Splitting the Roman Catholic Church

Recently, say over the past few weeks, a couple of Roman Catholics have expressed the opinion that the American church will split. Clearly the majority of RC’s, if one believes polling, both by independents and the UCCB itself, most Catholics for instance voted for Obama, and support various liberal issues. They practice birth control at a very high rate, and so forth.

Additionally, a larger number of RC’s on this forum have publically said that they wished that Catholics who don’t agree with their views of dogma (which they of course claim is the Church’s) would leave the church, even if it meant a majority of the American church left, leaving a very small RCC in America.

My question is how could this happen?

It seems to me that generally speaking when a minority is dissatisfied with the majority and the manner in which they operate, it is the minority which leaves. It certainly can’t force out the majority I wouldn’t think.

When so many here think that most of their brethren are “poorly” catecized, have poor priests who come from liberal seminaries and Cathollc colleges and universities, where most religious women are thought poorly of as being “liberal” etc. I can’t figure out how the minority can leave the church either.

Clearly the ultra conservatives here wish to remain aligned with Rome, and they would never consider any alternative that I can think of. Yet how can they remove the majority from the Church?

Or do most Catholics conservative or otherwise disagree that the liberals should get out of town?

I’m just wondering what Catholics think on this issue, or if they think about it at all.

As an Episcopalian, we have such a strange set up, that minorities that are unhappy with the majority of their congregation, have alternatives that allow them to remain in the some sense Episcopalian or Anglican. I don’t see this alternative for the RCC.

Quite honestly, I don’t think there will be any sort of significant split. You can watch the news, listen to the anti-Catholics, and nitpick over the details til you turn blue in the face, but when you get right down to it, the vast majority of the Parishes in this country are perfectly happily in communion with Rome.

There are social and intellectual orthodoxies in this country that have crept their way into people’s habits and beliefs for sure, and we have an unfortunate culture of people not going out of their way to learn and study the faith, but for the most part Catholics understand the major tenets of the Church. It’s not as bad as it seems.

As has been mentioned before, a lot of this is just the calming of the storm that naturally comes after a council as major as Vatican II. Time will smooth things over, and I firmly believe that most Priests and Bishops will realize that now is the time we have to stand strong and stand together. I actually predict that we’ll be blessed to witness the emergence of new Saints the caliber of Aquinas and Francis of Assisi in this generation that will serve to renew and refresh the faith.

That has ALWAYS been God’s response for the Church in the darkest of times. And we’ll come out a FAR better Church for it.

I tend to agree with you. I’ve never thought the church in dire trouble. But this forum does make one feel like the sky is about to fall any moment. I have read a couple things on Catholic sites linking to Vatican sources that suggest they are quite worried about the increasing right wing rhetoric coming out of some of the Catholics in this country.

But I tend to agree that when you are in the parishes you see basically happy people. I guess that seems the problem for the right wing of the Church. They are in an uproar yet the majority of Catholics seem profoundly satisfied and peaceful with the church.

At least so say those Catholics I talk with who don’t frequent forums and are just basic average Catholics.

Thanks for your imput. :slight_smile:

“As an Episcopalian, we have such a strange set up, that minorities that are unhappy with the majority of their congregation, have alternatives that allow them to remain in the some sense Episcopalian or Anglican. I don’t see this alternative for the RCC.”

You don’t see this alternative for the RCC?

Anyone can claim “Catholic” as their affiliation, even if they do not follow any of the Catholic Church’s teachings, or if they choose to follow only the teachings that are easy, popular and convenient!

Luckily, Jesus is ever Merciful and He allows us to fail infinitely, just as long as we are genuinely remorseful and are trying to find His Truth.

The “Majority” has nothing, zilch, zero, nada, to do with following Jesus!

It’s just the opposite. Following Jesus means renouncing the “Majority” and joining the “Minority”! To be a true disciple you must even renounce yourself!

**"And he said to all, “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Lk 9:23).
“Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.” (Mt 7:13).

Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, Ora Pro Nobis Peccatoribus!


