The Kazakh auxiliary has spoken, the case is closed!
‘Bishop’ Athanasius Schneider issues Statement declaring Disobedience against Traditionis Custodes to be Legitimate
He rules no flock but presumes to issue directives to the Universal Church: Athanasius Schneider
For the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, ‘Bishop’ Athanasius Schneider (b. 1961), auxiliary of the diocese of Maria Santissima in Astana, Kazakhstan, has released a statement for publication and dissemination in semi-traditionalists quarters that presumes to effectively overrule ‘Pope’ Francis’ anti-Latin-Mass decree Traditionis Custodes, declaring those who reject it to be free from the guilt of disobedience.
Rorate Caeli is one of the blogs carrying it:
- “The prohibition of the traditional Latin Mass is an abuse of ecclesiastical power and noncompliance with its prohibition does not in fact constitute disobedience” by Athanasius Schneider (June 29, 2023)
To someone who does not merely pay lip service to the Catholic understanding of the Papacy but actually adheres to it, this whole scenario appears grotesque. Once one steps outside the semi-trad recognize-and-resist bubble, the matter is quickly seen to be absurd: A bishop who has no flock of his own and for the last 17 years has merely assisted another, diocesan bishop out in the steppes of Central Asia, decides, single-handedly, to issue declarations for the Universal Church about what papal directives are and are not binding, how no guilt is incurred through disobedience, or rather, how manifest refusal of the papal judgment is not “really” disobedience.
In short, Schneider is acting as a kind of ‘substitute Pope’ who presumes to direct the world’s Catholics, not merely in the absence of a Pope (which could perhaps be justified) but directly against (the man recognized as) the living Pope, flatly contradicting the latter’s own directives and decrees. It is absurd. But what’s even worse is that this man’s antics are then accepted as traditional Catholicism by his cheerleaders!
In this post we will critically examine Schneider’s 14-point statement that he’s issued for souls over whom he has no jurisdiction (even according to official Novus Ordo law, since he is only an auxiliary):
1. The traditional Roman liturgy of the Mass was the liturgy of our Catholic ancestors. It was the form of the Mass with which most of the European nations (except some Eastern European countries and the Ambrosian and Mozarabic rites), all American nations, and most of the African, Asian, and Oceanian nations were evangelized.
Alright, noted. Next:
2. “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too” (Pope Benedict XVI).
Thus spake ‘Pope’ Benedict XVI (r. 2005-13), but he hasn’t been in office for over 10 years. He who has replaced him — ‘Pope’ Francis, aka Jorge Bergoglio — doesn’t give a flip about what earlier generations held as sacred.
3. “The problem with the new Missal lies in its abandonment of an ever-continuous history, before and after St. Pius V, and in the creation of a thoroughly new book (albeit compiled of old material)” (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger).
4. The new Missal’s “publication was accompanied by a kind of prohibition of all that came before it, which is unheard-of in the history of ecclesiastical law and liturgy” (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger).
5. “I can say with certainty, based on my knowledge of the conciliar debates and my repeated reading of the speeches made by the Council Fathers, that this [i.e., the reform as it is now in the new Missal] does not correspond to the intentions of the Second Vatican Council” (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger).
So Schneider cherry-picks quotes from ‘Cardinal’ Joseph Ratzinger (the future Benedict XVI) criticizing the Novus Ordo Missae (“New Mass”) of Paul VI. No doubt, however, there are plenty of other quotes, by other Novus Ordo cardinals, which Schneider could have picked that disagree with Ratzinger’s assessments there. What about those?
Even more relevant is the fact that despite all his occasional complaints about the New Mass, Ratzinger as Benedict XVI always celebrated only the Novus Ordo rite, and even as ‘cardinal’, the occasions on which he offered Mass according to the 1962 Missal were few and far between. Ratzinger was definitely a man of the Novus Ordo, which in Summorum Pontificum he decreed to be “the ordinary expression of the lex orandi (rule of prayer) of the Catholic Church of the Latin rite” (Art. 1). In fact, he even legislated that together with the traditional Latin Mass, the New Mass constitute “two usages of the one Roman rite.” What about that?
