Pope Francis has conservatives talking schism. But a split is easier said than done

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Pope Francis celebrates Mass in Bethlehem during his trip to the Middle East on May 25, 2014. Since returning, Francis has maintained an interest in the area, most recently personally calling the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian territories on July 18, 2014, to push for a cease-fire.

Creative Commons image by Michael Swan

Pope Francis celebrates Mass in Bethlehem during his trip to the Middle East on May 25, 2014. Since returning, Francis has maintained an interest in the area, most recently personally calling the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian territories on July 18, 2014, to push for a cease-fire.

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(RNS) So is a schism, with its echoes of medieval debates and heretics burning at the stake, a realistic possibility? And can an independent Catholic church be successful in the modern world?

  • Ben in oakland

    Schism? really? Whatever happened to that vow of obedience, and infallibility in matters of faith and morals, and Vicar of Christ, and all that?

    and all over Cardinal Burke’s personal issues with treating gay people as fully functioning human beings.

  • “There are a lot of people who disagree with the church on a range of issues,” she said. “But leaving, actually severing the connection, is a different thing.” – Kathleen Cummings

    But it is happening.
    The Catholic Church is being abandoned. Even the Pope appears fed up with it.

    As a former Catholic and regular churchgoer who stopped attending in my late 40s, I can attest to the sense of betrayal this criminal organization has inflicted on millions of us. Not only in blatant shocking crimes against humanity through hundreds of years but right up the present day; harboring pedophiles, rapists, murderers and thugs – and worst of all proclaiming a boatload of blatant claims about a risen god without the slightest evidence and insisting on inhuman actions against innocent people in the name of this deity.

  • Deacon Brian

    First I must say, that Cardinal Burke is a beautiful and holy Cardinal. The Church is blessed to have this wonderful teacher. Regarding “gays” and the civilly divorced (I do not say re-married, as it is impossible for a Catholic to be re-married without annulment), the Church loves and respects them all. We are made in the image of God, who IS mercy and love, so Catholics MUST treat all people with mercy and love. Gays and the civily divorced are “welcome” in the Church. How can they not be. If one is in the state of mortal sin, one must not receive Holy Communion, until one makes a good confession, a good act of contrition, with a real intention to change, to move toward thengoal of personal holiness, as we are all called to be saints. This is for ALL the faithful.

    Regarding the discussion of “schism”? That is nonsense. Yes, there are conservative and liberal Catholics, still, if one is a FAITHFUL Catholic, one knows WHO our Pope is, he is the Vicar of Christ. Pope Francis has said “he is a son of the Church.” That says it all. Doctrine will not, can not, change. What can change, for this papacy, is the face of the Church. Pope Francis is a publicly compassionate man. His experience is the experience of a priest in the street. I believe the world needs to see this “face” of the Church today. But the Church today is not any different than what it was before, under the papacy of John Paul II or Pope Benedict XVI. The Catholic Church was and is compassionate and merciful – it CAN only be compassionate and merciful as it is the Bride of Christ.

    Jesus Christ acts in the world THROUGH his Church.

  • Gerry Clark

    In John’s Gospel Jesus warns that if one does not remain in Him, that person will wither.(Jn 15:6) For 30 years, the Catholic Church has been withering. The withering branches must be pruned and burned so that the vine, the Church, can be fruitful. At the Last Supper, Matthew (Mt 26:27) quotes Jesus as saying …”drink from it all of you”. This is at the time of the Third Cup of the
    Passover Seder, the Cup of Redemption. Unfortunately, this importnat theological connection is obscured with the current mistranslation as “Chal;ice ” in the Eucharistic Prayer.

  • PB

    “For 30 years, the Catholic Church has been withering.”

    Rubbish. Pure rubbish.

  • “Selfishness is not living your life as you wish,
    it is asking others to live their lives as you wish.”

    – Oscar Wilde

  • and infallibility in matters of faith and morals, and Vicar of Christ, and all that?

    Were Francis to reverse an established teaching of the Church – part of the ordinary Magisterium or the extraordinary Magisterium, – not merely a common theological opinion, papal infallibility as defined by 1st Vatican council would be discredited. It is for this reason that well-informed lay Catholics like John Zmirak have been speaking of the possibility of decamping to Orthodoxy.

  • Your missing the point of this discussion. Francis is in danger of inducing a schism by trashing the teaching office. The clown car behavior at the most recent synod is one aspect of his bad teaching.

  • philip

    Do I hear the chains of Ebenezer rattling as he moans in pain of the schism between Jesus, the Church, and the people?
    Since before Jesus was nailed to the cross, there have been schisms. If you know your history, you know what I speak of. For those who care, they will search; those who don’t, need not worry.
    In my despair of Church teachings, social debauchery, I realized, like a teenager whose universe of sex, self-indulgence, and narcissism has little meaning in time. Once you understand that so much of the Church has come and gone in the last 2,000 years, makes my passage but a comma on a page. Leaning over, I looked the pastor in the eye. “Father”, I said, “When you and me are gone, when the building we are in is no more, all those on earth and their possessions will no longer exist. The Church will be.” Father slowly looked me in the eye, with a soft, quiet voice of agreement, and said,”Yes, you are correct. The Church will be here.”

  • Ben in oakland

    So all you’re saying is if the pope speaks with infallibility ex cathedrl in a matter of FAITH or morals, and you don’t agree, or Zmirak doesn’t agree, then you don’t believe that the pope can speak ex cathedra, infallibly on a matters faith and morals. Which means you don’t believe in this very orthodox belief.

    Ok. Got it. So it really Is about Cardinl Burke’s obsession with gay people.

  • Ben in oakland

    Or the clown car no more believes that the pope is the vicar of Christ and all of that than I do.

  • Mike

    Oct 31 1517 — Martin Luther and his 95 theses

    Still relevant.


  • Mike

    The Roman Church has been withering since 1517.

  • Mike

    @ Ben

    “Now, it is manifest that the Roman pontiffs, with their adherents, defend [and practice] godless doctrines and godless services. And the marks [all the vices] of Antichrist plainly agree with the kingdom of the Pope and his adherents. For Paul, in describing Antichrist to the Thessalonians, calls him 2 Thess. 2:3-4: an adversary of Christ, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God. He speaks therefore of one ruling in the Church, not of heathen kings, and he calls this one the adversary of Christ, because he will devise doctrine conflicting with the Gospel, and will assume to himself divine authority.” Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope


  • Xnihilo

    All this ink and not a word about the Society of Saint Pius X? OF COURSE an independent Catholic body is possible. Not only possible, but thriving. Around this already existing international nucleus a conservative body could coalesce easily. All you need is one, just one bishop. Cardinal Burke?

  • MarkE

    Since 8 out of 10 American Catholics disagree with the church’s teaching on contraception, divorce and remarriage, homosexuality, and on and on, it seems two Catholic churches already exist here – Roman and American.

  • Jackson

    Lots of haters on this site! And they are on the liberal side of the fence.

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  • Ed Linolniensis

    No, you are wrong. As you presented no coherent argument, neither do I need to. Quod gratis assertitur, gratis negatur. (What is limply asserted can be limply denied.)

  • Larry

    I would say 1492. I don’t think anyone in the modern age can top the sheer awfulness of Alexander VI.

    If the church can survive a 16th century with some of the randiest guys to “wear the shoes of the fisherman”, a slightly liberal one nowadays is barely going to put a dent in it.

  • What is wrong with hating a bad idea?

    “Bring to me those enemies of mine and execute them in front of me.” – Jesus (Luke 19:27)

    How does anything get better in the world without addressing the problems?
    Should we not hate ISIS beheadings?
    Should we not hate lack of alternatives to gasoline?
    Should we not hate lack of civil government in favor of fascist regimes?

    Calling people ‘haters’ who challenge your comfort zone is not much of an argument.

    For Peace, Honesty & the Separation of Church and State

  • “Atheists may go to Heaven” – Pope Francis

    I’d say the entire Catholic Church is a shambles of worn out notions which were never true and a primitive idea about authoritarianism and lemming-like ‘obedience’ – profoundly immoral positions for our informed times.

    The glue that holds it all together is a patchwork of criminal enterprises: pedophile networks, obfuscations and outright lies about reality.

    My Catholic rosary remains a bauble from a childish time gone by.

    For Peace, Humanity and the Separation of Church and State

  • Stephen Earky

    I was most impressed by the deacons words. However, I am firmly of the belief that Pope Francis has an agenda that will leed to a betrayal of the faith. His job is to define and defend the sacred deposit of faith. And what he has done has caused widespread confusion and left the church a rudderless ship wallowing on the waves. The synod was an unmitigated disaster that promoted division in the church snf even more confusion. Francis has failed as Pope and should retire back to Argentina. And how csn anyone take seriously a Pope who drives a Ford Focus.

  • Deacon Brian

    For those of you who are disillusioned with the Church, maybe memories will guide you home, a some point in the near future, I pray…


    His grace is no longer called for
    before meals: farmed fish multiply
    without His intercession.
    Bread production rises through
    disease-resistant grains devised
    scientifically to mitigate His faults.

    Yet, though we rebelled against Him
    like adolescents, uplifted to see
    an oppressive father banished –
    a bearded hermit – to the desert,
    we confess to missing Him at times.

    Miss Him during the civil wedding
    when, at the blossomy altar
    of the registrar’s desk, we wait in vain
    to be fed a line containing words
    like ‘everlasting’ and ‘divine’.

    Miss Him when the TV scientist
    explains the cosmos through equations,
    leaving our planet to revolve on its axis
    aimlessly, a wheel skidding in snow.

    Miss Him when the radio catches a snatch
    of plainchant from some echoey priory;
    when the gospel choir raises its collective voice
    to ask Shall We Gather at the River?
    or the forces of the oratorio converge
    on I Know That My Redeemer Liveth
    and our contracted hearts lose a beat.

    Miss Him when a choked voice at
    the crematorium recites the poem
    about fearing no more the heat of the sun.

    Miss Him when we stand in judgement
    on a lank Crucifixion in an art museum,
    its stripe-like ribs testifying to rank.

    Miss Him when the gamma-rays
    recorded on the satellite graph
    seem arranged into a celestial score,
    the music of the spheres,
    the Ave Verum Corpus of the observatory lab.

    Miss Him when we stumble on the breast lump
    for the first time and an involuntary prayer
    escapes our lips; when a shadow crosses
    our bodies on an x-ray screen; when we receive
    a transfusion of foaming blood
    sacrificed anonymously to save life.

    Miss Him when we exclaim His name
    spontaneously in awe or anger
    as a woman in a birth ward
    calls to her long-dead mother.

    Miss Him when the linen-covered
    dining table holds warm bread rolls,
    shiny glasses of red wine.

    Miss Him when a dove swoops
    from the orange grove in a tourist village
    just as the monastery bell begins to take its toll.

    Miss Him when our journey leads us
    under leaves of Gothic tracery, an arch
    of overlapping branches that meet
    like hands in Michelangelo’s Creation.

    Miss Him when, trudging past a church,
    we catch a residual blast of incense,
    a perfume on par with the fresh-baked loaf
    which Milosz compared to happiness.

    Miss Him when our newly-fitted kitchen
    comes in Shaker-style and we order
    a matching set of Mother Ann Lee chairs.

    Miss Him when we listen to the prophecy
    of astronomers that the visible galaxies
    will recede as the universe expands.

    Miss Him when the sunset makes
    its presence felt in the stained glass
    window of the fake antique lounge bar.

    Miss Him the way an uncoupled glider
    riding the evening thermals misses its tug.

