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Monday, November 04, 2002

Getting Fitted for my "Lidless Eye."

Well, not really, but I've been thinking about part of Fr. Neuhaus' explanation of why Rome does not drop the hammer on the bishops. This paragraph is what I've been stewing over:

"There is an exaggerated fear in Rome of a formal schism in the Church in the U.S. It is thought a more direct or heavier hand might provoke that. As you know, many of the Lidless Eye People would welcome that. Rome would not, and I think for very good reasons."

I agree with the first sentence ("exaggerated fear"), even though I think the way he phrases it is very interesting ("formal schism"). Perhaps I'm reading too much into it, but the way it's phrased allows for an argument that sections of the Church in America are already in material schism. In any event, a formal schism isn't going to happen for any number of reasons, starting with a lack of intellectual leadership, along the lines of a Von Dollinger. No, most dissenters prefer to stay inside the Church, clogging the toilet and setting fire to the furniture, rather than leave. After all, that way you can pose as the brave free-thinker, challenging "the Inquisition" in the name of liberty, and earning secular kudos and regular media appearances. If you leave to join your fellow believers (?) in mainline Protestantism, you end up being just another Spong in the asylum, good for one article in go-blind typeface on page 38. See Fox, Matthew.

The last two sentences are what have gotten the synapses firing (Ed.: About time!). Why would a formal schism necessarily be a bad thing? Shortly after I read Fr. Neuhaus' discussion of the topic, I had the occasion to go book shopping at a local Catholic outlet. In the midst of policing my increasingly-mobile 14 month-old daughter ("What are you eating?!" has become a staple of my vocabulary), I came across and purchased this happy missive on the condition of Catholic religious education in the wake of the release of the Catechism in 1992. Prognosis: all the happy talk about the imminent demise of liberal Catholic dissent, and its replacement by vibrant orthodoxy, is so much whistling past the graveyard. The "Spirit of V2" crowd are firmly entrenched in diocesan bureaucracies, and are fiercely resisting authentic teaching, especially the Catechism. Flawed Expectations is painfully well-documented, and an instructive, infuriating read. I'll post nuggets later.

All of which brings me to the point: what would be so wrong with a few of the more "progressive" bishops filing out of the Church and taking the materially schismatic dissenters with them? I know that the Church would reject this on the basis that it has to care for all of its "sheep," especially the most wayward ("My, what long teeth you have!"). But isn't their presence inside the Church causing immeasurably more harm to the other sheep? Are the sheep edified by the abortion views of an Anthony Kosnik? Are the unrebuked tantrums of an Anne Doyle helpful to the Church's witness? Yesterday's first reading from Malachi is still echoing in my head, especially 2:7-8. How many are the dissenters causing to stumble? How many bitter ex-Catholic fundamentalists have they created?

The reason can't be a fear of the power of the dissenters. If so, I have a terse response: Look at the Old Catholics. Can you remember the last time you ran into one? Didn't think so. The course of a hypothetical "progressive" schism is pretty obvious: within a year of donning the fool's motley of liberal Protestantism, the schismatics would destroy the apostolic succession by conferring orders on women, and thereafter fragment into various increasingly radical bodies racing each other towards irrelevance, belting out "Sing a New Church" as they sprint along. Many of the disillusioned would return to the Church, chastened by the experience.

And what about the Catholic Church in America following such a schism? Ultimately, wouldn't the Church's evangelical witness, its witness to life, its doctrinal truths and authentic worship shine forth more brightly if the shadows cast by the dissenters were elsewhere? Sure seems like it would to me. Am I missing something?

I await any responses. Meanwhile, I'll be dispatching my Nazgul and summoning my legions of Easterlings, Haradrim and Corsairs...

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