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Is it peace, Jehu?

By Diogenes (articles ) | Jun 21, 2006

Washington's emeritus would fain leave his brother bishops the parting gift of peace:

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick sharply warned the U.S. bishops June 15 that "the intense polarization and bitter battles of partisan politics may be seeping into (the) broader ecclesial life of our Catholic people and maybe even of our (bishops') conference."

If the year were 1966, this could be read at face value as a caution both timely and reasonable. In 2006, as neither. The divisions McCarrick deplores are hardly a recent development. What is new is the candor with which bishops have begun to acknowledge them.

In the Camelot days, Joseph Bernardin ran the NCCB as Richard J. Daley ran the Chicago City Council: committee-work, "debates," and voting were all rigged in advance, and the news cameras were brought in for the bogus meetings so that the proletariat could see unanimity in action. The losing side -- comprising those Fr. Neuhaus calls "John Paul II bishops" -- was constrained to submerge its disagreement in the general buzz of affability: de episcopis nil nisi bonum.

But the divisions were there for all that, and at root they were doctrinal in nature, not personal antagonisms. As the Holy See began in the 1990s to reject the NCCB's goofy initiatives one after another, the minority faction in the U.S. episcopacy grew bolder and less willing to grin and bear it when the Bernardinians killed the mike on them or ash-canned their proposals. Finally, the sex-abuse crisis in 2002 brought about a public relations melt-down so swift and devastating that the bishops no longer had any good-will to put at risk. When there was not even a simulacrum of amity to preserve, and thus nothing to lose by speaking with candor, a few bishops tentatively began to address the de facto schism by admitting the truth -- or, as Cardinal McCarrick puts it, by giving voice to the "intense polarization and bitter battles of partisan politics." Small wonder he's panicky.

It's all there already in St. Paul. Divisions in the Church based on theologically irrelevant antipathies (ethnicity, class, language ...) can and should be overcome by charity. But heresy, as Paul says, calls for an anathema -- and if you can't convince heretics of the truth, it's better that they be schismatics as well. The contrary notion -- that schism is to be avoided even at the cost of heresy -- is lethal in the long run, look no further than the current woes of Anglicans and Presbyterians. What we're watching is not schism in the making -- but rather a desperately frantic scramble to cobble together a majority willing to pretend, in public, that the schisms have yet to occur. Roman Catholics, it bears repeating, are in no position to gloat. On the vexed issues, our bureaucrats are doctrinally closer to Frank Griswold than to Ratzinger. We're split by the same fault lines. Contra McCarrick, we need to polarize while we still have a pole.

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Show 19 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Gene Church - Jun. 24, 2006 8:24 AM ET USA

    I disagree. While we stand for the beliefs of the Roman Catholic faith, we pray for unity, not division.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 22, 2006 3:30 PM ET USA

    Pray for the Pope. He is faced with a challenge that will be solved only by strong paternal discipline.The early Church had many such doctrinal situations. Follow the teaching that you know to be true. Resist and ignore what is false. Bishops can be disciplined, Orders suppressed, dioceses split. That might work. But we really need men who believe in the Church and are loyal to its tenents and the Holy Father.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 22, 2006 9:27 AM ET USA

    I agree with Sulpicius. The likes of Richard McBrien, Thomas Reese, Joseph Komonchak, Commonweal, America, National Catholic Reporter, et al., should form the American Catholic Church and go on their merry way and let the rest of us rest in our communion with Rome.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 22, 2006 8:43 AM ET USA

    Until Rome is willing to remove many specific bishops, can we conceive any legal way to factually acknowledge the reality of a Schism? The days of Henry VIII are gone. Modern life in America, at least, does not seem to leave an alternative, particularly one which avoids harm to innocent and faithful persons. De facto and de jure will be points of contention for a long time until open flaunting of elemental dogma is no longer tolerated, as it is today, and as anyone with 1/2 a brain knows.

  • Posted by: sulpicius - Jun. 21, 2006 11:17 PM ET USA

    Granted the "de facto schism", I suggest we pray fervently for real, visible schism. I.e., the formation of an "American Catholic Church", separated from Rome, that is free to go its own merry way to self-destruction. I'm all for miracles (such as unity of faith and morals under strong papal leadership), but let's be practicle: It is far better to excise the gangrenous limb, which is seeping its poison into the body, than to allow the whole body to die for the sake of (false) unity.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 21, 2006 5:58 PM ET USA

    "Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother... ; and one's enemies will be those of his household." Hey bishops, check this out! It is more authoritative than the USCCB. Some say that our modern Church has been feminized, but I say that such a charge is unfair to women. However, it certainly does seem neutered. Thanks for the analysis, Diogenes.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 21, 2006 5:03 PM ET USA

    "How can there be peace," Jehu replied, "as long as all the idolatry and witchcraft of your mother Jezebel abound?"

