Thursday, November 6, 2014


Is Pope Francis fomenting schism?
I think all this talk about schism is simply being stirred up by bloggers and those who know how to get the media going. Just as there was the Second Vatican Council of the Media, the recent Synod on the Family of the Media, there is now the Schism in the Catholic Church of the Media. It is all media making due in large part to the new media, instant information and unfiltered, out-of-context remarks and others who say what the pope said but with their own twist.

Here is Crux's article which you can read in full by pressing the tittle below:

Pope Francis has conservatives talking schism. Easier said than done.

However David Gibson gets the first paragraph entirely wrong: 

Many conservative Catholics have long viewed Pope Francis with suspicion thanks to his effort to shift the Church’s focus away from a culture war agenda and toward a more welcoming approach and a greater emphasis on serving the poor.

I actually think that if Pope Francis had worn the mozzetta, kept the other trappings of the monarchical or regal (regal is a better term I think) papacy and did not immediately undo all that Benedict did for the papacy and liturgy that most conservatives would not have been or would not now be as offended as they are by the blah look of his papacy and what they perceive as loose language and confusion coming from the Holy Father. But I could be wrong.

But this pope is ideological about what popes and bishops should wear if it looks princely or peacocky, and he isn't above name-calling. Wouldn't it be better for the Holy Father to be more discreet with the peacock bishops by a letter or some other type of private communication. Doesn't his name-calling divide bishops and bring division to the Church with those who don't like seeing the papacy becoming so pedestrian?

For my part, I think the culture war project of some bishops in the USA was a bit wrong headed and I have never liked bishops or priests calling out in a public way particular individuals for humiliation. It just isn't right. Bishops should meet with politicians and not make public their remarks. It is untoward. However, bishops should in no uncertain terms make clear the public teachings of the Church. 
Conservatives, at least this one, has no problem inviting all kinds of people to Mass. However, if an atheist joins our RCIA and then doesn't not want to profess his faith in Christ or the Church Jesus founded, then he should not be admitted to the Sacraments of Initiation. That is a pastoral decision based upon common sense and what the rites of the Church indicate. The same is true of someone who belongs to the KKK. They have to renounce this organization and its ideology. Would one not also say that a homosexual who is actively living an unchaste life should also renounce that lifestyle before becoming Catholic and being admitted to the Sacraments?

It is a bit more problematic with homosexuals or heterosexuals living in a "marital-like" union, committed and monogamous. Do we admit them to the sacraments without a clear decision to change course and renounce even that stable lifestyle. Does everyone have to become Catholic? Should we bend over backwards to accommodate sinful lifestyles and fail to call it what it is?

I have a solution though. These kinds of people could be admitted to the Order of Cathecumens or Candidates if baptized and remain in this formal relationship with the Church. They can register in the parish, participate in the Mass and the life of the parish, but they don't receive any sacraments until a true conversion takes place. That is still welcoming unrepentant sinners but makes clear they can't receive the sacraments until they repent!

I have always said that conservatives are more organized and passionate about their beliefs than liberals are. Liberals are disorganized and not unified even in their liberality. Few bishops would go into schism with them.

Catholic bishops who are ultra-conservative might indeed lead a schism. Archbishop Lefebrve did and while it might not yet be a classic schism, the SSPX walks and talks like a schismatic duck. 

For my part, I remain with St. Peter and his successor and let the Holy Spirit over the course of time and salvation history deal with the anomalies of the Episcopate, to include the Bishop of Rome, as well as those of the lower clergy and the laity!

It is all about Faith in God and God providing for His Holy Church in God's time, not mine!


Gene said...

I do not believe there will be a "schism" in the historically understood sense, with a second Pope in Omaha, Kansas City, or Geneva (although that would certainly be interesting!). There will just be more and more devout Catholics drifting toward the SSPX or, even more likely, drifting toward Churches like St. Jo's or to FSSP Churches for the True Mass. Rome will become pretty much insignificant for them and their faith and worship will be centered upon the TLM, as it should be…unless…
there are significant changes in doctrine, such as accepting homosexual relationships or openly blessing homosexuality through certain attitudes and actions, watering down teachings on adultery and marriage, or changing the policy towards birth control. In that case, you may see a true schism, or at least, a huge exodus of the devout from the Church. The only place for them to go is to SSPX, unless they want to go East, which has its own set of theological/doctrinal problems. A real mess.

