In fire safety classes, we’re told about the four1 conditions necessary for a fire to start: Fuel, Heat, Oxygen, and Flashpoint or Ignition. They call it a fire tetrahedron. Without all four conditions, you don’t have a fire. I bring this up because, as I study ecclesial history and the writings of those who wound up separated from the Catholic Church, I’ve noticed that the schismatic movements have similar things in common that brought them about, regardless of what era they took place in. Like a fire, there needs to be four conditions to set a a schism rolling. Using the tetrahedron as an analogy, these things seem to be*:

  • Fuel: Some sort of real or perceived scandal that angers a large percentage of the Catholic population in the region where the schism occurs.
  • Heat: Some sort of demagogue or symbolic figure who is at odds with the Church on one or more issues.
  • Oxygen: A misrepresentation or misunderstanding of what the Catholic Church teaches.
  • Combustion or Flashpoint: A point that causes the break in trusting the Church.

Let’s look at each of these:

Fuel

A Real or Perceived Scandal

The Church, which Our Lord entrusted to sinful human beings, will always have scandals that anger the faithful. Some of these are real scandals. Others are things perceived to be scandals, but are not. The difference between the two is, with a real scandal, the Church needs to clean it up—justly—the sooner the better. The perceived scandal is when the Church has done nothing wrong, but people in some part of the Church think she is to blame for something that has gone wrong. The tricky part is understanding the difference. The Church must discern the two, and deal with it appropriately.

real scandal is something like the current clerical abuse scandal. It needs to be cleaned up. A perceived scandal is not a scandal, but some people wrongly attack the Church over it. Fr. Adrian Fortescue describes how Photius stirred up a schism in the 9th century by an admixture of condemning differing customs (points 1-2) and stating falsehoods about the disciplines of the Latin Rite which were never imposed on the East (points 3-5):

There are five points: 1. The Latins make the Bulgars fast on Saturday (so they do: that was then the universal custom in the Roman Patriarchate). 2. They eat butter, milk, and cheese during the first week of Lent (that is: we do not begin Lent till Ash Wednesday, whereas the Byzantines do on Quinquagesima Monday). 3. They despised married priests and thereby show themselves to be infected with Manichæan error. 4. They do not acknowledge Confirmation administered by a priest. 5. They have changed and corrupted the Creed by adding to it the Filioque. The doctrine that the Holy Ghost proceeds from God the Father and God the Son he described as “godless, atheistic, and blasphemous.” Photius then declares: “We, by the decree of our holy synod, have therefore condemned these forerunners of apostasy, these servants of Antichrist who deserve a thousand deaths, these liars and fighters against God … and we have solemnly excommunicated them.” 

(Fortescue, Adrian. The Orthodox Eastern Church, p. 153)

While the Church must avoid laxity in scandals (the corruption scandals that were fuel for the Protestant Revolt were tragically neglected until they became one of the rallying points), she must also avoid scapegoating or surrendering acts of teaching and governance. If it turns out that the public outrage is directed at something that is not the fault of the Church (usually, this comes over a misperception over what the real problems are), the Church needs to oppose the mob.

Heat

A Demagogue

Every schism has a leading figure people look to who is at odds with the Church and refuses to admit error when challenged. Some of these demagogues are heretics who obstinately reject what the Church teaches, claiming that she fell into error and until she follows the heresiarch, the Church will remain in error. Others accept the teachings of the Church but reject those who shepherd her, denying their authority or sacramental validity, giving authority to their preferred leaders instead. Patristic era heresies include the Arians and Nestorians. Patristic era schisms include the Novatians and Donatists.

Both heretical and schismatic demagogues provide the heat to go along with the fuel of real and perceived scandal, and the oxygen of misinformation, raising the danger of schism. The more of the other conditions exist in the Church, the more influence the demagogue is likely to have. Luther probably wouldn’t have gotten far if resentments hadn’t made him seem like a potential cure. He wasn’t, but the fact that he was speaking against abuses led people to accept his claims that they existed because of “errors” in Church teaching.

Here we need to make a distinction between a demagogue and a legitimate reformer in the Church. The former eventually rejects the Church (whether by formal schism or simply refusing obedience) if the Church should say something they propose is wrong, and tries to lead others to follow their vision. The latter accepts and obeys the Church when she says a proposal is incompatible with the Church teaching and proposes reform while obedient in response.

