Interview: Bishop Schneider urges ‘flaming prayers’ to protect bishops from worldliness
Editor’s Note: Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Astana, Kazakhstan has recently co-authored, with Santa Rosa Bishop Robert Vasa and Archbishop Aldo de Cillo Pagotto of Paraiba, Brazil, the new book "Preferential Option for the Family — 100 Questions and Answers Relating to the Synod," which deals with the confusion surrounding the upcoming Synod on the Family. The following interview with the bishop was conducted by LifeSiteNews contributor Maike Hickson.
1) Your new book, "Preferential Option for the Family — 100 Questions and Answers Relating to the Synod", has just now been published in Italian in Rome, and it will be available in the near future in other languages, for example, in English, as well. You have written this book together with Archbishop Aldo di Cillo Pagotto (Paraiba, Brazil) and Bishop Robert Francis Vasa (Santa Rosa, USA). What was the reason for this book, which deals with questions concerning the Synod of Bishops concerning Marriage and the Family?
For now more than a year, there has been much intense discussion within the whole Church, and at all levels, concerning Marriage and the Family and other questions which are related to this topic. These are very current topics which relate directly to the Faith and to the moral life of the faithful. It is a prominent duty of the bishops to instruct the faithful in a clear and differentiated way about such important truths as Marriage and the Family.
2) What are the central topics which you and your colleagues raise in your new book and which you hope will also be discussed during the next Synod?
The central topic of the book is, first of all, given by the topic of the Synod of Bishops itself, namely, the Vocation and Mission of the Family in the World of Today. In the book, the Divine Truths about Marriage, Family, and Human Sexuality are called to mind, as they have been handed down by the Magisterium of the Church in a constant and unchanged way, and for two thousand years. The current anti-Christian and nearly global Societal Order attacks frontally the Divine Order of Marriage and Human Sexuality and propagates divorce, concubinage, as well as homosexual ways of life. For this reason, the above-mentioned book, with the help of statements of the Magisterium, presents and proves the objective wrongness of all these phenomena.
3) During the last Synod of Bishops concerning the Family, there were questions raised and brought into the discussion which hitherto were considered to be absolutely barred, for example the admittance of “remarried” divorcees to the Sacraments, and the acceptance of homosexual unions. In your eyes, how could it come to such a point and present such a strong change, and so suddenly, as it seems?
That now clearly un-Christian and even Pagan Ways of Life are accepted within the Catholic Church is the result of a longer development; it is, as it were, the fruit of the Doctrinal Relativism which dominates many areas of the Church's life now, and for more than 50 years. Doctrinal Relativism means that radical changes may and shall take place since, according to this theory, there exists neither constancy nor unchangeability: neither in the realm of the dogma, nor in morality, nor in the liturgy. Additionally, this theory of Relativism says that, while one preserves the wording of a doctrine, one at the same time interprets the sense in such a way that one may well practically (pastorally) do acts which contradict the wording itself. Such a theory of Relativism is finally a form of Gnosticism. One of the causes for this adoption and adaptation of Doctrinal Relativism in our days – and this coming mostly from the side of the clergy – is an inferiority complex which expresses itself in the desire to want to please the main stream in the modern world. But, finally, such an attitude is nothing but a disloyalty toward the Word of Christ, a betrayal of the Baptismal Vows, and a cowardice in the face of the world.
4) Walter Cardinal Kasper is the leading voice among the prelates who argue in favor of a loosening of the Church's discipline toward those Catholics who, after a divorce, have entered into a new civil marriage. He proposes that such couples could (and should) be admitted to the sacraments after a certain period of penance. Do you and your two fellow bishops see any possibility to take such a path without thereby undermining the teaching of Jesus Christ concerning the indissolubility of marriage?
This concrete proposal of Cardinal Kasper and of the sympathizers of his theory signifies without doubt the undermining of the teaching of Christ on the indissolubility of marriage. Cardinal Kasper's theory reveals an un-Christian notion of atonement and penance. For what does one concretely atone, in this case, or for what does one do penance? If the concerned faithful do penance, do they thereby repent solely that they separated themselves from their legitimate spouse in the past? Or do they repent that they now continually violate God's Commandment by their conjugal life with a new partner? The Biblical understanding of repentance says, however, that one has the firm and honest resolution not to repeat in the future that which one has done and now repents of. It is obvious that, according to Cardinal Kasper's theory, these faithful do not have repentance for committing deeds which directly violate the Commandment of God “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” and hence violate the indissolubility of marriage. If they would have a true repentance for it, they should have the firm and honest resolution not to repeat these deeds in the future, with all their strength and with the help of God. A period of such purported atonement or penance would be, finally, a perversion of the Biblical notion of penance, a farce, a mockery of the indissolubility of marriage, an abuse of the Sacrament of the Eucharist, which is indeed the celebration of the marriage between the Lamb and the Bride (the Church). What is in this context especially grave is that one justifies all of this with the help of the gnostic abuse of the Biblical notions of Penance and Mercy.
