The Catholic civil war: strategies

Why hasn’t there been a schism yet?  I mean, it’s a pretty remarkable historical fact, isn’t it, that orthodox and openly modernist Catholicism have remained in communion with each other for a full half-century?  The two sides share basically no beliefs.  Our differences with the Nestorians, Monothelitists, Hussites, and Jansenists were insignificant by comparison, and all of those groups got the boot in about a generation.  Nor are there any ties of affection holding the two sides of the Catholic civil war together–we hate each other’s guts.  It wouldn’t be too hard for either side to pull the trigger and put an end to this unhappy union.  (We Catholics don’t like the word “divorce”; let’s say I would like an “annulment” from the modernists.)  From the orthodox side, this would be straightforward:  the pope could excommunicate all the open heretics readminister the anti-modernist oath.  The modernists don’t have a centralized command, but it wouldn’t be too hard for, say, the Catholic Theological Society, the Society of Jesus, Notre Dame, and the editors of Concilium to get together and declare an end to the Vatican’s undemocratic rule and the inauguration of a “reformed” Catholic Church under their leadership.  Yet neither side does it.  Why?

Let us enter into the minds of the combatants.  What happens if there is a schism?  The Roman Catholic Church splits in two, obviously, with X percent going to the modernists and Y=100-X percent going to the orthodox.  Some reshuffling will follow, but as the two new ecclesial bodies solidify, each will very quickly lose access to the adherents of the other.  Then the future demographic evolution of each body will have more to do with interactions (conversions and defections) with the surrounding culture, rather than with the rival group of Catholics.  Thus, there are two considerations:  1) how to maximize/minimize X, 2) the ability for one’s group to survive post-schism.

As for the first issue, no one knows what X is, but I suspect it’s between 95 and 99.9.  The modernists have completely won over the laity throughout most of the world.  The actual value of X isn’t what matters strategically, though.  What matters is the sign of dX/dt–whether the fraction that would go with the modernists is going up or down.  If it’s going up, the pope should pull the trigger now, while the modernists should try to keep the status quo for a while longer; it it’s going down, the preferred strategies switch.  Either way, somebody should precipitate a schism now.  The reason they don’t is that both sides imagine that their side is getting stronger with time.  Both sides think delay is in their interest, meaning that one side has misjudged the situation.

The modernists know that they’ve got a majority of the laity, and each generation that majority gets more and more solid.  The popular culture is also going their way.  Orthodox Catholicism is on the road toward social ostracism and perhaps even legal sanctions.  Hence the modernists’ confidence.  The hierarchy’s position they see as obviously untenable in the long term.  How can the church condemn a modernity that 99.99% of the laity and >50% of the priests accept?  All the modernists have to do is wait for the older “homophobic” “superstitious” generations to die out, and then they win automatically.

The Vatican sees things differently, pursuing a top-down strategy.  The pope has no direct access to the laity, who for the time being are lost to him, but he can hope to radiate orthodoxy down.  Since JPII, the papacy has focused on solidifying orthodoxy among the bishops.  This has had some effect; the episcopacy is significantly less modernist now than in 1968.  The bishops in turn have put their hope in a new generation of more orthodox priests who will finally win back some number of the laity.  I suspect the fraction of orthodox priests is still fairly low, but at least the ones that do exist understand that they’re in a war with the modernists, something an orthodox priest in 1968 might not have realized clearly.  The top-down strategy requires a lot of time, since it proceeds in stages, and at each stage it must wait for current occupants to retire.  Therefore, the orthodox, under the leadership of the pope, also imagine it to be in their interest to defer a schism.

