Bp. Schneider: Communion for divorced and remarried – the ‘homoousios’ of our days

Voice of the Family has an approved English translation of Bp. Athanasius Schneider’s comments on Amoris Laetitia.


It is important that everyone read this, agree or not.  He adds an important perspective.  I have already quoted from one part in my own translation from Italian.  Now we have the whole thing in English.

That said… here is another taste, to prompt you to read it.  My emphases.

The danger of general confusion with regard to the indissolubility of marriage

For some time already, we have seen, in some places and environments of the life of the Church, the tacit abuse of the admission of divorced and remarried couples to Holy Communion without requiring them to live in perfect continence. The unclear statements in Chapter VIII of AL have given a new dynamism to the declared advocates of the admission of divorced and remarried couples to Holy Communion in special cases.

We now observe the phenomenon of the abuse beginning to spread even more in practice, since those in favour of it are now feeling justified to some extent. There is also obviously some confusion with respect to the interpretation of the relevant assertions in Chapter VIII of the AL. This confusion is increased by the fact that everyone, both supporters of the admission of the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion and their opponents, are saying that “The doctrine of the Church concerning this issue has not changed”.

Taking due account of historical and doctrinal differences, our situation shows some parallels and analogies with the general confusion caused by the Arian crisis in the 4th century. At that time, the apostolic and traditional faith in the true divinity of the Son of God was secured by means of the term “consubstantial” (“homoousios”), dogmatically proclaimed by the universal Magisterium of the Council of Nicaea I. The 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, such as, for instance, “similar in substance” (“homoiousios”) or simply “similar” (“homoios”). The formula “homoousios” adopted by the universal Magisterium of that time expressed the full and true divinity of the WORD with so much precision that it left no space for equivocal interpretation.

In the years 357-360, almost the entire episcopate had become Arian or Semi-Arian as a result of the following events: in 357, Pope Liberius signed one of the ambiguous formulations of Sirmium, in which the term “homoousios” was eliminated. Furthermore, the pope, in a scandalous move, excommunicated St. Athanasius. St. Hilary of Poitiers was the only bishop who dared to rebuke Pope Liberius severely for these ambiguous acts. In 359, the parallel synods of the Western episcopate in Rimini and that of the Eastern episcopate in Seuleukia had accepted fully Arian formulas that were even worse than the ambiguous formula signed by Pope Liberius. Describing the confusion of those times, St. Jerome said: “Everyone was surprised to realize that they had become Arians” (“Ingemuit totus orbis, et arianum se esse miratus est”: Adv Lucif, 19). [The whole world “groaned” and marveled that it was Arian.]

Arguably, in our time, confusion is already spreading with regard to the sacramental discipline for divorced and remarried couples. There is therefore a very real basis for the assumption that the confusion may reach truly vast proportions, if one fail to propose and proclaim the following formula of the universal and infallible Magisterium: “Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance, which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples” (S. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, 84). This formula is unfortunately and incomprehensibly missing in AL. However, the apostolic exhortation inexplicably contains the following statement: “In such situations, many people, knowing and accepting the possibility of living “as brothers and sisters” which the Church offers them, point out that if certain expressions of intimacy are lacking, it often happens that faithfulness is endangered and the good of the children suffers” (AL, 298, n. 329). Such a statement leaves the impression of a contradiction with regard to the perennial teaching of the universal Magisterium, as formulated in the cited passage from Familiaris Consortio 84.
There is an urgent necessity for the Holy See to 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. The lack of such a formal and explicit confirmation of the formula of Familiaris Consortio 84 from the Apostolic See could contribute to major confusion with regard to sacramental discipline, with the subsequent gradual and inevitable repercussions on doctrinal questions. This would lead to a situation to which it would be possible, in the future, to apply the following statement: “Everyone was surprised to find that divorce had been accepted in practice” (“Ingemuit totus orbis, et divortium in praxi se accepisse miratus est”).


Read the rest.

