By Diane Montagna
ROME, April 17, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — The extensive fire that tore through the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris on Monday is a sign of the “spiritual conflagration” that has ripped through the Catholic Church in the past fifty years, Bishop Athanasius Schneider has said.
In comments to LifeSite on Wednesday, the auxiliary of Astana, Kazakhstan said the devastating fire that ravaged the Paris cathedral contains an “unmistakable spiritual message.”
The destruction, he says, is a “symbolic and evocative” sign of “what happened in the life of the Church” in recent decades, as people have “witnessed a conflagration of the Church’s most precious spiritual masterpieces” — her liturgy, faith and moral life, especially among priests.
The clerical sex abuse scandal, he adds, is the “climax” of this “decades-long spiritual conflagration.”
In his comments, Bishop Schneider makes no conclusions about the cause of the Notre Dame fire but places it in context of the series of arson attacks perpetrated against Catholic churches in the last year.
Elaborating on the tragedy’s “stirring” message, he identifies as the “spiritual arsonists” in the Church the members of the “liberal” establishment of heterodox theologians and clergy who have contributed to the crisis in the Church or who refuse to address its root causes. Many among their ranks, he notes, now regard Benedict XVI as a “troublemaker” for obstructing their “incendiary work,” through his recent essay.
Bishop Schneider insists that the blaze at Notre Dame is a “cri de coeur for authentic conversion,” especially among the “Shepherds of the Church.”
According to the auxiliary of Astana, it is also a call to the entire Church to do penance for the spiritual conflagration that has ripped through the Church in the past fifty years.
“Penance and reparation must be made, especially for the betrayal of the command of God the Father that all mankind should believe in His Divine Son, the only Savior of mankind. For God wills positively only the one and unique religion which believes that His Incarnated Son is God and the only Savior,” he writes, in a clear reference to the controversial Abu Dhabi statement that God “wills” a “diversity of religions.”
“Penance and reparation must also be made for the betrayal of Christ’s explicit command to evangelize all nations without exception,” including the “Jewish” and “Muslim” people, he adds.
“God will not indefinitely and shamelessly be mocked by so many Shepherds of the Church today, through their betrayal of the Faith, their sycophantic serving of the world and their neo-pagan worship of temporal and earthly realities,” he says. “To them as well are addressed these words of Christ, ‘I tell you, unless you repent you will all likewise perish’ (Lk 13: 5).”
Bishop Schneider expresses his hope that the Notre Dame fire might “rekindle” in the Shepherds of the Church a “love and zeal” for the Catholic Faith and an ardent desire to evangelize all people.
He concludes by calling to mind what he considers “one of the most touching and spiritually powerful signs” amidst the tragedy: young people and even children singing the Ave Maria as their beloved Cathedral, dedicated to Our Lady, burned before their eyes. Such prayer, he concludes, is the foundation for rebuilding “the spiritual ruins in the life of the Church in our day.”
Here below is the full text of Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s comments to LifeSite on the cathedral of Notre Dame fire.
Some considerations on the conflagration of the Cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris
The lightning vehemence with which fire engulfed the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris left one with the impression that an unexpected event had come like a bolt from out of the blue. And yet, viewed as a phenomenon, this tragedy came after a series of hundreds of systematic arson attacks on various sacred objects belonging to the Catholic Church in France over the last year.
It is also significant that the fire in Notre Dame occurred at the beginning of Holy Week, which is the heart of the liturgical year for all Catholics. As the facts in the case are still unknown, we have no evidence on which to base allegations of a plot to destroy the cathedral. Yet one is left with a queasy feeling inside, especially as one considers the chain of systematic anti-Catholic events, marginalization, discrimination and ridicule which the Catholic Faith has undergone at the hands of the French political establishment and French media landscape, both of which are firmly in the hands of the current anti-Christian and Free Masonic powers in France.
Notre Dame is not only the most symbolic cultural and religious sign for the Catholic Church in France. Given that France bears the title “eldest daughter of the Church,” her main cathedral also has deep cultural and religious significance for the entire Catholic world.
