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(RNS) — As the U.S. Catholic bishops gather in Baltimore to discuss controversial issues such as clerical sexual abuse and racism, some people are talking about the threat of schism.
History shows that the possibility of schism is always present, but the odds against schism today are high.
Order - Schism - Bishop - Priest - Parishioners
First, in order to have a schism, you need at least one bishop interested in breaking away. If a priest and his parishioners decide to split from the church, that is not a schism. If a priest leads a breakaway, it usually fades when the priest dies.
Schismatic bishops can ordain other bishops and priests, so the breakaway has a better chance of continuing; the Great Schism of 1054 between Eastern and Western Christianity has lasted almost 1,000 years.
Bishops - Way - Pope - Francis - Church
There are certainly bishops who do not like the way Pope Francis is leading the church. Archbishop Carlo Viganò has called for the pope to resign. Others, including Cardinal Raymond Burke, have criticized Pope Francis, but so far none of them has indicated any interest in going rogue.
They look upon him as an aberration that will be corrected by the next papacy. After all, at 81 years of age, he is older than many of his critics. They can wait him out.
Order - Schism - Issues - Community - Bishops
In order to have a schism, too, you need truly divisive issues that split the community, not just the bishops.
Conservative bishops have complained that Pope Francis is too permissive on allowing divorced and remarried Catholics to go to Communion, too soft on Catholics who practice birth control and too welcoming to LGBT Catholics. Yet public opinion polls show that Catholics, even those who go to church weekly, are much more liberal than the pope on these issues.
Bloggers - Commentators - Issues - Faithful - Bishop
While conservative bloggers and commentators may rant about these issues, the faithful are not going to follow a bishop into...
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