Friday, April 10, 2015

Between Communion and Schism


Quite a few silly articles, even from normally sensible journalists are appearing speaking about schism at the the Synod, I am glad Fr Z bashes them.
I agree with Fr Z, the should always bashed and bashed hard, Schism is the ultimate extreme, the breakdown of Catholicism and the destruction of Communion. Bishop Campbell in his wise discourse against ACTA calls them to the radical alternative, which is communion, a communion of mind and heart with him as the Bishop, and therefore successor of the apostles in the local Church.

The Bishop should be the voice of Christ in his Church. He is the centre of Communion.
Vatican II, often called the 'Council of the Bishops', reiterates all the ancient titles of a Bishop, and even adds a few. He is the High Priest, the first evangelist, catechist and teacher, the supreme and ultimate judge, the centre of unity, the Father of his clergy. The description of a bishop is terrifying, because what is really being described is 'the alter Christus". A bishop is supposed to Christ.

The Council, in its stilted legalistic language really gives a description of a bishop who is actually a perfect bishop, a saint. It presumes he is perfect in his fulfilment of his role in his diocese but also in his relationship to to the Universal Church. It is after all by communion with him, that we are in communion with the Pope, and consequently with all the bishops of the Catholic Church throughout the world. If we have a 'high' (Catholic) theology of the episcopacy then on our communion with him depends our communion the Church, and consequently with Christ, in that sense salvation comes through the Bishop!
Ubi Petrus, ibi ecclesia, et ubi ecclesia vita eterna
So much is demanded of Bishops, some of the Fathers doubted any bishop could get to heaven, and urged any man chosen for the Episcopate to flee and hide in the cleft of the rocks.

The great problem today of course is that many of us are only in partial communion with our bishops and our bishops only in partial communion with the Church, far from 'smelling of the sheep', to use our beloved Pope's words, many of our bishops smell of everything but, of money, of heresy, of scandal. I am sure there is a Father who speaks of the 'smell of the sheep' as: the sweet smell of incense, the evening sacrifice offered to the Father. Bishops are above all men of the peripheries, going to the edges to find lost or wandering sheep to bring them home, home is the centre. Like St Paul's description of a good father they are not supposed to provoke their children to resentment (Col 3:21). Communion is a mutual thing depending on the bishop's ability to gather and the people's desire to be gathered.

flagsBishop Campbell is so right to issue his call to Communion, it is a bishops first task, it is the opposite of schism. The glorious image of Vatican II is one of an effective Church in which we all are united heart and soul for the effective proclamation of the Gospel. Rightly does the Council condemn division which 'openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature'. A Church divided cannot effectively preach Christ. Lobby groups of any kind stress division.

Damage to Communion rarely comes from below it is more likely the fruit of ineffective leadership; a failure to gather, either through leadership which favours one group or another, or fails to give clear direction because it itself is confused, or merely self referential. The images of the Church from the New Testament have hard edges like Temple of the Spirit or the Body of Christ, one knows who is inside and who is outside or else they are by way of a contrast: light and dark, the leaven in the lump, lost and found. The Church is supposed to built on rock, or firmly united to vine or planted in good soil, instability is not good for either its growth or its stability. I can't help noticing a change in Bishops appointed in the last decade, some might be time servers but most are pretty solid, there might be exceptions but the age of the Worlock and Hume men in Britain seems to be coming to an end, in the same way the Bernardin, Mahoney and |Weakland disciples are disappearing from the US. It is as if Rome is no longer choosing factionalists but Christians as bishops, or maybe those who are indeed members of factions are trying to express themselves in terms that build up the body of Christ rather than damage it. Perhaps Bishops realise they are servants of Communion rather than masters of it, that they simply cannot rely on blind obedience of either clergy or the laity.

In the spectrum between what the Church has always understood by Communion and Schism, there are a numerous degrees, unlike pregnancy we can be in degrees of Communion or Schism. Bishops have a duty of making Communion with them easy, to the point of it being desired, I think this is what Pope Francis means by 'attraction', when he speaks of evangelism. A bad bishop causes the faithful all sorts of problems of conscience and obedience, a good bishop, transparently showing Christ has an attraction which rarely needs demonstrations of power.

10 comments:

viterbo said...

Communion, partiality. If there is paritiality is it communion? But, in times of partial bishops - from which direction does complete commuion come? The Church has one main purpose, to convert us to Christ that we receive His saving Grace (?!?). Perhaps we need more surveys. Honestly, these days, it's my impression, in the wider reach of the thing called the 'Catholic Parish', that 'conversion/true communion' belongs to a (from the 'bishopric' down and then up again) maligned even dead territory.

viterbo said...

