The White Lily Blog

Come On In, the Water’s Tepid

In Kazakhstan there is a lake, the Balkhash, and half of it is salt, the other fresh. Kazakhstan’s Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s address to a conference of cardinals and bishops held in Rome last December is just like that!

 Half of it admires Vatican II for its traditionalism, the other half mentions just a couple of little problems, ignoring the most difficult bits.

Schneider’s Council is continuous with Tradition.  To summarize the initial thesis, for which he gives the appropriate counciliar quotes, he asserts that the Church’s mission is stated by Vatican II as always, the salvation of souls; that all the Church’s actions flow toward and away from the liturgy; and that the Council clearly admits the duty to proclaim the Gospel to faithful and non-faithful alike, to preach repentance, and to prepare the faithful to receive the sacraments. Then, Schneider again reiterates the Council’s fidelity to tradition in naming the sacred liturgy as the true and necessary font of the Christian spirit. Moving on to a new element in which the Council was continuous with Tradition, he says that morally the Council only reaffirms the duty of the Church to teach the faithful the commandments of God, and to promote among them the apostolate of charity and piety.

But there were some errors, some ruptures, Schneider says. They were due to the excesses of the times, the tumultuous sixties, and also due to a lack of wise Pastors of the Church who were ready to defend the purity and integrity of the faith.

This is what Schneider says of the times, but not of the Council itself:  “It is necessary to remember the time in which it was realized: a time which everyone admits is orientated toward the conquest of the kingdom of earth rather than of that of heaven; a time in which forgetfulness of God has become habitual, and seems, quite wrongly, to be prompted by the progress of science; a time in which the fundamental act of the human person, more conscious now of himself and of his liberty, tends to pronounce in favor of his own absolute autonomy, in emancipation from every transcendent law; a time in which secularism seems the legitimate consequence of modern thought and the highest wisdom in the temporal ordering of society.”

Of this quote, Schneider asserts that the Council condemns secularism without using the word, and cites but does not quote Leo XIII ‘s Immortale Dei, 166ff, and also Pius XII’s discourse Alla Vostra Filiale’s exact words, “the legitimate healthy laicity of the State is one of the principles of Catholic doctrine.” (This is a really arguable justification, a real stretch, just to note. )

Schneider names three liturgical errors: loss of Latin, reception in the hand,  standing, and orientation toward each other rather than to God.

The bishop names one doctrinal error, the manifestation stemming from a ‘confused interpretation’ of the Council in the Theology of Liberation, even though Schneider asserts that the Council clearly taught that “the proper mission that Christ has entrusted to His Church is not of the political, economic, or social order: in fact, the end that he has set is in the order of religion.” (GS, 42) (Another note for an additional post: Schneider seems correct to say this–the Council did separate the Faith from the State, meaning the political, economic, and social order; it abandoned the religious state in calling for “religious freedom” rather than the traditional call, since the reformation unleashed secularism, for religious tolerance. But this withdrawal left a vacuum, and Liberation Theology filled it, for that twisted movement is the attempt to achieve the kind of fruitful society in the secular realm, through secular means, what the religious state achieves for God and through the Church: a world that helps us get to heaven.)

So the single only doctrinal confusion Schneider names as resulting from VII, Liberation Theology, is already at least identified, if not (tellingly) resolved in the areas where it most affected the faithful. He says nothing of collegiality, or the confusion regarding authority in the Church since the Council which result in errors like Liberation Theology persisting without challenge from frightened or co-opted local authority (just as it has in the cases of sexual misconduct, subsequent to the Council).  He says nothing either of problems resulting from the substitution of the liberal demand for ‘religious liberty’ for the traditional ‘religious tolerance,’ or problems stemming from ecumenism. Assisi III is okay with him.

And even in liturgical matters, he does not address the changed content of the mass in the elimination of almost all of the collect prayers  from the old mass which explicitly teach the faithful to resist the very errors he named–excluding God from society, and an orientation toward a merely earthly kingdom (here’s one source detailing this massive prayer re-write). The new collects teach man’s reliance on man and were explicitly written to appease and attract our protestant brothers. The Church always knew that our prayers at mass were teaching us in small bites what to believe; they still do. Now they teach us liberalism, and they will still teach us liberalism whether we are actually turned toward each other, or physically turned to God. We’ll be mentally turned toward each other still. The the most primitive spam eliminator searching for specific words would show every tenet of liberalism, of feminism, of pro-choice, of the “absolute autonomy” that Schneider understands marks the Sixties (he will not call it liberalism so we can fight it!).

Nevertheless, Schneider does call for a re-interpretation of the Council, necessitated by “the confusion of pastoral and liturgical applications,”  a “syllabus” directed “not so much against errors coming from outside the Church, but against errors spread within the Church on the part of those who maintain a thesis of discontinuity and rupture.” This syllabus could have two parts, a part marking errors, and a positive part with propositions of doctrinal clarification, completion, and precision.” This syllabus would have to issue from the supreme Magisterium of the Pope, or a future council.

