Two conservative thinkers respond to Ross Douthat about the schism he sees looming in the Catholic church if Pope Francis continues, as Douthat thinks, to betray the "small minority" who have "kept the faith":
That's why I was surprised when six months ago Douthat responded rashly to reports that Pope Francis had told an Argentine woman that she could receive the sacrament of communion even though she was married to a divorced man. Roman Catholic Church doctrine holds that the woman's marriage is adulterous unless the man's original marriage is annulled — and that someone living in a state of persistent (adulterous) sin should not present herself for communion. The possibility that Francis may have indicated otherwise — that he might have given her a green light to receive the sacrament — led Douthat to warn that any fundamental shift in church teaching on such matters "wouldn't just provoke conservative grumbling; it would threaten outright schism."
That's right: Ross Douthat indicated that any move to reform doctrine on marriage and divorce could well spark the first institutional rupture in the church in nearly 600 years. (The last schism ended in 1417.)
Any ambiguity about whether Douthat was merely predicting a schism or actively threatening one was settled with his column this past Sunday, in which he weighed in on the recently concluded Synod on Marriage and the Family. The synod was chaotic, with reformist bishops (hand-picked by the pope) at first seeming to propose significant alterations in church teaching on marriage, divorce, and homosexuality, and then backing off after an outcry from more conservative prelates. After discussing these events and the history of the doctrine of papal infallibility, Douthat concluded that a time may soon come when conservative Catholics will have to decide whether or not to "protect the church from self-contradiction" by choosing to "resist" the pope.
And in Ross's column, there is a clear assumption that his side of the debate owns the church, that any contrary views to his are an outrageous, treasonous and unprecedented attack on the institution itself, that any accommodation of mercy for those caught in the cross-hairs of the teachings on sex and marriage and family is somehow a “betrayal” of the core faith. Not a misguided idea – but a betrayal. . . . It's an almost textbook case in which those who regard themselves as morally superior claim ownership of a church created … for sinners.
Later in the day, Sullivan publishes an email that a reader sent him in response to his summary of Douthat's argument:
The whole tenor of Douthat's column – which aptly summarizes the criticisms of the synod by churchmen such as Cardinal Burke and Archbishops Chaput and Mueller – is so much that of the prodigal son’s older brother. The orthodox and traditionalists are going to leave because the Church welcomes in more people (those people)? This variety of envy is part of human nature. But who on earth holds up the older brother as a role model?
The graphic is from Your Dictionary's entry for the term "fault line," and is originally from IStockPhoto.