Lastly, why does Schneider only go by Ratzinger/Benedict XVI and not, for example, by ‘Pope’ Paul VI (r. 1963-78), as if he had said nothing about his own new missal? If he was a true Pope, as Schneider believes, then he had the final say on whether the Novus Ordo Missae was in line with Vatican II, regardless of what ‘Cardinal’ Ratzinger thought about it afterwards. Even more so, if Paul VI was a true Pope, then his New Mass is necessarily legitimate and in conformity with the Faith of the Church.
Here is what Paul VI himself said:
It is even affirmed [by the Lefebvrists] that the Second Vatican Council is not binding; that the faith would also be in danger because of the reforms and post-conciliar directives, that one has the duty to disobey in order to preserve certain traditions. What traditions? Is it for this group, not the Pope, not the College of Bishops, not the Ecumenical Council, to decide which among the innumerable traditions must be considered as the norm of faith? As you see, Venerable Brothers, such an attitude sets itself up as a judge of that divine will which placed Peter and his lawful Successors at the head of the Church to confirm the brethren in the faith, and to feed the universal flock (cf. Lk 22:32; Jn 21:15 ff.), and which established him as the guarantor and custodian of the deposit of faith.
And this is all the more serious, in particular, when division is introduced precisely where congregavit nos in unum Christi amor [the love of Christ has gathered us into one], in the Liturgy and the Eucharistic Sacrifice, by the refusing of obedience to the norms laid down in the liturgical sphere. It is in the name of Tradition that we ask all our sons and daughters, all the Catholic communities, to celebrate with dignity and fervor the renewed liturgy. The adoption of the new Ordo Missae [order of the Mass] is certainly not left to the free choice of priests or faithful. The instruction of 14 June 1971 has provided for, with the authorization of the Ordinary, the celebration of the Mass in the old form only by aged and infirm priests, who offer the divine Sacrifice sine popolo [without people attending]. The new Ordo was promulgated to take the place of the old, after mature deliberation, following upon the requests of the Second Vatican Council. In no different way did our holy Predecessor Pius V make obligatory the Missal reformed under his authority, following the Council of Trent.
With the same supreme authority that comes from Christ Jesus, we call for the same obedience to all the other liturgical, disciplinary and pastoral reforms which have matured in these years in the implementation of the Council decrees. Any initiative which tries to obstruct them cannot claim the prerogative of rendering a service to the Church; in fact it causes the Church serious damage.
If Paul VI was a true Pope, the semi-trad goose is cooked.
And today, if Francis is a true Pope, then it simply doesn’t matter what Athanasius Schneider writes, opines, decides, wishes, exhorts, or counsels. That’s not how the Catholic Church works; that’s not how God set it up. Only Sedevacantism allows one to escape the Novus Ordo predicament without violating Catholic teaching.
We continue with the Kazakh auxiliary’s statement:
6. The traditional Roman liturgy of the Mass was the liturgy of all the Latin-rite Saints whom we know at least during the entire last millenium; hence its age is millennial. Although commonly called the “Tridentine” Mass, the exact same form of the Mass was already in use several centuries before the Council of Trent, and that Council asked only to canonize that venerable and doctrinally sure form of the liturgy of the Roman Church.
7. The traditional Roman liturgy of the Mass has the closest affinity with the Eastern rites in bearing witness to the universal and uninterrupted liturgical law of the Church: “In the Roman Missal of Saint Pius V, as in several Eastern liturgies, there are very beautiful prayers through which the priest expresses the most profound sense of humility and reverence before the Sacred Mysteries: they reveal the very substance of the Liturgy” (Pope John Paul II).
That’s all well and good, but these selective premises do not in fact produce the conclusion Schneider is looking to support, namely:
8. The Pope and the bishops do not have, therefore, the authority to forbid or to limit such a venerable form of the Holy Mass, which was offered by the Saints for over a thousand years, in the same way as the Pope or the Bishops would not have the authority to forbid or significantly reform the venerable form of the Apostolic or Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed, precisely because of their venerable, continuous, and millennium-old use.