AFAICS, authority in Anglicanism has a different “shape” from that which it has in RCism: it’s nearer to being horizontal, whereas (despite the expressed will of Vatican II) authority in RCism is still pyramidal, with the Pope at the apex in solitary splendour, & the laity on the lowest & broadest level. And since Vatican I, we also have the dogma of the Pope’s “supreme, full, and immediate jurisdiction” over each & everyone of the faithful. So it “includes” all jurisdictions below it, in the way that a cause “includes” all the effects that are subsequent to its action; so those jurisdictions are not abolished. Which is an elegant theory - whether it is sound as Christian ecclesiology, is another question. V2’s model of the Church’s relation to the human race was that of a series of concentric (& horizontal ?) circles - much more appropriate to the nature of the Church than the “imperial Papacy” inherited from the recent past, IMO.

As for that word “liberal” - it seems to be a general term of abuse, & to be undefined. Which is not helpful, since “liberalism” in politics can be found in tandem with very conservative positions in Biblical matters; which is why Biblical “liberalism” is not evidence of “liberalism” on bio-ethical issues: they may both be the positions adopted by a given person - then again, they may not. So, is such a person a “liberal” ? Life is more complicated than a simple opposition of “liberal” to “conservative” allows; & it is very difficult to have a useful discussion with people who insist on adopting an over-simple model for understanding the world, no matter what the subject, & no matter where people stand in regard to it.

To “remove the majority from the Church” is objectionable for several reasons. The fact that there are mechanisms for doing this points to an unresolved & ancient tension between two understandings of the Church: the Church as a body with rules and discipline, able to inflict & enforce sanctions for misconduct; &, the Church as the body of Christ. There are two models of the Church, that in part overlap, and also conflict.

It gets worse: because all Churches have to live with the contradiction between their roots in the Jewish eschatological movement that was the very earliest Church; and, the fact that the Church had to adapt to the non-occurrence of the Second Coming. It’s one thing to wait for the “coming of the Lord” “in the air”, before the end of the generation to which those who heard Jesus belonged; but something else, to set up all manner of Church structures as a way of living in the world for a period that is indefinite in length, & may be very long. This difference in perspective can be seen in Matthew and Luke respectively. Each idea is interesting, taken in itself - but they are not easy to harmonise. :shrug:

Why can’t “conservatives” & “liberals” co-exist in the Church ? Surely both are needed.

Polls on Catholics are unreliable, because many people who attend Protestant denominations continue to self-identify as Catholic, as do many non-practicing Catholics. And also Christmas-Easter Catholics are including in the media’s identification of “Catholics”. The truth is, the overwhelming majority of weekly Mass-attending Catholics are conservative to moderate in their political views.

My question is how could this happen?

It probably won’t. Like I said, the problem with “liberal” (actually, cultural or disloyal) Catholics are the minority when it comes to weekly Mass-attending Catholics.

Clearly the ultra-conservatives here wish to remain aligned with Rome…

Actually, any practicing Catholic, by definition would never even think about breaking away from the Church in order to form another sect.

Or do most Catholics conservative or otherwise disagree that the liberals should get out of town?

Any one who professes a faith which they don’t believe, such as dissident Catholics who disagree with central teachings of the Church, is intellectually dishonest to themselves and brings shame to the religion/church they profess to belong to. Because of that, they should leave.

I’m just wondering what Catholics think on this issue, or if they think about it at all.

As an Episcopalian, we have such a strange set up, that minorities that are unhappy with the majority of their congregation, have alternatives that allow them to remain in the some sense Episcopalian or Anglican. I don’t see this alternative for the RCC.

That’s because there are non-negotiables in Catholic teaching, and to have different tiers of spiritual governance over “orthodox” and “unorthodox” wings is against the very nature of the holy Catholic and apostolic Faith of the Church.

I don’t think that Catholics will leave the church over doctrine unless they’re forced out. If they wanted to leave the church over particular doctrines, they would leave. There are other churches that could serve them today.

It seems that, though they disagree with issues like BC, they feel a strong attachment to the Church.

I think the Church has been socially liberal for a very long time. Voting for someone who wants to open the borders, close Guatanamo, end the war, etc, isn’t voting against Church ideals.

