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Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan, an outspoken champion of the Traditional Latin Mass, is condemning modern liturgical abuses and speaking out in defense of tradition.
In a recent interview with Adelante la Fe, he blasts Communion in the hand and use of female lectors, as well as other ritual abuses.
"It is now a proven fact that a considerable part of those who receive the Holy Communion habitually in hand, especially the younger generation which had not known the manner of receiving Communion kneeling and on the tongue, [no longer has] the full Catholic faith in the Real Presence," he says, "because they treat the consecrated Host almost in the same exterior manner as they take ordinary food."
"The exterior minimalistic gesture has a causal connection to the weakening or even loss of the faith in the Real Presence," he explains.
Bishop Schneider then discusses a lecture he once gave on "the five wounds in Christ's liturgical mystical body." These are, as the interviewer points out, "the priest turned towards the congregation, Holy Communion taken in the hand, the new Offertory prayers, the disappearance of Latin in liturgical celebrations and the performing of some ministries, such as those of lector and acolyte, by women." Bishop Schneider observes:
None of these liturgical wounds can even remotely be supported by Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on Sacred Liturgy of the [Second] Vatican Council. They have been introduced according to a specific agenda of a small group of liturgists who fatally occupied key positions in the Roman Curia in the immediate postconciliar period and who with cunning and tricks presented such radical changes (with the exception of the practice of Communion in hand) sometimes as the will of the Pope and sometimes as an almost unanimous decision of the members of the Commission of the Liturgical Reform.
He continues, noting, "It is a mysterious permission of God that the good intentions of the Fathers of the [Second] Vatican Council and their moderate dispositions on liturgical reform, fell into the hand of impious and revolutionary liturgical ideologues. They brought the sacred liturgy of the Holy Roman Church in a state of captivity, in a kind of liturgical 'exile of Avignon.'"
Bishop Schneider then lays out a path toward renewal.
In order to heal these wounds there could be made the following steps:
- A thoroughly [sic] study of the history of the liturgy concerning the above-mentioned five liturgical wounds. Such a study which will compel to admit with scientific honesty that the above-mentioned liturgical practices in their concrete modern form never existed in the universal Church; they represent therefore a radical rupture with the perennial law of the prayer (lex orandi) and therefore also a rupture with the Apostolic tradition.
- A careful study of the text of Sacrosanctum Concilium and particularly of the Acts of the conciliar discussions on this topic in order to know the real spirit of the conciliar Fathers (the mens patrum), being the encyclical Mediator Dei, the principal hermeneutic key of Sacrosanctum Concilium,
- To avoid, if possible, some of these liturgical practices such as Communion in hand, celebration towards the congregation, total vernacularization, female lectors and acolytes. These four practices are not compulsory. The modern Offertory prayers are, however, prescribed.
- To ask the Holy See to issue a document, which will grant to the celebrant the freedom of choice between the modern and the traditional Offertory prayers during the celebration of the Holy Mass in the Ordinary Form; the same document of the Holy See could encourage the celebration ad Dominum or ad orientem and dissuade and restrict the practice of Communion in hand.
- To give catechetical and homiletical instructions about the ineffable Divine mystery of the Holy Eucharist, about the perennial and unchangeable Catholic theology of the sacred liturgy, about the spiritual meaning of the ritual details.
- To organize specific liturgical scientific conferences and talks for seminarians, clergy and laity in order to show the perennial liturgical principles and the organic character of the sacred liturgy and also to unmask the modern liturgical myths.
- To spread more the celebration of the liturgy in the ancient form and the teachings of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum of Pope Benedict XVI.
Next, Bp. Schneider elaborates on the hypocrisy of those who constantly bemoan the plights of the poor and vulnerable, yet neglect Christ, Who became weak for our sake. "The fact that Christ under the eucharistic species became today really the most weak, vulnerable, defenseless and the most dishonored in [the] midst of the Church," he asserts, "is a clear and sad indicator to what extent the love and the integrity of the Catholic faith in the Eucharist and in the Incarnation diminished."
He proceeds to draw parallels between today's common, inadequate approach to the Faith and the Protestant Revolution that began centuries ago. "Indeed, the essence of Protestantism consists in the rejection of the fullness of the truth of Incarnation with all its implications and consequences: the visibility of the Church, of the sacramental life, of the concreteness and greatness of the eucharistic Presence, of the incarnatorial characteristics of the liturgy."
Then Bp. Schneider points out the root problems, in his analysis, that are crippling the Church in modern times. "The current crisis of the Church manifests itself mainly in these two attitudes: a gnostic spiritualism and a horizontal naturalism," he says, adding, "and the very root of them is the anthropocentrism, which on its part is a typical characteristic of Protestantism."
Later in the interview, he delves further into the crisis in the Church.
