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The Latest Athanasius Schneider Interview:
A Sedevacantist Assessment

“Bishop” Athanasius Schneider (b. 1961) is currently in the United States, traveling from one speaking engagement to another. As one of “Pope” Francis’ most outspoken critics, the Kazakh auxiliary of Astana is in high demand with the recognize-and-resist traditionalists, who need a kind of ‘substitute pope’ to reassure them that they are right to resist Francis while still recognizing him as a valid successor of St. Peter. And Schneider delivers.

Never mind that, supposing him to be Pope for a moment, it is Francis who has universal jurisdiction over all Catholics, whereas Schneider has jurisdiction over none, being a mere auxiliary and not in charge of a diocese. Although it is possible that he was given some jurisdiction within the diocese, if he does have governing authority over anyone, it is an extremely small flock and far away from the United States.

The Appeal of a ‘Resistance Bishop’

So why are so many Americans interested in “Bp.” Schneider? The answer is fairly simple: They like what he says. Yes, he also speaks eloquently and carries himself with dignity, and that certainly has a bolstering effect. But then, the extreme liberal Jesuit “Cardinal” Carlo Martini (1927-2012) was likewise very graceful and eloquent and yet was a walking theological horror show. (Indeed, Martini can be considered a cultured version of Jorge Bergoglio, i.e. Francis.)

Obviously, if Schneider were to endorse interreligious peace gatherings in the style of Assisi 1986, say that the Traditional Mass is a relict of the past that must be abandoned, and Francis is the greatest Pope ever, the recognize-and-resisters would drop him like a hot potato because they would have no use for him. Then they would have to go look for someone else they agree with, or rather, who agrees with them — perhaps an auxiliary in Nepal or a monsignor in Zambia could be found who shares most of their convictions.

This sort of “traditionalist prelate shopping” is understandable on a human level, since people want a (perceived) authority to confirm them in their ideas, assuring them that they are right about the Faith and the “Pope” is wrong. In the 1970s and ’80s, that man was Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre (1905-1991), the founder of the Society of St. Pius X. Today that role is fulfilled by Mr. Schneider (why “Mister”?) or perhaps “Abp.” Carlo Maria Viganò. The problem is that that is simply not how Catholicism works. In the Catholic Church, you cannot attach yourself to any bishop you like; you must be subject to the local bishop who rules over the diocese in which you live and who is in communion with the Roman Pontiff.

For those who have read too much resistance propaganda, “in communion with the Roman Pontiff” does not simply mean acknowledging the Pope to be the Pope, professing to be united to him, or praying for him; it means submitting to him and being in turn recognized by the Pope as being in communion with him: “For any man to be able to prove his Catholic faith and affirm that he is truly a Catholic, he must be able to convince the Apostolic See of this. For this See is predominant and with it the faithful of the whole Church should agree. And the man who abandons the See of Peter can only be falsely confident that he is in the Church” (Pope Pius IX, Encyclical Quartus Supra, n. 8).

Considering Schneider’s sometimes vehement opposition to Francis, it is astounding that Bergoglio has not yet made him apostolic nuncio to Tonga. (The only thing he did do, a few years ago, is ask Schneider to cut down on his travels outside the diocese and thus comply with what is required by canon law. The Kazakh prelate promptly obeyed and simply appeared at his various speaking engagements abroad by video conference instead.)

Michael Matt interviews ‘Bishop’ Schneider

So Schneider is visiting the United States at present. His most recent gig was an in-person appearance on Steve Bannon’s daily podcast show, War Room (Oct. 18, 2022). A few weeks ago, “His Excellency” was a featured speaker at the so-called Catholic Identity Conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In connection with that event, Michael Matt, editor of the Minneapolis-based recognize-and-resist paper The Remnant, conducted an interview with him, which was made available on YouTube, as embedded below:

It is this interview we now wish to provide some commentary on. It is not intended to be a comprehensive review of the conversation, although we will touch upon most things.