Schneider says that the Pope and bishops “therefore” do not have this authority. But wherefore?
What he argues in the first seven paragraphs may very well all be true, but it is not sufficient to allow him to infer that a true Pope does not have the right or authority to suppress the traditional Roman rite for the present. Even if we suppose that a Pope does indeed not have that right or authority (and frankly, we’re not so sure about that either way), Schneider has not proved that in the above argumentation, he has merely asserted it.
In any case, it ultimately belongs to the Roman Pontiff to determine the rights and authority of the Papacy, not to a lone auxiliary somewhere in Asia. The Papacy is not a democracy with checks and balances, it is a monarchy that is protected, assisted, and “kept in check” only by Jesus Christ:
- Is the Pope an Absolute Monarch? The Authority of the Roman Pontiff in the Catholic Church
- The Impossibility of Judging or Deposing a True Pope
9. Complying with the abusive prohibition of that venerable form of the Mass of the Saints, issued unfortunately by current churchmen in a time of unprecedented ecclesial crisis, would constitute a false obedience.
Now that’s convenient: The Kazakh auxiliary single-handedly declares that a decree of the (supposed) Sovereign Pontiff for the entire Latin Church is abusive, and therefore to obey it “would constitute a false obedience” and presumably even be sinful.
By what authority does he presume to say that? If even an official papal decree is null and void, while at the same time the ‘Vicar of Christ’ says otherwise, who or what guarantees that Schneider’s “statement” is safe to adhere to and follow? Talk about false obedience!
Quite simply, if Francis is the Pope of the Catholic Church, Schneider cannot simply declare his documents to be of no force, not even “in a time of unprecedented ecclesial crisis”, which is a subjective criterion he uses as a trump card.
Where in Church teaching does it say that if an individual believes (however reasonably) that there is an “unprecedented crisis” afoot, papal decrees don’t count? Who or what gets to determine the nature and extent of such a crisis and what is and isn’t permitted in such a situation? And what if people disagree?
No, this kind of “crisis theology” won’t get us anywhere, at least not anywhere good.
10. Noncompliance with the prohibitions of the traditional Mass does not make one, by that fact, schismatic, provided one continues to recognize the Pope and the bishops and continues to respect them, and pray for them.
It is not for the offender to judge the nature or gravity of his particular crime. Certainly, Schneider can ‘declare’ that his position is not schismatic, but ultimately that will be for the man he acknowledges as Pope to judge, not for him.
As Pope Pius IX noted regarding the Armenian schism in 1873:
The chief deceit used to conceal the new schism is the name of “Catholic.” The originators and adherents of the schism presumptuously lay claim to this name despite their condemnation by Our authority and judgment. It has always been the custom of heretics and schismatics to call themselves Catholics and to proclaim their many excellences in order to lead peoples and princes into error….
But to prove that they are Catholics, the neo-schismatics appeal to what they call a declaration of faith, published by them on February 6, 1870, which they insist disagrees in no regard with the Catholic faith. However it has never been possible to prove oneself a Catholic by affirming those statements of the faith which one accepts and keeping silence on those doctrines which one decides not to profess. But without exception, all doctrines which the Church proposes must be accepted, as the history of the Church at all times bears witness.
That the statement of faith which they published was deceitful and sophistical is proved also by the fact that they rejected the declaration or profession of faith which was proposed to them on Our authority in accordance with custom. … For any man to be able to prove his Catholic faith and affirm that he is truly a Catholic, he must be able to convince the Apostolic See of this. For this See is predominant and with it the faithful of the whole Church should agree.
(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quartus Supra, n. 6-8)
Apparently ‘Bp.’ Schneider believes that one cannot be in schism if one “continues to recognize the Pope and the bishops and continues to respect them, and pray for them”. But there are a lot of people who “recognize” Francis as Pope — the Anglican Archlayman of Canterbury, for example — and yet do not submit to him.
