Posted by: frroberts | November 2, 2015

New York Times columnist: Catholicism’s coming civil war

Fellow Harvard alumnus and Catholic Ross Douthat has been asking some very uncomfortable questions about the direction that Pope Francis has been taking the Catholic Church as regards admitting the divorced and remarried to the sacraments without an annulment.  Some theologians at Catholic universities,  many of whom were not enthusiasts for the last two popes, told him that he should keep his mouth shut because he is not a professional theologian and has not standing to question the Pope’s actions.

Ross asks a pointed question that signals that he is not going to back down.  Moreover, he raises an implicit question.  Will Pope Francis spilt the Catholic Church in two?

What is that real position? That almost anything Catholic can change when the times require it, and “developing” doctrine just means keeping up with capital-H History, no matter how much of the New Testament is left behind.

As I noted earlier, the columnist’s task is to be provocative. So I must tell you, openly and not subtly, that this view sounds like heresy by any reasonable definition of the term.

Now it may be that today’s heretics are prophets, the church will indeed be revolutionized, and my objections will be ground under with the rest of conservative Catholicism. But if that happens, it will take hard grinding, not just soft words and academic rank-pulling. It will require a bitter civil war.

And so, my dear professors: Welcome to the battlefield.


  1. I’m ok with Ross’ comments. He isn’t the first non-theologian in the Church to have an opinion just as valuable as any of the so-called theologians. The problem I have has more to do with all the micro-analysis and hand wringing before a verdict is even delivered–to what effect? Douthat is not alone in this. Once we know the actual outcome of the synod, then we have reason to react. Until then, what’s really the point except to appeal to various wings in the Church and keep emotion high, sowing seeds of disunity which already comprise a pretty weedy garden.


  2. I can’t speak for Ross, but I think that he is trying to avert a schism by warning that one could come if a certain course of action is taken.


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