EXCLUSIVE: Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s analysis of Youth Synod final document

By Diane Montagna

ROME, November 7, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — The final document of the recently concluded Vatican Youth Synod “abounds in expressions of sentimentalism,” and also demonstrates in key passages that senior hierarchy “used the young people” to further their own agenda, Bishop Athanasius Schneider has said.

“The basic approach of the document clearly manifests a tendency towards naturalism, anthropocentrism, doctrinal ambiguity, vague sentimentalism, and subjectivism,” the auxiliary bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan said in an exclusive interview with LifeSite on Nov. 5. “This tendency can be identified unmistakably as neo-pelagianism clothed in clericalism,” he added.

He went on to say that whereas the Fathers of the Church met principally to reject heresies, the current permanent synod of bishops leads to a “a greater bureaucratization” in the Church at great expense for a “Church of the poor.”

He also discussed other specific areas of concern in the synod’s final document, including synodality, sexuality, conscience, clergy sexual abuse, and the role of women in the Church.

He said synodality was used by some high-ranking clergy to “promote their own agenda”; the subject of the women’s roles in the Church was also used to put forward the “unwomanly ideology of feminism”; and the final document “dodged the core issue” on sexual abuse by failing to discuss the “proven” and “crucial” role homosexuality has played in the sexual abuse of minors.

He noted several positive elements in the text but also pointed out “omissions” and “tendentious terms” which, he says, “reflect a specific ideology.”

Rather than giving young people “healthy homemade bread,” he said they were offered “overly sweetened lemonade.”

Here below is our interview with Bishop Athanasius Schneider.

LifeSite: Your Excellency, as a general question, how does the final document of the recently concluded Synod on ‘Young People, the Faith and Vocational discernment’ differ from past final documents in its language, content and style.

Bishop Schneider: The main difference between the final document of the Youth Synod and previous synod documents consists in the fact that it was immediately approved by the Pope. As to the content, it was the first time that a worldwide assembly of Catholic bishops has dealt specifically with the theme of young people. The language and the style are also quite different from previous synod documents in so far as it lacks doctrinal clarity and abounds with expressions of sentimentalism, a trait which, to some extent, also characterized the Final Report of the Synod on Family in 2015.

Magisterial weight

According to the new apostolic constitution on the structure of synods, Episcopalis Communio, if the final document is “expressly approved by the Roman Pontiff” or if he “has granted deliberative power to the Synod Assembly, according to the norm of canon 343 of the Code of Canon Law,” it “participates in the ordinary Magisterium of the Successor of Peter.” What is your view on this? How should the laity understand this?

We first have to clarify the meaning of “Ordinary Magisterium.” This expression is new and did not exist until the time of Pope Pius IX. However, Pope Pius IX and the First Vatican Council never used the expression “Ordinary Magisterium,” but rather “Ordinary Universal Magisterium.” This exercise of the Magisterium was understood as being infallible, which means that the entire episcopacy, together with the Pope, taught unchangeably at all times and in all places infallibly those things which are necessary for salvation. Beyond the infallible definitions of the Pope (called “ex cathedra”), the infallible doctrinal definitions of the Ecumenical Councils, and the infallible constant teaching of the Ordinary Universal Magisterium, there are no documents of the Magisterium which possess the qualification “infallible.”

In order to avoid any confusion with the infallible “Ordinary Universal Magisterium,” it would be better to use expressions such as “Ordinary Daily Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops” or “Daily Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops.” From a theological point of view, it is possible — and at times, from the pastoral point of view, it is also helpful — to make such distinctions; for instance, when the Roman Pontiff, together with the College of Cardinals, or with representatives of the entire episcopacy, or with a regional group of bishops, issues a non-infallible document as a part of the Ordinary Daily Magisterium.

Role of a synod

Episcopalis Communio, n. 3, says: “The Synod of Bishops, whose name evokes the Church’s ancient and very rich synodal tradition, held in particular esteem by the Eastern Churches, would normally exercise a consultative role, offering information and counsel to the Roman Pontiff on various ecclesial questions, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. At the same time, the Synod might also enjoy deliberative power, should the Roman Pontiff wish to grant this.” What light do the Fathers of the Church shed on the role of a synod? And can a synod in its present form be deliberative?

In the age of the Church Fathers, there were frequent regional meetings or synods of bishops which had three aims: to reject heresies, to define Catholic doctrine more precisely, and to resolve highly relevant disciplinary questions and correct abuses and lax discipline in the life of the Church. In those times, there were no meetings of bishops just to have meetings, or to discuss pastoral programs, as is the case with the current practice of the Synod of Bishops, initiated by Paul VI in 1965. Meetings to discuss pastoral programs were unknown in the times of the Church Fathers. They met only when there was a real and acute emergency, and they preferred to use their precious time for prayer and for the work of direct and zealous evangelization.

