Schism in New Jersey

The Fathers of the Church had a real horror of schism.  Schismatics were dissenters who causes disunity.  Jerome wrote:

Between heresy and schism there is this difference, that heresy perverts dogma, while schism, by rebellion against the bishop, separates from the Church. Nevertheless there is no schism which does not trump up a heresy to justify its departure from the Church.  (Commentary on Titus 3,10)

From EWTN News.

Bishop urges NJ community to abandon schismatic path, return to Church
By Lorna Cruz
Trenton, N.J., Jun 28, 2011

Bishop David M. O’Connell of Trenton has urged members of a New Jersey church community to reconsider their decision to break from the Catholic Church and join an “independent” jurisdiction.

“I pray that you will re?consider the dangerous, schismatic path you have chosen and I invite you to return to full communion with the Roman Catholic Church,” Bishop O’Connell told members of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in a June 24 statement.

He described members of the separated community as “no longer … interested or concerned with the canon law of the Roman Catholic Church.”  [Yah,,, that’s going to work really well.]

Our Lady of Guadalupe members left the Catholic Church when three churches were united into one parish earlier this year, a move that left many parishioners dissatisfied[Parishes are being consolidated everywhere.]

It is now affiliated with the American National Catholic Church, a group of six parishes calling itself an “independent Catholic jurisdiction.” [They don’t want canon law, but they are calling themselves a “jurisdiction”.  ROFL!  But wait! There’s more! … ] The “independent” parishes reject Catholic beliefs on subjects such as marriage, sexuality, and the priesthood.

In his statement, Bishop O’Connell explained that an “independent” Catholic Church was a contradiction in terms. By its very nature, he said, the Church involves “a communion of faith, governance and the sacraments.”

He said that members of Our Lady of Guadalupe were being “dishonest with themselves and, even more importantly … with others,” by claiming to be Catholic.

The Bishop of Trenton clarified that this group and the individuals leading or promoting it are not in communion with the Catholic Church. Citing the Gospel of Matthew, he warned the lay faithful against “false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.”

He said his “greatest fear” was that the leaders of the schism at Our Lady of Guadalupe “will take other well?intentioned Catholics down with them, leading them away from the true practice of their faith under the pretense of legitimacy.” [And that they will wind up in Hell.]

Members of Our Lady of Guadalupe have claimed that Spanish and Portuguese members felt displaced by the parish merger. Bishop O’Connell has maintained that that Masses and ministry in both Spanish and Portuguese continued to be offered despite the combining of parishes[If only we had a language which didn’t favor one special community or another.  Hmmm.]

“Christ the King parish has extended a warm welcome to all members of the merged parishes,” said the bishop. “There was a long and comprehensive study conducted and widespread consultation of the faithful prior to the decision to merge those parishes into one new parish.”

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Patristiblogging, The Drill and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. jflare says:

    “If only we had a language which didn’t favor one special community or another. Hmmm.”

    Best not say that around Bishop Trautman. Last I knew, he still insisted that we ought to use gender neutral language in English. Or for teen Masses, to use language that’s more “relevant” to them. I never could figure out why I ought to find that appealing.

  2. Alan Aversa says:

    Does this “American National Catholic Church” have anything to do with the American Catholic Council? Both are clearly schismatic and heretical.

    Also, I often wonder what St. Jerome would’ve written about the SSPX.

  3. kelleyb says:

    How sad. Praying for the Bishop and his flock of lost sheep.

  4. David2 says:

    I just did an internet search on the “American National Catholic Church”.

    Apparently, one should not confuse that body with The National Catholic Church of America, or the National Catholic Church of North America, or the Mexican National Catholic Church. Then there is the Catholic Apostolic Church in North America, the Liberal Catholic Church, and the Orthodox-Catholic Church of America. Add to that the Catholic Charismatic Church of Canada (I guess their “speaking in tongues” consists primarily of alliteration), the Evangelical Catholic Church and the Independent Sacramental Movement, as well as the Corpus Christi Communion.

    Thus the fruits of a schismatic mentality.

  5. BaedaBenedictus says:

    You forgot the “Ecumenical Catholic Church” and the Old Catholic Church.

    Pretty much the only one of all of these which is not liberal is the Polish National Catholic Church.