Anonymous said...

"For my part I remain with St. Peter....."

If Francis held heretical beliefs in his heart, then he was never validly canonically elected. That means he was never pope. That's the teaching of the saints and the Church.

I am not leaving the Church but I sure as hell am not listening or obeying some heretic who calls himself a pope yet speaks like the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Marc said...

I detect no theological or doctrinal problems in the East, Gene. But I am aware of your disagreements with me on that.

Anonymous's comment should indicate just how crazy the whole situation is for the modern Roman Catholic Church. I am firmly convinced that the idea of "the papacy" is the cause, and I think Dostoevsky summed up the connections well in his writings on how the papacy leads to socialism and atheism.

John said...

Ditto for me ANON 8:13

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: "If Francis held heretical beliefs in his heart, then he was never validly canonically elected."

Why would you think that a valid pope cannot hold heretical personal beliefs? A pope wears no mantle of personal infallibility. He is protected from error only when he defines solemnly what the Church has always believed (explicitly or implicitly). Nor is he protected from doing great damage to Church and Faith by his official actions.

JusadBellum said...

Yes, the fear of technical schism is not that the Church would split as in 1054, but that great swaths of the 23% who actually go to Mass will stop caring what the Pope has to say and that will deeply wound the already hurt Papacy (thanks to the preceding 40 years of dissent from Papal authority occasioned by the sexual revolution, contraception etc.

There is simply no conservative analogue to the liberals signing full page ads in the NYT declaring their intent to dissent from Humane Vitae. They publicly declared their intent to disobey the Church and.....nothing happened to them at all.

They weren't excommunicated. They weren't reprimanded. No one got fired from Church employment. Nothing.

I suspect if conservatives did this the hammer would drop quickly and the purge would spread all in the name of being open minded and nonjudgmental of course.

Nothing is more radical than conservatism and nothing more conventional (as reflecting the historical norm) than so-called "liberal progressives".

George said...


" I am firmly convinced that the idea of "the papacy" is the cause, and I think Dostoevsky summed up the connections well in his writings on how the papacy leads to socialism and atheism."

The first part of your statement certainly speaks to an Eastern Orthodox perspective. Is it the theological differences,or the papacy itself which is the greatest impediment to unity with Rome? As far as the problem with theological differences, I agree with Gene. Certainly, their view that the Immaculate Conception was unnecessary (the necessity for it being proclaimed dogma for us) is a big one. There was no problem with the filioque until the Pope inserted it into the Creed which again highlights the real impediment for the EO and that is having a central unifying authority on faith and morals. Although today there are concerns among some today about the current occupant of the Chair of Peter, for 2000 years the Holy Spirit has kept the Church free from proclaiming error.As far as he second part of your statement, how does that explain the rise in atheism in those parts of the world (Russia, China) where the papacy had little or no influence? Or the rise in socialism in Protestant Northern Europe? Or the rise in socialism, or quasi socialism in Southern Europe and the Americas as the influence of the Church in those areas waned?

Gene said...

Marc, I have not read those comments of Dostoevsky, but the idea that the concept of the Papacy leads to socialism and atheism bears discussing…either on this blog or by you and me in email.

Jdj said...

Exactly so, Jusad!
Again, I was in college in NYC during that pivotal 1968-69 time period and remember the NYTimes full-page ads. The radical theologians went nuts. The schism was flagrant, but even given that, a lot of us didn't foresee the huge changes coming post-VatII.
And, again, it all coincided with the Columbia University anti-war protesting/"riots" to create the perfect storm of disobedience. In that part of the country, disobedience (both religious and civil) was not only accepted but considered almost the in-thing to do.

Marc said...

