A rebuttal based on real Catholic teaching…
No Saint Athanasius: “Bishop” Schneider continues to spread Errors about the Papacy
The German branch of the Vatican II Sect has recently opened its so-called “Synodal Way” or “Synodal Path” (Synodaler Weg), which is essentially an elaborate and structured series of chat sessions in which the laity get to tell their pastors what changes they want to see in the “Catholic Church” going forward. And since we’re not talking about just any country but about the Land of Luther, long one of the hotbeds of Modernism, this will produce a veritable catalog of ultra-liberal desiderata: married clergy, women priests, homo “marriage” ceremonies in church, and the like. The clerical sex abuse scandals in Germany are the official pretext for having this synodal process in the first place.
The Synodal Way is spearheaded by “Cardinal” Reinhard Marx, the highest-ranking German Novus Ordo bishop, who has already declared that he will consider the results of this quasi-referendum to be “binding” upon the German church.
Meanwhile, the Argentinian apostate currently occupying the Vatican, also known as Jorge Bergoglio or “Pope Francis”, loves what Marx is doing, for it allows him to appear as the moderate middle-of-the-roader who defends Catholic doctrine against the right and the left. And indeed, in June of 2019 Bergoglio had written a 7-page letter to the German church reminding them that they can’t just do their own thing. A few months later Marc Ouellet, the Vatican’s head of the Congregation for Bishops, told the Germans that their “binding” synod was “not ecclesiologically valid.”
Of course none of this impressed Marx too much. The rotund German pseudo-bishop is part of Bergoglio’s inner circle, after all, and so he had a “constructive encounter” with his boss and Ouellet in the Vatican. The result? Marx smugly declared that there “is no stop sign” interfering with his endeavor and that he “cannot see that the synodal path now somehow would be endangered.” Thus the Germans proceeded as planned, with the official opening of the two-year process taking place in Frankfurt on Jan. 30, 2020.
On Feb. 3, Marx was once again received in audience by Francis, presumably to plan the final implosion of what used to be the Catholic Church in Germany together.
Enter “Bishop” Schneider
This is where “Bishop” Athanasius Schneider comes in, the auxiliary of Astana, Kazakhstan, who has German roots. Schneider is to Francis’ right what Marx is to Francis’ left, thus giving the false pope the appearance of holding a centrist position between two extremes.
On Feb. 2, 2020, “Bp.” Schneider issued a letter entitled “The entire Catholic Church and the Catholic faith are stronger than Germany’s ‘Synodal Path'” (German original here). As Schneider enjoys a great reputation among recognize-and-resist traditionalists and conservative Novus Ordos, it is necessary to point out and refute some serious errors contained in his monograph.
After firmly denouncing the Synodal Way for ultimately seeking “to give official approval to truly heretical doctrines, with their correspondent sacramental and pastoral practices”, he writes:
The decisive problem in this tragic event is the fact that Pope Francis, by his silence, seems to tolerate those German bishops — first and foremost Cardinal Reinhard Marx — who openly profess heretical doctrines and practices, e.g. the blessing of homosexual unions, the admittance to Holy Communion of people living in adultery, and the advocating of the sacramental ordination of women. The letter Pope Francis wrote to the German Catholic Church in view of the “synodal path” was good, but it was not concrete enough, and it failed to set limits in order to guarantee that the “synodal path” would have a truly Catholic character, i.e., that it would correspond to what was believed always, everywhere and by all Catholics.
A few comments are in order.
First, Francis does not merely seem to tolerate the German “bishops”, he actually does tolerate them, at minimum, since he’s not lifting a finger to remove or otherwise discipline them.
Second, if, as Schneider correctly asserts, the prelates in question “openly profess heretical doctrines”, then they cannot be the legitimate Roman Catholic bishops of their respective dioceses, since one cannot be a public heretic and a public Catholic at the same time, much less the chief Catholic in a diocese: “For not every sin, however grave it may be, is such as of its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy” (Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi, n. 23). And with regard to the subject matter at hand — carefully spelled out by Schneider — none of these “bishops” could possibly plead a lack of pertinacity, since the Catholic teaching is well known to them and they are willfully rejecting or doubting it.
In fulfilling his first task as the supreme teacher of the Catholic Faith, the supreme protector of the integrity of the Catholic Faith, and the visible center of unity, Pope Francis ought necessarily to intervene and demand that the participants in the “synodal path” formally profess those truths and universal sacramental practices of the Church, which they are calling into question through the strategic and ideological program of the “synodal path.”