The syllabus would be directed against those who maintain the theory of rupture, which has two groups: those who try “to protestantize the life of the Church doctrinally, liturgically, and pastorally,” and those who “reject the Council, and avoid submission to the supreme living Magisterium of the Church . . . waiting for better times.”

Bishop Schneider sidesteps here another trying discussion that would bring in the word obey; SSPX “avoids submission” to the ‘living’ Magisterium, “waiting for better times.” That’s one way to put it, and it pretty well describes many poor SSPX chapels. That they might possibly have acted like  the “wise Pastors of the Church who would be ready to defend the purity and integrity of the faith” the bishop laments the lack of, immediately following the Council, does not occur to him. But his use of terms does indicate an appreciation of the fact that he’d not be able to limit his liturgical problems to three had not they spent so much of their youth and fortunes just holding on to that precious God-ward orientation, that gold-standard Latin. “Avoid submission” is a tip of the hat, it seems. They have kept the mass alive for him.

Nevertheless, Bishop Schneider must hold himself ready to pay a high price for his timid assessment of the Council. Slowly, day by day, unchallenged, the poison is mutating. First tolerated, buried in the sweets of the brazen collects and sermons and catechisms and RCIA material and all the rest, then customary. We will learn to swallow contradiction. We will no longer recognize the true Faith and our Catholic instincts against heresy will be confused.  Finally it will feel right to say that a child is a child only if the mother says it is, and divorce isn’t so bad, and God has to love gays, she made them, and it’s better for old people to go quickly,  because we’ve evolved spiritually, see, and don’t need any rules, just like the Council said.  Isn’t freedom wonderful.  Long live Halliburton’s.

And then the forces of greed and lust will be free to roll out the most unspeakable attack on the bodies and souls of the poor and weak. They have only begun.

The Church was always our only knight.

1 Comment so far
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Dear Janet Baker,

Thank you for your excellent essay on Bishop Althanasius Schneider’s address to a conference of cardinals and bishops held in Rome this past December. I’m also grateful that you included a link to the address itself and on that note, the words of the Bishop that impressed me the most are the following:

“In substance, there were two impediments against the true intention of the Council and its Magisterium bearing abundant and lasting fruits. One was found outside the Church, in the violent process of the cultural and social revoluton in the 1960s, which, like every powerful social phenomenon, penetrated within the Church, contaminating vast ranges of people and institutions with its spirit of rupture. The other impediment showed itself in the lack of wise and intrepid Pastors of the Church who should be ready to defend the purity and integrity of the faith and of the liturgical and pastoral life, not letting themselves be influenced either by praise or by fear.”

Bishop Schneider’s words make perfect sense to me and they identify the two main impediments that prevented the Council from bearing abundant fruits, but just because the Council was thus prevented from bearing fruits up until now is no reason why the Church cannot make up for lost time and start bearing fruits TODAY. The bishop is accurate when he states that the social revolution of the 1960s penetrated within the Church but that is the fault of the Church, (wouldn’t you say?) and not the fault of the revolution. After all, the Church is a beacon on a hill and Jesus said: “You are the light of the world.” This calls to mind what you wrote, Janet, in your commentary: “The new collects teach man’s reliance on man and were explicitly written to appease and attract our protestant brothers.” It seems to me that since the time of Vatican II, the Church has wanted to become friends of all creeds, all nations, and all peoples, but Jesus never told the Church to do this. Instead, Jesus said: “Go out to all the world and make disciples of all nations.” That’s a far cry from being everybody’s pal and from wanting to “appease and attract our protestant brothers,” as you stated earlier. The focus shifted from living and breathing to please God….to living and breathing to please folks who aren’t Catholic.

Again, I concur with the Bishop when he said that “the other impediment showed itself in the lack of wise and intrepid Pastors of the Church who should be ready to defend the purity and integrity of the faith and of the liturgical and pastoral life, not letting themselves be influenced either by praise or by fear.” Yes, we need intrepid Pastors now more than ever…who should be ready to defend our faith and fight for the salvation of souls, because, as you stated above, Janet, “The Church was always our only knight.” What a beautiful image this is! In fact, when we think of a knight, we think of someone who’s concerned with the manifestation of courage and loyalty. In order to succeed, the knight performs feats of courage for his sovereign lord, which we’d interpret here to mean his Heavenly Father. A knight must stay mounted on his steed during combat and he must be willing to charge in the center of the fray and thrust a lance into the heart of the enemy, all because he wishes to impress his sovereign lord with his love, loyalty, and courage. What’s more, if a knight is protected with armor, he can better defend his lord and his chances of falling into the hands of the enemy are reduced. My question is this: Is such a task restricted to the Pastors of the Church or can all Catholics be a knight in shining armor while defending their faith on a daily basis? We can’t wait for the Pastors anymore…..Besides, in fairness, there ARE some magnificent Pastors and bishops and cardinals, but given the beating that our beloved Church is taking these days, we have more sleeping Pastors than Pastors mounted on horseback.

Another question: Do you think that our beautiful Church will experience a schism? Between, say, the American Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church? Could you please share you thoughts on these matters? Thank you for your stupendous essays and for educating sincere Catholics — clergy, religious, and laity alike — with your White Lily Blog….

Comment by Sister Emily Gallery

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