11 September 2019


For years now, there's been a rising level of discontent and alarm among traditionalist Catholics about the direction of the Church under Pope Francis.  His occasional hints at a reduced emphasis on the taboo against homosexuality, his suggestions of a more accepting stance toward the divorced and remarried, his recognition of the reality of global warming, and his moves toward dialogue with Protestantism and even Islam, do not sit well with them.  These reformist moves, especially as expressed in his 2016 document Amoris Laetitia, have encouraged liberal Catholic clergy (of whom there are many, at least in Western countries) to implement more tolerant stances in their own jurisdictions.  To traditionalist Catholics it all smacks of "modernism" (a seriously Bad Thing in their eyes), perhaps even heresy.

Recently their alarm has intensified further due to the "Amazon synod" a major meeting for Bishops of the Amazon region which is scheduled for October 6-27 in Rome.  Traditionalists claim that liberal Western (especially German) clergy plan to use the synod to implement various heretical innovations, such as married priests, in the Amazon region, from which they will inevitably spread throughout the Church globally.  The synod's main working document, the Instrumentum Laboris, has been accused of legitimizing indigenous paganism as equal or even superior to Christianity.  It is certainly full of annoying New-Agey woo-woo stuff.  Another preparatory document embraces a number of "heresies".  Two conservative cardinals have called the synod the greatest threat to the Church in its entire history -- and there are calls for them to go further than just talk.

If you read the comment threads at some of those links, you'll see how alarmed the traditionalists are.  As they see it, Francis and the liberal clergy are steering the Church onto a path of such profound heresy that, if they succeed, it will no longer represent true Christianity.  So far, their proposed responses mostly consist of praying and fasting and suchlike, but of course such measures will prove no more effective here than they have at stopping mass shootings or hurricanes.

If the Church eventually adopts doctrines too radical for the traditionalists to endure, what will they do?  Most of them realize they can't just wait for Francis to die and hope a more conservative Pope reverses everything -- of the 128 current Cardinals entitled to vote for a new Pope, 67 were appointed by Francis, making it likely that the next Pope will also be a reformist.  If the Church adopts doctrines the traditionalists view as heresy, they'll face an inescapable crisis.

I've seen some talk of schism.  It's hard to know what this would look like.  Catholic doctrine states that there is no salvation outside the Church, so simply leaving the Church and starting an explicitly new organization wouldn't be an option.  The traditionalists would have to be able to claim that whatever they were doing was the "true" Catholic Church, while the original (still in possession of the Vatican and the rest of the physical infrastructure) was not.  Presumably it would be possible to gin up something from among the Church's vast and labyrinthine aggregation of "teachings" to support this, especially if a few senior clergy joined the exodus.  Certainly the new "Catholic Church" and the original would denounce each other as heretics, schismatics, and all manner of other juicy epithets.

How significant such a move would be depends on how many traditionalists there are, which is hard to estimate.  In 1890, when the official Mormon Church renounced polygamy under pressure from the US government, some die-hard polygamists left the Church and established separate "fundamentalist" Mormon communities in remote areas.  Their numbers were so small, however, that this had little impact on the main-line Mormon Church.  It's hard to tell how many Catholics are so traditionalist that they could not stomach married priests or a full repudiation of the taboo on homosexuality or the various other looming innovations.  I'd guess their numbers are fairly small -- in the West.  But Christians in the Third World tend to be much more conservative, especially in Africa, where the Catholic Church has a substantial presence.  Globally, a real schism could have a serious impact.

Presumably Francis and the liberal clergy are trying to modernize the Church in order to make it more appealing in a rapidly-changing culture.  Catholicism, like most Christian sects, is hemorrhaging members in the West -- far more people are leaving than joining.  The Church seems to be reaching the limits of how far this modernization can go without driving traditionalists into open rebellion.  Ironically, it's unlikely that compromising on the taboo system will do much to stem the membership decline, most of which is driven by simple loss of belief.  But one can hope that a divided Catholic Church will prove less effective at exerting reactionary influence over our societies than it has been in the past.


Blogger Sixpence Notthewiser said...

Yep, Frankie has shaken the good old Catholic Church to the core. The church has always been a few centuries behind in what concerns progress, so a progressive pope has always been feared. It’s an old, cantankerous institution, always longing for the good old days of the inquisition. I hope it self destructs. Like you say, it doesn’t have the advantage of fractioning itself to fit more or less conservative sects, so they’ll face the music sooner or later.
I’ll bring the popcorn.