Fine, but he should have mentioned here that Francis himself professes heresy, and not just one. But of course this inconvenient fact doesn’t go well with the label of “supreme teacher of the Catholic Faith” and “supreme protector of the integrity of the Catholic Faith”, which Schneider disingenuously still accords to Bergoglio.
In fact, it becomes increasingly difficult to see just what Schneider thinks he is accomplishing with his constant interventions calling on Francis to do this or that — which he knows he will never do — other than keeping the conservative-leaning members of the Vatican II Church attached to Francis. But then that’s probably the real goal.
But be that as it may, Schneider continues:
The Pope has the grave duty to protect the “little ones,” i.e. the simple faithful and those priests and bishops in Germany who have been put on the periphery and whose voice has been stifled by the powerful “nomenklatura” of a new unbelieving and Gnostic caste of so-called “scientific” theologians, by ecclesiastical apparatchiks and by those bishops who have adapted themselves to the ideological dictatorship of the mass media and politics. The Pope cannot passively stand by or be silent as he watches the “wolves” devour the flock or the “arsonists” set fire to the house.
As someone who himself has accused Francis of promoting the “joy of adultery”, Schneider better than most people knows that Bergoglio isn’t just watching the wolves devour souls, he is the wolf! He is the chief of all the wolves currently roaming freely, and he appoints ever more of them.
Consequently, Francis may be a lot of things, but Pope of the Catholic Church isn’t one of them. As St. Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church, taught: “…[I]t would be the most miserable condition of the Church, if she should be compelled to recognize a wolf, manifestly prowling, for a shepherd” (De Romano Pontifice, Book II, Chapter 30; Grant translation). But Schneider would rather believe in a defected Papal Chair than a vacant one.
Connecting the In-Communion Dots
Next, the Kazakhstani auxiliary advances a most bizarre thesis:
The “synodal path” that is now underway has already openly shown that there is a division between those who still have the Catholic and apostolic faith and those who reject or question some of its essential contents. It is realistic to imagine a situation in which priests and bishops in other countries will not be able to maintain communion with those German bishops who advocate heretical teachings. The present confusion could even increase if these heretical bishops were still to be recognized formally by the Pope.
So here Mr. Schneider asserts that a Catholic must refuse communion with manifestly heretical bishops, apparently without even so much as a prior legal declaration, that is, official judgment from the lawful ecclesiastical authority. This much he got right! But he had better not tell this to John Salza, who once informed his hapless readers: “A person can make heretical statements while maintaining orthodox internal dispositions, that is, he may not necessarily believe what he says, based on many factors (peer pressure, misplaced zeal, emotional imbalance, even diabolical disorientation)” (source; refuted here). Since we are talking about Germans here, we may need to add beer pressure as another factor excusing from public heresy, but this is really something Schneider and Salza will have to fight over.
In any case, Schneider has no problem with refusing communion with prelates who have not been formally condemned by their superior. This is not going to fly with everyone in his camp, but then it’s not like any of these people really submit to their ecclesiastical superiors anyway.
Appealing to an imaginary future ecclesiastical condemnation, as some recognize-and-resisters might do, would be disingenuous. Under Schneider’s scenario, the present (if implicit) ecclesiastical judgment has already been rendered by the person they all believe to be the Pope, simply by his act of continuing to formally recognize the bishops in question as legitimate and orthodox and in communion with him. If that judgment isn’t good enough now, why should a future one be binding?
But there’s another problem for the Schneider thesis: Every Catholic has an obligation, under pain of schism, to be in communion with the lawful bishop of his diocese. But the lawful bishop is the one recognized as such by the Pope. Thus, Schneider is proposing the absurd and impossible scenario of a Catholic being obliged to enter into schism in order to escape heresy. But of course neither is an option for a Catholic because either one is a mortal sin severing one from the body of the Church. That is, either one makes a Catholic a non-Catholic, as we already saw from the Pius XII quote earlier.
Thus it is clear that neither alternative may be chosen, and neither option can possibly be required to be chosen, for “it is never necessary to do wrong; there never is, in fact, a choice to be made between two necessary moral evils” (Fr. Henry Davis, Moral and Pastoral Theology, vol. 1 [New York, NY: Sheed and Ward, 1935], p. 72).
Historical Precedent to the Rescue?
