Stop talking about schism! Wherein Fr. Z rants.

The upcoming Synod of Bishops in October is probably going to be a knock-down, drag-out over a few issues. The Germans are set on achieving a progressive agenda and have hinted at doing their own thing if the Synod doesn’t go their way. Others are set on defending the Church’s doctrine.

Some people are talking about “schism” because of the Synod.

No matter what happens at the Synod, there will be no schism by either side.

Schisms are passé. Catholics don’t schism.

Indifference and apathetic drifting are the real threats.

Conservatives have no where else to go (e.g., the SSPX simply not an option). Conservatives accept Vatican II AND the Catechism of the Catholic Church AND Code of Canon Law.

Liberals love to hear conservatives talk about “schism”, because liberals are actually the ones trying to bring it about. As they try to impose NewChurch, liberals are already in de facto schism. But they’ll never make it official. They are basically Congregationalists. They are still in the cafeteria. They take what the want and leave the rest. Schism would take too much effort and money.

Schism talk is for journalists only, for headline effect. But it’s to the liberals’ advantage.

So, I want to assures the world that there will not be a schism.

There is no real threat of schism from the right. There will be no formal schism on the left, for different reasons.

So – get over it. Stop the distraction.

Schism talk benefits mainly liberal kooks.

Sorry… that was redundant.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. philologus says:

    I think the real issue is a schism of the heart. A story, if you will permit.

    It was Fr. Gavril’s job to do the grocery shopping for the house of the professed. He didn’t have to make the list; he just had to do the shopping. The list was always very long and the shopping took most of an afternoon. The sheer banality of the store made his heart cringe. Everything about it made him feel average. He could think of no enterprise more mediocre than pacing up and down those isles, flanked by canned vegetables and salad dressing, shrink-wrapped pork loin and frozen meatballs. It was a mediocre place, made for mediocre people. Forget all of that theology about the inherent dignity of all persons. Those theologians had never done the shopping. The pimple pocked produce boys, the store managers with their greasy hair and saccharine smiles, the herds of fat women who smelled like cheap shampoo and cigarette smoke — shameful people living shameful lives. Fr. Gavril knew men who knew the Pope. Fr. Gavril himself was twice a doctor. His vocation was lofty and virtuous; but this — no man of his education, of his training, of his supreme purpose could be expected to proceed cheerfully among such ugly human refuse.

    I have seen this schism of the heart among “liberals and conservatives” alike, and I think it is more dangerous than any formal schism could ever be.

  2. Someone please be the Garrigue says:

    Wouldn’t it be delightfully ironic… if some of the said NewChurch liberals were to admit that they’re… Old Catholics?

  3. Sonshine135 says:

    Schism….No. Punishment….Yes. I have been thinking about Jeremiah lately, and Our Lord’s approach to people who separate themselves from Himself. How much indifference and apathy will Our Lord really tolerate? How Capital “C” can we really claim to be as Catholics when we tolerate and accept as Catholic those who aren’t? I am sure that a handful of people believed they were worshiping God properly in the time of Jeremiah, but no one was spared God’s wrath and anger. Will it be enough to claim that “Our Pontiff allowed it” or “Our Bishop permitted it” when we are called to account for our own complacency? This is what I ponder. I don’t want schism, but at the same time, I don’t want to die at the hands of another fellow “Catholic”. I pray that all would let go of their ways and follow God’s, but at this time at least, it seems unlikely.

    I will simply continue to pray and be vigilant. Perhaps the Master isn’t too far from His return.

  4. Supertradmum says:

    Mea Culpa, Father, as I am one who has talked and written about the schism, but my point has been that there already is one in effect, de facto, if not de jure.

    The problem is not merely the clerics at the top, but those in the pew who have removed themselves from Rome in matters of contraception, ssm, and irregular marriages.

    But, I take to heart your slap-on-the -hand.

  5. Papabile says:

    I’ve written about schism too, but my point has always been the vast majority of the Church in the US has been in de facto schism for at least 40 years.

    I once raised the issue of the schism of the Church in America with Pio Cardinal Laghi after serving a a Mass for him at the then Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (now Basilica)….. He sniffed, in a distinctly Italian way and said, “You mean it is not already in schism? I have been operating under the assumption that most of the Catholics here already are. Just look at what they ‘believe’.”

  6. Suburbanbanshee says:

    It’s frustrating to stand one’s ground. It hurts. There are a lot of people out there playing a zero-sum game, like they’ll get more salvation if they get us run off to Hell. But nobody is throwing me off Jesus’ ship of salvation, and I’m not giving up my share of His fishing company (koinonia), either.

    Re: those who “aren’t really Catholics,” Jesus let Judas and Peter and John stick around. We aren’t God. Unless it’s my job to throw somebody off the ship, I’m not going to worry too much about this. Bishops and canon law courts are the ones who have to sweat that stuff.

  7. Mandy P. says:

    What worries me most, as a relatively recent convert, is the potential for a vague or ambiguous document emerging from the Synod. I do not believe it is possible for the Church to officially teach error, but it is certainly possible for those who desire to please the world or to sugar coat the true teachings to word any declarations in such a way that people who are determined to have their validation can read it into the text.

    We are living in an age where the greatest secular sin one can commit is to disapprove of another’s behavior or choices (unless, of course, those behaviors and choices are compliant with that stuffy old, bigoted traditional morality). Ambiguity or wavering in the face of this popular feeling is the absolute LAST thing the world needs right now.

  8. jacobi says:

    “liberals are already in de facto schism”


  9. frahobbit says:

    This was a a breath of fresh air. Yeah, worrying about who’s out or in is above my pay grade. I have my hands full with the impact on me of my own sins and weaknesses, and the impact on my neighbor. I do have to be ready to ‘give a reason for my hope”.

  10. CharlesG says:

    I do believe it is premature and irresponsible to talk about schism, but if the synod comes out with doctrinally ambiguous mush, and the Pope enacts in its wake the (I believe) heretical Kasper proposal and perhaps enacts some sort of endorsement of or “opening” as the liberals like to call it to cohabitation and same sex marriage and activity, then the faithful Catholic will be in a dilemma. Cardinal Burke has said he would have to “resist” in such a scenario. I’ll be watching him for possible guidance then.

  11. demigh says:

    I agree with Father Z. Wouldn’t we all do well to pray, to attend to our various vocations with love and sacrifice, and leave the Synod to the Holy Spirit? It seems like we worry and fret away our peace, and of course that’s just what the devil wants.

  12. Uncledan says:

    Ann Barnhardt has a pretty good take on a schism. Simply being that a schism will accomplish nothing really other than making things more complicated. Best idea is to go to mass for the eucharist and forget any nonsense going on – if you can. I understand it’s harder for some as they don’t have the choices I do. I have kooky churches here and moderately kooky churches and then I have Latin Mass which I can go to.
    May I offer a solution? Why not focus on your weapons instead? Use them constantly. They are:
    1. Prayer
    2. Fasting
    3. Confession/Penance
    4. The bible
    5. Mass

    That’s all the arsenal you need to get things done. Do the confession first and then hammer on everything else.

  13. lana says:

    demigh and uncledan – AMEN!

  14. Benedict Joseph says:

    There can be no schism were doctrine has been abandoned. Post-council sixties saw the elimination of any concrete and effective catechesis. If you didn’t have it by then, you didn’t get it unless you made sure you got it. It appears to me in retrospect that even those well intentioned souls who dived into theological training, the seminary or religious formation did not get a real catechetical formation. There was a dismantling of all bodies, structures and systems that effectively handed on the doctrine of the faith. We became, in effect, a Church without doctrinal principals, not because they didn’t exist, but because they were ignored and have been withheld from the laity. This gave a free hand to a hierarchy more orientated to protestant academics and the soft sciences like psychology and sociology. No doctrine, no accountability. The laity hungry for real pastoring, observant priests and religious, can now be effectively dismissed with a paternalistic posture, a nudge, with a wink, a nod and a smirk. One need only look to the news from Belgium today. At this point the possibility of schism could be thought sign of hope.

