My title above is something good for us to ponder. In Pope Francis’ recent Motu Proprio, His Holiness believes that the traditionalist movement in the Church, fueled by Pope Benedict’s Motu Proprio is causing a schism. And thus, a pope up until now unwilling to crush any movement in the church, unless is is right leaning, has crushed Pope Benedict’s Motu Proprio in the hopes of crushing traditional Catholicism’s premier movement.
But if there is a looming schism in the Church, hasn’t it already occurred? There are now two extremes in the Church, the one Pope Francis wants to ruthlessly crush associated with “right leaning” Catholicism and the other that His Holiness has no real desire to crush, the “left leaning” one centered in Germany but not just there, but throughout the world. This group has a vocal minority and a silent majority.
If Pope Francis allows the German synodal process to conclude on the very road they have chosen to take and there is no Motu Proprio to call them out and demand that bishops take their responsibility as the chief shepherd of their dioceses to do so, then we know which schism has papal approbation and which one doesn’t. But make no mistake, both are schismatic even if the pope tacitly approves of one but not the other.
What are the signs that Pope Francis will act eventually on what he ambiguously states and usually in informal ways?
With the traditionalists, His Holiness has always denigrated them, called them rigid, and that they have serious spiritual and psychological pathologies. He has called them neo-Gnostics and neo-Pelegians, in other words, His Holiness has called them not only schismatic, but heretics. Finally, we get a Motu Proprio that is so clear and authoritarian, unlike anything this Pope has ever issued, that there is no mistake where his words and gestures were leading.
With left leaning Catholics, His Holiness always seems to offer support, sympathy and hospitality. His Amoris Laetitia in a footnote, clearly allows Holy Communion to be received by those in illicit marriages and relationships, not only heterosexual civil or illicit unions, but any type of illicit, but supportive union. What preceded this, of course, is the pope’s statement that Holy Communion is Medicine for the sinner not a reward for saints.
We know that time and again Pope Francis has made public gestures of friendship, pastoral solicitude and outreach to LGBTQetc members of the Church and society. He is the most gay friendly pope ever and is recognized by the world as such. He has friends who are in gay unions and has invited transsexuals to the Vatican addressing them according to the gender they identify, not that they biologically are.
He has publicly confirmed Father James Martin, the mirror image of Fr. Altman, in Martin’s ministry to the LGBTQetc community.
And he has rehabilitated a bishop from South America accused of sexually harassing seminarians and having gay pornography on his cell phone. This bishop, a close friend of the pope, was brought to the Vatican and given a cushy job and has been invited to the papal Lenten retreat. There seems to be no real concern about the gay activities within the walls of the Vatican.
The pope has reopened the possibility of female deacons and paves the way for this by opening the once priest path only official “orders” or “ministries” of lector and acolyte to both men and women. Female deacons will be the path toward priesthood and bishops.
All of these left leaning theologies are embodied in Germany’s synodal way which Pope Francis has only weakly criticized but one knows where His Holiness’ heart truly lies. This was confirmed in the most brilliant theatrical dramatic production concerning the public resignation of Cardinal Marx of Germany which you can read HERE.
What will this mean for the Church in the short term? Where is Divine Providence in all of this?