  6. jbpolhamus says:

    And as we know, being Catholic is ALLLLL about our ethnicity, nationality, cultural identity, our own opinion about things, that’s what being Catholic is REALLY all about. If I abhor anything (besides fleas and people who spit gum on the sidewalk), it’s a Catholic “national” parish. San Diego is littered with them. Give me a break. It’s about Christ first, and that means it’s about Peter (because he said so), and that means it’s about Rome, and where Peter is, there is Rome, much more than just a City in Italy. Fortunately, the Pope still lives in Italy. Long may it be so.

  7. shane says:

    Latin is a great way of banishing national antagonisms from the sanctuary however I disagree with jbpolhamus. Immigrants in a foreign country will naturally associate with one another and often need dedicated parishes to cater for their specific pastoral needs. Ethnic parishes have existed in the US long before Vatican II and moves towards vernacular liturgy. The Archdiocese of Boston was once a multiplicity of Irish, Italian, Polish etc. parishes (…nobody had to worry about Catholic identity then!).

    Ethnicity, nationality and cultural identity are not means of salvation but they are still important and should complement the faith. As John Paul II stressed so often, the Gospel should be incarnated within the local culture, for this “means the intimate transformation of authentic cultural values through their integration in Christianity and the insertion of Christianity in the various human cultures.”

  8. Charivari Rob says:

    Well said, Shane.

    jbpolhamus, if you abhor national parishes, then you’re probably more in favor of current trends and practices. The old-school reality was that national parishes were virtually untouchable by the territorial bishop – only Rome could change them. (Off the top of my head, I can think of two locations that I know of here in Massachusetts where there’s a territorial parish right across the street from a national parish.)

    They’ve gotten away from that approach a little bit in recent years.

  9. Glen M says:

    This is good news. The Church won’t be repaired unless bishops exercise their proper authority and rule against heretics and schismatics, whether declared or not. The next level to address are those who preach heresy such as the NcR, Tablet, AcC, etc. A good sheppard reacts when even one sheep wanders from the flock. In fact, he has a responsibility to do so.

  10. Bryan Boyle says:

    Just go to Fall River…if you want to see national parishes…St. Stan’s for the Polish, Ste. Anne’s Shrine for the French Canadians, St. Patrick’s for the Irish (and that’s just on the south end of the city…). Now, I believe they’re all diocesan parishes (due to the loss of cultural identity and assimilation…) , but, in their time, they served the purpose of keeping a community together in areas where foreign birth was distrusted. However, versus the early part of the 1900s, where assimilation was the goal and ideal, and these parishes served as an anchor while their members strove to segue into being Americans, today…well, it seems that some national parishes are adopting a ghetto mentality which stresses cultural identity without encouraging joining the society at large.

  11. Titus says:

    I would be interested to learn whether His Excellency will be able to keep control of the real property (i.e. the church building and its land), or whether, like many U.S. dioceses, the civil-law property arrangements are such a mess that the schismatics will succeed in stealing it from him. This is an important matter for bishops and pastors to remember.

  12. Andrew says:

    Something seems to be missing from this report. Unless some ecclesiastical authority is leading this group away, there can be no talk of schism. It would just be a group of people leaving the Church. Schism can only take place when bishops break communion with the universal Church.

  13. disco says:

    How exactly is this happening? Do they have possession of the churh building itself? Is their parish priest or any priest involved?

  14. Tom in NY says:

    I agree that something is missing from the story. Even “national” parishes don’t break off without irritations. And don’t forget the troubles in the Church in the USA near the turn of the last century. The PNCC is a reminder of those troubles.
    Salutationes omnibus.

  15. Rich says:

    So much caution and concern poured forth on account of those who want to join liberal independent “churches”…

  16. James says:

    In the city where I attend Mass, another parish, which was closed, did much the same thing. The difference was that instead of joining a heretically “liberal” group (I hesitate to use political adjectives), they joined a sedevacantist group whose clerics claim to be third order Dominicans. Over time, many of the parishioners who were simply attached to the parish and not sedevacantism filtered out, only to be replaced with true blue schismatics from elsewhere in the state.

  17. Charivari Rob says:

    Titus, Disco:

    I did some searching around on the websites for the diocese, Christ the King parish, and the local paper.

    One account made mention of the Our Lady of Guadalupe group having Mass with some priest or bishop of the American National Catholic Church. Digging down, I finally found a description of this having occurred at some local “social club”

    Another source indicated that 2 of the three prior parish churches were being used for Mass in the new parish and that the third church building had been or was being closed due in part to the physical condition.