Michael Matt begins by asking “Bp.” Schneider about “the proper attitude with respect to a terrible situation in the Church, where there is a crisis in the hierarchy, a crisis in leadership”. Here our interest is not so much in Schneider’s answer than in the reason why Matt is raising the question with him to begin with: Why is this being asked of Athanasius Schneider, of all people? Why is an American journalist and newspaper editor approaching an auxiliary bishop from Kazakhstan for an answer to this question, instead of his own diocesan ordinary or a Vatican official? Why Schneider?

Of course the main answer is, as we already noted, that the recognize-and-resisters approve of what he says. That is not to say that they necessarily agree with every piece of advice he gives or every view he holds; but they are fundamentally in agreement about preserving the Traditional Mass, getting rid of Modernism, and resisting Bergoglio. Besides, beggars can’t be choosers — aside from the Astana auxiliary, there aren’t a whole lot of other active Novus Ordo bishops from whom they could choose who would give answers similar to Schneider’s. Let’s just say there is a reason why Matt didn’t interview Blase Cupich.

In any case, Schneider assures his interlocutor that denouncing heterodox prelates by hurling anathemas at them “is not the way of God, never.” That is ironic, considering that it is precisely St. Paul, the same Apostle to whom he makes reference regarding our obligation to speak the truth in charity (see Eph 4:15), who said: “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema. As we said before, so now I say again: If any one preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be anathema” (Gal 1:8-9). The Greek word “anathema” means “accursed”.

Schneider brings up an image used by St. Caesarius of Arles (470-543), who spoke of a hungry calf softly hitting the udder of the mother cow, as needed, to bring forth milk. In the same way, the venerable Church Father said, the laity should petition their bishops for the milk of Catholic doctrine. That is a beautiful metaphor, but Schneider is mistaken in thinking it applies to the current situation. The problem is not that Francis and his henchmen are failing to give doctrine; rather, they have substituted a false doctrine for the true doctrine and are feeding their people heresy and error instead. The calf, in other words, is receiving milk, but the milk has been poisoned and so the calf gets sick and dies. That would be the correct way to represent metaphorically what is really going on, but if Schneider were to put it like that, he would have to concede that his position is false, because the Catholic Church cannot give poison to her children, she can only dispense the pure milk of true doctrine. That, in fact, is precisely what the Pope — a true Pope — guarantees:

This gift of truth and never-failing faith was therefore divinely conferred on Peter and his successors in this see so that they might discharge their exalted office for the salvation of all, and so that the whole flock of Christ might be kept away by them from the poisonous food of error and be nourished with the sustenance of heavenly doctrine. Thus the tendency to schism is removed and the whole church is preserved in unity, and, resting on its foundation, can stand firm against the gates of hell.

(First Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Pastor Aeternus, Ch. 4; underlining added.)

Certainly the loving Mother [Church] is spotless in the Sacraments, by which she gives birth to and nourishes her children; in the faith which she has always preserved inviolate; in her sacred laws imposed on all; in the evangelical counsels which she recommends; in those heavenly gifts and extraordinary graces through which, with inexhaustible fecundity, she generates hosts of martyrs, virgins and confessors.

(Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mystici Corporis, n. 66; underlining added.)

Recognizing the incongruence between saying Francis is the Pope and then accusing him of teaching heresy and other errors, Matt asks Schneider to explain how we can provide necessary resistance to Francis’ theological bunk without at the same time doing damage to the Papacy at least in the eyes of secularists, who will (rightly) view such a church as nothing other than a human and fallible institution.

Schneider concedes that with Francis there is a “crisis of the Papacy”, adding that a doctrinal crisis in the Papacy is an extremely “rare” occurrence in Church history. To establish some kind of historical precedent for Francis, thereby legitimizing his claim to the Papacy (as in: ‘See, this is nothing new in the Church!’), Schneider brings up the case of Pope Liberius (r. 352-366) as a supposed historical precedent. As we have addressed this at length in the past, we will simply refer the reader to our material from years ago:

In 1873, Pope Pius IX defended Pope Liberius against his detractors: “…the Arians falsely accused Liberius, also Our predecessor, to the Emperor Constantine, because Liberius refused to condemn St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, and refused to support their heresy” (Encyclical Quartus Supra, n. 16).

Schneider also brings up the case of Pope John XXII (r. 1316-1334), which is another false argument we have addressed before:

Having thus assured his recognize-and-resist audience that a “pontificate” like that of Francis is not impossible, Schneider then emphasizes the importance of remaining “in the Church” — by which he means Club Bergoglio, of course — because there is, allegedly, no other place to go: “The Church is in the hands of God, in the hands of Christ”, he says. He must not be a reader of The Remnant, for then he would know that they have long propagated the idea of a “New Church”, “Newchurch”, a “Francis Church”, indeed a “new religion”.

Roughly a year ago, Remnant columnist Jason Morgan wrote about “this new world order, where satanism is Christianity, hatred is love, aborted children are medicine, antichrist is pope, Newchurch is real Church, Novus Ordo is the Mass, depopulation is custodianship, the planet is a god…” (source; underlining added). Before that, the same author had written: “Newchurch, the faux Catholic Church headed by Pope Francis, is not a religious organization at all” (source; underlining added). Interestingly enough, Morgan was one of the speakers alongside “Bp.” Schneider at the Catholic Identity Conference a few weeks ago.

It is unfortunate that the two do not agree on the question whether the institution of which Francis is the head is the immaculate Bride of Christ or the infernal Whore of Babylon — or even a religious organization of any kind. It just might make a difference, you know, especially when it comes to being a member of that institution and either fleeing it or remaining in it, for the sake of one’s salvation.

Next, Schneider advances a curious concept of obedience to the Pope in liturgical matters. By formal disobedience to Francis’ prohibition of the Traditional Latin Mass in the decree Traditionis Custodes (2021), the Asian prelate says, “we will obey the entire Church of all the times” — and thereby honor the Holy See!

What Schneider doesn’t mention is where he finds that idea in the traditional teaching of the Church — the idea that a Catholic is at liberty to reject a decree of the current Pope and obey “the Church of all time” instead. For one thing, it’s obviously not the Church of all time we’re talking about anyway, since “all time” would include also the present, especially if “the present” has already gone on for a few decades now (keeping in mind that the Traditional Mass was first suppressed as far back as late 1969).

Secondly, Pope Leo XIII has made clear that it is always the Pope currently reigning one must obey, not some past or imagined future Pope more to one’s liking:

…[I]t is to give proof of a submission which is far from sincere to set up some kind of opposition between one Pontiff and another. Those who, faced with two differing directives, reject the present one to hold to the past, are not giving proof of obedience to the authority which has the right and duty to guide them; and in some ways they resemble those who, on receiving a condemnation, would wish to appeal to a future council, or to a Pope who is better informed.

(Pope Leo XIII, Apostolic Letter Epistola Tua)

This only makes sense if submission to the Pope as the criterion of orthodoxy and effective safeguard of unity is to have any meaning.

Nor will it do to appeal to a supposed obligation to preserve the “Mass of the Saints”, as Schneider argues; since, if Francis is Pope, then Paul VI himself is a saint now, the very man who gave to the world the horrid “New Mass” (Novus Ordo Missae) and took away the Old! In other words, then the Novus Ordo rite would be the “Mass of the Saints” no less than the so-called Tridentine rite.

Besides, Pope Pius XII was very clear regarding the authority of the Pope in liturgical matters:

[T]he Sovereign Pontiff alone enjoys the right to recognize and establish any practice touching the worship of God, to introduce and approve new rites, as also to modify those he judges to require modification. Bishops, for their part, have the right and duty carefully to watch over the exact observance of the prescriptions of the sacred canons respecting divine worship. Private individuals, therefore, even though they be clerics, may not be left to decide for themselves in these holy and venerable matters, involving as they do the religious life of Christian society along with the exercise of the priesthood of Jesus Christ and worship of God; concerned as they are with the honor due to the Blessed Trinity, the Word Incarnate and His august mother and the other saints, and with the salvation of souls as well. For the same reason no private person has any authority to regulate external practices of this kind, which are intimately bound up with Church discipline and with the order, unity and concord of the Mystical Body and frequently even with the integrity of Catholic faith itself.

(Pope Pius XII, Encyclical Mediator Dei, n. 58; underlining added.)

