In the turmoil, Bishop Schneider, fears traditional Catholics may, for a time, be persecuted or discriminated against, even at the behest of those who have “power in the exterior structures of the Church”. But he believes those involved with the “heresy” will “not prevail against the Church”. And, in hope, the bishop said: “The Supreme Magisterium will surely issue an unequivocal doctrinal statement, rejecting any collaboration with the neo-pagan ideas.”
At this point, Bishop Schneider believes, the modern thurificati et traditores will leave the Church. “I can presume that such a separation will affect each level of Catholics: lay people and even notexcluding the high clergy,” he said.
Such comments are unlikely to win Bishop Schneider popularity in some circles, but he argues: “It is quite insignificant to be popular or unpopular. For every member of the clergy, their first interest should be to be popular in the eyes of God and not in the eyes of today or of the powerful. Jesus said a warning: ‘Woe to you when people speak well of you.’”
He added: “Popularity is false… Great saints of the Church, such as Thomas More and John Fisher, rejected popularity… those today who are worried about the popularity of the mass media and public opinion… will be remembered as cowards and not as heroes of the Faith.”
Bishop Schneider observes ruefully that there are many whose views coincide with those of the pagan world who “declare themselves Catholics and even faithful to the Pope”, while “those who are faithful to the Catholic faith or those who are promoting the glory of Christ in the liturgy” are labelled extremists.
Such critics may assert that Bishop Schneider’s concern over Holy Communion is like worrying over the numbers of angels on a pinhead. But the bishop insists that treatment of the Eucharist is at the very heart of the crisis. “The Eucharist is at the heart of the Church,” he said. “When the heart is weak, the whole body is weak.”
He argued that receiving Communion in hand “contributes gradually to the loss of the Catholic faith in the Real Presence and in transubstantiation”.
Bishop Schneider also rejected the idea that concern for the liturgy is less important than, or even separate from, concern for the poor. “This is erroneous. The first commandment which Christ gave us was to adore God alone. Liturgy is not a meeting of friends. It is our first task to adore and glorify God in the liturgy and also in our manner of life. From a true adoration and love of God grows love for the poor and our neighbour. It is a consequence.”
The bishop’s views have been shaped by his early childhood, growing up as a persecuted German Catholic in the Soviet Union, where he even had to attend atheism lessons at school.
His book Dominus Est discloses how the German Catholic community kept alive their faith despite severe hardship and persecution. In his own experience, his mother and great aunt took great risks for their faith and on behalf of others in the community. So Bishop Schneider and his family were horrified at the liberal attitudes and practices in the West, especially in respect of Holy Communion, which had been so rare and so precious to the persecuted German Catholics of the Soviet Union.
Seemingly like the little boy in the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, the bishop now feels compelled to speak out and he cannot understand why others do not do the same. “It seems that the majority of the clergy and the bishops are content with this modern use of Communion in hand… For me this is incredible. How is this possible, when Jesus is present in the little Hosts?”
He continued: “There is the grievous fact of the loss of the Eucharistic fragments. And the fragments of the consecrated Host are crushed by feet. This is horrible! Our God, in our churches, is trampled by feet!”
Bishop Schneider admitted that he is “very sad that I am feeling myself as one who is shouting in the desert”.
He said: “It is time that the bishops raise their voices for the Eucharistic Jesus who has no voice to defend himself. Here is an attack on the Most Holy, an attack on the Eucharistic faith.”
But despite his concerns, Bishop Schneider is not pessimistic and believes that there is already a groundswell of support for traditional values that will, in time, renew the Church: “Little ones in the Church have been let down and neglected,” he said. “[But] they have kept the purity of their faith and they represent the true power of the Church in the eyes of God and not those who are in administration.
“I spoke with young students in Oxford and I was so much impressed by these students. I was so glad to see their purity of faith and their convictions, and the clear Catholic mind. This will renew the Church. So I am confident and hopeful also in respect of this crisis in the Church. The Holy Ghost will win this crisis with this little army.”
He added: “I am not worried about the future. The Church is Christ’s Church and He is the real head of the Church, the Pope is only the vicar of Christ. The soul of the Church is the Holy Spirit and He is powerful.”
Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s book Dominus Est: It is the Lord! is published by Newman House Press. His work Corpus Christi: Holy Communion and the Renewal of the Church, is published by Lumen Fidei Press