October 3, 2018 (Steven O’Reilly) – Rorate Caeli reports the availability of a lengthy interview of Bishop Athanasius Schnieder and the Rorate Caeli website provides a link to it (see here). The interview, entitled “Catholic Church: Where are you heading?”, was conducted in July 2018 by a Hungarian theologian Dániel Fülep.
Of particular note, Bishop Schneider responds to a question regarding the status of the “formal correction,” promised at one time by Cardinal Burke. Regarding a potential correction, Bishop Schneider indicates that “I think we have to see the finality of formal correction of the Pope in our circumstances” (p. 39). The Bishop goes on and calls to mind the various appeals already made to the Pope not to change the doctrine and praxis on the question of communion for divorced and remarried Catholics, e.g., the appeal by one million people prior to the 2015 Synod of the Family, the appeal of the bishops of Kazahkstan, and – of course – the dubia. We also remember the filial correction made just over a year ago (see here). However, Bishop Schneider observes “The situation has become worse in spite of all these appeals, the Pope even officially approved last year the norms of the bishops of the Buenos Aires region, which foresee the admittance to Holy Communion of unrepented adulterers in special cases” (“Catholic Church: Where are you heading?”, p. 40). The Bishop continues (emphasis added):
“I think that – humanly speaking – a formal correction will not change the position of the Pope. What is the meaning of a formal correction? One also has to be realistic and prudent, and ask what is the best manner to serve the Church, to help the faithful? When we can foresee that the correction will not have an effect on the Pope, then, I think, it would be meaningless to make a formal correction. On the other side, we have to do all what we can, the cardinals and bishops, to strengthen the faithful. Therefore, we published several declarations in order to strengthen the faithful. I see no other possibilities for the moment. Of course, the basic requirement is to pray, to pray very intensively for the Pope that God may illuminate him. Then of course, we can hold conferences to stress this theme according to the constant Catholic sense. Maybe we could also make and spread a kind of oath against the most dangerous errors of our time. This could be made maybe by a group of theologians, and then spread. Then individual bishops can with their faithful or parish priests in the parishes publicly profess these Catholic truths. This would be, in my opinion, a concrete and efficacious means of help to address the current doctrinal confusion. The ultimate change comes only when God intervenes, when he illuminates the Pope or when He will give us a future holy and courageous Pope. (“CATHOLIC CHURCH: WHERE ARE YOU HEADING?”
Theologian Dániel Fülep’s interview with Bishop Athanasius Schneider
Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana Astana, Kazakhstan, July 2018, p. 40-41 [interview link here])
My read on the answer above is that there will be no formal correction. That said, I think many by this point had already discounted the possibility of there being one – so, the Bishop’s comments may not come as an unexpected surprise. I am sure at one time a formal correction was seriously considered, even intended perhaps, but somewhere along the way – it now appears clear – the prudential judgment was made to drop the idea given it was ‘foreseen’ a formal correction would not have “an effect on the Pope.”
The theology of how a “formal correction” might have worked was somewhat murky, and unprecedented. It probably did not help matters that the dubia cardinals never received any substantial public support for their efforts from other cardinals and bishops, and as time marched on, what support they might have hoped for only grew weaker – relatively speaking – either through the deaths of allies or as Pope Francis added more and more of his “own” cardinals to the Sacred College. Who knows? Perhaps it was feared a “formal correction” might only precipitate an even more formal magisterial act on the part of an obstinate Francis.
Of course, that is pure speculation. Whether it may have led to one or not, or whether or not it played a part in the demise of the “formal correction,” I do think we should expect to see more on the topic from Francis regardless. As with the recent change to the Death Penalty entry in the Catechism (see More Papal Confusion: Footnoting Francis throws his predecessors under the bus) to bring it more in line with Francis’ thought, it is likely – I think probable – a similar change to the Catechism (i.e., CCC 1650) regarding communion for adulterers is afoot. Perhaps we might also expect the upcoming synod will attempt to include a further confirmation of the teaching of Amoris Laetitia in its final document, thereby giving it additional magisterial weight in the wake of Episicoplis Communio (see here).
It is – humanly speaking – a bleak moment. It appears the human options have been exhausted. But, God is ultimately in control of history. We have seen times where he has acted when all things otherwise seemed hopeless (e.g., here). Therefore, as Bishop Schneider notes: “The ultimate change comes only when God intervenes, when he illuminates the Pope or when He will give us a future holy and courageous Pope.” Therefore, pray – just as the Bishop suggests. Let us pray for Pope Francis that he may definitively uphold, and illuminate the Apostolic See with the doctrine of the Apostolic Tradition.
Steven O’Reilly is a graduate of the University of Dallas and the Georgia Institute of Technology. He is married to Margaret O’Reilly. He lives near Atlanta with his family. He has written apologetic articles and is working on a historical-adventure trilogy, set during the time of the Arian crisis. He asks for your prayers for his intentions. He can be contacted at StevenOReilly@AOL.com (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA).