His Excellency Bishop Athanasius Schneider was in Winnipeg recently (May 30th) to receive the Regina Sacratissimi Rosarii award from the Society of St. Dominic at the Hotel Fort Garry’s Crystal Ballroom, and to offer two Pontifical Masses at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church. The Master of Ceremonies for the dinner award evening was Mr. Alex Begin and the award was presented to His Excellency, on the Society’s behalf, by 1P5 contributor Dr. Peter Kwasniewski. Bishop Schneider delivered an address following the presentation of the award that emphasized the defense of the faith on this 2018 50th anniversary year of Humanae Vitae which followed the 100th anniversary year of Our Lady of Fatima in 2017. What follows is the authorized transcript of the evening’s address by Bishop Schneider.
The Church’s primary mission: the proclamation of the truth
Most Reverend Athanasius Schneider
Auxiliary Bishop of Mary Most Holy in Astana, Kazakhstan
Presentation of the Regina Sacratissimi Rosarii Award Society of St. Dominic
Winnipeg, May 30, 2018
The current year is marked by the memorable event of the 50th anniversary of the encyclical Humanae vitae, in which Blessed Paul VI confirmed the teaching of the constant Magisterium of the Church regarding the transmission of human life. This is a favorable occasion in order to honor the memory and the enduring importance of this encyclical. We are today in the same building, in which fifty years ago the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops issued the so called “Winnipeg statement”, which essentially dissented from the teaching of the encyclical Humanae vitae. Therefore, it benefits all of us to recall the timeless teaching as we can learn it in the encyclical Humanae vitae and in the documents of other Roman Pontiffs.
Pope Paul VI stated this basic duty of the teaching Church in his prophetical and epochal encyclical Humanae vitae: “The Church in urging men to the observance of the precepts of the natural law, which it interprets by its constant doctrine, teaches that each and every marital act must of necessity retain its intrinsic relationship to the procreation of human life.” (n. 11).
An important witness of the constant and immutable teaching of the Church on the theme of human procreation is Pope Pius XI, who taught: “No difficulty can arise that justifies the putting aside of the law of God which forbids all acts intrinsically evil. There is no possible circumstance in which husband and wife cannot, strengthened by the grace of God, fulfill faithfully their duties and preserve in wedlock their chastity unspotted. This truth of Christian Faith is expressed by the teaching of the Council of Trent. “Let no one be so rash as to assert that which the Fathers of the Council have placed under anathema, namely, that there are precepts of God impossible for the just to observe. God does not ask the impossible, but by His commands, instructs you to do what you are able, to pray for what you are not able that He may help you” (Conc. Trid., Sess. VI, cap. 11)” (Encyclical Casti connubii, 61).
Pope John Paul II reproposed strongly and without any ambiguity the immutable and constant teaching of all times, saying: “There can be no contradiction between the divine law concerning the transmission of human life and true conjugal love (cf. II Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, 51). To speak of a “conflict of values or goods” and of the consequent need to “balance” them, choosing one and rejecting the other, is not morally correct and only generates confusion in the conscience of the spouses. The grace of Christ gives spouses the real capacity to fulfill the whole “truth” of their conjugal love. The first, and in a certain sense the most serious difficulty, is that also in the Christian community, voices have been heard and are heard that call into question the truth of the Church’s teaching. … What the Church teaches about contraception is not a matter of free discussion among theologians. Teaching the contrary is tantamount to inducing the moral conscience of the spouses into error. … Many think that the Christian teaching, although true, is nonetheless unfeasible, at least in some circumstances. As the Tradition of the Church has constantly taught, God does not command the impossible but every commandment also entails a gift of grace which helps human freedom to fulfill it. Yet constant prayer, frequent recourse to the sacraments and the exercise of conjugal chastity are needed. Today more than yesterday, man is again beginning to feel the need for truth and right reason in his daily experience. Always be ready to say, without ambiguity, the truth about the good and evil regarding man and the family” (Address to participants in a study meeting on responsible procreation, June 5, 1987).
“When the spouses through contraception deprive the exercise of their conjugal sexuality of its potential procreative capacity, they attribute to themselves a power which belongs to God alone: the power to decide in the last instance the coming to existence of a human person. They attribute to themselves the qualification of being not the cooperators of the creative power of God, but the ultimate holders of the source of the human life. From this perspective, contraception is to be objectively judged to such an extent illicit, that it could never, for any reason, be justified. To think or to speak the contrary, equals to hold that in human life there could be given situations in which it would be licit not to recognize God as God”. (Address to Participants of a study seminar on Responsible Procreation, September 17, 1983).
“To opine that there exist situations in which it would be in fact not possible for the spouses to be faithful to all the exigencies of the truth of the conjugal love, would equal to forget this event of grace which characterizes the New Covenant: namely that the grace of the Holy Spirit makes possible what is impossible to man, left alone to his own forces. It is therefore necessary to support the spouses in their spiritual life, inviting them to a frequent use of the sacraments of Confession and of the Eucharist for a continuous return, for a permanent conversion to the truth of their conjugal love.” (Address to Participants of a study seminar on Responsible Procreation, September 17, 1983).
Benedict XVI taught about the perennial value and the unchanging meaning of Humanae vitae:
“Humanae Vitae reasserts the continuity of the Church’s doctrine and tradition. … This teaching not only expresses its unchanged truth but also reveals the farsightedness with which the problem is treated. In fact, conjugal love is described within a global process that does not stop at the division between soul and body and is not subjected to mere sentiment, often transient and precarious, but rather takes charge of the person’s unity and the total sharing of the spouses. How can such love remain closed to the gift of life? What was true yesterday, is true also today. The truth expressed in Humanae Vitae does not change (Address to participants in the International Congress on the 40th Anniversary of the Encyclical Humanae vitae, May 10, 2008).
The Church has to fulfill her primary mission of proclaiming the truth bearing in mind that she will be always persecuted. Blessed John Henry Newman left us the following far-sighted reflections:
We have been so accustomed to hear of the persecutions of the Church, both from the New Testament and from the history of Christianity, that it is much if we have not at length come to regard the account of them as words of course, to speak of them without understanding what we say, and to receive no practical benefit from having been told of them; much less are we likely to take them for what they really are, a characteristic mark of Christ’s Church. They are not indeed the necessary lot of the Church, but at least one of her appropriate badges; so that, on the whole, looking at the course of history, you might set down persecution as one of the peculiarities by which you recognize her. And our Lord seems to intimate how becoming, how natural persecution is to the Church, by placing it among His Beatitudes. “Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven;” giving it the same high and honourable rank in the assemblage of evangelical graces, which the Sabbath holds among the Ten Commandments,—I mean, as a sort of sign and token of His followers, and, as such, placed in the moral code, though in itself external to it.
He seems to show us this in another way, viz., by intimating to us the fact, that in persecution the Church begins and in persecution she ends. He left her in persecution, and He will find her in persecution. He recognizes her as His own,—He framed, and He will claim her,—as a persecuted Church, bearing His Cross. And that awful relic of Him which He gave her, and which she is found possessed of at the end, she cannot have lost by the way.
…After all, perhaps it may not be a persecution of blood and death, but of craft and subtlety only—not of miracles, but of natural wonders and powers of human skill, human acquirements in the hands of the devil. Satan may adopt the more alarming weapons of deceit—he may hide himself—he may attempt to seduce us in little things, and so to move Christians, not all at once, but by little and little from their true position. We know he has done much in this way in the course of the last centuries. It is his policy to split us up and divide us, to dislodge us gradually from off our rock of strength. And if there is to be a persecution, perhaps it will be then; then, perhaps, when we are all of us in all parts of Christendom so divided, and so reduced, so full of schism, so close upon heresy. When we have cast ourselves upon the world, and depend for protection upon it, and have given up our independence and our strength, then he may burst upon us in fury, as far as God allows him. (Lecture 4. The Persecution of Antichrist, preached by John Henry Newman in the form of Sermons in Advent, 1835.)
These reflections of Blessed John Henry Newman are illustrated by the following remarkable passage in a letter of Bishop Horsley:
“The Church of God on earth will be greatly reduced, as we may well imagine, in its apparent numbers, in the times of Antichrist, by the open desertion of the powers of the world. This desertion will begin in a professed indifference to any particular form of Christianity, under the pretense of universal toleration; which toleration will proceed from no true spirit of charity and forbearance, but from a design to undermine Christianity, by multiplying and encouraging sectaries. The pretended toleration will go far beyond a just toleration, even as it regards the different sects of Christians. For governments will pretend an indifference to all, and will give a protection in preference to none. All establishments will be laid aside. From the toleration of the most pestilent heresies, they will proceed to the toleration of Mahometanism, Atheism, and at last to a positive persecution of the truth of Christianity. In these times the Temple of God will be reduced almost to the Holy Place, that is, to the small number of real Christians who worship the Father in spirit and in truth, and regulate their doctrine and their worship, and their whole conduct, strictly by the word of God. The merely nominal Christians will all desert the profession of the truth, when the powers of the world desert it. And this tragic event I take to be typified by the order to St. John to measure the Temple and the Altar, and leave the outer court (national Churches) to be trodden under foot by the Gentiles. The property of the clergy will be pillaged, the public worship insulted and vilified by these deserters of the faith they once professed, who are not called apostates because they never were in earnest in their profession. Their profession was nothing more than a compliance with fashion and public authority. In principle they were always, what they now appear to be, Gentiles. When this general desertion of the faith takes place, then will commence the sackcloth ministry of the witnesses … There will be nothing of splendour in the external appearance of their churches; they will have no support from governments, no honours, no emoluments, no immunities, no authority, but that which no earthly power can take away, which they derived from Him, who commissioned them to be His witnesses. (British Magazine, May, 1834.)
Blessed John Henry Newman saw the special peril of the future times in the spread of the plague of infidelity and unbelief. In a sermon from 1873 he says:
“Christianity is superhuman in its origin, it differs from all other religions. As man differs from quadruped, bird or reptile, so does Christianity differ from the superstitions, heresies, and philosophies which are around it. It has a theology and an ethical system of its own. This is its indestructible idea. How are we to secure and perpetuate in this world that gift from above? How are we to preserve to the Christian people this gift, so special, so divine, so easily hid or lost amid the imposing falsehoods with which the world abounds?
All times have their special trials which others have not. And so far I will admit that there were certain specific dangers to Christians at certain other times, which do not exist in this time. Doubtless, but still admitting this, still I think that the trials which lie before us are such as would appall and make dizzy even such courageous hearts as St. Athanasius, St. Gregory I, or St. Gregory VII. And they would confess that dark as the prospect of their own day was to them severally, ours has a darkness different in kind from any that has been before it.
The special peril of the time before us is the spread of that plague of infidelity, that the Apostles and our Lord Himself have predicted as the worst calamity of the last times of the Church. And at least a shadow, a typical image of the last times is coming over the world. I do not mean to presume to say that this is the last time, but that it has had the evil prerogative of being like that more terrible season, when it is said that the elect themselves will be in danger of falling away.
A sound, accurate, complete knowledge of Catholic theology is the best weapon (after a good life) in controversy. Any child, well instructed in the catechism, is, without intending it, a real missioner. And why? Because the world is full of doubtings and uncertainty, and of inconsistent doctrine—a clear consistent idea of revealed truth, on the contrary, cannot be found outside of the Catholic Church. Consistency, completeness, is a persuasive argument for a system being true. Certainly if it be inconsistent, it is not truth”. (Sermon 9. The Infidelity of the Future, Opening of St. Bernard’s Seminary, 2nd October 1873.)
Hilaire Belloc presented already in 1938 an almost prophetical analysis of the current situation which Christianity and specifically the Catholic Church has to face and in which her mission of proclaiming the truth reveal its primary importance:
“The Modern Attack,” is a wholesale assault upon the fundamentals of the Faith, upon the very existence of the Faith. And the enemy now advancing against us is increasingly conscious of the fact that there can be no question of neutrality. The forces now opposed to the Faith design to destroy. The battle is henceforward engaged upon a definite line of cleavage, involving the survival or destruction of the Catholic Church. And all – not a portion of its philosophy. We know, of course, that the Catholic Church cannot be destroyed. … The truth is becoming every day so much more obvious that within a few years it will be universally admitted. I do not entitle the modern attack “anti-Christ” though in my heart I believe that to be the true term for it: No, I do not give it that name because it would seem for the moment exaggerated. But the name doesn’t matter. Whether we call it “The Modern Attack” or “anti-Christ” it is all one; there is a clear issue now joined between the retention of Catholic morals, tradition, and authority on the one side, and the active effort to destroy