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American Catholicism: A Schism Set in Amber Print E-mail
By Bevil Bramwell, OMI   
Sunday, 17 November 2013

Historically schisms in the Church lead to two ecclesial groups with two different sets of teachings. Splits usually result from strong personalities and historical and political currents, but doctrine is where they either start or end up. And they’re far from rare. One scholar lists at least twenty-three schisms or groups of schisms, and that just up to the First Vatican Council.

After a schism, the resulting groups are not interchangeable. We can say that: “The Church is One because its members; Are all united under one government; All profess the same faith; All join in a common worship.” (G. Joyce, Catholic Encyclopedia) So once the two groups form, they are either not united under one government or they do not profess the same faith or they do not join in common worship. Or perhaps some combination of the three.

Surveys show that the American “Church” actually consists of two groups, each with a different content of faith, different worship, and different operation of government. Running briefly through these categories:

One group tries to hold to all of the Catholic Church’s teachings. The other group holds to meanings of life from various social trends and uses words from scripture and tradition, but alter their content because they do not fit the trends.

Regarding worship: the first group worships using words grounded in the teaching of the Church. The other group uses the words from the rites but often with very different meanings. To take one example, they use the word “Christ.” But this is not Christ as the Incarnate Word and the meaning of the world because this commits one to his teaching and the teaching of the Church. Rather it is Christ as a nice man who said some homely truths, but nothing of value comparable to the meanings in current social trends.

Regarding government: the one group attends to Church teachers and teaching. The other one follows the leaders in the culture and completely ignores the bishops. This split in the American “Church” even cuts through vowed religious communities, through parishes and dioceses, through ecclesiastical administrations and the bishop’s conference.

Why is the partially realized schism, trapped in amber as it were, worthy of mention? For one thing the unity of the Church founds its effective witness to mankind. (John 17:21) But when the “Church” consists of two groups – of approximately the same size, but believing contrary things – then the effectiveness of the “Church” is almost perfectly nullified.

This is quite compatible with what America has absorbed from Enlightenment thought because the meaning of the Church is supposed to be irrelevant. The elite are the new source of meaning. Culturally, the existence of the second group makes complete sense. The illusion of U.S. cultural hegemony and the delusion that all religion is subordinate to the culture is pervasive.


The American Church: a Janus-like creature

American-born bishops and religious superiors naturally tend to encourage blending in. There are exceptions, but judging by the proportions of the split, not many.

Another reason to be aware of the split is that schisms usually result in two self-identified public groups being formed: the Latin Church and the Greek Church, the Catholics and the Protestants, the Catholics and the Old Catholics, to name a few.

In the United States, the schism went part way, but did not result into two separate, freestanding, publicly defined groups with their own bishops.  

Third, it has to be said – ceaselessly – that Catholicism has an intrinsic intellectual component. Theologically: “God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth – in a word, to know himself – so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves. . . .it is necessary to keep in mind the unity of truth, even if its formulations are shaped by history and produced by human reason wounded and weakened by sin.” (John Paul II)

Of course, American Enlightenment thinking would disagree – why would a pope have standing with us? This stance explains the string of Catholic failures in the United States: on divorce, on contraception; on abortion; “Catholic” universities that are not Catholic; bishops and college presidents who do not comprehend Ex Corde Ecclesiae; why even highly intelligent bishops do not act; homosexual “marriage”; why the schism exists. The Enlightenment view is that the intellectual part of Catholicism is unimportant or irrelevant.

Then why should Americans look to and respect the Catholic Church when they are confronted with this Janus-like creature? Why should Catholic reasoning even seem plausible when the contrary is so well presented? Why should anything Church representatives say have any weight when the counter example is substantially presented by “Catholics” or by their silence?

In many ways, this is a great country, maybe even one of the greatest in recent history.  That does not mean, however, that Catholicism has nothing to say or that Catholicism has to become Unitarianism.

Christ is just too true to be manifested partially. Seeing the truth and its contradiction manifested alongside each other is grotesque, and, if one knows the meaning of schism, a sign of genuine evil.


Fr. Bevil Bramwell
is retired, a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate and the former Undergraduate Dean at Catholic Distance University. He has published
Laity: Beautiful, Good and True and The World of the Sacraments. 

