Bp. Schneider obtains an answer from Francis

When Francis signed that troubling document with the Imam in the UAE, a lot of people were confused and upset by an affirmation that seemed to say that God willed a diversity of religions.   Sensing that there was going to be a kerfuffle – giving the statement the benefit of the doubt – I explained that statement with the only way that it could be understood in a Catholic sense without it being heretical.

All sort of people came down on me for suggesting that we had to apply the distinction of God’s active will and God’s permissive will.  Since a diversity of religions is evil, God cannot have actively willed it.  However, God permits things to happen that are evil so that greater good can emerge.  He has an active will and a permissive will.

I also stated clearly that I didn’t know what the true intent of the writer of the document was.  I said that that is the way to parse it to keep it from being heretical regardless of the intent of the writer.  For what I wrote – HERE and HERE

Now comes this from LifeSite and Diane Montagna (who sort of threw me under the bus in that debate by engaging an “anonymous Dominican” etc. etc.).

The bishops of Kazakhstan were in Rome for their ad limina visit.  The great Bp. Athanasius Schneider – bless him – scored some answers from Francis!

At the March 1 meeting, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary of Astana, Kazakhstan, also obtained from Pope Francis a clarification that God only permits but does not positively will a “diversity of religions.

In an exclusive interview with LifeSite, Bishop Schneider said the concerns raised during the two hour meeting with the Holy Father included “Communion for divorced and civilly ‘remarried’ Catholics, the issue of Communion for Protestant spouses in mixed marriages, and the issue of the practical spread of homosexuality in the Church.”

In a direct exchange between Pope Francis and Bishop Schneider, the claim that the “diversity of religions” is “willed by God” was also discussed. The expression, contained in a joint statement that Pope Francis signed last month with a Grand Imam in Abu Dhabi, has incited considerable controversy.

The Pope explicitly stated that Bishop Schneider could share the contents of their exchange on this point. “You can say that the phrase in question on the diversity of religions means the permissive will of God,” he told the assembled bishops, who come from predominantly Muslim regions.

So, that doesn’t change the text of that dreadful statement, but it brings a little more clarity to the situation.  Of course, what else was Francis supposed to say?  The only way out of that quicksand was the rope of “permissive will”.

The whole interview is at LifeSite.  Read it.

I enjoyed this in particular.

LIFESITE: You mentioned the statistic that 80 percent of victims were post-pubescent males. How do you respond to Cardinal Blase Cupich and others who point to the John Jay report and other studies as evidence there is no causal relationship between homosexuality and clerical sex abuse? 

SCHNEIDER: It’s a denial of reality. How can I speak with a man who denies reality? This is only explainable as an ideological position.

In any event, do read the interview.  Montagna asked good questions and got great answers from Bp. Schneider.

And say a prayer for Bp. Schneider.  He is a treasure in these times of dross and confusion.

For more from Bp. Schneider…

PODCAzT 169: Bp. Athanasius Schneider on “the only God-willed religion”

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Benedict Joseph says:

    No one achieves a leadership position without the ability to grab a life preserver wherever it is to be found. I am convinced that this very website is for some depth catechetical instruction and for others a theological cheat sheet…a sort of Cliffs Notes. I now have no doubt that it is known well in the very highest places and drawn upon in a real jam.

  2. VP says:

    Likely that Francis was instructed in how to answer for his problematic Abu Dhabi statement, and responded to Bp Schneider according to those instructions. It is equally likely that Francis lied when he gave the explanation to the bishop.

  3. veritas vincit says:

    Bp Schneider on Pope Francis’s response to his question:

    “I mentioned this point to the Holy Father, and he acknowledged that, with this direct comparison, the sentence can be understood erroneously. I stressed in my response to him that the diversity of sexes is not the permissive will of God but is positively willed by God. And the Holy Father acknowledged this and agreed with me that the diversity of the sexes is not a matter of God’s permissive will.

    But when we mention both of these phrases in the same sentence, then the diversity of religions is interpreted as positively willed by God, like the diversity of sexes. The sentence therefore leads to doubt and erroneous interpretations, and so it was my desire, and my request that the Holy Father rectify this. But he said to us bishops: you can say that the phrase in question on the diversity of religions means the permissive will of God. ”

    That the Holy Father mixed two fundamentally different aspects of God’s will in the same sentence, without distinction between them, is dangerously ambiguous. If I were a Protestant theologian wanting to attack the dogma of papal infallibility, that sentence would be Exhibit A.

    I’m deeply grateful to Bp. Schneider for eliciting that clarification from the Holy father.

  4. Ave Crux says:

    Correcting missing html tag

    Pope Francis has a personal and grave obligation before God to make a public clarification to remove the widespread confusion he causes on every side with such statements.

    However he culpably refuses to do so and satisfies himself with telling the good Bishop that he could make the correction for him,

    Is there anything Bishop Schneider could possibly do which would reach the broad audience that received the scandal resulting from the erroneous implications of the Declaration which Pope Francis signed? [Did you read the piece, above?]

    I am increasingly distressed and disheartened by the constant damage control which must go on, while the confusion which Pope Francis perpetuates on one occasion after another errodes more and more and more the foundations of Catholic Doctrine in the minds, souls, and hearts of members of the universal Catholic Church.

    It does not serve the Catholic Faith well to palliate the faithful in the face of the scandalous declarations and pronouncements and encyclicals until they are anesthetized into utter indifference while the Faith is undermined before their very eyes.

  5. Benedictus says:

    Forgive me for being a skeptic, but I suspect that another person asking PF would get a different answer.

  6. The Masked Chicken says:

    It is negligence to let something so ambiguously phrased as the multiplicity of religions paragraph in the recent joint statement to go unclarified for so long. Why wasn’t the Vatican on this the day after the ambiguity was pointed out?