The destruction of a visible sign of such vast proportion as the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris also contains an unmistakable spiritual message. The fire of Notre Dame is without doubt a powerful and stirring sign which God is giving to His Church in our day. It is a cri de coeur for authentic conversion, first and foremost among the Shepherds of the Church. The fire has largely destroyed Notre Dame, a centuries-old masterpiece of the Catholic Faith. This is a symbolic and highly evocative representation of what has happened in the life of the Church over the last fifty years, as people have witnessed a conflagration of the Church’s most precious spiritual masterpieces, i.e., the integrity and beauty of the Catholic Faith, the Catholic liturgy and Catholic moral life, especially among priests.
The climax of this decades-long spiritual conflagration has manifested itself in the clerical sexual abuse scandals which have profoundly shaken the entire Church. Sadly, we must say that the handling of the clerical sexual abuse scandal has remained more or less on the level of emotional dismay. The true roots of this crisis have not been transparently disclosed, nor, consequently, have effective spiritual medicine and peremptory canonical norms been applied. In a recent and detailed essay, the former Pope Benedict XVI identified one of the most important roots of the abuse crisis, i.e. the loss of the true Faith, the prevalence of moral relativism, and the heterodox and unspiritual formation of seminarians. In reactions to the statement of the former Pope Benedict XVI one could observe an embarrassed silence — and even some indignant outcries — rumbling throughout the ranks of the establishment of liberal theologians and liberal clergy, who are the true spiritual arsonists in the Church today. They now consider the former Pope Benedict XVI to be a troublemaker whose blunt observations obstruct their incendiary work.
If the Shepherds of the Church will not recognize in the Notre Dame conflagration a Divine warning, they will be behaving like the people in Salvation History who did not recognize the warnings that God often gave them through the uncomfortable and unabashed words of the prophets, through natural catastrophes and various events. The tragedy of Notre Dame spontaneously brought to my mind the following words of Our Lord: “Or those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Lk 13: 4-5)
The tragic conflagration of the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris is also a propitious occasion for all members of the Church to do penance for the acts of betrayal that have been committed against Christ and His Divine teachings in the life of the Church over the past fifty years. Penance and reparation must be made, especially for the betrayal of the command of God the Father that all mankind should believe in His Divine Son, the only Savior of mankind. For God wills positively only the one and unique religion which believes that His Incarnated Son is God and the only Savior of mankind. Penance and reparation must also be made for the betrayal of Christ’s explicit command to evangelize all nations without exception, first among them the Jewish people. For it was to them that Christ first sent His Apostles, to bring them to faith in Him and to the New and Everlasting Covenant for which the Old and temporary Covenant was established.
If the Shepherds of the Church refuse to do penance for the spiritual conflagration of the past fifty years, and for the betrayal of Christ’s universal command to evangelize, should we then not fear that God might send another and more shocking sign, like a devastating conflagration or earthquake that would destroy St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome? God will not indefinitely and shamelessly be mocked by so many Shepherds of the Church of our own day, through their betrayal of the Faith, their sycophantic serving of the world and their neo-pagan worship of temporal and earthly realities. To them as well are addressed these words of Christ, “I tell you, unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Lk 13: 5)
May the fire at the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris, however sad and deplorable it is, rekindle — especially in the Shepherds of the Church — a love and zeal for the true Catholic Faith and for the ardent evangelization of all those who do not yet believe in Christ. And may they be mindful not to marginalize and cowardly exclude the Jewish and Muslim people from this outstanding form of charity. May the fire at Notre Dame also serve as a means to inflame in the Shepherds of the Church a spirit of true repentance, so that God might grant to all the grace of a renewal in the true Faith and in true love for Christ, Our Lord, Our God and Our Savior.
When the cathedral of Notre Dame de Paris began to burn, there was a group of faithful, with children and young people among them, who knelt on the ground and sang the Hail Mary. This was one of the most touching and spiritually powerful signs in the midst of a great tragedy. May Our Lady, Help of Christians, intercede for us, that the Shepherds of the Church might begin, with the help of the lay faithful, to rebuild the spiritual ruins in the life of the Church in our day. In the Church, as in Paris, a process of repairing and rebuilding is a sign of hope.
April 17, 2019
+ Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of the archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana