“I’m still teaching the same things I always taught…”
November 13, 2019
In my spiritual formation as a young adult, the idea of a future schism–refusing to submit to the teaching of the pope–was presented as a “liberal” concept. The idea was that in the name of progress, some Catholics rejected papal teaching on subjects like contraception, same-sex marriage, and women priests. This kind of schismatic believes that Church teaching on these matters hasn’t “developed” far enough, that the truth of their ideas is certain, and that Church teaching needs to catch up.
In recent years, however, I’ve grown aware of another kind of schism: a “conservative” schism. This occurs when Catholics reject official papal teaching in the name of maintaining tradition. This type of schismatic attitude holds that a when a pope’s teaching has exceeded an acceptable level of development, there has been a rupture with true doctrine. (To be clear, I’m using the word “schism” simply to describe Catholic’s refusal to submit to the Roman Pontiff [see Catechism 2089] and not in the extreme historical sense, as with the the split between Orthodox Christians and Rome in AD 1054.)
This conservative schism is a rejection of the idea that our faith is alive. Catholic teaching is more like a growing tree than a set of historical texts. Pope Francis is keenly aware of this distinction and has reiterated it multiple times during his papacy, perhaps most explicitly during a meeting with the superior generals of women’s religious orders this past spring.