    Miss Him, as the lovers shrugging
    shoulders outside the cheap hotel
    ponder what their next move should be.

    Even feel nostalgic, odd days,
    for His Second Coming,
    like standing in the brick
    dome of a dovecote
    after the birds have flown.

  • Deacon Brian

    Written by Dennis O’Driscoll

  • John

    I find this view of Pope Francis’ papacy to be quite..problematic.
    If we can agree that many millions of people love him for being “publicly compassionate”, we cannot agree that such a status necessary is a good thing. I never did have much taste for John Paul II’s “rock-star” status in the media, especially in the US, and I think the image of Pope Francis might actually be worse.

    I must blame mainstream media to some extent for this, but I think I also must blame the Vatican Curia to a fair degree. Too often, the various curia of the Church do exceedingly poorly at emphasizing message of justice and mercy being complementary, not adversarial. Too often, many wish to portray the Church as mean-spirited and old fashioned because they don’t like the Church’s teachings, nor the consequences of those teachings. …And, too often, many bishops don’t seem to understand that efforts to be accommodating to the world don’t often lead to repentance and conversion of souls, but to badgering the Church to change her beliefs.

    We saw this with last month’s Extraordinary Synod. Many bishops apparently wished to soft-peddle the Church’s teachings, only reluctantly admitting that gay lifestyles and “remarried” Catholic most likely are actually living sinful lives.
    Too often, the Church’s leaders spend too much time emphasizing compassion, too little time remembering that a world that’s in love with sinful lifestyles will hate being called to repentance.
    ..And Pope Francis seems to me to be one of the worst!

    He did, indeed, say that he was a loyal son of the Church and couldn’t change doctrine. Such comments unfortunately came only AFTER the entire world had been broadcasting the notion that he could and would change doctrine for several days.

    He either doesn’t care that his remarks are frequently taken as carte blanche to toss both Bible and Catechism, or else he doesn’t realize how far his “compassion” can encourage people to sin.
    Too many will take any excuse they may find for why a sinful lifestyle is acceptable; he seems frequently to toss them a bone.

  • @Deacon Brian,

    WHAT ?

    “MISSING GOD” is a shocking assault on every wonderful thing we know about. DID YOU LEAVE ANYTHING OUT?

    It is the most sweepingly nihilistic, miserable screed of horrors I have read in years. Rarely is the depravity of religion so vacantly and brazenly embraced.
    Proof positive that religion infects our deepest integrity – our loves and our lives!

    Who is this audacious divine dictator claiming to be that we are to “MISS HIM” instead of to being fully present in joy at our own beloved children?

    Who is this NIGHTMARISH intruder? I demand your answer!
    Who is this person I am supposed to MISS while I enjoy the honest loving heart of my daughter beside me?

    Absolutely depraved!!!


    God: “Kill your daughter to protect your honor”
    “Then they shall bring out the damsel to the door of her father’s house, and the men of her city shall stone her with stones that she die: because she hath wrought folly …to play the whore in her father’s house: so shalt thou put evil away from among you.” (Deuteronomy 22: 20-21)

    ONLY a barbarian could miss this!

    for Peace, Honesty, Freedom of Religion
    and the Separation of Church & State

  • ben in oakland

    “Too often, many wish to portray the Church as mean-spirited and old fashioned because they don’t like the Church’s teachings, nor the consequences of those teachings.”

    Ppossibility #3: the church is mean spirited/

  • What constitutes ‘Bad Christian teaching’?

    “Execute them in front of me” – JESUS (Luke 19:27)

    “you…will be punished for all these things!” – Jesus (Matthew 23:36)

    “Drown him with a millstone” – Jesus (Matt 18:6)

    “I have come to bring FIRE…What constraints! I am impatient to bring..DIVISION.” – Jesus (Luke 12:49-51)

    “Hate your parents…hate your life” – Jesus (Luke 14:26)

    All of this is ancient, incoherent gibberish.