But the Church doesn’t preach politics from the pulpit. You won’t hear a Catholic priest support or denounce any candidate during a homily. You may get a personal opinion from him at another time, but not from the pulpit. :slight_smile:

Individual Catholics leave the church over doctrine, so I suppose it’s possible that a group could organize to form their own church. It seems easier to join an established church, though. Maybe they would form their own, thinking that it’s less non-Catholic than other (non-Catholic) churches. Maybe they would think that they are the true Catholic Church? Heck, Mel Gibson formed his own church and called it Catholic. Anything is possible. :slight_smile:

I’m tired, and I think that was a rambling response. :eek:

The Church’s teachings, dogma, and catechism, as well as historically, are in no way “socially liberal”, at least not in the modern sense. Of course, attaching political labels to the Church’s teaching should be discouraged at all times.

“Opening the borders” and “closing Guantanamo” are similarly positions that shouldn’t be attributed to the Church.

A minor point, perhaps just a quibble, but the majority of white American Catholics did NOT vote for Obama. The majority Catholic vote for him was due to heavy Hispanic voting for him. There are some who argue that Spanish language political ads were misleading.

Doubtless, some percentage of Catholics who voted for Obama did so without knowing how anti-Catholic (in a true sense) he really is. Many don’t know it even now.

Some, no doubt, voted for what they thought would benefit them (“free” healthcare, etc) and swallowed the abortion snake with it, and meant to do it.

I do think Obama wants to foment at least a major de facto schism in the Church. I believe it is for this reason that he has appointed so many abortion-supporting Catholics to high position, and not a single truly prolife Catholic. Of course, since he would want to appoint Democrats and since it is virtually impossible to support that party if one is truly prolife, his options are limited. But he has certainly appointed a lot of pro-abortion Catholics; many more than one would have expected simply to have resulted from a “religion-blind” selection process.

His supporters also support exceedingly well-financed dissident Catholic organizations.

Obama would be the pope of a dissident Catholic church in America if he could; symbolically speaking, and virtually is. But things like that pass, I think, in time.

Everyone gets intimations of mortality at some point in life, and many Catholics in the U.S. are getting to an age where such things will become more frequent. Perhaps, as with the old saying “there are no atheists in foxholes”, there are few serious dissidents within the last decades of life.

Let’s not over-simplify things here. (Or over-complicate them, of course. :D)

Yes, I can agree with your description, that there’s a liberal majority, and a conservative minority.

Out of that conservative minority, a small sub-minority wants to kick out the liberal majority.

Nothing really surprising about that, when you think about it. And, I would say, not a very strong likelihood of their wish being granted. (Although I wouldn’t be too surprised if the RCC decided to “crack down” on some of the really hard-core liberals. Wouldn’t be the first time.)

“crack down”?

When has the RCC done any meaningful crack down at any time you can remember in your lifetime?

If the scandals did not provoke any such crack down, why would liberal catholics suddenly provoke some kind of crack down? And, if your crack down did occur, who would be filling the envelopes with money?

I don’t believe that there will be any kind of ‘split’.

The church is structured in such a way that the properties will remain under the control of bishops loyal to the bishop of Rome. In most states this is called a Corporation Sole and it was intended specifically to support the hierarchical structure of certain organizations like churches. In the case of the RCC the parish properties belong to the bishop and the bishop is appointed by the Pope.

The majority of parishioners will stay with the brick and mortar. Those who remain are sometimes skeptical about the teachings of the church, but they are not unified in any other significant way so they do not represent a coordinated threat.

I think that there is a far greater danger of the congregations shrinking. If a family goes two generations of nothing more than Christmas and Easter attendance the third generation is very likely lost. Most of these people slip away without being noticed.

Whoa, hold on a sec … just how old do you think I am?!

When the sexual abuse scandals came to light, the Church took steps against the same happening in the future. (That’s not really a great example, though. A Catholic who doesn’t believe what the Church believes but continues coming to a Catholic church every week – rather than going off and joining a denomination that agrees with his/her views – is a whole lot different from a Catholic priest abusing children.)

The OP seemed to think that voting for someone who would open the borders, which is seen as a liberal position in the US, is against Catholic ideals. It’s not. That was the point raised and the point answered.

