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Secession, Schism, & Catholic Civil War

If you read nothing else today, make it Alan Jacobs’s review [1] of a new book: The War Before The War [2], by Andrew Delbanco. It is a historical account of the issue of fugitive slaves, and the lead-up to the Civil War. Alan texted me yesterday to say, “There aren’t many great works of scholarship, but this is one.”

In the review, Jacobs describes what it feels like to read Delbanco’s narrative of the struggle to figure out how to hold the Union together in the face of Southern slaveholders’ intransigence. The inevitability of a terrible war becomes manifest:

You read all this with a feeling of rising horror, and not just because of the physical and mental and spiritual suffering. You feel that horror also because it becomes increasingly difficult, as the story progresses, to imagine how the even the worst of the pain could have been avoided. Not one man, or woman, knew a prudent remedy.

If the North and the South could not live with each other — the North unwilling to accept slavery, and the South unwilling to give it up — why not divorce peacefully? Because abolitionists and their allies believed that the South could establish a slaveholding empire in the Americas. Jacobs:

Something like this seems to have been Abraham Lincoln’s view as well. It is disconcerting to see him write of fugitive slaves, as he did to a friend in 1855 [3], “I hate to see the poor creatures hunted down, and caught, and carried back to their stripes, and unrewarded toils; but I bite my lip and keep quiet.” Why keep quiet? Because Lincoln believed that over-assertive protests could lead to secession, and secession would lead to the consolidation rather than the elimination of slavery. That such evil would happen on the other side of a newly drawn national boundary would for Lincoln have been no comfort. Nor should it have been.

Delbanco’s book, according to Jacobs, draws a portrait of a nation in which there is no easy reconciliation of rival goods. It was good to seek to demolish slavery. It was good to seek to preserve the Union. What happens when you cannot have both, and when compromise is impossible? War, is what.


One of the most admirable features of this truly great book is the subtlety with which Delbanco considers his story’s applicability to our own moment. Throughout the narrative proper he remains silent about the implications—except to note that the consequences of slavery for America’s black people persist to this day. But at the end of the introduction he quotes a passage written by the historian Richard Hofstadter in 1968 about comity—consideration of others, mutual regard. “Comity exists in a society,” Hofstadter writes [4], when “one party or interest seeks the defeat of an opposing interest on matters of policy, but at the same time seeks to avoid crushing the the opposition, denying the legitimacy of its existence or its values, or inflicting upon it extreme and gratuitous humiliations beyond the substance of the gains that are being sought.” Comity is present when “the basic humanity of the opposition is not forgotten; civility is not abandoned; the sense that a community life must be carried on after the acerbic issues of the moment have been fought over and won is seldom very far out of mind; an awareness that the opposition will someday be the government is always present.”

But how can one tell whether comity is present in one’s own society? “The reality and the value of comity can best be appreciated when we contemplate a society in which it is almost completely lacking.” The War Before the War describes how the United States of America, in the period between the composing of the Constitution and the outbreak of civil war, became such a society. And this happened not only because of wicked people who supported a wicked system—though Lord knows there were plenty of those—but also because so many Americans lost the ability to see the moral legitimacy of any proposed remedy of that wickedness other than the one they themselves embraced.

Read the whole review.  [1]

I find myself thinking this morning of this philosophical dilemma with regard to the mounting crisis within the Roman Catholic Church. Why? Because I read Alan’s review immediately after I read this superlative Anthony Esolen jeremiad about bad modern liturgy and worship aesthetics. [5] Esolen is an orthodox Catholic and an exquisite ranter (I mean that as a sincere compliment; I share his views on liturgy). Excerpts:

Christ did come down to us in the sacrament. That was why I was there: to hear the gospel and to receive the Lord. Yet everything about this Mass made it as difficult as it possibly could have been for me to do those things. The building, the lack of art, the lousy songs, the showboating pianist and soprano, the do-nothing servers in their jammies, the replacement of the Nicene Creed with the Apostles’ Creed, the meet-and-greet, the repression of kneeling, the absent tabernacle, the Catholic Jacuzzi babbling all the while, and the applause at the conclusion of the recessional—everything said, loud and clear, “We are having fun, and this is how we like it.”