  15. Legisperitus says:

    SSPX is definitely not an option if you’re trying to go into schism. [Or… if you are trying not to.]

  16. Latin Mass Type says:

    Didn’t Cardinal Burke mention praying the Chaplet of the Holy Face as the date of the synod approaches? [Yes, and that is an excellent idea.]

    Just search on “Chaplet of the Holy Face” and check out one of the sites it brings up.

  17. Rushintuit says:

    Then there are those that claim there is a gay mafia in the Vatican orchestrating the Synod. What to make of those reports? [I won’t say they are false.]

  18. kneeling catholic says:

    Dear Father Z!
    I think the Church has suffered schisms in the past. :-(
    And don’t see how the circle can be squared if the synod declares that it is no longer a mortal sin to receive Holy Communion while in an adulterous state. [You are working from an impossible hypothesis. The Synod can’t do that on its own and Francis won’t have any part of that.] The American bishops can accept any cognitive dissonance but not so the Africans, ditto the Poles and most certainly not those of the former Soviet Union. I don’t even think Cardinals Burke and Mueller can ‘walk back’ what they have said in good conscience.

    It is beginning to remind me of the Monk episode where culprits tried to convince him that his dead wife was still alive. Monk replied ‘If that’s true, nothing’s true!’

  19. jflare says:

    Well, if y’all intend to make so many comments about schism, I guess I’ll ask a question.
    Given that some of the German bishops have…allied, sort of…with Card Kasper, we could arguably say that some of the bishops are more prone to disagree with the pope’s proclamations than others;
    given also that I have heard that the SSPX was/is quasi-schismatic, but only the particular bishops were ever formally excommunicated;
    How does a schism differ from the state in which bishops have suffered excommunication?

    I think Fr Z may have covered this a few months ago, but refresh my memory, if you would.

  20. Felicia says:

    The Winnipeg Statement said that Catholics who contracept “in good conscience” could receive communion. Of course, there is really no such thing as contracepting “in good conscience” and so on a strict logical basis this statement did not change Catholic doctrine. But most people simply took that to mean that contraception is a-OK. And look how destructive that is! So while I really do hope that what Fr. Z says is true and nothing bad is going to come out of the Synod, I myself greatly fear that we will get Winnipeg Statement Part II with all that that implies.

  21. iamlucky13 says:

    This reminds me of a discussion on another Catholic blogger’s site. He’s pretty orthodox, but I think in large part because one of his main interests is social justice, he’s got a lot of non-orthodox readers.

    He wrote about the small set of professed Catholics in an awkward position somewhere between the sedevacantists and actual communion with Rome, who were attempting (rather clumsily, I must add) to argue that Pope Benedict never intended to to fully relinquish the papacy, but only to bring on a sort of vice-pope to handle the administrative duties of the papacy. Therefore, nothing related to faith that the still-Cardinal Bergoglio says has any authority, because Benedict is secretly still Pope, even though he publicly recognizes Francis’ papacy.

    Calling it bizarre is being generous.

    The ensuing discussion was mostly fine, but a few people weren’t content to leave crazy-enough alone, with one commenter in particular explaining authoritatively that from her dabbling with the traditionalist movement, she had realized that all traditionalists were fundamentalists who’s beliefs were not based on faith and reason, but based on searching for reasons to condemn people they don’t like. Furthermore, it was obvious that no real traditionalist recognized Pope Francis’ authority, and there was little doubt in her mind we were heading for a major schism.

    I pointed out then that the schism had already happened (and really was not that major), and the traditionalists recognized it was heretical and stayed with the church. And I warned against the kind divisive language she used as if she was hoping for schism.

    I’m not sure the point actually got through to anybody. That same subset of readers still occasionally goes on disappointingly mean-spirited rants against traditionalists without provocation.