  • Posted by: - Jun. 21, 2006 4:05 PM ET USA

    Brilliant analysis. He is calling the faithful bishops dividers and partisan. If you tell the truth and call a thing what it is you're hateful and mean. The rest of the Grimm fairy tale they never tell you is that crowd beat the daylights out of the boy who said the emperor had no clothes. It isn't easy telling the truth to people who don't want to hear it.

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Jun. 21, 2006 3:54 PM ET USA

    Thank goodness you have this in the United States. Canada is still waiting for the Berlin wall to come down. The Spirit blows mighty cold in Canada.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 21, 2006 1:22 PM ET USA

    I think the issue should be pressed, not just in the US, but around the world. Benedict XVI has already said that he thinks, for the immediate future, the Church might be reduced to smaller communities of convinced Catholics. Perhaps it's a good time to get rid of the unconvinced Christians (cardinals and bishops included) so that we know who the Catholic Christians really are. Not the secularists, or the syncretists, or the lukewarm, but the real Catholics. It would be refreshing.

  • Posted by: Eleazar - Jun. 21, 2006 1:12 PM ET USA

    "We are called to teach the truth, to correct errors and to call one another to greater faithfulness.” “"We don't fit the partisan categories…We are not chaplains of factions.” Would that they acted in the manner of their speech. How they must long for the days when the Democrats were in power in DeeCee and the bishops supped at their tables and dined on their leavings.

  • Posted by: Vincit omnia amor - Jun. 21, 2006 12:50 PM ET USA

    Card. McCarrick makes no sense to me. Reason & Canon 915 make clearly show that pro-abort Catholic politicians (publically manifest grave sinners) are not to be given Holy Communion. Am I the only one who thinks that McCarrick's stance looks more like "partisan politics" then that of those Bishops who would enforce Can. 915 thus upholding doctrine & avoiding scandal?

  • Posted by: Robbie - Jun. 21, 2006 12:24 PM ET USA

    Ok, I'll buy Cd McCarrick's reasoning about not letting politics get involved in the discussion about allowing certain politicians to receive communion, but how long ago was Roe v Wade? Why did we have to wait for an Evangelical Christian to set the agenda? Just as Moses had to give the Jews “divorce” the bishops have given Catholics death. If Catholic politicians think they won't be elected for voting against abortion, etc than just absent themselves when that vote comes up.

  • Posted by: Charles134 - Jun. 21, 2006 12:03 PM ET USA

    Does this not make all communion "irregular" until the Church gets her house in order? (500 character limit problems-maybe we could get rollover from previous shorter comments!)

  • Posted by: Charles134 - Jun. 21, 2006 12:01 PM ET USA

    I've heard charges of de facto schism for some while now. Also rumors of threatened schism in Brazil after BXVI's election and CWR article by Dr. Hitchcock suggesting the threat of schism compelled JPII to ease up on dissenters. I find it all quite plausible. Schism is the refusal of communion with the Bishop of Rome and those bishops in union with him. But Rome has demanded communion both with itself AND with bishops not in union with itself. How is this possible?

  • Posted by: Coemgen - Jun. 21, 2006 11:26 AM ET USA

    Card. McCarrick has it backwards. The Church is not assuming the partisanship of politics, rather, the Church is experiencing partisanship based upon morals and values. Since much of the political partisanship is also focused on morals and values he mistakes the assumption of partisanship to be from politicsl to the Church. In reality it is the opposite. The Bps. allowed dissension on morals and values, and now this resulting moral partisanship is leaking into politics.

  • Posted by: - Jun. 21, 2006 10:46 AM ET USA

    I would also like to remind you that Cardinal Ratzinger said: "The words of the Bible and of the Church Fathers rang in my ears, those sharp condemnations of shepherds who are like mute dogs; in order to avoid conflicts, they let the poison spread. Peace is not the first civic duty, and a bishop whose only concern is not to have any problems and to gloss over as many conflicts as possible is an image I find repulsive (from Salt of the Earth)."

  • Posted by: - Jun. 21, 2006 10:38 AM ET USA

    The American Church has been in de facto schism for a while now. Cardinal McCarrick himself is part of the reason. He has never been willing to support Church doctrine and he has been all too willing to sacrifice it to the exigencies of his own popular standing and to secular culture. The rise of orthodox bishops brings this schism into high relief and they spoke up at the November 2005 meeting. But it's like the American electorate: it's still a 50-50 proposition.

  • Posted by: Pseudodionysius - Jun. 21, 2006 10:23 AM ET USA

    I give the readers two choices: (1) A "collegial" set of Bishops who have spawned the current mess. (2) Chair throwing, screaming, hair pulling, fist fighting Bishops like in the 4th century. Question: Which chesspiece set delivers more martyrs for the faith and saves more souls? St. Jerome, pray for us.

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