Seems to me that what is 'universal' in the majority of the Catholic parishes is something run by lay politicos. Men and women whose first love is the (old as eden) contemporary idea of liberty which they now have the 'permission' to spread all over the altar and every aspect of Catholicism unless there is a priest (or a bishop?) who accepts and applies Christ's Grace, which has, surely, to be his own God given sacerdotal nature. But in the majority of parishes, who could guess that there is such a thing or such a necessity? given the incessant clamour of social antichristisms that are applauded at the average lay parish councils, the members of which, lets face it, don't care who the next passing Christ/alter Christus is, cause they, not God, run things.

JARay said...

I like your post Father. Thank you for this.

Jacobi said...

“normally sensible journalists”.

Yes, Father, I have been reading the “Spectator “ too. I very much agreed with his article. Very apposite, I think is the word.

Sadly, Schism has always been with the Church and always will. We ordinary Catholics have a problem these days when so many of our bishops, the Successors of the Apostles show such poor example.

And when do we have Schism? It was fifty or even a hundred years before the Protestant Reformation was accepted as such and not just another of the many on-going schismatic squabbles in the Church.

At the risk of repeating myself the doctrinal position of the SSPX is exactly pre-Vatican II as is that of Benedict XVI and of course myself, so a few unapproved bishops apart, why should they, the SSPX,be considered in any way schismatic. Sound Catholics I would say, compared with some of the effective proposed and threatened heresy coming from many - but not all, thank God, - of the German bishops.

The wandering sheep these days are within the Church particularly the Western Church, both in the Germanic areas and in the Americas.

Gregkanga said...

The core of the Church's mission is to proclaim Jesus Christ as the living Truth, a truth revealed, a truth explained, understood and welcomed in faith, a truth passed on to new generations. This living Truth is always and everywhere greater than ourselves, our hearts, consciences and episcopal 'wisdom'. Why? Because it flows from the depths of the Blessed Trinity. The Church's entire mission is rooted in the mystery of Communion. This mystery essentially constitutes what the Church is, and why it exists, and is realized in the Holy Mass. It not only defines every office in the Church but is the source and inspiration of all her relationships. Given this reality and Jesus' words of either being for or against him, how can a successor of the Apostles choose a manner or degree to which he prefers to be in Communion with Christ, the Head and his Body, the Church? There aren't degrees of truth.

lucianoeugenio said...

A great post Rev. Father.
I write from Canada in the province of Ontario. I am in state of resentment towards my diocesan ordinary and auxiliary and most of the bishops of our province for two reasons; 1) in 2014 I wrote all of them to protest the decision by the "catholic" teachers union to participate in the world "pride" festival, not one wrote be back to offer support even after mentioning in my letter that I had spoken to president of the union 2) in my diocese we have a women's prison which currently houses 2 brave souls whose "crime" is one to protest to close to an infamous abortion clinic and the other to enter an abortion clinic and given an expectant mother a rose - this actually occurred last Christmas Eve and that's when the arrest took place. I wrote our Ordinary and Auxiliary to ask them to publicly denounce the arrests and start a petition throughout the diocese to demand their freedom. No response was ever received and these brave women are in jail still without even benefit of the sacraments as no Catholic priest is available to visit them.
Do I have a right to feel disheartened, dismayed and resentful?

Gregkanga said...

As Pastor and principle of communion, each bishop must seek to promote communion through his ministry, which is a participation and sharing in the pastoral, prophetic and priestly office of Christ. The sign and effect of this communion was described in today's first reading in the Acts of the Apostles: "The whole group of those who believed were of one heart and one soul" (4: 32 ) A spirituality of communion pervaded the early Church and every office then and continues today.

viterbo said...

Gregakanga. People like Judas, Arius, Pelagian, through the iconoclasts and Bereganians and Albigensians, on to Wycliffe and to Luther and Calvin and Henry 8 and Jansen and on and on, chose 'to which degree'. I would reckon we have to choose as well. If Truth really is only 6 degrees of salvific separation then hand me the JB and who cares about any of it?

On the side of the angels said...

After this recent "bull" on mercy - where there's no mention of repent - where sin is called 'making a mistake' - where we suddenly become the discretionary arbiters of that which is justice and mercy rather than God - where there is no mention of God never commanding the impossible & always providing sufficient grace not to sin - and where there are still pelagian overtones and intimations that keeping God's commands is donatism & cruel legalism? Not indicating our love of God? I fear Gradualism remains on the cards & schism inevitable when the progs don't get their way

Pelerin said...

On the subject of Bishops I have been surprised to learn today from 'Riposte Catholique' that the number of Bishops has more than doubled since Vatican II.

There were 2,450 then, compared with 5,173 today. Does this not seem like a case of top-heavy 'management' and the more Bishops there are the less likely they will all be singing from the same hymn sheet?