    As for the homosexuality question, I suppose the John Jay College did the best they could, but this is hardly good science. They didn’t even ask for sexual orientation in entrance interviews at seminaries until about 1990. That is why the John Jay report had to fall back on sexual behavior instead of sexual identity in their study.

    Next time, Bishops, subject your research to peer review. They paid money to the John Jay College to do a study, but they never did what any reputable scientist does – send the findings in for peer-review. That makes the study’s conclusions questionable, at best. Fr. Paul Sullins, using the same data, found a strong statistical correlation between homosexuality and abuse of minors. His article, too, should be subject to peer- review. Peer-review isn’t perfect, but it is the best filtering system we currently have in science.

    In my opinion, one should not form public policy on the basis of questionable findings, with gaping data collection holes. I have yet to see a good study done on the abuse topic.

    If we have poor data for minor abuse, we simply have next to no data on the adult-on-adult abuse, because a lot of the encounters are considered consensual and not included in abuse data.

    I’m sorry for going on so long, but people in the pews need to be informed so that they can properly evaluate the statements of the bishops and cardinals. I present, in close, a list of the most important data sources on this topic (sorry for all of the links, but it helps to collect them all for easy reference):











    The Chicken

    [I do NOT like naked links like that in my combox. Not at all. It’s like … like… an SDI finding a bunch of candy wrappers and a banana peel on the Quarter Deck.]

  7. AutoLos says:

    The key phrase is “you may say…” As in, “you may say, but that doesn’t make it true”.

  8. scholastica says:

    Yes, it sounds like more bait and switch to me. He can certainly be thankful to the good Bishop for throwing out that life preserver.

    I also enjoyed with a laugh when His Excellency responded, “How can I speak with a man who denies reality?” I hope to have an opportunity to use that one in the near future.

  9. JARay says:

    Bishop Schneider is indeed a treasure that the whole Church should be grateful that we have. What a fine Cardinal he would make! Yet somehow I think that he is destined to remain a bishop of that far-away place in a remote part of the world. What a pity.

  10. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Kazakhstan is a post of great danger and great opportunity for the Church, with a great harvest of souls in need. I think the Archbishop is in a good place, because we need a good man there.

  11. The Masked Chicken says:

    Fr. Z.,

    I apologize for the large number of links. I was thinking too much about the topic and not enough about being considerate. It won’t happen, again.

    The Chicken

  12. Pius Admirabilis says:

    That is some very good news, indeed. It always troubles my conscience so much when I hear the crazy talk coming from Rome. In this instance, our Most Holy and Most Blessed Father in Christ and Lord, Pope Francis, has “redeemed” himself and given a good answer. What brought him to that, I don’t care. It only matters that he did something good. And, of course, may God bless this holy bishop. I wish for him to become a diocesan bishop, or maybe even metropolitan archbishop, or a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church. The purple would fit him so nicely, and I know that he is actually willing to die for the Faith.

  13. Gab says:

    “I’m deeply grateful to Bp. Schneider for eliciting that clarification from the Holy father.”

    As am I. Although, why the Pope suddenly had the clarity of mind on this issue but not on the document can only come down to this: the Pope reads Father Z’s blog!!

  14. Lurker 59 says:

    Two points:

    1.) The document “On Human Fraternity” is often being approached, and thus interpreted, as if it was written only by Catholics and is thus Pope Francis speaking to Muslims and the rest of the world. Not true. It was written by Sunni Muslims and Catholics. It is not simply a statement of Catholic belief but something that both Catholics and Sunni Muslims have agreed upon as a joint statement. Interpreting the document cannot be done in a strictly orthodox Catholic hermeneutic, but must be done so as to take into account Sunni Muslim theology. The meaning is in the intersection of theologies.

    Which is a problem because orthodox Catholic theology and Sunni Muslim theology do not share congruent concepts of God’s will and Allah’s will, being that God is pure being and God’s will is constrained by His being and Allah is pure will and thus unconstrained in the will. Put it another way, God cannot will evil because He is good, but Allah can will evil because Allah’s will is sovereign. In the interpretation, one theology must become dominant in this section. Due to the structure of the sentence, and its clauses, as others including Bp. Schneider have pointed out, it should be clear that the intent of the writers is for it to be understood that it is Allah’s active will that there exist multiple religions, notwithstanding that Pope Francis may permit some bishops to interpret the statement to mean that God passively wills different religions while using the same verb to mean that God actively wills the different sexes.

    Let it be also noted that if two sides to a joint declaration interpret the document in different manners, then there is nothing joint about the document and all such common ground is worse than a fiction. The solution is not to allow two different interpretations, but rather to provide a Catholic correction to the document.

    2.) I am reminded of The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification between Catholics and Lutherans that necessitated a correction from the CDF. It has been my experience that the CDF correction is often ignored. Now ‘On Human Fraternity’ likewise deserves a correction from the CDF, for this and other problems in the document, but who would dare to issue a correction against a Pope who signed the document? Likely such a correction would also be ignored.

    Bp. Schneider should be commended for his line of questioning and God should be praised for giving us such a bishop. There is only one God willed religion, and it is few who will publically state this.

    What the Masked Chicken said above needs to be drawn out. The data that is out there is bad/incomplete and does not accurately address the problem of homosexuality in the priesthood, especially with “consensual” adult relationships. Even if there was an intent to eradicate the abuse, you cannot set good policies based on bad data. But even that would be better than what we are getting from Card. Cupich et. al.

  15. Jonathan Marshall says:

    JARay: “fine Cardinal”? – he’d make an absolutely wonderful Pope!!

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