Most of you are already familiar with the statement by Archbishop Athanasius Schneider commenting on the Amazonian Synod. I read it several times and I have found no fault in it. Although my theological toolbox is very small, it seems to me that this is not so much a matter of theology, not even a pastoral matter, but a matter of common sense.
We have become accustomed to the methods of the political left, that uses some disenfranchised group or other as a tool to climb to power or modify the existing laws to make everyone miserable, including those whom are supposedly going to be “liberated” — That “liberation” is delayed until the would-be liberators acquire that extra quota of power, of course. I cannot avoid seeing the parallelism with the poor Catholics inhabiting the Amazonian basin. They seem to be the pawns used to effect some radical changes to the pastoral practice, if not the eternal teachings, of the Catholic Church.
Having that in mind, let me think aloud here and examine some of the consequences of this illuminating document by Bishop Schneider. A comforting document it is, regardless of how it may be received. After reading it, I was left with a feeling of peace, finding no alarmist words in it, nor any anxiety in its conclusions. Since Buenos Aires is a little closer to the Amazon than Rome, I will claim a geographical proximity right to comment. Bear with me and please correct me where I am wrong.
Some argue that the people of the Amazon are being unfairly denied of the Eucharist. Therefore the proposal of selecting from among the faithful some viri probati, men of proven good reputation, giving them access to the Catholic priesthood without the requirement of celibacy. Bishop Schneider predicts that such a move would create a special class of Catholic priests. In my opinion, Schneider is also correct in predicting the extension of such practice to the rest of the Church, effectively opening the door to a de facto elimination of the discipline of priestly celibacy.
The reception of Holy Communion is not a right such as the right to vote, or some other civic or human rights. Here is where we find another familiar element of the political left’s manual of operations. Rights have to be continuously created with the purpose of (1) burdening the State with the enforcement of laws guaranteeing that right. That also helps (2) to reinforce the idea that rights are an invention or a concession of the State to the citizen when, in reality, all rights emanate from God who is above all human powers. (3) Most importantly, the enforcement of such rights permits to divide the citizenry thus siphoning power up to the rulers who decide who has such rights and who does not.
The detection (or outright theoretical creation) of a disenfranchised class, and of the “rights” that such class allegedly should enjoy, are pages taken whole from the political Left manual of operations.
It is not a scandal that men and women in a certain geographical area are deprived of receiving the Holy Eucharist. Bishop Schneider proposes several reasonable methods to actually improve priestly assistance to the isolated areas of the Amazon. I won’t repeat them here but basically: if wood is needed for the fireplace, should we immediately decide to burn the furniture, or should we go out to see what we can do to obtain suitable wood to burn? For all I know, nothing has been done to increase the number of priests, missionaries, pastoral activity, temporary assistance programs incorporating priests from other countries, etc.
There are scandals, not only here in the Amazon but also far away: homosexuals exercising undue power and forcing wordly agendas and ideologies on the faithful. That’s a scandal! And what about the appalling ignorance of the faithful in matters of faith that are important for the salvation of their souls? What good is it to walk many miles to give someone the Eucharist when those same people ignore the bulk of the Catholic doctrines and traditions.
Preservation of the Catholic Faith
Obedience to the legitimate authorities of the Catholic Church is the obligation of every Catholic. Those of you who read this blog, know very well that I do not agree with those who legitimize claims of Sedevacantism and other similar claims. Although I lament the present state of things along with many other sincere Catholics, I do not think that the crisis will go away if we do something along the lines of protesting, replacing bishops, or even deposing the current Pope. We believe that God exists. If we see corruption, incompetence, power grabbing, etc. imagine how much God actually sees!
God has always acted to save his Church but the passion of the faithful was predicted even before Christ Passion was completed:
A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.” Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us”; and to the hills, “Cover us.” For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?’ — Luke 23: 27-31
Looking at the Church today, who would not agree that the wood is drying fast? This situation we are in was predicted back then and we were reminded by Our Lady many times throughout history that a time of confusion and division was going to precede the cleaning of the Church by Christ in person. This cleansing was also predicted by John the Baptist as one of the identifying marks of the Messiah:
He has his winnowing shovel with him, to thresh out all the grain and gather the wheat into his barn; but he will burn the chaff in a fire that never goes out.” — Luke 3:17.
The question we are facing is this: What are we to do if the leaders of the Catholic Church go rogue and start doing all the bad things that Christ predicted that they will do? How is the faith going to be preserved? Bishop Schneider answers:
The successor of Peter, the Pope, has a strict duty, as given to him by God, as the holder of the Seat of Truth (cathedra veritatis), to preserve, in its purity and integrity, the truth of the Catholic Faith, the Divine Constitution of the Church, the sacramental order as instituted by Christ, and the apostolic inheritance of priestly celibacy; and to pass them on to his own successor and to the next generation. He may not support in the slightest way – by silence or by an ambiguous conduct – the obviously Gnostic and naturalistic contents of parts of the Instrumentum laboris, as well as the abolition of the apostolic duty of priestly celibacy (which first would be regional, and then naturally, and step by step, then becomes universal). Even if the Pope would do this at the upcoming Amazon Synod, then he would gravely violate his duty as the Successor of Peter and the Representative of Christ, and he would then cause an intermittent spiritual eclipse in the Church. But Christ, the invincible Sun of Truth, will re-illuminate this brief eclipse by again sending His Church holy, courageous, and faithful popes, because the gates of hell are not able to overcome the rock of Peter (see Matthew 16:18). The prayer of Christ for Peter and his successors is infallible. That is to say, that, after their conversion, they will again strengthen their brothers in the Faith (see Luke 22:32)
The truth, as Saint Iraeneus formulated it, will remain standing also in a time of an intermittent spiritual eclipse in the Church – as it is the case with our time, by God’s unfathomable permission: “For, in the Roman Church, the Apostolic Tradition is always preserved on the part of the faithful who are everywhere” (Adversus haereses 3, 3, 2).
To preserve “the faith once given to the saints” we have to learn it first. Never in the history of mankind has information been so easily available. But once we learn the faith, we must teach it to others. That is the divine commandment:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (See Matthew 28:16-20)
Athanasius Schneider has given us a clear warning and a call to action. He seems to have the spirit of another Athanasius, the saintly bishop of Alexandria (Egypt) that led the fight against the Arian Heresy. Athanasius suffered but he was given the strength to turn around a situation that seemed at the time impossible to resolve. He lived the life of a true Christian bishop, preserving and defending the faith as he had received it without minding adverse consequences. Athanasius led a life of service to his flock and to his Lord Jesus Christ. That is the reason why he is a Doctor of the Church. He was placed in such high place so we can learn from his bright example.
‘No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lamp-stand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light.’ (Luke 8:16-17)
Be that light for Jesus.