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Posted On: 16/12/20 00:04


Question : The Second Vatican Council had an incalculable effect on the Church and the world, perhaps most significantly in the prayer of Catholics. As is well known, a committee under Paul VI made radical changes to the liturgy after the Council. Critics say the Council and its aftermath led to an undermining of doctrine and morals. How did you experience "the fruits of the Council"?

H. E Athanasius Schneider : After two years at boarding school, I returned to my parents' home and attended the German gymnasium. I never received Holy Communion standing and in the hand. It was impossible for me. I was oftentimes the only one in the Church who knelt, since my interior conviction did not permit me to receive the Lord standing. I cannot explain this. This conviction was so deep in my soul. In those years, it was in the 1970s, even though the priests were very liberal, they did not refuse me Communion when I knelt, since they knew that I had come from the underground Church, from the persecuted Church. This was in some way my protection. They did not dare humiliate me publicly by telling me to "stand up." And so, it was a kind of protection for me and for my family also.

When I was fifteen or sixteen years old, I started to read more about the current situation in the life of the Church. I started to think about the crisis in the Church when I first heard about Archbishop Lefebvre. It was in 1976. I was 15 years old. That was the year that Archbishop Lefebvre was publicly suspended by Paul VI.

At the time, Archbishop Lefebvre celebrated several Masses with huge crowds, and in 1976 one was close to our home, close to the Bodensee, on Lake Constance. The bishops of all the surrounding dioceses, there were five bishops, issued a common pastoral letter advising and warning  people not to go to the Mass of Archbishop Lefebvre. The letter was read while I was at Mass in my home parish. In that letter, the bishops said that Arch bishop Lefebvre was disobedient, that he was a rebel and was against the Council and the pope. I started to become interested in this issue.I then began receiving circular letters from the Society of St. Pius X. A neighbour sent them to our home. I always read them. In my soul I experience dilemma. On the one hand, I noticed that there was much truth in the letters, especially when I read about the Holy Mass and saw the liturgical  celebrations portrayed in beautiful photographs. My intuition as a 16 - year old youth told me that what Archbishop Lefebvre said was substantially right. But I was in a quandary because I had a deep veneration for the pope. From one side, I saw the truth and the beauty of the Catholic faith and specifically of the Holy Mass presented by Archbishop Lefebvre, and from the other side, he was condemned by the pope. I was profoundly devoted to the pope, and so I could not understand this. It was very difficult for me. I started then to read more intensely about Vatican II.

Question :  Did you read the documents of Vatican II as a young man?

H. E Athanasius Schneider: I did not read them in full. There were good conservative people who, using the documents of the Council, published very good text to defend the tradition against the radical liberals in the Church. There was a book, a kind of "catechism of the Council," with quotations from it,which was very clear and defended the tradition of the faith. The author was a priest, Dr. Ingo Dollinger. In the 1970s, he published several books to defend Church teaching against the liberal moral theologians, using the documents of the Second Vatican Council. I read these and so l had no concern or suspicion that there might be problems with the texts of the Council.

At the same time, I was reading the texts of Archbishop Lefebvre which he argued that there were problems in the texts of the Council especially concerning religious liberty. This was his main doctrinal concern, as was the theme of collegiality. Nevertheless, I continued to believe that there was no substantial problem with the Council texts. On one side, I observed the Council texts being abused by the liberals, and on the other side, it seemed to me, in those years, that the criticisms of Archbishop Lefebvre were exaggerated.It was for me impossible to think that a Council or a pope could make any mistake. Implicitly I considered every word of the Council and the pope as infallible, or at least without error.

Question : Any kind of error?

H. E Athanasius Schneider: It was for me a kind of unconscious and total "infallibilization" of the Council -- unconsciously, not on the theoretical level -- and of all pronouncements of the popes. I was uncomfortable when there were critics, and I did not like to follow or study the critics because I was afraid of going in a direction that would be unfaithful to the Church and to my devotion to the pope. Instinctively, I repressed every reasonable argument which could, even in the slightest, be a critique of the Council texts. Nowadays, I realize that I "turned off" my reason. However, such an attitude is not healthy and contradicts the tradition of the Church, as we observe in the Fathers, the Doctors, and the great theologians of the Church over the course of two thousand years.

Question : How were your views affected when you entered the seminary?

