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Bishop Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary of Astana, Kazakhstan.

February 17, 2017 (LifeSiteNews) — Asked about the confusion in the Church today stemming directly from Pope Francis and how the faithful are to respond, a prominent Catholic bishop has said Catholics do not owe blind obedience to the Pope, adding that blind obedience is characteristic of a ‘dictatorship,’ not the Church.

Kazakhstan Bishop Athanasius Schneider, one of the most prolific voices in the Church today seeking to defend the Catholic faith from anti-life and anti-family distortion, made the remarks in an interview with Rorate Caeli and Adelante la Fe.

“As Catholics,” he said we have “to be submitted, (canonically) I mean, to the Pope, to the Vicar of Christ to accept his authority, to have respect for him, to pray for him, and to have a supernatural love for him.” But, he added, “this does not mean blind obedience; of course no[t] because we are not in a dictatorship.” “In a dictatorship yes, we have to obey blind or in the army.”

Rather, Bishop Schneider said, “the Church is a family were discussion is possible” and also “correction with respect and with love.” When this is not possible, he added, “there is not a true atmosphere of Church spirituality.” It would be an “atmosphere of intimidation, of repression, of fear and this is not atmosphere of the Holy Spirit.”

Bishop Schneider reflected on the example of St. Catherine of Siena, who, he noted, the Church recognizes as a saint and Doctor of the Church. While she always kept “a very deep respect towards the Pope and a deep love for him,” he said, she nevertheless “wrote several letters to him with very harsh” criticisms and correctly admonished him which she did “out of love for him.”

“She wrote in a letter to the Pope, ‘Most Holy Father if you will not convert, please step down, renounce the papacy. I write these out of love for your person, for your eternal salvation, and for the Church.’” This letter and the attitude behind it, said Schneider, “is not schismatic, and in no way against the Pope.”

Bishop Schneider counseled against making “the Pope an idol” or practicing “papal latria” or ultimately a “deification” of the Pope. He suggested that the current crisis in the Church may rectify a tendency toward papal latria experienced in the Church in the past hundred years.

Quoting St. Thomas Aquinas quoting of St. Augustine, Bishop Schneder recalled that “when St. Paul made a correction to the first pope Peter and he made this publicly not privately.”

“St. Augustine said Peter was so humble and so wise that he accepted this correction,” said Schneider. “He did not say, ‘You are Paul, you are against me. You are heretical. You are schismatic.’ No, he accepted this with gratitude and so should be the Pope in these days.”

“St. Paul was public and even today, as he wrote this in his letter and his letter is inspired by the Holy Spirit for all generations until the end of the world, they will read the correction of the first Pope as word of God.” As Paul made the correction of the first Pope public, said Bishop Schneider, so too if Paul were alive today “he would use the Internet” as this would be similar to using his letters sent to all churches. “Therefore, there is no difficulty and problem to me that the four Cardinals published their public appeal to the Pope.”

In conclusion, Bishop Schneider appealed to the faithful, saying “the most powerful means” to help with the crisis in the Church, “is not an appeal to the Pope or a kind of fraternal or filial connection.”

The most powerful means to help the Pope that he can help the Church to overcome these confusions of doctrine in the Church is by means of prayer, by intense prayer and even of suffering of doing works of reparation, expiation for the Pope, for his soul, for his that he may receive from God the strength, the light to confirm all the entire Church in an unambiguous manner in the truth as did St. Peter and almost all his successors.”