As to our current situation, since the Second Vatican Council the Roman Pontiff has increased the participation of the bishops from various regions in the decision-making and consultative processes of the dicasteries of the Roman Curia: first, there are bishops who are members of the dicasteries; second, there are bishops who are consultants to the dicasteries.

One ought not to forget that the College of Cardinals is the primary advisory body of the Roman Pontiff. The vast majority of cardinals today are also diocesan bishops who come from various regions around the world. Today, therefore, we have three stable groups composed of members of the episcopal college whose role is to advise and help the Pope in governing the universal Church. The institution of a permanent Synod of Bishops is, to my opinion, an unnecessary multiplication of institutions. Regrettably, this leads to a greater bureaucratization of the life of the Church that in turn consumes a large amount of money at a time where the Church continuously declares herself to be a Church of the poor.

Furthermore, the frequent and basically unnecessary meetings of the Synod of Bishops steal the bishops’ precious time, which they ought to use primarily for prayer and for the proclamation of the truth of the Gospel (cf. Acts 6:4).

As to whether a synod in its present form can be deliberative: I would say that in an exceptional way and with clearly defined norms, this is possible. If, however, such a deliberative synodal assembly were to be held on a regular basis, it would become confused with the deliberative power of an Ecumenical Council, which is a strictly collegial and universal, and as such, an extraordinary form of the exercise of the episcopal ministry. A permanent deliberative episcopal assembly on the universal level is problematic from a dogmatic point of view, since the Lord instituted Peter and his successors as the ordinary supreme universal governance in the Church and not the whole episcopacy. Quasi-permanent deliberative synodal assemblies would entail the negative effects of “conciliarism,” which the Church had already experienced in the 15th century.

Instrumentum laboris

Your Excellency, the Instrumentum laboris (IL) has made its way into the final document (n. 3). During the synod the IL was widely criticized for various reasons, the main one being that it was too sociological in nature. It also contained the loaded acronym “LGBT” used by the homosexual lobby. One synod father, who reportedly was speaking for many bishops, said he hoped the working document would “die” so that a new one would “germinate and grow.” What are your views on the inclusion of the Instrumentum laboris in the final document?

The “LGBT” acronym is a cunning slogan being used in the global propaganda campaign to promote the homosexual ideology and the legitimization of homosexual activity. The neutral and uncritical mention of such a term in a document of the Holy See is unacceptable and it demonstrates by this simple fact a kind of collaboration of the Holy See with the dictatorship of the totalitarian homosexual ideology in our days. The inclusion of the Instrumentum laboris in the Synod’s final document represents a dishonest way to grant acceptance through the backdoor, as it were, to the unacceptable political acronym “LGBT.”


The paragraph most opposed by the Synod Fathers was number 150, with 65 voting against (of a total of 248). What is your assessment of n. 150, particularly its use of the term “sexual orientation” and its call for a “deepened anthropological, theological and pastoral elaboration” about sexuality?

The reference to the Letter of the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith on the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons provides the correct interpretation of the term “sexual orientation.” However, it is generally known and easily proven that today the term “sexual orientation” is highly ambiguous, and is mainly used by the ideological propaganda arm of the homosexuality lobby and the United Nations. The Catechism of the Catholic Church uses the term “homosexual tendency,” which more appropriately expresses various inordinate psychological and moral inclinations, or the concupiscence due to the original sin. The term “orientation” implies a positive reality, a positive aim, and should, therefore, not be used to express a homosexual tendency.

For a true Catholic, and all the more for the Magisterium, a deeper anthropological, theological and pastoral elaboration about sexuality can only mean the following: to show more clearly the revealed truth about human sexuality, as God has conceived and created it, and as the Holy Scripture and the Tradition of the Church has taught it unchangingly and always in the same sense and meaning. Such a deeper elaboration should necessarily include the esteem for the virtue of chastity.

Regrettably the final document of the Youth Synod lacks a clear Catholic statement on chastity. It would have been spiritually very useful for young people, if the final document had quoted statements on chastity, such as the following by Pope John Paul II: “True happiness demands courage and a spirit of sacrifice, refusing every compromise with evil and having the disposition to pay personally, even with death, faithful to God and his commandments. How timely this message is! Today, pleasure, selfishness and directly immoral actions are often exalted in the name of the false ideals of liberty and happiness. It is essential to reaffirm clearly that purity of heart and of body go together, because chastity ‘is the custodian’ of authentic love” (John Paul II, Angelus July 6, 2003).


Number 121 of the final document, on the synodal form of the Church, also met with considerable opposition, with 51 Synod Fathers voting against it. Although synodality was barely discussed during the Synod, it dominated the third part of the draft final document, surprising many of the Synod Fathers. Some suggest that synodality will be used to usher in heterodox teaching. What are your views and concerns about the final document’s emphasis on synodality?


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