What kind of situation can each side expect post-schism?  I think the strategies chosen by both sides ensure that it will be extremely bad for each.  For the orthodox, schism means the formal size of the Church immediately dropping by two to three orders of magnitude.  One could argue that this loss is more apparent than real because those 99 to 99.9% are already heretics, but the schism means they are practically gone forever.  One expects that they will take a significant fraction of the churches and schools with them.  To be honest, let’s hope they do, because we orthodox couldn’t support them without the revenue from heretical parishioners, and it would be embarrassing to maintain our property in a legal battle and then have to sell it anyway.  A positive side for the orthodox is an end of the priest shortage.  If 99% of the laity leave and 90% of the priests leave, the priest-to-laity ratio will go up by a factor of 10.  The main negative is that the background culture will become even more hostile.  We can expect the liberal media to direct their full fury at the rump orthodox group, as they now do against the SSPX (which, by the way, might end up being a significant fraction of the orthodox remnant).  Our one hope is that we will be too small for them to bother over us much.

For the modernists, the post-schism outlook is superficially more positive, in that they get the lion’s share of baptized Catholics and get to be awash in positive media and government attention.  However, the modernist Church can hardly be expected to survive more than two generations.  Its position is too manifestly absurd; there’s no reason for anyone to belong to it.  Without the hierarchy, there’s no convincing tie to the historical Catholic Church.  The only thing this group has going for it is agreement with the zeitgeist, and nobody needs to join a Church to have that.  The modernist Catholic Church would follow the Episcopalian death spiral, only faster.  Unlike liberal Judaism, it won’t even be able to survive as an ethnocultural group, because Catholics have no distinct culture or ethnicity.  So, as unpleasant as the current situation is, the post-schism future looks intolerable to both groups.  So, like some unhappily married couples, we stay together for lack of better alternatives.

29 thoughts on “The Catholic civil war: strategies

  1. Our differences with the Nestorians, Monothelitists, Hussites, and Jansenists were insignificant by comparison

    You forgot the Protestants. 😉

  2. As for the first issue, no one knows what X is, but I suspect it’s between 95 and 99.9.

    Depends what you mean by modernist. I suspect there at least 20-30% of Catholics are pretty conservative and either don’t disagree with the pope at all or don’t disagree on anything except birth control. Numbers that Edward Feser and Lydia McGrew pointed to suggest that many of them may not even disagree on that.

  3. A more cynical view is that neither side wants to give up the power and prestige of the united Catholic church. The modernists don’t want to give up the money and enthusiasm that the trads bring, and the trads (or at least the trad hierarchy) don’t want to give up the illusion that they are leaders of a universal church, rather than of a small sect.

  4. Bonald,

    You pose an interesting question about which I have often wondered — though a more mysterious one for me is how the Roman Church ended up in their predicament in the 60’s. Even if the Western world went to hell in a handbasket, how did Rome’s bishops get so compromised? That would make for a good post on its own.

    Having been Jesuit educated and having traversed “social justice” streams for many years, I am well aware of the confusion in the laity and of the dissent by many priests and by whole religious communities. Still, I think that you are far too pessimistic in your numbers. You are probably right that the overwhelming majority of American Roman Catholics hold significantly heretical opinions, but I doubt that it is 99%. Maybe 80%. You may be thinking of American adherence to Rome’s teaching about birth control to calculate your numbers, but note that many American Roman Catholics who use birth control know that it is a sin but do so anyway. Such is true of all Christian disciplines. We are sinners, but our sinning is distinct from our opinions about what is and what is not a sin. Consider Roman Catholic school boys back in the days of the Baltimore Catechism, and you’ll see the distinction between adherence and doctrinal acceptance.

    If there were a schism, 99% of the laity would not defect. Even if 80% or so of the flock is seriously theologically confused, many if not most retain the belief, however fuzzy or inchoate, in the apostolic succession of the Church. They would not defect. Otherwise, they would have already become Protestants or else. They retain their heretical opinions because they have been taught them by priests and members of religious orders who represent the Church to them. When they are taught what complements the Zeitgeist, they accept it readily, and they figure that such is an option for faithful Roman Catholics. Even if these folks have bishops who follow the official doctrines of the Church (and that is a big if), the bishops are not their daily and weekly teachers.

    Rome has allowed rampant heterodoxy to spreak like an invasive weed for generations, and the confusion that we see is the result. However, as Rome continues the “top-down” strategy that you mention, and as conservative laymen and their organizations promote fidelity to the Church, we’ll continue to see a shift. It is well underway. Consider the new priests. They’re such a better crop; it’s really extraordinary.

    So, from an outsider’s perspective who has many connections to Rome, it appears to me that your assessment is far too puddleglum.

    Your theory about the two sides’ deciding to hang together is very interesting and probably accurate. The “reformers” do not want to make the same mistake that old Marty and John made. They know that they have to kill the Beast from the inside. So, they stay. Their aim is not greater numbers (except as a means) but the destruction of traditional Catholicism. They are agents of hell, though, as usual with the wicked, they think that they are doing what is noble and good.

    • Consider the new priests. They’re such a better crop; it’s really extraordinary.

      A very important point. More importantly, not only are the priests getting better, it’s because their instructors at seminary are getting better, too. The heterodox seminary instructors are largely dead or nearly so. Fr. Z. on his own blog related an anecdote of the horrors he faced in seminary in the mid-80s, when he saw, for instance, a student expelled for “excessive Marian devotion,” i.e., for being seen praying the rosary. But he also related a number of anecdotes of leftist heterodox priests abandoning their profession to get married — often to leftist heterodox nuns. Which brings us to the major problem the leftist heterodox are facing: they’ve been too successful. They have so fully inculcated in their own a love of the world that none of them are willing to be priests any longer, to put up with the demands of priestly celibacy in the face of endless carnal delights which the world offers them. (No wonder they hate this discipline so much). The Devil, in his pride and recklessness, overplayed his hand and perhaps squandered his opportunity to destroy the Church.

      Nearly all the trends are going the wrong way for the heterodox. In several dioceses throughout the world, the bishop has ordered that communion be received exclusively kneeling on the tongue. Liturgical abuse is on the decline. The EF is everywhere on the rise. These aren’t nothing: the destruction of liturgy contributed to our present state and the renewal of liturgy may well reverse it. The main obstacle right now to the orthodox forces in the Church is the terrible state of catechesis, especially for adults; RCIA is a joke in 9 out of every 10 parishes. I suspect this will be the last thing to start changing, as the new generation of priests come to power.

  5. Just emailed this to Jim Kalb… it seems apposite…
    Subject: One US Bishop (at least) is noticing
    Date: April 21, 2012 8:44:22 PM EDT
    To: James Kalb

    Hi Jim:

    Just saw your name in our local diocesan (Patterson NJ) paper “The Beacon” today. In his weekly editorial he references your recent article at Catholic World Report (He apparently read it in Ecclesia et Civitas)…

    Online it is:

    Not entirely sure he’s reading you right, but… hey another few minutes of the proverbial 15.



    The referenced CWR article is at:

  6. Bonald could you back up these extreme claims of heterodoxy (90% of priests, 99% to 99.9% of laity)? They strike me as rather ginned up. Things may be bad, but I don’t personally perceive to be them as that bad, and we all might certainly hope that they are not. Even if true, it does not mean that all of the ostensibly heterodox would secede from Rome in an advertised split. I have to think that at worst it would be 50/50 even in Western nations… and almost none of the developing world would go.

    • From “The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America” Appendix 1: “In the year 2000, the percentages of lay religion teachers in Catholic elementary schools who agreed wth the Chuch’s official teaching on the following topics: contraception 10%, abortion 26%, infallibility of the pope 27%, an exclusively male priesthood 33%, the Real Presence 63%, life after death 74%, the Resurrection 87%, the divinity of Christ 91%, the existence of God 98%”

      The general Catholic population is probably far worse.

      • Bonald, most religion teachers in parochials schools are Trojan horses of the enemy. Roman Catholic colleges’ religious education departments are leftist ideological factories. They are the saboteurs.