5) Following Kasper's argumentation, could one not show more mercy toward those Catholics who entered a second civil marriage and admit them to the Sacraments? Can one expect of these people to separate from the current partner and, of all things, then find it possible to remain effectively alone? And in what manner can the Church be attentive to the salvation of the souls of these persons which is, after all, more important than the bodily welfare and the material security of man?
Certainly, one has to show mercy toward those Catholics who by their way of life, continuously violate an important Commandment of God. Mercy, in God's proper sense, means that one gets the sinner out of his unhappy situation, if he sincerely desires it. One also has to accept the free will of a sinner, and even God respects it, because He does not impose His mercy upon anyone. God offers everybody the Grace of true repentance and the forgiveness of the sins. It would be a blasphemy to think and to say: “O Lord, I accept Your mercy and forgiveness, but I do not have the intention to abstain in the future from my concrete sin, from my concrete rejection of Your Will.” To admit Catholics to the Sacraments who objectively violate the Commandment of God in a grave manner – and even without demanding from them the firm and honest resolution to avoid this sin in the future – would not be mercy, but cruelty; because one would thereby reinforce them in their objective rejection of the Will of God and one would lead them into the danger of blasphemy and into the abuse of the Sacred. The word of Christ is here crystal clear: “If thy right hand scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell” (Mt 5: 30). If a priest, or a bishop, or a cardinal were to trivialize these words of Christ, and if he were to teach men accordingly, then he certainly is not merciful, but takes a share in the guilt if people were thus to get lost eternally. Or is it so that, for such clergymen, a conjugal living together outside of a valid marriage is no sin any more? Or, is there no more an objective mortal sin and no eternal damnation any more in the eyes of such clergymen?
6) Recently, you spoke about the “Gnostic character of the Kasper proposal.” Could you explain to us this conceptual expression?
Gnosticism was a widely-spread phenomenon among the intellectual elites of the first centuries; that is to say, at the time of Jesus, the Apostles and the first Church Fathers. The Gnosticism entered even into ecclesiastical circles, especially in the second century. It was the merit of St. Irenaeus of Lyons (a Church Father from the 2nd century), to detect this creeping danger and, so to speak, to ring the alarm bells with his famous work “Adversus Haereses”. Here are only a few of the most important principles of the older Christian Gnosticism: 1) There may be an opposition, and even a contradiction between that which we think and that which we do. 2) Only the noble thinking and the intellectual discovery brings man eternal salvation. 3) All exterior works in the flesh are to be despised and they have no influence over the true salvation of man. 4) The Commandments in the Old Testament, for example “Thou shall not commit adultery,” are an expression of the evil God, and not of the good God, and therefore the Old Testament is to be rejected and only the good and merciful God of the New Testament is valid. 5) The Apostles and the Magisterium of the Church did not fully understand and transmit the true intention of Christ; and therefore, a new spiritual interpretation of the words of Christ is necessary.
7) What do you think – in light of the special background of your own varied experiences – about this: namely, how many professedly practicing Catholics are there now at all who go regularly to Holy Mass and live the Faith, yet do not follow the Laws of God and even break their marriage or remarry after a divorce? Is this problem very prominent in the parishes, or are most of the “remarried” divorcees more or less non-practicing Catholics who do not live any more their Faith and therefore also do not yearn so much any more to receive Holy Communion?
According to my own pastoral experience, there are not many “remarried” divorcees who assist regularly at Holy Mass and who have the desire to live seriously according to the Commandments of God. In Kazakhstan, we have some cases where most of these couples had lived, prior to their conversion, in a natural marriage (which is only relatively indissoluble, since the Pope himself can dissolve them, in “favorem fidei”, because it is not truly a sacramental marriage). These people then had a civil divorce of their natural marriage, and they live now in a new, but non-sacramental, bond. I do not know one single such case in Kazakhstan where the faithful now in such situations would demand the Sacraments, since they recognize, in all truth and humility, their own unlawful situation.
8) According to your own experience and knowledge, what would be in your eyes the right way as to how the Catholic Church should approach and help those Catholics who, objectively, live in the state of sin?
The only right way to help such Catholics would be to practice the spiritual works of mercy; for example: to instruct the ignorant, to give the right counsel to the doubting, to pray for the living. We have to help these people with much love, tact, and patience, so that they – with the Grace of God – do not insult Him any more with their grave sin of adultery; and so that they do not further desecrate the holy Bond of their first sacramental marriage. We can do many things in order to show these people that the Church's community takes them seriously, that it does not forget them, and that it always wants to help them so that they do not disregard the Will of God concerning their way of life. One can invite these people to participate in pilgrimages, Eucharistic adorations, spiritual exercises, and in works of mercy. The most important thing for them would be that they ask for – and be open to receive – the Grace of true humility. Humility means to recognize in truth one's own sinfulness. Only to the humble, God gives His Grace (see James 4:6).
9) How would you describe the moral and spiritual beauty of the Sacrament of Marriage and the blessing which is attached to it, also with regard to the beautiful honor and task to give life and nurture to children and to help lead them to heaven? How can the Church better prepare future spouses for marriage and the life in the family?
The Sacrament of Marriage is morally and spiritually so beautiful because it represents in its absolute indissolubility the irrevocable fidelity of God to us men and the inseparable (“inseparabiliter”) unity of Christ with the human nature in the mystery of the Church, His Bride. During the time of the first Christians one could often hear out of the mouths of the Holy Church Fathers the following words: “O Christian, recognize your great dignity!” We should also be able to say today: “O Christian Spouses, recognize the great dignity of your marriage!” The Christian marriage has as its noble purpose to give to the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, new members, by giving birth to children and thus by giving life to new persons who may be one day citizens in heaven (see Gaudium et Spes, n. 51). The priest is the one who – with the help of the Sacrament of Baptism and the Sacrament of Penance – gives new Divine Life to man. Both tasks: to give natural life to men with the help of procreation – i.e., the task of the spouses – and to give supernatural, Divine Life to men – i.e., the task of the priests – are the most beautiful, most holy, and happiest tasks that God has entrusted to men on earth. Both tasks have to be seen together, since Grace presupposes Nature. The family has the noble task to educate the children in the Faith and to be a Domestic Church, and often to be the first Priestly Seminary.
10) How would you assess the importance of the procreation of life and the education of children with respect to a flourishing marriage? Do children help marriages, to grow better together and to have a common mission and higher, shared goals? Does perhaps one of the reasons for the high divorce rates lie in the fact that couples have no, or barely any, children any more?
The spouses have to know that each child has been given to them by God as a gift and that they, finally, are not determining the creation of new life, but it is God Himself. Additionally, God entrusts each child to his parents not only that they raise him to be a good citizen of the earth, but especially also so as to be a citizen of heaven. For each child, God will one day at His judgment demand an accounting. There is no doubt that children, and especially numerous children, normally help parents to stay together because the parents are of necessity more absorbed with the care for the children and they thereby tend to be less egoistical. With each child, the heart of a true father and of a true mother is widened, because they have to make free in their hearts more space in order to love someone. Of course, there are also exceptions, where sometimes also a large family with many children can lead to conflicts and to divorce, namely because of psychological illnesses and certain illnesses of character in the spouses. The reality has proven that having no children, or too few children, is not seldomly a cause for divorce because the parents are then too much absorbed with themselves and are thus becoming more egoistical.
11) Let me now deal more concretely with the last Synod of Bishops, its documents, and its general message. Could you tell me your own reservations concerning the message of the last Synod of Bishops concerning marriage and the family? If you were to write a commentary about the final report of the Synod, what would you say were its strengths and its weaknesses?
The message of the last Synod of Bishops contains generally a good theological content and wants to strengthen the Catholic families in their Faith. However, the message mentions the topic of the admittance of “remarried” divorcees to the Sacraments, a topic that in reality should not be up for discussion because the perennial Magisterium of the Church has already decided upon this matter. The same applies to the Final Report of the Synod. An assembly of Catholic bishops cannot reflect upon, or respectively discuss for example, whether Christ is truly God or not. This would be a sign of disbelief. In the Final Report, there are several positive elements of content: for example, there is often talk about Grace, and also about the Domestic Church; additionally, the validity of the Encyclical Humane Vitae is stressed. The general tone of the message reveals however a certain sentimentality and favors thereby the phenomenon of an Emotional Religion which is today so widely spread; this Emotional Religion excludes or marginalizes permanent elements such as truth, sacrifice, and the supernatural. Such a sentimentalism is to be found in the often-used words such as “loving,” “merciful,” “feeling.” The true defects of the Final Report are, as follows: the notions sin, mortal sin and their discussion are missing altogether, also omitted is the stressing of the importance of large families; the significance of Sunday is barely mentioned, except once in the context of the Eucharistic celebration on Sunday; nothing is said about the connection between family and priestly vocations; the topics concerning a firm profession of Faith and the courage to convey the Faith within the non-Christian environment are missing, as well as the necessity to resist such an environment; additionally, the words “Cross” and “Imitation of the Crucified” are missing.
12) Let us now concentrate in a detailed way on the Final Report of the last Synod of Bishops concerning marriage and the family. Paragraph 41 stresses the positive aspects of those marriages that have been contracted in a mere civil manner – that is to say, outside of the Catholic Church – and even the positive aspects of unmarried [cohabiting] couples. Is there not the danger that – after such statements – the people who live in such unions do not see any necessity any more to ask for the Sacraments and thus for the blessing of God?
In light of the Faith, it is certainly wrong to speak of positive aspects in a reality which represents for a Catholic an objectively sinful state, such as a civil marriage. From the pedagogical point of view, such language is destructive, because it trivializes the objectively grave sinfulness of an invalid conjugal union. To use such a language is unworthy of bishops because it contradicts the language and the teaching of Christ and the Apostles.
13) Concerning the wish of the Synod, as expressed in paragraph 48, to accelerate the canonical process for declarations of nullity and to simplify that process even organizationally, what recommendations would you have? Do you support the proposal to do away with the now required second instance approving of the judgment of the first court, as well as to involve more laymen in the entire process? How can the Church better assure that the truth is ascertained in the process and avoid that the sacrament of marriage is undermined? Do you think that perhaps the increase of annulments in the past has already contributed to the weakening of the institution of marriage?
Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI both repeatedly mourned a too liberal practice of certain ecclesiastical tribunals in the marriage annulment processes in our days. Such a lax practice is de facto similar to a divorce. Since we are dealing with the Sacred – and marriage is something sacred – and with the validity of the Sacraments which are not human institutions, but Divine institutions, then the Church must always choose the way that is more secure (“via tutior”). God often warned the people and their shepherds in Holy Scripture: “Cursed be he who does the work of God in a negligent way (“maledictus qui facit opus Domini negligenter”)” (Jer 48:10). One could say that the proposal of the Final Report of the Synod to reduce, or even to cancel altogether, the costs [to the applicants] for these processes of nullity is positive and helpful.
14) What do you say about the idea, as expressed in paragraph 53, that a sinner who is not allowed to receive Holy Communion can in some way still receive a Spiritual Communion? How do you see there to be a connection between Spiritual Communions and the teaching about the state of grace in which someone has to be, in order to be able to receive Jesus Christ actually in Holy Communion?
The true fruit of the reception of the Sacrament of the Eucharist is the unity with Christ. Holy Communion is the sign of this unity (“signum unitatis”) and the bond of love (“vinculum caritatis”) first of all between the Communicant and Christ Himself. The Council of Trent teaches (sess. XIII, cap. 8) that every sacramental reception of Holy Communion shall always also be a spiritual one and that, for a spiritual communion, there needs to be a living Faith which is effective through love (see Gal 5: 6). And Christ said: “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If someone actually trespasses in a serious way a Commandment of God and thus continually violates the Sacredness of the sacramental marriage bond, that person is lacking in the true work of love toward God and His Will. Consequentially, he does not fulfill the conditions in order to be able to communicate spiritually. However, he can have a yearning for the state of Grace in order, then, to receive in such a state an inner unity with Christ which is as large as possible. The reference in paragraph 53 of the Final Report about Spiritual Communion certainly does not correspond to the perennial teaching of the Church and rather is a cause of confusion.