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written by James S., November 17, 2013
Thank you for writing this, Fr Bramwell. It's an important message that needs to be said again and again and to a wide audience. Trouble is, one doubts if many in the social trend church are of the habit of dropping in on The Catholic Thing as part of their internet reading.
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written by Mack, November 17, 2013
Well, yes, I pay attention to the bishop, to his racism, his expensive and rather bling-ish redecoration of the cathedral, to his expensive new suite of offices, to his obedience to secular cultural trends, and to his contempt for young people.
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written by Chris in Maryland, November 17, 2013
Our parish Catholic School is marketed as a Federal Dept of Educ. "Blue Ribbon School." This ought to be troubling to a people who oppose what this govt advances, such as abortion, "queering the schools" (the very words used by a progressive agent of the Dept of Ed) and the end of freedom of religious expression: don't worry - we'll let you go to Church - just keep it to yourselves - or you won't find a place for your kids in our schools). I wonder if the parish school gets money for wearing the "blue ribbon"? In some ways I hope they do - I'd hate to think they were cooperating "for free."

One day a few months ago a young priest gave a homily asking if the school really made any difference in the faith formation of the children. That same weekend was Catholic School Week - marked by a note from the pastor in the bulletin about prominent Catholics like Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotamayor, who are products of Catholic schools. A few weeks later, it was suddenly announced that the young priest was reassigned.

We wish we could have been reassigned with him.
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written by Manfred, November 17, 2013
Well done, Fr Bramwell, you have finally introduced the "S" word. Pope Francis recently had a formal visit with the President of Italy who greeted him with these prepared words: "Thank you for having impressed us for the silence of any dogmatism, by leaving room for doubt." This is the Pope who told the atheist editor Scalfari there was "no Catholic God." I completely agree with your assessment of the state of the Church in the U.S., but it has been aided and abetted by the actions or inactions of the Vatican. A New Evangelization? As you point out, we cannot convince the people in the pews, how could we ever convince those who have already left? They left because the Church they were exposed to has nothing to say.
I recently had lunch with a retired doctor who will tell you what an outstanding (progressive) Catholic he is. He mentioned that his 37 year old son was living with a woman in a house the doctor owned. I said his son was a fornicator-how could the father accept this? "Well, it is better than having him go to a brothel each week." My response? "Why doesn't he marry her?" "His career doesn't allow for that yet." I would point out this doctor is very generous to Catholic schools and charities. I believe this anecdote makes your point very well, Father.
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written by John McCarthy, November 17, 2013
I thank Fr.Bramwell for this important essay. He describes a reality in which all of us who call ourselves 'Catholics' dwell, and to which there may be no simple or easy answer.

For all of us who are plagued with and by this situation, it is, I believe, a call to prayer.

And if there is any one saint who might model for us a way out of or through this conundrum, I believe that it may be Mother Theresa who was as passionately orthodox as she was passionate for the poor and the sick.
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written by Chris in Maryland, November 17, 2013
To Mack:

Which Bishop, in which diocese?
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written by Rich in MN, November 17, 2013
Fr. Bramwell, thank you for your analysis. From my (very limited) perspective, I am guessing that the SSPX folks (which include a healthy batch of sedevacantists among them) would regard themselves as the "true" Catholic Church apart from the schismatics (e.g. you, me, etc.) and the heretics (i.e., the practitioners of [Katherine] Sebelianism such as Pelosi, Cuomo, Biden, McAuliffe, et al.).

Your use of the term, "American-born bishops," somehow evoked in my mind the rather silly image of an obstretrician needing to remove a mitre from the birth canal before delivering the baby. (The parents then look at each other and say, "Well, we know what he's going to be when he grows up!") In all seriousness, what is the 'vetting' process a pope employs for evaluating a candidate for the episcopacy? For example, when evaluating Oscar Madariaga and Raymond Burke (just to pick those two names out of a hat), was JPII using the same doctrinal/orthodoxy measuring stick?
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written by Patti Day, November 17, 2013
At a meeting of women of our parish, someone commented on a television commercial for contraception, stating that she thought it was well done because it gave balance on whether to contracept on not. I replied that I found the commercial to be hypocritical, that it was merely fence sitting, trying to be cute and non-confrontational in its appeal, saying that either is good, depending on where one's interests lie at a particular time. Another woman said, "While we admire the work of (name withheld) for her stand on pro-life, each woman has the right to make up her own mind on whether contraception and abortion are right for her". She spoke as if she were speaking for every woman there, and no one, including the pro-life advocate, said a word. There was some uncomfortable shifting in seats and foot scuffling. Another woman quickly changed the subject and the meeting was broken up for lunch. It couldn't have been clearer that the 'sides' do not even want to mention these matters that separate us, let alone discuss them.
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written by jan, November 17, 2013
Fr. Bramwell, which group 'ignored the bishops'--yes, and the Pope himself--during the invasion of Iraq? Which group continues to ignore the bishops when it comes to supporting universal healthcare? The use of torture as an interrogation technique? The desire to wage more wars in the Middle East? Which group ignores the bishops when it comes to capital punishment?

Answer: 'conservative' Catholics. The ones that go to mass every week and on the whole say that they subscribe to Church teaching.

Each side considers itself to be the faithful Catholics. They have different criteria for determining faithfulness. Both sides must look deeper and more faithfully at our common faith, if they are to find each other.

Fr. Neuhaus I recall said to the effect that the sex abuse scandal was about 3 things: faithfulness, faithfulness, faithfulness. I think the same could be said about the cause of American Catholic schizophrenia.

I know that the liberals ignore Catholic teaching on abortion, contraception, sexual immorality, and gay marriage. They justify their flouting of these teachings by adverting to other Catholic principles. Similarly, conservatives justify ignoring the bishops on the issues I mentioned above by reference to the idea that those teachings are merely prudential judgments.

But are they really mere prudential judgments? When Pope after Pope since Vatican II has said NO! to war; No war anymore--is it just a prudential judgment to be enthusiastic about war? When Pope JPII, the hero of conservatives, said that advanced countries have no need for capital punishment in Evangelium Vitae, are we free to say that this teaching is optional? And are we conservatives not then hypocrites when we accuse liberals of being unfaithful Catholics because they ignore Humane Vitae?

Both sides deserve part of the blame here, Fr. The common sin of both sides is their sometime arrogance in thinking that their opinions are entitled to supersede the teaching of the Church and its bishops, and to nevertheless believe themselves to be THE faithful Catholics.
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written by ron a., November 17, 2013
Well said Father! Your assertion of the trichotomy is right on point. Unfortunately, in avoidance of the truth (capital or otherwise), we have a schism that few are willing to admit.
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written by Riki, November 17, 2013
answer given by one of my nurse-colleagues while they were talking about contraception, sterilization etc… and me saying :"didn't you tell me you are catholics ?" She said to me : "Oh here in America our Bishops they don't listen to Rome, we do our own thing !"
This was a first eye opener of what's going on in the Catholic Church in our country, well actually it's pretty all over the world the same now. I traveled a lot, saw a lot, heard a lot.
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written by Chris in Maryland, November 17, 2013
Jan -

Your post suffers from the inclination to interpret The Church through the lens of politics.

Like Wm. Buckley, many among the "conservative" Catholics were skeptical of the war in Iraq - and appreciated the fact that the Pope and the hierarchy recognized this was a prudential judgment, not a matter of obedience to the hierarchy.

On the other hand - actually going to Church every Sunday is known by all to be a Divine Command - so those of us who don't go to Mass know they are NOT FAITHFUL.

The "NO MORE WAR" platitude is very comfortable for those who don't have to contemplate war. It's an impoverishment in The Church to hold that a man who goes to war to fight against evil is labeled "enthusiastic for war."

Re: capital punishment - it is not eternal punishment, and here in MD, many people are awakening to the fact that capital punishment was the last bulwark against convicted murderers who are murdering prison guards and wardens, who now have no protection against these ruthlessly evil men. So yes - my beloved JP2 was mistaken if - as you state - he said what you wrote - but he knew he was making a prudential statement - so he reserved us the right to learn from our mistakes.

And universal healthcare is a good goal - but what The Church establishment (USCCB, colleges and hospitals, etc) has helped usher in here is utterly corrupt and evil. But as the old saying goes - when you want it bad - you get it bad.
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written by Sam Schmitt, November 17, 2013
@Jan,
You are confusing the universal moral teachings of the Church which apply always and everywhere (e.g. no contraception) and those which either admit of more than one position since they are not taught authoritatively (the US bishops on healthcare) or those which you have misrepresented (on war and capital punishment).

For example, there is a section in the Catechism on "just war," which means that the Church does not teach that war can never be justified, as you seem to say. Similarly, JPII in his encyclical did not rule out CP absolutely.

I do admit your point about torture; however there are many "conservative" Catholics (Mark Shea comes to mind) who are completely opposed to it and call out those fellow Catholics who tolerate it. But on the other issues, you are conflating issues like contraception, which admit no exceptions, and war, which does.

So even though some "conservatives" can be faulted, the liberals are much more in error since they dispute those teachings which are universal.
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written by Michael McDermott, November 17, 2013
Gaystapo attacks on the Church mirror their incessant Mau Mauing of these forums – more to incite confusion & destruction from within than actual Schism.

Episcopal Congregations have seen similar attacks - where the 'Happy' preachers of Misandry (Hatred of Men & Boys, Masculinity and Normal Heterosexuality) at the pulpit (having won the building and bank accounts in court fights) outnumber the few in the pews
- and what’s left of the Congregation meets in a parking lot somewhere.

