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(LifeSiteNews) — Editor’s note: The following is the transcript of an interview Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan gave to LifeSite’s John-Henry Westen. The video of the interview is found below. This is the third of three parts of His Excellency’s interview. The interview has been lightly edited for ease of reading.  

John-Henry Westen: We’ve been going right now in the Church through hard times, spiritually hard times for quite a while. And you’ve spoken numerous times about the underground Church, having perhaps to go underground. And I know you lived that as a child yourself. For that reason, but also for your state right now in the Church, it would be very fruitful, I think, for the faithful to hear from you about how that works in practice. You see in China, for instance, the Church is living underground, had been and they’re in the midst of that still. But we’re in a sort of similar situation. In China you have unfaithful bishops who are promoting communism against the truth of Christ. But there are still bishops appointed by and approved by Pope Francis, and so the priests have to exist under them, as do the faithful. And so they’re in an underground situation.  

But in the West, we’ve not really experienced that: but it seems that now we are, because we have unfaithful bishops who are nonetheless appointed by Pope Francis. And so the priests and the faithful somehow have to live under this situation. You’ve mentioned how perhaps it’s a time for living in an underground way. How does that look like in practice? How do we get there? How do priests and faithful know when they need to go into an underground way of practicing? And what how does that work?  

Bishop Schneider: An example of this – for the faithful and priests – to be in some way persecuted and marginalized by those who occupy the high ranking positions in the Church, by bishops – is this situation we had in the fourth century, with Arianism. In those times, valid bishops, licit bishops, the majority, they persecuted true Catholics who kept the tradition of faith in the divinity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This was the question of life and death, the truth, the tradition of faith. And so they were expelled from the churches, they were forced to go to the roots, to open air Masses.  

And in some way, we can also face these situations. And it’s already happened, happening after Traditionis custodes, especially. There are places where people are cast out literally from the parish churches where they had [held], for several years, the traditional Latin mass approved by Pope Benedict the XVI and by the local bishops. And now with this new situation of Traditionis custodes, some bishops are, I repeat, literally expelling the best faithful, the best priests from the churches from the parish churches, but the parish church is called the mother church. And so these faithful are forced to seek new places of worship, gyms, schools or halls and so on.  

And this is a situation which is similar to a kind of catacomb situation. Not literally catacombss, as they still can celebrate publicly, but in a situation which is similar to catacombs because they cannot use their official structures and buildings of the Church.  

But at the same time, any situation of persecution in the history of the Church brought many blessings and strengthened more the faith of these people. And they strengthened not only their own faith, being expelled and seeking other places, but their fidelity strengthened the entire Church. And this matters, that this injustice, unjust treatment of these Catholics in our day by the Vatican, by Pope Francis’s orders, and by the bishops – some bishops, unfortunately had to simply fulfill orders which came from the nuncio or from the Vatican to shut down churches and Masses, traditional Masses – but the fidelity of these faithful, is really bringing many fruits for the entire Church. 

JHW: One of the things that is happening is happening in two different ways, one on the part of the faithful and then on the part of priests. I’d like to address first the faithful. I was asked at the Catholic Identity Conference where we were together about how this can be, that Catholics, who are known for obedience to the Pope can now be speaking out, resisting the Pope. How does that even work? We’re even praying, as we do at LifeSite every day – after you did yourself – praying openly for the conversion of the Pope. I’m doing that with my own children, as sad as that situation is, it’s still showing great love for the pope. And that’s why we pray for him not to hate him, to pray for him. But these are difficult, difficult times. And what is your suggestion for the faithful specifically in how we’re supposed to deal with this situation, even with our children?  

Bp. Schneider: First, we have to clarify the true concept and meaning of obedience. Saint Thomas Aquinas says that absolute, unconditional obedience we owe only to God alone, to no creature, not even to the Pope. And so the obedience towards the Pope and the bishops in the Church is a limited obedience.  

So when the Pope or the bishops are commanding something which will evidently undermine the fullness of the Catholic faith and the fullness of the Catholic liturgy – this treasure of the Church, the traditional Latin mass – and harm by undermining the purity of faith, by undermining the purity of the sacredness of the liturgy, we are harming the entire Church. We are decreasing the good of the Church, the spiritual good of the Church. We are decreasing the good of our souls. And here we cannot collaborate.  

How we can collaborate, diminishing the purity of the faith, how we can collaborate, diminishing the sacredness, the sublimity of the liturgy of the holy Mass, which is the millennium old traditional Mass of all the saints? And in these cases, we are even obliged – not only can we in some occasions – but we must say to the Holy Father, to the Bishops, “with all due respect and love for you, we cannot execute these orders which you are giving because they are harming the good of our Holy Mother Church.” 

So we have to seek other places and nevertheless be in some way formally disobedient, but in fact we will be obedient to our Holy Mother Church, which is greater than a singular Pope. The Holy Mother Church is greater than a singular Pope. And so we are obedient to our Holy Mother Church. We are obedient to the Popes of all ages who promoted, defended, protected the purity of Catholic faith, unconditionally, uncompromisingly, and who defended also the sacredness and the unchanging liturgy of the holy Mass through the centuries. 

