Is there a “schism”?

gray50shadesI pay scant attention to Patheos, but for a couple contributors.  This caught my eye after a frequent commentator here alerted me.

Fr. Dwight Longenecker wrote, with my legendary emphases and comments:

Headlines last week were proclaiming that a group of cardinals believe Pope Francis should step down to avoid a catastrophic schism in the Catholic Church.

Schism? What schism?

In fact, the modern Catholic Church is already in schism, but it is an internal schism, hidden to most people.  [He is using the term “schism” equivocally, but read on…]

The divide is very clear and yet virtually unspoken. Nobody dares to really speak of it.  [I don’t know about that.  HERE] The divide runs between cardinals. It runs between bishops and archbishops. It runs between theologians. It runs between parish priests. It runs between liturgists and catechists, church workers, musicians, teachers, journalists and writers. [All true.]

It is not really a divide between conservative and liberal, between traditionalist and progressive. [Wellll…]

[NB] It is the divide between those who believe that Jesus Christ is the Virgin born Son of God and that as the second person of the Holy and undivided Trinity established his church on earth supernaturally filled with the Holy Spirit which  would stand firm until the end of time, and those who believe otherwise. [As I read, I am acutely aware of my post about yesterday’s “Anthema” ceremony for Orthodoxy Sunday of Eastern Christians.]

Those who believe otherwise are the modernists. [Let’s also use “heretics”.] They are the ones who think the church is a human construct. It is a historic accident that occurred two thousand years ago and succeeded by a few twists of fate and a few happy circumstances. Because the believe the church is a human construct from a particular time and place, the church can and MUST adapt and change for every age and culture in which she finds herself.

This is the great divide. This is the schism which already exists.


I direct the readership’s attention to just about anything offered by Card. Kasper lately and, in particular, the incredible comments made by Card. Coccopalmerio to Edward Pentin HERE:

PENTIN: One last topic: At a recent plenary meeting with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, you reportedly encouraged the members to push for a less rigid understanding of the priesthood, essentially telling them to give up on an objective and metaphysical notion of priesthood. Your notion was that as we have an understanding of different levels of communion with the Church among the baptized, we should have different degrees of the fullness of priesthood, so as to permit Protestants to minister without being fully ordained. What exactly did you say, and why did you say it?

CARD. C: I was saying we have to reflect on questions. We say, everything is valid; nothing is valid. Maybe we have to reflect on this concept of validity or invalidity. The Second Vatican Council said there is a true communion even if it is not yet definitive or full. You see, they made a concept not so decisive, either all or nothing. There’s a communion that is already good, but some elements are missing. But, if you say some things are missing and that therefore there is nothing, you err. There are pieces missing, but there is already a communion, but it is not full communion. The same thing can be said, or something similar, of the validity or invalidity of ordination. I said let’s think about it. It’s a hypothesis. Maybe there is something, or maybe there’s nothing — a study, a reflection.

Call into question the very concept of validity?  What are the implications?

Effectively, that means the obliteration of the Catholic Church.

What do libs do? They launch things out as ideas, “hypothesis”, and then they walk them back or they add “nuances”.  In the meantime the needle has been bumped a half a point in the desired direct.  Card. Kasper put some ideas out there to kick around.  Chaos ensued.  But now we have some bishops who say that the divorced and remarried can be given absolution and Communion while others don’t.  This, based on an objectively unclear papal document.  It’s surreal.  Now, Card. Coccopalmerio (as LutherFest 2017 revs up) lofts the notion that, perhaps, there are shades or, a spectrum of validity.  Maybe there isn’t really any such thing as validity.

Are there 50 Shades of Gray Validity?


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Personally, whenever I hear such double talk meant to pull a fast one, I like to make it concrete and don’t let them escape. This one is a doozy that cuts off the branch he’s standing on. IMO, we can’t let such illogical heretical statements stand without challenge.

    So if he says “Maybe we have to reflect on this concept of validity or invalidity?”, I’d say, “Oh really? Do you really doubt your priesthood is invalid? Perhaps you should resign and let a real priest and Cardinal take your place since you have no authority to speak for the Magisterium when you place the principles upon which the Magisterium is founded is put into doubt.”

  2. Amante de los Manuales says:


    Exhibit A: L.A. R.E.C.

  3. scholastica says:

    “It is a historic accident that occurred two thousand years ago and succeeded by a few twists of fate and a few happy circumstances. ”

    Sounds like the modernist definition of creation. So they have done to the Church what they have done to our origins. Just a random accident that we have manipulated into its present state.

