Wednesday, January 15, 2003

I was going through my files...
my actual, 'hard copy' files of old newspaper articles, and came across this interesting piece by Fr. Mark Gruber, O.S.B., whom I have met and have heard lecture. It was published in Our Sunday Visitor August 11, 1996. After several searches, I did not find it anywhere online, so I am posting it here.
Facing up to a schism
If any serious watchers of Catholicism doubt that the Church is profoundly fragmented and morally obliged to provide canonical recognition of the fact, they are either ostrich-like and cannot bear the pain of acknowledgement, or they have an agenda to obscure the breach so that they can better conduct their divisive behavior, or they hope that the surpression of institutional awareness and response will permit time to bury the problem.
But the time has come to canonically face the moral fact of schism.
To those who feel that it is just too painful to acknowledge the matter, let them be reminded that preferring ignorance to sober truth is the saddest human condition of all.
To those who prefer denial in order to make further inroads into the faithful, let them be reminded that the moral high ground goes to the side that sacrifices strategy for integrity.
To those who wish to indefinitely postpone the split in order to give dissidents time to retire or reconcile, let them be reminded that this tactic has reached the point of diminishing returns.
The hesitation to name the schism has only served to leave the majority of the faithful flock vunerable to canonically clothed wolves. Strip the predators of their juridical link to the Church, which they have already spiritually repudiated, and the faithful can better discern the mind of Christ.
In fact, a strategic reason exists to act expeditiously to make explicit the Church's true condition. The generation still endures that remember the beauty of a Catholicism that was Roman. So long as that generation holds the balance of ecclesiastical influence, any fundamental division of the Church will create a domino effect, whereby undecided speculators, hesitant dissidents, moderate critics and vast portions of the as-of-yet unpolarized lay people will ultimately find their way home to Rome.
The ordinary gravity of inter-generational dialogue will pull the next generation (who otherwise has no great homing instinct for orthodoxy) into the clarity of spiritual decision. And the work of the Holy Spirit succeeds best in such moments of conscientious choice.
The great majority of the faithful, while confused and often misled, is still on the fence of discerning their conviction of Church. By acting now to declare the reality of separation, most of them will still jump off the fence in the direction of the ancient faith.
If the Church fails to make manifest the reality of schism now,it will still occur-as well it must, given the profound nature of the divisive attitudes, beliefs and actions in institutionally entrenched groups.
But when it does occur, the generation that can best orient the faithful will be diminished sufficently to leave the majority of the would-be faithful adrift.
Instead of a schism in which the Church recovers her direction and moves ahead with renewed vigor, with most of her institutions intact and primed for new growth, she will be incomparably smaller, much the size and cast of a biblical remnant.
Those who depart the ranks of the Church in either case have an even more bleak prognosis. Essentially being indistinguishable from liberal moribund Protestantism on issues ranging from biblical authority, sexuality, the sanctity of life and even the nature of God Himself, they will have no reason for an independent ecclesiastical existence.
Most will be absorbed into some Anglican amalgam, and the few who attempt to hold out as a sect will discover that they have such a habit of rebellion to authority that their 'new church' will simply splinter into oblivion.
No wonder they prefer to linger in the present moment of ecclesiastical denial. So long as they stay within the canonical boundaries of the institution, they're somebodies. They matter.
But once they are recognized as no longer being among us, they will be out in the dust of Gnosticism and a hundred other old fossils of Church history.
A telling lesson of history was the salvaging of the U.S. banks after the onset of the Great Depression. After so many banks defaulted, people began to withdraw their savings in fear of total collapse.
Acting wisely, the president established a commission to investigate the practices and policies of all banks, accrediting the great majority of them, and backing them with government guarantees. On a ccount of the few that were not accredited, confidence-and cash-flowed back to the many that were.
The parallels to the Church are obvious: the confidence of the majority is shaken, and their moral investment in the Church is diminishing. Greater clarity about the worst abuses, and separating them from the Church's ordinary life, will restore confidence and trust.
Can we afford not to be so decisive in this crucial hour ?


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