Fortunately - they have the Option to "Pope Up' by entering full communion with the Catholic Faith

SSADly - infiltration by professional leeches massqueer-raiding as 'catholics' (small 'c') also attack the Faith from within - using what they spin as 'Jesus Talk'…

– As a form of leftist / alinskyite propaganda, by appropriating 'Christian' phraseology as decoration for ObamAcorn Hate Pogroms

American Catholicism: A Schism Set in Amber
Bevil Bramwell, 11/17/13

One group tries to hold to all of the Catholic Church’s teachings. The other group holds to meanings of life from various social trends and uses words from scripture and tradition, but alter their content because they do not fit the trends.

The other group uses the words from the rites but often with very different meanings. To take one example, they use the word “Christ.”

Christ is just too true to be manifested partially.

Seeing the truth and its contradiction manifested alongside each other is grotesque, and, if one knows the meaning of schism, a sign of genuine evil.

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written by ron a., November 17, 2013
Jan---(Culturally speaking) Let's not complicate or confound this. The REAL issues of division, in our present age, are three: abortion, attack on family and the reinterpretation of the 1st Amendment. I suggest if there were agreement on these, the divide would be greatly narrowed. Politically, the 'liberals' promote, or protect, these; whereas, the 'conservatives' oppose. Of these three issues, abortion is blatant, the other two do become somewhat complicated, especially the second: the attack on family. (Theologically speaking) Of course at the bottom of it all are different spiritual world views, the Enlightenment and all that....

Let's consider one element of your specious argument: abortion. To even consider, mention or insinuate parity of capital punishment and abortion in the same sentence, paragraph or article is ABSURD. They OBVIOUSLY differ both in kind and degree. (Certainly, no need to elaborate on that!)

Furthermore, abortion is the direct act of the mother, not some passive opinion expressed in a political poll. We are all individuals, responsible for our ACTIONS. What we DO is who we ARE.

We have, as Father suggests, the two "Groups". What we also have are the Silent, a third group. They are the enablers. They are the ones who quietly stood by while millions were aborted and the family dissolved. Better to "blend" than to "split"! But, in fact, have we not truthfully split? Do we not, in all reality, have two Churches? So, where will this take us? A great Christian theologian and philosopher once wrote:
"As soon as Christ's kingdom comes to terms with the world, Christianity is abolished...." I submit, this is where the Progressives would have us go, remembering Jesus was a good man who had some good ideas. ("At least as it stands right now.")
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written by Rosemary, November 17, 2013
It seems that this schism begins at the hierarchical level and then filters down. We have a LOW-THEOLOGY Church, in the sense that a colloquial approach is encouraged by the hierarchy. Note that the USCCB recently encouraged priests to feature in their homilies events from their own lives that would make them more approachable to their parishioners. Don't trouble the sheep with boring details about how to form your conscience or how to stand up for your Church. That just alienates them!
If the message of Christ were appealing, he would not have been crucified. We can't sugar-coat it or give people the prospect of mercy without also giving them the truth.
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written by Chris in Maryland, November 18, 2013
Rosemary - that is spot on - a "LOW THEOLOGY CHURCH."

That's what John Henry Newman warned about when he entered and saw the ruins, and what priests and intellectuals like Fr. Robert Barron warn of today - a smart religion getting "dumbed down."
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written by jan, November 18, 2013
There have been too many responses to my post to respond to each individually. So I will try to respond in general.

First, I observe a lack of charity towards liberals. These are human beings who are in error in some ways. I see little evidence of a desire that they return to the fullness of truth. Maybe some have not observed that this Pope has taken the name Francis and the central message of Christ and the Church has always been and will always be: love God and your neighbor. Where's the love here?

Second, I see a double standard continued. Evangelium Vitae and Humanae Vitae are both papal encyclicals. But I see no desire to submit to the portions of EV that people disagree with. They even say that this is not magisterial teaching. Rubbish. The liberals dispute the magesterial validity of HV. Both sides are doing the same thing: loving the part of the truth that appeals to them, and refusing to admit the authority of the truth that doesn't appeal to them.

Third, the real issues are what the Pope says the real issues are. That includes abortion and the other issues related to sexual immorality. It also includes desiring peace. Somehow the miracle of answered papal prayer by the Pope in regard to the middle east has not made a sufficient impression on some people. God does not want us to resolve our problems by killing each other. People ALWAYS think that 'this time, the killing is necessary.' That is precisely what pro-abortion people think. I see it most every weekend at a local abortion clinic where I say prayers for both the living and the murdered. I have seen that first hand for more than 10 years.

The reaction to this Pope is embarrassing to me. It is obvious that he is right insofar that people see each other primarily as being at war with others that hold different views, rather than obligated to love them into the kingdom so that their views may become corrected.

The bishops and priests have given up their lives to serve all of God's people. Second guessing their attempts to build the kingdom coming from people who have not done the same I find to be very cheap criticism. It is also self-serving because it allows people to justify their own pet disobediences, as demonstrated in some of these comments slighting the importance of avoiding war.

To Chris: Buckley's skepticism, as you call it, came very late in the day. There was no skepticism from National Review at the outset of the war. There was huge enthusiasm. You are remembering history selectively. Also, my point was that Fr.'s article was political, but without claiming to be so. I think therefore you did not understand my comment.

To Sam: the American bishops haven't said anything out of line with what Pope Benedict wrote in his encyclicals in regard to healthcare. I am no fan of Obamacare [and I obviously have a lot of company right now], nor was I previously; the bishops have also been critical of it. That doesn't mean we shouldn't try some means to get health care for all, yet conservative Catholics don't think it is important to try anything to make that happen other than making the free market freer.

The free market does not care about anyone. It only cares about profit. That is fine to an extent. But since we are dealing with human beings, we can't let that be the end of the matter when it comes to their health. Christ became a man and in each person we are trying to see Christ and care for Him.
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written by Deacon Ed Peitler, November 18, 2013
The only reference one needs to determine one's orthodoxy is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It obviates the impulse to resort to relativism when determining morality and what faithfulness to Church teaching requires.

Fr. Bramwell, thanks for this. You have successfully exposed the side of the schism that readers here occupy.
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written by Gregory, November 18, 2013
I enjoyed Fr Bramwell's latest response more than the article. It is a fine presentation of a condition in the (American) Church. My complaint is the lack of hopeful interjection. I'm not part of the intelligentsia and barely got a BS degree in Business. Fr, are you just trying to depress me? or do you have point for me to act on. Are you just diagnosing the problem (for I understand you cannot properly treat an illness without understanding its root cause)? Is there any more insight to the solution? Outside of my continued growth in understanding and living the Gospel with prayer and sacrifice; following Christ the best I can/understand, where should this information lead me? I am convinced by what you say and in fact, I seen it over my lifetime (54 yrs). Outside of understanding that sin is in those who are in the church and some are organizing/manipulating for their own political purpose or fit their ideology, what's new? Didn't Judas of Iscariot try the same or the other Apostles trying to convince Jesus to stay away from Jerusalem? It has been and will always be while sin exists. It will be here and/or there in various degrees. If you are just 'opening eyes', I guess I already see and feel it is a depressing reality that I have no more power to change other than being a consistent, integral, Catholic as the Church has taught since it beginnings. To another point you made about healthcare. I understand the desire for helping ALL, but why is it always couched as a problem for government? Isn't a problem for 'the people' and with our form of government (even in its corrupt state/trend), the fight is to bring it back to the people to solve. The great 'thinkers'/leaders should be finding ways 'we' as the people help each other (as the Gospel says). Greater healthcare and wider spread coverage will rise as did the hospital systems did out of Christianity (Catholicism). Preaching charity, remove (large, centralized, one fits all) government solutions, regulations, etc. Let us exercise try charity which is both the cure for our spirit to give and hopefully a cure to ailing. yes, free market is focus of profit, but I'm not talking about free market, I'm talking about charitable care, hospitable care, etc. Profit and greed destroys, but government is the worst center to avoid profit and greed because it has the LAW to protect itself from reform (maintain its corruption). At least, a business can go under if it cannot sustain itself with profit. ---just my 2 cents
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written by Fr. Bevil Bramwell OMI, November 18, 2013
Hi Gregory i have not made a response yet. But here goes: this is just a diagnosis. Sorry to be depressing but from where I sit I am not seeing even the vaguest realization of the problem among the clergy. The problem is vast. It has developed over decades and it cuts right to the root of what clergy ought to be doing. There is so much teaching and exhortation to be done that it would take a Marshall Plan!
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written by jan, November 19, 2013
The following is my reaction to Gregory's comment:

I think we have to give credit to traditionalist Catholics to the extent that their views make it possible to feel most strongly the great loss that civilization suffered first from Luther and then by the Enlightenment. Directing this sentiment to the subject of health care and recalling that Christian people were responsible at the outset for the creation of hospitals, the question arises: how did that happen? Is anything preventing Christian health care from playing that same role today?