Oxygen

The Misinterpretation/Misrepresentation (or Rash Judgment/Outright Lies)

I should start by warning against taking an analogy too far. In the literal sense, Oxygen is something essential for life. In the sense of this analogy, it is only used as one of the things needed for a fire to exist.

The oxygen the fire of schism needs is misinformation# that leads people to think it is an unjust institution instead of the Body of Christ. When there is a movement aimed at undermining the teaching of the Church, it’s not enough for those who lead the movement to say, “this is what we believe.” They have to undermine the Church which tells the demagogue and his followers that their view is false. They don’t do this by saying “the Church teaches X this way, but we think X should be taught that way. You decide for yourself.” Instead, they tend to describe the Church teaching in the worst way possible, accusing the Church of holding errors because the Church doesn’t side with them. In the schisms that exist (Orthodox, Protestant, etc.), the Catholic teaching is misunderstood or misrepresented in such a way that makes us look diabolical while the Catholic reading their claims can only say “what in the hell are you talking about?”

One example is Martin Luther. It was not enough for him to say that he disagreed with the Catholic Church and thought our teaching on the Mass and the Sacrament of Penance was wrong. He had to misrepresent them as purely human institutions invented for corrupt purposes2—saying things the Catholic Church never believed, taking documents out of context to “prove” his point.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of nonsense of this type among Catholics too. When we see Catholics state that a Pope or Council intended to “make the Church Protestant” (actual Protestants I have talked to are puzzled by that claim, recognizing that our teachings and the Ordinary Form of the Mass are nothing like their beliefs and practices), it shows that misinformation is more widely believed than the actual teaching of the Church. Pope Francis is widely accused of “reversing” Church teaching and welcoming “pagan practices” when both claims are based on misinformation.

One can see a lot of this online. I routinely encounter Catholics who tell me to “open my eyes” or say that I’m refusing to consider the “truth” of their position. The problem is, what these Catholics cite as “proof” is misinformation. What they describe is a distortion of the truth. I don’t know what percentage has read but misunderstood what the Pope has taught, what percentage has decided to misrepresent what they dislike, and what percentage is merely “the blind following the blind.” This is why I try to avoid assuming bad will on the part of those I encounter. But the accusations are false. There are a lot of these falsehoods out there, regardless of the motivation. They lead the people astray. Combined with the other aspects discussed, it can cause a dispute to become a conflagration.

Combustion

Refusal to Believe that the Church teaches with God’s authority and protection

The above three points will always be found in different ways and times in the Church. We’ll always have to deal with scandal, with people at odds with the Church, and with Catholics believing falsehoods about the Church. But the fuel, heat, and oxygen are not enough to have a fire, although if all three are present, we are in grave risk of the fire of schism if the flashpoint is introduced to the mix. That flashpoint is the refusal to accept the Church under the visible head, the Pope, as teaching with the authority given by Christ and protected by error. They might try to argue that they support “the Papacy, but not this Pope” (as Hans Urs von Balthasar warned against3) but Pius XI reminds us:

22. Faith in the Church cannot stand pure and true without the support of faith in the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. The same moment when Peter, in the presence of all the Apostles and disciples, confesses his faith in Christ, Son of the Living God, the answer he received in reward for his faith and his confession was the word that built the Church, the only Church of Christ, on the rock of Peter (Matt. 16:18). Thus was sealed the connection between the faith in Christ, the Church and the Primacy. True and lawful authority is invariably a bond of unity, a source of strength, a guarantee against division and ruin, a pledge for the future: and this is verified in the deepest and sublimest sense, when that authority, as in the case of the Church, and the Church alone, is sealed by the promise and the guidance of the Holy Ghost and His irresistible support.

 Pius XI, Mit Brennender Sorge, #22

We need to make a distinction here. Having a difficulty understanding how something the Church teaches fits in with what actions one sees or with what one thinks Scripture or Church documents say is not the problem if he strives to recognize where he got it wrong. It’s when we say “I’m not wrong, the Church is wrong,” refusing to trust the authority of the Church that comes from the Catholic Church being the Church established by Christ and protected by Him when the Church goes against what we think it should  do. If one reaches that point, they risk making a shipwreck of their faith.

