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 eternaSo 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.
Bishop 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.