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A serious theologian’s fear of schism

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Oct 08, 2019

Father Thomas Weinandy has long been a perceptive and courageous analyst of the current confusion that is spreading from Rome. And he has paid a price for his honesty. In 2017, the Capuchin theologian gave up his position as consultant to the US bishops’ doctrine committee, after making public a letter in which he challenged Pope Francis to stem the tide of confusion about Church teaching.

Now Father Weinandy has taken another step, with a bold article for The Catholic Thing provocatively entitled “Pope Francis and Schism.”

No, Father Weinandy is not charging that the Pope is leading a schism. His point is that the Pope is tolerating a virtual schism. That is, he is allowing the German bishops to set out on a course that is effectively schismatic. Since the German bishops claim (and evidently have) papal support, they are protected against charges of schism, even as they drift away from the constant teaching of the universal Church.

Meanwhile, ironically, American Catholics who cling to those established teaching are labeled as schismatic by their radical critics—and, sadly, by the Pope himself. Yet these faithful Catholics would never cut their ties with the Holy See. Father Weinandy mournfully predicts:

What the Church will end up with, then, is a pope who is the pope of the Catholic Church and, simultaneously, the de facto leader, for all practical purposes, of a schismatic church. Because he is the head of both, the appearance of one church remains, while in fact there are two.

This is a serious charge, made by a serious theologian. Father Weinandy also sees—in general terms—a way out of this dangerous mess.

Put this essay on your “must read” list.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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