ROME, January 10, 2022 – Bishop Athanasius Schneider is inviting Pope Francis to “rescind” the canonical provisions contained in Traditionis Custodes and in the Responsa ad dubia issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDW) just before Christmas.
The auxiliary bishop of St. Mary in Astana, Kazakhstan, is also calling on his brother bishops to voice “publicly and frankly” their “deep concerns” about these documents, in keeping with the parrhesia and “sensitivity” of synodality.
In a reflection titled, “The Duty of the Roman Pontiff to Restore Liturgical Peace” (see full text below), Bishop Schneider asserts that a “spiritual wound” has been inflicted on Christ’s Mystical Body through the publication of these documents, and that the Roman Church’s “entire ancient liturgical patrimony” is “under threat.”
“The overwhelming majority of lay faithful and clergy attached to the traditional Roman Rite keep far away from ecclesial and liturgical polemics, and they respect and pray for the Pope and for their bishops,” he observes. “They only ask for the right to be able to continue to live fully… the liturgical patrimony in which they, and generations of young Catholics, have grown up”— a right which the Apostolic See “guaranteed” during the two previous pontificates.
CDW Prefect Archbishop Arthur Roche recently contested and belittled the idea that any injury has been inflicted on the clergy and faithful, telling the National Catholic Register shortly after the release of the Responsa: “The liturgical possibilities are in place; the challenge is to get on with it without licking one’s wounds when no one has been injured.”
Archbishop Roche, who has sought to paint Summorum Pontificum as a failed “experiment” and made factually untrue claims about Pope Benedict XVI’s motives for promulgating it, also dismissed accusations that the restrictions have not been carried out in a synodal way, saying synodality means “walking together,” which is “the precise purpose of the motu proprio expressing the direction in which the Church is to walk in its prayer.” How exactly that direction was determined remains unclear, amid reports that the consultation of bishops on which Traditionis Custodes was based pointed to continuing with a “prudent and careful application” of Pope Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum.
Bishop Schneider also urges Pope Francis to imitate the early Church Father St. Irenaeus of Lyons, whom Francis will soon proclaim a Doctor of the Church with the special title Doctor Unitatis, and promote “liturgical peace” with the many Catholics who have been marginalized through the promulgation of Traditionis Custodes.
In the second century, St. Irenaeus intervened to talk Pope Victor I out of schism with the bishops of Asia Minor over the date of Easter. Contrary to Victor’s wishes, bishops and faithful there wanted to keep their Easter tradition, leading Victor to declare churches and parishes holding that position heterodox and therefore excommunicated. In response, the bishops sharply rebuked Pope Victor, as did St. Irenaeus, who, according to Eusebius of Caesarea, “fittingly admonishe[d]” the pope and warned him not to “cut off whole churches of God which observed the tradition of an ancient custom” (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Book V, Chapter 24 on The Disagreement in Asia).
“Thus Irenaeus, who truly was well named, became a peacemaker in this matter,” wrote Eusebius, “exhorting and negotiating in this way on behalf of the peace of the churches.” Some scholars believe Victor backed down on the excommunications due to the saint’s intervention, allowing the bishops of Asia to retain their tradition without hindrance. The issue was later resolved at the Council of Nicaea (325).
In his reflection Bishop Schneider maintains that in light of St. Irenaeus’ witness, and the example set by John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Pope Francis should listen to the voice of the lay faithful, seminarians, and priests attached to the Roman Church’s ancient rites and “guarantee their established right to worship according to all the liturgical books of the Roman Rite that were in use until the recent liturgical reform.”
“Were Pope Francis to act with such charity and pastoral humility,” he concludes, “nothing would be lost—and everything would be gained. And the ‘God of Peace’ would be with him and with all the faithful (cf. Phil. 4:8).”
Here below is the full text of Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s pastoral reflection.