  4. Traductora says:

    I thought Fr. Longenecker’s recasting of the problem was brilliant, and it solves a lot of problems with the usual model (“conservatives vs. liberals,” “traditionalists vs. neo-conservatives,” etc.). The fundamental thing is that Francis’ idea of the Church – of which he is theoretically the head – is different from that of a large part of it, and the weight of history is on that side and not on his.

    One thing that has made this very difficult is that there is such disunion and even animosity between different orthodox factions (that is, the traditionalists, the non-traditionalist “conservatives,” the average run of the mill good Catholic who may, miraculously, be pretty orthodox but doesn’t really want to or know how to fight it out, etc.) . But if the starting point is the vision of the Church, I think that will solve all the minor conflicts and let us go on to the Big Deal…which is that the man who is currently sitting in the Chair of Peter does not believe in the Church except as a human organization which can and should be shaped, under his authority, to reflect the social concerns of the left in 2017. Or whenever. The fact that the EU wants the Pope to meet with them and become their unelected head tells you all you need to know.

    So I’m with Fr. Longenecker – who has been through several churches (Evangelical, Anglican and now Catholic) – so he has obviously thought deeply about this and I think he is absolutely right. Of course, that still doesn’t answer the question about what we do next. But maybe adopting this attitude would stop some of the quarreling that is preventing us from doing anything.

  5. The Astronomer says:

    I’m coming to think that these more ‘outrageous’ statements from a certain type of prelate are meant to innoculate us to potentially more radical changes to come, along the lines of AL, but pushing the boundaries further into heresy.

    Brings to mind the story about how a frog can boil to death, not realizing the increasing temperature will kill him. Given Catholics’ virtue of obedience, when do we leave the boiling or to save ourselves from heresy?

    I believe every word of the Nicene Creed at face value and my personal hero is St. Padre Pio.

  6. frahobbit says:

    People, start paying attention to the episcopal lineage of our Catholic priests.

  7. ChgoCatholic says:

    Fr. Longenecker has a real point here. We just met with a family member, responsible for the raising of her grade school daughter, who (thanks be to God) has ensured her daughter receives her sacraments. However, she refuses to believe in hell (the mother) or the devil and doesn’t think that the Bible has any authority over her. The whole thing is simultaneously bizarre and yet not at all unusual among the wider baptized community these days. And she is about 15 years older than us…so it’s across all generations at this point. We pray that her daughter will continue to receive and recognize the graces of these sacraments and remain and grow in her faith over time. But indeed the confusion and error and outright heresy from within is already quite evident.

  8. Tom A. says:

    The short answer to the question “Is there a schism?”


  9. Tom A. says:

    The next question should be, well who was it that left the Church?

  10. LarryW2LJ says:

    “It is not really a divide between conservative and liberal, between traditionalist and progressive.”

    Maybe; and maybe not. I have some friends, that you might consider liberal, who remain pretty adamant that “you don’t mess around with the basic tenets of the Faith” – but anything else goes. But I have to agree with Fr. Z’s “Wellll” that for the most part, conservatives and those who have a traditionalist bent are less likely to be considered schismatics, in the sense that we think of it.

    If the Church continues to travel down the disastrous Kasperite highway in the years to come, with a majority of “c”atholics steering happily towards oblivion, I’m pretty sure that we’ll end up being the ones considered as schismatics.

  11. Pigeon says:

    If someone says something like, “God is neither male, nor female [nor any “other genders” I suppose] so it’s OK to call God “mother” instead of Father,” you can be sure they believe in the “historical accident” theory. We would respond, “God is neither male nor female, but He revealed Himself as Father.” To which they say, “revelation, smevelation.”

    Ultimately, this amounts to de facto deism, and potentially atheism. If God did not intervene in our affairs and reveal Himself to us, then all religion is a human construct, and if God does not involve Himself in our affairs, then why bother worshiping Him at all? God becomes meaningless, and might as well not exist.

  12. Henry Edwards says:

    “The divide runs between cardinals. It runs between bishops and archbishops. . . . . It is the divide between those who believe that Jesus Christ is the Virgin born Son of God and that as the second person of the Holy and undivided Trinity established his church on earth supernaturally filled with the Holy Spirit which would stand firm until the end of time, and those who believe otherwise.”

    In short, a divide between believers and non-believers in Christ. Non-believers within our council of bishops and the college of cardinals, no less! Who could possibly believe this, were there another explanation for some of their actions?

