Thoughts on Schism

April 21, 2012 at 12:52 3 comments

It seems, for all practical purposes, that there is already a real split in the Church. Some might even call it a schism. Despite the emotional baggage the term carries with it, a schism is not necessarily bad. There is an ancient and honorable phrase, “ecclesia semper reformata et reformanda” (the church, always reformed and in need of reform). The church is reformed in various ways, one of which might be a schism. If we believe the Holy Spirit guides the church, then the commotion of these days is part of the Holy Spirit’s work. And each of us has some important and necessary role to play in it, to use the gifts God has given us for the benefit of all. What that is we can learn only in and through prayer. It is a matter of grace. As we ask for guidance, we might ask also for the courage to go wherever grace calls us, and do whatever grace calls us to do. We don’t have to understand it, we just have to do it, whatever it is, and keep ourselves loyal to our prayer practice whatever it may be.

To me a sign that the Spirit is involved is the number, dedication, and quality of the folks asking for, and doing their best to effect, necessary changes in the life of the church. Needless to say, these folks are neither appreciated nor tolerated by the Vatican, the hierarchy in general, or some bishops. Some are being persecuted by the Vatican and hierarchy. Witness the silencing of those who do not mouth the party line and who dare to think for themselves. Matthew 5:11 comes to mind here: “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me; rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you”. It must be said, however, that there are a number of pastoral bishops who are doing everything they can to work with their people.

The split is occasioned, if not caused, by the actions of the Vatican, the hierarchy in general, and a number of bishops in particular. They have tried in various ways using threats, abuse of clergy, religious, and laity, basic playground bullying tactics, to impose their will on not only catholics, but on everyone. The most recent actions, have included the silencing of Irish priests in favor of optional celibacy and the ordination of women, the investigation and restructuring of the Leadership Council of Women Religious whose biggest mistake is that they are trying to live the Gospel as Jesus taught his followers. No wonder they are in trouble with the church establishment which is basically celibate men.

The leadership of the church doesn’t seem to realize that their bullying tactics might have worked on the playground, but they don’t work with mature educated adults. Some in leadership are known to have temper tantrums and hissy fits when people do not follow their orders or dare to think for themselves and follow their own conscience. Often such folks are abused and mistreated. The hierarchy has not learned that thought control does not work, no matter how many religious police try to make it work. Neither does forbidding some topics, such as optional celibacy or the ordination of women, to be even discussed. Folks are quite capable of forming their own conscience and do not need to look for the guidance from men who do not know what their daily life is like.

Folks are just walking away. Some of them are starting what could be described as a parallel church, meeting together, either with or without prayer of some sort, helping each other, and doing good for a lot of folks. Who wants to stay part of a group that treats its members they way the catholic church does? Many wonderful folks are just quitting religion altogether. My question is, how can they do without Eucharist? But probably they have never experienced the power and depth of Eucharist, or they are finding ways to celebrate Eucharist among themselves. It is possible to celebrate Eucharist is places other than those approved by the local bishop, as is already happening widely. Maybe bishops are not as powerful as they like to think they are.

As I was writing this I got two calls from the local medical center about patients who were actively dying and whose families wanted a priest to celebrate the sacraments with them. I responded, and I have just gotten back. It was a remarkably wonderful experience. It reminded me again that there seems to be a major disconnect between the structure of the church, and pastoral ministry and service to the folks. Most folks in their times of crises don’t pay much attention to the structure and the people who are trying to shore it up. They just want their needs met, and meeting their needs is an important responsibility of the local church, of all of us. The structure and its people do not seem to care much about meeting folks’ needs, if they are even aware of them. Some times and places this even happens locally. These folks this morning did not care about using the right words, demanding that the church’s teachings on contraception be imposed on everybody, forbidding same-sex marriages, women’s ordination, optional celibacy. They wanted their husband and father to be cared for and prepared to return to God, and for their own sorrow and fear to be ministered to. They want and need compassion, which they are not getting from the leadership. Jesus lived compassion. There does not seem to be compassion in the leadership and its structures and systems, in its threats and its punishments. Where is Jesus? He seems to me to be with the folks in the pews. Maybe he just doesn’t look good on a throne.

It seems that the structure of the church is becoming less relevant and more embarrassing, and its adherents just don’t get it. They really think they are always right and have all the answers for everybody about everything. When they think they are being crossed, hell hath no fury to compare with theirs, always, of course, in the name of Jesus Christ, for whom and in whose name they alone can speak. Is this what Jesus intended? Rooted in prayer and open to grace and the Holy Spirit, schism may not be bad. Just sayin . . .


Entry filed under: Catholic, Church Leadership, Current Church, Forbidden topics, Priest, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. a voice from the rustbelt  |  May 2, 2012 at 22:59

    I read a few of your essays to-day, and yes it is that way. There is an episcopal tyranny in the Church, and it is very apparent in the local church. It is a political theory of governance substituted for a religious one. In ancient history, it is called ‘oriental despotism’; as in Egypt, the faro was the only citizen, later he was a god. In modern political theory, Thomas Hobbes created ‘The Leviathan’ as the sovereign that held all rights over all his subjects. Neither scheme is related to a Christian community. The pharisees, and church police of to-day, demand strict, and total obeyance from Catholics. They go further still, and in effect, declare an absurd ex-communication on the non-compliant.

    The bishop’s baptism was not of a higher order than mine. Those who tell me whom to vote for, and then damn me for voting otherwise are not Catholics, but political partisans. The Credo does not bind me to the self-presumed ‘authority’ of these petty totalitarians.

  • 2. Joe Konen  |  May 8, 2012 at 10:28

    Being a Christian Community is our core call. Community is about people who gather to share and care. We share ritual celebration with a cosmogenic worldview and we care by supporting creative human growth in each other and by challenging one another to universal compassion.
    We “grew up” within an institution that inculcated loyalty to institutional identity. We thought the measure of our christianity was by our obedience. Maybe we need to really “Grow UP” and make the fundamental option for the poor as the measure of our fidelity to the Gospel Call.
    We need to stop measuring our success by how juridically connected we are to a denominational super-structure. Evolutionary adaptability is NOT added by legalistic inflexibility. Responsiveness to changing needs around is important and we need to stop measuring our success by institutional norms but rather show the responsiveness Jesus’ aksed “You give them something to eat.”
    The tendency of the hierarchy to put loyalty to their authority above loyalty to the gospel call … the tendency of the hierarchy to identify their writings as “THE truth” … the amazing ability of the hierarchy to pick and choose among the “Seamless Garment” of pro-life issues is not only sad but just plain wrong.
    Enough rambling … there is so much playing of the “inside” game of Church dynamics … “What the World needs now” is our Liberating action of Love

  • 3. cherish Kulka  |  May 9, 2012 at 16:02

    Ok so I just read your last three ponderings…..starting from the most recent and ending here. Joe Konen ending sentence is what keeps me going. I have been seeing so much ugliness with my Parish I question why I remain. But out of love I know this why I stay. I have so much to express but Jim you have expressed it far better than I ever could and your spelling is much better. Funny my children ask questions all the time why is this or that going on in Church and I then ask them a simple question…Do you think Jesus really cares about that….and they say no and that he cares that we love one another. This past year has been hard but then I see all the young ones and think wow…how we must make it clear that it is about Love and not control as they are being shown. Yes change is important for growth.


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