Bishop Schneider says Catholics must be subject to the Pope
In a recent interview, Bishop Schneider explained the importance of not losing a characteristic of the Catholic Church, which is being subject to the Pope. Bishop Schneider, who recently defended the Four Cardinals who submitted the dubia, made his comments in response to a question about the SSPX's discussions with the Holy See.
“If you remain canonically autonomous for too long, you run the risk of losing a characteristic of the Catholic Church, that is, to be subject to the pope. We cannot make our subjection to the Vicar of Christ dependent upon the person of the pope; this would not be faith. You cannot say that “I don’t believe in this pope, I don’t submit, I am going to wait until one comes along that I like.” This is not Catholic, it is not supernatural; it is human. It is a lack of supernaturality and trust in Divine Providence, that God is the one who guides the Church. This is a danger for the SSPX”
Bishop Schneider went on to urge the leader of the SSPX to respond to the possibility of becoming a personal prelature:
“I have asked Msgr. Fellay not to delay his acceptance any longer, and I trust in Providence, though it is not possible to have 100% certainty. It is my great wish that the SSPX might be recognized and established within the regular structure of the Church as soon as possible, and this will be for the benefit of all, for them and for us. Actually it will be a new force in this great battle for the purity of the Faith. I have told Msgr. Fellay: 'Monsignor, we need your presence to join together with all of the good forces in the Church to achieve this union.'”
Bishop Schneider expressed understanding towards Msgr. Lefebvre's decisions:
“I am convinced that in the present circumstances, Msgr. Lefebvre would accept the canonical proposal of a personal prelature without hesitation. Msgr. Lefebvre is a man with a deep sensus ecclesiae. The episcopal ordinations were done in 1988 because in good conscience he thought that he had to do it, as an extreme act, and at the same time said that this situation should not last a long time”
What does it mean to be Catholic? We belong fully to the Catholic Church through two interrelated levels of communion -- the inner communion through receiving, and co-operating with, the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, and the external communion of creed, liturgy and discipline. When Bishop Schneider talks about the importance of being subject to the pope he is referring to Catholic discipline. Lumen Gentium sets out one of the conditions of being fully Catholic is the recognition of the government of the Church (LG 14).
The distinction must be made between political government in secular society and government in the Church -- Christ Himself is active in governing the Church through the Pope and bishops. How do we know that Christ is governing the Church through the Pope and bishops, and they are not imposing their own personal ideology? We can be sure that they are governing according to the mind and heart of Christ if they themselves are obedient to the Faith, safeguarding, preserving and expounding the Magisterium of the Church. As Dei Verbum states:
"This teaching office [the Magisterium] is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed." (DV 10).
We can confidently subject ourselves to the Pope and bishops when they clearly and unambiguously subject themselves to the Word of God, "teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully." When these conditions are evident we have a holy obligation to submit with "ready Christian obedience":
"The laity should, as all Christians, promptly accept in Christian obedience decisions of their spiritual shepherds, since they are representatives of Christ as well as teachers and rulers in the Church. Let them follow the example of Christ, who by His obedience even unto death, opened to all men the blessed way of the liberty of the children of God. Nor should they omit to pray for those placed over them, for they keep watch as having to render an account of their souls, so that they may do this with joy and not with grief." (LG 37).
The Society of Saint Pius X [SSPX] is an international priestly fraternity founded in 1970 by the French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre. It was formed because of the concerns of faithful Catholics, clergy and laity, that certain teachings promulgated by Vatican II repudiated and contradicted previous magisterial teachings of the Church. In 1988 Archbishop Lefebvre consecrated four bishops without papal mandate, incurring automatic excommunication for him and the four bishops. In 2009 Pope Benedict XVI lifted these excommunications. Until the status of the SSPX is regularized by the Holy See, the bishops and priests remain suspended from the exercise of Holy Orders. Recent discussions between the Holy See and the SSPX have raised the possibility of the SSPX becoming a "personal prelature". (A personal prelature is a canonical structure of the Roman Catholic Church which comprises a prelate, clergy and laity, such as Opus Dei). Another sign of the improving relations between the SSPX and the Holy See is Pope Francis's decision to extend the special permissions he granted during the Year of Mercy to the SSPX priests to validly administer the sacrament of confession.