H. E Athanasius Schneider : I entered the Congregation of the Holy Cross, the Canons Regular, who were - and still are - very faithful to the doctrine of the Church, with a very reverent manner of celebrating the liturgy, even the new Mass, but ad orientem, with Communion kneeling and on the tongue. Remember experiencing a kind of blind defense of everything that was said by the Council, which seemed sometimes to require mental acrobatics and a "squaring of the circle." Even now, the general mentality of good and faithful Catholics corresponds, in my opinion, with a de facto total infallibilization of everything the Second Vatican Council said, or that the current Pontiff says and does. This kind of extreme ultramontanism, an unhealthy papal-centrism, had already been present for several generations in Catholics. I was also educated in this mentality. But criticism has always been present and allowed within Church tradition, since it is the truth and faithfulness to divine revelation and tradition that we should seek, which in itself implies the use of reason and rationality and avoiding erroneous acrobatics. Some explanations of certain obviously ambiguous and erroneous expressions contained in the Council's texts now seem to me to be artificial and unconvincing, especially when I reflect upon them in a more balanced and intellectually honest manner.

Question : What was the first time you came to think there might be prudential or theological errors in the merely ordinary teaching of either the popes or of Vatican II?

H. E Athanasius Schneider : I think it was when I became a bishop thirteen years ago, because the task of a bishop is to be a teacher. The study of the Church Fathers also helped me very much. I have been teaching Patrology since 1993. Almost every year, I have given lectures in Patrology, either in Brazil or, since 1999, in Kazakhstan. So, I had to continue to read the texts of the Church Fathers. For some time, I had noticed that some expressions of the Council could not so easily be reconciled with the constant doctrinal tradition of the Church. I noticed that some teachings - let us say, on the topics of religious freedom, collegiality, the attitude towards non-Christian religions, and the attitude towards the world - were not in an organic continuum with previous tradition. 

The crisis in the Church, as you know, has grown in recent years, especially with the pontificate of Pope Francis. This has obliged me to reflect more deeply. When I was charged by the Holy See with visiting the Society of St. Pius X almost four years ago, I had to prepare and study the issues more deeply and examine the arguments. I started to notice that we need to take the objections offered by Archbishop Lefebvre more seriously. I saw that the Holy See dismissed all of these objections and presented their way of interpretation through the method called "hermeneutic of continuity." Unfortunately, the Holy See did not take Archbishop Lefebvre's arguments seriously. The representatives of the Holy See simply said to the SSPX: “You are wrong, our position is the only correct one and it represents the continuity with the previous tradition of the Church.” A kind of argument from authority, but not rooted in deeper theological reasoning, and without going to the substance of the arguments. This was my perception.

 With the growing crisis in the Church, and especially the situation created after the two Synods on the Family, the publication of Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis's approval of the pastoral guidelines of the bishops of the Buenos Aires (Argentina) region (which foresee, among other things, the admittance to Holy Communion of unrepentant adulterers), and the declaration on diversity of religions he signed in AbuDhabi, I realized that we need to take the arguments of the SSPX more seriously.

Question : Do you see the same pattern today of a top-down approach, without consulting or considering opposing views?

H. E Athanasius Schneider : Yes. They often dictate by administrative power. There is no argument. The argument is power.

Question : Force of will?

H. E Athanasius Schneider :  Yes, it seems to be a force of will, under the motto "we have the authority and therefore we are always right." I noticed that, from the side of the Holy See, there is no will to delve deeply into the essence of the questions presented by Archbishop Lefebvre. Maybe there is an unconscious fear that if one were to accept that some of the non-definitive teachings of the Council are ruptures with the constant previous tradition of the Church, then the era of a blind ultramontanism-as-a-substitute-for-orthodoxy will collapse. An honest examination shows that in some expressions of the Council texts there is a rupture with the previous constant tradition of the Magisterium. We have to always bear in mind the fact that the chief end of the Council was pastoral in character, and that the Council did not intend to propose its own definitive teachings.

Question : What were the main arguments against Archbishop Lefebvre and critics of Vatican II?

H. E Athanasius Schneider : It was said: "Your position is taken only from a few popes, from Gregory XVI, Pius IX, Pius X, Pius XI, Pius XII, while our position is the position of 2,000 years. You are fixated on a very brief span of nineteenth-century thinking.” This was substantially the argument of the Holy See against Archbishop Lefebvre and against those who raised several legitimate questions about dubious points in the Council texts.

However, this is not correct. The pronouncements of the popes before the Council, even those in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, faithfully reflect their predecessors and the constant tradition of the Church in an unbroken manner. One could not claim any rupture in the teachings of those popes (Gregory XVI, etc.) regarding the previous Magisterium. For example, concerning the theme of the social kingship of Christ and of the objective falsehood of non-Christian religions, one cannot find a perceivable rupture between the teaching of Popes Gregory XVI to Pius XII on the one side, and the teaching of Pope Gregory the Great (sixth century) and his predecessors and successors on the other. One can really see a continuous line without any rupture from the time of the Church Fathers to Pius XII, especially on such topics as the social kingship of Christ, religious liberty, and ecumenism.

Question : Some keen proponents of Vatican II say the Council is a means for the Church to go back to the roots, to the pre-Constantinian model?

H. E Athanasius Schneider : It is precisely in this argument that they reveal or "out" themselves, and thanks be to God that they say this. I will return to your argument, but I just wanted to add that usually the arguments from the Holy See against Archbishop Lefebvre were that the disputed points of the Council were in complete continuity with the Church's earlier teaching. In this way, men working for the Holy See have implicitly accused Gregory XVI,Pius IX and all the popes until Pius XII of being in some way an exotic phenomenon in the two-thousand-year history of the Church, a rupture with the time before them.

A 150-year rupture, a parenthesis in Church history... They have not said this explicitly, but de facto it is so. And what they say now, as you mentioned, is that the parenthesis encloses not only 150 years, but the period from the fourth century (with Constantine) to Vatican II- a 1700 year parenthesis ! However, such thinking is clearly not Catholic. This is, in substance, the theological position of Martin Luther. His main argument was that with Constantine the Church strayed from the path of the true doctrine of the Gospel, a parenthesis which lasted until his own emergence in the sixteenth century. This argument is the position of liberals today, and especially also of the Neocatechumenal Way. Such a theological position is ultimately Protestant, and heretical, because the Catholic faith implies an uninterrupted tradition, an uninterrupted continuity without any perceivable doctrinal and liturgical rupture.

Perhaps today's crisis with Amoris Laetitia and the Abu Dhabi document forces us to deepen this consideration. In the Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas Aquinas always presented objections ("videtur quod") and counter arguments ("sed contra"). St. Thomas was intellectually very honest; you have to allow for objections. We should use his method on some of the controversial points of the Council texts that have been under discussion for almost sixty years. Of course, the majority of the texts of the Second Vatican Council present no rupture and are clearly in continuity with the constant tradition of the Church. There are a few expressions we are all aware of, however, and we need to clarify them.

To this end, I think that the Society of St. Pius X can be of help and make a constructive contribution. Maybe in some positions they are too one-sided; they also have to acknowledge that the majority of the Council texts are in organic continuity with the previous Magisterium. However, ultimately, the papal magisterium has to clarify in a convincing manner the controversial points of some of the expressions in the Council texts. Were it necessary, a pope or a future ecumenical Council would have to add explanations (a kind of "notac explicativae posteriores") or even amendments and corrections of those controversial expressions, since they were not presented by the Council as a definitive teaching.

Question : Do you think the Council was a mistake?

H. E Athanasius Schneider : I think history will tell us this from a distance. We are only fifty years out from the Council. Maybe we will see this more clearly in another fifty years. However, from the point of view of the facts, of the evidence, from a global point of view, Vatican II did not bring real spiritual progress in the life of the Church. After the Council, a disaster occurred at almost every level of the Church's life. The plan and intentions of the Council were primarily pastoral, yet, despite its pastoral aim, there followed disastrous consequences that we still see today.

Of course, and I repeat, the Council had many beautiful and valuable texts. But the negative consequences and the abuses committed in the name of the Council were so strong that they overshadowed the positive elements which are there.

Question : What are the "positive" elements you see in Vatican II?

H. E Athanasius Schneider : If we look at the span of Church history, it was the first time an ecumenical Council made a solemn appeal to the laity to take seriously their baptismal vows to strive for holiness. The chapter in Lumen Gentium about the laity is beautiful and profound. The faithful are called to live out their baptism and confirmation as courageous witnesses of the faith in secular society. This appeal was prophetic.

Immediately after the Council, this appeal to the laity was abused by the progressivist establishment in the Church, and also by many functionaries and bureaucrats who worked in Church offices and chanceries. Oftentimes the new lay bureaucrats were not themselves witnesses but helped to destroy the faith in parish and diocesan councils and in other official committees. Unfortunately, these lay bureaucrats were oftentimes misled by the clergy, by the bishops and pastors.

Question : It seems as if the Council called for holiness, and instead we got more employees on the payroll, more artificial "ministries," and more committees to tell Father what to do.?