15) The Final Report in paragraphs 57 and 58 says little about the topic of contraception and leaves many questions open when it only states that the dignity of the person in the question of methods of birth control has to be respected. Should the Church not give here, with emphasis and insistence, some catechetical instruction, as to which methods, for example, are morally acceptable? (Also mentioning that some methods are, indeed, abortifacients)? In the face of a widely spread practice, even among Catholics, to refuse to open themselves up to the blessing and gift of life that God intends to bestow upon them by giving them children, what would you like to see in the Final Report?
The whole tradition of the Church has always taught that numerous children are a special blessing of God for a family (see Gaudium et Spes, 50; Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2373). One should mention that one also can sin in a grave manner if one uses the natural method of birth regulation – i.e., the periodical abstinence – in an egoistical manner, i.e., without grave reasons. There have to be just reasons for the moral goodness of the use of the natural method (see Humanae Vitae, n. 16).
16) Different UN-Conferences in the 1990s have arguably contributed to the grave undermining of the family as a unity in detaching women and children from the unit of the family and presenting them as independent units, even by issuing separate declarations of “women's rights” and “children's rights.” In the beginning, the Church watched this development with concern and even showed strong resistance. But now, the Final Report refers indirectly to these same Conferences by speaking of the “global village” and by directly mentioning women's and children's rights. Does the Catholic Church now approve, for example, of the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child, which so undermines the family as a unit? Is it good when the Church makes reference to these documents and to accept them thereby?
If one refers to documents of non-Christian organizations, one has to be very careful, especially if in such documents are to be found theses and proposals which are contrary to the natural and Christian sense of the family. In the completely sexualized society of today, women and children certainly need the effective protection against abuse. However, if one then refers to corresponding documents, one should only refer to such points that are morally clean. At the same time, one would have to point out clearly the morally problematic basic tendency of the document that is quoted, in order to avoid misunderstandings among the faithful.
17) To what kind of caution should the Church now call us concerning the use of language of the enemy of Christianity, lest we unthinkingly copy that language and thereby gradually accept their precepts and standards? This question is put to you also in the context of your own life experiences with Communism and its ideological and manipulative abuse of language.
If one uses expressions which are also used by enemies of Christianity, one should always mention the truly Christian and God-given sense of these expressions. For example, Communism at the time of the Soviet Union abused constantly the word “peace.”
18) To what extent do you see that the concept and reality of sin – and especially of mortal sin – have been completely omitted in the last Synod of Bishops concerning marriage and the family?
This omission is serious because, without the acceptance of the truth about original sin and sins in general, one cannot understand properly the redemption of the human race through the sacrifice of Christ at the Cross. If one eliminates the language of sin, one finally also eliminates the true redemption; and one then turns Christianity into a Humanism or into a Pelagianism. Then there is left only the self-redemption or a religion of a naturalistic moral ethic and pedagogy, or a new religion of ecology and of climate change.
19) What are your expectations and assessments concerning the forthcoming Synod of Bishops on Marriage and the Family?
My expectations are that it will be a Synod of Bishops which lives up to its name and which is worthy of being the successors of the Apostles. It shall be an assembly of the “teachers of the Faith” who – welcomed or unwelcomed – teach the faithful with all clarity and sanity of the words (see the letters of Saint Paul to the first bishops of the Church, to Timothy and Titus); and I expect that it will proclaim without fear and without any inferiority complex the whole Gospel of the Family to the un-Christian world. To make assessments is difficult for me to do. However, I do not have any doubts that powerful prayers are needed from the whole Church, so that the teachers of untruth at the Synod – even if they should be coming from the ranks of bishops and cardinals – do not corrupt the sheepfold of Christ, and do not allow any moral debauchery under the pretext of clemency and mercy. For, already the Holy Apostle Jude Thaddeus had warned the faithful at the time in his letter against such teachers of licentiousness and lust who had crept into the Church: “subintroierunt homines impii, Dei nostri gratiam transferentes in luxuriam” (Jude 4).
20) What could and should Catholics do in preparation for the upcoming Synod, in order to defend and to strengthen the teaching of Christ?
First of all, Catholics should say many and flaming prayers so that bishops may be protected against the temptation to adapt to the world and so that they may be strengthened in their apostolic courage to confess their Faith (“Bekennermut”); and also so that God may rise and destroy the plans of the evildoers at the Synod who teach the wisdom of the flesh (see 1 Cor 1:26). But God says: “I discard the wisdom of the wise and destroy the [carnal] prudence of the [carnally] prudent.” (1 Cor 1:19). Catholics should especially help spread – particularly with respect to the Synod – the perennial teaching of the Church and of all Saints on Marriage and the Family – with the help of publications, conferences, and through their own courageous personal witness.