      • Two points here. First, orthodox means, at a minimum for religious ed teachers, believing all of those things and a bunch of other things in addition. So, 10% is an upper bound on the percentage of orthodox religious ed teachers (Though I can’t resist adding the caveat that some of them don’t actually know anything about Catholic doctrine, so some of them are heterodox because they are culpably ignorant). Second, couple this with Prince Eugene’s point below, and we get down near bonald’s estimates very quickly. Weigel and Novak count as orthodox under the limited definition above. Once we take the <10% remnant and ask them "was the Iraq War just" and ask them whether they believe various paraphrases from Rerum Novarum &etc, we are going to be well below 1%. The <10% are a bunch of stalwart, EWTN-watching Republicans. Now, this estimate is US-centric, as Ralph correctly points out below. Don't know what to do about that.

  7. “Even if the Western world went to hell in a handbasket, how did Rome’s bishops get so compromised?”

    Foundation money funded extra-Papal organizations consisting of liberal Catholics. Media promoted them as if they spoke for the Church. See: Catholic Interracial Council for the textbook example.

    Also, Catholic Universities took foundation money.

    Also, the Supreme Court said Catholic communities couldn’t publically fund schools, etc.

    Also, Catholic neighborhoods were destroyed in the manner described by E. Michael Jones, while Catholic identity/solidarity was attacked on other fronts.

  8. In the year 2000, the percentages of lay religion teachers in Catholic elementary schools who agreed wth the Chuch’s official teaching on the following topics: contraception 10%, abortion 26%, infallibility of the pope 27%, an exclusively male priesthood 33%, the Real Presence 63%, life after death 74%, the Resurrection 87%, the divinity of Christ 91%, the existence of God 98%.

    You seem to be a bit pessimistic. These numbers seem about the same as for the general Catholic population. The numbers for abortion and infallibility of the pope seem to mark the percentage of reasonably conservative Catholics, while contraception seems to mark the truly hardcore. So depending on your perspective, the faithful number ranges from 10% to 26%.

  9. The real question is where will the “reform of the reform” types fall in? While people George Weigel and Novak are “orthodox” when it comes to abortion and contraception they openly dissent on social teaching and have a fetish for democracy and the US constitution. There are even many “traditional Catholics” who openly support and promote the economics of the Christ-haters Ludwig Von Mises and Rothbard. I think a suprising number of these types will chose “freedom” and “liberty” over Truth.

    Consider Cardinal Dolan, who is potrayed as some kind of traditionalist heavy weight. He argues against the HHS mandate not on the basis of Catholic truth but on Enlightenment pricincples. If he’s is the best we have than the future looks very bleak.

  10. “The Vatican sees things differently, pursuing a top-down strategy. … Since JPII, the papacy has focused on solidifying orthodoxy among the bishops. This has had some effect; the episcopacy is significantly less modernist now than in 1968. ”

    I doubt this.

    If the Vatican *imagines* they are doing this, then they are mistaken.

    There can be no reversal of such institutional trends without explicit repentance, repudiation of the past strategy, and radical reversal (to the point of overshooting and over-correcting rather than failing to reform adequately).

    This is not the kind of strategy that can be pursued covertly, hoping the enemy does not notice.

    If this strategy is to work it must be proclaimed from the rooftops, repeatedly; and explained at every step (e.g. we are appointing Cardinal X *because* he is orthodox – Fr Y has been removed from his post *because* he is not orthodox).


    I saw this repent, repudiate and reverse strategy used in the early 1980s by the Margaret Thatcher government with respect to the UK economy. The change did not carry through to completeness and was partially sabotaged, and there were errors of expediency in the execution .

    However, it *was* effective in terms of its economic aims, strikingly effective, and many decades of economic decline were indeed reversed.

    (For a while – because the reforms were incomplete the enemy survived and mounted a counter-attack.)