H. E Athanasius Schneider : Never in history did the Church have so many administrative structures as after the Second Vatican Council. The Roman Curia, the diocesan chanceries, and the offices of religious orders were never so bureaucratized as in the postconciliar period, and this phenomenon has reached its peak in our days. The bureaucratization of the life of the Church brought in a strongly worldly spirit and suffocated spiritual life, supernatural vision, and missionary zeal for the salvation of souls. The time after the Council left one with the impression that one of the main fruits of the Council was bureaucratization. While it is true that the Church, as any human society, needs rules and an order and a precisely formulated Code of Canon Law, nevertheless this worldly bureaucratization in the decades since the Council paralyzed spiritual and supernatural fervor to a considerable extent, and instead of the announced springtime, there came a time of widespread spiritual sterility, a spiritual winter. Well known and unforgettable remain the words with which Paul VI honestly diagnosed the Church's state of spiritual health: "We thought that after the Council there would come a day of sunshine for the history of the Church. Instead, there has come a day of clouds, of storms, of darkness" (Sermon on June 29, 1972). Within this context, it was Archbishop Lefebvre in particular (though he was not the only one to do so) who began, with a frankness similar to that of some of the great Church Fathers, to protest the destruction of the Catholic faith and the Holy Mass that was occurring in the Church and being supported, or at least tolerated, even by high-ranking authorities in the Holy See. In a letter addressed to Pope John Paul II at the beginning his pontificate, Archbishop Lefebvre realistically and aptly described in a brief synopsis the true extent of the crisis of the Church. I am continually  impressed by the clear-sightedness and prophetic character of the following affirmations: "The flood of novelties in the Church, accepted and encouraged by the Episcopate, a flood which ravaged everything in its path -faith, morals, the Church's institutions- could not tolerate the presence of an obstacle, a resistance. We then had the choice of letting ourselves be carried away by the devastating current and of adding to the disaster, or of resisting wind and wave to safeguard our catholic faith and the Catholic priesthood. We could not hesitate. The ruins of the Church are mounting: atheism, immorality, the abandonment of churches, the disappearance of religious and priestly vocations are such that the bishops are beginning to be roused." ( Letter from December 24, 1978.) We are now witnessing the climax of the spiritual disaster in the life of the Church to which Archbishop Lefebvre pointed so vigorously already forty years ago.

Question : Obviously the Council remains controversial. How do we get past simplistic or one sided views of it?

H. E Athanasius Schneider : In approaching questions related to the Second Vatican Council and its documents, one has to avoid forced interpretations or the method of "squaring the circle," while of course keeping all due respect and the ecclesiastical sense (sentire cum ecclesia). The application of the principle of the "hermeneutic of continuity" cannot be used blindly in order to eliminate unquestioningly any evidently existing problems. Indeed, such an approach would transmit artificially and unconvincingly the message that every word of the Second Vatican Council is infallible and in perfect doctrinal continuity with the previous magisterium. Such a method would violate reason, evidence, and honesty, and would not do honor to the Church, for sooner or later (maybe after a hundred years) the truth will be stated as it really is. There are books with documented and reproducible sources, which provide historically more realistic and true insights into the facts and consequences with regard to the event of the Second Vatican Council itself, the editing of its documents, and the process of the interpretation and application of its reforms in the past five decades. I recommend, for instance, the following books which could be read with profit: Romano Amerio, Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the Twentieth Century (1996); Roberto de Mattei, The Second Vatican Council - An Unwritten Story (2012); Alfonso Gálvez, Ecclesiastical Winter (2012).

Question : You said you believe one of the bright lights of the Second Vatican Council was the way it stressed the universal call to holiness. What was happening among concerned laity at the time of the Council? And are we beginning to see its fruits?

H. E Athanasius Schneider : At that time, there emerged a movement of laity who said: “We protest the dilution of the faith and the trivialization of the Holy Mass. What we observe is not the faith that was always and everywhere transmitted to our forefathers." This lay movement inside the Church was growing independently of Archbishop Lefebvre's work, and today it is continuing to grow in strength and numbers in response to the pontificate of Pope Francis. I think that with the tremendous and almost unprecedented interior crisis in the Church we are witnessing today, the hour of the laity has arrived. They also feel responsible for the conservation and defense of the faith. The true intention and teaching of the Second Vatican Council on the laity is being realized now in our days ever more clearly, in many meritorious and courageous lay initiatives for the defense of the Catholic faith. We have arrived at a grotesque situation, in which the sheep are beginning to unmask the infiltrating wolves in sheep's clothing, i.e., the unbelieving, apostate, and debauched cardinals, bishops, and priests.

Question :  Is the internet an important tool for the laity in defending the faith?

H. E Athanasius Schneider : Yes, to be sure. I see the internet and social media as providential tools that give lay people who want to defend the faith an unique possibility to be united. This was not possible thirty years ago. I now see lay men and women who have the courage to say to their pastor, or bishop, or even to the Holy See: "Please, we are concerned about these facts. This does not correspond with the faith of our forefathers. We want to defend the faith of our Mother, the Church." However, the ecclesiastical liberal establishment -- I call them the "ecclesiastical nomenklatura" (The "nomenklatura" were Communist bureaucrats who held various key administrative positions and who ran all spheres of public life) — is now accusing the lay people of interference, saying "this is not your task, shut up!" *

Question : It smells of clericalism, wouldn't you say?

