Will there be a Schism in October of 2015?

Fr. Z. opines that there will not be a schism: Stop talking about schism! Wherein Fr. Z rants.

“Some people are talking about ‘schism’ because of the Synod. No matter what happens at the Synod, there will be no schism by either side. Schisms are passé. Catholics don’t schism. Indifference and apathetic drifting are the real threats. Conservatives have nowhere else to go (e.g., the SSPX simply not an option). Conservatives accept Vatican II AND the Catechism of the Catholic Church AND Code of Canon Law.”

I wish that were true. But I find that many conservatives still speak with contempt and denigration about Vatican II. They do not treat any of the teachings of that Council as acts of the Magisterium. Instead, they treat the entire body of texts from the Council like a set of theological opinions issued by liberal theologians. They do not submit themselves to the authority of the Magisterium, but only to the pseudo-authority of the prevalent opinion among conservatives or traditionalists.

I notice that the CCC is ignored by conservatives when its teachings are contrary to their own ideas. For example, on salvation theology, conservatives continue to ignore the teaching of the CCC that only unrepentant actual mortal sin condemns to Hell (CCC 1037). They continue to insist that prenatals who die in the womb and unbaptized infants all go to the Limbo of Hell. They are very reluctant to admit that non-Christians can be saved without converting to Christianity, and they are adamant that atheists and agnostics cannot be saved unless they convert to belief in God. They largely reject the teaching of Pope Saint John Paul II on salvation theology, found in Redemptoris Missio, especially that God makes salvation theology concretely available to all. And they reject the teaching of the same Pope that some who outwardly reject the Church are still saved by Her.

Pope Francis has already hinted that he thinks atheists can be saved without converting to belief in God. If Pope Francis teaches this idea as an act of the Magisterium, how many conservatives, especially the traditionalists, will reject him? Already I see numerous posts and articles online claiming that a Pope can fall into heresy, and thereby cease to be a valid Pope. But Saint Robert Bellarmine believed that no Pope could commit or teach heresy.

Some conservatives, including Fr. Z., have decided that women cannot be ordained to the diaconate. The Magisterium has definitively taught that the Church lacks the authority to ordain women to the priesthood. But ordination to the diaconate is an open question. If Pope Francis decides to ordain women deacons, many traditionalists and some conservatives will depart from unity.

And as many persons have been saying, Pope Francis might change discipline on reception of Communion. He might permit divorced and remarried persons to receive Communion. He might permit any Catholic not conscious of actual mortal sin to receive. Conscience would become the basis for worthiness to receive, rather than objective grave sin.

More possible teachings and decisions by Pope Francis here: Pope Francis’ October Surprise: 24 Shocking Possibilities

So, contrary to what Fr. Z. says, there is a strong conflict between Pope Francis and conservatives, which the set of teachings and decisions of the Synod could exacerbate.

Schisms often occur in the Church after an Ecumenical Council. The Pope and the body of Bishops teach and correct; they also make decisions on matters of discipline. In response, some members of the Church depart from unity with the Pope and the body of Bishops: what the Council teaches is contrary to their own understanding of the Faith, or what the Council decides on discipline is contrary to their own understanding of what is best, or both.

Now a Synod is not an Ecumenical Council. But the same process of conflict over new definitions of doctrine or changes to discipline can occur, even when the teaching is from a Synod, not a Council. For the Pope is able to teach infallibly at any time, and he is also able to make changes to discipline at any time. Controversial doctrine and discipline can proceed from a Synod, and the result could possibly be a schism.

What causes this difference in understanding between the Magisterium and the members of the Church?

We are all fallen sinners; none of us has the Beatific Vision of God. So we can each possibly be mistaken when we think that an idea is taught by Sacred Tradition or Sacred Scripture. We can also misinterpret and misapply past dogmatic teachings of the Magisterium.

The development of doctrine over time means that the Church can and does issue new definitions of doctrine, ideas not previously generally accepted or known by many of the faithful. This challenges the faithful to humbly set aside their own thinking, and accept magisterial teachings based on the virtue of faith.

Many people do not like change. But all the disciplines of the Church are changeable. And from time to time, the Church does change Her disciplines. This inevitably causes some difficulties for us poor fallen sinners because we are accustomed to one discipline, and now we must change to another.

Pride. Sinful pride. Each fallen human person has a tendency to assume that his or her own understanding of Catholicism is correct. Now if a teaching of Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium is infallible, it must necessarily be true, but any truth can be misunderstood. When the Pope or a Council or the ordinary and universal Magisterium teaches infallibly, some persons will find their teaching difficult to accept. As a result of their own pride and other sinful failings, they fall away as a result.

{6:60} He said these things when he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.
{6:61} Therefore, many of his disciples, upon hearing this, said: “This saying is difficult,” and, “Who is able to listen to it?”
{6:62} But Jesus, knowing within himself that his disciples were murmuring about this, said to them: “Does this offend you?
{6:63} Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending to where he was before?
{6:64} It is the Spirit who gives life. The flesh does not offer anything of benefit. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.
{6:65} But there are some among you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who were unbelieving and which one would betray him.
{6:66} And so he said, “For this reason, I said to you that no one is able to come to me, unless it has been given to him by my Father.”
{6:67} After this, many of his disciples went back, and they no longer walked with him.

A while back, I asked my readers to make a profession of fidelity to Pope Francis. Few did so. Most readers declined the offer.

And some months earlier, I took a poll of readers, asking what they think of Pope Francis. Out of 352 votes, 18% thought that Pope Francis is not a valid Pope. [The poll is currently closed.]

I believe that there will be a schism beginning with the Synod on 4 Oct 2015. And this schism is the beginning of the great apostasy, predicted by Sacred Scripture (2 Thess 2:3; Mt 26:31).

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and
translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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