Wednesday, October 7, 2015


I think the Church is becoming very polarized under Pope Francis who has exacerbated the polarization, not with the rank and file Catholics of the world who love him, but with the extremes in the Catholic Church who either misread him or read him correctly. It is hard to read him actually.

We've always had this under the surface, but previous popes have had an ability to keep in somewhat in check. But not so with Pope Francis. I think the major problem is that liberals have claimed His Holiness as their own and traditionalists agree. Thus the split is widening and a true schism is looming. Even Cardinal Mueller is warning of this and I think he is right!

And now I ask are the categories that Father Dwight Longenecker uses in a recent Crux article I reprint in part below mutually exclusive? He is suggesting that the Church might be divided into three groups loosely connected to one another by an open pope similar to how Judaism's divisions are although there is no pope.

But I don't think we can categorize the divisions in the Church so neatly. This is how Fr. Longenecker in his article in Crux (and you can read the full article here) puts it when he comments on Daniel Maguire's analysis with whom Fr. Longenecker only partially agrees, with my comments at the end:

In a recent letter to The New York Times, Marquette theologian Daniel Maguire suggested that the Catholic Church was headed toward a three-way schism.
Writing about Pope Francis’ reforms to the annulment process, Maguire predicted:
Catholicism is going the way of its parent, Judaism. In Judaism there are Reform as well as Conservative and Orthodox communities. This arrangement is not yet formalized in Catholicism, but the outlines of a similar broadening are in place …. While conservative and orthodox Catholics welcome this annulment concession by the Vatican, reform Catholics don’t need it. Their consciences are their Vatican. Reform Catholics, whose numbers are swelling, are still bonded to the church but not to the Roman curia.

The Traditionalists
The jury is still out as to whether the Society of St. Pius X is formally in schism, but as traditionalists who reject the Novus Ordo Mass and the authority of the Second Vatican Council, they’re high on the list. Nevertheless, their leaders continue to flirt with Vatican authorities and recently Pope Francis granted their priests faculties to hear confessions, so rapprochement is possible.
Schismatic traditionalists fall into two main groups. The sedevacantists (the See is vacant) who believe there is no longer a valid pope, and the conclavists who have gone one step further and elected their own pope. The Society of St Pius V, a sedevacantist group based in New York, is steered by Bishop Joseph Santay, while the Traditional Roman Catholic Church, founded by His Lordship Sherman R. Pius Mosly, is based in New Jersey. Another sedevacantist group is The Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen. Founded by Francis Konrad Schuckardt (d. 2006), they are dedicated to the messages of Fatima and are part of Schuckardt’s Tridentine Latin Rite Catholic Church.
Conclavists are distinguished by having their own pope. The Palmarian Catholic Church is a notable conclavist group from Spain where they follow Pope Gregory XVIII. Noteworthy American anti-popes are Pope Michael, who lives with his parents in Kansas; the Rev. Lucian Pulvermacher, known as Pope Pius XIII (d. 2009), and a former Episcopal priest, Chester Olszewski of Pennsylvania, who reigns as Pope Peter II. South African Victor Von Pentz (Pope Linus II) lives in Hertfordshire, England, while Argentinian Alejandro Tomás Greico is Pope Alexander IX. Around the world, there are about a dozen other papal claimants whose “conscience is their Vatican,” including convicted sex offender William Kamm, whose papal apartment is a jail cell in Germany.
Among the traditionally minded, there are also some intriguing groups that overlap with other Catholic-minded traditions. They often have curious histories that meld not only Catholicism and Anglicanism, but also link with Eastern Orthodoxy, Syrian, Coptic, and Celtic Christianity. A good example is the group recently established by His Eminence, Rutherford Cardinal Johnson, Patriarch of The Anglican Rite Roman Catholic Church. His Eminence claims that the ARRCC is rooted in the Catholicism of 16th-century Tuscany and the ancient English Catholic rite. The Church of the Culdees, led by the Most Rev. Ivan MacKillop, OCC, celebrates medieval Anglo-Irish Monasticism, while The Celtic Orthodox Church has revived the ancient Coptic-Celtic traditions of Brittany, Ireland, and Western Britain.
The Progressives
Not enthusiastic about popes at the best of times, Catholic progressives don’t consecrate their own anti-popes, but they do boast more than 20 “Independent Catholic Churches” with their own bishops and archbishops. Not counting the Eastern Orthodox and more than 100 independent Anglican denominations, the progressive schisms are made up of Independent Catholics, Old Catholics, and Alternative Catholics. Like the traditionalist groups, most of them claim apostolic succession from the Old Catholic Church of Utrecht — which was established in the 1870s in disagreement over the definition of papal infallibility.
Typical examples of progressive Catholic groups are The Reformed Catholic Church and the Worldwide Ecumenical Catholic Church of Christ with Archbishop Karl Rodig. Then there is the Ecumenical Catholic Church, not forgetting the Ecumenical Catholic Communion and The American National Catholic Church. Most of the progressive groups endorse remarriage after divorce, women’s ordination, married clergy, same sex unions, and contraception. Some exclude women priests, but those Catholics whose “conscience is their Vatican” can affirm women’s ordination by joining The Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests.
Among the more unusual progressive schisms are The Antiochian Church in America, a little church in Tennessee with a taste for Eastern Orthodoxy; the Imani Temple African-American Catholic Congregation founded in 1989 by former priest George Augustus Stalling Jr., and The Traditionalist Mexican-American Catholic Church known for their veneration of Sante Muerte and drug trafficking. Their current archbishop, David Romo Guillén, is serving a 66-year jail sentence for kidnapping and money laundering.
While some progressive Catholics find a home in the “Independent Catholic Churches,” more find their way to the the mainstream liturgical Protestant churches. With the same progressive agenda, and a stronger infrastructure, the Episcopal, Lutheran, and Methodist churches also offer a Catholic atmosphere for Catholics who are bonded to the Church, but not to the Roman Curia.
Cafeteria Catholics?
Some might suggest that Catholics whose “conscience is their Vatican” stop being hypocrites, follow their conscience, and join one of the many groups with whom they are in agreement. If a progressive Catholic wants married priests, New Age spirituality, women’s ordination, artificial contraception, same-sex marriage, and abortion, wouldn’t they be happier with Christians with whom they agree?
Likewise, if a traditionalist Catholic finds himself continually worked up because Pope Francis is too leftist, the new Mass is too informal, and he is dismayed by what he perceives as the hypocrisy of “liberal” Catholics, spineless bishops, poor catechesis, lax clergy, and heretical leadership, shouldn’t he let his “conscience be his Vatican” and either scoot off to join one of the traditionalist schisms or start his own?

My Comments: I think Maquire categorizes things succinctly but there is overlap for many Catholics.

There have always been fervent Catholics, some would call fanatics. And there have always been lax Catholics, some would call heretics or mortal sinners. But I think the majority of Catholics who still attend Church are a mixed bag and cannot be categorized too succinctly and most Catholics aren't reading the divisive blogs and commentary on Pope Francis either extolling him and excoriating him.

When I read the liberal's glee about Pope Francis, I wonder if His Holiness is Catholic. When I read the conservatives excoriation of him, I wonder if he is Catholic. The truth lies somewhere else and I think rank and file Catholics know the truth better than the two extremes I cite.

But, as with the Episcopalians, one can have a love for High Liturgy and even prefer the Extraordinary Form but be socially liberal, open to gay marriage, women priests, artificial contraception and abortion. Just because someone prefers the finer aspects of liturgy (and many gays do) doesn't mean they are ultra-traditional in other aspects of their personal faith.

Just because a Catholic might like a less formal Ordinary Form Mass doesn't mean that they would support gay marriage, women priests, artificial contraception and abortion. They simply like a friendly Mass where there is a more horizontal approach and a lot of hand holding.

Cafeteria Catholics while having their own preferences about this, that and the other and traditionalists now have become more and more like Cafeteria Catholics, I think many of them still respect the pope and any conservativism and traditionalism about him that might exist. Some of them loved Pope Benedict all the while rejecting some of his positions.

It was said of Pope St. John Paul II that the world loved him but hated his religion.

I think we can say of Pope Francis that the world loves him. But the difference I see is that Pope Francis is trying to get the world to love God and to love his religion by giving his religion a new make over.

Is it going to be a heterodox make-over. There are those in the college of bishops who seem to want it. But in making the world love the Church we'll become just like the Anglican Communion, completely irrelevant and on the verge of extinction as it has become so fragmented and what is left of its parishioners soon will be altogether gone.

The Holy Spirit will not allow this to happen long in the Catholic Church although we might have to suffer for a while. Some of us alive today will not see a positive movement toward orthopraxis pastoral theology and orthodoxy in general leading to authentic unity before we die. That's the way it is.

As for me, I'm staying with Peter and doing my best to save my own soul and the souls under my charge. Of course it is the Holy Spirit that does this, not me.


Clyde Catholic said...

Well, I guess one benefit of all this will be that it doesn't matter where you go to church anymore...Methodist, Catholic, Presbyterian, Lutheran...actually, the Baptists and the Pentecostals will be the ones with the most Biblical, devout beliefs, at least according to "praxis," that word the Bishops love so much. I believe with the possible changes coming, it will be pretty silly for the Church to claim Real Presence and true doctrine anymore. No one will believe it anyway (a lot of Catholics already do not). Some of us former protestants can go back to singing "What A Friend" and "Leaning on the Everlasting Arms." And, I kinda miss those fire and brimstone sermons we used to preach once in a while. There will surely be more of those, with the Catholic Church as Scarlet Lady. The times they are a changing'. For those of you with theological backgrounds, take down your Luther and may be reading them with a brand new sympathy and understanding.

Jan said...

I don't know what group I fall into. I'm a traditionalist who wouldn't follow a traditional group that doesn't have a pope, but I wouldn't accept a pope either that changed doctrine to suit the modern world. I hope that Pope Francis stays on the straight and narrow. Most think that he won't attempt to boldly change doctrine. That may cause a few liberals to jump of the barque. Long time Catholics like me, though, won't be affected - scandalised maybe if homosexuals take up the gifts or do the reading or if divorced people receive communion, but my Faith is settled. It is new Catholics who get taught things that are palpably false that will suffer the most.

An elderly fellow I know - in his nineties - has taken it upon himself to print out sheets that he has got from the Internet entitled "Did you know ..." which lists various Catholic doctrine. He has been handing these sheets out to people at Mass and has been overwhelmed with requests from Catholics who said, "No, I didn't know this". That's the state of the Church where lay people are having to catechise ...

How are priests going to survive who may be asked to accept homosexuals doing the readings and abortionists, etc, taking up the gifts in the name of mercy?

I think most people like me, who don't want to be confronted with this sort of thing, will find a traditional EF Latin Mass - where there is no lay involvement and so no scandal and forget about all the nonsense going on in the Church until it blows over ...


Anonymous said...

The real question, the giant elephant in the room, is why does this pope REFUSE to teach the Faith with clarity. It's not enough to say I am a son of the Church. Will he say that divorce remarried Catholics cannot receive Holy Communion until they amend their lives, give up their sin, receive absolution and do penance? No, he will not say that. Will he say that homosexual acts are always and in all circumstances evil and for the salvation of their souls people need to stop doing those acts, go to confession, pick up that cross and live heroic Catholic lives? No, he will NOT say that.

Why is the possibility of allowing sacraligeous communions even being discussed? Why why why! Why is the notion that there is inate goodness in an objective evil act such as a sodomite relationship being discussed? Why! Would we have a discussion about the inate goodnes of having slaves? The positive aspects of owing slaves? Would we? That's insane and so is this synod.

