Clergy who call for divorced and civilly remarried Catholics to receive holy Communion are effectively lying because they convey the message that a “continuous violation” of their “sacramental bonds” can become “ultimately a positive reality," Bishop Athanasius Schneider has said.
Speaking last night at the Lepanto Foundation in Rome on the theme of the “unchangeable truth about marriage and sexuality,” the auxiliary bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan, said that in order to “cover their evident lie and contradiction to the Word of God,” these clergy “protect themselves with the masque of using the concept of ‘Divine mercy’ and sentimental expressions like: ‘to open a door’, ‘to be pastorally creative’, ‘to be open to the surprises of the Holy Spirit’.”
Bishop Schneider, who has become a leading and respected defender of doctrine in recent years, said Georges Orwell’s words on political language were applicable to such an approach (Orwell said such language is "designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind”).
The bishop, speaking in response to some senior Church leaders who after the Synod on the Family have continued to push for holy Communion for remarried divorcees, reminded the audience that “again and again” the Church has faced attempts to “reinterpret the crystal-clear and uncompromising teaching of Christ on the indissolubility of marriage and on the iniquity of any sexual act outside marriage, being such acts against the will of God.”
He cited various examples through history, such as Martin Luther’s view of marriage as a mere “worldly thing”, the Orthodox Church’s circumvention of indissolubility through ‘oikonomia’, King Henry VIII’s break with Rome, and Napoleon’s marginalization of cardinals opposed to his second marriage.
Arguing that changes in admission of the sacraments are a subtle means to have the Church validate extra-marital sexual behavior, he called those pushing today to alter the Church’s two-thousand year-old practice reminiscent of the “early Christian Gnostics” who try to eventually justify “by means of sophistic and cynical trickery, the sin of homosexual acts that shriek to heaven.”
“Nevertheless,” he said, “the truth of the word of God in the Holy Scripture remains fully valid in the same manner in our days as it was valid in the time of Jesus and the Apostles.”
He added that no Catholic who still takes seriously his baptismal vows “should allow himself to be intimidated by these new sophistic teachers of fornication and adultery,” even if they are a “bishop or cardinal.” Such teachers are “certainly no disciples of Christ,” he said, “but rather disciples of Moses or of [ancient Greek philosopher] Epicurus.” This “new doctrine”, he said, takes Christians “again back to the time before Christ,” to an attitude of “hard heartedness” similar to that of pagans.
Citing Paul VI, Pope St. John Paul II and Gaudium et spes, Bishop Schneider said to “maintain the beauty of a life in marriage and family according to the will and the wisdom of God,” it has always been necessary “to resist the spirit of the world and of the flesh.”
Referring to John Paul II’s encyclical Veritatis Splendor, he reminded those present that “intrinsically evil” acts remain “irremediably” evil acts and are per se “not capable of being ordered to God and to the good of the person”.
“The Church's motherhood can never in fact be separated from her teaching mission, which she must always carry out as the faithful Bride of Christ, who is the Truth in person,” Bishop Schneider said. “Genuine understanding and compassion” for a person’s true good certainly does not result “from concealing or weakening moral truth,” he said.
He called those pressing for changes in this area “the new Gnostic clerical party” that seeks a “welcoming pastoral style” for sexual acts outside a valid marriage and acts against nature, possibly with the hope they “may be ultimately in some cases practically accepted by the Church.” And they abuse this expression to be more pastorally welcoming “in a sentimental manner” in doing so, the bishop said.
Quoting Pope St. Pius X, he said the primary duty of charity “does not lie in the toleration of false ideas” that could plunge others into vice, but in “the zeal for their intellectual and moral improvement as well as for their material well-being.” Any love for our neighbor other than that which “flows from our love for God” and is rooted in Christ “is sheer illusion, sterile and fleeting,” Pius X said.
Bishop Schneider ended by quoting the early 20th century author and priest Robert Hugh Benson who wrote that the Catholic Church “is, and always will be, violent and intransigent when the rights of God are in question” and will be “absolutely ruthless” towards heresy. But simultaneously, “she will be infinitely kind towards the heretic, since a thousand human motives and circumstances may come in and modify his responsibility.”
“At a word of repentance, she will readmit his person into her treasury of souls, but not his heresy into her treasury of wisdom,” Benson wrote. “She exhibits meekness towards him and violence towards his error; since he is human, but her Truth is Divine.”
The full text of Bishop Schneider's talk can be read below.
In comments to the Register after his talk, Bishop Schneider said the faithful “should not look too much” towards people such as Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro who earlier this month suggested the Synod on the Family “opened a door” to holy Communion for remarried divorcees. Cardinals Christoph Schönborn, Walter Kasper, Donald Wuerl and Vincent Nichols have voiced similar views.
Father Spadaro, the editor of the influential Jesuit journal La Civilta Cattolica, is known to be a close adviser to Pope Francis, and some believe his comments reflect those of the Holy Father. Bishop Schneider said he did not consider Father Spadaro an official spokesman for Francis, and that he “would not accept his words” even if he said he was expressing what the Pope means.
“We know our faith and we have to stick to our faith,” the bishop said. “Not every word of the Pope is infallible, and he doesn't have that intention [when he speaks].”
Bishop Schneider said there must be charity and dialogue, but it is really up to the laity to defend the faith in these circumstances. “The clergy is very afraid and intimidated because they’re afraid of [losing] their positions,” he said. “The Second Vatican Council says this is your [the laity's] hour: be defenders and knights of the faith.”