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  1. Benedict Joseph says:

    With the greatest regret it appears that the publication of “Amoris laetitia” has all but confirmed the worst fears of many. So be it. That circumstances are what they are can no longer be denied. Indeed, we are now decades beyond the point to call the situation for what it is. The blessed respite provided by the pontificates of John Paul and Benedict, their conscientious effort to reestablish the course set by our Saviour for the Barque of Peter without the loss of souls appears to have been far too cautious, if not seriously misguided. The leverage allowed in those years to the masked aberrant in every facet of ecclesial life only offered a haven for maleficence. Priestly spirituality, the asceticism of religious life, the apostolates (remember that word?) of health care, social outreach, education, evangelization were eviscerated and now stand as a shadow of their former constitution. What remains is draped in the scarlet of a shallow socialism or a rainbowed spectrum of inclusiveness. The catechesis of our youth, making the truths of the Faith concretely known so that the mysteries are recalled silently in their hearts is virtually unknown. Their parents for the most part endured the same deprivation. We have three generation with either aborted catechesis, such as my own, and the following two with virtually none.
    That given, a passage from Archbishop Athanasius Schneider’s reflection Amoris laetitia is all the more pertinent.
    “It was the Second Vatican Council that encouraged all the faithful and especially the bishops to express their concerns and observations without fear, for the good of the Church as a whole. Servility and political correctness have introduced a pernicious evil into the life of the Church. The famous bishop and theologian of the Council of Trent, Melchior Cano O.P., said these memorable words: “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.”
    Recently it has been reported that the marginalization of orthodox bishops is in full swing. We know that the next conclave is already being choreographed for the advancement of the new and improved kasperian church. It is time that all the bishops with any vestige of fortitude and conscience make their concerns known and amplified. Their confreres fueled by sociological tactics but sanitized of faith is not waiting for divine intervention to achieve their goals. A concerted effort by men of faith, rooted in prayer, must lift the veil on the machinations underway. Exposure to the Light cannot fail to thwart the evisceration of what remains of the Church of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
    We have endured multiple scandal in the past decades, but continued silence in the face of what is upon us will not only ensure further disgrace, but will be regarded in history as the greatest scandal of all.

  2. jhayes says:

    Like AL, Familaris Consortio is an Apostolic Exhortation written by the Pope after a Synod of Bishops. In article 84, JP II referenced #7 of his homily at the close of the Synod, in which he said (sorry, there’s no English version on the Vatican website):

    7. Perciò il Sinodo, parlando del ministero pastorale verso coloro che sono passati ad una nuova unione dopo il divorzio, loda quei coniugi che, pur angustiati da gravi difficoltà, tuttavia hanno testimoniato nella propria vita l’indissolubilità del matrimonio. Nella loro esistenza si coglie infatti una valida testimonianza di fedeltà verso l’amore che ha in Cristo la sua forza e il suo fondamento.

    I padri sinodali inoltre, mentre affermano l’indissolubilità del matrimonio e la prassi della Chiesa di non ammettere alla comunione eucaristica i divorziati che contro la norma si sono uniti in un nuovo matrimonio, esortano i pastori e tutta la comunità cristiana perché aiutino questi fratelli e sorelle a non sentirsi separati dalla Chiesa, non solo, ma in virtù del battesimo essi possono e devono partecipare alla vita della Chiesa pregando, ascoltando la parola, assistendo alla celebrazione eucaristica della comunità e promuovendo la carità e la giustizia.

    Quantunque non si debba negare che tali persone possano ricevere, se ne ricorrano le condizioni, il sacramento della penitenza e quindi la comunione eucaristica, quando sinceramente abbracciano una forma di vita, che non contrasti con la indissolubilità del matrimonio – cioè quando l’uomo e la donna, che non possono soddisfare l’obbligo della separazione assumono l’impegno di vivere in piena continenza, cioè di astenersi dagli atti propri dei coniugi, e quando non c’è motivo di scandalo – tuttavia la privazione della riconciliazione sacramentale con Dio non li distolga dalla perseveranza nella preghiera, dall’esercizio della penitenza e della carità perché possano conseguire la grazia della conversion e della salvezza.

