Is schism the greatest evil? January 8, 2014Posted by tantamergo in Basics, catachesis, Ecumenism, episcopate, error, foolishness, General Catholic, Holy suffering, sadness, scandals, self-serving, Tradition.
Some more from Dietrich von Hildebrand’s The Devastated Vineyard, this time, on schism. There was a particular fear in the Church leadership in the years immediately following the Council that any strong moves against the raging revolutionary forces would lead to schism. The Dutch Church actually threatened to go into schism over Communion in the hand, which prompted Pope Paul VI to back down and acquiesce to their demands. But Dr. von Hildebrand asks some very pointed questions regarding schism:
But is a schism truly the greatest evil? The falling away of each individual person who leaves the Church is a great evil in itself, and especially for his soul, endangering his eternal salvation. But it is much worse when, although he has lost the true faith, he remains within the Church and poisons the faithful through his influence. This is worse for him, too, he adds to the awful sin of heresy that of lying, deceiving others, abusing his dignity as a Catholic, and, in the case of a priest, abusing the trust which he possesses as a spokesman for the Church……..
Schism can also be coupled with an apostasy from the teaching of the Church – as with heresies – but it need not be. There may be a separation which is not brought about by dogmatic differences. This is the case, for example, with the Orthodox Church……..the dogmatic distinction of “filioque” was more an excuse for the schism, which came about essentially for political reasons. This schism was a great evil, and the destruction of unity was a great catastrophe, which from a dogmatic standpoint was unnecessary. It was a pure evil.
In the case of the dogmatic differences of the Reformation, on the other hand, the dogmatic differences were decisive. This was an apostasy from the deposit of Faith: heresy, the greatest evil. [Heresy perverts the Truth, and leads souls astray. It's potential to wound the Church and destroy souls is enormous. Hence, it is the greatest evil.] Thus schism, the destruction of unity, was an unavoidable, indeed necessary consequence of the heresy. In this case, it was better that a schism occur than that the heretics remain within the Church and endanger the true belief of all the faithful. It was to the great merit of the Council of Trent that it clearly emphasized the heresy of the protestants, and that it saved the holy Church from inner disintegration. The great tragedy here lay in the heresy, and not in the schism which was connected with it………it would have been incomparably worse, if, for the sake of maintaining unity, one had compromised with the protestants, if one had blurred the dogmatic division, and had thus permitted a destructive poison to remain within the organism of the Church.
Unity is of great value, but only unity in truth………[but] fidelity to Divine Revelation, which is fidelity towards God, is infinitely more important than all unity……
…..It is a greater evil for a heretic to remain in the Church, however, than for the Church to become poorer by one member. It is better that he leave the Church, or be excluded from her by anathema or by excommunication. This is not only better from the standpoint of the Church and all the faithful, but also for the soul of the heretic, because he becomes more conscious of his apostasy from the true Faith, and can thereby possibly be brought to his senses. [In reality, excommunication is a work of great charity, which requires tremendous love to overcome all the worldly reasons not to administer this final attempt at the cure of a soul or souls. Such charity has been greatly lacking in the Church in the past several decades.]
Meekness leads to humility. Humility to charity. Charity to faith. Faith to truth, and salvation. We have lost meekness in the Church, and all the rest has followed inevitably in that loss.
It could perhaps be an interesting intellectual exercise to examine the SSPX situation in the light of the considerations given above. I’m not terribly interested in examining that myself, at least not publicly.
I leave it at that.