  13. rcg says:

    The liberals and heretics have the high ground, the money, and hold the castle. They could command the conservatives and traditionalists to leave ala SSPX. It is ironic that the SSPX is being courted to return. Could there be a longer goal in this puzzeling move? If the SSPX does return and the traditionalists consolidate around them, then the enemy of the liberals will be centralised and easier to deal with. If the environment becomes intolerable and the traditionalists leave (stay with me) the Church will have removed an ancient cyst and be remade in the image of the men who lead it.

    How can this happen? For better or for worse there is a strong sedevacanist association with the SSPX. It can be indirectly encouraged by the liberals and energised to influence and act on the traditionalists. Even if we don’t leave a misstep while reacting to the next Kasperite Outrage could legitimize supression.

  14. JEFFKLUMP says:

    Stop with the labeling! There are no libs or conservatives, inside or outside The Church. You continue to divide people along the left-right paradigm. No such thing! At the same time, you continue to promote the Zionist Pig agenda when it comes to the phony terrorists known as al queda, ISIS(Israeli Secret Intelligence Service). Trump is a Jew. He surrounded himself with Jews, and he is taking the U.S. into bankruptcy and Martial Law. The anti christ will be a Jew! You are a shameless self promoter and you continue to get in bed with republicans. Do your job as a priest. Stop being a coward by censoring people on your site. Embrace the Constitution!

  15. Imrahil says:

    The sarcasm of Jeffklump is beyond my understanding. (I assume it is sarcasm, because anything else would be to hard on him to contemplate.)

    Dear rcg,

    on the contrary, being centralized usually furthers strength, as all armies know who put themselves under one central command. Oh and no, the SSPX does not have a sedevacantist association.

    (These days, you will probably even hear more of sedevacantist rumours among non-SSPX traditionalists than among the SSPX. Probably that has the humanly understandable reason that opposing the Pope is old hat for them, while a novel and psychically demanding effort for Catholics who hitherto had not been doing so; and being virtually opposed by the rest of the Church is easier to bear if you don’t in practice think as much about and associate as much with the rest of the Church than if you do. But whether this be the reason or something else, the “traditionalist bitterness” some complain about, though exaggerated in any case, has long been much more present among Ecclesia-Dei-communities than SSPX.)

  16. gsk says:

    I have noticed for a couple years that Pope Francis occasionally speaks well on love of the Blessed Mother, family, protection of the unborn, reverence for the elderly, care of the sick, importance of prayer, corporal works of mercy, reading Scripture regularly, living charity, proper stewardship, and honouring God through worship, but what is always missing is the institutional Church. As a convert, I could have done all those things where I was (even loving Mary as the mother of Jesus) but what I now have as a Catholic is the magisterial lens (not to mention the sacraments). Interestingly, the very institution that gives Francis his authority is the one that he seems to neglect (on good days) or disparage (on bad days). And as for the latter, it’s not just the Church he seems to denigrate, but all who hold it dear to their understanding of God — leading to the bizarre scenario where is seems to be teaching/scolding while sawing off the very branch of the tree on which he sits.

    Periphery is merely a matter of perspective.

  17. Mike says:

    Modernism being heresy by definition, it is without doubt that the past few Papacies are problematic. But it is also of consensus by orthodox theologians (as cited, among myriad other places, here by Robert Siscoe) that we pewsitters are not competent to declare a Pope heretical and his Papacy vacant. To proclaim authoritatively the existence of schism, as Dr. Peters lately discusses, would seem to be equally outside our competence.

    In any case, wagging a virtual finger over the interwebs at the occupant of the See of Peter is most unlikely to rescue the Church from Her travails. Better that we should prod our bishops and priests to lead the resistance to Modernism and the restoration of the Faith. And that, by prayer, fasting, penitence, the works of mercy, and correspondence with grace, we should fit ourselves to be led.

  18. rcg says:

    Imrahil, I don’t disagree, but point out that consolidated forces are only stronger if they are unified for offense and defense and not merely as targets. Rightly or wrongly many in the the Church at large view the SSPX and traditionalists as the home of sedevacanists or even cultivating them. This is a way for enemies to justify attacks and gain initiative in these discusssions by forcing us to spend time proving that we love the Church instead of defending Her.

  19. Mswn27 says:

    Come Lord Jesus!

    “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.”

  20. Elizium23 says:

    Is it a sin for me to pray that this schism be de jure and manifest? Is it a sin for me to hope against hope that I will be on the “right side” that stays in the Church and does not strike out in a schismatic body? Is it a sin for me to resolve to stand firm, and follow the True Church wherever it may lie in the future, even if it means leaving a Modernist Holy See behind?

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