What is the definition of schism? Are there signs in the Catholic Church of a break amongst those who are upholding her doctrines and morals and those who are calling these truths into doubt?
We feature some extracts of a conference given by historian and author, Prof. Roberto de Mattei, concerning the growing division in the Church over issues of morality. This is a follow-up to our recent report, Is the Church on the brink of schism?
A latent schism in the Church?
This is the rather startling theme of a conference given in June by Roberto de Mattei, a recognizable Italian to our readers and especially those who attended last year's Angelus Press Conference. His argument which stems from the devious practice of German dioceses offering Eucharistic hospitality to remarried divorcees has also been condemned by the head of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, Cardinal Gerhard Muller.
Properly speaking “If one rejects the authority of the Supreme Pontiff or refuses communion with the members of the Church who are subject to him, he is a schismatic” (Code of Canon Law, Canon 1325 §2). In a less appropriate way, we may certainly call schismatic a tendency or practice which is against Church laws—especially when it is censured with the penalty of excommunication—whereby a Catholic is excluded from the communion of the faithful. In such a state, the Catholic has become separated—so to speak—from the Mystical Body, and thereby is denied the usual helps of the Church, including the sacraments and Christian burial.
De Mattei continues with his argument showing that there is a de facto break.
What do the German, Austrian and Swiss bishops propose to the Synod? They propose to “go beyond the morality of interdictions” and to fill up “the distance between the baptized faithful and the official doctrine”, by adapting the pastoral praxis of the Church to the concrete requirements of the Catholics of their dioceses. Indeed, whoever lives a stable sexual union outside of marriage, while continuing to receive the sacraments, is not only in a state of sin, but of separation from the traditional praxis of the Church, and therefore in a condition of objective, if latent, schism.
If the German bishops formally denied the validity of the sixth and ninth commandments, they would fall ipso facto into heresy. They do not deny the doctrine, but they propose to modify the pastoral praxis. And they do so in the name of Vatican Council II that confirmed the primacy of the pastoral practice over the doctrine. But if the praxis contradicts the doctrine, if it has an inexorable impact upon it, it will produce an alteration; it will transform it, not dogmatically, from above, but by practice, from below. Kasper, having the backing of the pope, with his practical ‘mercy’ agenda, has already won his battle."
Cardinal Muller offers interesting comments about those who wish to adapt doctrine to “pastoral reality.”
The split between life and doctrine is characteristic of Gnostic dualism. As is separating justice and mercy, God and Christ, Christ the Teacher and Christ the Shepherd, or separating Christ from the Church. There is only one Christ. Christ is the guarantee of the unity between the Word of God, doctrine, and the testimony of life. Every Christian knows that it is only through sound doctrine that we can attain eternal life.
These theories seek to make Catholic doctrine a sort of museum of Christian theories: a sort of idealistic pseudo-philosophy. Life, for its part, would have nothing to do with Jesus Christ as He is and as the Church shows Him to be. Living as a Christian means living on the basis of faith in God. Adulterating this arrangement means realizing the dreaded compromise between God and the devil.
Strict Christianity would be turned into a new civil religion, politically correct and reduced to a few values tolerated by the rest of society. This would achieve the unconfessed objective of some: to get the Word of God out of the way for the sake of ideological control over all of society."
It is encouraging to hear Cardinal Muller speak of the schismatic and Gnostic tendencies now at work in his own country and that he is recognizing the problems of a practical moral question. But, as de Mattei remarks, this schizophrenic distinction (and superiority) of praxis vs. doctrine is a pure product of Vatican II. It is a wedge bound to destroy her unicity and monolithic nature.
With Kasper’s exposition, the Church’s perennial doctrine and practice has been questioned openly, and even some of the hierarchy is open to the expression of such doubts. It is called the foot in the door strategy by placing doubt (via a cardinal) before the minds of Catholics. Thus the average Catholic becomes further confused, causing the blissfully ignorant to utter the convenient message of “mercy and hospitality” ad nauseam: “let them be free”.
The Church that is growing more worldly is being secularized, that is, she is losing her inherent sacredness. But if Christianity bows to secularism, it loses its soul and its identity. It becomes something else, separated from itself, and this split is properly speaking a schism.