The Bishop Schneider Intervention, Distilled

The Bishop Schneider Intervention, Distilled


When I received the text of Maike Hickson’s excellent essay on the need for a complete retraction of Amoris Laetitia, I was already well on my way toward finishing this post.

Bishop Athanasius Schneider, who is such a constant crusader for the integrity of the Catholic Faith, is already under fire after the publication of his analysis/intervention regarding Amoris Laetitia. Some are attacking him for making any public criticism of the pope; others, because they say he does not go nearly far enough.

I have a personal fondness for Bishop Schneider. I’ve met him several times. He baptized my youngest daughter. I truly believe that he is the single most courageous bishop in the Church fighting against the relentless attacks against Our Lord and His teachings coming from within the hierarchy. He also has an ambiance of personal holiness and love of God that can only understood if you experience it. He’s the real deal.

That said, I agree with Dr. Hickson’s argument. While we appreciate Bishop Schneider’s response and honor his outspokenness, the clarification he is requesting seems insufficient with error of this magnitude. Personally, I’m exhausted by attempts to bend over backwards to try to interpret what can only be conceived as malicious ambiguity in a positive, orthodox light. We’ve been doing this for half a century as the Catholic faith erodes at a constant, seemingly unstoppable rate.

I do understand the diplomatic approach that Bishop Schneider has taken. He is cautious with good reason — there is little in Amoris Laetitia that can be concretely indicted. This has been the playbook since the Second Vatican Council, and even before. The neo-Modernists know how to create language that you can drive a truckload of heresy through without ever uttering a single technical error. In that vein, I think it would be fair to say that while Pope Francis has at times danced so closely with heresy that he left…no room for the Holy Spirit, one would be hard pressed to say that he has ever explicitly crossed the line into something that is material and actionable.

Still, there is nothing pastoral about a document that causes so much confusion and scandal.

So what is an auxiliary bishop, all on his own, to do? To an extent, he is forced to play the same game — to insinuate, to pack clear meaning into general terms, to accuse, all without being much more explicit than his adversary.

With this in mind, I took the time to go through Bishop Schneider’s 6,000+ word piece to distill down what I believe are his essential arguments, and bring those forward for your consideration. While he certainly stated them kindly, I found them to be nonetheless quite strong in what they expressed about the dangers represented by the exhortation.

I identified 28 distinct points/themes (there may be more) as I went through the text. The following are my notes. and any error in understanding is my own. Most of this is my own paraphrasing of what I’m reading. Only where I quote the text directly is the point in Bishop Schneider’s own words:

The document has good in it, but it is causing a great deal of confusion and conflict.
The bishops conference of the Philippines (not cited by name, but quoted directly) have issued a statement that shows the danger in the text as pertains to communion for the “remarried”. As do the words of Fr. Spadaro about the “foundations” and “opening a door” to communion for the divorced and remarried.

Cardinal Schönborn , who was entrusted by the pope with the text’s presentation and interpretation, has paved the way for abuses in his own statements, ie., “My great joy as a result of this document resides in the fact that it coherently overcomes that artificial, superficial, clear division between ‘regular’ and ‘irregular’”

Those who say that the text is non-magisterial and must be read in light of previous teaching are technically correct, but this fails to address how AL will be used to further abuses already in practice. (This is a direct reference to the insufficiency of the approach taken by Cardinal Burke.)

Schneider’s own commentary comes in response to the pope’s own request in AL 2 for the “thinking of pastors and theologians”, which should forestall the kind of criticism that the bishop is out of line in publishing his thoughts.

Intellectual honesty dictates that the document is difficult to reconcile with the Church’s traditional doctrine.

The document fails to reaffirm Church teaching concretely. It fails to cite the proscriptions already laid out in Familiaris Consortio 84.

Francis misquotes Gaudium et Spes, (the bishop does not question if this was intentional; I most certainly do) giving footnote 329 of paragraph 298 a very different meaning than the V2 constitution originally intended. (This paragraph appears to approve of continued adulterous liaisons in certain circumstances.)

The vagueness of the document and its failure to concretely cite Catholic moral principles makes it insufficient to address the topics it speaks to.

To accept, as some clergy and bishops already have, that AL admits the possibility of allowing the divorced and remarried to receive communion without living in perfect continence would logically necessitate:

admission that the 6th Commandment is no longer “universally valid”;

that the words of Christ himself “What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” would no longer apply to all spouses;

that the sacraments of penance and Holy Communion could be received while a person continues direct violation of God’s commandments and without repentance or amendment of life;
that to obey these commandments would be moved from a practical necessity to a theoretical ideal that need not be strictly observed;

that Christ’s admonition “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if a wife divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery” would now be seen as admitting exceptions;

that direct violations of the 6th commandment could no longer be seen as objectively grave sin;

that the Church’s permanent, infallible teaching on the necessity of perfect continence before the “remarried” could be re-admitted to communion would no longer be valid;

that Christ’s command to observe the commandments “always and in all circumstances” — whatever suffering this might cause — would no longer be valid.

Bishop Schneider states that all of the preceding would amount to the “usurpation of a power that does not belong to any human authority, because to do so would be a pretension to correct the Word of God himself.“

He also says that to tell those living in invalid unions that they are potentially not living in objective grave sin is a lie.

Infallible Magisterial teaching cannot be invalidated in the way that some would use this document to accomplish.

The Church “has always rejected any contradiction between doctrine and practical life, referring to such contradictions as ‘gnostic’ or as the heretical Lutheran theory of ‘simul iustus and peccator’.” (At the same time justified and sinful.)

The pope makes statements in AL which suggest that he believes that discernment and the demands of the Gospel do not exist in conflict, but then fails to provide concrete Gospel-based prescriptions on the obligation of the divorced and remarried to either separate or live in complete continence.

In matters of life and death, the bishop asserts that no physician would leave the decision on what medicine to take or how much to the conscience of a patient, because this would be irresponsible. So why is this being done when it comes to prescriptions that concern the eternal life or death of the soul? (This is, though slightly oblique, a direct insinuation that the pope is himself being irresponsible in leaving so much to individual conscience.)
To those who would tell individuals living in adulterous relationships that they are not in sin, the words of Jesus apply, “Get thee behind me, Satan! Thou art an offence unto me because your thoughts are not those of God, but of men!”

The Divine truth about marriage is so important that a number of saints have died for it. +Schneider states, “One does not offer one’s life for a possible doctrinal or pastoral interpretation, but for an immutable and universally valid Divine truth. This truth has been demonstrated by a large number of saints who offered their lives, beginning with Saint
John the Baptist to the simple faithful today whose name only God knows.”

Schneider states that, “It is insufficient to say that AL should be interpreted according to the traditional doctrine and practice of the Church. If an ecclesiastical document – which, in our case, is neither definitive nor infallible – is found to contain elements likely to give rise to interpretations and applications that could have dangerous spiritual consequences, all members of the Church, and especially the bishops, as the fraternal collaborators of the Supreme Pontiff in effective collegiality, have a duty to report this and respectfully request an authentic interpretation.”

There is no true, supernatural and eternal life without keeping the commandments of God: “I command you to observe his commandments. I have set before you life and death. Choose life!” (Deuteronomy 30, 16.19).

Amoris Laetitia is energizing those who already permit abuses in various dioceses wherein those living in adultery are admitted to Holy Communion without repentance or amendment of life.

+Schneider assesses that the present situation resembles the Arian heresy (the worst ever in Church history) inasmuch as there was during that time a “profound crisis of faith, accompanied by an almost universal confusion, was caused mainly by the refusal or avoidance strategies to use and profess the word ‘consubstantial’ (‘homoousios’). Instead, the clergy and mainly the episcopate began to propose alternative expressions that were ambiguous and imprecise…” He makes the connection here to the ambiguities being used to obfuscate the divine truths about marriage, which are spreading confusion today.

In the Arian situation, Schneider asserts that Pope Liberius erred by signing an ambiguous theological formulation and excommunicating St. Athanasius, who opposed the heresy. (This isn’t just story time; he’s setting up a direct parallel to the present.) Only one bishop publicly rebuked the pope — St. Hilary of Poitiers. Almost all the rest were silent or complicit.

It is “incomprehensible” that the prohibition in Familiaris Consortio 84 of reception of Holy Communion for those “remarried” who are not living in perfect continence is missing from AL. In addition, footnote 329 of p. 298 seems to directly contradict this by encouraging the continuation of an adulterous relationship without continence.

It is URGENT that the Holy See “confirm and re-proclaim the cited formula of Familiaris Consortio 84, perhaps in the form of an authentic interpretation of AL. This formula may be seen, to some extent, the “homoousios” of our days.” (He’s signalling, in my opinion, that we are witnessing the beginning of a major, incredibly damaging heresy here.)

“Confusion in sacramental discipline with regard to divorced and remarried couples, with its inevitable doctrinal implications, would contradict the nature of the Catholic Church…” (These are the stakes as +Schneider sees them.)

“The See of Peter, that is, the sovereign Pontiff, is the guarantor of the unity of the faith and of apostolic sacramental discipline. Considering the confusion regarding sacramental practice in respect of the divorced and remarried, and the many differing interpretations of AL amongst priests and bishops, one may consider justified the call on our beloved Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ, the “sweet Christ on earth “(St. Catherine of Siena), to order the publication of an authentic interpretation of AL, which must necessarily contain the explicit proclamation of the disciplinary principle of the universal and infallible Magisterium concerning the admission of divorced and remarried couples to the sacraments, according to the formulation in Familiaris Consortio 84.” (This is +Schneider’s call to action.)

“In the great Arian confusion of the 4th century, St. Basil the Great made an urgent appeal to the pope of Rome, asking him to give though his word a clear direction, so as finally to ensure unity in the thought of faith and charity (cf.. Ep. 70).” (Here, the good bishop is citing precedent for what he is doing.)
Bishop Schneider also cites the now-famous quote by Melchior Cano, Dominican theologian of some renown and bishop, who played a pivotal role at the Council of Trent. Cano wrote:

“Peter does not need our lies or flattery. Those who close their eyes to the facts and indiscriminately defend every decision of the Supreme Pontiff are those who contribute most to undermining the authority of the Holy See. They destroy its foundations instead of strengthening them.”

For those of us in the trenches, this quote has become something of a slogan. I first used it here in 2013 after it was sent to me by a friend. Since then, I have seen it appear on many other traditional Catholic websites and blogs as a rallying-cry for a common sense approach to the difficulties with this papacy. I think it is no accident that the good bishop cites it, not only for the centuries-old wisdom it contains, but perhaps also for the solidarity it expresses with those who have found comfort in its unique formulation in our present time. Bishop Schneider is, in essence, flashing us a signal that he is one of us. At least, I’d like to think so.

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2 comments on “The Bishop Schneider Intervention, Distilled

  1. Letter to Bishop Athanasius Schneider

    April 26, 2016

    In light of Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s recent essay, Amoris laetitia: a need for clarification in order to avoid a general confusion (translation from the Italian provided by Rorate Caeli), I have sent the following letter to His Excellency (with whom I have been honored to recently engage privately on another matter). I believe that the letter (and my decision to publish it here in full) speaks for itself. Should I receive a response along with His Excellency’s permission to publish it, I will do so.

    Your Excellency,

    At the risk of disrupting our recent cordial correspondence and perhaps guaranteeing that it continues no further (which I would very much regret), I feel compelled to offer the following response to your essay on Amoris Laetitia.

    One of the points that I wish to raise concerns the necessity of offering straightforward public critiques of those things that endanger the Faith in a pubic way (like the exhortation in question). As such, I want you to know that I intend to publish this letter on the blog at for the edification of our readers.

    I must admit to being rather disappointed by your essay. While it makes a number of good points, it fails to adequately oppose, with equal force, the grave offenses against truth contained in Amoris Laetitia.

    Throughout the essay, you speak of ambiguities, interpretations and opinions regarding the text of the exhortation, as if therein lies the central problem. In point of fact, however, AL contains grave errors, heresy, and blasphemy.

    For the sake of clarity (though I have little doubt that you are most fully aware already) I’ll offer just two examples:

    “It can no longer simply be said that all those in any ‘irregular’ situation are living in a state of mortal sin and are deprived of sanctifying grace.” (AL 301)

    Given that “irregular” here refers to the very activities infallibly taught by the Council of Trent (Session VI, Chapter XV) as those that are properly called mortal sin, the same leading to the loss of sanctifying grace, AL 301 can be said to promote heresy.

