Unity: It Is Not the Preeminent Catholic Moral Issue!
by Mary Ann Kreitzer
At the Last Supper, Jesus prayed for the unity of his followers – as He and the Father are one. “I pray that they may be one in us...I living in them, You living in me – that their unity may be complete.” (John 17:21-22) Earlier in the gospel John describes the Good Shepherd who knows his sheep including some who “do not belong to this fold.” But Jesus calls them too, “And they shall hear my voice. There shall be one flock then, one shepherd.” (John 10:16) Jesus wants unity among all who “hear His voice.” But what was the result of Christ’s preaching about “one flock” united under the Good Shepherd? All hell broke loose! “Because of these words, the Jews were sharply divided,” -- not only divided, but they accused Jesus of being possessed by demons, a blasphemy! He replied with the famous “house divided” speech showing their hypocrisy. There is no unity between truth and error, good and evil. Attempting to cobble them together creates the monster of false unity.
A hallmark of Jesus’ ministry was not unity, but bitter divisions within the Jewish community, particularly among its leaders. The Lord of life and love aroused hatred by His preaching, not only from the world, but especially from the chief priests and Pharisees. Why? Because He spoke the truth -- clearly, without equivocation and it inevitably cut the wicked to the heart. “Do not think that I came to send peace upon earth: I came not to send peace, but the sword.” (Matt.10:34) The “sword” divides truth and error. Unity cannot be bought by conforming to the world’s lies. “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste.” (Luke 11:17)
These days, many bishops demand unity with the pope no matter what he says or does, including treating his personal opinions (which are not protected by the Holy Spirit) like doctrine. They treat unity with the “Francis magisterium” (whatever that is) as the preeminent moral imperative facing the Church. But what kind of unity is Pope Francis preaching: one based on the commandments and doctrines of Christ taught by the Church across the millennia or a false unity that attempts to merge the truth with the lie, discarding the past in the name of pastoral accompaniment with those who reject Christ’s laws? During the Week for Christian Unity in January, the pope preached ecumenism and the need for unity, for all people to “walk, pray and work together.” Those are certainly valid goals in certain circumstances. We’ve seen the fruit at U.N. world meetings, for example, when people from many religious traditions successfully unite, despite differences, to fight abortion and population control. A false unity, on the other hand, dismisses major differences to embrace a kind of “I’m okay, you’re okay” hodgepodge! Sadly, this papacy continually promotes false unity at synods, World Youth Days, and in church politics.
While it’s clear that the Church is deeply divided between truth and error, many in the hierarchy excoriate those who refuse to throw doctrine down the memory hole and embrace strange gods in order to be pastoral! And so the indissolubility of marriage must be watered down so those in irregular unions can approach for Communion. Pagan practices must be reverenced even to the point of venerating idols. All religions, U.N. tribunals, and even governments that persecute the Church must be accommodated.
What exactly does Pope Francis mean by unity? Who knows? He doesn’t define terms. The CCC (Catechism of the Catholic Church) says the “unity of the pilgrim Church” depends on three things: 1) profession of one faith received from the Apostles; 2) common celebration of divine worship, especially of the sacraments; and 3) apostolic succession through the sacrament of Holy Orders, [which] maintain the fraternal concord of God’s family. (CCC 815) Quoting Vatican II’s document on ecumenism, Unitatis redintegratio (Restoration of Unity) the CCC goes on:
The unity described in the CCC seems farther away than ever after the pope’s Abu Dhabi statement that God wills the diversity of religions and other actions that create confusion and chaos among the people of God. The pope often labels those who defend doctrine as divisive, un-pastoral, and rigid. He mocks priests who wear cassocks, altar boys who fold their hands reverently, young people who love the Latin Mass, women who veil, and those who give spiritual bouquets. He describes sharing the “fullness of the means of salvation” as “proselytizing.” In fact, this papacy seems to replace the great commission to baptize the whole world with a Francis magisterium approach discouraging evangelization and advancing syncretism. That was certainly the message promoted at the Amazon Synod when Bishop Kräutler, one of the main organizers, bragged that he never has and never will baptize an indigenous person. It isn’t necessary because all religions, including paganism, lead to salvation.