The deepest root of the faith crisis is the anthropocentrism and naturalism, which manifest itself in an attitude of seeing and judging the truth of Divine revelation and of Divine worship predominantly with rationalist and pure humanistic criteria and with the criteria of the changeable human history. Such an attitude leads to a dogmatic, moral and liturgical relativism and ultimately a serious defect of faith and this is then no [further] from apostasy and paganism.
The bishop also talked about what he considers an unfair myth about the Church prior to Vatican II, namely, that it was somehow cut off from the outside world. "[T]he Church before Vatican II was in no way closed in Herself or isolated from the real world," he states. "Neither Pope John XXIII nor the vast majority of the Fathers of Vatican II aimed to create a different Church. All the documents and speeches of John XXIII, the preparatory documents of the Council (schemata) and the Acts of the Council itself demonstrate it well enough."
What was it really like, according to Bp. Schneider?
The true relationship of the Church to the real world or to the temporal society has been always realized according to the theological principle gratia supponit naturam, i.e., the grace (Church) presupposes the nature (world), purifying, elevating and perfecting it. If the Church no more or not sufficiently ... influences the world and its realities with the supernatural gifts (grace, light of Divine truth) and instead deals predominantly with affairs of natural and temporal realities (e.g., social justice, ecology), then the Church closes Herself in the temporal and deprives the world of the eternal, of Heaven. The fact that the predominant activity of many of the official structures of the Catholic Church (associations, commissions, etc.) is isolated from the supernatural, from Heaven, and is immersed in the temporal and in the horizontal, represents the core problem of the current crisis of the Church.
Bishop Schneider had nothing but praise for Pope Benedict XVI's motu proprio Summorum Pontificum, which, confirming the Extraordinary Form of the liturgy was never abrogated, was supposed to guarantee greater access to it. "Summorum Pontificum is an act of the Supreme Magisterium with real epochal dimensions," he said. "It was absolutely necessary."
Since it was first enacted in 2007, however, Summorum Pontificum has been neglected in many parts of the Church. "The obstacles in the implementation of Summorum Pontificum," says Bp. Schneider, "are based on the fact that a considerable part of the clergy has a disturbed relationship with the principle of organic tradition and manifests a spirit of rupture towards the liturgical inheritance of the Church."
He added, "One other reason [for] their resistance and antipathy towards Summorum Pontificum is the lack of self-criticism regarding some obvious defects of the postconciliar liturgical reforms."
When it comes to the Extraordinary Form, Bp. Schneider speaks from experience with a profound love for its beauty.
When I officiate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in the Extraordinary Form, or to be more precise, in the Traditional Form, I have the salutary and beneficial awareness and experience that I am not the owner and the boss of the sacred rite, but really only the servant, fulfilling the will and the commands of the Church, the Bride of Christ, praying in the spirit and even with the concrete formulas and gestures which belong to the Catholic generations of ... more than a millennial period. One has an awareness to carry out even in the smallest ritual details something which is not pure[ly] human and temporal, but eternal and heavenly, celebrating the supreme act of adoration of the ineffable majesty of the Triune God, Who mercifully overwhelms us with the redeeming graces.
Bishop Schneider goes on to encourage marginalized traditional Catholics to take comfort in retaining the Apostolic Faith. Asked about the innumerable traditional Catholics in the clergy and laity who feel isolated and scorned, he states:
I would like to say to these priests, seminarians, young people and families: "It is an honor and a privilege to be faithful to the Divine truth and to the spiritual and liturgical traditions of our forefathers and of the saints and being therefore marginalized by those who currently occupy administrative power in the Church. This your fidelity and courage constitute the real power in the Church. You are the real ecclesiastical periphery, which with God's power renews the Church. Living the true tradition of dogma, liturgy and holiness is a manifestation of the democracy of the saints, because tradition is the democracy of the saints. With St. Athanasius I would like to tell you these words: Those in the Church who oppose, humiliate and marginalize you, have occupied the churches, while during this time you are outside; it is a fact that they have the premises — but you have the Apostolic Faith. They claim that they represent the Church, but in reality, they are the ones who are expelling themselves from it and going astray (cf. Letter to his flock).
He concludes the interview on a question about the controversial Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX). Carefully handling the subject, he chooses to focus on the positive elements to be found in the society, expressing hope that they can be brought back into full communion with the Church — a status they don't currently enjoy. Offering his take on how to best tackle the task of reconciling the society with the Church, Bp. Schneider believes both sides are overestimating the importance of Vatican II.
Last week, Bp. Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin, also a favorite among traditional Catholics, broached the subject of the SSPX, telling traditionalists not to frequent their chapels.
For ChurchMilitant.com's take on the SSPX, click here. A couple of our interviews with Bp. Schneider, which touch on similar topics, can be found here and here.
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