“What rascal, what traitor, what madman would be so misled by the spirit of discord as to dare rend the Divine unity, the garment of the Lord, the Church of Jesus Christ?”
– Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, martyr, saint; in early writings (De eccl., unit., viii; circa A.D. 250), saw no legitimate reason for schism.
I think everyone above has contributed some great insight into this question. I might add that in St. Cyprian’s time there was far more chance of schism being due to localized false teachings (such as the Arianism that was about to rear its ugly head) than being due to abuses. As most of us know, this is why the term “catholic” - meaning that which is everywhere believed - was used to isolate these small pockets of heresy.
For this reason, its very difficult to apply St. Cyprian’s question to the age of Martin Luther. Jon touched upon this idea, and I think we have to be fair about it. Yes, indeed, there was “blame on all sides” by the 16th century… and the Catholic counter reformation is a clear testimony to this fact. As a recent convert to Catholicism (from Anglicanism), I have to NOW admit that what Luther did was ultimately wrong… but it certainly wasn’t an easy decision for any devout Christian to make at the time. May Christ forgive him!
Having said all this, let me just say that hindsight is 20/20. If Luther’s break with the Holy See was very difficult, each successive break has been decidedly less so. The process has accelerated, and the schisms within protestantism over the last two centuries have long past the saturation point. That’s where the false road of sola scriptura, coupled with a loss of respect for sacred traditions and the writings of the early church fathers, has finally lead.
And so NOW this quote from St. Cyprian has come back to haunt us. The problem is, sadly, I don’t think Rick Warren really cares…