Is that what Christ taught? What kind of unity leads bishops to treat defenders of the faith as enemies of Pope Francis rather than his greatest allies?
One egregious attack on concerned faithful Catholics occurred recently when the head of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, lashed out at Catholic journalists. His screed was anything but pastoral:
Is this the unity desired by Francis and his friends? You don’t like what the pope does? You refuse to accept the “Francis magisterium?” Then get out of the Church! Journalist Deacon Nick Donnelly responded:
That a cardinal archbishop would go so far as to publicly encourage schism shows how angered the Bergoglians are by an independent Catholic media and social media challenging their heresy and immorality.... It is disingenuous for Bassetti to reduce the crisis besetting the Church to being a question of "liking" or "disliking" Pope Francis. This isn't about a personality clash but about Catholic journalists who love the Church — sometimes at great personal cost — holding to account powerful prelates who are destroying the Church's communion by promoting false teaching. [my emphasis]
Questioning Pope Francis or seeking clarification of his troubling statements and actions is labeled “destructive” and proof that critics hate him and want to destroy his papacy. The rabid attack slandering Cardinal Sarah and Pope Benedict over their co-authored book defending priestly celibacy, which will be out in English this month, shows how low the “Bergoglians” will go. Canonist Fr. Gerald Murray, who read a pre-publication copy of From the Depths of Our Hearts: Priesthood, Celibacy and the Crisis of the Catholic Church calls it “an eloquent defense of the fundamental evangelical and pastoral value of priestly celibacy... a radical call to those who would represent Christ to his people in persona Christi capitis, in the person of Christ the head of His Mystical Body, to embrace wholly Christ’s entire way of life.”
The divisions in the Church are deep and, sadly, often acrimonious, but is unity possible, or even desirable, in every circumstance? Can any serious believer defend cafeteria Catholicism and say those who champion the murder of the innocent are in union with Christ? Can we be in union with fellow Catholics who defend abortion or members of the hierarchy, who attack fundamental doctrines? Will the German Church on its “synodal path” lead another revolt against the Church as explosive as Luther’s? And will Rome go along in the name of unity?
Ecumenism and dialogue that put unity, i.e. peace at any price, ahead of truth betray Christ and create chaos. To see the danger of this false unity I’ll give just one example – the disastrous impact of Vatican policies on the Church in China. By allowing the Communist government to name bishops for the CPCA (Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association), Pope Francis undermines the faith in that poor country and many underground bishops and priests are paying the price. Cardinal Joseph Zen, the face of Chinese Catholics to the West, reminds me of John the Baptist crying in the wilderness as he describes the “murder” of his beloved Church under the secret agreement between the Chinese Communist government and the Vatican.
The situation in China is complicated. Pope Benedict’s 2007 letter to the Church there, the basis of Cardinal Zen’s book of essays, For Love of My People I Will Not Remain Silent, calls for continued dialogue with the state even to the point of bishops “[accepting] recognition granted by civil authorities.” However, Pope Benedict also stressed the “difficulties, since persons who are not ‘ordained’, and sometimes not even baptized, control and make decisions concerning important ecclesial questions, including the appointment of Bishops,...[by] various State agencies,” which violates canon law. Bishops ordained “without the pontifical mandate” cannot exercise episcopal jurisdiction unless they are “legitimized” by the Holy See which considers the “particular circumstances” of each ordination and the bishop’s desire to be in union with Rome. Pope Benedict set a huge caveat on cooperating with the CPCA which must not “entail denial of unrenounceable principles of faith and of ecclesiastical communion.” Since coop-eration with the CPCA “almost always” requires “intervention of certain bodies [obliging] the people involved to adopt attitudes, make gestures and undertake commitments that are contrary to the dictates of their consciences as Catholics,” it often cannot be permitted, particularly when the government requires unlegitimized members of the CPCA and underground clerics to concelebrate Mass. That is forbidden!
