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None Dare Call It Schism

September 26, 2019 Frontpage No Comments


Pope Francis isn’t afraid of schism, he says. Such a statement was pulled out of the Holy Father with a question asking him to clarify what he meant in his critique of Americans — or better still, why being criticized by Americans who stereotypically think in crayon didn’t seem to bother him all that much.
EWTN’s Edward Pentin quoted Francis specifically on his reasoning for not fearing schism, stating that “a morality of ideology, such as Pelagianism, to put it that way, makes you rigid and today we have many, many schools of rigidity inside the Church. They are not schism, but they are pseudo-schismatic Christian paths that in the end finish badly.”
Yet Francis knows he is caught in a pincer movement. On one hand, we have an Anglo-American Catholicism where the core still looks to Pope John Paul II as the great restorer of the world (pace Aurelian) having defeated Soviet Communism and turned back the “spirit of Vatican II” reformers — most of them, anyhow.
On the other hand? The German bishops, who have absolutely no compulsions whatsoever into driving the Catholic Church into a theological framework that would certainly please the lusty King Henry VIII. For what died John Cardinal Fisher and St. Thomas More, one wonders….
In between we have Francis and a $70 million per annum hole in the Vatican budget. Closing that hole as an effective administrator might land you in an Australian prison on trumped up charges, as Cardinal Pell learned. Thus accommodations must be made, with exceptions such as viri probati tantalizingly close to becoming the rule in the upcoming Amazon Synod.
Fun Fact: Germans contribute a good deal more to the Vatican than Americans. In 2008, German contributions to the Holy See amounted to $9.3 million, compared to the American bishops’ contribution of $8.3 million. Italy came in third at $5.5 million. That is just the money we can see, of course.
First and foremost, the German bishops are primarily fueled by their Kirchensteuer — the state-enforced church tax — and fundamentally believe that if the Church does not modify what it believes according to the times, it will not survive. When Pope Benedict XVI talked about a smaller and more faithful Church? One cannot help but think that Benedict was thinking of his fellow German bishops specifically.
Second and perhaps more influential is the political consideration. It is no secret that Pope Francis is hostile to the idea of the Catholic Church being leveraged as if it were a giant NGO for the developing world. Such hostility extends to the U.S. State Department and USAID’s insistence that American aid come with American values — democracy, freedom, contraceptives, and abortifacients. (The Trump administration has expanded the ban on funding abortion overseas.)
This policy is shared by both the United States and the European Union, though not by all member states of the EU and certainly not by all Americans. The German bishops know this as well, and if they can just ever so slightly accommodate Catholic values to make exceptions wide enough to drive a schism through it? They will.
I have seen this argument time and time again in the pro-life movement. Prudence over wisdom, they argue. Do what you can within the rules of the game, because that is all you can do. Quite frankly, not only is that nonsense but it is un-Christian and uncharitable likewise. The German bishops seem to be plotting that course right off the cliff with a “synodality” of their own; Francis is trying to plot a middle way that isn’t there to broker some sort of compromise.
Therein lies the problem.
In our postmodern age, we seem to have Church leaders held in thrall to the idea that they can purchase the condition of reformers without a corresponding holiness. Mother Teresa changed Calcutta, but not because she was a prolific fundraiser. Pope John Paul II changed the map of Europe, but not because he was a master statesman. St. Dominic and St. Francis restored a Catholic Church nearly dead from its own weight, yet they didn’t do so through mere preaching.
In each case, the grace of God — not the works of men — worked through the humility of God’s servants. Humility is the only answer to pride because it is the only virtue the Devil cannot imitate. The great irony in all these cases and perhaps the present day is that the more we try to do, the more we fail precisely because we are doing the work, priding ourselves on our own strength in restoration of a kingdom no man could possibly create.
In their own ways, such efforts to restore the Body of Christ through our own strength are a sort of laceration against the body of a suffering Christ. Look to Christ crucified; each wound was created by us to “help” in our own salvation. “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do!” exclaimed Christ. What did His own Mother do at such times? She prayed, with her only word during the entire Passion being “Amen” — or fiat in Latin: So be it.
This was the same fiat that the Blessed Mother gave to the Archangel Gabriel at the Incarnation. The only other time we see Christ’s Blood is in two other instances in Scripture: Gethsemane and the Last Supper.
Thus we see Christ’s prayer that “they may all be one” and the Eucharist, despite Peter’s willingness to use his own power and lacerate the ear of the Jewish soldiers sent to arrest Christ.
When our bishops and cardinals take matters into their own hands rather than being shepherds of what has been received, that’s where we take the turns toward division. Tradition isn’t a dirty word, nor is fidelity. Pride is a dirty word, as are the words calumny, detraction, and folly. The Germans are simply fearful of the wrong balance sheet, as are the Americans to some degree.
Either way, do not fear schisms in the Church. They aren’t from God, so there is nothing to fear. Those who tell us that the only way to be authentically Catholic is to break from the Pope and the bishops are Protestants at best. “Thou art Rock, and on this rock I will built my Church,” Jesus tells Simon — perhaps the weakest of the apostles.

+ + +

Abortionist Ulrich George Klopfer’s ghoulish collection of 2,246 babies in his Illinois home is nothing short of evil. Dr. Mengele did such things, and the example reminds me of the old Langston Hughes poem about the 240,000 natives working in the Johannesburg mines. Paraphrased:

In Illinois
There were 2,246
babies stored in jars.
What kind of poem
Would you
Make out of that?
2,246 babies
stored in
jars in Illinois.

Yet one wonders about this and the 61 million babies who have perished over the last five decades. As I was talking about with a friend the other day, such sacrifice in innocent blood cannot go unpunished forever.
What is at least clear now is that the solution to ending abortion is not and never will be politics. “Ending Roe” won’t end abortion. The goalposts will merely shift, lawyers and lobbyists will grow fat convincing themselves that incremental change will save lives, while Planned Parenthood cashes in and the devil laughs.
The Devil won’t laugh at the rosary.

+ + +

My friend continues to recover in West Virginia. The fact that I have not heard much from him is perhaps a good sign. So please continue to keep him in your thoughts and prayers.
St. Louis de Montfort and Venerable Matt Talbot pray for us!

+ + +

First Teachers warmly encourages readers to submit their thoughts, views, opinions, and insights to the author directly either via e-mail or by mail. Please send any correspondence to Shaun Kenney c/o First Teachers, 5289 Venable Road, Kents Store, VA 23084 or by e-mail to

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