Bishop Athanasius Schneider has said priests have to follow the Church’s constant practice on Communion, even if their bishops and religious superiors command them to do otherwise.
In an interview with the website One Peter Five, Bishop Schneider, an auxiliary bishop in Kazakhstan, encouraged Catholics to “remain faithful to the unchanging and constant teaching and practice of the entire Church”.
In the aftermath of Pope Francis’s exhortation Amoris Laetitia, bishops’ conferences have released different guidelines on Communion. Some have reaffirmed the Church’s traditional practice, that the divorced and remarried can only receive Communion if they resolve to live “as brother and sister”. But others, such as the two bishops of Malta, have suggested that it might be impossible to avoid adultery.
When challenged on the guidelines, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta said that if seminarians disagreed, “The seminary gate is open”.
Bishop Schneider said that priests and laypeople who supported the traditional teaching, which was most recently reaffirmed by John Paul II and Benedict XVI, are “in communion with all the Popes, orthodox bishops and the Saints of the two thousand years, being in a special communion with St John the Baptist, St Thomas More, St John Fisher and with the innumerable abandoned spouses who remained faithful to their marriage vows, accepting a life of continence in order not to offend God.”
The bishop said that the Church’s perennial teaching on marriage and Communion is “more powerful and surer than the discordant voice and practice of admitting unrepentant adulterers to Holy Communion, even if this practice is promoted by a single Pope or the diocesan bishops”.
In January, Bishop Schneider was one of three Kazakh bishops to sign a letter defending the Church’s traditional teachings on Confession, the Eucharist and the indissolubility of marriage. The letter urged Catholics to pray for the Pope to revoke pastoral guidelines which contradicted the Church’s teaching.
In the new interview, Bishop Schneider said that priests should “lovingly and respectfully” answer their bishops and superiors, and even the Pope, by saying: “The entire Catholic tradition judges surely and with certainty against a fabricated and short-living practice which, in an important point, contradicts the entire Magisterium of all times. Those priests, who would be now forced by their superiors to give Holy Communion to public and unrepentant adulterers, or to other notorious and public sinners, should answer them with a holy conviction: ‘Our behaviour is the behaviour of the entire Catholic world throughout two thousand years.’”