    So, it sounds like this is not a case of occupation/vigils by a dissenting group.

  18. jeffreyquick says:

    Oh yeah, we have one of those in Cleveland too:
    Per, they seem to be quite chummy with the ACC; a bunch of them went to the Detroit meeting. That tells me all I need to know. It’s funny how the concern trolls have turned out over a post about a Protestant church.

  19. DT says:

    @ Andrew-

    Schismatics are not limited solely to the episcopate. I will rely upon St Thomas Aquinas here– “Accordingly schismatics properly so called are those who, wilfully and intentionally separate themselves from the unity of the Church” (ST II-II, q. 39, art. i). St. Thomas relies upon St. Jerome’s distinction between heresy and schism (see Fr Z’s citation above) in placing the latter as a sin primarily against charity and secondarily against faith. Every heretic, according to St Thomas, is already a schismatic. Every schismatic is not necessarily a heretic.

  20. Centristian says:

    Well, I’d say “via con Dios” but…

    If their Catholicism is so shallow that they would corporately leave the Church of Jesus Christ and join an absurdly-named false Church over ethnicity then they’re probably doing the Church a favor in any case.

    Within my own diocese we had a similar situation. An ethnically Polish parish threatened to join the Polish National Catholic Church if the bishop dared to close their parish or to merge their parish with another. What a mentality: “govern as we want you to govern and give us what we want or we’ll leave the Catholic Church!” It’s not a Catholic mentality, certainly. What does “Catholic” even mean, I wonder, to such as these who do not value at all, evidently, the mandates that her hierarchs enjoy from God? They remind me of foolish (and treacherous) Americans who petulantly declare, “He’s not MY president; I didn’t vote for him!”

    Grow up. You can’t always get what you want. And if you must leave us in a huff, take the word “Catholic” out of your false replacement Church’s name. You’re not Catholic. You’re just ethnic and indignant.

    “Citing the Gospel of Matthew, he warned the lay faithful against ‘false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves.'”

  21. Brad says:

    Did we all notice the usual “below the belt” issues lurking here?

  22. MissOH says:

    The “independent” parishes reject Catholic beliefs on subjects such as marriage, sexuality, and the priesthood.
    So, they want to be Episcopal.

    I understand being attached to your parish, but to leave the holy, catholic and apostolic church because you can’t get your way. So sad. Prayers needed.

  23. Sixupman says:

    With great respect there is no point in haranguing these people, they have been conditioned by those having “itching ears”, those being their bishops and pastors. Fragmentation was obvious, no two parishes appear to have the same liturgy, a sitiuation dictated by proclivities of either the pastor or his presbyterian minded flock, with the self elected. A Scottish priest friend told me, some years ago, that his flock saw no difference between Catholicism and the Protestantism of the Church of Scotland , et al. His bishop actually preaching against the Ordained Priesthood and for greater and greater lay control and he an ex seminary rector.

    The Hierarchies of England, Wales and Scotland submit to BXVI only nominally. Nothing has been done about this for years, matters growing worse by the year. There are glimmers of hope, but how do you replace the plethora of bishops of doubtful faith.

    I have heard and read scurrilous remarks concerning the Old Mass and clergy of pre-1950’60 vintage. So lacking in Charity, they speak only to their own kind. I know of a priest, of my childhood and youth, who created a parish , church and school from scratch. He was allowed to be calumniated in the diocesan newsletter for being authoritarian. He was no part-time cleric as many to-day, he gave his life for that parish and his brother, a White Father, his health taking the Church to the Mission lands. We now have clergy who work a six day week and omit Masses on one or more days – leaving it to the self-elected parish elders to go their own way,

    Msgr. Lefebvre referred to Rahner (?) as “The Pope of Tubingen.”, the majority of bishops and priests appear to be their own popes. At least Msgr. Lefebvre was true to his vows. Is there any wonder people have turned to SSPX, but even they now have their own ‘pope’ – +Williamson.

  24. Tina in Ashburn says:

    I have sympathy for the flock as I assume many there are being led astray and don’t know better. I recently had a conversation with a woman I met at a Tridentine Mass. She told me she attended St Athanatius here in Northern VA. This ‘church’ goes waaaaay back to the 70s as a place separated from the bishop, but adamantly having the Tridentine Mass, good homilies and music. Today the place is packed [and why? we have ten parishes with licit Tridentine Masses now!]