Many Christians churches are against (from the pulpit) opening the borders, closing quantanamo, and many other issue that are called “liberal” in the US. I think the OP wrongly guessed that the CC was one of those churches.

The CC doesn’t tell its members how to vote.

The “crack down” would have to begin with some of the priests! :slight_smile:

Let me add, however, that the above statement could be quite misleading – making it sound like the Catholic Church is made up of two perfectly homogenous groups.

Look at it this way: I certainly don’t want to be lumped together with liberal Catholics who believe that unmarital sex is okay; but, if I can help it, I’d also rather not be lumped together with a Catholic who says that Vatican II was a travesty, or a Catholic who says that the Pope has got to dogmatically define “Co-redemptrix”, or a Catholic who says that the Eastern Orthodox are “hopelessly divided among themselves, similar to the Protestants, except that the Orthodox [are] split along the lines of ethnic nationalisms”. (Those are three very real examples of conservative Catholics, but they do not define conservative Catholics as a group.)

[/soapbox about “lumping”]


The same Catholics who are filling them now, the conservative/traditional Catholics who are loyal to Rome.

I think the only real risk of a split in the catholic church comes from the dissenter wing. For most of my life, these folks have dominated the diocesan staff level, held a good number of episcopal sees, become entrenched in nominally catholic universities and organizations. Their heros are guys like Hans Kung, Fr. Richard McBrien, Prof. Doug Kmiec and they put out publications like Commonweal and US Catholic. They refuse to discuss abortion as a fundamental human right, dismiss church teaching on contraception out of hand, neglect the rich tradition of catholic devotions and practice, are generally inclined not to talk about sin/salvation, and often see the primary mission of the church to be the meeting of physical needs of the poor (instead of meeting their spiritual needs, which INCLUDES meeting their physical needs, but goes way beyond that). They mostly detested John Paul II (especially in his later years) and ground down their very teeth when they heard Ratzinger was elected pope.

They are fast losing their grip on the catholic church in North America. Their ‘feel good’ catechisms were forced to add at least some content when the USCCB reviewed all such programs for compliance with the CCC. Their limp vision of church attracts no seminarians while the John Paul II catholics are starting to fill seminaries - orthodox ones. Graduates from places like Franciscan University of Steubenville and Christendom College are becoming DREs and youth ministers and implementing robust CCD prgrams with actual content (like the Faith & Life series). Flaccid diocesan outreach programs are being aced out by lay organizations with ecclesial approval like Catholic Answers, FOCUS, NET Ministries, Relevant Radio, the Coming Home Network, etc. The entrenched have-beens have no power to stymie these semi-independent movements. New bishops are less likely to be of the “Land O Lakes” variety and more likely to be of the Bishops Carlson and Dolan variety.

The entrenched dissidents do NOT like what they see coming. If there is a threat of a split, it will come from them and any bishops sympathetic to them. I’m not sure how the diocesan legal structures work, but I wonder if a local bishop could essentially declare independence from Rome? Create a Church of Engl, err… America kind of thing?

This may be why you don’t see evidence of a conflict at the local lay level. That isn’t where the battle really lies. The battle is going on at the “professional” church level - diocesan employees, staffers, schools, universities, hospitals, etc.

There are dissidents on the far right of catholicism too. The kind that say Vatican 2 was invalid or the NO mass is invalid or that there hasn’t been a valid pope for decades. Ignore them, everybody else does. That kind of stuff never transfers generations - it’s sterile. They are no real risk of significant and lasting division in the church. (IMO, of course)

I have no idea what your remarks have to do with addressing the question. My point is that the minority in the American RCC is upset with the majority, but it can hardly leave since that would be leaving the RCC as such, and yet they can’t force out the majority either.

You post in tandem with some others is interesting. If we exclude the hispanics, the people who aren’t really Catholic but think they are, the non-practicing Catholics who think they are but aren’t real Catholics, the Christmas-Easter Catholics, who think they are but aren’t, thennnnnnnn…we have a majority of real Catholics.

And I think your take on Obama is wrong. I suspect he spends less than 1/2 second per week thinking about Catholics.

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