The Catholic House: Divided Against Itself


With my gratitude to BellatorDei for the graphic


I regret that I remain unable to devote the needed time and attention to both this site and correspondence.

However, here is another extract from my upcoming book:


A clear disjunction can be found everywhere in the contemporary Church. There is a dissonance between the desire to resemble the world and the desire to be true to the Catholic Mystery.

What matters is not so much how this disjunction expresses itself (for example, sacred versus secular music or a reverent theology versus a ridiculing one) but the fact that the Church is being torn apart in two contrary directions.

Now, what can be expected of a house so divided? Has Our Lord Himself not already provided a clear answer to this question?

If a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand …No man can enter into the house of a strong man and rob him of his goods, unless he first bind the strong man, and then shall he plunder his house (Mark 3. 24-25, 27).

A strong man: There was a time, once, when the Church was a house of strength. For She possessed the potency that comes with united conviction. And this Church was filled with treasure.

The treasure consisted of its liturgy, its dogmas, its traditions, its prayers and devotions and sacramentals – and all the piety which these, in turn, once evoked in faithful hearts.

But now, the house is divided. Compared to what She was, the Church has become ever more compromised and enfeebled.

The demand went out: Now, the Catholic Church must become more like us. And as the Church succumbed to this temptation, the strong tradition of the pre-Vatican II Church was arrested, bound and fettered – and as a result Catholicism has been plundered.

For, in the aftermath of the Sixties’ revolt, all manner of treasure vanished from the Church – quite literally. For old artwork, altars, statues and more, which were deemed too traditional, were cast out from the Sanctuary. One finds them now on e-bay …

The Church remains weak, very weak, and will continue to remain weak, while She is divided against herself.

And there is no guarantee that She can continue to stand in the world, debilitated as She is, by the ongoing quasi-schism within Her bosom.

This quasi-schism: It is threatened by groups of liberals as well as ultra-traditionalists. (Both of whom are basically Protestant – elevating, as they do, their own interpretations above those of the Holy See.)

Still, the warfare in the Church continues, after half a century of discontent. All this should make one thing evident, at least.

If the Church has become enervated through division and dissolution, then the solution requires concord and unity. But which kind of concord and unity?

For it must be acknowledged that liberal Catholics also hope for a united Church. They would like to see the present conflict ended with a new, transformed Church which would ‘complete the work of the Council’.

For they believe the problem lies in this: The ‘Spirit of Vatican II’ has yet to be fully implemented. And so they yearn for a third Vatican Council which might finish the remaining work of reform.

While I was still liberally-minded myself, I visited an enclave of ‘progressive’ Catholics in Ireland, who expressed their hope for future reforming councils.

At Vatican III, it was said, there will be married Bishops; at Vatican IV there will be married Bishops – with their husbands.

This was said with the air of jest – but it expressed the clear aspiration of liberal Catholics for a united Church – united around their consensus: If only the Church could fully adapt Herself to modern secularism, casting off Her ‘archaic embarrassments’, then what good She might do for the world!

This, of course, begs numerous questions.  Throughout this book, we have argued that secular currents have fostered contemporary materialism. Could a Church that uncritically adheres to these same liberal values – which have led to the present materialistic impasse – ever hope to be a force for good?

Moreover, can such a Church be truly Catholic? And could such a Church ever unite around values, which have always been alien to Her fundamental nature?

The answer is no. For the so-called ‘Spirit of Vatican II’ has tried to inject Enlightenment values into the Church. And the Enlightenment – whatever virtues it may have possessed – was inextricably entangled with a rationalism, reductionism and empiricism which was hostile to Christian revelation.

The result is that the Church now suffers from something analogous to diplopia. Diplopia is an optical defect in the eyes where the images formed on the two retinas are so dissimilar that the eyes cannot co-ordinate them. The result is double vision.

For the Church now suffers two competing visions, where previously it saw only one. Now, there is low Christology versus high Christology. Now, there is demythologised Christianity versus Supernatural Revelation. Now, there is the vision of a new, liberal, worldly, democratic Church versus the Church of tradition, authority and hierarchy. The list goes on …

Now, the liberal Catholic who has studied the last fifty years must admit – if he is honest – that the attempt to adapt Catholicism to liberalism has led to war in the Church. Can the honest liberal Catholic really hope to establish Catholic unity by demanding that the Church further abandon Her roots – indeed her essential nature?!

Yes, after half a century of conflict, any honest analysis must conclude that unity cannot be reached this way.

In the 1960s, it was different. Back then, no doubt many souls believed that accommodation was possible between the traditional and liberal elements within the Church.

Many no doubt felt that the cataclysmic changes undertaken then would be sufficient to appease those of a modern persuasion. Many no doubt hoped that through compromise, liberals and conservatives might become united.

For the conservatives in the Church did indeed take immense steps towards meeting the liberals. The Catholic Church transformed Herself almost overnight in ways completely unprecedented in Her two millennia of history.

Has this mighty transformation proved sufficient for a reconciliation? No. How I recall a liberal Catholic friend telling me that the so-called ‘Spirit of Vatican II’ would need to be a ‘hundred times’ stronger in order that the Church might be rendered acceptable for him. Such an attitude is hardly unique in liberal Catholicism.

