Trouble Brewing in the Catholic Church?
Amidst the ambiguity of Pope Francis's teachings and actions, there are early rumblings of schism.
Twenty years ago, John Spong, an American Episcopal bishop, published his book, “Why Christianity Must Change or Die,” presenting a radical idea as the ultimate “solution” to dwindling church congregations. Spong claimed that church attendance would boom if Christians tossed their literal interpretation of the Bible and caught up with the modern world. Spong’s thesis is held among more liberal Protestants as well as those in academic circles. Now, with Pope Francis behind the rudder of the so-called dangerously outdated Catholic Church, many progressives, Christian and atheist, anticipate the Catholic Church finally ordaining women, welcoming homosexual priests, and handing out birth control at Bingo parties.
“Who am I to judge?” Francis’s question is the progressive’s favorite proof that he’s a champion for some long-awaited Catholic tolerance. Yet while the world gushes over the reformist advances of Francis, many conservative Catholics feel stranded and searching for a new home.
Starting with the encyclical Amoris Laetitia (AL), Francis has begun the process of overturning the longstanding Catholic teaching that divorced and remarried Catholics cannot receive Holy Communion. Within a few weeks after AL’s release, Maltese bishops began allowing openly homosexual Catholics to receive Communion as well. Francis also protected a member of the Knights of Malta, Albrecht von Boeselager, when a scandal erupted accusing Boeselager of distributing condoms to the poor through a Catholic charity despite the Church’s forbidding the use of artificial birth control. The chancellor of the Knights, not wanting to be complacent in the violation of Church teaching, resigned shortly thereafter and surrendered control of the Order to Francis.
The above are only a handful of the eyebrow-raising actions taken by Francis since assuming his pontificate in 2013. As a result, many Catholics have rallied behind the four cardinals who issued a warning letter asking Francis to clarify his rigorous reforms or risk schism. American Cardinal Raymond Burke, one of the most prominent bishops in the Catholic Church, warns that there is “a very serious division in the Church which has to be mended” or it “could develop into a formal schism.”
Yet for some Catholics, the schism has already happened. Catholic churches that exclusively celebrate the traditional Latin Rite of the Mass have seen a substantial uptick in parishioners, while even The Washington Post admitted that progressive churches are “dying” at the rate of a million members a year, while conservative churches, both Catholic and Protestant, are “thriving.”
Francis is the first pope of modern times that is seemingly undermining some of the Catholic Church’s core teachings. When read under the guidance of its tradition, Catholics believe that the Bible leaves very little room for alternate interpretations that allow for accommodations of modern “morality.” It is solely because of its steadfast teachings that the Catholic Church has not joined the rest of progressive Christendom in the hot tub of watered-down spirituality. The modern distorted view depicts the “Buddy Jesus” who not only doesn’t call sin what it is but approves of whoever (or whatever) you marry or whatever gender you decide to adopt. While many Protestant denominations continue to split over whether to allow homosexual pastors or other “progressive” social issues, the Catholic Church has stood firm for centuries. Therefore, since Christ condemns divorce (Luke 16:18 is just one reference) and homosexual acts, the Catholic Church upholds this to the letter.
Those who hope the Church will eventually cave to “common sense” and get with the times may as well ask a Muslim when their caliphs will amend the Koran to allow pork consumption.
Francis’s ambiguity on the church’s core teachings is alarming to many Catholics, who fear a slide even further into the mire of leftist “tolerance.” The rumblings of an “underground Church” are already beginning. It’s entirely possible that #notmypope may become the most tweeted hashtag of the year among Catholics who are tired of burying their heads in the sand.