ROME, November 21, 2013 (LifeSiteNews.com) – After a childhood spent under the Soviet regime, Bishop Athanasius Schneider knows better than most where abortion, homosexual activism, and the rest of the woes of the Western world have come from.

In this month’s edition of Notizie ProLife Bishop Schneider, who was born in Tokmok, Kirghiz SSR in the Soviet Union, frankly identified widespread abortion with “atheist and materialistic Marxist ideology,” pointing to this as the cause of the high rates of abortion in the former Soviet state of Kazakhstan.

“As we know,” he said, “the Soviet Union was the the first state in the history of humanity that legalized the killing of unborn children, the logical result of Marxism and materialism,” he told Notizie ProLife’s editor Antonio Brandi. “But speaking with women who have had an abortion, you can nevertheless find a deep remorse of conscience. What is clear [from this] is the demonstration of the truth: you can’t suppress or kill the natural law, which God the creator has inscribed in human nature itself.”

As auxiliary bishop of the tiny archdiocese of Maria Santissima in Astana, Kazakhstan, a place most people have never heard of, Bishop Schneider is acquiring a disproportionate repuration as a defender of the rights of Christians around the world under threat from a radicalised Islam on one hand, and the growth of what Pope Benedict XVI called an increasingly “aggressive secularism” on the other.

He called the attempts by EU institutions to force member states to accept abortion, “evidence of the existence of anti-democratic structures” left over from the totalitarian ideologies of the 20th century. “We see a real danger of loss of full sovereignty of European countries, the national, cultural, moral and religious values of the European peoples,” he said. “There is a danger of losing all of these human and spiritual riches that the Christian faith has produced on the European continent during 2,000 years.”

He urged Christians “to defend against a new totalitarian system that imposes a single ideological social model, marginalizing the real social and human values of natural law and of the Christian faith.”

“We live in a time of course hostile to everything that is linked with God and his revelation in Christ and his Holy Church.”

Interviewed during one of his frequent trips to Rome earlier this month, Bishop Schneider spoke of an “all-encompassing ideology” that “has stifled the voice of conscience in the souls of many people who continue to practice abortion in former Soviet countries in a frightening way, as a simple means of contraception.”

He warned that Kazakhstan needed steadfastly to maintain its sovereignty in order to keep its people’s dedication to the Natural Law, and “independence from ideological pressure” favoring the “ideology of ‘gender’” that has become such a feature of the European Union and the United Nations.

He is, however, hopeful that the pressure from the West will not triumph, saying that among “the peoples of the East, Natural Law on sex and marriage between man and woman is so deeply rooted that the homosexualist ideology will not have a real or substantial chance, unless the State impose a dictatorship with violence or with threats of new types of the concentration camps, ‘the gulag’.”

Kazakhstan, a small former Soviet satellite state wedged between the Caspian Sea, the southern border of Russia and the extreme western end of China, is home to an array of ethnicities and religious groups, but is predominantly Islamic (70.2 percent). The next-largest minority group is Russian who are mostly Orthodox, with a small number of Ukranians and Germans; of these, only a tiny fraction are Catholics (Russian Orthodox 23.9 percent, “other Christian” 2.3 percent).

“Kazakhstan is not formally a Muslim country, but, as they say, a secular country,” Bishop Schneider said. “The Muslim region religion hasn’t the force required to influence a change from a materialistic inheritance so deeply rooted in society.”

He confirmed that abortion is often available in his country “on demand” and is recommended by doctors based on “pseudo-scientific pretences” and “with threats.”

“All this is a mirror of materialistic mentality of the past and the new hedonistic mentality imported from the West,” he said.

He called the pro-life and family movement in his country small but effective, saying what is important “is that you save a life …since before the eyes of God one soul is like an entire world”.

Bishop Schneider’s reputation as a champion of the Church’s liturgical traditions was established by his book, Dominus est, (“This is the Lord”) defending the traditional manner of receiving Holy Communion at Mass – that is, with the communicant kneeling and the host placed directly on the tongue. Since its publication in 2008, the book has acquired what might be described as a “cult” following, having been translated from the original Italian into English, German, Estonian, Lithuanian, Polish, Hungarian, and Chinese.

His reputation for outspokenness on doctrinal orthodoxy was equally well established in 2010 when, at a theological conference in Rome, he said the Church needs “a new Syllabus,” to correct what he called the erroneous interpretations of the Second Vatican Council.

“There is need for a new Syllabus,” he said, “this time directed not so much against errors coming from outside the Church, but against errors spread within the Church on the part of those who maintain a thesis of discontinuity and rupture with its doctrinal, liturgical, and pastoral application. Such a Syllabus would consist of two parts: a part marking errors and a positive part with propositions of doctrinal clarification, completion, and precision.”

The reference was to a famous document, usually called the “Syllabus of Errors,” condemning the “errors of Modernism,” published by Pope Pius IX in 1864, that has been widely reviled as “authoritarian” by the “progressive” wing of modern theologians and prelates.  

Bishop Schneider lamented that “many Catholics in Europe are shy and doubtful about [defending] life and often do not have the courage to take a stand.”

“The abortion issue is first and foremost a matter of natural law, inscribed by God in the soul of every man: ‘killing is wrong’ and even worse is killing an innocent person.” This law is included by God in the 10 Commandments, and no believers may have “the slightest doubt about the immorality of any kind of abortion.”

“Unfortunately the spirit of this world, the spirit of doctrinal and moral relativism is also entered in the sphere of the life of the Church and in the life of Catholics,” he said.

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But he also cautioned against despair, saying that the current situation “also provides a privileged means to boldly confess God’s law and the Catholic faith.”

“This time reveals more clearly that we are here on earth the ‘Church Militant’. We are all called, each in his place, and according to his ability to be a ‘miles Christi,’ [soldier of Christ] a ‘confessor Christi,’ and this is to be a true disciple of Christ.”

“We are increasingly living with the belief that Christ is the only winner, and we belong to the winner’s party,” he added.