Schism question



I was prompted by this thought the other day when I overheard a family member mention that her presidential candidate has mentioned equal employment laws and enforcement to be widened to all institutions including religious employment.

I don’t intend this to be a political question or even a debate. It sparked a curiosity to the question of what a faithful Catholic is to do if their very own bishop starts doing things contrary to Church teaching. TO be frank what would one do if their bishop or bishops of their region decided to Start ordaining women? What could or would a faithful Catholic do if their very own parish and surrounding parishes had only priestesses?

I guess the real question is how does one follow their bishop and Rome. Who do they submit to ? If this were to happen in my region I assure you that those of us who call ourselves traditional Catholics would be an extreme minority. What would we do? Would we start our own church? I am looking forward to responses…mostly because I live in an extremely Liberal diocese and the neighboring Archdiocese is even worse.


Hi Thurifer,

The answer is very simple. A bishop has authority inasmuch as he stays in communion with the Holy Father. The Holy See would of course intervene at some point. But if he persisted in his views and actions, he would be put out of the Church and another bishop would take his place.


PS I would not like you to think that a bishop receives his authority from the Holy Father.It has been handed down to him personally from an apostle. That is why we owe respect and obedience to our bishop. But he must exercise this authority in communion with the Holy Father, the successor of Peter, head of the apostles.


OK fine and dandy but lets take this one step further. What if the USCCB decides to be disobedient in a similar manner?

Who owns the chancery in my diocese? ROME? Who owns the church buildings? What if the majority of the faithful back the bishop or bishops? Sure Rome can talk but they have no “physical” jurisdiction…What are faithful Catholics to do in such a situation of Schism? Would we have to start over from Scratch? How would ROme communicate to the faithful? If a new bishop were to be appointed how would the faithful even know who or where he was? Where would he live? would we have to build new churches? I am talking about a flat out Mass schism…where the the church would simply continue to call itself the Catholic church and even claim to be in union with Rome …but do whatever they wanted?


The types of situations you describe have already happened numerous times. Most especially during the early centuries of the Church when heresy of Arianism, which denied the divinity of Christ, held sway over the majority of the bishops.

In many cases, bishops were excommunicated, and often exiled. On both sides. It was a very difficult time for the Church.

As far as your questions about the ownership of Church assets, that differs among dioceses. In the USA Church buildings, parishes, offices, and any real property is owned by either the diocese and/or the individual parishes. They are usually incorporated as not-for-profit religious corporations. No individuals, or bishops own the property, however they may be in a position to help manage it.


One answer and one question for you.

The answer - I think they have to follow Rome, but we have to remember that we also have to follow Rome. As long as the Vatican is still saying the bishop is your bishop I think your responsibilty to obey him remains. If he is asking for something your conscience won’t permit that is one thing. If you think he is just wrong (or not complying with Rome) that is another. You can call him on it and you can inform whatever the appropriate Vatican office is. But as long as the Pope is not unhappy enough to say he’s not your bishop anymore, you have to accept that he is.

The question - How did you get here from a politician talking about equal employment?


I mentioned in my first paragraph I had overheard a family member stating that her presidential candidate was stressing equal employment opportunities even in the religious institutions. IE making it against the law for the RCC to ban women from the priesthood. May be far fetched but all it would take is the stroke of a pen and the swing of a gavel for dioceses to be FORCED to empoy women priests. People can cry separation of church and state all they want but like I said…stroke of a pen and swing of a gavel. I know of a few bishops would easily render to unto ceasar and hide behind the courts when it came to a papal removal.

Certainly a paranoid doomsday scenario on my part…but it is simply a hypothetical.


There was a Canadian lawmaker who, last year I believe, proposed such a law specifically aimed at the Catholic Church. It did not get anywhere fortunately. Just the same, people (that is the enemies of the Church) are thinking about doing that which you are concerned about. I would say that makes your concern quite reasonable.


I would guess that many would do as the early Catholics that came to the country did. We would establish a parish Church under a Bishop loyal to Rome . Catholics are obligated to receive Holy Communion once a year during the Easter season and Confession at least once a year if Mortal Sin is known to have been committed. Catholics would attend Mass when a priest was avaliable to celebrate Mass.


