Silent schism – Pope Francis dividing US Church


The Catholic Church in the US is undergoing a “silent schism”. Some American Catholics are just “sitting out the papacy of Francis”, the Tablet newspaper reports.

Some bishops are using social media to inflame “a uniquely toxic situation”, author and theologian Dr Dawn Eden Goldstein (pictured) says.

Speaking to the Tablet about “The Church and polarisation: where does this leave Catholics in the United States?” Goldstein had this to say:

“Polarisation in the United States is seen largely where people try to make the Church coterminous with a particular political party – ‘if you are a real Catholic, you are going to be a member of a specific party’. That is especially bad where you have got a two-party system.”

Of those Catholics “biding time until the next pope”, Goldstein said “We have to call out schism wherever it comes from.”

Divisive bishops

“When a bishop is using social media to be divisive, then we really have a problem,” Goldstein said.

“Rome is still not really aware of the toxic effects that a bishop can have rallying people on social media and doing the same sort of things that Donald Trump tried to do to polarise people.”

Catholics involved in conservative think tanks can be locked into “a persistent hermeneutic of suspicion” against Pope Francis, she said.

They think he is a liberal Pope, she claims. This means they think they are free to disregard anything he says which is not infallible.

“It is not Catholic to simply assume that as long as the Pope is not speaking infallibly, I can ignore it. That’s the schism that we are all dealing with right now and we need to pray for unity.”

Asked if she thinks the synodal journey can heal this polarisation, she said she has noted “a significant amount of apathy” among the US bishops towards the Synod on Synodality.

“I think the Synod can help by making bishops aware of the extent to which the faithful are affected by polarisation,” she said.

“Maybe if bishops get a better understanding of these problems that are harming the faithful, particularly in the social media ecosphere, they could be more sensitive about things that inflame divisions.”

Media role

Author and commentator Gloria Purvis said Catholic media is obliged to communicate the truth and point people towards Catholic values.

She spoke about her role as a presenter of an EWTN radio show which is now closed down.

She believes her efforts to raise the issue of racism as a life issue was unpopular with “self-described devout Catholics who are typical of EWTN’s audience”.

These people have “an anaemic view of human dignity” and the Church’s teaching on racial justice.

“I did get a lot of racist hate mail when I was at EWTN on Morning Glory when I tried to bring up the issue of racism,” she said.

“I was really well known for talking about defence of life in the womb and authentic women’s rights from a Catholic perspective.

“For some reason people assumed that meant only a particular thing … when I stepped outside of their preconceived notions and was just as vigorous a defender of a person’s human dignity in the area of race, I think it was seen as a betrayal by some people.”

Purvis said the EWTN affiliate Guadalupe Radio claimed her show was contentious and dropped it. At the end of the year the show was not renewed.

Additional reading

News category: Palmerston, World.

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