The Church on the verge of a schism: Will Catholics face the fate of Anglicans?
The Catholic Church under Pope Francis is beginning to look more and more like the Anglican community: internally divided over attitudes to Scripture, understanding of the essence of the Gospel, and fundamental matters surrounding doctrine. With the conflict over attitude towards the LGBT community, Anglicans are in danger of a major split. The same is true in the Catholic Church. And no one knows whether the schism will ensue
The problems gripping the Anglican world might not interest us, were it not for the fact that their situation bears an enormous resemblance to that in the Catholic Church. Anglicans have been arguing for years about their understanding of the essential truths of the faith, which in itself is not surprising: after all, they have no single center of authority. Honorary leadership in the Anglican Communion is held by the Primate of the so-called Church of England, titled Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. Key decisions for the worldwide community are made by Anglicans “synodally,” meeting regularly at conventions that bring together the heads of community structures from around the world, usually in London’s Lambeth. Deprived of ecclesiastical teaching office, they are guided by the world’s judgment and for decades have been gradually moving away from a faith based on divine revelation, which need not be described here: everyone has heard of Anglicans’ susceptibility to the ideas of the Enlightenment and the ‘68 revolt.
For most, however, there are some impassable boundaries. This includes the subject of LGBT. Since both the Old and New Testaments say that homosexual relations are sinful, that’s what they are – and in the opinion of most, one must not pretend otherwise. The problem is that Western governments are pushing for change, among other things…Justin Welby himself recently admitted that he had already been summoned twice to the British Parliament, where he was pressured to bring Anglican regulations into line with secular laws and introduce homosexual marriage. After all, the King is the “head” of the so-called Church, so why shouldn’t his will be pushed through? Welby and other English church decision-makers, regardless of their own views on the subject, feared division. Thus, they decided to try to satisfy both sides. The result was the introduction in England not of homosexual marriages themselves, but “only” the blessing of same-sex couples. Welby extolled this as a solution that was inclusive and free of discrimination, while on the other hand protecting the specificity of marriage.
He miscalculated – and not only because the UK authorities were not at all content with such limited “progress.” Leaders of Anglican communities affiliated with the group “Global South Fellowship of Anglican Churches” reacted to the step by the so-called Church of England with fury. They published a statement accusing the Anglicans of departing from the Bible, betraying the mission of the Gospel – and announced that they were breaking unity with them. In short, it’s a kind of Protestant “excommunication.” Talks aimed at restoring unity are currently underway. At this point, however, it is already possible to speak of a split.
Catholics should be in a better position: the Pope is the guardian of unchanging Tradition, so in principle it is easier for them to navigate between the trappings of fashionable ideologies. Unfortunately, this ecclesiastical fuse is currently not working. The Pope is not carrying out his mission as guardian of unity: cardinals and bishops freely proclaim even the most blatant errors. This is done under the slogans of “unity in diversity” and a “new pastoral paradigm.” The problem is that there can be no doctrinal diversity in the Church, and pastoralism cannot go against Church teaching. One of the issues of Do Rzeczy weekly described the course of the European phase of the Synod on Synodality – a process that Francis intends to permanently transform the Church. The European bishops have de facto agreed to a doctrinal split in the Church. In recent weeks we have seen the consequences of adopting this attitude. Let me give just two “minor” but telling examples.
On February 14th – Valentine’s Day – the German diocese of Aachen announced that it was inviting all couples for a church blessing; the invitation was illustrated with a graphic depicting a couple kissing. An incident? No, a method. The bishop explained to the media that he supports the action because it is up to each priest to decide whether he wants to bless gay couples. This goes against Church teaching, but the bishop doesn’t have to worry about it. He knows he’s in no danger because the decision-makers at the Vatican support his line. After all, bishops from Belgium, Italy, or the United States also do the same, and the Pope won’t even say a word against them. In Aachen, a ceremony was held in which a priest dressed in a rainbow stole blessed a gay couple. Later, standing before the Blessed Sacrament, the couple hugged and kissed. The gathered crowd went wild with delight. There was no reaction from the Holy See.