In answer to that I feel it is important to point out that hospitals and healthcare, both now and throughout time, cost money. Human capital that otherwise would be spent elsewhere is spent on helping people. The helpers need the help of the rest of society. Where did the help come from in times past? It came from the wealthy [both noble and later, bourgeois] and royals who gave great sums to the church, and also from the rest of the faithful who tithed their income. That is to say, a great deal of wealth was required to be concentrated in one place in order that it could be made to serve human need; and that this wealth was garnered by a system that mimics a scheme of progressive taxation to the extent that the wealthy pay more.

Government today plays the role that the Church used to play. How did that happen? It happened because our civilization rebelled against the yoke of the Church. The wealth of the Church today is a mere shadow of what it was. That was a result of the reform of Protestantism, and then of Enlightenment liberalism--what people today call the free market.

As people died in the streets during the Industrial Revolution, people who were no longer Catholic and willing to submit to the Church, but who were still Christian enough to see that free market liberalism did not care about human beings, began to turn to the government to do the work the Church used to do. And this aspect of government has been growing ever since.

So if conservatives truly desire a return to the days of Church run charity being the primary means of succoring human need, they must realize that the Church requires actual human wealth in order to fulfill that role. And that in turn requires a people that is Christian, and also willing to submit to the yoke of Mother Church again by supporting her sacrificially as in former times.

Thus, the true and urgent need is precisely what the Pope and bishops keep saying: evangelism through love, which over time, has the potential of transforming our civilization into a civilization of love once again.
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written by Manfred, November 19, 2013
Post Script. Thank you for your final comments, Father. What you describe in your column are the Fruits of the Second Vatican Council in which Modernism, which was described by Pope SAINT Pius X as "the synthesis of all heresies", won the day. This nonsense we used to hear from JP II that we have to go back and read the Council's documents again! Read the Syllabus of Errors, the documents of Vatican I, Pascendi, Lamentabili, the Oath Against Modernism (conveniently dropped in 1965!)and they read very clearly. In fact, many of the errors described in these encyclicals are practiced today!!! Satan rules the Church.
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written by Fr. Bevil Bramwell OMI, November 19, 2013
You are entitled to your opinion Manfred but it does not square with the facts.Hyperbole serves no purpose. John Paul was a much better theologian than yourself I am afraid! He also understood the history of the Church better than you. Reading and learning the documents would solve the problem. The will to do that is just not there today.
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written by Rosemary, November 19, 2013
Thank you, Fr. Bramwell. And I feel for you, Manfred, because you are seeing something you love slipping away - except that we must not idolize a theology of the past that does not work today. I also used to think that "if we could only see the great error of Modernism", all would be well.

But even worse that Modernism is Post-Modernism in which authority is viewed with suspicion and a variety of views on any topic are acceptable even if only one of them is correct. The truth is negotiable.

The hierarchy is tone deaf. They just don't get it. Their reponse at the episcopal level is tepid (with a few exceptions). Their paternalistic/clerical attitude toward the sheep is quite defensive, but they think no one notices. Why are they afraid of the truth? Because of the media? Public perception? Loss of revenue in the Sunday collection? Why did Card. Spellman High School in the Bronx have to cancel the talk to parents on Church teaching and its reasonablness by a retired priest? Pressure from alumni, it appears from the comments featured in the article - not pressure from parents.

How easily Spellman HS caved to that. That is the problem we face: not only a condescending policy of LOW THEOLOGY but also, and please pardon me here, the other low-t (the kind on those commercials).

Where are the real men of the Church? We need "boxers" like St. Paul, and yes, even Jesus was a "boxer" - both were unafraid to take on the opposition. They boxed in love, in charity, but also with a probity that left their critics stunned. Where are these men in the Church? Very few stand out.

Instead of giving Scalfari an interview, I would have loved to see Francis "box" with him. But he didn't. He took a soft, commiserative approach that we now see has backfired. It always does. he missed a great opportunity to make the interview into a teaching moment. Oh, well. I pray that he gets a re-do.

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written by David Naas, November 19, 2013
With sadness, I observe that the "modern schism" exists mainly in the minds of those who keep trt5ying to gin up a fight.
Being neither "Traddie" nor "Trendie", but just one whose personal sinfulness requires that I try and keep my ears open and mouth (usually) shut, I think (IMHO) that both sides need a call to repentance, not to more strident bellicosity.
The church is the Body of Christ, not an adjunct to partisan American politics. Of any stripe. Please, people, stop making this confusion. The Church does not serve as an auxiliary weapon in whatever battle you deem worth fighting.
This coming Sunday is Christ the King. Honor the king, not your petty squabbles.
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written by Paul Frantizek, November 19, 2013
All of the comments regarding the dangers of a 'Low Theology Church' are spot-on.

