Saturday, July 13, 2013

Athanasius Schneider: Clarification of Vatican II Needed

The Most Reverend Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan has become the most recent bishop to speak up on ambiguities and problematic texts in the documents of Vatican II and speak up in favor of an authoritative interpretation or clarification of these documents in continuity with Catholic Tradition.

His comments came in the context of a lengthy interview with Michael Voris of Church Militant TV, who caught the Bishop in Rome and somehow got a 34 minute interview out of him. Click here to check out Michael Voris' interview with Bishop Athanasius Schneider; it is long, but well worth it if you have the time.

This is not the first time Schneider has made such comments; in 2010 he called for a "Syllabus of Errors in Interpretations of Vatican II" (see here); but in his comments to Voris he goes further and explains what he specifically objects to in some of the Council documents and what sorts of clarifications are needed.

Bishop Schneider begins by stating that the biggest error relating to the Council is a basic approach to the Council itself that sees it as a rupture with Tradition. In this, he echoes the words of Benedict XVI, who popularized the phrase "hermeneutic of rupture" in his now famous 2005 homily. Schneider notes that this presumption of rupture can be "liberal or traditional", though as his subsequent comments explain, he sees the liberal rupture as much more grave than any potential traditionalist rupture. His proposition for remedying this is a formal declaration that the Council should be interpreted in continuity with Tradition and that the Council Fathers had not no intention to make a break with the past.

Like Cardinal Kasper, Schneider notes that it is not simply a problem with interpretation of the Council, what Benedict XVI called the "council of the media", but with the some of the documents themselves. He states that "majority of the texts of the Council are very rich and traditional", but some are "controversial or ambiguous" and suffer from a "lack of precision." Some of these documents are "open to different interpretations" (what Kasper called "compromise formulas"). Thus, following Kasper, he admits an ambiguity in the documents.

During the interview he is asked about Kasper's comments, and far from denying or contradicting them, he states that Kasper's comments are correct and need to be officially stated by the Magisterium. He calls for an official clarification of the documents of Vatican II, a sort of authoritative interpretative key to ensure that the documents are understood in continuity with Tradition. He states that the Church needs to offer "some clarifications or some indications of the misinterpretations...because we have to be very, very concrete" and suggests perhaps an explanatory note, as Paul VI offered for Lumen Gentium.

By the way, I had proposed a similar concept a few weeks back - that an authoritative interpretation of Vatican II was needed.

Whereas Schneider does not follow Kasper in discussing the intentionality of these ambiguities, he does discuss some very concrete examples of specific passages he finds problematic and asks for the Magisterium to "give us clear, very clear, interpretations of some very specific subjects." He suggests that this clarification should come from the Pope himself.

So, what ambiguities does the Most Reverend Athanasius Schneider find problematic?

His first example is the doctrine of collegiality found in Lumen Gentium. Without citing any passages in particular, he opines that the document teaches the headship of the Pope in an "insufficient" way and that the document can be read to mean that the Pope is a first among equals who has only a of primacy of honor, ignoring or downplaying his actual jurisdiction and role as episcopus episcoporum. Schneider does not cite a text directly so I will not comment any further except to say that the view of collegiality that Schneider finds "insufficient" is very common manner.

Staying in Lumen Gentium, he spends quite a bit of time with Lumen Gentium 16, which he forcefully says  "needs and explanation." The problematic passage he cites is the sentence which states that "the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God." His specific problem is which the last sentence, which states that Muslims and Catholics together adore the one God. Schneider says that this statement is extremely clumsy and admits of  "two substantial different levels" of interpretation. He goes on to make a phenomenally important distinction between belief in one God according to natural reason and the supernatural virtue of faith, which alone is pleasing to God:

"We adore God always as a Trinity...our adoration is an adoration of supernatural faith. To worship God as Creator only or one God only, there is no need of faith. The use of your reason is sufficient. This is a dogma of the First Vatican Council, that every human person is able only by his reason, natural light of reason, without the light of faith, to recognize the existence of one God as Creator. Consequently, to worship Him according to his knowledge of natural reason. These are the Muslims - they have no supernatural faith and therefore they have no supernatural act of worship. Even the Jews who rejected Jesus as God, as Trinity, they rejected Him they have no faith. Therefore their worship is also natural, not supernatural."

The Muslim worship of Allah is not the same as the supernatural worship of the Trinity, which alone is pleasing to God. Thus, even if they claim to worship the same God based on a certain historic pedigree, their worship is fundamentally different from Catholic worship and cannot be pleasing to God because they lack the supernatural virtue of faith. When Voris mentions that Cardinal Timothy Dolan recently encouraged Muslims to keep their faith and said that we worship the same God, Schneider dryly says, "The Cardinal was referring to this expression of the council. Now you observe why it is necessary to strengthen this essential distinction."

