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Bishop Athanasius SchneiderSteve Jalsevac/LifeSite

ROME, Italy, May 17, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – “The Church is bigger than the Pope,” and the Pope has the same duties as any regular Catholic: to renounce Satan and profess the Catholic faith, Bishop Athanasius Schneider told the 2018 Rome Life Forum today. The laity must help, not attack, the Pope if he fails to do this in a clear manner.

“As members of the Church militant, we wish to defend the Church’s moral and theological teachings from all who attack them,” began a question submitted to the bishop, which he read and answered. “However, such attacks [are] now seeming to come from the very top. As a bishop once said to me, ‘how do we remain loyal to Peter when Peter is not loyal to Christ?’ So, how do we comport ourselves as members of the Church militant, and with regard to the current situation in Rome?”

“Firstly, I would like to say we have always to keep the supernatural view,” said Schneider, the auxiliary Bishop of Astana, Kazakhstan and one of the foremost defenders of Catholic orthodoxy in the world. “The Church is supernatural. It is not a human institution. And so, secondly, we have to [be conscious] that we are one body. We are the mystical body, one body.”

“Even the Pope is a member of the Church. He is not the founder of the Church. He is only vicarious – representative – and the true head of the Church is Christ,” he explained. The Pope is a “visible sign” as head of the Church, but he is also one of its members.

“The Church is bigger than the Pope. The Pope is not above the Church; the Pope is inside the Church,” said Schneider. “And the Pope has the same duties as a simple Catholic…he made the same baptismal vows when he was baptized to renounce Satan, to profess the Catholic faith. So, he has to fulfill [these duties].”

“And when it seems, in some historical occasions, not only in our times, that the successor of Peter was not fulfilling his task in a clear manner” or was even “failing,” then, “the entire Church has [to] come to help him,” said Schneider.

Rather than having an “attitude of antagonism” toward the Pope, the faithful should help him and through “reverent petitions” encourage him to do his duty to strengthen them in the truth of the Catholic faith. The faithful should also offer prayers and sacrifices, he said.

“We [should not have an] attitude of antagonism against the Pope, even when he is not fulfilling correctly the main duty or in a perfect manner his main duty, which is to strengthen the faithful and the bishops in the faith,” said Schneider. “This is his main duty. So we have to come to help him express [the faith], with reverent petitions, because we are family.”

Families are not dictatorships, he said, where people are forced to be silent lest they be punished by “the boss.”

“We are not in a dictatorship in the Church,” he said. “We are a family. We are the mystical body of Christ.” So with “reverent respect,” Catholics should ask, “please, Holy Father, strengthen us.”