H. E Athanasius Schneider :  Yes, such an attitude of these clergy towards faithful lay people is a demonstration of enormous clericalism. But the lay faithful have to respond to these arrogant clerics. That is what Vatican II taught about the duty of the laity to witness to and defend the faith. They can say to these clerics: "If you love Vatican II so much, you should let us critique you! Let us stand up and speak freely in the Church in defending the faith of our forefathers. We have the right to express our concerns even to the pope, because we are one family." In this new and courageous attitude of many lay people, I see a realization of the intention of the Second Vatican Council. God permitted the evils after the Council and uses them in order to draw a greater good from them.

Question : Do you think that, maybe looking back fifty years from now, the Council will be seen as a step toward getting rid of the Modernist heresy in the Church because unintentionally it exposed the infestation of this heresy and showed it for what it is:

H. E Athanasius Schneider : Yes, I wanted to mention that as well. God always uses negative phenomena to produce an even greater good.

The current vigilant and committed participation of traditionally minded lay people in the life of the Church expresses the true meaning of Vatican II regarding the laity. In the difficult times of persecution under Communism, it was the laity who primarily transmitted the pure Catholic faith. I received the faith in the clandestine Church from lay people, from my grandparents, from my mother and father and from other lay men and women. Our own time is the hour of Catholic families, large families. In fact, a very positive contribution of the Council was the beautiful doctrine of the family as a domestic church. We find this thought already in the Church Fathers, in St. Augustine for example, but it was renewed by the Council. I think the true fruit of the Council will be borne in the future, once the crisis is over, in renewed Catholic families, in domestic churches, and in the courageous witness to the faith by the laity.

I want to mention another positive contribution, the chapter about Our Lady in Lumen Gentium. It was the first time that an ecumenical Council spoke so extensively and deeply about the role of Our Lady in the Church and in the history of salvation. The title "Mother of the Church," Mater Ecclesiae, which Pope Paul VI gave to Our Lady during the Council, was based on the teaching in Lumen Gentium. Since the time of St. Irenaeus, Mary has been called the "new Eve." Pope Benedict XVI taught: "Mary is the Spiritual Mother of all humanity, because Jesus on the Cross shed his blood for all of us and from the Cross he entrusted all to her maternal care" (Homily, January 1, 2007). Her role as spiritual Mother of humanity is manifested through these specific motherly functions, as she cooperates "in the work of the Savior in restoring supernatural life to souls” (Lumen Gentium, n. 61), as the Mediatrix of graces, dispensing Christ's graces, and as the Advocate with her interceding power.

These points -- the universal call to holiness, the role of the laity in defending and witnessing to the faith, the family as the domestic church, and the teaching on Our Lady - are what I consider the truly positive and lasting contributions of the Second Vatican Council.

Question : Didn't the Council begin on the liturgical feast (later suppressed) of the Divine Motherhood of Our Lady?

H. E Athanasius Schneider : Yes, exactly. And the patron of the Council was St. Joseph. Even though it had disastrous consequences, we need to have respect for the event - it was an ecumenical Council.

The Church defined herself for the first time at Vatican II as the "servant of the Word."

But on the contrary, when one looks at photographs from that time, Vatican II as a phenomenon appeared as a huge show of clerical triumphalism. I am not comfortable with this. The motto "We are the Church" leaves one with the impression of great triumphalism. One observes here a lack of modesty. When I look at the historical pictures and reports from the Council, I have the impression that in some way the bishops put themselves at the center. However, we are only servants.

The Magisterium has been so overloaded in the last 150 years with an insane ultramontanism that there emerged an atmosphere of "ecclesiocentrism," which in turn is a hidden anthropocentrism, and this was not healthy. The Council, which was unfortunately a demonstration of a very rare “ecclesiocentrism” and “Magisteriocentrism" - this Council itself gave a beautiful description of what the Magisterium is, which had never before been given in the history of the Church. It is found in Dei Verbum, n. 10, where it is written: "The Magisterium is not above the Word of God, but serves it." That is beautiful. I have never read this before in a text of another Council.

Paul VI has been accused of abusing papal power in his implementation of Vatican II. Critics say that, acting of his own accord, be changed the liturgy in a way that had never occurred before. This seems to lend credence to what you said about a manifest triumphalism, with the bishops and the pope focusing too much on themselves. What opened the door to this exaggeration or bypertrophism of power? Was it a lack of centeredness on the Lord ?

Exactly, this is what I mean by "ecclesiocentrism" and “Magisteriocentrism." By this, I mean that the human and administrative elements were put at the center of the life of the Church and above the constant tradition of the Church. The liturgical reform of Paul VI is a striking example. In some ways, Paul VI put himself above Tradition - not the dogmatic Tradition (lex credendi), but the great liturgical Tradition (lex orandi) which is inseparably linked to doctrine. Paul VI dared to begin a true revolution in the lex orandi. And to some extent, he acted contrary to the affirmation of the Second Vatican Council in Dei Verbum, n. 10, which states that the Magisterium is only the servant of Tradition. We have to put Christ at the center : the supernatural, the constancy of doctrine and of the liturgy, and all the truths of the Gospel which Christ taught us.

