Kazakhstani bishop hails 'courageous' cardinals who wrote to Pope Francis asking for clarity

A Kazakhstani bishop has issued a strong defence of the four cardinals who wrote to the Pope asking for clarity on Amoris Laetitia, saying that they are the victims of “hush-up strategies and slander campaigns”.

In an article for the website Rorate Caeli, Bishop Athanasius Schneider seemed to be responding to an open letter from the Bishop Fragkiskos Papamanólis, the retired Bishop of Syros, who accused Cardinals Raymond Burke, Carlo Caffarra, Walter Brandmüller and Joachim Meisner of heresy, scandal and risking a schism.

Following the release of Bishop Papamanólis’s letter, Bishop Schneider warned: “The negative reactions to the public statement of the Four Cardinals resemble the general doctrinal confusion of the Arian crisis in the fourth century.”

He continued: “Today those bishops and cardinals, who ask for clarity and who try to fulfil their duty in guarding sacredly and faithfully interpreting the transmitted Divine Revelation concerning the Sacraments of Marriage and the Eucharist, are no longer exiled as it was with the Nicene bishops during the Arian crisis.

“Contrary to the time of the Arian crisis, today, as wrote Rudolf Graber, the Bishop of Ratisbon [Regensburg], in 1973, exile of the bishops is replaced by hush-up strategies and by slander campaigns.”

Bishop Schneider praised the four cardinals for responding courageously to their consciences by defending Christ’s teaching on the indissolubility of marriage, saying “because of their courageous voice, their names will shine brightly at the Last Judgment. For they obeyed the voice of their conscience remembering the words of Saint Paul: ‘We cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth’ (2 Cor 13: 8).”

But he added: “Surely, at the Last Judgment the above-mentioned mostly clerical critics of the Four Cardinals will not have an easy answer for their violent attack on such a just, worthy, and meritorious act of these Four Members of the Sacred College of Cardinals.”

In a reference which appeared to single out Bishop Fragkiskos Papamanólis, Bishop Schneider said that the reaction to the four cardinals’ letter said was “unusually violent and intolerant.” He continued: “Among such intolerant reactions one could read affirmations such as, for instance: the four cardinals are witless, naive, schismatic, heretical, and even comparable to the Arian heretics.

“Such apodictic merciless judgments reveal not only intolerance, refusal of dialogue, and irrational rage, but demonstrate also a surrender to the impossibility of speaking the truth, a surrender to relativism in doctrine and practice, in faith and life. The above-mentioned clerical reaction against the prophetic voice of the Four Cardinals parades ultimately powerlessness before the eyes of the truth. Such a violent reaction has only one aim: to silence the voice of the truth, which is disturbing and annoying the apparently peaceful nebulous ambiguity of these clerical critics.”

The bishop also argued, contrary to what Bishop Papamanólis said in his letter, that it was permissible for cardinals to publicly challenge a Pope if they believed he was in error. He said: “In making a public appeal to the Pope, bishops and cardinals should be moved by genuine collegial affection for the Successor of Peter and the Vicar of Christ on earth, following the teaching of Vatican Council II (cf. Lumen gentium, 22); in so doing they render ‘service to the primatial ministry’ of the Pope (cf. Directory for the Pastoral Ministry of Bishops, 13).

“The entire Church in our days has to reflect upon the fact that the Holy Spirit has not in vain inspired St Paul to write in the Letter to the Galatians about the incident of his public correction of Peter. One has to trust that Pope Francis will accept this public appeal of the Four Cardinals in the spirit of the Apostle Peter, when St Paul offered him a fraternal correction for the good of the whole Church.

“May the words of that great Doctor of the Church, St Thomas Aquinas, illuminate and comfort us all: ‘When there is a danger for the faith, subjects are required to reprove their prelates, even publicly. Since Paul, who was subject to Peter, out of the danger of scandal, publicly reproved him. And Augustine comments: ‘Peter himself gave an example to superiors by not disdaining to be corrected by his subjects when it occurred to them that he had departed from the right path.'” (Summa theol., II-II, 33, 4c).