    • [Bonald says]
      “The Vatican sees things differently, pursuing a top-down strategy. … Since JPII, the papacy has focused on solidifying orthodoxy among the bishops. This has had some effect; the episcopacy is significantly less modernist now than in 1968. ”

      [Dr Charlton replies]
      I doubt this.

      If the Vatican *imagines* they are doing this, then they are mistaken.

      I disagree with Bonald here as well. First, if Bonald is saying that the Vatican has not been appointing and promoting any obviously heterodox bishops, then he is quite mistaken. Mahoney got his red hat from JPII, for one among many examples. What I think Bonald is saying is that the Vatican is improving the mix of bishops and cardinals over time. Here, I agree. But they are improving the mix not by appointing/promoting lots of orthodox bishops (and few heterodox) but by appointing lots of grey organization men (and few openly heterodox). We won’t know how that has worked out for a few Papal elections. What are Card Wuerl’s actual opinions? We know he is at least minimally obedient and that he does not like to cause a ruckus, but how will he act in Conclave?

  11. I think that while there are plenty of die-hard heterodox still running around in Catholic drag, I think the bulk have paper-thin heterodoxy that disintegrates on contact with sound teaching and doctrine. When push comes to shove I think all people have to do is spend a nanosecond contemplating mainstream Protestantism and how most of those denominations have been reduced to smoldering piles of rubble by whoring with modernism to realize that if they are going to bother with any of this Gospel stuff at all, they should stick with The Rock. Build on it and they will come.

  12. I think the decision to “pull the trigger” amounts to cowardice or greed on the part of the pope. The popes of old excommunicated heretics at the threat of armies that would literally sack Rome. The Holy Roman emperor, the King of France, and the various Roman/Italian aristocrats regularly tried to bully popes to support this or that. The pope usually stood up to them at the risk of actual bodily harm.

    The question of “Should the pope excommunicate?” may be answered by “Would a medieval pope excommunicate for the same offense?” Would Urban II excommunicate infanticides or “modernists” (if they had those back then) on the spot without thinking about it? You bet he would. So why not now?

    Either the pope fears actual state sanction or he is just greedy and doesn’t want to lose all those liberal donations, the vast majority of which come from America.

    I actually think a masculine pope with a backbone and an itchy excommunication finger would appeal to people. Nobody likes a wishy washy feel good religion. The reason Evangelicalism and Islam appeal is because they are quite clear, “Do X or burn in hell.” People WANT that.

  13. I don’t buy it. This extrapolation from the U.S. to the rest of the world is not accurate. In Latin America, for example, there are about 3 large types:
    1) Openly anti-Catholic and anti-clerical, nor attached to any religious organization, even when nominally Catholic (minority)
    2) Orthodox (minority)
    3) Catholics-light: They have this inconsistent position by which they may disagree with some of the Church’s teachings, but acknowledge that principle of “Roma locuta, causa finita,” so they just ignore the teaching without rallying against it. This is by far the largest fraction of the population, and has no interesting in separating from the Church. I don’t think that we want to excommunicate these, as there is hope there. A lot of them require just a little of proper catechesis.
    I wonder to what extent this is due to our particular experience in the English-speaking world. In Anglo-Saxon culture, Oliver Cromwell is still alive at least in regards to the hate towards Rome. The degree of anti-Catholicism is extraordinary.
    That is why, bonald, I tend to believe that these mass excommunications are unnecessary. This would free these guys to outlaw orthopraxis altogether.
    Machomanmadness denounced this view as cowardice, and mentioned the medieval popes. What machomadness fails to mention is that medieval kings counted on the Church to give legitimacy to their claims of power, as God is the source of authority. When the sovereign is the people, without acknowledging the source of authority, the Church has no leverage. I believe that B-XVI is being very prudent about this, and ultimately, feel that few, if any, of those that post here are in position to judge him.

  14. I agree that integrating orthodoxy into every sphere of life is not a subject high in the minds of most Catholic church-goers, let alone Christmas and Easter types. But your numbers are overly dramatic, and the idea stats on parochial school teachers understate the problem is silly.

