This statement has been first published on the Austrian news website Kath.net. Reprinted with permission of Bishop Schneider.
In his 14 July interview with ORF [an Austrian national public service broadcaster], Bishop Kräutler said that it is “nearly a scandal” that, in many parishes in the Amazon, the Holy Eucharist is barely being celebrated. This way of speaking in itself is already unclear and definitely tendentious. No one has a right to the Holy Eucharist. The Sacrament of the Eucharist is the ultimate gift of God. One can speak of a scandal in Catholic parishes when the Faith is there being denied and not practiced, when God is insulted by the scorning of His Commandments, by grave sins against charity, by idolatry, shamanism, and so on. One could speak of a scandal in a Catholic parish when people there do not pray enough. That would be a true scandal.
One should rather speak of a scandal when one considers the fact that, during the last decades in the Amazon, intensive pastoral initiatives to foster vocations were not launched, initiatives in accordance with the 2,000-year-old experience of the Church.
That is to say, by way of constant prayers, spiritual sacrifices, and an exemplary and holy way of life on the part of the missionaries themselves. One of the most effective means in order to foster solid priestly vocations, also in the Amazon, are missionaries who lead a life as true men of prayer, as true apostles, that is to say with the help of a loving and sacrificial life totally dedicated to Christ and to the salvation of immortal souls.
Those that Bishop Kräutler and many of his clerical fellow travelers now demand are, rather, caricature-priests in the form of aid workers, NGO employees, socialist syndicalists, and eco-specialists. But this is not the mission of Jesus Christ, of the Incarnate God Who came to give His Life at the Cross in order to redeem mankind of the greatest evil. That is to say, redemption from sin, in order that all men may have the divine and supernatural life, and that they also have it abundantly (see John 10:10).
It does not hold to employ the trick of dramatizing the “Eucharistic hunger” or the lack of Eucharistic celebrations, because it is not the reception of the Holy Eucharist that is necessary for salvation, but the Faith, the prayer, and a life according to God's Commandments.
If, over a long period of time and due to the lack of priests, Catholics cannot receive Holy Communion, then one should instruct them to practice spiritual Communion which has a great spiritual strength and effect. The Desert Fathers, for example, have lived for years without the Eucharist and have reached a great union with Christ. My parents and I myself for years were unable to receive Holy Communion in the Soviet Union. But we always practiced spiritual Communion, which gave us much spiritual strength and consolation. When then a priest would come, and we were able to confess ourselves, to participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and receive Holy Communion sacramentally, then it was a true feast for us and we experienced in a very deep and joyful manner how precious the gift of the priesthood and the gift of the Eucharist are.
One should build up in the Amazon a well-organized system with wandering missionary priests who should go to the individual places – even if only a few times a year – in order to hold a truly spiritual feast with good confessions and with Holy Masses which are celebrated in a dignified manner. They then could also leave Jesus in the tabernacle so that Catholics could adore Him, and one could instruct them how to hold Eucharistic Adoration and how to pray the Rosary with the prayer intention for good indigenous unmarried priests and good Christian families. Then God would give them, without doubt, this grace. One should also make a world-wide request to invite priests to come to the Amazon in order pastorally to assist the people there. One can also ordain married deacons or, in exceptional cases, give tasks to acolytes or to faithful Catholic women who expose the Most Blessed Sacrament and lead the prayers.
There is one single example in the Church's history when the Japanese Catholics, without priests, maintained the Catholic Faith over the course of more than two hundred years. Today, Japan has a sufficient amount of indigenous priests, who are of course celibate. Even though, at the time, the pagan culture of Japan rejected a celibate priesthood, the Japanese Catholics held in such high esteem the celibate priesthood that it became a sign of identification for Catholics. That is to say, when in the 19th century, Christian missionaries again came to them – among them married Protestant preachers – they rejected them for this very reason. But when then Catholic priests came, and when the Japanese Catholics asked them whether they were married and they responded in the negative, they were then welcomed by these faithful as priests of the true Church of Jesus Christ. The Church thus could have brought up in the 19th century the same arguments as today the Amazon Synod will do, in order to ordain indigenous married priests, because at that time, many parishes in some missionary regions also could only have the visit of a priest a few times in the year.