21) To what extent is there a parallel between the undermining of the indissolubility of marriage within the Church in our time and the one during the time of the Protestant Reformation?
If one undermines the indissolubility of marriage, then marriage will slowly lose its holiness and will turn into a kind of “worldly thing,” as Martin Luther had called it. The consequence is first the allowance of divorce, and consequently the allowance of sexual relationships outside of marriage. That is what the history of several confessions that came out of the Protestant Reformation has so amply shown.
22) You once called this current crisis of the Church the Fourth Great Crisis of the Church in the history. Could you explain this concept to us?
What should strike every impartial observer of the current crisis in the Church is the state of an enormous, as it were global, confusion in the areas of dogma, morality, as well as in the liturgy; in other words, relativism reigns in all these areas. Much is now subject to a re-interpretation, so that the individual doctrines, moral principles, and laws of their liturgy have started to flounder with many of the faithful, with many priests and even with some bishops. Innumerable theologians, and even some bishops, are allowed without penalty to proclaim true heresies and to celebrate liturgies that are bordering on blasphemy. The former great crises of the Church were somehow describable with one topic: for example, in the Arian crisis (the denial of the divinity of Christ); in the saeculum obscurum in the 9th and 10th century (concubinage and simony of the clergy and the monstrous immorality of some popes); in the exile of Avignon with the great occidental schism (70-year long absence of the popes from their Roman Episcopal See; two and three popes at the same time); and, as part of it then in the Renaissance Papacy (complete worldliness of the way of life of the popes, adoption of pagan naturalism as a way of opening up to the world of their time). The current crisis is a crisis which encompasses all areas of the life of the Church, whereas the Doctrinal Relativism is the gravest aspect, but the liturgical anarchy is the most obvious one.
23) In light of the background of the fate of your own family and of your life and suffering under Communism in the Soviet Union, which experiences can you now make more fruitful for the current battle in the Church for the Faith?
The necessity of the fearlessness toward the enemies of Christendom; the rich graces which flow out of suffering and the imitation of the Cross; the necessity of the integral passing on of the Catholic faith, especially in the families who must face the absence or a lack of priests.
24) Inasmuch as we are both Germans, please allow me a special question. In our history, the Germans have been confronted with the problem of the right to resistance and the questions of the responsibility of the individual when he watches an evil in silence. What lesson should we apply to our actual situation in the Church, if we fear that some Church representatives who are overly willing to be and remain open to reform, try thereby to alter the irreformable teaching of Jesus Christ Himself? How can we here better show our fidelity to the teaching of Christ, out of love for Jesus Christ Himself and also for our neighbors? What ought we to do if we see the integrity of the Faith thus attacked – whether we be clerics or laymen?
We should, independently of whether it is opportune or inopportune, confess the whole integrity of our Catholic Faith, in speech and in writing, starting with the Church communities and organizations with which we are able to get in touch, and if necessary even in front of one's own pastor or bishop, should he have the audacity to deny the teaching of Christ in one specific area, out of the love for the world, and too easily submitting to “political correctness.” We should do so, yet always also with dignity, with serenity, and with humility, but with clarity and without fear.
25) After the remarks of Cardinal Reinhard Marx concerning the supposed independence of the National Bishops' Conferences from the authority of Rome and of the Pope, how should we discuss the topic of collegiality? What is the right proportion between the Bishops' Conferences and the Papal Authority? Where is there room for a proper collegiality?
The Catholic Faith says that the pope as the successor of Peter is the supreme shepherd – equipped with true power of governance – of all disciples of Christ, of the faithful and their shepherds, therefore also of the bishops. Otherwise, the pope would only be a decoration, and that would contradict the structure of the Church as it has been given to us by God Himself. A supposed independence of the individual bishops or of a group (for example, of a nation) from the pope contradicts the Divine Constitution of the Church. Bishops who defend and live such an attitude are not any more Catholic, but schismatic. The pope [as the Vicar of Christ] is the visible head of the visible Church and the bishops are the members of the Body of the universal Church. Head and members are connected to one another and belong together as an organism (this is an image for collegiality). The members – that is to say, the individual bishops or the college of bishops – can not at the same time form the head of the whole body. The bishops are the heads only of a partial area (or jurisdiction) of the whole Church (i.e., a diocese). The pope as head can invite individual bishops or the whole (college) to participate in his teaching and governing office, so that such a teaching and governing act may be a communal, ecclesiastical and truly collegial act. However, the pope is not forced to do so. If this would be the case, then the Church would have in her institution a double head, and that would be against the constitution as given by Christ, and also against the principle of true hierarchy which consists in an order and in a subordination within the Body of Christ and in the Kingdom of God.
