ASTANA, Kazakhstan (ChurchMilitant.com) - Authorities in Rome are reportedly limiting the travel of faithful Bp. Athanasius Schneider, a vocal supporter of Catholic orthodoxy.
In a report published Tuesday, Vatican expert Marco Tosatti revealed that the Holy See is seeking to "reduce the frequency of [Bp. Schneider's] trips abroad"; Abp. Francis Assisi Chullikatt, papal nuncio to Kazakhstan, delivered the directive in April.
Tosatti explained that according to the Vatican order, Bp. Schneider must inform the nuncio each time he wishes to travel outside Kazakhstan.
We do not know if among the powers of the papal ambassador there is also that, possibly, to deny him the authorization to the expatriation," he wrote. "No motivation was given to Msgr. Schneider, as reported by people close to him, whom we contacted, to explain this extraordinary request."
Speaking Wednesday, Bp. Schneider emphasized there were "no prohibitions" on his travel outside the diocese of Astana, and some Vatican-watchers later suggested that the Holy See's directive simply reinforces Canon 395 §2 from the code of canon law:
Apart from ad limina visits, councils, synods of bishops, conferences of bishops which he must attend, or some other duty legitimately entrusted to him, he can be absent from his diocese for a reasonable cause but not beyond a month, whether continuous or interrupted, and provided that he makes provision so that the diocese will suffer no detriment from his absence.
Others observe a contrast between Rome's approach toward Schneider and its handling of left-leaning prelates.
After lifting penalties imposed by Benedict XVI, Pope Francis sent former Cdl. Theodore McCarrick to China, the Philippines and Armenia on his behalf.
Tosatti also noted the pontiff enlisted McCarrick to serve "as a trait-d'union with Cuba" to prepare for the 2015 papal visit to Havana. McCarrick's stint as unofficial papal emissary came to an abrupt halt in June, after his serial sexual predation of seminarians and minors was publicly exposed.
He also noted that no similar orders have been imposed on Honduran Cdl. Óscar Maradiaga, "the Pope's Great Councilor, who left — because of his frequent travels — the diocese of Tegucigalpa in the hands of his auxiliary," Bp. Juan José Pineda. In July, Pineda resigned in disgrace amid allegations of embezzlement and homosexual assault of seminarians.
Bishop Schneider, Tosatti observed, "is one of the freest and most open voices in denouncing — in a respectful and filial but firm manner — deviations and confusion present in the Church of today." He described the travel directive as an attempt "to limit freedom of expression" and "a clear sign of a growing unease with regard to free voices in a regime in which dialogue is spoken, but where criticism is feared."