by Deacon Nick Donnelly

kasper med-2In light of the fact that many of us have grown up in the ‘spirit of Vatican II’ Church infiltrated at the local level by the dissenters and disobedient, how do we know that we remain true Catholics in true communion? And how do we spot these closet schismatics?

I’m sure many readers of the Catholic Voice share my concern and grief over the broken communion of the Church in our families, parishes, dioceses, and national churches. It is not an exaggeration to admit that for the past fifty years the Church has increasingly been divided by an unacknowledged, but very real, ‘schism’.

When I use the word ‘schism’ I’m not casually employing a polemical slogan, but drawing attention to the shattering of the communion of the Church by fifty years of widespread dissent, public rejection of the Church’s authority, and acceptance of immoral behaviour presented as ‘lifestyle’ choices. This schism is experienced in an ugly and vicious manner when dissenting Catholics – laity religious, and clergy – express contempt and hostility towards faithful Catholics simply because they are faithful.

There are countless shocking examples of the faithful being marginalised, disempowered and even hounded by dissenters in the Church. I personally know an ex-seminarian who was rebuked by his rector for kneeling during the consecration at Mass; Catholic lecturers and teachers driven from their colleges and schools on trumped up complaints when their real ‘crime’ was being ‘too’ Catholic, and, a school governor who was sacked after twenty years service because he expressed concerns about the appointment of a Head because she was in an adulterous relationship. Then there’s the eminent Catholic scholar harried around the world because he challenged homosexuals in his religious order, and children being given detention at Catholic schools in southern England for upholding the Church’s teaching on homosexuality in class room discussions. I’m sure that readers of the Catholic Voice will be able to add their own testimonies of the marginalisation and persecution of faithful Catholics within the Church.

What makes matters so painful is that it seems nothing is done to protect the faithful from being persecuted by these schismatics. Protests about this seem to fall on deaf ears in a Church at ease with accommodating dissent and disobedience. Real Catholics are told to hold their tongues. Has the voice of the faithful really become no longer welcome?

To publicly admit that a schism exists may be considered to trespass on a taboo that mustn’t be mentioned, but this ignores the reality of schism. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, quoting Canon Law, describes schism, which it links with heresy and apostasy, as ‘the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.’ (CCC 2089). There is nothing romantic or admirable about the schism, heresy, and apostasy that we see all around us. Dissent and schism are not the exercise of freedom and conscience but wounds to the communion of the Church caused by the sins of individuals. As one of the early Church Fathers put it,

‘Where there are sins, there are also divisions, schisms, heresies, and disputes. Where there is virtue, however, there also are harmony and unity, from which arise the one heart and one soul of all believers.’ (Origen)

In light of the fact that many of us have grown up in the ‘spirit of Vatican II’ Church infiltrated at the local level by the dissenters and disobedient, how do we know that we remain true Catholics in true communion? And how do we spot these closet schismatics?

The Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium [LG] paragraph 14, contains a check list of sorts that outlines the bonds of unity necessary to maintain the communion of the Church. These are inner, spiritual, bonds and external, visible, bonds of unity that, through the action of the Holy Spirit in the Catholic Church, communicate the oneness of the Church. If you can honestly affirm these bonds of unity by the way you try to live your life, by the way you think, talk, and pray, then you will already know what it means to seek to be a 100% genuine Catholic – a sinner who has been saved by the sacred blood shed on His Holy Cross by Our Lord Jesus Christ, true God and true man.

‘They are fully incorporated in the society of the Church who, possessing the Spirit of Christ accept her entire system and all the means of salvation given to her, and are united with her as part of her visible bodily structure and through her with Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. The bonds which bind men to the Church in a visible way are profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical government and communion.’ (LG 14).