    When I told this nice lady that, oh yeah, I know about that place!, — we used to attend in the 70s. [okay there were no manuals and hindsight at the time for mother to follow, as she desperately tried to escape the Novus Ordo, the destruction of churches, heretical homilies, a Church gone crazy with changes, etc etc.].

    I recounted to her how we all discovered that we were going to ‘Mass’, receiving ‘communion’, and going to ‘confession’ to a con-artist that WASN’T EVEN a priest. And a few collection baskets were gone, to boot. You see this is what happens when you are not attached to a bishop! The sheep are left to con-artists or priests without faculties [a priest must have paperwork and the bishop’s permission to say Mass in any diocese]. This is what sent us running to Byzantine parishes for many years.

    I realize now in hindsight that the woman’s blank, confused look and stammered responses “he’s a wonderful priest”, “it’s very Catholic” was because she had no idea that this place is not a part of the Catholic Church.

    The Diocesan policy is that you do not satisfy your Sunday obligation there.

    Being part of such groups, you never get a straight answer from them. Members of groups such as these need to know how to contact a good priest or the Chancery and get the straight answer. And hopefully, the answer they get will be patient and charitable.

    Its a hard lesson, but we cannot get to heaven without obedience. Obedience is hard, especially when we know ‘better’, we’re smarter, the authority figure is a jerk, and all that. Well, that is why obedience is so singularly sanctifying. Never, never ignore authority – its our ticket to heaven.

  25. Cecilianus says:


    St. Jerome defined schism as “rebellion against one’s bishop”. I’m wondering how modern-day Roman Catholics (I’m a Greek Catholic) handle the case where two bishops themselves break communion from each other. This was pretty common in the Early Church, where Bishop A would stop including Bishop B in his letters of communion, while Bishop C would include both of them.

    The great Melkite Archbishop of blessed memory, Mar Elias Zoghby, wrote concerning the rupture of communion between Catholics and Orthodox that “we are all schismatics”; that is, instead of a group of laymen being in rebellion against their bishop, two bishops who ontologically are of the same level of Holy Orders have broken communion with each other, and both flocks are in schism from each other. But it seems that by St. Jerome’s definition, neither Catholics nor Orthodox are schismatic. What happens if somebody switches bishops (which could happen by a formal canonical transfer approved or at least not objected to by the Pope, as in my case, or by somebody moving locations, or by a translation from Orthodoxy to Catholicism or vice versa, whether in the case of individuals or whole churches as with the Eastern Catholic Churches) – then is he in rebellion against his bishop? Is the UGCC in schism from its mother Church, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church?

    In the Eastern use of the term, “schism” is always from a bishop, or between two bishops – but I’ve heard Roman Catholics refer to the Eastern Orthodox as “in schism from the Church” and refer to a friend of mine who converted from Protestantism to Greek Orthodoxy as a “schismatic”. Is this use of the term incorrect, from the educated Roman Catholic point of view, or is there some third meaning of “schism” you can define for me? (And if so, how are the Orthodox “in schism from the Church”, seeing as how the fullness of the Church – the Faith and the Holy Mysteries – subsist completely in them, despite their being wounded by separation from Rome)?

    Thank you very much.

    In Christ under the Pokrova of the Theotokos,

    Seraphim (Cecilianus)

  26. Cecilianus says:

    When I was visiting Cincinatti last summer I saw an “independent Italian Roman Catholic” parish. Hospodi pomilui – Lord have mercy on their souls.

  27. Tom T says:

    “Many are called, but few are chosen.” I believe a great deal of what we see today is the result of
    rampant progressive secularistic modernism that Pope St. Pius X warned us about in 1907.
    There seems to be a common misconception which I believe is the result of a left wing liberal
    media that believes the Roman Catholic Church is a democracy and that the leaders can be
    influenced by popular opinion as is done to politicians manipulated by the media. I particularly
    noticed this with the wide tv. coverage of Blessed Pope John Paul II`s death and the election that followed. The media seemed to concentrate on putting pressure on Cardinals to elect this liberal
    or that one would be a good leader. It was almost as though they were covering a national election
    that they thought they could influence. At any rate this has all been going on since the beginning
    and we must all remember the words of Our Lord, “The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Comments are closed.