We certainly have evidence of bad men becoming Popes in history yet, upon becoming Popes, suddenly refused to carry out the errors they were inclined to do before their election. Consider the case of Pope Vigilius who actually helped get his predecessor exiled and killed with the understanding that when he became Pope, he would return heretical bishops to their sees. But once he became Pope, the Liber Pontificalis tells us he stood up for the Church and would not carry out his task:

But Vigilius replied: “Far be this from me, Lady Augusta. I spoke beforetime wrongly and foolishly; now I do assuredly refuse to restore a man who is a heretic and under the anathema. Although unworthy, I am the vicar of blessed Peter, the apostle, as were my predecessors, the most holy Agapitus and Silverius, who condemned him.”

People trying to discredit Pope Francis by claiming a Pope can teach error should consider this case. In a real case of corruption with the intention to enable heretics, God appears to have prevented him from going ahead with his pre-papal plan, even though he was imprisoned for his refusal. If God should prevent this, isn’t it foolish to think that He would permit a Pope to teach errors?

What these critics don’t seem to consider is that while Popes can change discipline depending on the needs of the Church in a certain time (so a successor could change a discipline enacted by Pope Francis) the Church in communion with the Pope is protected from teaching error. If truth was sometimes found in Rome, sometimes in Constantinople, sometimes in Econe, we could never know for certain when THE CHURCH was teaching truly in any instance. If one would reject Pope Francis when he teaches, why not St. Pius V? If one would reject Vatican II, why not Trent, or even Nicea?

I call this part the flashpoint because of how it interacts with the other elements. This element views the scandals with hopelessness and treats the magisterium as an enemy instead of approaching scandals something to pray about. It looks at the demagogue and thinks “maybe he has a point in his attacks on the Church.” It assumes that the false information about the Church must be true. The person who loses sight of the fact that the Catholic Church, under the Pope as visible head, teaches with Christ’s authority and protection will be tempted to view whatever problems that exist in the Church as places where “the Church is wrong and I am right.”

The Fire of Schism

Each of these conditions are serious and the Church needs to work to eliminate them—the sooner the better. But the existence of up to any three of conditions will not cause a schism. There have always been scandals in the Church or people who wrongly believe that something they don’t understand is a scandal. There have always been demagogues at odds with the Church. There have always been misunderstanding and falsehoods about Church teaching. And there have always been people who lost faith in the Church. But it seems that schism is usually present only when all four conditions are present. The demagogue exploits real scandals or invents false ones. The faithful misunderstand or fall for misrepresentation about the Church. And, even though we have the obligation to trust and obey the Church, under the the headship of the Pope (see canon 752), some of the faithful, facing these problems decide they can’t trust the Church anymore until it becomes what they think the Church should be.

And then you get a schism. Schisms have happened throughout Church history. We need to prevent them and heal those that do start. Not because the Church will fail without those who leave (the Church survived previous schism, and will survive any future schism). But because Jesus doesn’t want us to be satisfied with the 99 sheep who didn’t stray. We need to bring back the 100th. Moreover, the efforts of the Church to go out to the whole world is hampered by the division as she must expend effort to bring back to the fold those who strayed.

Final Thoughts

Whither the Church today?

Since I’ve been speaking out against anti-Francis Catholics since 2013, and have on occasion expressed concern about schism, you may wonder how I view the state of the Church today under these categories. My opinion is we have three of the four conditions present: the fuel (scandal), the oxygen (falsehoods), and the flashpoint (a loss of belief in what the Church is). What I think we lack is a demagogue. Yes, there are people who refuse obedience to the Church, insisting the Church errs. But we don’t have an Arius or a Nestorius. We don’t have a Luther or a Calvin. We don’t even have a Lefebvre. We do havegrossly irresponsible websites that are run by disgruntled Catholics who might have the will, but their influence is small. We do have4 some highly placed Churchmen who might have the following and have (in my opinion) used rhetoric I think is imprudent to the point of recklessness, but these Churchmen don’t seem to will an all out conflict with the Pope (though some of their followers from the irresponsible websites seem willing to follow them if they would give the word, thinking it only a matter of time5).

If a schism should come from this quarter, I don’t think it would happen during the pontificate of Pope Francis (though I could be wrong). I think it would happen in the pontificate of his successor who upheld Pope Francis and moved forward on the same path. This would be the end of their false hope that the Church would “go back” to the way that they prefer. If they would not recognize their own error, they might be led to abandon the fiction of “just the Pope’s erroneous opinion,” “prudential judgment,” or the like, but instead of repenting, they risk outright denying that God protects His Church. And then they are in grave danger.