    Joseph A. gets to the principle point: there are plenty of options for people who think some Catholic doctrine is nuts, but have an atavistic urge to remain Christian, whatever they think that means. The motivations of Catholic-lite types who remain (nominally) anyway are diverse, and inertia certainly figures prominently. Consider the distaste you feel when sharing a pew with heterodox individual. They probably feel something similar towards the orthodox, probably leaning towards embarrassment. Yet they stay. Perhaps, somewhere in their hearts they have a voice is saying “To whom shall we go?”. Now consider the effect of the hierarchy “getting tough” on a person in this confused or sedated state. No matter who you are, if you’re alive today in the modern world, you have some liberal mental habits. For a person with that default setting, this act will very likely push you out of the Church, and leave you feeling self-righteous, maybe even thinking of yourself as a martyr in some sense.

    The approach you describe is, I believe, exactly the right one for the Church. Reclaiming the shepherds that interact directly with the flock is a pre-requisite to reasserting orthodoxy. And I think groups like this are also a good path, if the message is spread on the ground as well, in churches and families.

  15. The post assumes that there are only two sides to the struggle: Modernists vs Orthodox. This seems wrong to me. Church politics seem roughly analogous to US politics to me. In the US, there are two parties of the far left, the Democrats and the Republicans. Then there is a tiny, sad band of sane people, paleo-conservatives or whatever. Similarly, the Church looks to me to have been, in the recent past, a pitched battle between post-Modernist crazies (the America wing) and Modernist crazies (the EWTN wing). Then there is the tiny, sad band of Catholics, clinging bitterly to their FSSP or SSPX chapel or to their books where they do not have these options.

    So, I think the poMo crazies see their doom, a doom arising from their sterility—i.e. from the fact that they seem unable to generate even 1% as many priests as the Church used to generate, back before the Council. By contrast, the Modernists have managed to generate something like maybe 9% as many priests as the Church used to. And they crow about this non-stop, with their weird talk of “JPII priests.”

    Anyway, why should the Modernists bother to excommunicate the poMos? They are dead man walking. And, why should the poMos bother going into schism? So they can can give the victors one more thing to scream as they dance about on their graves? What the Pope is doing currently with the LCWR is an excellent strategy. Wait until they are almost-but-not-quite-dead. Then, do up a report to serve as the group’s epitaph: “They were a bunch of disobedient heretics, good riddance to bad rubbish!”

    The traditionalists, on the other hand, are a real and slowly growing threat. Thus, they were excommunicated, and all the stops were pulled out to get them. It is very curious that such a tiny, marginal group attracts and attracted such attention. That strategy has failed, so a new strategy is being deployed.

    • Hi Bill,

      I’d like to think that the traditionalists are a powerful and growing force, but given their very small numbers, I think what you call the EWTN wing is the Church’s best hope. They are presumably the majority of the < 10% that agree with the Church on all those questions. I think the birth control question is key, because it's a non-negotiable issue for both sides. A person who wants to be "part of the modern world" is allowed to believe in God or the afterlife, but if you think contraception is sinful, you have to know that you've set yourself against not only the majority culture but the ruling ideology of the American government. You're a reactionary, and you know it. This self-knowledge is important, because it seems to me that it's harder and more traumatic for a person to change his opinion about himself than it is to change his opinion about any other issue. When you already think of yourself as a conservative, it's psychologically easy to be talked into more and more reactionary opinions. At no point do you have to admit to having been on the wrong side. Instead, going deeper into conservatism feels like coming into one's own inheritance. The people who agree with us on birth control are with us no matter what, no matter what silly things they may sometimes still say about democracy and gender roles. Those that disagree have made the decision that they will not allow themselves to be expelled from modernity, even if it means defying the bride of Christ. Modernity will keep making more demands on them, and they'll keep giving in. Having surrendered on Church authority, tradition, and natural law, they really don't have any ground to stand on.