George, I'd like to write a longer reply to you right now, bit i have a work event tonight. For purposes of furthering the discussion, here's what Dostoevsky says:

“That is where atheism comes from, from Catholicism. Atheism began in the first place with the Roman Catholics themselves: could they ever have taken themselves seriously? It took root through the abhorrence people felt for them … Rome has proclaimed a Christ who has fallen for Satan’s third temptation … It has proclaimed that Christ cannot reign without an earthly Kingdom. It is as if Catholicism had proclaimed the Antichrist, and that is what has destroyed the West. The pope has seized territory, sitting on an earthly throne and with a sword in his hand. Nothing has changed; there are only more lies, deceit, fanaticism … They have manipulated the people’s honest, most just, most pure, most ardent feelings. They have betrayed everything for worthless earthly power. Is this not a teaching of the Antichrist? Atheism was inevitable after this … and socialism is the offspring and essence of Catholicism. Atheism, its brother, came from disappointment, usurping the lost moral authority of religion to save humanity, not through Christ but by force. Socialism is also freedom through force and union through blood and the sword … In the West there is no Church at all, only clergy and magnificent church architecture. Denominations try to aspire to the virtues of the state that swallows them up. This is what I think has happened to the Lutheran countries. But in Rome the state replaced the Church a thousand years ago….”

Православный физик said...

If the Pope (or any Bishop) for that matter leads the path to hell, I will not follow...but that does not mean that I (or anyone else) would leave the Church over it.

George said...

Some of my nights are take up as well and my days with my regular work schedule.
Dostoevsky's remarks on the papacy?
Why am I not surprised that someone raised as an Orthodox would say these kind of things. Of course from what little I've read of him he later in his life tended toward deism.

Anonymous said...

It can’t be more unconvincing then when a 19th century Russian Orthodox writes about the Catholic Church selling out to socialism when it was exactly the reverse. What would he have written had he lived past 1917? The truth would have made his words a little more difficult to put on paper- maybe? And if he’d lived past 1989 he would’ve seen that the Eastern bloc countries that had strong Catholic faithful (A Polish Pope comes to mind) were the first to cause trouble for the Soviet Union. He would have also witnessed an Orthodox clergy that allowed itself to be ruled by the Soviet state as it had in Tsarist time. Sorry, Dostoevsky is a great author but his objectivity when it comes to religious history is the same old Orthodox distortion that has been around for 1000 years. I think it’s likely that he wrote the words you cite just as many of his contemporaries also attacked the Catholics to please the state that he claimed had no influence upon the autonomous Orthodox Church. Even today we see the remnants of communism alive and well in Ukraine and Russian but much less so in the Eastern bloc Catholic nations. Why?

Marc said...

George, you asked what are the impediments to Orthodox and Roman Catholic reunion. I'm no expert, but I have some observations based on my research and time with both groups. Clearly, the papacy is a major problem no matter what perspective one takes. I really don't think that one could be resolved absent a mass conversion of Roman clergy to Orthodoxy because if the pope were to renounce his infallibility, that renunciation would probably not be considered infallible. It's a logical conundrum. Keep in mind, too, that many Orthodox thinkers draw a clear line of reasoning from the erroneous and heretical filioque to the idea of papal supremacy. That doctrine itself is one that Rome cannot back away from because Roman councils have defined that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as from one principle--this is the heretical version of the filioque that was and is rejected (as opposed to the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father through the Son (that is, temporally), which is what was accepted as an accurate statement). In other words, I disagree with your assertion that the filioque was accepted until the pope inserted it into the creed.

So, I want to point out more practical theological problems that are not as obvious. You mention the infallible declaration of the Immaculate Conception. Taking that as a starting point, one would see that it is based on an inaccurate conception of original sin, as you noted. That misunderstanding of original sin also implicates soteriology generally, as well as the theology underlying the Mass, among other things. With just those things, a real practical issue arises with regard to approve Catholic apparitions. At Fatima, the apparition refers to herself as the Immaculate Conception and shows the children purgatory (a doctrine rejected by the Orthodox). Moreover, the apparition asks that the Russian Orthodox be converted to Roman Catholicism. It deals with obtaining indulgences, which are rejected (and indulgences deal with "merit," which is rejected). From the Orthodox perspective, this cannot be from God. But, it is a major event in Catholic life of the last century. Are Catholics likely to view this as many Orthodox do--as a demonic event meant to mislead people?