    With respect to those who persist in such sins knowingly, Amoris Laetitia states that such persons:

    “… can also recognize with sincerity and honesty what for now is the most generous response which can be given to God, and come to see with a certain moral security that it is what God himself is asking amid the concrete complexity of one’s limits…” (AL 303)

    Since the Catholic faith teaches with dogmatic certainty that God in His Holiness never asks us to sin, this statement is not only heretical, but sheer, unadulterated blasphemy as well. Even so, your essay falls well short of expressing the kind of outrage that is warranted by such offenses.

    You state:

    “If we analyze certain statements of AL with intellectual honesty within their proper context, we find ourselves faced with difficulties when trying to interpret them in accordance with the traditional doctrine of the Church. This is due to the absence of the concrete and explicit affirmation of the doctrine and constant practice of the Church, founded on the Word of God.”

    I must respectfully disagree. The difficulties you cite are more properly due to positive statements made in the exhortation that stand in stark contradiction to the doctrine of the Faith as infallibly taught.

    The absence that truly matters with respect to Amoris Laetitia is the absence of the due goods of clarity of expression, freedom from error, and faithfulness to the immutable truth that every papal instrument should have by its very nature.

    As such, is it not the case that Amoris Laetitia is therefore objectively evil?

    Elsewhere you state:

    “A verbal quote from Familiaris Consortio n. 84 and of some of the most significant affirmations in Veritatis splendor would render AL unassailable by heterodox interpretations.”

    Would adding authentic doctrine serve to negate the erroneous statements, or would it only add to whatever confusion may already exist?

    You speak very well of a need for intellectual honesty and respect for the law of non-contradiction. With this in mind, one may respectfully ask how it can be said that juxtaposing truth alongside error (i.e., contradictory statements) within one papal document is consistent with the law of non-contradiction?

    While I am certain that you are attempting to be fair minded, I find it very troubling that you saw fit to temper your criticism of the document by saying:

    “Amoris Laetitia, which contains a plethora of spiritual and pastoral riches with regard to life within marriage and the Christian family in our times…”

    “Fortunately, there can be no doubt that AL contains theological affirmations, as well as spiritual and pastoral guidelines of great value.”

    I fear that these are gravely dangerous statements in that they may lead certain of the faithful to believe that AL can be safely and fruitfully navigated, in spite of its errors, in order to harvest certain “riches.”

    Does not the Biblical admonition regarding “a little leaven” apply?

    In any case, the full truth concerning Christian marriage is taught without compromise in other readily available magisterial texts that are not compromised by error. As such, does Amoris Laetitia provide anything whatsoever of value to those who wish to know and remain in the truth?

    You provided a lengthy list of “logical conclusions” to which certain possible “interpretations” of AL might lead; each one of them amounting to the tacit denial of immutable truth.

    Again, with all due respect, is it not more intellectually honest to say that many of these possible “interpretations” of AL, and the regrettable consequences that they invite, are really nothing more than the exhortation’s practical application and the fruits thereof?

    Some examples from your essay follow:

    “To declare that the deliberate, free and habitual practice of sexual acts in an invalid marital union could, in individual cases, no longer constitute a grave sin is not the truth, but a serious lie, and will therefore never bring genuine joy in love.”

    Would one be intellectually dishonest to say that Pope Francis plainly told just such a “lie” in AL 301? (I prefer to call it by its proper name; heresy.)

    “Consequently, to grant permission to such persons to receive Holy Communion would be a bluffing, a hypocrisy and a lie. The Word of God in Scripture is still valid: ‘He who says ‘I know him’, but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him’ (1 John 2: 4).”

    In spite of so much talk about the “confusion” AL invites, Pope Francis has made his desires plainly known; namely, that certain of those in so-called “irregular situations” be invited to the sacraments. Is it not intellectually honest to say, therefore, that Amoris Laetitia itself is tantamount to a bluffing, a hypocrisy and a lie?

    “In the event of a person committing objectively sinful moral acts in full awareness of the sinfulness of such acts, freely and deliberately, and with the intention of repeating such acts in the future, it is impossible to apply the principle of imputability for a fault because of mitigating circumstances. The application of the principle of imputability to such divorced and remarried couples would constitute hypocrisy and a Gnostic sophism.”