The priestly marriage was legalized in the Eastern Church in the 7th century, but not because of the lack of priests – at the time, there was an overabundance of priests especially in Constantinople. It was rather done out of leniency toward human weakness, because those who in the episcopal and priestly office imitated Jesus Christ – the Eternal High Priest of the New Covenant – and who act in the ordained office in the person of Christ the Head had deviated and departed from the Apostolic rule of a celibate life. At the time, in the Greek Church, it was a regional solution of a local church, but which the Roman Pontiffs however did not recognize nor accept. It was at the time a deviancy and a disloyalty toward the demanding imitation of Christ, which the Apostles lived out in their complete sexual continence, from the moment of their being called and unto death. Because the Apostle Peter clearly bore witness to this way of life and he also confirmed it: “We have left everything: also wife and children” (Matthew 19:27).
All the Church Fathers in the episcopal and priestly office have lived the priesthood in sexual continence. Even if some of them had been married (e.g. Saint Hilarius), it has been proved that they have themselves started to live in sexual continence and did not father any more children as soon as they received the episcopal or the priestly ordination, because they knew and respected the Apostolic rule of priestly and episcopal sexual continence.
The Roman Church has faithfully passed on this Apostolic norm and has always defended it up to today, with one exception which she granted in the case of the Eastern Churches, in negotiations for union with the Apostolic See since the Reunion Councils of Lyon and Florence. Here, she allowed a married priesthood for the sake of unity.
The introduction of a married priesthood in the Amazon would not bring forth true apostles, but, rather, a new category of priests with a sort of dynasty. At the same time, one has to keep in mind that the indigenous culture of the Amazonian peoples has not yet reached a reliable and proven maturity of whole Christian generations which are thoroughly permeated by the spirit of the Gospel.
For example, the Germanic tribes still needed – after the initial systematic evangelization by Saint Boniface – some more centuries before being able to bring forth numerous and proven celibate indigenous clergymen.
Without doubt, in the Amazon in the 19th and 20th century, there were heroic and holy missionaries: bishops, priests, religious sisters. In the last decades, however, some missionaries in the Amazon have turned away from the true spirit of Jesus Christ, of the Apostles, and of the holy missionaries; they, instead, have turned to the spirit of this world. They do not preach anymore, with full conviction, the unique Redeemer Jesus Christ and they do not make sufficient efforts to transmit His Supernatural Life of Grace to the people in the Amazon in order thereby to lead them to eternal life, to heaven, and thus even unto the sacrifice of one's own life. Often, the opposite happened. By abusing the name of Jesus and of the holy episcopal and priestly office, missionaries and even bishops have preached in the Amazon mostly a gospel of earthly life, a gospel of the stomach, as it were, and not a Gospel of the Cross; a gospel of the adoration of nature, of the forest, of the water, of the sun, a gospel of the adoration of this so brief earthly material life. And this they did, even though the people in this region, are also in truth themselves thirsting for the sources of divine, eternal life. Such a way of missionizing the Amazon is a betrayal of the true Gospel and this betrayal has been perpetrated during the last decades throughout vast parts of this region. And now, some wish to legitimize – with the help of a synod of bishop on the international level – this same betrayal of the true supernatural evangelization in the spirit of Jesus and of the Apostles.
The Amazon urgently needs true and holy missionaries according to the spirit and the example of the lives of the great missionaries in the Church's history, such as Saint Boniface, the great Latin-American missionary saints, such as Saint Turibio de Mogrovejo and Saint José Anchieta, and many more.
In his interview, Bishop Kräutler uses as a justification for the priestly ordination of women for the celebration of the Eucharist a reference to their female “empathy.” Here, it is obviously about another understanding of Church and Eucharist, another understanding of priesthood and deaconate.
“Empathy” is not a solid theological criterion, but the will of God is such. God's Church is not a corporation, not a party, not a club, nor a human institution where human efficiency and empathy come first, although admittedly such qualities certainly are useful. The criteria for the office of the Apostles and their successors in the episcopal office – and below in the priestly office, and then also in the diaconal office – have to be the same ones which Christ gave to us and which the Church has always preserved: first of all, they are men, and then they have to be suitable in their morality and character. They have to be men of Faith, filled with the Holy Spirit, prepared to live in celibacy; men who put in the first place prayer and the proclamation of Christ's teaching; men who are willing to be true shepherds and to give their lives for the salvation of immortal souls, for those people who have been entrusted to them; men who are the true fathers of all the faithful and not merely of a limited personal family dynasty; men who are true bridegrooms of the Bride of Christ, the Church, and who are thus, as such unmarried fathers and bridegrooms.