      • I come from a family that you would definitely put into the EWTN wing. They are best represented, politically, by National Review, which I think is a little more nuanced and less pejorative a designation than neo-conservative (but the distinction is dwindling even if it isn’t just my imagination).

        I also have hope for these people, and not only because I have to since they’re family. What is required is integrating the Faith with every aspect of life, and doing it intentionally, loudly, and joyfully. And EWTN folks would agree that this is a good goal, they just don’t understand how far back the rot goes and how much of what they take for granted as part of life today is worthless and corrupting. And when you talk about coming in to your inheritance, that was exactly my experience when I started to see through the fog of liberalism.

      • Regarding the “EWTN” label being used here, I see the same thing you do Gabe (though perhaps with a similar bias, being in that same EWTN family, though I don’t actually ever watch it on television, and rarely listen on radio). I sense the problem Bill does with, for instance, an ugly blind spot in regard to the Republican Party, and the consequent rationalizations that occur with things such as the Iraq war or workers’ rights. What is significant, however, is that the rationalizations occur in the context of acceptance of the authority of the Church and not in conscious defiance of it. So you have, for instance, EWTN-ers judging in favor of going to war with Iraq, but what you don’t have is the same people saying to the Pope, who are you to tell me about just war?

        The blind spot is a problem, but it’s not nearly as insurmountable a problem as you find in the other “90%” who reject the authority of the Church outright, and per se.

      • Agreed about the label, doesn’t apply literally, but I know what he means. I’ve long said that if I were given the power to end one political party it would certainly be the GOP. Also with you about the blind spot and the cause for hope.

        I cringe at the phrase workers’ rights, but that’s probably reflexive and not altogether fair. I prefer to think of the problem as the elevation of economic considerations above all else. The working class has definitely suffered from this change, but that phrase has been so tarnished that using it causes great confusion.

      • Well, I called them tiny and marginal, not powerful. They are, however, growing rather than dying.

        I see what you are saying wrt the EWTN wing and perhaps I am generalizing too far from my own experience, but I can’t agree. We had a similar chat once before with the sides reversed. I like the EWTN wing better than the America wing since they don’t hate tradition per se. So a Church full of EWTNers offers hope for renewal, though renewal would still be necessary.

      • re: “workers’ rights” – perhaps the fault lies with me. I admit it was the first phrase that quickly came to my mind when I thought of Rerum Novarum.

  16. This is a little confusing Bill. I think you are saying that Pope Benedict is a Modernist and wouldn’t bother with the likes of the LCWR for that reason except for the fact that they have lost their teeth?

    • I did not accuse the Pope of anything except excellent strategy. The LCWR did not recently go crazy. They have been this way for decades and nothing has been done about them. Now, when it is painfully obvious that they are irrelevant, they are perhaps to be censured in some way. The other potential explanations seem uglier: is this an attempt to jockey before a fight over properties owned by the dying orders? Is the Vatican so ludicrously, egregiously incompetent that this is the fastest they can move?

      The question of what recent popes have been up to is an interesting one. I am partial to the explanation that they are credibly threatened with schism and that their behavior amounts to giving the Modernists everything they can without actually defecting in order to avoid schism. Other explanations are possible, obviously.

      Doing nothing is an underrated strategy. Sometimes your enemies throw themselves off cliffs, saving you the trouble.

      • It seems to me that the Vatican has seriously underestimated the advantages of schism. It’s really demoralizing for orthodox Catholics to feel ourselves to be a minority in our own Church and to have nowhere, not even the Mass, where we can assume that we are surrounded by people of like mind. Then there’s the fact that the Church can never act decisively against her enemies, because her own parishioners are on the other side. Finally, there are the obvious downsides of letting heretics control religious instruction (see above on 90% of lay religion teachers).

        If excommunications had been let loose 45 years ago, we might be talking about saving 50% of the laity rather than 5%.


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