them on the other. The modern attack will not tolerate us. It will attempt to destroy us. Nor can we tolerate it. … That great Modern Attack (which is more than a heresy) is indifferent to self-contradiction. It merely affirms. It advances like an animal, counting on strength alone. Indeed, it may be remarked in passing that this may well be the cause of its final defeat; for hitherto reason has always overcome its opponents; and man is the master of the beast through reason. … The Modern Attack on the Catholic Church, the most universal that she has suffered since her foundation, has so far progressed that it has already produced social, intellectual and moral forms which combined give it the savour of a religion. But reason today is everywhere decried. The ancient process of conviction by argument and proof is replaced by reiterated affirmation; and almost all the terms which were the glory of reason carry with them now an atmosphere of contempt. See what has happened for instance to the word “logic,” to the word “controversy”; note such popular phrases as “No one yet was ever convinced by argument,” or again, “Anything may be proved,” or “That may be all right in logic, but in practice it is very different.” The speech of men is becoming saturated with expressions which everywhere connote contempt for the use of the intelligence. … When reason is dethroned, not only is Faith dethroned (the two subversions go together) but every moral and legitimate activity of the human soul is dethroned at the same time. There is no God. So the words “God is Truth” which the mind of Christian Europe used as a postulate in all it did, cease to have meaning. None can analyze the rightful authority of government nor set bounds to it. In the absence of reason, political authority reposing on mere force is boundless. And reason is thus made a victim because Humanity itself is what the Modern Attack is destroying in its false religion of humanity. Reason being the crown of man and at the same time his distinguishing mark, the Anarchs march against reason as their principle enemy. … either we of the Faith shall become a small persecuted neglected island amid mankind, or we shall be able to lift at the end of the struggle the old battle-cry, “Christus Imperat!” Lastly there is this very important and perhaps decisive consideration: though the social strength of Catholicism, in numbers certainly, and in most other factors as well, is declining throughout the world; the issue, as between Catholicism and the completely new pagan thing (the destruction of all tradition, the breaking with our inheritance), is now clearly marked. (The Great Heresies, Reprint San Francisco 2017, pp. 175ff.)
Archbishop Fulton Sheen made the following remarkable statement:
“If I were not a Catholic, and were looking for the true Church in the world today, I would look for the one Church which did not get along well with the world; in other words, I would look for the Church which the world hates. My reason for doing this would be, that if Christ is in any one of the churches of the world today, He must still be hated as He was when He was on earth in the flesh. If you would find Christ today, then find the Church that does not get along with the world. Look for the Church that is hated by the world, as Christ was hated by the world. Look for the Church, which the world rejects because it claims it is infallible, as Pilate rejected Christ because he called Himself the Truth. If the Church is unpopular with the spirit of the world, then it is unworldly, and if it is unworldly, it is other-worldly. Since it is other-worldly, it is infinitely loved and infinitely hated as was Christ Himself”. (Taken from Radio Replies, Vol. 1, p. 9, Rumble & Carty, Tan Publishing, 2015.)
Juan Donoso Cortes, a Spanish Catholic writer and apologist from the nineteenth century, explained perspicaciously the unique mission by God given to the Church, which makes her indestructible:
“The Catholic Church, considered as a religious institution, has exercised the same influence on society, that Catholicity, considered as a doctrine, has on the world—the same that our Lord Jesus Christ has exercised on man. This consists in the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ, His doctrine, and His Church, are but three different manifestations of one and the same thing, that is, of the divine action operating supernaturally and substantially on man and all his powers, on society and all its institutions. Our Lord Jesus Christ, Catholicity, and the Catholic Church, are one and the same word—the word of God, perpetually resounding on high.
Her doctrine is marvelous and true, because it is the doctrine taught by the great Master of all truth, and the great Worker of all wonders; and yet the world studies in the halls of error, and lends an attentive ear to the vain eloquence of miserable sophists and obscure clowns. She received from her divine Founder the power of working miracles, and she works them, she herself being a perpetual miracle; and yet the world calls her a vain and shameful superstition, and she is made a spectacle to men and nations. Her own children, beloved with such love, raise their sacrilegious hands against their tender mother, and abandon the holy hearth which protected their infancy, and seek in a new family and at a new hearth gross delights and impure loves.
Suppress for a moment in imagination that life, those truths, those prodigies, and invincible testimonies of the Church, and you shall have at one stroke suppressed all her tribulations, all her tears, all her misfortunes, and all her woes. In the truths she proclaims lies the mystery of her tribulation; in the supernatural strength she possesses lies the mystery of her victory; and those two things together explain at once her victories and her tribulations.
Ancient and modern institutions are only the expression of two different societies, because they are the expression of two different humanities. Hence, when Catholic societies prevaricate and fall, paganism immediately invades them, and ideas, customs, institutions, and the societies themselves, become pagan.
