Leslie Hittner: Catholic schism is already happening

Winona Daily News

Leslie Hittner

While columnist Charlotte Allen (Nov. 23 Daily News) seems to accept the reality that both conservative and liberal Catholics agree that the church is headed toward a schism, she argues that a schism is unlikely. She cites the politics and political behaviors of those in attendance at the recently completed first session of the “synod on the family” to support her conclusion.

I don’t know. I think Allen is missing an important point about the Catholic Church; its belief system is driven by the underlying assumption that it can do no wrong. Most Catholics believe that actions of the institutional church are guided by the Holy Spirit. While there are differing interpretations of what is meant by “guided,” that underlying assumption is quite universal in the Universal Church.

Such an underlying assumption does not leave much room for compromise in doctrinal discussions. Thus, major changes in the Roman Catholic Church often have been driven by schismatics.

I would argue that the Catholic Church is already in the midst of a schism. One of the earliest schisms, and certainly the one with which we are most familiar, is the Protestant Reformation. This schism started in 1517 with Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses and probably did not end until about 1750. …

Why do I assert that a schism has begun?

* Conservative priests have been promoted to bishop. Beginning with Paul VI and ending with Benedict XVI, the conservative movement within the church began to systematically dissemble the structures put in place by Vatican II by changing the church’s leadership. More recently, this new leadership began to act. The language of worship — changed by Vatican II from Latin to the language spoken by the people — was “re-translated” from Latin texts. I cannot speak for all translations but the English translation of the Mass text is an abomination that takes the church back to pre-Vatican II times. Since 1970, the Society of St. Pius X has celebrated only the Tridentine Mass and opposed other tenants of Vatican II. Originally excommunicated, Pope Benedict lifted that excommunication edict. At the same time, the Tridentine Mass — complete with an array of grand vestments and the original Latin text — was being encouraged.

* Secrecy within the hierarchy — enforced by Canon Law — increased. This cult of secrecy increased opportunities for the abuse of power and encouraged such abuses to be covered up. The sexual abuse cover-up comes to mind. Issues with the Vatican Bank also come to mind. Eight dioceses in this country have filed for bankruptcy in order to protect themselves from abuse cover-up lawsuits, and others, such as the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul, are close. Even now, some members of the hierarchy are beginning to push back against this veil of secrecy.

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