    Pope Francis did in fact propose the application of imputability in such cases (cf AL 302). Is it not intellectually honest to say that he is guilty, therefore, of fomenting hypocrisy and Gnostic sophism?

    “If the Church were to admit such people to Holy Communion even in a single case, it would contradict its own doctrine, give public testimony against the indissolubility of marriage and thus contribute to the spreading of the ‘plague of divorce’” (II Vatican Council, Gaudium et spes, 47).

    Intellectual honesty would seem to demand that we acknowledge that Pope Francis, in any number of ways, does in fact undermine the doctrine of indissolubility and thus contributes to the spreading of the “plague of divorce.” Can any good come from failing to warn the innocent of this danger?

    “In order to avoid such an intolerable and scandalous contradiction, the Church, in its infallible interpretation of the divine truth of moral law and of the indissolubility of marriage…”

    Is it not true that the Church does not so much interpret the divine truth of moral law and the indissolubility of marriage; rather, she teaches such things plainly and infallibly in the name of the Lord by His own authority?

    Furthermore, is it not the case that she avoids scandalous contradictions by plainly condemning error, especially when it come from those who, by virtue of their ecclesial rank, give the appearance of credibility?

    “When dealing with the observance of the express commands of God and the indissolubility of marriage, we cannot speak of opposing theological interpretations. If God says, “thou shalt not commit adultery”, no human authority could say “in some exceptional cases or for a good purpose you can commit adultery”.

    Does not intellectual honesty force us to admit that Pope Francis has effectively, even if not verbatim, made just such a public statement in Amoris Laetitia?

    If this be the case, is it not true that he must be held accountable in an equally public way for the good of souls?

    “If the divorced and remarried say that their voluntary and deliberate acts against the sixth commandment of God are not always sinful or, at least, do not constitute major sins, they are deceiving themselves and the truth will not be in them…”

    Pope Francis has plainly said as much (ibid.). Is it not intellectually honest to admit that he is, therefore, guilty of deceiving the faithful and the truth is not in him, even though this admission causes us great pain?

    You made multiple calls for an authentic interpretation of AL:

    “All members of the Church, and especially the bishops, as the fraternal collaborators of the Supreme Pontiff in effective collegiality, have a duty to report this [potential for danger] and respectfully request an authentic interpretation…”

    “There is an urgent necessity for the Holy See to confirm and re-proclaim the citeds formula of Familiaris Consortio 84, perhaps in the form of an authentic interpretation of AL…”

    “An authentic interpretation of AL by the Apostolic See would bring to the entire Church (“claritatis laetitia”) the joy in clarity.”

    And yet, in spite of this, you state:

    “However, realistically speaking, it is insufficient to say that AL should be interpreted according to the traditional doctrine and practice of the Church.”

    If I may say, I suspect that this glaring contradiction concerning the usefulness of mere interpretations arises not out of any genuine confusion on your part about what really needs to be done, but out of a reluctance to do it.

    You even cited the example of an appropriate, saintly, response on the part of a bishop:

    “St. Hilary of Poitiers was the only bishop who dared to rebuke Pope Liberius severely for these ambiguous acts.”

    It seems rather clear to me that Amoris Laetitia is best understood as a document that plainly suffers from grave error, a lack of due good, and as such it is therefore properly called evil. If Pope Liberius merited rebuke for endangering souls by virtue of certain “ambiguous acts,” how much more does Pope Francis merit severe rebuke, delivered in a manner equally as public as his offenses against truth?

    In conclusion, Excellency, many of the faithful have been awaiting with great anticipation your response to this terrible scourge on the Catholic Church at the hands of Pope Francis.

    In light of the points that I’ve raised here with respect to your essay, we are now left to wonder if any in the episcopate of today have the courage to follow the example of St. Hilary of Poitiers. At this historically tragic moment in the life of the Church that we love so much, I implore you, Excellency, for the salvation of souls, be that bishop!

    Yours truly in Christ with Immaculate Mary,

    Louie Verrecchio

  2. I’m with Louie, folks, for he knows that Truth is not negotiable. But the fact remains that Bishop Schneider has no power, by himself, to deal with that Evil person occupying the Chair of Peter. It would take a veritable revolution from the hierarchy to unseat that Jerk.

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