Pope Pius IX underscored that
the Catholic Church has always regarded as schismatic those who obstinately oppose the lawful prelates of the Church and in particular, the chief shepherd of all. Schismatics avoid carrying out their orders and even deny their very rank. Since the faction from Armenia is like this, they are schismatics even if they had not yet been condemned as such by Apostolic authority. For the Church consists of the people in union with the priest, and the flock following its shepherd.
(Quartus Supra, n. 12)
Schism is refusal of submission, not merely refusal of recognition:
What good is it to proclaim aloud the dogma of the supremacy of St. Peter and his successors? What good is it to repeat over and over declarations of faith in the Catholic Church and of obedience to the Apostolic See when actions give the lie to these fine words? Moreover, is not rebellion rendered all the more inexcusable by the fact that obedience is recognized as a duty? Again, does not the authority of the Holy See extend, as a sanction, to the measures which We have been obliged to take, or is it enough to be in communion of faith with this See without adding the submission of obedience, — a thing which cannot be maintained without damaging the Catholic Faith?
…In fact, Venerable Brothers and beloved Sons, it is a question of recognizing the power (of this See), even over your churches, not merely in what pertains to faith, but also in what concerns discipline. He who would deny this is a heretic; he who recognizes this and obstinately refuses to obey is worthy of anathema.
(Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quae in Patriarchatu [Sept. 1, 1876], nn. 23-24; in Acta Sanctae Sedis X , pp. 3-37; English taken from Papal Teachings: The Church, nn. 433-434; underlining added. Note: We benefit from purchases through this link.)
More succinctly, Pope Pius XI wrote that “in this one Church of Christ no man can be or remain who does not accept, recognize and obey the authority and supremacy of Peter and his legitimate successors” (Encyclical Mortalium Animos, n. 11; underlining added).
11. In disobeying formally such an unheard-of prohibition of an inalienable patrimony of the Roman Church, one in fact obeys the Catholic Church of all ages and all the Popes who diligently celebrated and commanded the preservation of that venerable and canonized form of the Mass.
That’s not a new argument. Pope Leo XIII was quite familiar with it when in 1885 he wrote to Cardinal Joseph Guibert, Archbishop of Paris:
…if it should happen that those who have no right to do so should attribute authority to themselves, if they presume to become judges and teachers, if inferiors in the government of the universal Church attempt or try to exert an influence different from that of the supreme authority, there follows a reversal of the true order, many minds are thrown into confusion, and souls leave the right path.
Similarly, it is to give proof of a submission which is far from sincere to set up some kind of opposition between one Pontiff and another. Those who, faced with two differing directives, reject the present one to hold to the past, are not giving proof of obedience to the authority which has the right and duty to guide them; and in some ways they resemble those who, on receiving a condemnation, would wish to appeal to a future council, or to a Pope who is better informed.
On this point what must be remembered is that in the government of the Church, except for the essential duties imposed on all Pontiffs by their apostolic office, each of them can adopt the attitude which he judges best according to times and circumstances. Of this he alone is the judge. It is true that for this he has not only special lights, but still more the knowledge of the needs and conditions of the whole of Christendom, for which, it is fitting, his apostolic care must provide. He has the charge of the universal welfare of the Church, to which is subordinate any particular need, and all others who are subject to this order must second the action of the supreme director and serve the end which he has in view. Since the Church is one and her head is one, so, too, her government is one, and all must conform to this.
(Pope Leo XIII, Letter Epistola Tua)
Backing up Pope Leo was also the First Vatican Council, which had been held during his predecessor’s reign. It taught dogmatically in no uncertain terms:
Since the Roman pontiff, by the divine right of the apostolic primacy, governs the whole church, we likewise teach and declare that he is the supreme judge of the faithful, and that in all cases which fall under ecclesiastical jurisdiction recourse may be had to his judgment. The sentence of the apostolic see (than which there is no higher authority) is not subject to revision by anyone, nor may anyone lawfully pass judgment thereupon. And so they stray from the genuine path of truth who maintain that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman pontiffs to an ecumenical council as if this were an authority superior to the Roman pontiff.