So, that being said, what should we do? First, I think we should look at ourselves. Are we in any danger of making a shipwreck of our faith? We might think not, but I suspect nobody ever joined a schism unless they harbored resentment and defiance that rose from these conditions. We should pray and study that we might understand and remain in full communion with the Church—which means giving religious submission of intellect and will to the Pope, even in the darkest of times. Second, I think we can’t be silent when misinformation, perceived scandals or demagogues shake the faithful. And third, we should pray for those who are struggling, that they might not become demagogues or fall into the traps. After that, we need to have faith in God to protect His Church, come what may.

 

 


[*] Assigning these categories to specific elements needed for fire is largely arbitrary. I could have just as easily applied “oxygen” (for example) to scandal as to misinformation. So please don’t draw more from these classifications than convenient illustrations.

[1] There used to be three. I remember in the Cub Scouts, they used an image of a tripod needing three sides to stand. Modern safety classes now include “ignition” as a fourth condition. It kills the analogy, but is more accurate. That’s why you see signs warning about fire danger in the summer: three out of four conditions are present, waiting only for the ignition.

[#] To clarify the interchangeable usage: The unintentional spread of misinformation can be classified as misunderstanding or misinterpretation. The deliberate spread of misinformation is misrepresentation. But whatever the intent, if what someone spreads is false, it’s misinformation.

[2] For one example, see (though I don’t recommend it) The Babylonian Captivity. I leave it to God to judge what Luther’s culpability might be, but whether from misunderstanding or misrepresentation, his charges were falsehoods, tragically still believed by anti-Catholics.

[3] from The Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church:

“The papacy but not this pope” is a further step. Beginning with Gerson, Gallicanism attempted this step (with the best of intentions, theologically) by trying to differentiate between the sedes, which is indefectible, and the sedens, who is not. This approach was mistaken and impracticable from the outset, as de Maistre pointed out. Gasser, in his final address at Vatican I, emphasized that infallibility is not a prerogative of an abstract papacy but of the pope actually reigning.

[4] As usual, no names in these cases. I leave it to God to assess the culpability of individuals. I just try to point out dangers.

[5] This is why I am cautious about joining in on the attacks some defenders of the Pope make against these high ranking Churchmen. Since some supporters of the Pope misrepresent him to bolster their own ideology, it’s possible that these Churchmen’s supporters are doing the same. I might say on my blog Facebook page that I fear that Cardinal X’s words are dangerous, but I try to avoid violating the Golden Rule in doing so.

That doesn’t mean I give a free pass to what they do say. I recall favoring one cardinal to become Pope in 2013 (I had never heard of Cardinal Bergoglio then), but the experience of the past six years leads me to believe he would not have been a good choice.

 

Fire image: Adobe Stock

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10 Responses

  1. Avatar Chris dorf says:

    It seems to me that those attacking Pope Francis as being apostate and heretic claiming that they’re not being legalistic but defending the deposit of faith. However it seems that the faith is spelled is no longer living it’s just a matter of rules to them can leave and accuse somebody of being a heretic when they are not because they don’t like how he’s preaching the gospel to all people.