Saint Iraeneus is already a witness in the 2nd century for the unity of the Faith and of discipline in the Church, and to be such among all peoples, even if the converted Catholics at the time came from very different and in part even contradictory cultures: “The Church, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet – as if occupying but one house – carefully preserves the Faith of the Apostles. She also believes these truths just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth. For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe nor hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world.” (Adversus haereses 1,10, 2)
Many of the newly converted Catholic parishes among the Germanic tribes during the time of the Migration Age (4th-6th century) had perhaps also only a few times the possibility to participate at Holy Mass and to receive Holy Communion. After some generations, however, out of these Germanic parishes came generations of celibate and generally exemplary priests.
The truth of the matter is that those who defend a married Amazonian clergy with the help of the ruse of the elegantly formulated motto “proven men” (“viri probati”) consider the Amazonian peoples to be inferior, because they assume from the onset that they do not have the capacity to give to the Church, from out of their own midst, celibate priests. In the course of 2,000 years, all peoples and even barbarians were capable to raise their own sons, with the help of Christ's grace, to a celibate priesthood according to the example of Jesus Christ. The calls for married priests for the Amazonian peoples – which comes precisely from clergymen of European descent – contain in themselves a hidden racism. To put it to a point, one could say it this way: “We Europeans, i.e., we white men are indeed capable of a celibate priesthood. But for you Amazonians, this is a little bit too much!”
The defenders of a married Amazonian clergy who are really nearly all of European and not of indigenous descent, are finally not interested in the true spiritual good of the Amazonian faithful, but in the implementation of their own ideological agenda which aims at having a married clergy also in Europe and then throughout the entire Latin Church. For, everybody knows that, after the introduction of the first regionally limited married clergy in the Amazon, there will be, with the help of the domino effect and within a relatively short period of time, a regular married clergy of the Roman Rite also in other parts of the world. Thereby, the apostolic heritage of a celibate priesthood according to the model of Jesus Christ and His Apostles would be effectively destroyed in the whole Church.
Some Catholics – those who certainly do not represent the majority of the true faithful, but, rather, who are functionaries of a wealthy Church bureaucracy and who have reached clerical positions of power in the Church – want to attract worldly people with the help of a married priesthood and with a priesthood without sacrifices, without self-giving, and without a supernatural burning love for God.
The Lord Himself has told us what the Church should do so that the faithful may have priests: “therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:38) There is no better and more effective remedy than this. And if there would be one, Our Lord would have told us.
In order to have married candidates for priestly ordination, there is no need for any special prayer initiatives. There will always be, until the end of time, only few workers in the vineyard of the Lord. At a time where there were many priests, Pope Saint Gregory the Great spoke these memorable words: “See, the world is filled with priests, but nevertheless only few workers are to be found in the harvest of the Lord.” (In Ev. hom., 34) God always accomplishes His work of grace and of the salvation of souls for eternal life with the help of sacrifices and often only of a few people, and not with the help of large crowds. In this sense, Saint Gregory of Nazianzen said that God is not delighted with numbers (see Or. 42,7).
Bishop Erwin Kräutler then asks in the interview: “What can we do as Church so that these people can celebrate the Eucharist?” The parish life, he adds, is beautiful, “but the center is missing.” The answer to this is the following: the center is Christ, the Truth as taught by Him, the Example given by Him. The tabernacle is the real center of the Church here on earth and the center of each local parish. If a Catholic local community in the Amazon has the tabernacle – and most of them do – then they have the center, then nothing is missing ultimately, because they have God in their midst, God with Flesh and Blood present in their midst!
One has to assemble the Catholics in the Amazon around the tabernacle so that they have their own priests, and if possible numerous priests. There, Catholic mothers and children should send their intimate prayers to God, the giver of all gifts, for the sake of good and celibate indigenous priests with an apostolic spirit. One should start a chain of Eucharistic adorations throughout the whole Amazon. Such a Eucharistic chain of adorations on the part of the simple faithful, together with their bishops and with their priests – and be they even few – will bring without doubt – at the time chosen by God – to the peoples of the Amazon those priests who are according to Jesus' own heart. One should not abuse the Amazonian peoples for the sake of one's own decadent ideologies and theological heresies which have been fabricated in Europe.
Large parts of the working document (Instrumentum laboris) of the Amazon Synod and the demands of these clergymen decorate the image of Christ the King with precious gems, with mottos such as the “proven men,” “Eucharistic hunger,” “female empathy.” They thereby wish to implement, in an easier fashion, priestly marriage and female ordination. The true Catholics of the Amazon and of other parts in the world, however, will recognize in it the picture of the fox, and they will not consider it to be the picture of Jesus Christ the King. Large parts of the Instrumentum laboris and of the revolutionary demands of Bishop Erwin Kräutler and of his clerical fellow-travelers represent indeed an intellectual attitude which is very similar to the Gnosis and Naturalism which wanted to enter into the Church already from early on, as Saint Iraeneus of Lyon himself attests to be so in the 2nd century: “Such, then, is their system, which neither the prophets announced, nor the Lord taught, nor the Apostles delivered, but of which they boast, that beyond all others they have a perfect knowledge. They gather their views from other sources than from the Scriptures; and, to use a common proverb, they strive to weave ropes of sand, while they endeavor to adapt, with an air of probability, to their own peculiar assertions the parables of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets, and the words of the Apostles, in order that their scheme may not seem altogether without support. In doing so, however, they disregard the order and the connection of the Scriptures, and, so far as in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth. By transferring passages, and dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in deluding many through their wicked art in adapting the oracles of the Lord to their opinions. Their manner of acting is just as if one – after a beautiful image of a king has been constructed by some skillful artist out of precious jewels – should then take this likeness of the man all to pieces, should rearrange the gems, and so fit them together as to make them into the form of a dog or of a fox, and even that but poorly executed; and should then maintain and declare that this was the beautiful image of the king which the skillful artist constructed, pointing to the jewels which had been admirably fitted together by the first artist to form the image of the king, but they have been, with bad effect, transferred by the latter one to the shape of a dog, and by thus exhibiting the jewels, should deceive the ignorant who had no conception of what a king's form was like, and persuade them that that miserable likeness of the fox was, in fact, the beautiful image of the king. In like manner do these persons patch together old wives' fables, and then they endeavor – by violently drawing away from their proper connection, words, expressions, and parables whenever found – to adapt the oracles of God to their baseless fictions” (Adversus haereses 1, 8, 1).
It is obvious that the content of large parts of the Instrumentum laboris, the demands of Bishop Erwin Kräutler, and of his clerical fellow-travelers, really want a new Christian confession, which then perhaps is to be called “Amazonian-Catholic Church,” but which finally becomes a sect in comparison to the true One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. The latter has gone, and still goes, securely through all times, always the same in the unconditional loyalty to the purity of the Faith and of the unchangeable inheritance of the Apostles in the liturgy and in the discipline of the Church. The Catholics of our time will vividly respond to such an “Amazonian-Catholic” sect – which practices the adoration of nature and which will have a female priesthood – with the words once spoken by Saint Augustine to the members of the sect of the Donatists: “The Church in the whole world is secure in her assessments of truth!” (securus iudicat orbis terrarum: Contra epistolam Parmeniani 3, 3).
The successor of Peter, the Pope, has a strict duty, as given to him by God, as the holder of the Cathedra of Truth (cathedra veritatis), to preserve, in its purity and integrity, the truth of the Catholic Faith, the Divine Constitution of the Church, the sacramental order as instituted by Christ, and the apostolic inheritance of priestly celibacy; and to pass them on to his own successor and to the next generation. He may not support in the slightest way – by silence or by an ambiguous conduct – the obviously gnostic and naturalistic contents of parts of the Instrumentum laboris, as well as the abolishment of the apostolic duty of priestly celibacy (which first would be regional, and then naturally, and step by step, then becomes universal). Even if the Pope would do this at the upcoming Amazon Synod, then he would gravely violate his duty as the Successor of Peter and the Representative of Christ, and he would then cause an intermittent spiritual eclipse in the Church. But Christ, the invincible Sun of Truth, will re-illuminate this brief eclipse by again sending His Church holy, courageous, and faithful popes, because the gates of hell are not able to overcome the rock of Peter (see Matthew 16:18). The prayer of Christ for Peter and his successors is infallible. That is to say, that, after their conversion, they will again strengthen their brothers in the Faith (see Luke 22:32).
The truth, as Saint Iraeneus formulated it, will remain standing also in a time of an intermittent spiritual eclipse in the Church – as it is the case with out time, by God's unfathomable permission: “For, in the Roman Church, the Apostolic Tradition is always preserved on the part of the faithful who are everywhere” (Adversus haereses 3, 3, 2).
+ Athanasius Schneider Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana
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