LONDON – The Catholic Church is living through a “great crisis” of belief and practice, facing a “new paganism” comparable to the first centuries of the Church, and in which many priests and bishops are actively collaborating, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, auxiliary bishop of Astana in Kazakhstan, said in an interview during a trip to the UK.

The bishop said the crisis has particularly manifested itself in the erosion of belief in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, which he says has a “causal connection” to the denial of the Church’s teachings on sex and marriage. 

“This is the deepest evil,” says Schneider, “man, or the clergy, putting themselves in the centre when they are celebrating liturgy and when they change the revealed truth of God, for instance, concerning the Sixth Commandment and human sexuality.”

“The temptation today for the clergy is to adapt to the new world to the new paganism, to be collaborationists," said the bishop.

The bishop’s interview was conducted by Sarah Atkinson and published June 6 in the Catholic Herald. Atkinson is also editor of Mass of Ages, the magazine published by the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, which published the full transcript.

“We are living in an un-Christian society, in a new paganism,” Schneider told Atkinson. “The temptation today for the clergy is to adapt to the new world to the new paganism, to be collaborationists. We are in a similar situation to the first centuries, when the majority of the society was pagan, and Christianity was discriminated against.”

He warned that Christians will likely be faced again with the choice of apostasy, offered to those in the early Church, to pinch “one grain of incense into a fire in front of the statue of the emperor.” This ultimatum may even be supported from within the Church.

It seems possible that Catholics who remain faithful “may, for a time, be persecuted or discriminated even on behalf of those who [have] power in the exterior structures of the Church,” he said.

“Unfortunately there were in the first century members of the clergy and even bishops who put grains of incense in front of the statue of the Emperor or of a pagan idol or who delivered the books of the Holy Scripture to be burned.”

In our times, he said, clergy and bishops are not being asked to pinch incense to the emperor, but “to collaborate with the pagan world today in this dissolution of the Sixth Commandment and in the revision of the way God created man and woman.” These clergy, he said, would be “traitors of the Faith; they are participating ultimately in pagan sacrifice.”

Asked whether he foresaw “a split coming in the Church,” he responded, “Unfortunately, for some decades some clergy have accepted these ideas of the world. Now however they are following them publicly.”

“When these things continue, I think, there will be an interior split in the Church of those who are faithful to the faith of their baptism and of the integrity of the Catholic faith.” This split, he said, will be between those who remain faithful “to the unchangeable Catholic truth” and those “who are assuming the spirit of this world and there will be a clear split, I think.”

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“I can presume that such a separation will affect each level of the Catholics: lay people and even not excluding the high clergy.”

Bishop Schneider had particularly strong words for the prelates supporting the proposal by Cardinal Walter Kasper to admit divorced and remarried Catholics to Communion “after a period of penance.” These, he said, “operate with a false concept of mercy.” He compared it to a doctor prescribing sugar for a diabetic “although he knows it will kill him. But the soul is more important than the body.”

“If the bishops admit the divorced and remarried to Holy Communion, then they are confirming them in their errors in the sight of God. They will even close down the voice of their conscience. They will push them more into the irregular situation only for the sake of this temporal life, forgetting that after this life, though, there is the judgment of God.”

“I hope the majority of the bishops [at the Synod] still have so much Catholic spirit and faith that they will reject the above mentioned proposal and not accept this.”

“I think this issue of the reception of Holy Communion by the remarried will blow up and show the real crisis in the Church,” said Schneider.

“The real crisis of the Church is anthropocentrism, forgetting the Christocentrism.”  It comes “when we place ourselves, including the priests, at the centre and when God is put in the corner and this is happening also materially.”

“Our first duty as human beings is to adore God, not us, but Him. Unfortunately, the liturgical practice of the last 40 years has been very anthropocentric,” he said.

“The gates of the hell, i.e. of the heresy,” he said, will ultimately be defeated by “the Supreme Magisterium” of the Church, which “will surely issue an unequivocal doctrinal statement, rejecting any collaboration with the neo-pagan ideas of changing e.g. the Sixth Commandment of God, the meaning of sexuality and of family.” Those who have opposed the true teaching of the Church, he added, would then leave and no longer call themselves Catholic.

He said that he was encouraged by the “purity” of the faith of some of the Catholic students he addressed at Oxford University on his trip, saying that these “little ones” of the Church, though they have been “let down and neglected” are the ones who have the “real power” granted to them by Christ Himself.

“I am not worried about the future,” he said. “The soul of the Church is the Holy Spirit and He is powerful. However we are now experiencing a deep crisis in the Church as it happened several times in two thousand years.”

“We will see the rising of a renewed Church,” he predicted. “This is already preparing. Then this liberal clerical edifice will crash down because they have roots and no fruits.”