JHW: So for priests, there is an even greater question, because priests must obey their bishops. And yet some of these bishops are instructing them, demanding that they remove the faithful, that they deny the faithful the traditional Mass, that they even refuse pro-life things inside parishes, calling them political. While at the same time we have parishes promoting climate change and everything else, all sorts of nonsense going on in the parishes. But the priests feel, well, “I’ve got to obey the bishop. What else can I do? I used to offer the Latin Mass. We’re now not permitted to.” What are priests to do about obedience? And can they too sort of go underground, hide from their bishops and do things in a sort of clandestine way?  

Bp. Schneider: This is a very delicate question, and I think it is a question which touches the conscience of these priests. It could be a different answer for every priest. But every priest has to ask God in conscience what he has to do in this moment. And it could also be that maybe some priests would obey, and in this case, they cannot help the traditional Catholics, maybe for the sake that they want to at least be still in the official structures, to do something good. At least this could be also an option.  

But there is another option, which would be also legitimate, if by their conscience they decided that they had to informally disobey the bishop and continue to celebrate the traditional Mass and the sacraments, not only the Holy Mass, but the sacraments also, in a clandestine way or in an official, maybe non-approved way.  

But it is only for a short time, a temporary solution. And they have to keep nevertheless their love for their bishop who persecutes them. They have to pray for this bishop, they have to keep their love for Pope Francis and to pray for him. And this time will pass. This is only a temporary phenomenon. And then again, God will give us a strong Pope who will defend the traditional Mass and traditional faith, and then [good] bishops. This will come surely, without doubt. We have simply to endure this temporal situation, and also these priests [must endure] with faith that God will intervene.  

JHW: You mentioned this about the Church, that it will have a new Holy Father who embraces truth in the fullness of faith. And I know this is your own guess, your own heart, your own prayerful discernment. But what is your thought? Because it looks like, as everybody said, Pope Francis has stacked the the College of Cardinals, the election obviously is going to be not too long from now. Pope Francis is an old man and his health is not good. But people are saying, look, the college is so stacked that what we’re looking at coming is going to be a Pope very much in the same vein as Pope Francis. What do we do with that? It does seem like a sort of hopeless situation. When you say temporary, in your mind, could that be maybe for several decades? Or are you thinking something shorter than that 

Bp. Schneider: Well, it is not up to us to know the time, as Jesus Christ said to the Apostles in the Acts of the Apostles. It’s not up to us to know the time. God knows already when He will give again to his Church a strong, one hundred percent traditional Catholic Pope, and that every Pope has to be a hundred percent Catholic, 100% traditional. This was Saint Peter, and this was all the popes throughout the history with very few exceptions. This is inherent to the nature of the papal office to be really a hundred percent traditional defender of the faith and the sacredness of the holy liturgy. And this will come because this is, I repeat, the nature of the papal office. And currently in the last decades, this nature was obfuscated by this current crisis of the Church.  

So we don’t know exactly the time, but we have to pray that the time will be shortened. And God’s intervention depends on our prayers. And we have to make a coalition, an alliance, maybe a world-wide alliance of prayers, a chain of prayers, of rosaries to implore a most speedy intervention of God to grant the Church a true, strong, courageous Catholic Pope.  

JHW: I can’t thank you enough for being on the John-Henry Westen Show, for gracing us with your presence in our studio there. And I hope you have a great celebration with the LifeSite staff that were able to make it, and God bless you. And I would ask one last thing: would you please impart your apostolic blessing upon us, upon all of our viewers? And please be assured we pray for you each and every single day as LifeSite staff. And I know so many of our viewers and readers do that as well. 

Bp. Schneider: Yes. Thank you very much, Mr. Westen. And I am grateful for your apostolate of LifeSiteNews and for all your collaborators. Continue your noble work.

The John-Henry Westen Show is available by video on the show’s YouTube channel and right here on my LifeSite blog.

You can send me feedback, or ideas for show topics by emailing [email protected].

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John-Henry is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of LifeSiteNews.com. He and his wife Dianne and their eight children live in the Ottawa Valley in Ontario, Canada.

He has spoken at conferences and retreats, and appeared on radio and television throughout North America, Europe and Asia. John-Henry founded the Rome Life Forum an annual strategy meeting for pro-life leaders worldwide. He co-founded Voice of the Family and serves on the executive of the Canadian National March for Life Committee, and the annual National Pro-Life Youth Conference.

He is a consultant to Canada’s largest pro-life organization Campaign Life Coalition, and serves on the executive of the Ontario branch of the organization.  He has run three times for political office in the province of Ontario representing the Family Coalition Party.

John-Henry earned an MA from the University of Toronto in School and Child Clinical Psychology and an Honours BA from York University in Psychology.

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