  2. Avatar jong says:

    Dear David,
    I like your analogy but I think it would be best to retain the Triangle of Fire and the “flash point ” is directly link to what kind or type of fuel is present or thrown into the mix, like paper,wood,gasoline,chemical solvents, etc. Which fuel will have greater flash? it would be the chemical solvent like “paint thinner or the like”. Pardon me if this message is quite long as I am a Chem. Engr and knows a little on the nature of fire and I just want to put more light on your great article & analogy.
    Allow me to point out that there are different type of fuels having different flash point. Let’s study the fuel that the Church critics and Enemies had thrown. Remember the “Oxygen” are the “misinformation or Fake News” and the Rad Trads channels like Dr.Marshall, M.Voris & Matt, John Westen acts as “fanners”. And the “Heat”, you equate it with Demagogue, but a good representation is the “a body or group of people”. How this group of people composed of Leaders & Followers becomes the source of “Heat”? They hold in their hearts the “Fire of Hatred”.
    The end times according to revelation of Elizabeth Kindellmann is a fight between “Fire of Love” vs. “Fire of Hatred”.https://www.theflameoflove.org/elizabeth_kindelmann.html
    Let’s go back to the type of fuel considering the “Heat or Fire of Hatred” coming from the Demagouge was present, and the “Oxygen or Fake News” with the help of fanners or Rad Trads channels trying desperately to lit or ignite the fire.
    What are the numerous types of fuel or perceived scandal thrown by the Demagouge since 2013?
    1. Invalid Pope : this is a “non-combustible” fuel, because Pope BXVI, Conclave of Cardinals, College of Bishops & the Universal Church acknowledge Pope Francis as Pope. This is a laughable attack, Pope defenders can easily refute this because of FACTS.
    2. Dictator Pope : this is a semi-combustible fuel because Pope Francis had removed and demoted numerous Cardinals,Bishops, priest and now theologians & professors in St.JP2 and this can provide enough “Fire of Hatred” but since Pope Francis was obviously well accepted as a “Mercy Pope” this “fue and oxygen” will not find enough support from followers. Therefore not enough “fire of hatred” develop.
    3. Amoris Laetetia : This “fuel” seems to be easily ignitable but the Demagogue over-reacted too much, as they forgot to follow the simple evangelical guidelines in Donum Veritatis and their intention to spark the “Fire of Hatred” among their followers did push thru or quite successful but their “evil intention” using the media was exposed and so this effort failed miserably.
    4. Ab.Vigano “accusatory testimony” : This is almost a sure type of “fuel” that can easily “lit-up or ignite” having a lower “Flash Point” or lower temperature or less heat needed, as it arouses a great “Fire of Hatred” from the public having Cardinal McCarrick as the “real fuel or real scandal” and not just a mere “perceived scandal”. So. why this “combustible fuel” with the backing of enormous “Fire of Hatred” coming from the Rad Trads and even faithful Catholics did not lit-up?
    This is where Pope Francis wisdom comes into play, how? You said the “Oxygen” is the “Fake News or Misinformation”, Pope Francis simply kills or cut-off the oxygen supply coming from Ab.Vigano, how? Pope Francis instructed all the Media to discover if the “Oxygen” is a “Truth or a Lie”. What did the Media discovered? Ab.Vigano “Oxygen” was a lie and so the oxygen was removed and the “fuel although a real scandal with enormous fire of hatred” it did not lit-up even if the “fanners or the Rad Trads channels” relentlessly exerted an effort to fan it, because the “Oxygen” is fake. Pope Francis even supply another good fuel by introducing changes in CCC2267 but since oxygen was cut-off it wont work. That’s how great the wisdom of Pope Francis is, he is truly a Master in the Art of Spiritual War.
    https://www.uccronline.it/eng/2018/08/31/charges-against-the-pope-former-nuncio-vigano-lied-here-the-proofs/
    5. Paganism or the on-going issues sorrounding Pan Amazon Synod; is this a good fuel? maybe…because it has so many elements like “ordination of married and the making of women deacons, paganism, etc.” Can the Demagogue supply the needed “fire of hatred” and the “fanners” can fan the “oxygen or the fake news” to lit-up the fire? Maybe…
    In closing, I think you article has a good analogy, but I disagree with you equating the “Realization of Fire” to a Real Schism,why?
    We now have a “Real Schism” and no less than Pope Francis stated and acknowledged it. The “Realization of Fire” from your analogy will no longer lead to “Schism” as the “Real Schism” already exist but it will lead to what the CCC675 or the Thessalonian Prophecy called “Revolt”.
    This is the ultimate objective of the “mystical body of the Antichrist” to create a “revolt or fire” that will lead to Final Confrontation. And this is the condition for the “son of perdition” to appear. and it will be the scenario where Ab.Vigano will come out and their “schismatic mystical body” will all shout in unison “Vigano!, Vigano!, Vigano!…” My Jesus mercy. S&IHMMP4us.Amen

  3. Avatar jong says:

    David W.
    A good title would be “How is “revolt” ignited by schism”? But don’t get me wrong, I love the content of your great article it just so happen that I’m looking at CCC675 because Pope Francis and the Church must embraced this written destiny painfully as the Church own “Way of the Cross” for Her glorious resurrection like Christ. We now have a real schism and apostasy, and if this schism grows in numbers it would create the needed “Fire of Hatred” to increase and with the constant & relentless effort of the “Fanners or Rad Trads channels” the real schism will ignite into a “revolt”, and the recent 40 Days Prayer Crusade is an example of “revolt rehearsal”. So, the direction of the Rad Trads is to launch a series of revolt in disguised of Prayer Crusade until such time that the conceived “Grand Revolt” will come into fruition for the “Son of Perdition” to appear. God bless.

  4. Avatar Manuel Dauvin says:

    Yup. No catholic “Trump”…yet.
    Thanks for this article. ..as always.