To be a 100% genuine Catholic we must therefore posses the visible bonds of professing the Catholic faith, celebrating the sacraments worthily, and being obedient to the universal authority handed on to the successors of St Peter and the Apostles.
Further, to be a 100% genuine Catholic we must possess the spiritual bonds of Faith, Hope and Love, the Theological Virtues given us by God. The dissenters make the tragic mistake of thinking that Faith is like some political manifesto that can be changed and re-written according to their agendas and power plays, rather than a divine gift entrusted to the Church by God.

We are not judges of God’s Word, rather God’s Word judges us in every aspect of our lives:

‘He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a "bodily" manner and not "in his heart." All the Church's children should remember that their exalted status is to be attributed not to their own merits but to the special grace of Christ. If they fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word and deed, not only shall they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged.’(LG 14).

The difference between a true Catholic and a schismatic Catholic is that the 100% genuine Catholic seeks to profess the Faith in its fullness by obedience to the Magisterium, strives to celebrate the sacraments worthily through living by the Church’s moral teaching and sacramental discipline, and submits to the pope and bishops’ authentic exercise of authority. It’s important to note here the phrase ‘authentic exercise of authority’ with regards to bishops, which refers to their words and actions maintaining the balance, finely tuned over 2,000 years, between Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium.

‘Bishops are authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the authority of Christ, who preach to the people committed to them the faith they must believe and put into practice, and by the light of the Holy Spirit illustrate that faith. Bishops, teaching in communion with the Roman Pontiff, are to be respected by all as witnesses to divine and Catholic truth. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff’ (LG 25).

We are obliged to obey our bishops when they clearly and unequivocally uphold this divinely instituted balance between Scripture, Tradition and the Magisterium. The Church is guarded from the danger of schism when the bishops fulfil their mandate to ‘preach to the people committed to them the faith they must believe and put into practice’ and when they act as courageous ‘witnesses to divine and Catholic truth’. Has the Church been so deeply wounded by this schism over the past fifty years because many bishops have not acted as ‘authentic teachers’, not acted as ‘witnesses to divine and Catholic truth’?

Who can doubt this?

Schismatic Catholics, to some degree or other, reject these dimensions of being Catholic – they are not obedient, they don’t worship worthily, and they recognise only their own authority. Schismatic Catholics break both the spiritual and visible bonds that must be present for them to belong to the communion of the Church.

The challenge for those of us who seek to be 100% genuine Catholics is that we must, as a matter of urgency, protect our children from these imposters in our midst. Calling dissenters ‘imposters’ may seem harsh, but what else can we call those who attend Mass, while at the same time promoting abortion or same-sex “marriage”? We must also begin to remove these schismatic Catholics from positions of power and influence in the Church for their own good and to stop them harming faithful Catholics.

Pope Benedict XVI warned that those bishops who tolerate dissent in the Church make a very serious misjudgement. When Pope Benedict XVI met with the Bishops of England and Wales during their ad Limina visit in 2010 he cautioned them about mistaking dissent for mature debate within the Church:

‘In a social milieu that encourages the expression of a variety of opinions on every question that arises, it is important to recognize dissent for what it is, and not to mistake it for a mature contribution to a balanced and wide-ranging debate. It is the truth revealed through Scripture and Tradition and articulated by the Church’s Magisterium that sets us free.’

Clearly Pope Benedict was challenging the destructive notion abroad in the Church in England and Wales, and Ireland, that rejection of the Faith and public disobedience must be tolerated under the misnomers of ‘loyal dissent’ or an ‘adult faith’. There is nothing ‘loyal’ about dissent, which is at heart a rebellion against divine truths revealed by God, and there is nothing adult about the egotism and will-to-power that drives this rebellion. This ‘misjudgement’ is compounded when faithful Catholics who are in ‘submission to the Roman Pontiff’ are marginalised, disempowered, silenced.

Pope Francis’ much vaunted programme of reforms will come to nothing if it doesn’t have as its priority healing this deep wound of schism that is bleeding away the vitality of the Church. Addressing dissent is a matter of salvation. The salvation of souls must come first. Nothing else matters.





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