Oh dear I hope not to derail but that is another question. The catechism says one thing about annual confession and Canon Law says another. I can’t remember which but one of them excludes the statement I underlined in your post. One says only when mortal sin is present the other simply says we must attend once per year.


Religious organizations are allowed to “discriminate” when it comes to employment. Churches are permitted to set whatever standards they wish for employment, especially among the clergy. The United States government will never force the Catholic Church to ordain women. The case law outlining these liberties, protected by the First Amendment, are very clear and considered black letter law.


What does the Baltimore Catechism say?

As far as the scenario goes, watching what is going on in Canada with respect to teaching on homosexuality, etc. makes the thought not at all far fetched.


Maybe we are focusing on the wrong thing here.

Suppose the courts/legislature required the Church to hire female priests.

Suppose the bishops knuckled under to this law.

Let them hire and ordain all the female priests they want to, we as laity are free to attend whichever parish we want at whatever Mass time we choose. Let these women play dress up and pretend Mass. But we will only attend Mass and receive Sacraments offered by orthodox, legitimately ordained male priests.


Two points

  1. there are millions and millions of Catholics that have only ONE church within miles and miles of their home or town.

  2. If you read my comments above you will notice that I mentioned what would happen if a bishop put a priestess at EVERY parish in your diocese and you didn’t know when they were going to celebrate Mass.


Well, the Catholic Church could very well go underground, like it partially is in China…


Hi Thurifer

Can. 989 All the faithful who have reached the age of discretion are bound faithfully to confess their grave sins at least once a year.


**1457 **According to the Church’s command, “after having attained the age of discretion, each of the faithful is bound by an obligation faithfully to confess serious sins at least once a year.”

This information is available on the web.



CCC 2042 says the second precept of the church is that you shall confess your sins once per year. it mentions nothing about grave or serious. However it does reference Can. 989.

I myself cannot imagine not going to confession for such an extended period of time. There can nothing good about not going to confession

With my quote above is it possible that there is a slight error in the absense of CCC 2042 that the word serious or grave is not present. I am wondering if the editors are aware there is some confusion there.


We must pray and pray hard when such laws come to the fore.


If a bishop put a priestess at every Mass and the parish offered more than one Mass a Sunday, then the faithful will just have to stay there until one is offered by a real priest. Yes, this is an unwarranted inconvenience, just include it as one more thing to offer up. As persecutions go, this is a mild one. And remember, money talks, if the faithful only give offerings at genuine Masses celebrated by genuine priests, the pastor (male or female) will make sure that there is at least one offered every Sunday.

Suppose that your parish is the only parish within a hundred miles of your home. Suppose further that the bishop assigns only one priest to your parish, and it is a female. Well, you and the rest of the faithful will have to car pool to the next real Catholic Church a hundred miles down the role. Yes, gas is going up every day and may be $4 or $5 or even $10 per gallon. Yes, you may have to sacrifice and scrimp and do without to buy the gas to get to Church. But again, as persecutions go, this is still rather mild.

Remember, when we were confirmed we were told that we might have to face martyrdom for our faith. Remember also that when Paul and Silas were flogged and imprisoned for preaching the Gospel they sang and rejoiced for being privileged to suffer for Christ. Commuting to Church kind of pales in comparison, don’t you think?

I don’t believe that in the U.S. they will require the Church to have female priests because of the Bill of Rights. But if they do, it will only make the faithful stronger.


This scenarios above miss the mark with regards to one small detail. Any bishop who ordains, (or, by logical extension, accepts the ordination) of a female pseudo-priestess, would himself be automatically excommunicated. That would mean he would no longer be your bishop and you are not bound to follow his directives, neither would any priest in his diocese. The Holy See would have to name another bishop.

In any case, it honestly does not matter if the only valid Mass is celebrated a hundred or a thousand miles away; you cannot gain any sacramental benefit from attending a false Mass. Nor would the Lord hold you culpable, I believe, if you are unable to attend for these reasons. But I like the carpooling idea!


I agree with Verbum’s answer. Direct and to the point.
Deacon Ed B

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit