Lumen Gentium : "A Clarification has yet to be Made"

Source: FSSPX News

Bishop Athanasius Schneider.

About Lumen Gentium, "a clarification has yet to be made”. This is the idea developed by Bishop Schneider, auxiliary bishop of Astana, in a document published on March 4, 2017. The prelate pleads in particular for “space for reflection” and a “mindset” that would allow the conciliar text on episcopal collegiality to be re-written in terms more consistent with the Tradition of the Church.

“Clarifications have yet to be made on the question of collegiality as outlined by the Constitution Lumen Gentium,” writes Bishop Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary bishop of Astana (Kazakhstan).

He explains that “in the post-conciliar theological literature, a new theory has emerged: that of two supreme subjects of power within the universal Church, a theory that has nothing to do with divine Revelation, whose source is in Sacred Scripture and the constant Tradition of the Church.” Bishop Schneider insists:


Such a theory goes against the divinely revealed structure of an  hierarchy existing in the visible body of this mystery, which is the Church.

This affirmation is reminiscent of the position held by the founder of the Priestly Society of St. Pius X, Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (1905-1991).

In 1985, he offered a lucid analysis of the documents of Vatican II, the discussions of which he had participated in: “This is not a change for the better; this doctrine of double supremacy is contrary to the teaching and Magisterium of the Church. It is contrary to the definitions of Vatican Council I and to Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Satis Cognitum. The Pope alone has supreme power; he communicates it only to the degree he considers advisable, and only in exceptional circumstances. The pope alone has power of jurisdiction over the whole world,” Archbishop Lefebvre recalled in his Open Letter to Confused Catholics, published by Albin Michel editions and recently reissued by Clovis.

For his part, Bishop Schneider declares that if “the pope can, extraordinarily, perform acts that are collegial properly speaking, by allowing the entire college of bishops to participate in his Petrine ministry – a ministry that is essentially personal, monarchical, and inalienable in the government of the universal Church – this can be done usually and traditionally only during the convocation of ecumenical councils.” During these councils, the prelate recalls, “the pope governs the Church collegially with the entire college of bishops: cum Petro. This is an extraordinary and exceptional way of governing the universal Church, a possible but not absolutely necessary way.”

To explain the nature of this power in the Catholic Church, Bishop Schneider writes that “the pope governs monarchically in a figurative sense, according to the meaning given by Christ that is not to be interpreted in the sense of an absolute monarchy or a political dictatorship. So the pope cannot say, in the words attributed to Louis XIV: 'The Church is me!'”

The auxiliary bishop of Astana does not ignore the difficulties presented by the Constitution Lumen Gentium, and begins by placing this text in its historical context: “After the First Vatican Council,” he recalls, “the theological relationship between the episcopate and the Successor of Peter still needed further study; it couldn’t be finished because the work was suspended.” The invasion of the Papal States by the Italian revolutionary troops in September 1870 put an end to the Conciliar Fathers’ work.

“Certainly”, the prelate continues, “the Vatican II Constitution Lumen Gentium tried to resolve the matter, and overall, this document gave us a valid and traditional doctrine on the episcopate.”

However, he points out, “in its attempt to explain the principle of episcopal collegiality in its relation to the pope, the text of Lumen Gentium contains certain formulations that still need to be explained and clarified on a doctrinal level, which, by the way, brought Pope Paul VI to publish the famous ‘Preliminary Explanatory Note’ (Nota Praevia).”

The Society of St. Pius X, in its founder’s footsteps, takes this analysis further, and considers that the above mentioned Nota Praevia, although it is the proof of a real intention to clarify things, does not sufficiently remove the ambiguities regarding the uniqueness of the subject of the supreme power in the Church, as defined by the First Vatican Council’s Constitution Pastor Aeternus. Bishop Schneider continues along these same lines when he says that “despite the publication of this note and of other texts by the Holy See on the subject, the teaching on episcopal collegiality in its relation with the pope lacks theological clarity”.

Lastly, allow us to point out the suggestions for concrete solutions offered by Bishop Schneider:

The teaching of Lumen Gentium on episcopal collegiality in its relation with the pope is in need of clarification and deeper theological reflection, in order to be more visibly in greater harmony with revealed truth and the constant tradition of the Church.

And further on:

To do so, it would be advisable to encourage and create a space and mindset conducive to a peaceful theological debate , after the example of the critical method chosen by St. Thomas Aquinas, doctor of the universal Church”.

Is not this one – out of so many others – of the fundamental demands of Archbishop Lefebvre, still being made today by the present Superior General of the Society of St. Pius X?

Sources: chiesapostconcilia/FSSP.News - 5/10/17