The same sort of problem arises with many post-schism Western saints--some are viewed very skeptically by some Orthodox and some are considered simply delusional.

You might also consider the different understanding of ecclesiology. Every Orthodox would disagree with your usage of "the Chair of Peter" as applying only to the bishop of Rome, for example. Every bishop sits on the chair of St. Peter, whether he is the bishop of Rome or the bishop of Atlanta. This was the patristic understanding and it is maintained. So, there is no need for a "vicar of Christ" as "a central unifying authority on faith and morals." The Holy Trinity is the central unifying authority in the Church--he has not abandoned the Church. The Orthodox Church is united on issues of faith and morals.

George said...

The Blessed Virgin explicitly called herself the "Immaculate Conception" at Lourdes, not Fatima. At Fatima she identified herself as "Our Lady of the Rosary".
A far as the filioque, it was my understanding from what I've read that it was not a problem prior to its insertion in the Creed but before that point it was a matter of theological difference of opinion. Many Eastern Orthodox bishops are coming to realize that there need not be a separation between our Churches on just this issue. There are differences in formulation among early Church fathers with some of them mirroring the Roman phrasing and others more the Orthodox one.
As far as"Roman councils have defined that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as from one principle--this is the heretical version of the filioque that was and is rejected"
Some early Church father who agree with the Roman Catholic position:
" must be confessed that the Father and the Son are the principle of the Holy Spirit, not two principles, but just as the Father and the Son are one God . . . relative to the Holy Spirit, they are one principle" (The Trinity 5:14:15 [A.D. 408]" and "Why, then, should we not believe that the Holy Spirit proceeds also from the Son, when he is the Spirit also of the Son? For if the Holy Spirit did not proceed from him, when he showed himself to his disciples after his resurrection he would not have breathed upon them, saying, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’ [John 20:22]. For what else did he signify by that breathing upon them except that the Holy Spirit proceeds also from him" (Homilies on John 99:8 [A.D. 416]).
Cyril of Alexandria:
"Since the Holy Spirit when he is in us effects our being conformed to God, and he actually proceeds from the Father and Son, it is abundantly clear that he is of the divine essence, in it in essence and proceeding from it,"
The Athanasian Creed:
"[W]e venerate one God in the Trinity, and the Trinity in oneness. The Holy Spirit is from the Father and the Son, not made nor created nor begotten, but proceeding" (Athanasian Creed [A.D. 400]).
As far as Original sin, I accept the Roman Catholic teaching .

Marc said...

George, thank you for your response and for having this interesting discussion. I apologize for my misstating which apparition said what.

Everyone agrees that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father (from all eternity) and from the Son (temporally). The separation now is a result of the Roman Catholic Church purporting to infallibly declare in a council that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both Father and Son as from one principle. Presumably, Rome cannot back off from this formulation given its "infallible" declaration. And the East cannot accept it because it is not correct.

Prior to the Great Schism of the 11th century when Rome formally added this to the Creed in the Liturgy, this was an issue. And it arose in an earlier, shorter lived schism. Prior to that, it wouldn't have been an issue because the East wouldn't have known that a local synod in Spain had added this. When it became an issue, though, it was partially for political reasons. Things got complicated, the West accused the East of heresy for failing to confess the filioque and claimed that the East had removed this from the Creed (despite the fact that earlier popes of Rome had emblazoned the creed onto gold plates without the filioque many centuries earlier). Anyway, it's rise has to do with Charlamagne and invaders coming into Rome, and I don't have the wherewithal to write about all of that!

You are correct that there were fathers who wrote about what would become the Roman Catholic filioque. The individual fathers are sometimes wrong, though. Another example is St. Gregory of Nyssa, who taught something close to universalism. He's still a saint, but he got that one wrong.

St. Augustine, whom you quote, is not held in the same esteem in the East as he is in the West. This is especially true because his ideas laid the ground work for misconceptions about original sin.

The Athanasian Creed (a) was not written by St. Athanasius, (b) is not an ancient conciliar creed, and (c) is not accepted in the East because of its erroneous Trinitarian formulations.

George said...