At the end of February, Bishop Tomáš Holub of Pilsen in the Czech Republic announced guidelines in which he proposed an “act of lasting mercy” for divorcees in new relationships. According to the Church’s teaching, such people are not allowed to receive the sacraments unless their new relationship, due to the need to care for children, is difficult to break and they live with their partner like brother and sister. However, the bishop is not interested in this: He has changed this practice, going against Church teaching. He knows he is in no danger: many bishops around the world have done the same thing before, and the Pope has even expressed his approval of such steps by letter.
Actions of false “reformers”
This absurd “unity in diversity” does not only apply to Europe. In January, in the pages of the Jesuit magazine America, Cardinal Robert McElroy announced that homosexual acts are not a grave sin, and therefore gays and lesbians living in intimate relationships should be admitted to the Eucharist, just like divorcees; for Holy Communion should be “inclusive” and for everyone. Rome’s reaction is naturally lacking; after all, exactly the same views have been expressed for years by Francis’ friend Jean-Claude Hollerich, to whom the pope entrusts high offices and control of the Synod on Synodality.
This is what the Catholic Church looks like under the pontificate of Jorge Maria Bergoglio: homosexuals are kissing in front of the Blessed Sacrament, while a rainbow-dressed priest gives them a blessing and Holy Communion. Yes, such aberrations incidentally occurred earlier as well. However, it was obvious that they were occurring in defiance of Rome. Now it is obvious that Rome supports it. It comes as no surprise, then, that a growing group of Catholics is anxiously looking into paragraph 675 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. In it we read that before Christ’s second coming the Church must go through a final trial. This trial will involve the preaching of a fraudulent religion that will give people an apparent solution to their problems at the price of deviating from the truth. The Antichrist’s deception will be pseudo-Messianism, in which man will glorify himself instead of God and Christ. The father and doctor of the Church, Hippolytus of Rome, who lived at the turn of the second century, wrote that the Antichrist will come out of the “generation of Dan,” a symbol of being from within the Church itself. Just as the Catholic Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, so the Antichrist’s hierarchy will erect his “Mystical Body” – Antichrist Church.
Yes, there are voices calling for sobriety – and not only in circles associated with the Priestly Fraternity of St. Pius X. At the end of February, a clear stance was taken by one of the American bishops, Thomas Paprocki, the son of Polish immigrants and the Ordinary of Springfield, Illinois. The bishop indirectly referred to the theses being circulated by Cardinal McElroy and other progressives like him, indicating that we are dealing with formal heresy. What follows, he wrote, is that pastors who preach it incur excommunication. They are deviants from the faith – deviants whom the Holy See does not dare or simply does not want to call by name, and so they exercise their authority fearlessly. On another continent, in Africa, the Ordinary of Lyra, Bishop Sanctus Lino Wanok, called the Vatican’s tacitly accepted practice of blessing same-sex unions a “mockery” of the Church. In Rome itself, Cardinal Marc Ouellet, until earlier this year prefect of the Dicastery for Bishops, warns of hurting the Church with another schism due to the actions of false “reformers.” Earlier, several other hierarchs had already criticized the Synod on Synodality as a path leading to the destruction of the Church.
However, there are still not enough such voices. What’s more, it appears that in direct confrontation they lose their clarity. After all, bishops in Eastern Europe, including Poland, have long criticized the revolutionary line of hierarchs like those in Germany. Yet when they all come together, as they did at the synodal meeting in Prague, the ultimate conclusion is still “unity in diversity.” This fall, bishops from around the world will gather for a synod in Rome. Will the number of those capable of boldly articulating the truths of the faith be enough to persuade the Pope to intervene in some way and stop this intensifying festival of heresy? Continuing to bury one’s head in the sand in the face of the audacious trampling of the foundations of doctrine is a strategy that only moves away from what is necessary: cutting off the erring. Even Anglicans can already see this: you cannot remain in one community if you actually profess a completely different faith.
This article was published in March 2023 in “Do Rzeczy” weekly.