“By their fruits ye shall know them,” said Jesus; fifty years is long enough for us to pass a fair judgment. Sacrosanctum Concilium is an orthodox document. But I wonder if it would have done better to have said, “Let the Mass be said sometimes in the vernacular, let there be three readings from Scripture for Sunday Masses, and let most of the priest’s prayers be said aloud.” This would have required no concession to modernist iconoclasm. Instead, we have endured fifty years of lousy church buildings, lousy music, lousy art, banal language, lousy schooling, dead and dying religious orders, and an unfaithful faithful whose imaginations are formed more by Hollywood than by the Holy One. We have been stuck in cultural and ecclesial neutral, i.e., rolling backward and downhill, or neuter, effete and infertile.

There is only one thing to do: for the future of the Church, we must build again, drawing on those cultural accomplishments that are timeless, in the service of Christ, who is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow, in saecula saeculorum.

Read it all.  [5]

Now, let me be clear: chattel slavery is not the same thing as theological and liturgical disputation. Nor are conflicts that go on within a Church, and that have to do with its fundamental nature and integrity, on the same plane as things that happen within a political entity, e.g., a nation. But philosophically, there is an analogy to be discerned.

There has been an undeclared civil war within the Catholic Church for the past 50 years. I suspect that most ordinary Catholics are only dimly aware of it, but those who are engaged with church affairs certainly see it. I hardly need to go into detail about it in this space. You could say that it’s about theological “liberals” versus theological “conservatives,” but the political connotations those terms carry do not do justice to the depth and seriousness of the conflicting visions. Still, I will use them here as useful shorthand.

John Paul II and Benedict XVI frustrated many conservatives by tolerating too much liberalism within the Church. I heard it explained many times that despite their personal convictions, those pontiffs did not want to disturb the unity of the Catholic Church. It is also clearly the case that BXVI believed that he was more of a figurehead than a power-wielder.

The progressive papacy of Francis has accelerated the contradictions within the institutional Church, in part because Francis appears to be attempting to do things with doctrine (Amoris Laetitia) that some conservatives believe he cannot do. Even so, were BXVI still on the Petrine throne, there’s no doubt that the mass that so upset Anthony Esolen would still have occurred. As a Catholic, I attended more than a few masses like that. That is not Pope Francis’s fault. That is what American Catholicism is like in many places.

Why do I bring it up in connection with the Delbanco book? Because the Delbanco story, as related by Jacobs, makes me wonder if there is any valid way to resolve the conflict within Catholicism. To Catholics (and Orthodox), schism is an evil. Yet it is not the ultimate evil. The ultimate evil is apostasy. My understanding is that John Paul II wanted to keep the Catholic Church together, and hope that over time, orthodoxy would outlast and defeat heterodoxy. You might think of him as an Abraham Lincoln figure: someone who hates what his opponents are doing, but believes the greater evil would be schism.

In the case of the antebellum US, there was a cost to prizing unity. Jacobs, in his review, notes that real people (slaves) suffered real evil because Lincoln believed that the greater good required tolerating their captivity for the time being. But, as Jacobs says, Lincoln’s position was reasonable at the time. So too was John Paul’s belief, in his own time and set of circumstances.

After all, to extend the analogy, one of the evils of schism is that the schismatic church would compete against the authentic church, and perhaps lead many souls to hell. There is no guarantee that the authentic church would prevail in the world. Remember that at one point in the history of the Church, most of the Christian world was Arian. Christian orthodoxy had to fight back hard to retake the Church. Schism may be necessary, but only as a last resort. 

If schism is never defensible, then Unity is more important than Truth. If that is the case, then a Church that believes that really only stands for itself, not for God. Or, the God for whom it stands as exclusive agent is nothing more than a projection of Ourselves. Not every expression of heresy requires a smackdown — prudential judgment is required — but if no expression of heresy ever requires a smackdown, then you are saying, by clear implication, that it doesn’t really matter what one believes. That nothing matters. A church that stands for nothing will not stand for long.

So, the question: At what point is schism, as bad as it is, preferable to preserving a wholly untenable status quo? 

In his review, Jacobs quotes Richard Hofstadter on “comity,” saying that it entails “the sense that a community life must be carried on after the acerbic issues of the moment have been fought over and won is seldom very far out of mind.” I suppose that a tipping point could be when one or both parties becomes convinced that the “acerbic issues of the moment” threaten the core integrity, even the existence, of the community. That is, when the Other Side’s presence within the community can no longer be tolerated, because that presence is believed to destroy the community itself.