So, then, if anyone says that the Roman pontiff has merely an office of supervision and guidance, and not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole church, and this not only in matters of faith and morals, but also in those which concern the discipline and government of the church dispersed throughout the whole world; or that he has only the principal part, but not the absolute fullness, of this supreme power; or that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate both over all and each of the churches and over all and each of the pastors and faithful: let him be anathema.
(First Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Ch. 3; underlining added.)
That’s how the Papacy works by divine institution. It’s not terribly difficult to understand: When there is a Pope reigning, you must submit to the current Pope, not to some Pope of the past (or imagined future) you find more agreeable. What would Schneider say if some future Pius XIV abolished the Novus Ordo Missae and then ‘Fr.’ James Martin decided to “resist” that, explaining that he’s only being faithful to “the tradition of Vatican II” with “all its Popes from Paul VI through Francis”?
With such ideas in place, one would never have peace and order in the Church. Everyone would pick and choose what he wishes to follow and come up with his own justifications for it — each individual always being his own final judge in the matter.
The highest authority in the Catholic Church is the Roman Pontiff — not “Tradition”. The Roman Pontiff’s own conformity with Scripture and Tradition — that is, with the Faith — is guaranteed by Christ Himself in virtue of the office He established, for “religion itself can never totter and fall while this Chair remains intact, the Chair which rests on the rock which the proud gates of hell cannot overthrow and in which there is the whole and perfect solidity of the Christian religion” (Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Inter Multiplices, n. 7). Do we believe it?
Continuing now with Schneider’s statement:
12. The current prohibition of the traditional rite of the Mass is a temporary phenomenon and will cease. The Roman Church is experiencing today a kind of liturgical exile, i.e., the traditional Latin Mass has been exiled from Rome; yet the exile will, for sure, one day come to an end.
By what authority does Athanasius Schneider affirm this? At best, it is his opinion. According to the man he insists is the Pope, the liturgical reform of Paul VI is “irreversible”, and the traditional Roman rite is gradually being phased out with Traditionis Custodes because it had been used to undermine the unity of the Church. Schneider is getting people’s hopes up, but his opinion on this matter, to use a favorite semi-trad term, is “non-binding”.
13. Since the traditional Latin Mass has been in uninterrupted use for more than a millennium, sanctified by universal reception over time, by the Saints and by the Roman Pontiffs, it belongs to the inalienable patrimony of the Roman Church. Consequently, in the future the Roman Pontiffs will without doubt once again recognize and re-establish the use of that traditional liturgy of the Mass.
More opinion, and opinion cannot cancel out a papal decree. Notice how Schneider is doing exactly what Pope Leo XIII condemned: justifying his present action by appealing to an imagined future papal decision in his favor.
Schneider ends his statement thus:
14. Future Popes will thank all priests and faithful who, in difficult times, notwithstanding all pressures and false accusations of disobedience, and in a spirit of sincere love for the Church and for the honor of the Holy See, maintained and transmitted the great liturgical treasure of the traditional Mass for future generations.
And yet more opinion using the same fallacious reasoning.
The auxiliary from Kazakhstan is essentially arguing: “I’m right on this, and future Popes will acknowledge it and will rehabilitate anyone who got punished for taking the same position.” That line of argumentation could be used by anyone to neutralize any kind of papal decision, decree, or penalty, even excommunication. Imagine if George Tyrrell had said, “I don’t care that Pope Pius X excommunicated me. The next Pope will lift my excommunication.” And perhaps Tyrrell did say that. Either way, he died shortly after being excommunicated. Predicting the future is always risky business.
We will end this post with some words from Pope Pius VI, who emphasized that “the sheep were entrusted to Peter, by Christ for him to provide for their food, not Peter who was entrusted to the sheep to receive his spiritual nourishment from them” (Bull Super Soliditate).
Instead of constantly twisting the Papacy into a pretzel so he can continue to recognize Francis as a legitimate Pope, ‘Bishop’ Schneider should finally dump the apostate Jesuit from Buenos Aires and return to believing in the Papacy instead.
The Papacy is a dogma of the Catholic Faith revealed by God. The status of Jorge Bergoglio is a historical circumstance. If one of the two has to go, for heaven’s sake, dump the Jesuit apostate from Buenos Aires.
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