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Kazakhstan Bishop Athanasius Schneider
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WATCH: Bishop Schneider on cohabitation, ‘sex-change’ surgery, and ecumenism

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October 31, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) — Cohabitation can “never have the real grace” of marriage and the Church must acknowledge people’s biological sexes rather than affirm “a kind of schizophrenia” that says one’s sex can be changed, Bishop Athanasius Schneider told LifeSiteNews in an exclusive video interview.

Schneider, the Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Maria Santissima in Astana, Kazakhstan, told LifeSiteNews that the Church’s view on cohabitation “cannot change” because “the revealed truth of God condemn[s] sexual acts outside a valid marriage as grave sins, as fornication and adultery.”

“The Church always taught this, transmitted this, through all the ages, uninterruptedly, always in the same meaning in the same sense,” Schneider said. “And therefore it will last always. And it cannot be changed.”

Schneider’s words clarify an off-the-cuff comment Pope Francis made in June that some cohabitating couples are in a “real marriage,” receiving the grace of the Sacrament of Marriage.

“I’ve seen a lot of fidelity in these cohabitations, and I am sure that this is a real marriage, they have the grace of a real marriage because of their fidelity,” the pontiff said.

“Cohabitation can never have the real grace of the marriage, because this is against the will of God,” Schneider said. “And when something is apparently and evidently against the will of God, against the revealed truths, it can never have the grace. Grace means the benevolence of God, the grace means, when I’m living … in agreement with the will of God.”

“Cohabitation is against the sixth commandment of God, which is clear stated in the Holy Scripture,” he said.

Schneider told LifeSiteNews that the Church needs to show more mercy and compassion toward those who are confused about their gender — and that doesn’t mean affirming their confusion.

“Clearly, they are sick persons,” he said. “[It’s] a profound psychosis, or neurosis. They are real sick persons and they suffer a very deep psychological disease of a kind of schizophrenia. And we have to have more mercy and compassion … with this person and to help them to overcome this illness, and not to [encourage] … them to change their sex.”

“We have to refer to this person, even when he or she underwent an operation — a surgical operation of changing the sex — we have to refer to this person as he or she was born,” Schneider said. “This is the truth. We cannot collaborate in these really schizophrenic games.”

Earlier this month, Pope Francis chose to refer to a woman who underwent a “sex change” operation as a man and referred to her as “married” to her “wife.” In discussing this individual, Pope Francis used gender pronouns that did not correspond with her biological sex.

“You are born man or woman. This is scientifically and biologically a fact,” Schneider said. “You are conceived in the womb of your mother in the first moment already with all … the genetical [programming] as man or woman.”

It is an objective fact that there are biological and psychological differences between men and women, Schneider told LifeSiteNews.

“In the first moment of the conception, God creates a soul,” he said. “And then the soul is united with the body, given in the first moment of conception. …. Even the soul is already marked in the first moment of conception, by the imprint of the bodily sex. And this has an influence in the soul and in the mind and even in the manner of thinking and psychology. This is a fact of evidence and science. I mean serious science, not ideological science.”

Responding to the pope’s recent claim that attempting to convert the Orthodox to Catholicism is a “very grave sin against ecumenism,” Schneider said it’s important to define what one actually means by ecumenism.

Because the Catholic Church teaches that it is the one true religion with the fullness of the truth, the pope’s comments caused confusion. Similarly, the pope’s plans to celebrate the Protestant Reformation have caused confusion. Martin Luther was excommunicated and the Church firmly rejects his theology as errant.

“Ecumenism means the desire that all become one — those who are baptized in Christ,” Schneider said.

Christians separated from the Catholic Church “are not objectively fulfilling the will of God, of Christ, to be one body and also visible,” Schneider said. “We have to do something concretely to invite, to speak with our separated brethren, to show them the beauty and fullness of Catholic faith” while “respecting always the freedom of the other person.”

Conversions to Catholicism are “ultimately a work of the Holy Spirit,” Schneider said, but “we have to collaborate in some way” through prayer and conversation.

Below is the full transcript of LifeSite’s interview with Bishop Schneider.

LifeSiteNews: How does the Church view cohabitation, and can cohabitation ever have the grace of the Sacrament of marriage?

Bishop Schneider: No, cohabitation can never have the real grace of the marriage, because this is against the will of God. And when something is apparently and evidently against the will of God, against the revealed truths, it can never have the grace. Grace means the benevolence of God, the grace means, when I’m living in — in agreement with the will of God. And so when cohabitation is against the sixth commandment of God, which is clear stated in the Holy Scripture, in the entire Scripture, the revealed truth of God condemn[s] sexual acts outside a valid marriage as, as grave sins, as fornication and adultery. And so, the Holy Scripture says those who practice fornication and adultery and impure acts, they cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. So, these are the words of the Holy Spirit, spoken through the St. Paul in the First letter to Corinthians. And so does the Church always taught this, transmitted this, through all the ages, uninterruptedly, always in the same meaning in the same sense. And therefore it will last always. And it cannot be changed.

LifeSiteNews: Your Excellency, how does the Church view people who think that they have changed their biological sex by undergoing an operation to make their body more like that of the other sex? Should the Church treat them in the sex that they are born, or should they use the gender pronouns that correspond with their ‘new’ gender [or sex]?

Bishop Schneider: For the first — people who undergo the change of their sexes — it is — clearly, they are sick persons. [It’s] a profound psychosis, or neurosis. They are real sick persons and they suffer a very deep psychological disease of a kind of schizophrenia. And we have to have more mercy and compassion … with this person and to help them to overcome this illness, and not to encouraging him, them, to change their sex. There are only two sexes created by God. And so, you are born man or woman. This is scientifically and biologically a fact. You are conceived in the womb of your mother in the first moment already with all the … the genetical [programming] as man or woman. So this is — you come from the hands of God as man and woman and no, there is no other. And so, when this person was conceived and born as a man or woman, his soul is in the first moment of the conception, God creates a soul. And then the soul is united with the body, given in the first moment of conception. And then the soul already takes the imprints of the sex, even the soul is already marked in the first moment of conception, by the imprint of the bodily sex. And this has an influence in the soul and in the mind and even in the manner of thinking and psychology. This is a fact of evidence and science. I mean serious science, not ideological science. Well, and so we have to refer to this person, even when he or she underwent an operation, a surgical operation of changing the sex, we have to refer to this person as he or she was born. This is the truth. We cannot collaborate in these really schizophrenic games and jokes.

LifeSiteNews: The pope recently said that trying to convert the Orthodox is a ‘sin against ecumenism.’ Is it possible to sin against ecumenism?

Bishop Schneider: What does mean ecumenism? We have to clear this. Ecumenism means the desire that all become one — those who are baptized in Christ. And so, [there is] only one church and this is the Catholic Church, governed by the Pope. There is no other church. And those who are not visibly united to the chair of Peter and to … all the truths of the Catholic faith — like the Protestants and the Orthodox — they are not objectively fulfilling the will of God, of Christ, to be one body and also visible. And therefore we have to have the deep desire that the Orthodox, the Protestants come and join again visibly the fullness of Catholic faith and the authority of the pope, of the successor of Peter. This we have to desire with prayers, but also with talks, respecting always the freedom of the other person. Respecting the freedom. Not using illicit psychological methods. This will be, maybe, a kind of proselytism which is, as proselytism is understood today, as a method with illicit ways to convince, to force other persons psychologically. This is not correct. But we have to say to the Orthodox, and to invite them lovingly, with love and respect with their freedom, to tell them the truth. So, when they want and to leave them the freedom. Ultimately, it is a grace of God, not our work, the ecumenism, that when the non-Catholics [join] the fullness of the visible union with the Catholic Church, this is ultimately not a human work, but a work of the Holy Spirit. But we have to collaborate in some way. So we have to do something concretely to invite, to speak with our separated brethren, to show them the beauty and fullness of Catholic faith.

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