Also on Schneider's naughty list is Gaudium et Spes 12, which begins with the statement "all things on earth should be related to man as their center and crown" (finis et culmin). In his analysis of this passage, :

"I think this expression is very ambiguous. It is not correct because all the things which exist on earth have their finality in God and have to glorify God as their summit...all things that exist are created for the glory of God and for Christ, through Him and for Him. Christ is the end of all created things. The aim of this expression was that God created all non-rational things for the service of man, and that man is the ruler or king of this creation because God gave man such a dignity. But I think we cannot say this in this manner. We have to stress, even so, the created things on earth are created for man, but not ultimately for we have to explain this also, otherwise it is an anthropocentrism, and this is all part of the crisis of this past fifty years, this anthropocentric vision. And not only vision, but practice, also, Christian life, liturgy and theology. Very anthropocentric. And this is the biggest danger of humanity, for the Church to be anthropocentric, because this was the first sin of Adam and Eve. This is very dangerous, and such expression of our Council texts can be used for such things and therefore need more explanation."

When it comes to ecumenism, Schneider has a strong criticism of the tone of the document Unitatis Redintegratio. The document on ecumenism teaches that God can use even the non-Catholic communities as means of salvation. Schneider opines:

"This could also be interpreted in a wrong manner, in a way of the Anglican Branch theory that there are several branches of Christianity who are all means of salvation. Therefore we also have to clarify this expression. We have to say perhaps, nevertheless, God can use other Christians, but individually because they are baptized...Remember what St. Augustine said, what the non-Catholics have, they took from the Church. He even said they have stolen it from our house. What they have, this is Catholic, not theirs. Therefore, we have to explain this. Otherwise, it could be understood wrongly."

In other words, individual non-Catholic Christians, by virtue of the valid baptism they share, can certainly be means of grace; it was a Protestant who first shared the Gospel with me when I was a pagan teenager, and this became a means of grace that was the first step in my whole conversion. But Schneider points out that we cannot attribute this to sects or denominations collectively, as if God wishes to utilize groups in material heresy as some kind of "sub-churches" alongside the Catholic Church. Whatever good individuals do or bring to the table, they bring it by virtue of what they retain from Catholicism. These denominations, on the other hand, owe their very existence to the fact that they reject Catholicism. So the fact that an individual Protestant may be a blessing or be instrumental as a grace-bearer does not legitimize Protestantism as such.

There is much more and I encourage you all to watch the full interview if you have time. But it is important to note that Schneider is the latest voice added to a growing trend: clerics who are admitting that the documents of Vatican II themselves have ambiguities and problems that ought to be rectified. Benedict XVI himself was perhaps the first to raise these objections when he noted some Council documents were "dense" and "weak" (see here) and rectified the subsistit in problem of Lumen Gentium by issuing an interpretive document; more recently we had Kasper's candid admission on intentional ambiguities in the conciliar texts. Now we have these refreshingly honest comments by Schneider about some legitimate problems with several key Conciliar documents.

As we move further from 1965, it is becoming increasingly acceptable to note the existence of ambiguities and problems in the Council documents, and that this can be done without calling into question the legitimacy of the Council. This is a significant shift, as in previous years there were only two possible positions on the Council: the documents were perfect, the Springtime of the Church had to be affirmed unhesitatingly, and any problems were due not to ambiguities in the documents but to liberals who were twisting the documents, hijacking them, as it were. Or, if you denied any of these assertions, the only alternative was that you were a schismatic who was questioning the legitimacy of the Council and dissenting from the Magisterium. The comments of Benedict, Kasper and Schneider demonstrate clearly that it is possible to have an intelligent conversation about the documents that admits of their weaknesses without in any way being unfaithful to the Church. Indeed, the most recent comments of Schneider show us that this sort of discussion is not only possible, but necessary.


Anonymous said...

Now, this is a brave bishop, a true pastor and a true catholic. If these comments reach the ears of H.H., mons. Schneider will remain as an auxiliary bishop forever. But this is not important for him, only truth.

It is a pity that Benedict XVI didn't create him cardinal, or at least bishop of an important see.

Boniface said...

Sorry for the typos and formatting errors...I posted this late at night from a hotel room. I will fix it when I get home.

Anonymous said...

Why do you think this interview hasn't yet been picked up by other traditional Catholic blogs? I agree with your final paragraph -- but then the Bishop's comments about the inadequacies of Vatican II should be HUGE news. Am I missing something? Or is someone still putting together a transcript?

Boniface said...

I agree...this should be huge news, just like it was when Kasper made his comments. I think the problem is that there is no transcript...the excerpts you see here I meticulously typed as I listened to the interview, and it took me a long time.

Of course, you can promote this by passing it around yourself. ;) Someone should send it to Rorate.

Catholic Mission said...

Monday, July 15, 2013

It is not contrary to Vatican Council to have a Catholic State- Bishop Athanasius Schneider

Bishop Athanasius Schneider said that it is not contrary to Vatican Council to have a Catholic State in which the Government recognizes true worship and tolerates other religions and does not persecute them. It would be recognized that the majority of the people of that state are Catholic and they want to hand this Tradition to their grandchildren.So they also have some privileges. This is the rule of democracy where the people are in a majority.(31.44)

To recognize true worship, a Catholic State, it is necessary also to recognize that Vatican Council II affirms outside the Church there is no salvation. When we recognize that the Council is affirming the literal interpretation of the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus in Ad Gentes 7, then Vatican Council II is also saying that other Christian communities and churches need Catholic Faith for salvation (AG 7).Christian religions are not paths to salvation and their members need to convert into the Church. With extra ecclesiam nulla salus the Council is traditional on other religions and ecumenism.