Pope Pius IX covered much of this in his unfairly maligned Syllabus of Errors.
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written by Sue, November 19, 2013
"As people died in the streets during the Industrial Revolution, people who were no longer Catholic and willing to submit to the Church, but who were still Christian enough to see that free market liberalism did not care about human beings, began to turn to the government to do the work the Church used to do. And this aspect of government has been growing ever since. "

It is a myth that the Industrial Revolution itself condemned people to death - it was much more the wave after wave of children born out of wedlock, and consequent dispersal of the family, unleashed by the French Revolution. Les Miserables, Dickens, and Marx have pointed the finger in the wrong direction. The perpetrator of the untold suffering starting in early 19th century was much more Marquis de Sade, the Jacobins, and sexual libido than the evil industrialists.

Read Mary Shelley, whose Frankenstein's monster bewails not the industrial factories, but his own tragic test-tube manufacture outside the bounds of marital begetting. The teaching that we are not to be begotten in test-tubes is the best-kept secret and at the same time the finest treasure, of the Catholic Church.
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written by Manfred, November 19, 2013
Father: If John Paul II was a "better theologian" than I, and "knew the history of the Church better than" I, Why was he the great supporter of Marcial Maciel, the priest who raped his own illegitimate children? Why do you tell Gregory above that this problem, "..the parially realized schism, trapped in amber...", "..developed over decades.." when JP was the Pope for TWENTY-FIVE YEARS. Do you think he could have called for Council of Trent II or Vatican Council III during that period? The truth is he supported all of the ideas of the Council until he realized the Fathers had let the genie out of the bottle and then couldn't put it back. That explains why YOU are writing of a "schism trapped in amber" eight years after JP II's death. We are suffering through the "diabolical disorientation" The Virgin foretold. I don't mince words as Paul VI did when he described "the smoke of Satan has entered the sanctuary."
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written by jan, November 19, 2013
Sue, I am not a professional historian. However, if you think my facts are incorrect, you should read that encyclical by Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum. Soon-to-be-St. JPII commemorated it and reaffirmed its validity in his encyclical Centesimus Annus. These encyclicals are hated by free-marketers to this day for their affirmation of workers' rights, in particular the right to unionize. I am particularly relying on these encyclicals in addition to my general historical knowledge for the accuracy of my facts in this matter.

By saying this, I in no way mean to minimize the influence on civilization, or the horror, of the other evils you have, in my opinion, correctly adduced as being somewhat related to 19th c. philosophies [I would merely add that they are also attributable to 20th c. philosophies].
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written by Michael Rodriquez, November 19, 2013

The schism is caused by sin, that is what Reverend Stanley sermon was about, that is, dealing with temptation, listening to it, having a decision to make, whether to please man (appeasing the worldly things of vanity), or knowing the "truth" (Biblical moral principles of God), we (church) begin to make what we think are small accommodations, taking us into corruptive state and losing the "value" of the meaning of the power of the Holy Spirit to work through us an example of our "personal relationship to Christ, and each other in Christ" and collectively (church) with Jesus Christ as the center of our devotion to all our decisions.

Anyway, that's the way I see it. It's why I find rituals in religion idolatrous
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written by Sherry McMahon, November 19, 2013
Thank you, Fr. Bramwell, for writing this provocative post. To me, the key sentence was: "One group tries to hold to all of the Catholic Church's teachings."

There are, indeed, two distinct groups, which I think will become more apparent to the clergy when the Vatican survey results come forward. Evidently it has already been revised by several of the groups who would like to see Church teaching changed. There will be more data than the Vatican ever anticipated.

However, I believe that, rather than "two groups - of approximately the same size", it will become apparent that those who are not in sync with Church teaching are many more in number than those who do.

One of my bigger surprises is the number of daily communicants who do not agree with the Church's positions on key issues. I remember talking with a woman outside Mass one day and she told me she had headed up Planned Parenthood for Latin Americans. But she went to Communion every day.

The documents of the Church are absolutely brilliant and loving. It breaks my heart that so many have not read them. They are really the secret to understanding the issues in their broader context of Christ's loving care for His Church.

Maybe as a result of the poll/survey input, they will receive renewed interest. Fr. Bramwell, you are right that most do not have the will to read them. Maybe they could be summarized by Catholics who believe what the Church teaches, and at least summaries could be read by more people.