Nevertheless, Matt advances the opinion that it is precisely by priests disobeying Francis’ suppression of the Traditional Mass that people will be helped to stay in the ‘Church’ (which one, by the way?). Schneider agrees, emphasizing the importance of “pray[ing] for the Pope” and the local ordinary to demonstrate that they are not in schism — as if recognizing a prelate as legitimate and praying for him were sufficient to rule out a refusal of submission to him.

To conclude the interview, Matt brings up Our Lady of Sorrows and how she must have felt losing her Divine Son “and also to lose [Saint] Peter”, alluding to his betrayal (see Mt 26:69-75). Yes, St. Peter’s denial of Christ is another favorite argument of the recognize-and-resist trads against Sedevacantism, but it too is dead on arrival, if for no other reason than that St. Peter was not yet Pope when he denied knowing his Lord:

Matt claims that “we’re losing Peter for a time”; but if Francis is Pope, as he still believes, then that is not true, for then Peter is very much present in the Church, as much as at any other time, and in fact quite busy teaching, canonizing, legislating. Matt just doesn’t agree with him. Once again we see an analogy being “adjusted” to make it fit the desired narrative, at the expense of the facts.

If Matt is looking for a position that indeed recognizes that we’ve “lost Peter for a time”, we encourage him to consider Sedevacantism, where we firmly believe in the Papacy but recognize that, tragically, there is no one currently holding the office, least of all Jorge Bergoglio.

Thus far our review of the latest “Bp.” Schneider interview.

Is Athanasius Schneider controlled Opposition?

We know that Francis can be very severe in dealing with his (perceived) opponents, that is, with those over whom he wields control. Here is an example from earlier this year:

On May 7, Father Tait Cameron Schroeder was appointed office head of the Disciplinary Section of the Dicastery for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Schroeder, a priest and canon lawyer from the Diocese of Madison, was already working in the Congregation and had been promoted because he had handled the abuse cases of the English language desk very well. But the promotion never took place, despite being published in the bulletin. This news, too, was first reported by the Latin Mass blog [Messa in Latino].

According to a CNA source, Cardinal Ladaria called the promoted priest in, apologizing and hinting that the decision came from above — in other words, Pope Francis personally. There was a report that Father Schroeder had occasionally celebrated the Traditional Latin Mass for groups of pilgrims. This had only happened sometimes and never after the publication of the [decree] Traditionis Custodes. However, because of this, there seems to have been pressure by the pope for the Monsignor to resign from the post he had just received — which he promptly did.

(Andrea Gagliarducci, “How Pope Francis is changing the shape of the Roman Curia”, Catholic News Agency, Aug. 19, 2022)

In light of this, Bergoglio’s generous toleration of “Bp.” Schneider is suspicious, especially considering how intense some of the Kazakh’s criticism of his boss has been:

The fact that Francis puts up with Schneider’s behavior could indicate that he is quite content with how the Astana auxiliary exercises his ministry.

To be clear: We are not accusing Schneider of definitely being controlled opposition, since we don’t know that. However, it would be very imprudent not to consider it a realistic possibility, keeping in mind that the good manners and external piety displayed by Schneider are no guarantee of either orthodoxy or personal holiness. Indeed, in order to deceive the good, even “Satan himself transformeth himself into an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:14). The devil knows he must deceive those who sincerely mean to be good and holy, not those who are content to be evil — those are already his. (See also Fr. Frederick Faber’s warning concerning the deceitfulness of the Antichrist.)

In light of our Lord’s counsel that “by their fruits you shall know them” (Mt 7:20), we must point out that Schneider’s work has several clear results: (a) It makes people doubt or deny the Catholic teaching on the Papacy; (b) it makes people refuse submission to a man they acknowledge as the Vicar of Christ; and (c) it nevertheless keeps people attached to the Vatican II Church through their stubborn recognition of a public apostate as Pope. Despite all that, somehow Schneider has managed to be revered by recognize-and-resist trads as a kind of ultra-orthodox demigod.

At the very least, one must be allowed to raise the question: What is going on here?

Image source: YouTube (screenshot)
License: fair use

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