Bishop Schneider: Resurrecting a dead hermeneutic

Bishop Schneider lgBishop Athanasius Schneider has authored yet another essay (published at Rorate Caeli) on Vatican II, the issues stemming therefrom, and what he considers to be the way forward.

Once again, His Excellency is being hailed for his efforts; one of the “money quotes” being:

Some of the new statements of Vatican II (e.g. collegiality, religious liberty, ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, the attitude towards the world) have not a definitive character, and being apparently or truly non-concordant with the traditional and constant statements of the Magisterium, they must be complemented by more exact explications and by more precise supplements of a doctrinal character.

Let’s give His Excellency credit where credit is due; at least he recognizes that the Council and its deleterious effects are a serious problem – even if he stops well short of identifying it for what it truly is – the problem, and identifying the only way to truly address it. (More on that later.)

As such, the path that Bishop Schneider has laid out, while winning the support of many thanks to its traditional-sounding guideposts, will only further guarantee that the conciliar crisis continues.

In order to make sense, such as one is able, of Bishop Schneider’s thoughts, it may be useful to begin by considering his “orientation” with regard to the Council. He states:

Vatican II was a legitimate assembly presided by the Popes and we must maintain towards this council a respectful attitude.

A respectful attitude…

This is a problem.

Yes, but the Council was legitimate!

It must be said that in spite of being convoked by the popes, having been presided over by him, and its decrees having receiving papal confirmation (presumably the benchmark for legitimacy that Bishop Schneider has in mind), the Council – being devoid of any intent to define and bind and therefore its utter lack of infallible character – is of questionable validity with regard to its status as an “ecumenical council.”

In any case, while it is commonplace in our day for prelates to urge respect for things that are evil (e.g., false religions), due reverence for the Truth should preclude as much.

As for the way forward, Bishop Schneider states:

New statements of the Magisterium must, in principle, be more exact and clearer, but should never be ambiguous and apparently contrast with previous magisterial statements. Those statements of Vatican II which are ambiguous must be read and interpreted according to the statements of the entire Tradition and of the constant Magisterium of the Church.

I’ve little doubt that every reader of this space knows very well what this is:

It is nothing more than the failed conciliar implementation program that Benedict XVI famously articulated during his Christmas Address to the Roman Curia on December 22, 2005; best known as the “hermeneutic of continuity.”

Bishop Schneider, for some reason, seems to believe that it is different, stating:

A blind application of the principle of the “hermeneutics of continuity” does not help either, since thereby are created forced interpretations, which are not convincing and which are not helpful to arrive at a clearer understanding of the immutable truths of the Catholic faith and of its concrete application.

It isn’t immediately clear to me why His Excellency believes that a distinction is to be made between his proposal and that of Pope Benedict. Perhaps it is with respect to a “blind application.”

In any case, he goes on to say:

As to the attitude towards 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 a “infallibilization” of everything the council spoke.

As for why one mustn’t reject the Council completely, Bishop Schneider suggests that doing so would be like throwing the treasure out with the trash.

At this one must ask, but where’s the treasure?

In other words, what of value did the Council provide to the Church and her faithful that was lacking before 1960? What contribution did the Council make to the mission at hand – the salvation of souls?

According to Bishop Schneider, strewn amid the conciliar garbage are four – count them, four – pearls of a great price to be found.

He tells us that “the original and valuable contribution of the Vatican II consists in” the following:

  1. The universal call to holiness of all members of the Church (LG, Chapter 5)

Not to be flippant, but anyone who has ever read the epistles of St. Paul alone realize that the Church has been calling all of her members to holiness from day one. I find it particularly irksome when it is suggested that the Council invented the idea, and frankly, I am surprised that Bishop Schneider is buying into this nonsense.

  1. The central role of Our Lady in the life of the Church (LG Chapter 8)

Let’s be honest – the eighth chapter of Lumen Gentium came about because plans for a document on Mary were attacked by the ecumenists who feared upsetting the precious protestants.

If pressed to specify precisely what the Council provided in the way of “original and valuable” teaching on Our Lady, I doubt that His Excellency would be able to deliver much.

Perhaps I can help.

The Council refers to Mary as she “who occupies a place in the Church which is the highest after Christ and yet very close to us.”

Really? Mary – the Immaculate Conception, the Queen of Heaven and Earth – is very close to us?

This tells us all we need to know about the Council’s contribution to Mariology.

Oh, and guess who the Council Fathers were quoting here?

Pope Paul the Pathetic.

  1. The importance of the lay faithful in maintaining, defending and promoting the Catholic faith and in their duty to evangelize and sanctify the temporal realities according to the perennial sense of the Church (LG Chapter 4)

In this, one may say that the Council perhaps stressed the role of the laity as participants in the mission of the Church in a particular way (while failing, in my opinion, to stress nearly enough the laity’s dependence upon the clergy), but let’s not forget that Confirmation has long been understood to make one a “soldier for Christ.”

In other words, it simply is not the case that the laity had never before been called to maintain, defend and promote the faith.

  1. In the primacy of the adoration of God in the life of the Church and in the celebration of the liturgy (Sacrosanctum Concilium, nn. 2; 5-10)

Seriously? The first demand of justice (to offer unto God the adoration that He is due) just dawned on the Church at Vatican II and in such a way that this can be considered an “original” contribution of the Council?

All of this having been said, if, just for the sake of argument, we grant that Vatican II really did gift the Church with these “original and valuable contributions,” the question remains:

What are we to do about the garbage?

Recall Bishop Schneider’s answer:

New statements should never be ambiguous or contrast. Those that are must be read and interpreted according to tradition.

We’ve been down this road before folks. Benedict launched the Church on this path in 2005 and pressed for its application for nearly eight years, and what have we to show for it?


Clearly, the only truly Catholic response to those things that should “never be;” in this case, statements that risk leading souls not to salvation but away from tradition is very simple: they must be rejected and condemned.


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