church tells us that the Church does not have the authority to ordain female deacons in a sacramental way. Women can be given blessings, like [INAUDIBLE] or other typical feminine blessings for women. These, yes, but they cannot be deacons. I think that this is not going to be carried out. This won’t happen in the Catholic Church. So we shouldn’t be afraid. Because Jesus said “the gates of hell will not prevail over my Church,” founded on Peter. And so I believe that divine providence will not permit the pope to permit the ordination of women to the sacramental diaconate.
Adelante la Fe: Your Excellency, allow me to read to you a quote. “If we seem to be in an abnormal situation, it is because those who have authority in the Church burn what they once adored, and adore what they once burned.” Those are the words of Msgr. Marcel Lefebvre. Regarding the Fraternity of St. Pius X, you have visited two seminaries by invitation of the Holy See, and have had conversations with His Excellency Msgr. Fellay. You have given a positive evaluation of the steps that are being taken. Do you believe that the conditions exist for the Fraternity to enter into full communion with Rome? And if so, do you believe that that would be the will of Msgr. Lefebvre?
Bishop Schneider: Yes, I am convinced that in the current circumstances, Msgr. Lefebvre would accept, without a doubt, the canonical proposal of a personal prelature. According to what I have read, the biography of Msgr. Lefebvre, his writings, he was a very spiritual man but also a very practical one, a man with a profound sensus ecclesiae (sense of the Church). And given the situation in which he was in, I think that he felt morally obligated to do those episcopal ordinations that were contrary to the will of the pope at that time. He later declared that he felt in conscience that he had to do that. And this was an extreme act, for which he suffered, and as a consequence he said that this situation – he said this later – should not last for much time. Because if a community remains for a long time in an autonomous state, canonically self-sufficient, there is a danger, a danger of becoming self-sufficient and of losing a definitively Catholic characteristic, that of being subject to the authority of the Pope, the Vicar of Christ. Because we cannot make our subjection to the Vicar of Christ dependent upon the person of the pope. This would not be faith; it would be the choice of a party. But the Chair of Peter is always the same, or the popes [INAUDIBLE]. I can’t say now this pope, I don’t have confidence in him, so I’m not going to submit, I’m going to wait until another pope arrives. This, for me, is not a Catholic sense of things. It’s not supernatural: it’s too human. More of a sense of the supernatural is needed, and more confidence in divine providence, in the fact that God is the one who guides the Church.
This is a danger for the Fraternity of St. Pius X: the more time they are self-sufficient, and there are already some indications within [the Fraternity] of these negative phenomena of self-sufficiency, [regarding] which Msgr. Fellay also [says] that they should not wait longer. And if the Holy See is now proposing a structure, if they can accept that the Holy See is not going to demand things that are contrary to their identity, yes, it is necessary to accept and trust in divine providence. One cannot expect now to have a one hundred percent certainty. We can’t have that. I want very much for the Fraternity of St. Pius X to be recognized and established as a normal structure of the Church, as soon as possible, and would be for the benefit of everyone, for them and for us. It would really be a new force [in the Church], especially in this great battle for the purity of the Church, which is why I said to Msgr. Fellay, “Excellency, we need your presence, so that we can be together, with all of the good forces in the Church.” We should form a great unity today to defend the faith of our fathers, of the apostles, to transmit to future generations. It’s our vocation, which God requires of us today, with love for the Church, with love for the pope, always with love for the pope, praying for him – not practicing some form of papalotry, not that – but loving the pope supernaturally, praying for him, acknowledging that he is the Vicarius Christi (Vicar of Christ) the Servus Servorum Dei (Servant of the Servants of God), and therefore I pray and hope that the work of Msgr. Lefebvre, which he left to the Church, will be recognized and will produce even more fruits.
Adelante la Fe: Your excellency, to conclude: Do you believe that the Holy Traditional Mass can be of help in the crisis of faith in which we are living?
Bishop Schneider: Without a doubt! It is very evident. This is the form of the Mass experienced by our ancestors, our fathers, our grandparents, so many saints that we know about, and it was from this form of the liturgy that they drew much spiritual strength – they were nourished by it. This is valid also today, and the facts prove it: note that the traditional liturgical forms are growing throughout the world. This is particularly the case with regard to the youngest generations, who weren’t acquainted with this form, no? And this is evident because when they see this form of the sacrifice of Christ, this form of a ritual in which one can experience the mystery of Christ, in a more contemplative way, in a way that is richer as well, and which helps to be stronger in the faith. It attracts young people, even innocent children, who are attracted by this form, which [INAUDIBLE].
And for that reason I think that it is a fact that we must affirm that the traditional liturgy, thanks be to God, through the great prophetic work of Pope Benedict XVI with the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, began the movement for a renewal of the Church brought about by the Holy Spirit. I think that this movement, now that it is begun, cannot be stopped by anyone. It is a work of the Holy Spirit, and we must trust that this contributes to a true renewal of the Church. And that this, I’m convinced, if today the fathers of the Second Vatican Council — let us suppose in my hypothesis – all of them attended in some parish an Ordinary Form of the Mass that is celebrated today around the world, like the one we know, versus populum (celebrated “toward the people”) with communion in the hand, altar girls, etc., and then a Mass in the Extraordinary Form, I am convinced that almost all of the fathers or the great majority of the Second Vatican Council would say, “This is the Mass that we thought would come to be, and not the other.” If we could make such a hypothesis – and it suffices to just read the acts of the Second Vatican Council on the liturgy – it is evident that the fathers of the Council were very cautious, very cautious in their discourses on the liturgy. And so I think that the traditional liturgy is the liturgy of Vatican II in a certain sense. There could be some small modifications because the liturgy also grows like a body. There could be some modifications, not many. Perhaps there could be a little more space for the vernacular tongue, not so much, but in the didactic parts, the readings possibly, and perhaps a few small rubrical modifications – that, yes. That for me, essentially, the great intention of the fathers of the Second Vatican Council.
Adelante la Fe: While you are here with us, we would like to take the opportunity to suggest to you that you write a book on the beauty of the traditional mass, and if you thought it well, to mention us in the prologue.
Bishop Schneider: Yes, I think that I don’t have time to write a book right now, but I think that perhaps I would like to write something more in general on the liturgy, on the aspects of the liturgy in the life of the Church today, which will essentially justify the traditional liturgy, the principal elements of the traditional liturgy. So I would like to publish a little book, a writing, on liturgical topics, that basically defends the substantial elements, the essential elements, of the traditional liturgy.
Adelante la Fe: Thank you, your Excellency, for your time.
Bishop Schneider: And I wish for all of you that you maintain, always faithfully, your Catholic baptismal vows, and that you remain, that you ask our Lord for the grace of persevering in our beautiful Catholic, Apostolic, Roman faith, until the end of your lives.
* This is a reference to the shortage of priests and the infrequency with which many Catholics in various parts of the world are able to receive communion, as well as liturgical abuses that might call into question the validity of certain sacramental rites.