    È bene che la Chiesa pregando per loro e sostenendoli nella fede e nella speranza si dimostri madre misericordiosa.

    While JP II accepted that the brother-sister solution would admit the divorced and civilly remarried to confession and Communion, he didn’t say in his homily that that was the only possible solution. “Only” appears only later, when he wrote FC.

    [What’s your point? Do you contend that John Paul would have approved of Ch. 8 of AL? That would, of course, be absurd.]

  3. hilltop says:

    “I am the Way the Truth and the Life”. Christ is the Truth. He speaks perfect Truth in perfect form. His teachings are perfect in their content and in their completeness. He does not parse terms. He makes all things clear. There can be no getting around Him. There can be no getting around His teachings. There is no possible improvement, nor refinement, nor adjustment to His words, for He is the Word of God. Born of the Father before all ages, He is the Ancient of Days.
    One trembles for the Church…

  4. spock says:

    Why does it take a bishop from a part of the world that nobody knows anything about to utter the truth of the faith ? I mean the man is Bishop in Kazakhstan for crying out loud. Next we’ll hear from the Bishop of Pt. Barrow Alaska utter perfect Catholic orthodox teaching. This is ridiculous. There probably aren’t enough Catholics in Kazakhstan to hold a decent Bible study but they are blessed with a good bishop who speaks rightly of AL, speaks well of the SSPX, speaks well of the crises in the Church. How can anyone look at this and not be cynical about the Bishops in the Church from the known world?

  5. gracie says:

    Benedict Josoeph,

    “Recently it has been reported that the marginalization of orthodox bishops is in full swing.”

    Bishop Schneider is in the enviable position of living in what the hoi polloi at the Vatican would consider the boon docks – namely, Kazakhstan. He’s already marginalized in their eyes which means there’s no place to send him to shut him up, which is lucky for us. God certainly works in mysterious ways!

  6. Ave Crux says:

    Fantasticly powerful statement made with incredible clarity coupled with simplicity of language – the mark of a first class mind and limpid soul.

    The good Bishop is aptly named after his namesake Saint Athanasius. Perhaps he will repeat that history and be the lone Bishop who rebukes the Holy Father.

  7. Filipino Catholic says:

    @Ave Crux — Galatians ii,11 comes to mind: “But when Cephas was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.” (It sounds harsher in the Vulgate, where Peter is described as [I]reprehensibilis[/I].)

    Even a Pope needs to be given a rude awakening at times (admitted in the [I]Cum Ex Apostolatus Officio[/I] quote on this blog), and Challoner’s note on the Galatians passage even states “…in such cases an inferior may, and sometimes ought, with respect, to admonish his superior.”

  8. Filipino Catholic says:

    It appears my attempt to italicize backfired, euge.

  9. Grumpy Beggar says:

    Bishop Schneider kicks spiritual butt . . . has done so for some time now.

    There are more than a few videos of his insights available on Youtube. . . a healthy chunk of them were actually produced by Michael Voris’ Church Militant (go figure). Part # 6 of 13 in one series is a 4-minute video entitled (take a breath), “Bishops are Egotistic and Careerist”. That one was published on July 23, 2015.

    Remember Pope Francis’ special 2014 Christmas card to the cardinals, bishops ,priests of the Curia . . .where , among the (ahem) 15 sins of the Curia he’d mentioned “lust for power” ?

    Hmmmmm . . .

    BTW, speaking of sin : I was able to get to Confession yesterday. Thank you dear Lord for your forgiveness and Mercy.

