(LifeSiteNews) — Bishop Athanasius Schneider called on Pope Francis to rescind the new norms of the upcoming Synod of Bishops on Synodality taking place in October 2023 in Rome that grant equal voting rights to bishops and laity. Schneider denounced the innovations as a “radical novelty” that “undermine the divine constitution of the Church, conforming it more to a Protestant or even secular model.”
In a press statement on April 26, the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops on Synodality issued announced changes to the composition of the October 2023 Synod in Rome. According to the changes, 10 clerics would be replaced by five men and five women religious, and auditors would be replaced by 70 non-episcopal members chosen by the Pope, all of whom will have the right to vote in the synodal proceedings, in a move that runs contrary to the previously exclusive right of bishops to vote in a Synod.
Asked about these new norms by Diane Montagna in an interview published by the Catholic Herald, Bishop Schneider said that the change “represents a radical novelty in the history of the Catholic Church.”
“A synod of bishops is an instrument by which the hierarchy exercises its teaching and governing office,” Schneider explained, insisting that the voting rights in a synod of bishops must reflect the distinction between the ministerial priesthood of the Church’s hierarchy and the common priesthood of all the baptized.
“Although lay people can be invited to participate at a synod to lend their advice, the voting norms of a synod have always reflected the essential difference between the hierarchical/ministerial and the common priesthood. Granting lay people the same right to vote as bishops undermines the hierarchical structure of the Church and resembles more the norms of synods of the Anglican and other Protestant communities, where clergy and laity are given equal voting rights.”
Schneider continued, “The very fact that lay people will be voting along with bishops on matters regarding the faith and discipline of the Church is itself revealing and transmits a highly ambiguous doctrinal message. Furthermore, the fact that the vote at the October 2023 assembly in Rome is merely consultative does not lessen the truth that the upcoming synod resembles a democratic or egalitarian parliament, rather than a monarchical hierarchy established by Our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Addressing the doctrinal problems of the processes and documents of the upcoming synod — which include proposals for women’s ordinations and the acceptance of LGBT ideology and lifestyles — the Kazakhstan bishop compared the doctrinal crisis currently facing the Church to the crisis of the Arian heresy, which saw widespread infidelity, confusion, and weakness among the episcopacy.
“The widespread doctrinal confusion in the fourth century bears a striking resemblance to our own day,” Schneider declared. “What St. John Henry Newman said of that time may well be applied to the current doctrinal and disciplinary confusion being created by the various synodal processes and preparatory documents issued by the Holy See over the past year.
“Cardinal Newman wrote of the Arian crisis: ‘The body of Bishops failed in the confession of the faith. They spoke variously, one against another; there was nothing, after Nicaea, of firm, unvarying, consistent testimony, for nearly 60 years. There were untrustworthy Councils, unfaithful Bishops; there was weakness, fear of consequences, misguidance, delusion, hallucination, endless, hopeless, extending itself into nearly every corner of the Catholic Church. The comparatively few who remained faithful were discredited and driven into exile; the rest were either deceivers or were deceived.’”
“The various documents issued during the current synodal process represent the sort of confusion against which the fourth-century Doctor of the Church St. Hilary of Poitiers warned, saying: ‘It is impossible, it is unreasonable, to mix true and false, to confuse light and darkness, and bring into a union, of whatever kind, night and day’ (In Constantium, 1).”
Schneider then drew attention to Paul VI’s admonitions to bishops on the necessity of faithfully guarding the deposit of faith in its integrity without hypothesizing “changes, evolutions, transformations of the Church in matters of faith.” In a General Audience given in Rome on Oct. 6, 1971, Paul VI said,
Can we suppose that the hierarchy is free to teach in the religious sphere what it likes, or what may please certain doctrinal, or rather anti-doctrinal currents of modern opinion? No. We must remember that the episcopate is invested with a primordial duty: that of witness, that of the rigorous and faithful transmission of Christ’s original message, that is, of the complex of truths revealed by Him and entrusted to the Apostles, with regard to salvation. Christianity cannot change its constitutional doctrines. Bishops are more than any others those who must “guard the deposit,” as the Apostle says [1 Tim. 6:20; 2 Tim. 1:14]. Nor should we hypothesize changes, evolutions, transformations of the Church in matters of faith. The Creed remains. In this respect, the Church is tenaciously conservative and therefore does not grow old (General Audience, October 6, 1971).