26) As a German, how would you assess the current role of the German Bishops' Conference? How do you assess the new German Church Labor Law which now allows employees of the Church to violate the Church's moral teaching (for example by “remarrying” after a divorce, or by entering into a homosexual relationship) without consequences (such as termination of the contract)?
Such a decision is very sad because thereby the practical conduct of the German Church contradicts that which she believes or purports to believe. It is an expression of infidelity in the Faith and of the cowardice toward the spirit of this world.
27) What do you say about the requests of the lay organization Central Committee of German Catholics (Zentralkomitee der Deutschen Katholiken), that, for example, the Catholic Church should bless homosexual partnerships and also soften the interdict laid upon artificial contraceptives?
Who ever proposes and represents such requests is indeed not a Catholic and not a Christian, even if he should claim that; – he thereby would be a pseudo-Catholic and a pseudo-Christian. To him, one should apply these words of the holy Apostle John: “They came from us, but are not part of us, because if they belonged to us, then they would have remained with us (in the doctrine).” (1 John 2:19). Consequently, the Central Committee of German Catholics should instead be realistically and truthfully called: the “Central Committee of German Pseudo-Catholics”. Its recent maneuvers, by the way, remind us of the methods of Central Committees, as we know them from some ideological dictatorships of our recent history.
28) To come back to the Final Report of the Family Synod, Paragraph 55, when speaking of homosexual pairs, does not firmly repeat the teaching of the Church that homosexual conduct is a sin, a violation of the teaching and laws of God. On the contrary, the report states that it is necessary that those people are treated with respect and sensitivity. Here again is the question, whether such a message still helps the sinners to free themselves from sin and to return to the path of salvation, or whether such a message leaves the sinners to believe that their sins are not so grave, after all. What is the doctrine and careful discernment from the Church concerning this topic, out of love for them?
Practicing Homosexuals are persons who, in a grave manner, sin against the will of God the Creator, because, by their acts, they reject the fact of the Divine Order of the sexuality. However, the order of the sexuality consists now only of two sexes, the male and the female, and this order has been created and declared as being good by God's infinite wisdom and goodness. If someone revolts consciously in his acts against this order, then he revolts against God's wisdom and love and finally rejects the Will of God in a very important area. If someone rejects God's Will in an important area, he then replaces God with his own will, his own insights and with his own passions. Such a person thereby excludes himself from the eternal community with God, from eternal beatitude, and he chooses eternal damnation. Practicing homosexuals, just like any sinner with a mortal sin on his soul, find themselves in a most dangerous spiritual situation – as if standing at the edge of an abyss – because they run the danger to lose their soul for ever. Christ suffered and shed his Precious Blood at the Cross, so that no one may get lost eternally, but, rather, will convert, i.e., will, instead, fully accept the Will of God in everything, and his soul may thereby be saved. Christ can not save and forgive anyone who does not convert (see Mk 4: 12). One of the most important appeals in the homily of the Apostles and of the Church – starting with Pentecost – was and will be until the end of times the following: “Everybody shall free oneself from his wickedness!” (Acts 3: 26). The infallible Word of God speaks clearly about the fact that homosexual acts are against God and are thus gravely sinful, and that they put him who commits them in danger of being eternally lost: “If any one lie with a man as with a woman, both have committed an abomination, let them be put to death: their blood be upon them. (Lev 20:13), “Men who have sexual commerce with one another will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor 6:10); and “Homosexual acts contradict the sound teaching of the Gospels.” (see 1 Tim 1:10). This is also told to us by the Holy Ghost by the mouth of Moses and of the Holy Apostle Paul (see also: Lev 18:22; Gen 18:20; Jes 3:9; Rom 1:26-27; Jude 7). If representatives of the Church suddenly do not any more proclaim these warnings of the Holy Ghost, and are silent about them – under the pretext of “welcoming” practicing homosexuals and of respecting their dignity – then they commit a grave sin of omission, and God will demand from them an account – if one day practicing homosexuals should be lost for ever – because they had not been adequately warned. It would be a sin not to point out to a man that he is in real danger of defecting and falling down. All priests, bishops and cardinals who omit today – under the pretext of respect – to point out to practicing homosexuals the moral gravity of their acts, God will hold against them the following words one day: “If you do not warn and speak, in order to help the sinner to leave his sinful path