No, the Church is still not sufficiently liberal for the modernisers. They feel that further compromise, further concessions are urgently required. Here is the cry of so-called ‘progressives’ everywhere: Modernity demands ever more of the Church: less hierarchy, more democracy, women Priests and ever fewer restrictions on sexual abandon (and much else besides). The Church must jive to the modern beat and accept divorce, contraception – even abortion and a non-celibate gay clergy.

All this is deemed simply necessary now: The post-60’s Zeitgeist dictates that the wisdom of the Centuries of Tradition is passé at best. At worst, it is considered unjust, repressive, psychologically damaging and things still more heinous.

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4 responses to “The Catholic House: Divided Against Itself”

  1. M. Ray Avatar

    I could be wrong, but I don’t agree that ultra-traditionalists, like the liberals, are basically Protestant. While they do tend to elevate their interpretations above those of the Holy See, at least the ultra-traditionalists believe that their interpretations line up with what the Church had taught before the Council (which may or may not be true, but at least they believe this this is the case). Liberals, on the other hand, know that their views, for the most part, do not line up with the historical teachings of the Church. And that’s alright with them.

    Also, the ultra-traditionalists make up a tiny portion of of the Church, and many operate outside of the visible confines of the Church. Liberals, on the other hand, work within the Church, and they are large in numbers. Therefore, the liberals are much more dangerous to the unity and restoration of proper Catholic teaching. The ultra-traditionalists, though they be annoying, or even downright hostile, are not a real threat to unity. The good thing about them, IMO, is that they serve as a continual thorn in the side of the liberals. They remind the liberals, sometimes in unpleasant ways, that the Catholic Church did not begin after the end of the Council. Liberals can’t stand to be reminded of this, and in this way the ultra-traditionalists serve a very useful role in the restoration of proper Catholic teaching.

    We also need a Pope who will be brave enough to lay down the law and stand for more than just peace and luv. Peace and luv aren’t bad things, but they must co-exist with proper Catholic teaching. Someday, we’ll have a brave and thoroughly orthodox Pope, but it may be 20-40 years until that happens. Someone who isn’t attached in any way to the Council. Time has to pass for this to happen. We need to be patient, and pray and stand up for truth whenever we can.

    In Jesu et Maria

  2. roger Avatar

    M. Ray – you make one good, important point after another – thank you!

    I lack opportunity to respond as fully as I’d like, but I might say more in the future.

    Right now, I will hurriedly say it pained my heart to write that line. And I may still change it in the book.

    However I would remark on the obvious fact that quantity and quality are two different things.

    Quantitively you are right that any schism occasioned by ultra-traditionalists would seem insignificant compared to the vast scale of liberal subversiveness.

    However at a qualitative level, I think the rupture may be far more significant than is realised.

    There are sources that indicate that few things made H.H. Benedict XVI suffer more deeply than this rift. He went to utterly extraordinary measures to try to heal it – even if at the last minute it would seem as though some of his extraordinary measures were counteracted from within the Vatican.

    Whatever the truth of this very, very tragic set of affairs, the last Pope believed in taking extraordinary action. So I think the situation may be far important than any analysis based on statistical quantities permits.

    These days I am believing ever more deeply in the approach taken by Monsignor Wach and the Institute of Christ the King. I mean to say, then, that there is a difference between the approach of Cardinal Siri and Archbishop Lefebvre.

    There is an apocryphal story where Cardinal Siri begged Archbishop Lefebvre to not take the actions that he did.

    And I think Monsignor Wach and the Institute of Christ the King carry the Siri approach. Yes I have become ever more deeply moved and impressed by the Institute of Christ the King for their fidelity to tradition and to the Holy Father …

    Siri and Lefebvre – both saw the same illness in the Church, but they offered a very different cure.

    More than I intended to say and I have yet to respond to several other fine points you make.

    Finally, lest anyone is confused by what I write of Lefebvre, it may help if they see what I have said here

  3. M. Ray Avatar

    Thank you for your reply.

    I agree that our dear Pope Benedict suffered deeply because of the rift between the SSPX and the Holy See. It was a sad thing to witness. I think that since he had been involved with the Lefebvre crisis almost from the beginning, he felt more keenly a need to reconcile the situation. Of all the hierarchy in Rome, he was the one who had been closest and most involved with reconciling the SSPX almost from the beginning. Also, one of the main jobs of a Pope to work for unity. For example, he very deftly and skillfully worked behind the scenes to reconcile those Anglicans and their parishes who wanted to reconcile with Rome. He was also talking to the Lutherans (though healing that rift is very complicated and will take a long time).

    I do believe that it was wrong for Ap. Lefebvre to take the course of action that he did. It has been said that it was the wrong answer to a very real problem. And we see now that the SSPX is fragmenting more and more – which is inevitable when a branch is separated from the tree. It cannot remain healthy. My hope is that they will one day reconcile, but that’s unlikely.

    Meanwhile, the Catholic Church continues on, and though it cannot be destroyed even by liberals, it is impaired in its divine mission by embracing, to certain extent, the ways of the world. It’s possible that God allowed all this to happen so that he could wipe the slate clean and start all over to rebuild His Church. It’s a painful process, but very slowly, tradition seems to be making a comeback, and the liberals will fight it every step of the way, of course. We must be patient with them, too, all the while knowing full well which side we are on.

    1. roger Avatar

      My belated thanks to you, M. Ray for these perceptive comments again at this site. I entirely agree about the loss of health to the self-severed branch. Very, very sad. For you are right, I think that tradition is gradually returning, but so, so, so much is needed and that branch, non-severed, could offer so much …