Unable to cite any Catholic ecclesiology to back up his bizarre position, Schneider turns to what he claims is historical precedent for his doctrinal lunacy:
Yet there is precedent for such a situation (albeit rare) in Church history. One of the most notable precedents was the Arian crisis in the fourth century, when the entire body of the Catholic episcopate was divided essentially into three groups: (1)the Catholic and orthodox bishops who professed unambiguously the full Catholic Faith in the divinity of Jesus Christ; they were the minority with the Pope; (2)the second group opted for ambiguous formulations; they were the majority and usually conformed themselves, for the sake of political correctness, to the dominant position of the ruling political power; (3)the third group was comprised of radical and unbelieving Arians; they were also a minority. The criteria and guarantee for being truly Catholic was the communion with the Apostolic See in Rome and with the unchanging and constant doctrinal Tradition.
OK, let’s untangle this a bit. In the above passage Schneider asserts that the (a) one Mystical Body of Christ was (b) divided in Faith and therefore (c) partly heretical, and that the only way to be a true Catholic was (d) to be in communion with the Pope and the true doctrine. This, he claims, is historical precedent for what he believes is, or could soon be, the situation we are facing.
Now it doesn’t take much to see that where people are divided in Faith, they cannot at the same time all be members of the same Mystical Body, the Church, for “those [who] are divided in faith or government cannot be living in the unity of such a Body, nor can they be living the life of its one Divine Spirit” (Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, n. 22). Schneider speaks of “the Catholic and orthodox bishops” on the one hand and then contrasts these with two other groups of bishops who, by definition, were not “Catholic and orthodox” — yet he treats them all as being part of the same Catholic Church. Since when does the Catholic Church consist of public non-Catholics? What meaning does “Catholic” have if non-Catholics also qualify for the label?
Secondly, Schneider correctly notes that the “criteria and guarantee for being truly Catholic was the communion with the Apostolic See in Rome”; yet, if his argument is to have any merit — remember, he is using this as historical precedent for the present — then he is effectively saying one of two things. He is saying either that the two heretical groups of bishops were also in communion with the Pope, despite their doctrinal differences, which would be a contradiction since he faults them precisely for not being truly Catholic; or that they were not in communion with the Pope, in which case he cannot use this case as historical precedent for our situation today, for which he envisions heretical bishops “still … recognized formally by the Pope”.
Do these people ever think about what they write?
In Communion with the Pope and Tradition?
The potential objection that in point (d) above Schneider is not merely requiring communion with the Apostolic See but also with the true teaching (“with the unchanging and constant doctrinal Tradition”), is specious, for adhering to the true doctrinal Tradition is precisely what communion with the Holy See guarantees, else it would be not only useless but a positive danger to one’s soul:
Indeed one simple way to keep men professing Catholic truth is to maintain their communion with and obedience to the Roman Pontiff. For it is impossible for a man ever to reject any portion of the Catholic faith without abandoning the authority of the Roman Church. In this authority, the unalterable teaching office of this faith lives on. It was set up by the divine Redeemer and, consequently, the tradition from the Apostles has always been preserved. So it has been a common characteristic both of the ancient heretics and of the more recent Protestants — whose disunity in all their other tenets is so great — to attack the authority of the Apostolic See. But never at any time were they able by any artifice or exertion to make this See tolerate even a single one of their errors.
(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Nostis et Nobiscum, n. 17)
This teaching is by no means unique to Pius IX. The Church Fathers themselves taught as much, as can be seen, for example, in Pope Pius VII quoting St. Ireneaus or Pope Leo XIII quoting St. Augustine and St. Maximus:
There has never been an enemy of the Christian religion who was not simultaneously at wicked war with the See of Peter, since while this See remained strong the survival of the Christian religion was assured. As St. Irenaeus proclaims openly to all, “by the order and succession of the Roman pontiffs the tradition from the Apostles in the Church and the proclamation of the truth has come down to us. And this is the fullest demonstration that it is the one and the same life-giving faith which has been preserved in the Church until now since the time of the Apostles and has been handed on in truth” [Adversus haereses, bk. 3, chap. 3].
(Pope Pius VII, Encyclical Diu Satis, n. 6)
“You are not to be looked upon as holding the true Catholic faith if you do not teach that the faith of Rome is to be held” [St. Augustine]. …In the same way Maximus the Abbot teaches that “obedience to the Roman Pontiff is the proof of the true faith and of legitimate communion. Therefore if a man does not want to be, or to be called, a heretic, let him not strive to please this or that man…but let him hasten before all things to be in communion with the Roman See. If he be in communion with it, he should be acknowledged by all and everywhere as faithful and orthodox. He speaks in vain who tries to persuade me of the orthodoxy of those who, like himself, refuse obedience to his Holiness the Pope of the most holy Church of Rome: that is to the Apostolic See.”
(Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Satis Cognitum, n. 13)
The real Catholic position on the Holy See and communion with it blows Schneider’s attempt at finding historical precedent for his absurd ecclesiology to smithereens.
The Joys of Heresy?
The Kazakh scholar continues:
If the “synodal path” in Germany approves female sacramental ordination, the legitimacy of homosexual acts, the blessing of homosexual couples, the legitimacy of heterosexual acts outside a valid marriage, there will surely be Catholic bishops as well as many priests and lay faithful, even in Germany, who will not accept this and who could therefore not be in full communion with those bishops who profess such heresies.
Notice how he uses the Vatican II term of “full” communion, as though there could be any other kind. Although Schneider here speaks of separating oneself from bishops who profess heresy, this is quite in contrast to what he says about “Popes” who are heretics. For such cases, he touts the beauty and usefulness such heresy allegedly brings:
The more a pope spreads doctrinal ambiguities, errors, or even heresies, the more luminously will shine the pure Catholic Faith of the little ones in the Church: The Faith of innocent children, of religious sisters, the Faith especially of the hidden gems of the Church, the cloistered nuns, the Faith of heroic and virtuous lay faithful from all social conditions, the Faith of individual priests and bishops. This pure flame of Catholic Faith, oftentimes nurtured by sacrifices and expiation acts, will burn more brightly than the cowardice, the infidelity, the spiritual rigidity and blindness of a heretical pope.
(Athanasius Schneider, “On the Question of a Heretical Pope”, Rorate Caeli, Mar. 20, 2019)
It’s too bad he doesn’t extend these same benefits to having heretical bishops. It would make things a lot easier for people.
By the way, a full rebuttal of Schneider’s theological claptrap about “heretical Popes” is available here:
- “A Refutation of Athanasius Schneider on the Heretical Pope Question”
- “The Errors of Athanasius Schneider”
A False Claim against Pope Liberius
Returning now to Schneider’s open letter regarding the German Synodal Way, the dangerous Novus Ordo bishop repeats a falsehood he had told before, namely, the idea that Pope Liberius excommunicated St. Athanasius and defected into Semi-Arianism:
Were the Pope not to correct the heretical decisions of the “synodal path,” he would thereby consent to them by his silence. This would lead to the bizarre situation of a Pope at the same time approving clearly heretic bishops as well as bishops who still hold and safeguard the true Catholic faith. The Church already experienced this kind of situation in the fourth century (although only for a brief time), when Pope Liberius excommunicated St. Athanasius, the champion of the Catholic Faith, and at the same time established communion with the semi-heretical bishops of the East, i.e. the semi-Arians. I hope that God will preserve us from such a disastrous situation.
Apparently Schneider is not aware that there is no such thing as a “semi-heresy.” Something is either heretical or not. The Semi-Arians are not called that because they were only “half” heretics but because the position they took was a less extreme form of Arianism that, nevertheless, was still incompatible with the dogmatic definitions of Nicea I and Constantinople I: “After the expulsion of Athanasius and the other champions of orthodoxy … the Arians had in the meantime split into three distinct sects: the Semi-Arians, … the Extreme Arians, … and the Middle Party”, Fr. John Laux summarizes in his compact Church History (New York, NY: Benziger Brothers, 1930), p. 117 (italics removed). Let’s be clear and hope this will be understood all the way in Kazakhstan: Semi-Arianism is totally heretical.
Of course Schneider does not even attempt to provide evidence for his claim that Pope Liberius “established communion with” the Semi-Arians. His mere assertion is to be enough, apparently. As for the charge that Pope Liberius excommunicated St. Athanasius, this is simply refuted by an in-depth investigation into the historical facts, which we have presented on this web site before:
For those who do not wish to read the entire article linked, perhaps this quote by Pope Pius IX will suffice: “…previously the Arians falsely accused Liberius, also Our predecessor, to the Emperor Constantine, because Liberius refused to condemn St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, and refused to support their heresy” (Encyclical Quartus Supra, n. 16).