I had read that about the origin of the filioque and had forgotten all the details. It is involved. My point is that had it not been included in the Creed it would just been a "take it or leave it" theological dispute. Two other points. At Fatima, Our Lady showed the children Hell (not purgatory). Also, she did not ask that the Russian Orthodox be converted to Catholicism. In fact, this was something which puzzled those who heard this message. The October revolution had yet to occur in Russia and atheistic Communism would not take full control of that country until 1921. This was one of the aspects of Fatima that would lead to eventual Church approval.
That and the 'Miracle of the Sun" which providentially occurred in October of 1917. Anyone (I would think) who reads of the events of Lourdes and Fatima would conclude that something unusual occurred in both places. The seers were young, minimally educated poor peasant children (not adults) who would have been charaterized in the South as ignorant hillbillies. They were met with derision, ridicule and disbelief. In both places they were threatened with physical harm if they did not recant their stories. Read the "Fatima prayers" and think about those prayers originating from poor, minimally educated and catechized children. You need to read about these events in detail.

George said...

For the first one thousand years of Christendom, the Churches of the East were united to Rome although in a parallel development. Did they therefore being united to Rome accept its dogmas and doctrines, including Original Sin? If not, could they be said in actuality to have been united? If they did accept the teachings of the Roman Church on Original Sin then what was their reason to no longer accept that doctrine?

To me, because of the Sin of Adam, man had become corrupted both in his human nature and spiritually. There was a profound separation from God(original Sin) which could only be rectified through the redemptive Suffering and Death of the Son of God. This sin had to pass down from Adam to us, much as polluted waters flowing into clean waters. Could Adam beget children worthy of Paradise when because of his sin, it no longer existed? Yet can one have consequences and not also the sin itself? Sin and its consequences go together. Can one acquire the consequences of cancer because of genetic inheritance without also having in the body the the cancer itself?

Augustine reasoned that, if infants (being baptized) can be justified without their own activity through the second Adam (Christ) they can also become sinners without their consent, through the first Adam, and the parental activity of conception.

Marc said...

George, you are assuming that the current Roman doctrines having to do with Original Sin are the same as they were in the first millennium. This is not true. So, it was the West that changed, not the East. Augustine had a hand in this, but Anselm of Canterbury seems to have solidified the change in the West to an over reliance on juridical analogies.

Anyway, here's a link on Fatima that explains better than I can that subject from the Orthodox perspective:

George said...

The document you provided a link to is so full of misunderstanding of Catholic doctrine and Mariology and Fatima in particular.
It would be as if a Catholic of inadequate knowledge of the subject wrote a document critical of Hesychasm.

Marc said...

George, I happen to know a bit about Roman Catholic doctrine and "Mariology." Can you point to some specific information in that document that illustrates your assertion?

George said...

1 A Catholic is not required to believe in private revelations. The Church will and does investigate private revelations and either finds them worthy of belief(although not required of the faithful) or not worthy. St Margaret Mary can be said to be the apostle of the Sacred Heart. Catholics are required to recognize her as a saint but they are not required to believe in her revelations.The Church goes to great lengths to investigate apparitions. The Church has rejected most of the apparition and private revelations it has investigated. A well known case in point is the apparitions at Medugorje. In the intervening 30-plus years, successive bishops in the diocese there have ruled the claims to be groundless. When it comes to these things, the Church makes two two possible judgments: constat de supernaturalitate ("It is confirmed to be of supernatural origin") and non constat... ("It is not confirmed to be...")

2 The conversion of Russia. The author asserts "However, when one examines the events at Fatima in detail, it turns out that they were not primarily about Russia at all;" Who has said they were? It was puzzling that Russia was mentioned because at that time (1917) even people in Portugal considered that country to be Christian. Fatima was prophetic, not only in predicting a much greater Second World War ( WW1 would soon end) and when it would begin, but also the rise of atheistic Communism. The Blessed Virgin said that "Russia will spread its errors throughout the world, raising up wars and persecutions against the Church.' The Communists in Russia implemented all kinds of policies which worked against the family(including the legalization of abortion) Their errors have indeed spread throughout the world..