Francis alone is causing the present crisis. He can say whatever he wants. If he dares to teach anything other than what the Church has always taught he can preach till the cows come home but I'm not listening to him. I am not leaving the Church. I will live the Catholc Faith as it has always been taught and if Francis dares to tell me that I have to accept evil as something good then he can take a hike. My allegiance is not to some Demi God pope but Christ and the FAITHFUL successors of the apostles. Just sayin'

Anonymous said...

An observation about `your comment that "previous popes have had an ability to keep in somewhat in check." I think that a big part of the problem (however you choose to define it) not merely with Francis but with the Church, is that for its entire history prior to JPII, popes _didn't_ often do this. Communication was slow, and so was deliberation; popes stayed in Rome; and they had no media presence (especially when there was no modern media) and thus little, if any, popular appeal (at least based on their own personality or theology--"long lLive the Pope" is generic, regarding the office, not a particular individual). In a sense, it was like the federal government prior to around 1900. It was small, it involved iteself in few things, and most Americans would live their entire lives having very little to do with the feds except for the post office. As the main governments in their lives were those of the state and, even more importantly, the town or county, so, for Catholics, the most important authorities were the bishop and, even more important,y, the parish priest.

Now the presence of the pope--even an unpopular one like BXVI--tends to overshadow everything, due to whatthe media wants as well as efforts by the popes to "get out there" and engage the world. In practical terms, the color of authority that thus attaches to the pope, in the public mind (including the Catholic one) tends to eclipse all other voices of authority, including the Magisterium itself. This is a major part of the problem.

Thus, if the occupants of the Chair of St. peter don't understand this different dynamic, it could indeed cause a schism. In Francis's case, he either doesn't understand it, and is thus easily perceived as a bumbler who says a lot of ill-considered things, or he understands it very well and uses a bumbling image to introduce ideas that undercut, if only at a subliminal level, Catholic doctrine.

Jan said...

Anonymous at 8.28. I think you've got it in one that Francis, "understands it very well and uses a bumbling image to introduce ideas that undercut, if only at a subliminal level, Catholic doctrine" either that or he is making sure he avoids heresy and thus losing the papacy. So I don't think for a minute that he will change doctrine but we're going to have a lot more bumbling, confusion and a lot of sin acceptable in the name of mercy while this papacy lasts. It is also going to make a lot more priests speak out for truth that they haven't done over recent years. I think they will go for broke because there will be nothing to lose. Some priests may also transfer over to traditional orders to avoid being caught up in some difficult situations that will no doubt arise when Jonny and Trevor and Sue and Hilary or Sid who's on to his fourth wife want to take an "active part" in the Mass.


Marc said...

I think that many of us are too absorbed in this dichotomy between doctrine and practice -- to the extent that we seem to be admitting that, if this synod or the pope changes the practice, but not the doctrine, that somehow that is an allowable situation. As the popes have taught, there can be no disconnect between the practice and the doctrine. If the pope or a bishop proposes to change the practice even without changing the doctrine, that would still make him a heretic (objectively). In other words, if you have bought into the idea that one only becomes a heretic by overtly undoing the doctrine, then you are already in the modernists' territory.

Mark Thomas said...

Father Dwight Longenecker said that the "jury is still out as to whether the Society of St. Pius X is formally in schism..."

The jury is not out on that question. The Catholic Church has never declared that the SSPX is in schism (formally or otherwise).

By the way, on September 1, 2015 A.D., His Holiness Pope Francis declared that Catholics attached to the SSPX are "faithful" Catholics.

Pope Francis also referred last month to the SSPX's "good faith and sacramental practice."

Finally, the Catholic Church recognizes the SSPX as a society of Catholic priests.

Therefore, given all of the above, it is mind-boggling that Father Longenecker claimed that "jury is still out as to whether the Society of St. Pius X is formally in schism..."


Mark Thomas