Today I was heartened when I read that Pope Francis recommended Robert Hugh Benson's book "Lord of the World". The best versions have forewards by Ralph McInerny and Fr. John McCloskey. The "Janus-like creature" is a sad reality at this point in time.

And, Sue and Rosemary (and several others), thank you for your comments.
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written by Fr. Bevil Bramwell OMI, November 20, 2013
Manfred - a good theologian knows how to make a logical argument. Being conned by Marciel as millions of others were has nothing to do with theology.So logical problem there.

As regards the situation in the US, that is the problem of the US bishops. The Pope cannot get them to do anything that they do not want to do. Witness - and again comparing apples with apples - the total failure of Ex Corde in the US. The US officials are "still "discussing" it years later.
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written by Fr. Bevil Bramwell OMI, November 20, 2013
Michael - I cannot respond to what you "find" in Church ritual that is your problem. I can say that Catholicism understands idolatry so well that she can avoid it completely. Catholic ritual is not structured on the avoidance of idolatry, that would be a negative foundation, it is structured on Christ and his sacrifice. Priests only participate in the priestly act of Christ and his sacrifice. The letter to the Hebrews is a good place to start.
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written by Sue, November 20, 2013
"The Pope cannot get them to do anything that they do not want to do. "

Why can the pope not remove individuals who do not properly "bish" their own diocese? Is that not the whole point of "hierarchy"?
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written by Fr. Bevil Bramwell OMI, November 20, 2013
Great question Sue. Let's just say that historically removal is usually for some serious misdemeanor not for simple inaction.
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written by Howard, November 20, 2013
Jan is mostly right in his first post. A whole lot of American Republicans, who happen to be Catholic, really did ignore both JPII and Benedict over Iraq, and they really have turned a blind eye toward torture. I saw a lot of people who seemed to think George Weigel, who supported Bush's invasion of Iraq, was a person of equal weight to the Pope, apparently because he wrote a biography of the Pope. NOT ALL CONSERVATIVES AGREED, though. I know I did not, and to the best of my knowledge, Mark Shea did not either. We may have been a minority, but we did exist.

The death penalty is something I have written about at length before elsewhere, and a full treatment REQUIRES more than a bumper sticker. Just hitting the high points, though: (1) Since we can do things that can send us to Hell, of course we can do things that merit death. (2) It is apparent that the Popes are not so much interested in whether the State makes a formal declaration that so-and-so has committed a crime that merits death, they are really only interested in whether he lives or dies. (3) A serious Christian exploration of the problem MUST include the words "mercy" and "forgiveness", as well as "justice". (4) Mercy and forgiveness are needed for those whose lives are destroyed in prison or who are rendered unemployable by their convictions, not just for those on death row. (5) The trend in recent years has been for the government to kill people without a trial. Even if it is objectionable to kill people who have been tried and found guilty of heinous crimes, I am more concerned with making sure they at least live to stand trial.
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written by Sue, November 21, 2013
It is not true that true conservatives supported the Bush War and certainly did not support Bush torture. Those who did do so should be understood to be "neocons" or better yet, "faux-conservatives". Their feigning to be conservative in order to smear the conservative brand, is a move out of the Hegelian dialectic playbook, and is merely a reprise of many such dodges in the 20th century, starting with Teddy Roosevelt, through Hitler, up through Nixon and on to the Bushes. Fabian Socialists is an even better name for them.

Obama wrung Catholic votes out of the torture issue. Repubs wring votes out of abortion. And so the kabuki theater continues, until people realize there's a Machiavellian oligarchy operating both "sides".

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written by Bruno, November 23, 2013
A very good article about the reality of Catholicism. It is the first time I really understood why some people and Marian apparitions talk about a 'schism' in the church already 30 years ago. Thank you Father.
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written by James, November 23, 2013
First, neither group is pure. This isn't so much a case of "faithful Catholics" vs. "secularized Catholics" as much as it is "Evangelicalized Catholics" vs. "secularized Catholics". Or, perhaps more cynically, Republicans who happen to be Catholic vs. Democrats who happen to be Catholic.

Second, this article is only about Anglo-American Catholicism. Latino Catholics can be considered a group of their own. Latino Catholics are not theologically liberal, but usually vote Democratic.

While exit polls show an even split among Catholics between the political parties, this does not mean an even split theologically.
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written by Rosemary, November 25, 2013
Sue and Fr. Bramwell. I recently read that Pope Benedict XVI most certainly did take bishops out. He accepted the resignations of three bishops each week - some due to retirement, some due to illness, but a large number were due to incompetence - financial or spiritual or otherwise. This was revealed after Benedict retired but it was being quietly done during his papacy. Has any other pope cleaned house like that? I doubt it.

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