ROME, May 27, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – As the battle for the very soul of the family and all its members intensifies around the world with the push for sexual anarchy veiled as “education,” the undermining of what is truly masculine and feminine in the name of “gender rights,” and the destruction of marriage masquerading as “equality,” a spiritual leader who has suffered under the terror of a communist regime has laid out a survival plan for Catholic parents who find themselves in a secular, relativistic, and hostile environment but who simply want to raise their children to become future citizens of heaven.
Bishop Athanasius Schneider of Kazakhstan told LifeSiteNews in an exclusive interview earlier this month that Catholic parents must take seriously their “first duty” of raising their children in the faith if their children are to overcome the negative and even hostile influences that are pressing in from all sides and seeking to destroy.
In a wide-ranging interview that covered his experience as a Catholic boy growing up under communism, his thoughts on what it means to be a Catholic family today, his thoughts on education, bad parishes and dioceses run by agenda-driven priests and bishops, as well as his views on how faithful laity should address concerns about Pope Francis, the bishop laid out twelve steps that he said Catholic parents must take to safeguard their families and their children.
Bishop Schneider said that to survive in a heretical wasteland, Catholic parents must:
- See persecution as a grace from God for becoming purified and strengthened, not simply as something negative.
- Become rooted yourself in the Catholic faith through study of the Catechism.
- Protect your family’s integrity above all else.
- Catechize your children as your first duty.
- Pray with your children daily, such as litanies and the Rosary.
- Turn your home into a domestic church.
- In the absence of a priest and Sunday Mass, make spiritual communion.
- Withdraw your family from a parish spreading error and attend a faithful parish, even if you have to travel far.
- Withdraw your children from school if they are encountering immoral danger in sex-ed.
- If you cannot withdraw your children, establish a coalition of parents to fight for that right.
- Fight for parental rights using available democratic tools.
- Be prepared for persecution in protecting your children (see first point).
The bishop said that being a Catholic “family” in the truest sense of the word is the key to survival.
“From my experience of the time of the persecution, the vital importance is the family, the integrity of the family, and that both parents are deeply rooted in the faith. This is then transmitted to the children. I would like to say that the children have to receive the faith with the milk of the mother. And then the first task of the parents is to transmit to the children the purity, the beauty, the integrity of the Catholic faith in a simple manner.”
He said that parents need to rise up to the responsibility of creating an environment within the home where children can flourish spiritually.
“I think this is today the main task for families: To establish a culture of domestic churches,” he said.
If children are being poisoned outside the home, such as in school, through hedonistic and nihilistic sex-education programs, then parents have the “obligation” to withdraw their children.
“You cannot expose your children to an immoral danger. It is impossible. Catholic parents, in defending their children from this immorality, have to be even ready to suffer, yes, to suffer consequences,” Bishop Schneider said. If a country’s laws make it impossible for withdrawal, he added, then parents should band together and fight for the right using whatever democratic means are available.
If children are being poisoned from the pulpit, the same logic applies and parents must find a faithful parish, he said, calling unfaithful priests and bishops “traitors of the faith.”
“When pastors or members of the hierarchy contradict the teaching of Christ, the teaching of the perpetual Magisterium of the Church, of the Catechism, you have to withdraw your children from these churches, and not to go to them, even if you have to travel 100 km [to a faithful church].”
Bishop Schneider recounted how his parents were overjoyed to move to a location in the Soviet Union where there was a Catholic Church within 100 kilometers.
“I think that in the Western world, in the United States, you will find a Church maybe closer than 100 kilometers where there may be a good priest. So, avoid these churches [where error is preached]. [Such places] are destroying the faith of the people. These churches are destroying. We have to avoid them. [Such people] are traitors of the faith, even when they have the title of priest or bishop,” he said.
The bishop went on to give advice regarding how faithful Catholics, who love the Pope and do not wish to harm the papacy, might express themselves in raising concerns about Pope Francis.
The Church is not run like a “dictatorship” where no one can “contradict the dictator,” he said, adding that the Holy Father is “our father” and Catholics must not be afraid to voice their cares and concerns to him over his governance of the Church.
He ended the interview offering LifeSiteNews and its supporters his blessing. “God bless you and continue your holy and very precious work for family and marriage and for the Gospel and the Church,” he said.
Bishop Athanasius Schneider’s interview with LifeSiteNews
LifeSiteNews: Catholic families today are experiencing a type of persecution. How did your family deal with persecution while living under a communist regime?
Bishop Athanasius Schneider: I would say that I had the privilege to live in a time of persecution of the faith and of the Church, because such persecution gives you a foundation for all your life. It is a grace. And therefore, in some way, I would not characterize the time of persecution always negatively. God uses these circumstances of persecution in several degrees for our [good], to purify our faith, to strengthen our faith. So, in this way, I would see the persecution [coming] from the modern society — as you [mentioned], against the family — also as a chance to be purified, to be strengthened.
From my experience of the time of the persecution, the vital importance is the family, the integrity of the family, and that both parents are deeply rooted in the faith. This is then transmitted to the children. I would like to say that the children have to receive the faith with the milk of the mother. And then the first task of the parents is to transmit to the children the purity, the beauty, the integrity of the Catholic faith in a simple manner.
First, I think that it is important that the mother or father themselves give the children in the family, in the house, the first catechism; not in the school or in the parish, but in the family. This does not exclude that there is still — in an additional way — the catechism in the parish, of course. But, first in the family. Secondly, that parents have to pray in their family with their children, daily. This was my experience. We prayed daily together. In the morning, and in the evening, but not so much, but at least we prayed together.
LifeSiteNews: How old were you when this happened?
Bishop Athanasius Schneider: I was about 12. It is very fresh in my memory. For example, when on Sundays, when there were no priests — we had sometimes some years when there were no priests because the priests were in the prisons — they came to us very secretly. I remember these secret visits of the priests. It was such a feast. But we had to be very quiet because it was all controlled by secret services. Therefore our parents said to us, ‘Be quiet, don't laugh, don't cry, don't shout.’
It was a very reverent situation when the priest came. First he made confession available to the people, all [of them], even sometimes all [throughout] the night. And then there was the Holy Mass so reverently [said]. It was really unforgettable. I remember these moments.
We lived in a society where atheism, under the Communist regime, was spread in the public life, in the schools. But thanks to [the fact] that we were rooted in the family, in prayer and in the Faith, this did not infect us. We even had a lesson in the school, for example, with the title, ‘Scientific atheism.’ Our parents, as we were children, said it to us, ‘You hear these words in one ear and it should go out the other ear. Don't be attentive to this.’ And so, we obeyed our parents. Sometimes we had to be prudent not to make a provocation, to be prudent.
I think this is today the main task for families: To establish a culture of domestic churches.
The other aspect that my parents taught us children [is that outside the home, people] would know that we are Christians. [My parents would say,] ‘They know. And therefore, you have to behave yourself better than those who are unbelievers.’ Today we have to educate our children and the young people with this aspect.
LifeSiteNews: How did your family deal with not being able to attend Sunday mass?
Bishop Athanasius Schneider: On Sundays, we gathered in the room, we knelt down — parents and we four children — and we prayed simple prayers such as the Rosary, litanies, and we made spiritual communion. And I am sure Our Lord visited our souls with the graces of Holy Communion.
LifeSiteNews: You mentioned the role of parents in educating their children. This is an important issue for parents in the West due to the onslaught of sex education in schools which is imposed upon children, whether parents like it or not. How should parents respond?
Bishop Athanasius Schneider: Of course, [education] is the first duty of parents. When their children are taught in the school in an immoral way, they have to withdraw the children. This is their obligation. You cannot expose your children to an immoral danger. It is impossible. Catholic parents, in defending their children from this immorality, have to be even ready to suffer, yes, to suffer consequences.
LifeSiteNews: What should parents do in countries where it is illegal for them to withdraw their children from school?
Bishop Athanasius Schneider: This is a very delicate issue, but in this case the Catholic parents have to form a kind of league, an association — nationwide — [so that they can] be strong. [They must] have lawyers and defend themselves with the means of a democracy. I think it important to establish a coalition of parents in this specific aspect of sexual education to [secure] the right to withdraw their children.
LifeSiteNews: What should Catholic parents do when they encounter a priest in a parish, or even a bishop, with an agenda to advance teaching contrary to the faith?
Bishop Athanasius Schneider: The parents have to know very well their Catholic faith. They have to study very well the catechism, because the catechism is unchangeable – that is, the truths [found within the catechism]. [They have to] study the catechism of their parents and grandparents, which is very simple and clear. This is the voice of Christ and of the Church of all times. [They must do this] to be rooted very firmly in the Catholic faith. Then, when pastors or members of the hierarchy contradict the teaching of Christ, the teaching of the perpetual Magisterium of the Church, of the Catechism, you have to withdraw your children from these churches, and not to go to them, even if you have to travel 100 km [to a faithful church].
When we lived in the Soviet Union — thanks be to God in another place, in Estonia — there we had a Catholic Church and a priest 100 km [away]. And our parents said, ‘Oh, we are so lucky. It is so close to us. In 100 km, a church! We lived in [our town] many years without a priest and without mass. Now we have [to go only] 100 km. What a happiness.’
I think that in the Western world, in the United States, you will find a Church maybe closer than 100 km where there may be a good priest. So, avoid these churches [where error is preached]. [Such places] are destroying the faith of the people. These churches are destroying. We have to avoid them. [Such people] are traitors of the faith, even when they have the title of priest or bishop.
LifeSiteNews: Should faithful Catholics, who love the pope and do not wish to harm the papacy, express themselves regarding concerns over statements made by Pope Francis that do not seem to line up with Catholic teaching. Or, would it be better for them to remain silent?
Bishop Athanasius Schneider: In the Church, we are not living in a dictatorship. In a dictatorship, we do not have the courage to contradict the dictator. But when, in the Church, we arrive at a situation where faithful priests and bishops are fearful to say anything, like in a dictatorship, this is not Church. This is not the Church of dialogue, of collegiality, of family. No. In a family, there has to be the possibility of exchange your [views].
And sometimes, good parents even allow their children, when they are growing, express themselves. Why not? A good father will accept when his elder son says, ‘Father, this is not so correct.’ Sometimes it happens.
And so, the Holy Father is our father. And when he says to these groups, ‘You must not speak all the time about these [things]’ you can say with all reverence, ‘Holy Father, this is an unjust accusation to us. We are unjustly accused. It is not the case that we speak every time, and all the time, about this. We don't speak on this all the time. We speak on the Gospel, we speak about family life, we speak about prayer. So, your judgment, it is unjust to us. Your accusation is unjust. And permit us, in some way, to defend ourselves, and hear our voice.’