  5. Avatar George XY Palantine says:

    You guys seem to always ignore the real question. Lots of diversions, but you avoid the main question. What do you do with a Pope who suddenly appears to be rejecting church teaching, by encouraging people to ignore dogma, and instead just treat all Catholic doctrine and dogma as “guidelines” that can be ignored by each individual priest, based on that priests judgment of the particular circumstances?

    You never answer that question. That is what Amoris Laetitia did. You don’t want to answer the question, just as Francis refused to answer the dubia. Because you have no answer. All you can do is repeat a red herring “The pope is the head of the church and we must do as he says” Is all you can repeat.

    But that is not the issue. As yesterday showed, What do you do IF the pope says something completely contrary to church teaching? Vatican I made clear that the pope is the servant of doctrine, not its master. The pope is not free to say anything. He is in shackles, the shackles of revelation, of dogma and doctrine.

    So answer the question. What do you do if the Pope says that Jesus is not divine. I know he denies he said that, but I am asking you to tell us what one must do when the pope clearly and unambiguousaly tells us that he is ignoring Catholic teaching in favor of some new doctrine he has thought up that he proposes overrides all existing doctrine (Amoris Laetiaia) You people do not have an answer for this.

    • Avatar Mike Lewis says:

      Actually I have answered this question multiple times. Maybe not since you started commenting, but many times on twitter and in the comments.

      Here’s the thing: The pope is the guarantor of orthodoxy. He authoritatively interprets the Magisterium. We have no power (authoritatively, spiritually, or otherwise) to reject his teachings as non-Catholic. His Magisterial teachings on faith and morals demand the assent of the faithful (albeit at different levels). If you outright reject a Magisterial teaching of the pope or regard it as heterodox, erroneous, or heretical, you dissent from Catholic teaching on that matter. That is an objective fact, according to the criteria laid out by the Church.

      Therefore, if a pope was to officially and Magisterially teach something that I thought was heterodox, erroneous, or heretical, I would be a dissenter from Catholic teaching. And I would admit it, to myself and others.

      Those who regard Pope Francis’s Magisterial teachings as heterodox, erroneous, or heretical will not admit that they dissent from Catholic teaching. Instead, they declare that the Magisterial authority has erred (the one whose teachings we are taught to give assent to) and that they (who lack that authority) are teaching the TRUE Catholic teaching.

      No. What the Church officially teaches is the official Church teaching. You can accept or reject it, but you can’t dictate to the Church what the Church teaches.

      • Avatar Pete Vickery says:

        Are you kidding me? This click bait story of the pope supposedly denying the divinity of Christ is from another sit-down with Eugenio Scalfari? The pleasant 95 year old atheist who admits he doesn’t take notes and then tries to reconstruct his interviews from memory? He is visited by Pope Francis sporadically since Pope Francis befriended him and is trying to evangelize him. It makes sense since Scalfari still holds his position as editor of La Repubblica. I deal with patients every day in my job who are very elderly and one thing I can tell you is that they sincerely “remember” details of what you said to them in a multitude of mistaken ways. The synapses just don’t function as well in your nineties although the patients are trying to honestly remember details. Apparently sensational stories like this are click-bait to those who profit from them. Like multitudes of media websites. Oh well. I’m sure Pope Francis will try again with Scalfari. If the pope were a politician he wouldn’t touch Scalfari with a ten foot pole but Francis is a faithful Catholic and a good shepherd trying to bring a fallen away brother back into the fold. That’s what good shepherds do whether they receive accolades or jeers from the crowd. Viva Papa Francisco!

    • D.W. Lafferty D.W. Lafferty says:

      You are approaching the question of the pope the wrong way. We shouldn’t ask what the pope CAN do but what he WOULD do. He is not in shackles. The Pope “has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered,” but there are things he would not do.

  6. Avatar Marie says:

    You make some interesting points concerning how to respond to papal critics, particularly members of the clergy. I do believe it is not for us to judge culpability, but certain behaviours warrant a challenge. Insults are one, and obvious omissions of Catholic teaching to further an argument are another. So is the absence of basic decency towards others (gossip and innuendo) It is difficult to comprehend that someone schooled in theology or even basic Catholic teaching does not know the different levels of papal authority, and how we are expected to respond to it, so when they argue papalotry by those who simply follow Church teaching, it is disingenuous, for they know it’s not all about infallibility. I don’t see this as an innocent misunderstanding, and I say so.