so that he may stay alive, then the sinner will die because of his sin, but from you, I will demand justice for his blood.” (Ezek 3:18). One has to preserve the sound common sense in the midst of this enormous sentimental and intellectual confusion concerning the topic homosexuality; and one has to follow the pastoral principle of the Church – as constantly taught throughout the centuries: “To hate the sin, but to love the sinner.” One may not lie to those with homosexual inclinations and one has to tell them in truth that the homosexual inclination in itself is a disturbance in the order as it has been put by God into the human nature. In itself, such a tendency is not a sin. This disorder is a consequence of original sin, as are all other disorders of the moral conduct and in the structure of a personality. There are many disorders in the moral conduct of people which are deep-seated, such as the inclination to abuse alcohol or drugs. If such disorders are not lived out then they do not need to be a shame. One has to help with love and tact people with objectively disordered tendencies – as in our case with people with homosexual inclinations – to undergo a process of healing. With the Grace of God and with the competent help of experts, one can help such people – as the experience in many cases has proven abundantly. Only if these people thereby start a process of sanctification and make progress in it, can they become truly happy. Everything else would be deception and illusion. The unmistakably clear teaching of the Church on homosexuality – presented with love and respect – will be a true help for these people, so that they may save their souls for eternity and so that they may be able to lead a happy life already here on earth – with the help of the practice of chastity as bachelors or through a marriage, according to the Commandments of God. This would be the pastoral answer to this current problem in our society according to the Word of God and to the Faith of the Apostles as it has been handed down to us.
29) What is the clear teaching of the Catholic Church concerning homosexual pairs who want to adopt children, especially with respect to the welfare of the children?
There are clear statements of the Magisterium concerning the sinfulness of homosexual acts, concerning the objective disorder of the homosexual tendency, and, above all, concerning the sinfulness and unlawfulness of the adoption of children by homosexual couples; for example, the declaration of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “Persona humana” of December 29, 1975; the Letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith On the Pastoral Care for Homosexual Persons of October 1, 1986, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2357-2359; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Considerations Regarding Proposals to Give Legal Recognition to Unions Between Homosexual Persons. The following clear statement from this document may be quoted here: “As experience has shown, the absence of sexual complementarity in these unions creates obstacles in the normal development of children who would be placed in the care of such persons. They would be deprived of the experience of either fatherhood or motherhood. Allowing children to be adopted by persons living in such unions would actually mean doing violence to these children, in the sense that their condition of dependency would be used to place them in an environment that is not conducive to their full human development. This is gravely immoral and in open contradiction to the principle, recognized also in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, that the best interests of the child – as the weaker and more vulnerable party – are to be the paramount consideration in every case.” (No. 7).
30) How do you assess the recent referendum in Ireland which now legally permits homosexual “marriages.” Does a state have a duty unconditionally to obey the will of the people, even if this putative will of the majority actually contradicts the Will of God?
The result of the recent referendum in Ireland is a mirror and an indicator of the extent to which the broad masses of a people (with many Catholics among them) and – one might cry out to God – even representatives of the Catholic clergy – have allowed themselves to be indoctrinated by the neo-Communist gender ideology. The masses go along with the Zeitgeist, and not few clergymen, sometimes even prelates, collaborate with this Zeitgeist, along with their politically correct attitude. The recent history of Europe has shown how masses very quickly adopt ideologies, and even inhuman ideologies (such as, for example, Fascism, National-Socialism, and Soviet Communism). However, unlike earlier times in history, in our own days there is now to be found among the ranks of the clergy a higher proportion of collaborators with the new reigning ideology. This is a sign of the magnitude of the crisis of Faith within the Church. On the other hand, there is also now a chance for all who have remained loyal to their Baptismal vows – and loyal to the Faith of the Apostles and of the Saints – to confess and defend the Faith! The current time is not a time for sleep of sloth, but a time for being a good soldier of Christ (2 Tim 2:3). Our battle is a spiritual battle, a battle for the truth, with love (see Eph 4:15).