I don’t know. I think Charlotte is missing an important point about the Catholic Church; its belief system is driven by the underlying assumption that it can do no wrong. Most Catholics believe that actions of the institutional church are guided by the Holy Spirit. While there are differing interpretations of what is meant by “guided,” that underlying assumption is quite universal in the Universal Church.
Such an underlying assumption does not leave much room for compromise in doctrinal discussions. Thus, major changes in the Roman Catholic Church have often been driven by schismatics.
I would argue that the Catholic Church is already in the midst of a schism. One of the earliest schisms, and certainly the one with which we are most familiar, is the Protestant Reformation. This schism started in 1517 with Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses and probably did not end until around 1750.
That’s over 200 years!
Schisms in the church are brought about by doctrinal issues. Vatican II introduced the possibility of orderly doctrinal change within the Catholic Church that many conservative Catholics and Catholic leaders disagreed with. The struggle within the church following Vatican II remained well hidden for many years and really came to light during the Papacy of Benedict XVI. However, during the period from Vatican II to the end of the century, the church leadership systematically reversed the thinking that came out of Vatican II.
Why do I assert that a schism has begun?
1. Conservative priests have been promoted to bishop. Beginning with Paul VI and ending with Benedict XVI, the conservative movement within the church began to systematically dissemble the structures put in place by Vatican II by changing the church’s leadership. More recently, this new leadership began to act. The language of worship – changed by Vatican II from Latin to the language spoken by the people – was “re-translated” from Latin texts. I cannot speak for all translations but the English translation of the Mass text is an abomination that takes the church back to pre-Vatican II times. Since 1970, the Society of St. Pius X has celebrated only the Tridentine Mass and opposed other tenants of Vatican II. Originally excommunicated, Pope Benedict lifted that excommunication edict. At the same time, the Tridentine Mass – complete with an array of grand vestments and the original Latin text – was being encouraged.
2. Secrecy within the hierarchy – enforced by Canon Law, increased. This cult of secrecy increased opportunities for the abuse of power and encouraged such abuses to be covered up. The sexual abuse cover-up comes to mind. Issues with the Vatican Bank also come to mind. Eight dioceses in this country have filed for bankruptcy in order to protect themselves from abuse cover-up lawsuits and others, like the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul, are close. Even now, some members of the hierarchy are beginning to push back against this veil of secrecy.
3. In 2002, a male validly ordained and appointed Bishop of the Catholic Church ordained seven women into the priesthood. This was the beginning of the Roman Catholic Womenpriests Movement, which is growing and continues today – even here in Winona.
4. The recently completed session of the synod uncovered major differences in the thinking of those in attendance regarding marriage, family, birth control, homosexual relationships, etc. Pope Francis encouraged free and open discussion of these difficult issues of doctrine and practice – and that underlying assumption has certainly been getting in the way. At least one Cardinal, Raymond Burke (at one time the Bishop of La Crosse) has openly opposed the Pope’s leadership style and has been demoted by Pope Francis from his position as head of the Vatican’s highest court to a largely ceremonial position as patron of the Knights of Malta.
Yes, all of the elements for a schism are present. A schism is happening before our very eyes. It may not end for another hundred years – but it’s beginning now.
Published in the Winona Daily News on Sunday, November 30, 2014