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DETROIT, August 14, 2015 (ChurchMilitant.com) - Bishop Athanasius Schneider is urging caution on the part of those jumping to conclusions about his recent comments about the Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), a schismatic group whose priests are suspended a divinis and exercise no legitimate ministry in the Church according to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI.
In a wide-ranging interview last week, His Excellency made brief comments in response to a question about the SSPX. Those sympathetic to the Society ran with the comments and inflated their significance, assigning to them a far greater certainty than Bishop Schnieder intended.
In exclusive communications with ChurchMilitant.com, His Excellency states:
I have not said that there are no reasons which would hinder a canonical recognition of the SSPX, but I said more cautiously, "To my knowledge there are no weighty reasons ... ."
I have not said that the current canonical situation of the SSPX is OK. The contrary, because of ... their uncanonical status it is necessary that they receive the recognition from the Holy See. ...
I never said that I support the positions of the SSPX about Vatican II. ...
Of course, the SPPX has to make their critics [sic] with more respect towards the supreme authority of the Church and has to avoid incorrect and exaggerated expressions and judgements. One has to act with the principle veritatem facientes in caritate (to defend the truth with love). This I often told to the representatives of the SSPX.
He goes on:
One has to have enough intellectual honesty and objectivity as to admit that the SSPX makes some theological criticism of some not strictly dogmatic affirmations in the texts of Vatican II and of some postconciliar documents, which have to be taken seriously. Unfortunately their criticism lacks sometimes the due respectful form.
Those statements can hardly be construed as gushing support for the SSPX as his earlier interview had been portrayed. Bishop Schnieder sees the current situation as extremely lamentable and greatly desires that the SSPX come back into communion with the Church, as all faithful Catholics do.
When ChurchMilitant.com inquired of His Excellency about his alleged sympathy for the SSPX and their concerns (many of which are legitimate) being used to portray him as a backer of their current status, he responded, "Regarding the different commentaries of my words about the SSPX I have sent you already my clarifications and the words of my interview have to be red [sic] carefully and in a fair manner. I am really not so much anxious about what people speak about me. All my public pronouncements are transparent and can be red [sic]. Sometimes we have to tolerate or to suffer calumnies in order to be closer to the eternity and to loose [sic] human fear."
In a recent official video posted by the SSPX, the organization said that Catholics should never attend the Novus Ordo Masses except for rare exceptions, characterizing it as "an offense against God." The SSPX goes so far as to say Catholics have no duty to fulfill their Sunday obligation at a Novus Ordo Mass, even if it is the only option available. "In such cases," the SSPX suggests, "the Church recommends the faithful to sanctify Sunday by dedicating a time for prayer, alone or in the family: One could read the Mass of the day, pray the Rosary, and make a spiritual communion."
The Church has always taught that failing to fulfill one's Sunday obligation when options are available is a mortal sin. The video above expresses the official position of the SSPX as it has been released on their website by the U.S.A. District.
The issue with SSPX sympathizers who support schism and their attempts to portray Bp. Schnieder as supportive of their cause is that it would place His Excellency at odds with Rome itself and with the Magisterium — a claim he totally rejects.
Bishop Schnieder's comments — as he himself says — are his own subjective evaluations, and must be read cautiously. He is walking a tightrope, trying to keep a balance between the two opposing camps. He desires reunion. He understands there are problems of confusion with some of the documents of Vatican II and desires those confusions to be clarified. He has great sympathy for the SSPX in many of their observations about problems in the Church and the liturgy, as do many faithful Catholics.
By his own admission, however, he does not support the full extent of their claims regarding Vatican II — that there are heresies present in the documents. He does not support their position that the Novus Ordo Mass is "an offense against God," and that Catholics may refuse to fulfill their Sunday obligation by staying home insead of attending a Novus Ordo Mass, as the SSPX claims. He does not support what he calls "the exaggerated expressions and judgments" of the Society. He does not support their dismissiveness and disrespect toward the supreme authority of the Church.
He admits, as do many Catholics not supportive of schism, that there are serious problems in the Church, some emanating from an incorrect reading of Vatican II documents, and these problems need to be addressed — and when the SSPX speaks of this in a limited fashion, it raises legitimate concerns.
The problem is that the SSPX goes over the line oftentimes, as Pope Benedict said. The Supreme Pontiff explicitly noted that the matters of concern for the SSPX are doctrinal, and until these are resolved, all SSPX clergy remain suspended a divinis, and they lack any legitimate exercise of ministry within the Church.
For SSPX supporters to portray Bishop Schnieder as an unquestioning ally is something to which His Excellency objects.
The full text of Bp. Schneider's initial message to ChurchMilitant.com follows:
Dear Michael Voris, here are some clarifications about the issue of the SSPX:
1. I have not said that there are no reasons which would hinder a canonical recognition of the SSPX, but I said more cautiously "To my knowledge there are no weighty reasons".
2. I have not said that the current canonical situation of the SSPX is OK. The contrary, because of the their uncanonical status it is necessary that they receive the recognition from the Holy See.
3. I said that the SSPX should be received as they are, meanwhile. My thought is this: for pedagogical and pastoral reasons they should be meanwhile accepted as they are, in order to correct by time those things which have to be corrected in the SSPX.
4. I never said, that I support the positions of the SSPX about Vatican II. I only said, that there is on both sides, i.e. the Holy See and the SPPX an over-evaluation and overestimation of Vatican II, yet on opposing points of views. The question is the right measure, i.e. we must have an estimation and a good evaluation of Vatican II, but not in an exaggerated manner. We have not to make Vatican II a Council isolated from all the previous Councils or a kind of super-Council.
5. This is the tragedy of the history, that in confused times as this is our time, the good forces in the Church, which want to restore the true faith and Divine worship often fight one against the other, to the detriment of the true renewal and to the joy of the enemies outside and inside the Church.
6. Of course, the SPPX has to make their critics with more respect towards the supreme authority of the Church and has to avoid incorrect and exaggerated expressions and judgements. One has to act with the principle "veritatem facientes in caritate" (to defend the truth with love). This I often told to the representatives of the SSPX.
7. One has to have enough intellectual honesty and objectivity as to admit that the SSPX makes some theological criticism of some not strictly dogmatic affirmations in the texts of Vatican II and of some postconciliar documents, which have to be taken seriously. Unfortunately their criticism lacks sometimes the due respectful form. Nevertheless, some theological objections of the SSPX can be a constructive contribution for a more mature theological explication of certain themes, as for example the collegiality, religious liberty, the liturgical reform
8. Each true catholic should only be glad and thank God, when the SSPX with all their priests and Catholic families, from which the majority are faithful Catholics, would be recognized by the Holy See, so that there would be a new considerable force for a renewal of the Church according to the mind of the Saints, of our forefathers and of the true intention of Pope John XXIII, the intention which is demonstrated in his speeches and especially in the document drafts (schemata) which this Pope ordered to prepare and which he personally approved.
9. The current situation of the Church is similar to that of the Arian Crisis in the 4.thcentury: there is a naval battle in the night, where the enemies of the Church attack vehemently the big ship of the Church, whereas in the same time little ships of several true Catholic groups attacks one another, instead of make a common defense against the enemies.
I give you the permission to use these my clarifications and to spread them. God bless you, + Athanasius Schneider
Editor's note: Bishop Schneider's e-mail is posted here without alteration.