Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Liberal Catholic Ponders the Possibility of a Conservative Schism

Until this weekend, I had largely believed in the liberal narrative which holds that Pope Francis’s reforms of the Catholic church are unstoppable. But the conservative backlash has been so fierce and so far-reaching that for the first time a split looks a real, if distant, possibility.

One leading conservative, the Australian Cardinal George Pell, published over the weekend a homily he had prepared for the traditional Latin mass at which he started ruminating on papal authority. Pope Francis, he said, was the 266th pope, “and history has seen 37 false or antipopes”.

Why mention them, except to raise the possibility that Francis might turn out to be the 38th false pope, rather than the 266th real one?

This is a fascinating nudge in the direction of an established strain of conservative fringe belief: that liberalising popes are not in fact real popes, but imposters, sent by the devil. The explanation has an attractively deranged logic: if the pope is always right, as traditionalists would like to believe, and if this particular pope is clearly wrong, as traditionalists also believe, then obviously this pope is not the real pope. Splinter groups have held this view ever since the liberalising papacy of Pope John XXIII at the start of the 1960s. I don’t think that’s what Pell meant, but it was odd and threatening to bring the subject up at all.

Read the rest here.


Prior Martin said...

Your assessment of Catholic Traditionalism is accurate. Sedevacantism is the only form of Catholic Traditionalism which, despite its convoluted reasoning, makes sense. There is no middle ground on which to stand, papal infallibility makes it all or nothing.

John (Ad Orientem) said...

Just for clarification, I am not the author of the article.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Very, very difficult to imagine this but for the fact that traditionalism and modernism are completely antithetical. Different outlook, different thought process, different conclusions from the same inputs, different everything. So yes, another schism will probably happen. The two worldviews cannot coexist in the same institution.

rick allen said...

Strikes me as more embarrassing alarmism.

I think 99% of the hysterical worry about the pope would be alleviated if people would read what he actually says--words that are available to anyone at the touch of a few buttons.

Instead, most seem to rely on intermediaries assuring us of his real meaning, his true purposes, with badly translated, out-of-context fragments to support their pope-of-the-day. All "media" must summarize, and must get attention in a cacaphony of voices. The more outrageous become the most read, the most emailed, the most tweeted--and usually the least accurate. Like Pope Benedict's "red Pradas," silly speculation quickly becomes established fact.

Some of this is at least understandable on the part of non-Catholics, who see the papacy as just another political office, and subject to all the interest-group pressure we see everyday. For those of us who are Catholics, however, it seems odd that the papal office, which Catholic teaching assures us was given as a support of orthodoxy and a sure voice of comfort, can become such a source of anxiety.