    @Filipino Catholic : If you use the greater than less than, symbols in place of the square brackets you should be good to go. – Can’t type the actual symbols for you to see here because they won’t appear in a post (they’re part of the HTML code) but these two symbols are commonly found on the upper case of the comma and period keys respectively.
    Preview mode can let one see how it is going to turn out ahead of time and can greatly reduce the “euge” factor. Preview mode has also helped me work on overcoming one of my own personal shortcomings, which is : PEBKAC

    God Bless

  10. oldconvert says:

    “Familiaris Consortio, 84). This formula is unfortunately and incomprehensibly missing in AL. ”

    Not incomprehensibly at all, it seems to me. “Deliberately” more like.

    I fear that the Holy Father is attempting to please both sides on this question, by leaving it open to exactly opposite interpretations according to the individual. I was brought up an Anglican, and I have seen how the repeated caving-in on doctrinal points in the cause of zeitgeist, or liberalism, or political correctness or whatever, has eventually rendered that church both fragmented and irrelevant to millions. At some point, the Pope is going to have to come down on one side of the fence or other. He seems to me to be a strong and fearless character; this fence-sitting is in the cause of unity, not born of cowardice. But the history of the C of E is there to show that it won’t work! Sticking-plasters may join broken skin together temporarily, but if the wound beneath is too deep, or God forbid infected, then nothing willheal and somebody has to be brave and pull the plaster off.

  11. jameeka says:

    I thought this reflection by His Eminence was splendid and incisive, but after several readings, what continues to stand out for me is:
    “One does not offer one’s life for a possible doctrinal or pastoral interpretation, but for an immutable and universally valid Divine truth.”

    So, whether we call it vagueness, ambiguity, incongruity, AL is condemned on that basis alone. And begs the question, why was the Synod on the Family called in the first place? For another interpretation?

    Bishop Schneider realizes that AL, as it stands, does as much or more damage to the Church as calling the Pope on it.

  12. Mike says:

    It seems to me that part of the obligation of the fifth Precept of the Church is to aid Her faithful shepherds in their proclamation of the eternal truths of the Faith, especially when those truths are being undermined at the highest levels.

    Courageous prelates like Bishop Schneider—may God preserve him!—need our spiritual and material support, however we can, no matter what it cost us. Events are making it clear that the Satanic forces of political correctness do not relent; neither must we.

  13. MrTipsNZ says:

    Spock: there are 250,000 Catholics in Kazahkstan out of a population of 15M. It is reasonably oil rich country. Why would you be surprised that a Bishop from there would be so onto it?
    I mean, some time ago, a random dude from a far flung, non-event south eastern post of the glorious Roman empire was running around saying he was God. Crazy! Turned out He was absolutely right, but you get the point.

    jhayes: your post proves Fr Z’s point about how things will get confusing given the infamous footnote and section 298, n.329 as Bshp. Schneider points out. Some will simply point out something in FC. Others will deliberately try, and illegitimately, extend what FC may NOT have said to make it seem consistent with their pre-conceived interpretation of what AL ACTUALLY says.
    As an analogy, abortion in New Zealand was granted in 1977 only in cases where there was serious psychological harm to the mother: that is still the law, but obviously this is abused and manipulated in practice. The same will happen with AL.

  14. jhayes says:

    [What’s your point? Do you contend that John Paul would have approved of Ch. 8 of AL? That would, of course, be absurd.]

    No, I don’t think JPII would have gone that far in 1981.

    Bp. Schneider asserts that it is a “formula of the universal and infallible Magisterium [that] Reconciliation in the sacrament of Penance, which would open the way to the Eucharist, can only be granted to those who take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence.”

    Would a majority of theologians agree that either Familaris Consortio or Amoris Laetitia (which are both Apostolic Exhortations) present infallible teachings which are irreformable?

    It seems to me that what Francis has done in AL is to develop JP II’s #84 by pointing out that, in addition to the brother-sister scenario, it’s possible that some divorced/civilly-remarried people who are sexually active may properly receive the Eucharist because they are not in an actual state of mortal sin – he refers to several Catechism articles on evaluating guilt.

    As Francis says early-on in AL, qualification to receive the Eucharist needs to be determined on a case-by-case basis rather than by establishing new and rigid rules to apply to all cases.

  15. JARay says:

    I read from “jhayes” above that “As Francis says early-on in AL, qualification to receive the Eucharist needs to be determined on a case-by-case basis rather than by establishing new and rigid rules to apply to all cases.”
    So, ‘truth’ can be determined on a case by case basis! I seem to recall that Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the light”. I don’t see Jesus saying “the way and the truth and the light can be determined on a case by case basis”.
    Truth is either true or it is false and it is not ever determined on a case by case basis.

  16. MrTipsNZ says:

    jhayes: ….it’s possible that some divorced/civilly-remarried people who are sexually active may properly receive the Eucharist because they are not in an actual state of mortal sin ….

    And your evidence for this is?………………

    And would you care to drill down as to WHAT situations would allow this? I’ll help you. If they are Catholic and sacramentally married first time, then civilly remarried without annulment and sexually active, then they cannot receive the Eucharist. That’s called adultery.

    If they are civilly married, time and again as above, why would they want to receive the Eucharist? That is, why would a Catholic who can’t be bothered to marry in the Church, at least twice, want to attend Mass to receive the Eucharist?

    Your assertions would gain even the slightest creedence if you could provide evidence of thinking behind them.

  17. jhayes says:

    JARay, in order not to misrepresent Francis, here are some words he actually wrote in Amoris Laetitia about distinguishing between objective situations of sin and personal culpability

    300. If we consider the immense variety of concrete situations such as those I have mentioned, it is understandable that neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases. What is possible is simply a renewed encouragement to undertake a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases, one which would recognize that, since “the degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases,” the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same….

    301….The Church possesses a solid body of reflection concerning mitigating factors and situations. Hence 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…

    302. The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly mentions these factors: “imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors”. In another paragraph, the Catechism refers once again to circumstances which mitigate moral responsibility, and mentions at length “affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety or other psychological or social factors that lessen or even extenuate moral culpability”. For this reason, a negative judgment about an objective situation does not imply a judgment about the imputability or culpability of the person involved….

    305. Because of these forms of conditioning and mitigating factors, it is possible that in an objective situation of sin – which may not be subjectively culpable, or fully such – a person can be living in God’s grace, can love and can also grow in the life of grace and charity, while receiving the Church’s help to this end.

    MrTipsNZ, I think your comment is for Pope Francis, not me. My intent was not to make assertions of my own – simply to summarize what he says in Amoris Laetitia.

  18. MrTipsNZ says:

    JHayes: I see, so when you wrote
    It seems to me that what Francis has done in AL is to develop JP II’s #84 by pointing out that, in addition to the brother-sister scenario, it’s possible that some divorced/civilly-remarried people who are sexually active may properly receive the Eucharist because they are not in an actual state of mortal sin – he refers to several Catechism articles on evaluating guilt. “
    you were asserting nothing…that seemed to you?

    By all means shoot the breeze, but please don’t expect others to NOT call out slippery, un-evidenced logic.

  19. spock says:

    The surprising part for me is not that Bishop Schneider is onto it. From my perspective that (orthodoxy) should be expected. The issue is that Bishops from far larger dioceses are not. Ànd all of those claim the same “dude” as you say also as God. Why is this ? What can it be other than things like money, materialism, human respect, social acceptance, and power? But now I’m risking being judgmental and more Catholic than xyz, etc.etc. I find myself applying the same cynical mentality that I have to in the workplace as I am with matters of faith and I don’t like it. My thinking should be different in matters of faith. But this is increasingly harder and harder to do.

  20. Benedict Joseph says:

    You speak a grim reality, Spock. If it is any comfort, remember that faithful clergy and religious endure this “workplace” reality everyday, twenty-four hours a day, depending on where they be. It is part of the asceticism of their vocation. But surely this is a particularly unique time.
    We need to pray for them, the few that remain.
    God reward you, and them.

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