12 September, 2019 02:57  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

I didn't even know about any of these shake ups going on in the Catholic church, or where Frank/ Francis stood with fellow clergy. But speaking of Frank, let me be a little Frank here. Whether the far right of the church likes it or not, it's going to change, and even divide ... history shows (just look at how many goddamn denominations you have in Christianity today). People look for a religion that fits their needs, whether it's by the book or not ... many don't give a shit ... it's simply like a club, culture, place to socialize, and pat each other on the back with like interests ... as for spirituality, in absolutely meaningless ... it's more like your favourite nightclub to hang at, without the booze ... but catolics are an exception, since they have brandy, wine, and beer galore at their social gathering held at facilities on church grounds. I was last in a catholic church gathering a couple years ago, some kind of winter festivities, I got pretty lit while I was there (drinking booze, they supplied). These were friends/ clients of one of my daughters, the church and neighbourhood was for affluent types/ congregation ... people were more into showing off their vehicles they drive up in, and their well tailored attire ... they were all sinners to the max (trust me). I also got to meet the priest, I was told ahead of time, that he was young and liberal, I would also say from talking to him, he was very gay too. But all was cool, since I felt a tad out of place, driving up in a little 2010 Honda Fit car ... a few drinks took care of that, though. This "congregation, you can bet (where I was at), were all about money and living the good life ... whether Jesus or the church likes it or not. I also heard later, that there were concerns over the sex scandals, and that they actually seen a decrease of $160,000+ in a year during sunday collections, this is one of the more higher income churches in North Dallas.

12 September, 2019 07:44  
Blogger Ranch Chimp said...

(Had to do this in 2 comments, said I had too many characters) I have an older VHS video, that I transferred to DVD, for a guy that was in the video, of a Montel Williams show, where the subject was Satanism ... the guy I know was one of the guests on the show, who founded a small Satanic Church, he was being grilled by an iditoic audience for the most part, on satanism. One, obvious Christian fundamoralist in the audience, told the satanist on stage, that " satanists, are just trying to find and create a religion to fit their needs and desires" ... the satanist, didn't answer him ... which of course made the audience clap, cheer or whatever. I told this guy later (satanist), that I wish I could have taken his place to answer that little scrawny dipshit fundamoralist's question ... what he accused satanists of in that question, is what he does himself, the f'n hypocrisy out of these MF's is as bad as politicians. Why? ... because that's all them christians do ... they all constantly find churches to fit their needs and desires, all about making themselves feel good about anything they do. They got churches/ denominations out there for just about any lifestyle, or dress/ attire, social circles, class, or whatever you are looking for. It is common to hear christains say, I was this or that (denomination), and changed to this or that, or that the previous church didn't serve their personal needs, etc, etc (you can change to whatever you want, you just kiss some other institutions ass over another, still you end up kissing ass). Some of these mother f*ckers, even satanists, these days, go from one church to another ... sucking ones ass, then going to another. So everyone, treats churches like social groups to fit their fancy, ONLY ... if your gay, you find a gay church, or into Tantric sex, you find another ... if you're into pentacostal attire and hairstyles, if you want a church that restricts diet, you have those, if you want a church that focuses on money and prosperity gospel, you have those, etc, etc. They go to worship God? ... bullshit!, they go to serve their human needs in the flesh, and to feel good and superior, because they don't like the fact, that they are nothing more than an animal, that shits, eats, and sleeps. The church is a business ... and as societies change, so do they ... or else, they'll go out of business. Enough from me ... Thanx for the read.

12 September, 2019 07:45  
Blogger Adam said...

Catholics are strangely more unified than you'd think.

12 September, 2019 10:03  
Blogger RO said...

As a Catholic from way back, I remember the days of loud organ playing, and how things have changed drastically in most churches. As we continue to evolve, it seems people want change in every area. Hugs, RO

12 September, 2019 16:00  
Blogger Infidel753 said...

Sixpence: This could require quite a bit of popcorn. If the Amazon synod does produce any really radical changes, it's going to be an epic fight.

Ranch: Of course Catholicism has always evolved over time, whatever they believe. The priestly celibacy thing only dates back to the 11th century. They don't burn witches any more, and not many Catholics would defend doing so (though I once knew one who did). And of course many people look for a church that gives them what they want (which is many cases is a sense of superiority over the "unsaved"). Arguably Francis is engaged in an exercise in marketing, trying to adapt to a changing environment. Too bad they're always playing catch-up.

Adam: We'll see, but it doesn't look that way from what I'm seeing on the traditionalist websites.

RO: Yes -- and it's hard to cater to an increasingly diverse market while remaining a single institution. No wonder there are so many sects.

13 September, 2019 11:41  

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