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A Leaven In The World… Bishop Schneider On The “Unprecedented Crisis” In The Church

July 31, 2017 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


Much speculation followed Pope Emeritus’ Benedict XVI’s eulogy for Joachim Cardinal Meisner with which you may already be familiar through comments here and in many other places in the social media.
For those who do not remember, it all began when Archbishop Georg Ganswein represented Benedict at the funeral for his friend, fellow churchman and countryman Cardinal Meisner in Cologne. In comments from Benedict read at the event, the image of a capsizing boat was used to describe the Church.
Why such dire imagery?
Undoubtedly to highlight the life and work of a great servant of the Church and a fervent holder of the Catholic faith who was being buried that day. Surely this is without question. But still, many ills afflict the Mystical Body in all ages of her life on Earth, but capsizing can hardly be listed among them.
The fact that Meisner was one of the four cardinals who signed the dubia loomed over the whole proceeding, giving warp and woof to the context in which Benedict’s words were discussed and debated. Anything Benedict said to laud the cardinal’s undoubtedly strong and undoubtedly orthodox faith was easily and rightly assumed to include his stance on Amoris Laetitia.
And anything that added strength to the undoubted groundswell of opposition to Amoris Laetitia was a questioning of and opposition to Pope Francis himself. Thus the imbroglio following the funeral, with voices raised on both sides of the divide opened up by the dubia which still arouses only silence from the Pope.
“Capsizing” describes the complete failure of a vessel to protect and carry her crew and passengers safely to their final destination. Surely Benedict would not go so far as to suggest such a state of collapse for the Church except under unprecedented circumstances?
And the dire description of an overturned and submerged boat left many questioning: Was Benedict describing the state of the Church generally or only in Meisner’s Germany where he lived out his service to the Church? Or did he mean to warn us about the general state of the Church from Rome down to the smallest of local parishes or missionary outposts in the remotest of jungles?
Many voices urged extreme caution and many more remained silent. The Church often mirrors on a macro level the situation of the now three cardinals, where so many take refuge in silence while only a brave few speak out. Following Meisner’s death, many urged caution and, because of the inevitable reflection on Pope Francis, currently at the helm of Peter’s barque, his defenders were quick to deny that it was any criticism of him.
Archbishop Ganswein added to that chorus of voices, rejecting any speculation by stating unequivocally that the comments were indeed not a slap at the Pope.
There’s a line adapted from Shakespeare, however, that comes to mind at a time like this, “Methinks thou dost protest too much.”
Under ordinary circumstances, most men of sage character realize that by responding to speculation on the part of others with denials only gives wings to rumor and prolongs the discussion of the matter. The fact that the Pope Emeritus’ personal secretary felt it necessary to react with a denial means that someone in high places thinks it all too likely that his eulogy metaphor of a ship in extreme distress, and looking like a vessel about to go under, could very well indeed be applied to the Church in her current state.
And Bishop Schneider agrees.
The good bishop of Kazakhstan is intelligent, as is well known already, but he is also a man of a rock-steady serenity born of a very firm and well-founded faith. When he used the image of the capsizing ship himself in comments soon after Benedict’s eulogy was made available in the media, that pretty well put an end to the debate in my mind.
In a guest op-ed on Rorate Caeli blog the bishop began his comments thus:
“The current situation of the unprecedented crisis of the Church is comparable with the general crisis in the fourth century, when the Arianism had contaminated the overwhelming majority of the episcopacy, taking a dominant position in the life of the Church. We must seek to address this current situation on the one hand with realism and, on the other hand, with a supernatural spirit — with a profound love for the Church, our Mother, who is suffering the Passion of Christ because of this tremendous and general doctrinal, liturgical, and pastoral confusion.”
The many who refer often to the bishop’s holy patron St. Athanasius to give context to the current crisis afflicting holy Mother Church are thus greatly comforted and vindicated that their fears are not unfounded.
But where does this crisis indeed originate? In order to right the boat of the Church and make her seaworthy again, we must find the leaks and the holes in her hull and work with great effort to control the damage.
First Bishop Schneider gives parameters within which all of us must strive to live and spread the faith. Because so often the Second Vatican Council is misused to spread errors, it factors into the discussion:
“As to the attitude toward the Second Vatican Council, we must avoid two extremes: a complete rejection (as do the sedevacantists and a part of the Society of St. Pius X [SSPX]) or an ‘infallibilization’ of everything the council spoke.”
He goes on to give guidance for treatment of the continuing importance of Vatican II for so many:
“There must be created in the Church a serene climate of a doctrinal discussion regarding those statements of Vatican II which are ambiguous or which have caused erroneous interpretations. In such a doctrinal discussion there is nothing scandalous, but on the contrary, it will be a contribution in order to maintain and explain in a more sure and integral manner the deposit of the immutable faith of the Church.”
He offers a very important qualifier for the many who overstate or “infallibilize” the pastoral statements of Vatican II that should continue to be a guiding factor:
“From an objective point of view, the statements of the Magisterium (Popes and councils) of definitive character, have more value and more weight compared with the statements of pastoral character, which have naturally a changeable and temporary quality depending on historical circumstances or responding to pastoral situations of a certain period of time, as it is the case with the major part of the statements of Vatican II.”

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