Threat of Schism Comes From Germany, Not United States


National Catholic Register, 18 September 2019

An American-led schism seems so remote as to be impossible, whereas Germany’s bishops are openly defying Pope Francis.

Talk of schism in the Church is “promiscuous” now, writes New York Times columnist Ross Douthat. Pope Francis addressed it at length on his return flight from Madagascar. But where is the danger of schism? It is far more likely from Germany, where bishops are openly defying the Holy Father, than from the United States.

The question of potential schism was raised on the recent papal flights to and from Africa. On the outbound flight, presented with a book accusing some Americans of plotting to overthrow the Pope, the Holy Father said that “it is an honor when the Americans attack me.”

Papal spokesman Matteo Bruni then quickly turned that inside out to mean that the Holy Father greatly respects American viewpoints. That didn’t fly with the press corps, so Pope Francis was asked about it on the flight home, in response to which he confessed that he didn’t want schism, but “did not fear it.”

Also on the plane to Mozambique, Pope Francis, answering a question about concerns raised by Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said: “He has good intentions; he is a good man. The Pope likes him. But he is like a child.”

Despite being reported by German and Austrian Catholic news agencies, the Holy See Press Office did not comment upon that astonishing characterization of the accomplished theologian.

The two comments together invite consideration of where the schismatic danger, if it exists, lies.

An American-led schism seems so remote as to be impossible.

There is a not a single U.S. bishop who has said or done anything that would point toward anything even approaching schism. That there are sectors of U.S. Catholic opinion that are critical — even hostile — to Pope Francis is true, but internet chatter does not a schism make.

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