Indeed, Pope Benedict XV cited St. Athanasius as an example of someone who relied on the judgment of the Roman Pontiff as a guarantee of orthodoxy, and he mentioned the same Pope Liberius as an example of a Roman Pontiff who preferred exile over compromising the orthodox Faith:
The ancient Fathers … took refuge in the Apostolic See whenever heresy or internal strife troubled them. For it alone promised safety in extreme crises. Basil the Great did so, as did the renowned defender of the Nicene Creed, Athanasius, as well as John Chrysostom. For these inspired Fathers of the orthodox faith appealed from the councils of bishops to the supreme judgement of the Roman Pontiffs according to the prescriptions of the ecclesiastical Canons. Who can say that they were wanting in conformity to the command which they had from Christ? Indeed, lest they should prove faithless in their duty, some went fearlessly into exile, as did Liberius and Silverius and Martinus.
(Pope Benedict XV, Encyclical Principi Apostolorum Petro, n. 3; underlining added.)
An indefectible Church because of the Papacy — or in spite of it?
The Kazakh auxiliary finishes his lousy article with another curious thesis:
Even if this should happen (and God forbid that it does), it will last only briefly, since the Catholic Church is divine and her nature is the clarity, immutability and firmness of the Faith. Indeed, she is built by Christ Himself upon the rock which cannot be overcome even by a heretical and schismatic “synodal path” — not even if this “path” were to have the tacit approval of the Pope. The entire Catholic Church is stronger than this, and the Catholic Faith is always victorious, for Mary, the Mother of the Church, has vanquished all heresies throughout the entire world.
Schneider’s claim that the calamity that would ensure if Francis should fail to condemn openly heretical German bishops — as though this weren’t already the precise situation in which the Novus Ordo Sect finds itself — could “last only briefly” since the Church is indefectible is disingenuous. For if her infallibility or her indefectibility prevent this, then they prevent it for any period of time, be it ever so brief. Time simply has nothing to do with it — the immaculate Bride of Christ cannot become adulterous even for an instant: “The Bride of Christ cannot be made false to her Spouse: she is incorrupt and modest. She knows but one dwelling, she guards the sanctity of the nuptial chamber chastely and modestly”, Pope Pius XI quotes St. Cyprian in his encyclical Mortalium Animos, n. 10.
Secondly, in the above final passage “Bp.” Schneider reveals that he really does not understand — or, at any rate, does not accept — the nature and purpose of the Papacy. He makes it seem as though the Papacy were founded on the Church, and that if the Papacy fails, at least somehow the Church will still prevail. But this is false.
The traditional Catholic teaching is that the Church is founded on the rock of St. Peter and his lawful successors in the primacy that Christ conferred upon him. Thus, the Church would defect if the Chair of Peter were to defect. Conversely, the Church cannot defect because the Chair of St. Peter cannot:
From this text [Mt 16:18] it is clear that by the will and command of God the Church rests upon St. Peter, just as a building rests on its foundation. Now the proper nature of a foundation is to be a principle of cohesion for the various parts of the building. It must be the necessary condition of stability and strength. Remove it and the whole building falls. It is consequently the office of St. Peter to support the Church, and to guard it in all its strength and indestructible unity. How could he fulfil this office without the power of commanding, forbidding, and judging, which is properly called jurisdiction? It is only by this power of jurisdiction that nations and commonwealths are held together. A primacy of honour and the shadowy right of giving advice and admonition, which is called direction, could never secure to any society of men unity or strength. The words – and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it — proclaim and establish the authority of which we speak. “What is the it?” (writes Origen). “Is it the rock upon which Christ builds the Church or the Church? The expression indeed is ambiguous, as if the rock and the Church were one and the same. I indeed think that this is so, and that neither against the rock upon which Christ builds His Church nor against the Church shall the gates of Hell prevail” (Origenes, Comment. in Matt., tom. xii., n. ii). The meaning of this divine utterance is, that, notwithstanding the wiles and intrigues which they bring to bear against the Church, it can never be that the church committed to the care of Peter shall succumb or in any wise fail. “For the Church, as the edifice of Christ who has wisely built ‘His house upon a rock,’ cannot be conquered by the gates of Hell, which may prevail over any man who shall be off the rock and outside the Church, but shall be powerless against it” (Ibid.). Therefore God confided His Church to Peter so that he might safely guard it with his unconquerable power. He invested him, therefore, with the needful authority; since the right to rule is absolutely required by him who has to guard human society really and effectively….
(Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical Satis Cognitum, n. 12)
In short, the Church is indefectible because of the Papacy, not in spite of it. The traditional Catholic doctrine on the Papacy is a priceless treasure — Mr. Schneider should look into it sometime.
Really, this whole subject matter is not terribly difficult. What’s making it all impossible to the point of absurdity is people’s continuous and stubborn refusal to admit that Francis simply isn’t the Pope. There. Solved it.
Exit Mr. Schneider.
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