3 Marian titles. Mary does have many titles. Anyone who has recited the Litany of the Blessed Virgin knows that. What id the author's problem with that? She is not the only person to have more than one title. The fact that an Orthodox does not see the Mother of God as a point of unity between our Churches is very telling. One could write dissertation critiquing the author's lack of understanding of the Rosary.

There is a lot more that can be said.

Marc, you may know and understand Catholic Doctrine and Mariology but it is apparent to me that the author of the document does not.

Marc said...

George, I think your first point raises an interesting difference between Roman Catholics and the Orthodox. In the Roman Catholic Church, "Our Lady of Fatima" has a feast and is celebrated liturgically. So, it is strange that a Catholic could reject the revelation under that circumstance. In the Orthodox Church, the liturgy "is" is the faith in a certain sense--it conveys the faith. So, the idea of celebrating a feast for something that is optional is an alien thought.

As for the "Marian titles," of course the Orthodox Church serves all sorts of services having to do with the Theotokos and refers to her constantly during the Liturgy (which the Roman Carholics do not do). The issue, as presented here, is with certain titles that are theologically problematic. There is common ground, and there is divergence.

With regard to the Rosary, the Fathers reject the idea of using imagination in prayer because it can lead to prelest and delusion and is just problematic. It is that aspect of the Rosary that is the problem for the Orthodox.

Finally, I don't have much to say about Russia. I think I may have gathered something different from the article than you did on that score.

To be fair, there are many Orthodox writers that evince a misunderstanding of Roman Catholicism in some ways. This is true for Roman Catholics writing about Orthodoxy as well. It's just the way of things. For my part, I am glad you and I are able to have this very interesting dialogue with each other.

Marc said...

I want to say, also, that I don't find the article to misrepresent Roman Catholic doctrine in the same way you do, George. But, I take your word for any problems you notice with the representations of the Fatima event because I know little about it.

George said...

Marc: (one more)
The author cites the following from the apparitions:
“Will you suffer to obtain the conversion of sinners, to repair the blasphemies, as well as all the offenses committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary?
"Sacrifice yourselves for sinners, and say many times, especially when you make some sacrifice: O Jesus, it is for love of you,or the conversion of sinners, and in reparation for the sins commited against the Immaculate Heart
of Mary.”

Then goes on to write:
But our sins are not committed against the Theotokos, or her heart; they are committed against God, and it is from Him that we must ask forgiveness. It is before Him that we must repent.

My comment:
Of course sins are committed against God. If a person blasphemes against the Blessed Virgin, is it not God who has been offended and sinned against? If I were to offend or hurt another person on some way, the person may be hurt but it is God whom I have sinned against.
As Psalm 51:4 says "Against you, you alone(Lord) have I sinned;I have done what is evil in your eyes so that you are just in your word, and without reproach in your judgment."

One could write a small book refuting all the misrepresentations contained in the document. I myself try to stick just to basic though fundamental differences between our Churches i.e. the doctrine of Original Sin for instance. I don't know enough to venture further than that.

Unknown said...

I have found it best to ignore His Holiness. Otherwise, I come very close to saying f*** it all, and returning to nihilism.

At least as a nihilist I never had to worry about 'social justice' and other forms of... whatever it is the various progressives on this blog seem to constantly scream about. In fact, I loved confronting social-justice-warriors with the idea that their ideas about everything were based on the stupid idea the world had some objective basis. (Like, for example, "if the existence of the universe is random (and no atheist could argue otherwise) how then can 'bigotry' ever be 'wrong?'".

Got them every time.

Gene said...

Flavius, that is pretty good. I may use that with some of my "agnostic" friends...

George said...

In the Church the liturgy is paramount, but:
The constitution Sacrosanctum Concilium states, "The spiritual life, however, is not limited solely to participation in the liturgy. ... Popular devotions of the Christian people are to be highly commended, provided they accord with the laws and norms of the Church, above all when they are ordered by the Apostolic See."

Flavious; Gene
If they say the Universe is deterministic and not random you have them there too. Taking away free will takes away responsibility for one's actions and therefore removes the reality of sin from human existence. Free will and the capability to know right from wrong are gifts from God that enable us to rise above the physical processes of our existence and to have a genuine and authentic relationship with our Creator.