  22. Michael 1964 says:

    For years the Servant of God, Fr. John Hardon, openly stated that there was a de facto schism within the Church in the West, in particular, the United States. How difficult is it really to go from de facto to de jure? Your “trust” in the present pontificate is admirable, but unfounded based on numerous statements by Pope Francis, including his longing not just for Holy Communion for the divorced-remarried, but also full integration. I freely admit that threats of formal schism seem impossible, for if there wasn’t a major schism after the recent council and the destruction of the Roman Rite, then I can’t imagine one happening here. At the same time, however, this present situation deals with lower truths and more obvious truths for the laity. Conservative Catholics are pro-life and pro-marriage. They may not have a clue in regards to liturgical matters and the ambiguities and even errors on questions of religious liberty and ecumenism, but they get the natural law. For the first time in my life, and I am 50 years old, I have seen “blow-back” from conservatives in regards to the Pope. Conservatives overlooked the scandals at Assisi under the previous two popes, but I don’t think they will simply overlook the marriage issue. Whether we like it or not, the private revelations to Sr. Agnes of Akita, where cardinal would fight against cardinal, are being seen. Pope Francis has sent Cardinal Kaspar to spread the revolution, and Cardinal Burke has drawn a line that he will not go beyond. He was quickly demoted and relegated to a figure head within the Church at just 66 years old. As for me, I say bring it on and let’s have some resistance. The cult of personality in regards to the pontificate, where the beloved leader can do no wrong, and the unCatholic expansion of the notion of papal infallibility has done tremendous harm. The false unity that exists in the Church today is a joke. There is very little unity of Faith and less unity of love, since unity of Faith precedes unity of love. And where there is little or no love, you eventually have schism.

  23. LuisaP says:

    Schism is actually too open, too direct, too candid, too honest for these prelates. Just stayin’ in and changing the Church is what they want. And by changing the Church, they mean practice… who care what a lil ‘ole law says. Nobody’s going to get ‘punished’ either (read: who am I to judge)

  24. KateD says:

    Re: schism:

    “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”

    His word is good enough for me.

    And while we’re on the subject of the naming of Cephas….My family and I were just watching The Passion of the Christ and it occurred to me that Cephas sounds a lot like Caiphas….nearly indistinguishable to my ear. Is Caiphas a name and a title? It reminds me of the play on words used by Jesus when talking about a camel/cable fitting through the eye of a needle. When Jesus gets pun-y, I take it as a cue to pay closer attention, look for more.


  25. The Masked Chicken says:

    The Cephas/Chaiphas similarity is probably accidental. Chaiphas is a name, not a title. He was chief priest in Jerusalem the year Jesus was crucified.

    The Chicken

  26. KateD says:

    Cepha, Qayfa, Qefa!

    Apparently, I’m not the only one who thought they were really similar. If this link is okay, it may be of interest.

  27. Praynfast says:

    Thank you for writing this article, Fr. Z. It seems that many Catholics do not understand the gravity associated with SSPX’s disobedience. If one were to switch to SSPX, one would be sinning gravely, right? This is a very serious matter. [It seems that you don’t quite get the point I made, above. The SSPX really isn’t the focus of my post. The point I made was that talk of schism resulting from the upcoming Synod (because, hypothetically, the bishops vote for some dopey proposals) serves only to benefit liberals, other kooks, and journalists who want flashy headlines. People need to calm down. There isn’t going to be a schism, either on the liberal left or conservative right. The SSPX doesn’t figure in this discussion. So, I am closing this rabbit hole now.]