In principle a Christian could be saved but defacto in the present times all Christians need Catholic Faith for salvation. Catholic Faith includes the faith and moral teachings of the Catholic Church and the Sacraments.Vatican Council II no where states that defacto a Christian does not have to convert into the Church in the present times for salvation.

When we accept that outside the Church there is no salvation and there are no known exceptions to this traditional teaching in Vatican Council II (LG 16,LG 8 etc not being known exceptions but refer to in principle cases) we have a moral right to affirm that though there is tolerance and freedom for other religions, true worship is there in only the Catholic Church.Though de facto other religions do exist, de jure the only way to salvation is in the Catholic Church.So there is a Constitution of a Catholic State in which the centre is not man, but God as understood by the Catholic Church.

This is the basis for a Catholic State and the non separation of Church and State. All this follows when we accept that Vatican Council II is affirming the literal interpretation of the thrice defined dogma on exclusive salvation in only the Catholic Church.

Johannes said...

Regarding the "one God" issue, it is essential to distinguish "What" God is from "Who" God is.

Regarding the "What", God is Subsistent Being, i.e. the uncreated absolute fullness of being and therefore of every perfection. This is common to Christianity, Judaism, Islam and philosophical theism. In this sense we all adore the one God Who is the Creator "ex nihilo" of everything that exists outside Him.

The differences arise regarding the "Who", which includes chiefly the Trinity, but also the divine design with regard to humans: what God expects from us, wants for us, and, mainly in Christianity, wants to work in us. In this respect, even Jews and Muslims differ between each other.

Regarding the issue of whether natural worship of God is pleasing to Him, we have to distinguish between those who have culpably rejected the Christian trinitarian faith and those who have not. Of the latter, we cannot say that their natural worship of God is not pleasing to Him. This is evident in several ways, e.g.:

1. Abraham, Moses, Isaiah, etc. did not know about the Trinity. Did they worship a different God? Did not their worship please God?

2. If natural worship is not pleasing to God, what was the point of Paul reproving the pagans in Romans 1 "for although they knew God they did not accord Him glory as God or give Him thanks", if they would not have pleased God either by glorifying Him and giving Him thanks? Damned if they don't, damned if they do, without fault on their part?

Of course no natural worship pleases God to the degree that Christ sacrifice did. Christ's sacrifice, and our worshipping in union with Him, pleases God infinitely! But jumping from that to the conclusion that natural worship is just a waste of time would be wrong.

Which is exactly the point regarding Cardinal Dolan. What should he have said? "You are not in the true faith, so until you get it, your worship is just a waste of time?" I hope everyone sees that the problem with such statement is not that it would be unpolite, but that it would be wrong.

As a reference, I recommend reading CCC # 847, 848 and 1260.

Regarding "all things on earth should be related to man as their center and crown", it is in line with 1 Cor 3: 22-23: "all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God."

Finally, regarding ecumenism, we must distinguish between true Churches like the Eastern Orthodox Churches, who have valid episcopacy and therefore valid Eucharist, as well as the other sacraments, from eclessial communities like the Anglicans. On this subject, actually, your wanted clarification may already exist: the 2000 Dominus Iesus declaration of the CDF, which JP_II "with sure knowledge and by his apostolic authority, ratified and confirmed".

Boniface said...


The pagans of Rome were clearly in a different context than 21st century Muslims. Paul also says in Acts 17 that God was willing to overlook their ignorance in the past, but NOW he calls all men to repent because He has fixed a day to judge the living and the dead.

What Cardinal Dolan should have said was, "You would do well to examine the claims of Christianity and convert," or something similar.

Patrick said...

While I commend Bishop Athanasius
for his remarks and agree wholeheartedly that an authoritative
interpretation of VII is needed, what
I would term the "reality of rupture"
continues in most Catholic parishes.
It is the underlying and largely
unspoken assumption that with VII
the Church is now different, a new
and improved version has arrived and
with it a repudiation of much of the Church's past traditions etc.
This is the great difficulty that has yet to be dealt with it seems
to me.

Mick Jagger Gathers No Mosque said...

God is a what, eh?


There has always been ONLY ONE religion; and, yes, Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph were in it

However, the schismatic heretics of the east left it and they do not constitute a church. There is one only church.

As for the Muslims, they are a complete and total false religion whose putative prophet was an insane murdering pedophile and what they have in common with us is on the order of how it is man can claim common ground with lobsters - because they both have legs


s for the good Bishop, he believes differently than does Bishop Emeritus Benedict but similarly as does Bishop Fellay

Anonymous said...

"These denominations, on the other hand, owe their very existence to the fact that they reject Catholicism."

Maybe the myriad of evangelical churches cannot even be charged with rejecting the True Church since they never new it. They are rejecting the liberal accretions of the denominations that did reject the church. I also owe these folks, nobody else was preaching the gospel in the streets in the 80's. - Learning

Thelma said...

This is gorgeous!