Through the Second Vatican Council, the Church began to present herself to the world, to flirt with the world, and to manifest an inferiority complex towards the world. Yet clerics, especially the bishops and the Holy See are tasked with showing Christ to the world - not themselves. Vatican II gave the impression that the Catholic Church has started begging sympathy from the world. This continued in the postconciliar pontificates. The Church is begging for the sympathy and recognition of the world; this is unworthy of her and will not earn the respect of those who truly seek God. We have to beg sympathy from Christ, from God, and from heaven.

Question : Some who criticize the Council say that, although there are good aspects to it, it's somewhat like a cake with a bit of poison in it, which needs to be thrown out.

H. E Athanasius Schneider :  I have heard this comparison from the Society of St. Pius X. We cannot accept it because the Second Vatican Council was an event of the entire Church. In such an important phenomenon, even though there were negative points, we have to maintain an attitude of respect. We have to evaluate and esteem all that is really and truly good in the Council texts, without irrationally and dishonestly closing the eyes of reason to what is objectively and evidently ambiguous and even erroneous in some of the texts. One has always to remember that the texts of the Second Vatican Council are not the inspired Word of God, nor are they definitive dogmatic judgments or infallible pronouncements of the Magisterium, because the Council itself did not have this intention.

We need to recall, for example, the fact that the Ecumenical Council of Florence in its decree for the Armenians, which was not meant to be a definitive dogmatic judgment, made an objective doctrinal error in saying that the matter of the sacrament of Order is the "handing over of the instruments." Whereas according to the longer and previous and unanimous tradition of the entire Church in the East and West, it was not the handing over of the instruments, but the imposition of the hands that was regarded as the decisive element (matter) of the diaconal,presbyteral, and episcopal ordinations. Even though it was not the mind of the Council of Florence to claim the necessity of the traditio instru mentorum for validity -- as it was stated later by Pius XII -- the Council incomprehensibly omitted to add any explanatory remark, so that it intention would be clear and would not lead to error and ambiguities. In such a grave matter as officially teaching about the essence of the sacraments, a Council is obliged to speak in a most unambiguous way. In fact, the Council spoke plainly, "The sixth is the sacrament of Order Its matter is the object by whose handing over the order is conferred. So the priesthood is bestowed by the handing over of a chalice with wine and a paten with bread; the diaconate by the giving of the book of the gospels." This affirmation taken alone, by itself, is erroneous, independently of the intention. It later caused some Catholic theologians to assert in their dogmatic manuals that the traditio instrumentorum is necessary for validity. Even the Holy See did this in some of the editions of the Pontificale Romanum, in which one can find it stated that, if the handing over of the instruments had been omitted, it had to be supplied for the sake of the validity of the ordination. In 1947, Pope Pius XII officially corrected the objective theological error of the Ecumenical Council of Florence, which was also the error of St. Thomas Aquinas, by stating that the imposition of the hands is the only valid matter for diaconal, presbyteral, and episcopal ordinations. After the magisterial intervention of Pius XII, the dogmatic manuals and the rubric in some of the editions of the Pontificale Romanum  had definitively to be corrected.

To come back to the comparison - "it's somewhat like a cake with a bit of poison in it"- I would not apply this to the Second Vatican Council. For me, that betrays a lack of a supernatural perspective. Another example is Amoris Laetitia. There are certainly many points we need to criticize objectively and doctrinally. But there are some sections which are very helpful, really good for family life, e.g., about elderly people in the family: in se are very good.

I will not reject the entire document but receive from it what is good. The same with the Council texts. St. Thomas Aquinas accepted many philosophical insights of Aristotle in spite of the fact that not all things in Aristotle are perfect. There are some things St. Thomas did not accept from Aristotle, but, nevertheless, he quotes him often. This principle applies even more to those ecclesiastical documents that may contain some imperfections.

Question : You were saying earlier that the Second Vatican Council inaugurated an era of unprecedented "ecclesiocentrism." Do you see this phenomenon still at hand today?

H. E Athanasius Schneider : Yes. This attitude manifests itself in organizing continuous clerical meetings, synods, and almost countless committees - a grand display of continuous clerical anthropocentrism. It is unhealthy, really.

Question :When bishops meet, shouldn't prayer be the main priority?

H. E Athanasius Schneider :  Exactly. The bishops' first task is to pray. During the meetings there should be a really beautiful and worthy liturgy to glorify and adore God and a true and constructive fraternal sharing of experiences and suggestions for improving the faith and discipline in the Church and for promoting authentic spiritual life. The bishops' meetings and synods do not primarily have to produce documents and present themselves to the media. I am convinced that in the future, maybe in fifty years, after the crisis has passed, the Church will draw a lesson from this.

But now, I would like to come back to your earlier comment about exposing Modernism. The Council was a catalyst for bringing out all that was latent in the Church before it in the Modernist movement. Pope St. Pius X issued an encyclical and an oath against Modernism. But afterward, the Modernists who were hidden in their holes during his pontificate started slowly to come out by means of ecclesiastical personal politics. During the subsequent pontificates there was, in my opinion, sometimes a lack of care in the selection of candidates for the episcopacy and cardinalate.

Question : Since the pontificate of Pius X?

H. E Athanasius Schneider : It is no secret that his successor Benedict XV was not happy with the pontificate of Pius X. This is a historical fact. He was a pupil of the famous Cardinal Rampolla, who was a very mysterious personality and more inclined toward political liberalism and friendly with the radical anti-clerical and Masonic French Republic of those times. I don't know if Cardinal Rampolla was a Modernist or a Freemason; however, he was clearly inclined to political liberalism. This attitude of Rampolla and his ecclesiastical pupils, chief among them Monsignor Giacomo della Chiesa, who then became Benedict XV, manifested itself in a new policy towards the world. They were of the mind that the Church had to make political compromises with the world. Such an attitude, however, over time, led to a worldly mentality among high-ranking and influential clergy in the Church, especially in the Roman Curia. Benedict XV started to change the policy, not doctrinally but in practice, through some ecclesiastical appointments of men who were not zealous defenders of the faith. Even though they all had to take the Anti-Modernist Oath, some of them did it with mental reservations, as subsequent historical facts have proven.

With the pontificate of Benedict XV, there began a slow and careful infiltration of ecclesiastics with a worldly and somewhat Modernist spirit into high positions in the Church. This infiltration grew particularly among theologians, so that later Pope Pius XII had to intervene by condemning well-known theologians of the so-called "nouvelle théologie" (Chenu, Congar, De Lubac, etc.) and by publishing the encyclical "Humani Generis". Nonetheless, from the pontificate of Benedict XV onwards, the Modernist movement was latent and continually growing. And so, on the eve of the Second Vatican Council, a considerable part of the episcopacy and professors in theological faculties and seminaries were imbued with a Modernist mentality, which is essentially doctrinal and moral relativism and worldliness, love for the world. On the eve of the Council, these cardinals, bishops, and theologians loved the "form"-the thought pattern - of the world (cf. Rom 12:2) and wanted to please the world (cf. Gal 1:10). They showed a clear inferiority complex towards the world.

Pope John XXIII also demonstrated a kind of inferiority complex towards the world. I don't believe he was a Modernist in his mind, but he did have a political way of looking at the world and strangely begged sympathy from the world. He surely had good intentions. He convoked the Council, which then opened a floodgate for the Modernist, Protestantizing and worldly-minded movement inside the Church. I am impressed by the following acute observation, made by Charles de Gaulle, President of France from 1959 to 1969, regarding Pope John XXIII and the process of reforms started with the Second Vatican Council ( See Alain Peyrefitte, C'était de Gaulle (Paris: Gallimard, 1997), 2:19.) : " John XXIII opened the floodgates and could not close them again. It was as if a dam collapsed. John XXIII was overcome by what he triggered.”

The talk of "opening the windows" before and during the Council was a misleading illusion and a cause of confusion. From these words, people got the impression that the spirit of an unbelieving and materialistic world, which was plainly evident in those times, could transmit some positive values for the Christian life. Instead, the authorities of the Church in those times should have expressly declared the true meaning of the words "opening the windows," which consists in opening the life of the Church to the fresh air of the beauty of divine truth, to the treasures of ever youthful holiness, to the supernatural lights of the Holy Spirit and the saints. Over time, during the postconciliar era, the partly opened floodgate gave way to a disastrous flood which caused enormous damage in doctrine, morals, and liturgy. Today, the flood waters that entered are reaching dangerous levels. We are now experiencing the peak of the flood disaster.

Surely, ever since Paul VI, ecclesiastics with a liberal Modernist spirit and with a worldly and careerist mentality began to dominate in the positions of power in the Church. Many of them were and still are united among themselves in true clerical old-boy networks.

Question : Earlier we discussed Modernism and the way in which it sets aside intelligible truths in favor of a religious sentiment that can be expressed in different concepts from one age to the next. St. Pius X explains and condemns this heresy in the encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregis. Is this document still relevant today?