    The only healthy way to deal with it is to abandon it.

    For Peace, Humanity and the Separation of Church and State

  • biagio

    The church is deficient when the Beatitudes are ignored. Let Burke have his multi-thousand dollar robes and let those who help the poor and the captives follow Jesus.

    People are objecting to mercy. They are not disciples.

  • Carm

    Tell the Holy Spirit that. It has survived much worse and will survive until the end of time regardless of what people like you say. You don’t know the Mind of God and, if you don’t believe in God, you have no right to make statements like this because it shouldn’t concern you.

  • Carm

    Most people won’t read this in its entirety because it is much too long.

  • Carm

    Would you mind keeping your replies shorter? Most people haven’t time to read comments that are as long as your’s.

  • Carm

    You are correct, biagio. Why people object to the mercy, that Jesus always showed, is beyond me.

  • “if you don’t believe in God, you have no right to make statements like this because it shouldn’t concern you.”

    1. Criminal organizations, religious or otherwise, are the concern of everyone.
    2. of course I have the right to make any statement within the rules of RNS comment board.
    3. Belief in God is not authorization for anything.

    For Peace, Honesty and The Separation of Church and State

  • @Carm,

    The ‘Beatitudes” won’t save the Church.
    They are either terrible or incoherent recommendations.

    “Blessed are the meek” – this is a cold blooded lie meant for a time when the population was subject to the whims of kings – it has no use for democratic people. It fact it is completely irresponsible to be meek in the face of evil or social injustice. Standing up and taking action is what is needed – not being meek! Good grief.

  • Daniel Berry

    No. What happened in 1517 was that one man had finally gotten such a bellyful of the decadence in discipline, doctrine and practice that he finally spoke up. But the rot had been going on for centuries before Luther spoke up.

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  • Rick Scott

    The Society of St Pius X already has bishops, From-Nothing. Has had them from its establishment by Cardinal Lefebvre. How is adding one more to its roster going to change anything?

  • Rick Scott

    I am sure a poem like this must have been written about Odin by a pious believer of that era longing for a renewal of his authority.
    How is nostalgia for times past evidence for anything?

  • Rick Scott

    You know, Max, if you didn’t have an immediate and explosive rejection of each and every idea/story/view expressed in Christian writing, you might be listened to more attentively. Just a thought. It’s your pen. Carry on.

  • @Rick Scott,

    Perhaps. But I am not making claims – I am responding to them.

    The Beatitudes are a case in point. There are so many terrible claims in the Beatitudes, many are destructive to human intellect and dignity.

    It is immoral not to point it out.

  • Willin46

    I thought in Catholic dogma, the Pope is infallible when it comes to Church teachings. How can the Pope cause schism? It sounds more like the Bishops are creating schism.

  • JOE

    May be the best way to defeat the evil and all those things or people you hate is to be like them. Is that what you are suggesting? Good grief!

  • JOE

    Max, may be the best way to defeat the evil and all those things and people you hate so much is to be like them. Is that what you are suggesting? Good grief!

  • Luke from Cracow

    What after a ‘red’ pope? A ‘black’ one? Similia similibus, it’s not ‘my’ church.

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  • SLuzardo

    No, he is only Infallible when he speaks Infallibly. From the chair “ex cathedra”…Yours is a common misconception, even among Catholics.

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  • AMEN

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  • larry

    I agree. The church has been unofficially but markedly split since the 1970s. Pope Francis may activate an official war and split of the church by consistently siding with the liberal Catholics, socialism and liberal Catholic teaching. If he stays around long enough and allows same sex marriages and female priests, then the gloves are off in the Church.

  • larry

    Pope Francis reminds me a bit of Mister Magoo. He seems very confused and just shoots off at the mouth without considering the consequences. People become befuddled and then believe it is brilliance. His papacy so far has really produced nothing but confusion. Paul VI stated the “the smoke of Satan is in the Church”. That smoke has been blowing for over 40 years.

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