The Duty of the Roman Pontiff to Restore Liturgical Peace
A pastoral reflection
As we advance along the Synodal Path leading to the 2023 Synod on Synodality, a wound has been opened in Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church. We are referring, of course, to the spiritual pain and injustice that has been inflicted on a considerable number of good Catholics of all ages, both laity and clergy, through the publication of Pope Francis’ Traditionis Custodes, on July 16, 2021, and the Responsa ad Dubia of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, on December 4, 2021. The overwhelming majority of lay faithful and clergy attached to the traditional Roman Rite keep far away from ecclesial and liturgical polemics, and they respect and pray for the Pope and for their bishops. They only ask for the right to be able to continue to live fully, both regarding the celebration of the Holy Mass and the celebration of all the other sacraments and rituals, the liturgical patrimony in which they, and generations of young Catholics, have grown up. Indeed, the Apostolic See, with a generous pastoral gesture, had guaranteed them this right during the pontificates of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI.
This spiritual wound and its painful consequences (both pastorally and personally) for many thousands of Catholics are publicly known. And the Roman Church’s precious and entire ancient liturgical patrimony (which is a common spiritual good of the entire Church that must not be lost) is under threat. Bishops therefore have the duty to express publicly and frankly their deep concerns, in keeping with the manner being encouraged on the current Synodal Path. In his address for the Opening of the Synodal Path, on October 9, 2021, Pope Francis said: “If we do not become this Church of closeness with attitudes of compassion and tender love, we will not be the Lord’s Church.”
May Pope Francis realize that he has been ill-advised, and may he demonstrate pastoral courage, humility, and true love for these marginalized sons and daughters of the Church, by rescinding the canonical provisions stipulated in the two aforementioned documents. In so doing, he will most certainly be “bandaging wounds and healing broken hearts with the balm of God” (Address for the Opening of the Synod, October 9, 2021).
Within this context, we do well to recall a great Saint who went down in Church history as a true peacemaker: St. Irenaeus of Lyons (+202). At a critical moment in the Church’s history, when at the end of the second century the Apostolic See wished to impose a unique expression of the lex orandi (regarding the date to celebrate Easter) on a group of clergy and faithful, thus rejecting other legitimate liturgical traditions, St. Irenaeus intervened and respectfully remonstrated with Pope Victor I (+197), reminding him of the pastoral magnanimity and moderation of his predecessors, especially that of Pope Anicetus (+168), who despite having a liturgical perspective different from St. Polycarp (a disciple of the Apostle John), nevertheless allowed another liturgical tradition to continue undisturbed (cf. Eusebius of Caesarea, Historia ecclesiastica V: 23). Pope Victor I seems to have listened to the fraternal appeal of St. Irenaeus.
Pope Francis recently announced the joyful news that he plans to proclaim St. Irenaeus a Doctor of the Church, with the significant title Doctor unitatis (Address to the Saint Irenaeus joint Orthodox–Catholic Working Group, October 7, 2021). Recalling the example of St. Irenaeus, the peacemaker and future Doctor unitatis, as well as that of his predecessors John Paul II and Benedict XVI, Pope Francis should listen to the voice of the many children, young people, fathers and mothers, seminarians, and priests attached to the Roman Church’s ancient rites and guarantee their established right to worship according to all the liturgical books of the Roman Rite that were in use until the recent liturgical reform. In this way, these marginalized sons and daughters of the Church will feel that they are “part of the life of the community without being hindered, rejected or judged” (Homily of Pope Francis at the Holy Mass for the Opening of the Synodal Path, October 10, 2021).
Pope Francis has called everyone in the Church “to be sensitive to the questions of our sisters and brothers, to let ourselves be enriched by the variety of charisms” (Homily at the Holy Mass for the Opening of the Synodal Path). May God grant Pope Francis the grace to truly be a Pope of liturgical peace, promoting “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely” (Phil. 4:8). Were Pope Francis to act with such charity and pastoral humility, nothing would be lost—and everything would be gained. And the “God of Peace” would be with him and with all the faithful (cf. Phil. 4:8).
+ Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana
Originally appeared in One Peter.