Cardinal Zen is no ideologue. Desiring proper training of priests for both the underground and state church, Zen and other clerics taught in CPCA seminaries (with Vatican approval) to ensure good priestly formation. (The under-ground church has few resources to train priests.) Zen also warns against an “us vs. them” mentality, noting that some bishops in the CPCA accepted episcopal ordination out of concern for the faithful. To dismiss them all as uncaring is “grossly unfair.” Zen says that previous popes wanted to legitimize good bishops when possible knowing:
However, Zen condemns CPCA bishops who hide their legitimization out of fear of the government, a problem that confuses the faithful. The situation reached a new level of persecution on February 1st when China expanded the 2018 document, Regulations on Religious Affairs, which subjects all religious acts to secular approval even requiring the Church to “spread the principles and policies of the Communist Party.” In many dioceses and parishes, the government is ousting legitimate bishops and pastors and replacing them with CPCA clerics. Mindong’s Bishop Vincenzo Guo Xijin, who agreed to demotion to auxiliary under the CPCA bishop, but failed to join the CPCA, was evicted from his home with several priests who are now homeless thanks to the Vatican agreement.
In a recent letter to the College of Cardinals, Zen begged his brothers to stop the murder of the Church in China saying the Vatican document, Pastoral guidelines of the Holy See concerning the civil registration of clergy in China, “encourages the faithful in China to enter a schismatic church (independent of the pope and under the orders of the Communist Party).” Cardinal Zen’s dubia submitted to the Vatican last July were never answered.
What exactly is going on with this pontificate? As Pope Francis was cozying up to the Communist government, one of his closest allies, Argentine bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, head of the Pontifical Academy of Science and the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences praised the Chinese government for “best implementing the social doctrine of the Church.” Sorondo, an anti-capitalist who opposes many Church doctrines and hosts pro-abortion, pro-population-control speakers at Vatican meetings says the Chinese have a “positive national conscience.” Really? -- the country of forced abortion and infanticide? -- the country of transplant tourism that rakes in a billion dollars a year murdering prisoners of conscience and harvesting their organs? -- the country facilitating dark web trafficking of the deadly fentanyl drug that’s killing our kids?
The Vatican’s false unity with Chinese Communism is the canary in the mine showing the disastrous results of a Francis magisterium that cobbles together truth and error as seen so vividly at the Amazon Synod. One cannot advance unity by conforming the Church to the world, saying conversion is unnecessary because every religion leads to salvation, and embracing a pragmatic ostpolitik as Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin does. Can the faith be traded for a false unity that joins the truth and the lie?Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller summarized the crisis succinctly January 1st in an address to the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS) at their 2020 Summit. “The crisis in the Church,” he said: “is man-made and has arisen because we have cozily adapted ourselves to the spirit of a life without God.” He went on:
Recall that Cardinal Müller, appointed by Pope Benedict was dismissed as head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) in 2017 after some reported conflicts with Pope Francis. His successor, Archbishop Luis Ladaria Ferrer, is known for defending Church teaching on marriage and sexuality. Pray for him.It’s imperative that Catholics remain in union with Holy Mother Church. Jumping ship during a violent storm is suicidal! Jesus remains in the boat and, even if He appears to be asleep, He is our rock and our salvation. We need not fear despite the chaotic situation we presently face. What we must do is to conform ourselves to God’s will and be faithful. One holy man or woman can have a tremendous impact on the Church and the culture. Read the lives of the saints! May we all work for the true unity Jesus desired. He showed us the way. Let us follow Him! “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Let us strive for holiness by conforming our wills more closely to the will of God, embracing His doctrines articulated by the Church through the millennia, and not fearing to speak the truth in love. Viva Cristo Rey!