From the outside the Catholic Church used to look like fortress: one faith, one baptism, one Lord; and in the West one liturgy in one language. Today there is perhaps a more diverse view from the outside, still perhaps there is a sense that the Church is monolithic and yet those outside perhaps have friends who were once Catholic and now distance themselves from the Church, its worship and its doctrines.
From inside the Church there actually seems to be little that holds us together, Marie Meaney has an article in the Herald asking, Is Schism Inevitable in Germany?
in which she speaks of the archdiocese of Freiburg's document proposing communion for the divorced and remarried. In the Holy See's ill fated negotiations with the SSPX the "S" word was very carefully avoided, the same could be said about those German speaking groups Marie mentions. Heresy, the Church can cope with but schism is another altogether graver matter. Ordaining bishops not only without the mandate of the Holy See, has historically sometimes been necessary, even Pope Benedict seems to have been understanding of their position but it was in direct opposition to the expressed will of the Supreme Pontiff and therefore the most significant act of disunity, nevertheless in the 'spirit of Vatican II' it was not described as 'schismatic' but 'tending towards schism'.
Article 2089 of The Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the wilful refusal to assent to it. "Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him."
For us, therefore, schism is about communion with the Pope.
JPII's encyclical Ut in Unum Sint
, in which, it is suggested he collaborated heavily with the Prefect of the CDF, Joseph Ratzinger, he recognises the Papacy though of Dominical origin is both the fount of unity for Catholics but also the source of division for non-Catholics. He says:
89. It is nonetheless significant and encouraging that the question of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome has now become a subject of study which is already under way or will be in the near future. It is likewise significant and encouraging that this question appears as an essential theme not only in the theological dialogues in which the Catholic Church is engaging with other Churches and Ecclesial Communities, but also more generally in the ecumenical movement as a whole. Recently the delegates to the Fifth World Assembly of the Commission on Faith and Order of the World Council of Churches, held in Santiago de Compostela, recommended that the Commission "begin a new study of the question of a universal ministry of Christian unity". After centuries of bitter controversies, the other Churches and Ecclesial Communities are more and more taking a fresh look at this ministry of unity.
If anyone has re-formed, or better, re-moulded the Papacy, it has been Benedict XVI, the ultimate act was his resignation, but other acts were simply writing as one author amongst many in his Jesus of Nazareth trilogy, which suggested one could happily disagree with a reigning Pope, and yes, in his discussions with Marcel Lefebrve's followers that you could still be Catholic but express difficulties with Papal teaching, in a sense too by his founding of the Ordinariates, there was a recognition that 'Catholicism' can exist outside the Catholic Church, in the words of VII in 'impaired communion'.
'Diversity' is a part of contemporary Catholicism. Pope Francis oft repeated phrase, 'Go out to the peripheries' has deep implications but there is difference between going out to gather in
and going simply to be amongst.
One fear about Pope Francis' Papacy is, as one of my parishioners suggested, that the Pope could end by becoming a like the chairman of the World Council of Churches, the president of an assembly of local and theologically diverse churches. The question that is half asked by many and reinforced by Francis recent sermon in which he criticised 'specialist of the Logos'
would suggest that the content of belief will not be an issue in this Papacy.
Except for the most obdurate Neo-Con everyone agrees that only the Papacy needs re-forming but that the Church itself cannot continue as it has been going, Benedict reformed the Papacy rather discreetly, breaking away from the ultramontanism of the mid-twentieth century but emphasising Catholic belief and consequently looking envisaging a smaller more committed Church. Francis seems to be doing something quite different.
What seems to be a growing worry is that Francis has raised expectations, it is not just in the diocese of Freiburg where there is an expectation of a dramatic break with the past but throughout the world; US nuns, German and Irish priests, gays, the divorced and remarried, those who want everything from married or female priests, to a Church which is no longer 'obsessed' with abortion, homosexuality or condoms. The problem is Francis has created high expectations, which he is unlikely to be able to satisfy. and if he even moves marginally to satisfy their agenda, then what about the younger generation of those priests and lay people who believe the catechism who have come to celebrate the Mass carefully according to the rites of the Church, who accept JPII's Theology of the Body, who have taken on Benedict's liturgical reforms?
We are in the same situation as we were in the early years of Paul VI, when most of Pope Francis's new Papal courtiers, as opposed to the old leprous ons, were enthusiastic for the new order and expecting great changes, only to be disappointed by Pope Paul's publication of Humanae Vitae in 1968, which led to a huge degree of disappointment of those on the left and the exeunt of huge numbers of priests and lay people from the Church. They were joined only little later by those who left gradually as the liturgical changes bit deeper. For those who stayed there was confusion and virtual schism.
Already one hears of clergy in the Curia
who are demoralised and uncertain or just unconvinced of the direction, they believe the Pope intends to take the Church, intellectuals who are complaining about a lack of depth and convincing argument, and others who fear we are into a last Ultramontane fling.
The Pope, Ut in Unum Sint reminds us, is the 'servant of unity', 'leading them towards peaceful pastures' in order to be that he needs not been seen pushing forward his own agenda but being the true servant of the Church:
94. This service of unity, rooted in the action of divine mercy, is entrusted within the College of Bishops to one among those who have received from the Spirit the task, not of exercising power over the people—as the rulers of the Gentiles and their great men do (cf. Mt 20:25; Mk 10:42)—but of leading them towards peaceful pastures. This task can require the offering of one's own life (cf. Jn 10:11-18). Saint Augustine, after showing that Christ is "the one Shepherd, in whose unity all are one", goes on to exhort: "May all shepherds thus be one in the one Shepherd; may they let the one voice of the Shepherd be heard; may the sheep hear this voice and follow their Shepherd, not this shepherd or that, but the only one; in him may they all let one voice be heard and not a babble of voices ... the voice free of all division, purified of all heresy, that the sheep hear". The mission of the Bishop of Rome within the College of all the Pastors consists precisely in "keeping watch" (episkopein), like a sentinel, so that, through the efforts of the Pastors, the true voice of Christ the Shepherd may be heard in all the particular Churches. In this way, in each of the particular Churches entrusted to those Pastors, the una, sancta, catholica et apostolica Ecclesia is made present. All the Churches are in full and visible communion, because all the Pastors are in communion with Peter and therefore united in Christ.
With the power and the authority without which such an office would be illusory, the Bishop of Rome must ensure the communion of all the Churches. For this reason, he is the first servant of unity. This primacy is exercised on various levels, including vigilance over the handing down of the Word, the celebration of the Liturgy and the Sacraments, the Church's mission, discipline and the Christian life. It is the responsibility of the Successor of Peter to recall the requirements of the common good of the Church, should anyone be tempted to overlook it in the pursuit of personal interests. He has the duty to admonish, to caution and to declare at times that this or that opinion being circulated is irreconcilable with the unity of faith. When circumstances require it, he speaks in the name of all the Pastors in communion with him. He can also—under very specific conditions clearly laid down by the First Vatican Council— declare ex cathedra that a certain doctrine belongs to the deposit of faith. By thus bearing witness to the truth, he serves unity.
Is Francis able to deliver, to be both 'reformer' and 'unifier'?
What is he going to deliver?