Bishop Schneider on SSPX – Vatican Relations
On February 16th, the traditional Catholic blog Rorate Coeli, in conjunction with its sister website Adelante la Fe, released this interview with His Excellency Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana. Conducted by Adelante's Mauricio Ponce, the interview dives into several topics of importance in the Catholic Church today, but begins with an in-depth discussion of any possible agreement between the Society of St. Pius X and Rome in the future.
We are grateful to Bishop Schneider for pleading in favor of the SSPX and defending with clarity so many points of the faith and the morals of the Church. We appreciate in particular his statements on Luther, giving communion to the divorced-and-remarried, and the duty of resisting error, even when it emanates from the Supreme Pontiff.
Mirroring the Society, the Bishop points out reasons to have optimism, as well as reasons for concern for the structure of an agreement. We provide our analysis and our response to his points in the commentary below.
About the regularization of the SSPX, Bishop Schneider starts by saying that one should not talk about an "agreement" which supposes differences about the Faith, but only of a canonical recognition from the Holy See because "in this case, there is no differences in the Catholic Faith."
Bishop Schneider knows the Society well from having visited two of its seminaries in the past. We are honored by his strong testimony about the Society who "bears very evident, visible and spiritual fruit in edifying the Catholic Faith, in transmitting the integrity of Catholic Faith and liturgy and Christian life, as it was practiced during several centuries[.]"
Recognition of the Holy See
…which is, for every Catholic community, a requirement, an indispensable one to be Catholic, to have also a canonical, a visible connection to the Chair of Peter, to the Vicar of Christ. This is a basic requirement for every Catholic work in the Church."
Bishop Schneider argues that a "canonical connection" with the See of St. Peter is a requirement for being Catholic and that a canonical mission is required to have an apostolate. If he means legitimate submission to the Holy Father, we agree! The Society has never refused any legitimate submission to the Pope, nor have they severed the bonds of the liturgy and the profession of the Faith. If the canonical situation became irregular, -- and the canonical mission is missing today -- it was not the fault of the SSPX but because, as Bishop Schneider himself argues, Rome unjustly deprived the SSPX of it. Archbishop Lefebvre always claimed that the canonical sanctions were invalid because unjust; he was refused an appeal. Bishop Schneider considers (see below) the case in a hypothetical future where the SSPX -- then canonically regularized -- might have to return to canonical irregularity if pressured by Rome to abandon an essential point of what it stands for. It is then possible to be Catholic despite an apparent rupture of canonical norms! The Society has always relied on the supplied jurisdiction the Church provides in such emergency situations so that the faithful are not deprived of the grace of the sacraments.
A Matter of Justice?
The SSPX had initially the recognition of the Church as Archbishop Lefebvre founded them in 1970 but unfortunately, this recognition was taken away in 1975. Archbishop Lefebvre made an appeal against this suppression -to my opinion unjust- and his appeal was rejected.
For the Holy See to grant them now again the canonical recognition, it would be in some way the acceptance of the appeal that Archbishop Lefebvre made in 1975.”
Bishop Schneider states that canonical recognition would be a way for the Holy See to finally take account of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre's appeal against the unjust suppression of the SSPX in 1975. This is a very elegant way to present the solution. And it is true. However Bishop Schneider does not ignore that the reason for this unjust suppression and persecution of the Society since then (and of traditional Catholicism as a whole) has its precise origins in disagreements on the Faith, "because of this deep crisis of Faith inside the Church," as he puts it, and its most sacred expression: the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
That is the reason why Bishop Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the SSPX, following Archbishop Lefebvre, demands the SSPX to be recognized "as we are." He also maintains that we must be able to continue our public rejection of, and fight against, the errors which poisoned the Church, including her liturgy, for more than 50 years.
As Bishop Fellay said during his last interview at Radio Courtoisie:
The problem is, once again, this battle of ideas. Is a Church that for 40 years has imposed a way of thinking, this modernist way of thinking against which we fight, against which, or because of which we were even declared schismatic and everything else, outside of the Church; is this Church ready, yes or no, to let us continue on our path?"