The Church acted on society in a manner analogous to that of the other political and social elements, and, besides, in a manner peculiarly her own. Considered as an institution born in time and localised in space, her influence was visible and limited, like that of other institutions localised in space and offsprings of time. Considered as a divine institution, she had in her an immense supernatural power, which, uninfluenced by the laws of time and space, acted on all and in all directions at once, quietly, secretly, and supernaturally. So true is this, that, in the critical confusion of all social elements, the Church gave something exclusively her own to all the others, while she herself preserved her absolute identity intact.
Roman society, on coming into contact with her, became, without ceasing to be Roman, something it had not been before—it became Catholic. The German peoples, without ceasing to be German, became something they had not been before—they became Catholic. Political and social institutions, without losing their proper nature, took one which was foreign to them—the Catholic nature.
In the common mass of European civilisation, which, like all other civilisations, and more than other civilisations, is unity and variety at one and the same time, all other elements combined and united constituted it various, while the Church alone made it one, and, by making it one, gave it its essential character—gave it that from which is taken what is most essential in an institution—its name. European civilisation was not called German, or Roman, or absolute, or feudal; it was and is called Catholic civilisation.
That something supernatural, divine, and impalpable, is what has subjugated the world to truth taught by the Church, surmounted the most invincible obstacles for her, brought into subjection to her, rebel intellects and proud hearts, elevated her above human vicissitudes and secured her influence over tribes and nations. No one who does not keep in view the sovereign and divine virtue of the Church, will ever comprehend her influence, her victories, or her tribulations” (Juan Donoso Cortes, Essays on Catholicism, Liberalism, and Socialism, Considered in their Fundamental Principles, Gornahoor Press 2010, pp. 23-25.)
“True progress consists in submitting the human element which corrupts liberty, to the divine element which purifies it. Society has followed a different path in looking upon the empire of faith as dead; and in proclaiming the empire of reason and the will of man, it has made evil, which was only relative, contingent and exceptional, absolute, universal, and necessary. This period of rapid retrogression commenced in Europe with the restoration of pagan literature, which has brought about successively the restoration of pagan philosophy, religious paganism, and political paganism. At the present time the world is on the eve of the last of these restorations, – that of pagan socialism.” (Juan Donoso Cortes, Letter to Montalembert, June 4, 1849, quoted by Jean Joseph Gaume, Paganism in Education. London: Charles Dolman, 1852, p. 206.)
“It follows from this that the Church alone has the right to affirm and deny, and that there is no right outside her to affirm what she denies, or to deny what she affirms. The day when society, forgetting her doctrinal decisions, has asked the press and the tribune, news writers and assemblies, what is truth and what is error, on that day error and truth are confounded in all intellects, society enters on the regions of shadows, and falls under the empire of fictions” (Juan Donoso Cortes, Essays on Catholicism, Liberalism and Socialism, Considered in their Fundamental Principles, tr. William McDonald. Dublin: M.H. Gill & Son, 1879.).
“The doctrinal intolerance of the Church has saved the world from chaos. Her doctrinal intolerance has placed beyond question political, domestic, social, and religious, truths— primitive and holy truths, which are not subject to discussion, because they are the foundation of all discussions; truths which cannot be called into doubt for a moment without the understanding on that moment oscillating, lost between truth and error, and the clear mirror of human reason becoming soiled and obscured”. (Ibid.).
Pope Saint Pius X stressed very realistically the necessity of the Church of the modern times to resist the false prophets:
“The implacable enemy of humankind never sleeps; according to the circumstances of the time and the occurring of events he changes tactically the language, yet always ready to fight. In fact, the more the error, persecuted by the truth, is condemned to hide himself, the more one has to fear the dangerous ambushes behind which he does not hesitate to reestablish his ever fatal artillery units. Thus, we must never abandon ourselves to a false security, otherwise we will be liable to condemnations pronounced against the false prophets, who announced peace, where it wasn’t and who sang victory where all was calling us to the battle. It is therefore necessary in all times, and specially in this time, in which there is a great conspiracy instigated directly against Our Lord Jesus Christ and against His supernatural and revealed religion, to denounce the false masters of the people, who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, seducing many intelligences, who are yielding to any wind of doctrine. We believe, therefore, that the time has come to speak”. (Archivio Segreto Vaticano, Epistolae ad principes. Positiones et minutuae 157, 1907/1908, fascicolo 35.)
Originally appeared in One Peter Five.