H. E Athanasius Schneider : Of course! Pascendi is very relevant. As Pope Pius X said in Pascendi, Modernism is the most dangerous phenomenon in the entire history of the Church. He said that Modernism is the collection basin, the "syne thesis" of all heresies of all times, due to its relativism and lack of faith. Today we are experiencing the complete predominance of Modernism in the life of the Church, and in theological faculties. To some extent, Modernism has even penetrated documents of the Magisterium.

But God has permitted this. So, to your question, the face of Modernism has revealed itself from the time of the Council to our own day. We can now see it for what it is. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, the archbishop of Vienna, has for example said that until Pope Francis the entire Church had taught only one side of moral theology, the objective side, and that Pope Francis brought to the Church the other side, the subjective and individual view of morality. For me this is a clear example of rupture, of Modernism and of relativism. To say that we now have a new category, i.e., the subjective, which determines truth, is wrong. This does not correspond to the truth that the Church has proclaimed for two thousand years. God gave objective norms to the individual, to the subject: "Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not lie.” That is individual: "Thou shalt not!" And the Church has always preserved this individual aspect of moral truth. To present the category of the "subject" in order to abolish sin is a dishonest method. It comes close to the method of Gnosticism, of Martin Luther, and ultimately also of the Freemasonic ideology.

Other cardinals and bishops talk about a " paradigm shift." It is a very cunning expression to deny everlasting truth. It is insidious.

Now to your observation: today the veil has been lifted and Modernism has revealed almost all of its hideous face. Once the crisis in the Church is over, we will have the task of rejecting all of these phenomena which are present in the life of the Church. And the Church will do this, because she is divine. She cannot leave this undone. She will do it precisely and will correct all of the errors which have accumulated, beginning with several ambiguous expressions in the Council texts. She will then correct the errors that have spread and grown to our own day.


Question : Modernism is like a hidden virus that has now manifested itself and is going to be expelled.

H. E Athanasius Schneider : Yes, that's a good comparison. After the crisis, after the serious spiritual viral infection, the clarity and preciseness of doctrine will shine more brightly.

Question : You initiated and were one of the main contributors in the editing process of the "Declaration of truths relating to some of the most common errors in the life of the Church of our time," which you signed together with two cardinals and two bishops on May 31, 2019. Is this something you hope a future pope or Council will adopt, or something similar to it?

H. E Athanasius Schneider :  I not only hope that a future pope or Council will publish something similar; I am convinced that the Church will do this in an unambiguous manner, as she did in times of serious doctrinal and moral crises over the past two thousand years. To teach clearly the truths of the divine deposit of faith, to defend the faithful from the poison of error, and to lead them in a sure way to eternal life belongs to the very essence of the divinely appointed task of the pope and bishops. Therefore, I think it is not a matter of "should." In the future a pope must do this, because
the Church is divine, and she has always condemned errors. Like a good physician, a future pope has to diagnose and provide medicine to cure the disease, otherwise he will not be a good physician.

Question : Before Vatican II, that was always the reason for a Council to be called, wasn't it?

H. E Athanasius Schneider :  Yes, exactly. It was a spiritual medical procedure to protect souls from spiritual diseases. In this sense, I think that the Second Vatican Council has a positive meaning, insofar as the doctrine will be clarified and the positive points of the Council will shine forth — i.e., the call to holiness. the role of the laity in spreading and defending the faith, the family as the domestic church, and Our Lady, the Mother of the Church, and the spiritual Mother of all men.

Question : In the meantime, while we are waiting, what happens to the souls who are lost because of all this confusion?

H. E Athanasius Schneider :  Yes, this is a very important question. I think that a great part of the faithful are misled by clergy in our days. In the Gospel, the Lord says that those who have received more have to give a stricter account. "That slave who knew what his master wanted, but did not prepare himself or do what was wanted, will receive a severe beating. But one who did not know and did what deserved a beating will receive a light beating. From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded" (Lk 12:48). These lay people received less, because they received no formation and even a distorted formation by those who were supposed to form them well. And so, they have a lesser responsibility in my opinion. I believe they will be judged by Our Lord more leniently than the clergy. But the higher the clergy, the stronger and stricter will be the judgment, because they had the task of being vigilant and protecting the flock from disease and danger and did not, and they even collaborated in spreading disease and danger, and acted as wolves in sheep's clothing.

[ Above Question/Answer excerpted from "Christus Vincit: Christ's Triumph Over the Darkness of the Age Book by Athanasius Schneider and Diane Montagna" ; Page 117 to page 135 ]

To purchase the book "Christus Vincit: Christ's Triumph Over the Darkness of the Age Book by Athanasius Schneider and Diane Montagna"  Kindly visit :  https://www.amazon.in/Christus-Vincit-Christs-Triumph-Darkness/dp/1621384896

Note: H.E Athanasius Schneider has given permission to publish all his articles in this webportal

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