Schneider argued that the current proposals being pushed by the Syond of Bishops on Synodality is infected by a capitulation to the world that is nothing other than the spirit of Modernism, a heresy condemned by numerous popes.
“The greatest evil and spiritual sickness which has infected the Church in our day is the ‘conformation to the spirit of this world’ (Rom 12:2), which is basically the spirit of Modernism,” Schneider warned. “Pope Paul VI spoke about this danger already in 1964, saying: ‘The Church itself is being engulfed and shaken by this tidal wave of change, for however much men may be committed to the Church, they are deeply affected by the climate of the world.
“They run the risk of becoming confused, bewildered, and alarmed, and this is a state of affairs which strikes at the very roots of the Church. It drives many people to adopt the most outlandish views. They imagine that the Church should abdicate her proper role and adopt an entirely new and unprecedented mode of existence. Modernism might be cited as an example. This is an error which is still making its appearance under various new guises, wholly inconsistent with any genuine religious expression. It is surely an attempt on the part of secular philosophies and secular trends to vitiate the true teaching and discipline of the Church of Christ’ (Encyclical Ecclesiam Suam, 26).”
Condemning the processes and documents adopted for the upcoming Synod as a departure from Apostolic Tradition, the Kazakhstan prelate declared, “The synodal processes and documents, and the upcoming Synod in Rome, have adopted a method which is alien to the spirit of the Apostles, Church Fathers, and genuine tradition of the Church. In making psychological and sociological data a criterion for deciding matters of faith, morals, and discipline, the Synod Secretariat has ignored Paul VI, who said: ‘The conclusions of [sociological] investigations could not in themselves constitute a decisive criterion of truth’ (Apostolic Exhortation Quinque Iam Anni, December 8, 1970).”
“Pope Paul VI warned against taking such a worldly approach, when he said, ‘We see a tendency to reconstruct, from psychological and sociological data, a Christianity detached from the unbroken Tradition that links it to the faith of the Apostles, and to exalt a Christian life devoid of religious elements’ (Apostolic Exhortation Quinque Iam Anni, December 8, 1970).”
“Pope Francis and all the members of the upcoming Synod in Rome should earnestly heed the following prophetic warnings of Pope Paul VI: ‘We are not the judges of God’s word: it is it that judges us and exposes our conformity to worldly fashion’ (Apostolic Exhortation Quinque Iam Anni, December 8, 1970).”
Schneider called on the cardinals to appeal to the Pope in protest against the clear effort to make the Church more Protestant and secular, which he said ultimately “undermines the divine constitution of the Church.”
“Giving equal voting rights to the episcopacy and laity is unprecedented and seriously undermines the divine constitution of the Church, conforming it more to a Protestant or even secular model,” Schneider stated. “The absence of clear goals for the synod, which would bring clarity at a time of great doctrinal confusion, is also very harmful to the Church. It is therefore clear that the upcoming synod is a vehicle to accelerate the Protestantization and secularization of the Catholic Church. The Cardinals cannot simply remain silent as the Church is harmed and the salvation of souls is jeopardized. They are obliged to appeal to the Pope, with clarity and all due reverence, as the Apostle Paul did towards Peter, when he was not walking ‘uprightly unto the truth of the gospel’ (Gal 2:14).”
Asked what his message to Pope Francis was, Bishop Schneider replied, “The matter before us is urgent, and I appeal fraternally to Pope Francis to rescind the new norms of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops, which grant equal voting rights to the bishops and the laity. I also appeal fraternally to him to issue clear goals for the Synod that will enable bishops to profess courageously and unambiguously before the entire Church, and the world, the uniqueness of Christ and His saving work, the validity of God’s commandments, and the divinely established order of the Church.”
“Along with such a profession, the Synod should propose concrete and effective remedies against the spiritual viruses and maladies which severely and almost globally affect the body of the Church today. If the 2023-2024 synodal assemblies fail to do this, Cardinal Charles Journet’s prediction will come to pass: ‘One day the faithful will wake up and realize that they have been intoxicated by the spirit of the world.’”