  28. Pingback: We're Going to Keep Talking About Schism! Wherein Steve Rants - OnePeterFive

  29. Benedict Joseph says:

    I was taken by Michael 1964’s closing comment beginning with “The cult of personality…” I think he has hit on a significant component of the quagmire we are navigating, and that is the inordinate credence we give to personalities … the dogged persistence in turning pastors, religious and church laity into celebrities to the effect enhancing (or debasing) their credence. I admit, with some awkwardness, to being relieved when Saint John Paul died, that the positive side of his death was the “celebrity” component of the pontificate would now evaporate and we could get down to business. Pope John Paul was unusually suited to support the mantle of celebrity, on top of his virtue, because he was by his God given gifts, character and circumstances, larger than life…unlike John XXIII whose pontificate seemed to start this nonsense. John Paul’s celebrity status served a purpose at a critical time, but that time is long over. It is time to shed what is nothing less than secular hubris and remember we are about something, SOMEONE, else. In a contrary mode the media turned (scandalously) Pope Benedict into a celebrity by framing him as a villain. They have conversely turned Pope Francis into hero by saving us from “the villain.” It is up to Pope Francis to voluntarily bring this personality cult to an end by affirming, with the greatest strength, the Magisterium, without equivocation. What was the monastic maxim? “Do good and disappear!” Father Hunwicke has provided a paraphrase about all this from Vatican I more than once… “The Holy Spirit was not given to the Roman Pontiffs so that they might disclose (patefacerent) new doctrine, but so that they might guard and set forth (exponerent) the Deposit of Faith handed down from the Apostles.” That’s the job of all bishops – then disappear!

  30. Thank you for steering us through these rough seas. Your blog is the only barque of Peter keeping us on course through this fog of modern obfuscation us Catholics are receiving lately.

  31. AnnetteJoan says:

    God must have truly, truly been watching over me. I wonder sometimes why. I’m 56 now, became a Traditional Catholic at 18, a young girl who was “turned on” to the Catholicism of pre-Vatican II by an Italian grandmother who missed the old ways, and actually became a stay at home Catholic after the change of the Mass in 1970.

    My mom converted to Orthodox Judaism in 1944 and then married my born-Jewish father, and so my sister and I were raised as Jews….but I was very close to Nonna who filled me in on everything from what the little red fishies on her calendar meant, to the glory and beauty of genuine pre-Vatican II Catholicism. I did not know enough about the Faith yet to ask why she never went to church, but she prayed daily, said her Rosary and developed what I now would call “a ghetto of the mind” so that in her mind, anyway, things stayed the same as far as her beloved Church and Faith.

    When I was 16 I decided to go into the local parish to inquire about studying the Catholic Faith, because by this time I was sure I wanted to be Catholic. God in His infinite and undeserved mercy to me (in a chance occurrence I can only call miraculous) “just happened” to allow the ONE truly traditional priest still at my local parish to answer the rectory door that day. Father welcomed me inside, and said we could start weekly catechism classes, just he and I (who does that nowadays? Now its the RCIA or RCA, I forget the initials!)

    On our first lesson, Father pushed across the desk at me a weird, orange and black “Parish Catechism for Today” with those ugly mdoernist line drawings from the 70s. He said,” This is what they want me to use with you”. He then looked at me mischievously and pulled an old Baltimore Catechism from his desk drawer, and said, “THIS is what we WILL use”. And each week, we did. He also had us doing Bible study from a Douay Rheims (not even Confraternity!) Catholic Bible, complete with Roman numeral chapters, lol. After our studies each week, we would sit and chat…he would gripe about Jesus Christ Superstar (a rock opera big at the time), and tell me about men he regarded as heretics, such as Fr Feeney and Teilhard De Chardin.

    I had only attended one novus ordo at this point, and was confused as to why there was no Latin, and why the priest faced the wrong way from what Grandmom had told me. Father baptized me on April 1, 1978, and not long after, a neighbor, learning of my interest in the Faith, told me about Tridentine Masses being held at the airport in motels, by the ORCM, a trad group in existence at the time. I took 3 buses to get there and never looked back. I did go back to Father to let him know I found the “real” Mass, and asked him to come. He said he could not go for various reasons, even th0ugh he detested all of the changes since V2…but he gave me my blessing.

    I’ve never looked back, and even today, the few novus ordos I sat through in the 70s are the only ones I have ever been to. I don’t even keep up on changes now going on in the novus ordo church since they don’t affect me (I didn’t even know they “canonized” JP2 until last week, lol!) And until the mid 1980s, I didnt even know that Pope Pius XII (PRE-Vat 2) changed the fasting for Communion from midnight to 3 hrs before (yep! I’m REALLY behind the times thanks togranny!)

  32. albizzi says:

    Is a formal schismatic a man who doesn’t feel himself bound by the council Vatican II since no dogmatic definition was issued by this council ? If yes, what in that council is really binding on the catholic faithfuls?

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