    When they end the conversation because you simply ask them about Catholic teaching regarding papal authority, their position is disingenuous, for they know something doesn’t fit. When they argue that the pope has erred, but leave out vital facts, it is disingenuous. When they attempt to personally attack you, they are either mean spirited or they have fallen victim to mob rule, but in either instance they should be called out.

    Of course people can be uncertain or confused by what’s going on, that’s normal and genuine. Those however, that insult out Holy Father, and constantly find fault are no different than any bully and mob rule participant, and they should be challenged and called out, as we would under any other similar circumstance. If you don’t challenge, you become complicit to it, even when you reject it.

    I’ve had more than a few rounds with family members, as inevitably any mention of God or politics leads to this issue. Although short lived, it always ends with “I don’t want to talk about it” when certain passages of the Catechism are mentioned. Why? When taking a position that actually challenges the very foundation of Catholic teaching, and ultimately if wrong may jeopardize our salvation, I’m not staying silent when that’s what’s at stake. I take the position that I won’t bring it up, but if it is, I will continue to call it as I see it, and I won’t hold back. No sugar coating something of such significance. For the clergy, who are held to an even higher standard, we owe them that much. Never making them be held to account, by saying they are just confused, hardly helps them challenge their assumptions or behaviours.

  7. Avatar carn says:

    “Each of these conditions are serious and the Church needs to work to eliminate them—the sooner the better.”

    Wonderful idea.

    About which of the 4 ingredients can the Church do something?

    “Fuel: Some sort of real or perceived scandal that angers a large percentage of the Catholic population in the region where the schism occurs.
    Heat: Some sort of demagogue or symbolic figure who is at odds with the Church on one or more issues.
    Oxygen: A misrepresentation or misunderstanding of what the Catholic Church teaches.
    Combustion or Flashpoint: A point that causes the break in trusting the Church.”

    “Heat”: it seems that either convincing the “demagogue” or weakening/silencing would be the only options; in practice this could for example mean that the Pope asks someone he trusts to make contect with Burke et al under the radar to explore possible options; if that is fruitless, silencing/weakening Burke et al should be considered.

    Currently, i am not aware of any evidence that one or both things were ever done in earnest, so currently i am not aware of any evidence that the Pope attempted to live up to the duty you defined in trying to take the fuel out.

    “Oxygen”: while misunderstanding is only to a limited extent in control of the sender of a message, someone sending a message can at least consider various formulations of the message and try to choose one with less potential for misunderstanding; for that it would be helpful to consult somebody trusted with a different perspective, present him with some intended message and consider his feedback when deciding the final version; in practice this might be possible, by hiring Cardinal Müller for the job, order him to be publically silent, but let all hell loose in private criticism and refine messages based on his input; Card. Müller is suitable for the job as far as one can tell, cause he both has a different pespective, has some understanding how papal critics can understand some messages.

    Currently, i am not aware of any evidence that the Pope attempted to live up to the duty you defined in trying to take the Oxygen out.

    “Fuel:” Clearly, some reports about papal words and actions are such that they are perceived as scandal that angers a relevant percentage of the Catholic population in some regions, e.g. US.

    Here there is some overlap with depriving oxygen, employ someone who understand why the heck some nuts perceive your message as scandal and refine it accordingly. The input of Card. Müller could here be helpful as well. And also, if depriving heat brings some fruit, one could even consider to consult Cardinal Burke unofficially, cause he seems to get what upsets all those rigid US catholics.

    Maybe i should stress: refining some message according to input does not mean to do what they say, but simply adjust the message if their advice is to some extent valid.

    Also an option would be, to contact some of those rather active US catholic commentators/news sites in an attempt to ensure that misrepresentation from their side is reduced; whether that is possible, is of course uncertain.

    Currently, i am not aware of any evidence that the Pope attempted to live up to the duty you defined in trying to take the Fuel out.

    “Combustion or Flashpoint”: here one would need to understand, what actions and messages reduce trust in the Pope; and then try to reduce the number of such instances; for example, the Pope complaining abotu rigid catholics seems to have caused some loss of trust; as the Pope has already said a lot negative about rigidity, considering to stop the fequency of such remarks might help without reducing the overall message, that rigidity can be a problem.

    Currently, i am not aware of any evidence that the Pope attempted to live up to the duty you defined in trying to take the Combustion or Flashpoint out.

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