Yesterday I wrote about a Catholic reader, a new convert who suffered greatly for having converted, who was deeply scandalized by a priest holding open communion. [6] Open communion may not seem like a big deal to people in Protestant churches that practice it, but for Catholics (and Orthodox), it is a massively important issue. It has to do with the meaning of the Eucharist, the cornerstone of the Church, and therefore with the core identity of the Church. It is not one of those things on which good Catholics can agree to disagree. And yet, Pope Francis himself once hemmed and hawed and appeared to give implicit permission to Protestants to receive Catholic communion. [7]

Schism is to the Catholic Church what secession was to the American republic. Delbanco’s book indicates that eventually, secession was inevitable, because the differences between North and South could no longer be contained within the structure of the Republic. Nobody thinks that today, if schism came to the Catholic Church, that the Catholic parties would take up arms against each other. The “war” would manifest in non-violent ways — but make no doubt, it would indeed be a war. One can certainly sympathize with those who seek to avoid this terrible fate.

How are they going to do it, though? And what would be the triggers by which one or both parties determined that schism was the worst fate, except for apostasy — which could only be avoided by schism?

I’m not asking rhetorically. I really would like to know.

UPDATE: A reader writes:

I loved your piece on schism/civil war in the Catholic Church, but I have to address an error in its premise.

Schism, to Catholics, is not merely ecclesial division, no matter how definitive. It consists primarily of refusing to submit to the Roman pontiff. In other words, there is no circumstance in which schism would be a valid choice.

The question you posed — how to determine the point at which schism is necessary to avoid apostasy — is therefore incoherent, from a Catholic standpoint. A faithful Catholic is *obliged* to submit to the authority of the pope, no matter how corrupt or immoral his actions or how heterodox his ideas *because he is the pope*. There is no allowance in Church law for a valid rebellion; his authority is absolute and inviolable by virtue of his holding the office. Thus, any faction of Catholics who embraced schism for the sake of “avoiding apostasy” would be cutting themselves off from the Body of Christ as surely as if they had rejected the faith outright.

Hence, from a Catholic perspective, it is impossible to consider schism as a viable alternative to apostasy. For the faithful Catholic, who believes the papacy was instituted by Christ himself and imbued with the authority to teach and legislate in his name, the only alternative to both is remaining faithful to the doctrines of the Church and maintaing communion with the Pope.

So what does one do if the Pope is a charlatan? A hedonist? A tyrant? All of the above? Simple: live the Catholic life, receive the sacraments, evangelize, and pray continually and fervently for him — because no matter what he does, he is the successor of Peter.

I suspect that, by “schism,” you mean division between opposing factions who each claim legitimacy, and what you’re asking is whether there’s a point at which Catholic “conservatives” and “liberals” might seek to “save” the Church by excluding the other from the life of the Church. I think that is a discussion worth considering, because it may well be under way. By framing it in terms of schism, however, it becomes a nonstarter for a Catholic.

Thanks for that. Let me stipulate that I don’t think schism is likely in the Catholic Church. The Church, as I said, is not the same thing as a State. It’s just that I wonder what the breaking point would be, as a thought experiment.

For example, what if Pope Francis pushed farther than what a substantial number of Trads thought was permissible, and they judged that he was in heresy — thus no longer the pope? Or, what if Francis is succeeded by Pope Lenny, an arch-traditionalist, who begins swiftly reversing Francis’s initiatives, and cracks down on progressive Catholic institutions and initiatives? At what point would Spirit Of Vatican II Catholics decide that the Trads had broken with the Church, and split?

Again, it’s unlikely to happen, but my view is that it’s important to think about these things now, if only to figure out how to stop the ball rolling once it starts. I think it’s risky to say “it could never happen.” We are in uncharted waters in the Western world, with regard to religious belief.

77 Comments (Open | Close)

77 Comments To "Secession, Schism, & Catholic Civil War"

#1 Comment By Kevin Davis On November 27, 2018 @ 8:56 pm

Geoff: “The liberals outnumber the conservatives so the liberals are going to win if you force a winner.”

That’s true for the West, but the West is not the future of the Catholic Church. Africa is the future of the Catholic Church. In terms of weekly mass-going Catholics worldwide, liberals do not outnumber conservatives — certainly not when Africa is factored into the numbers. The Francis papacy is the last gasp, the dying breath of baby boomer Western Catholicism. That is why he has hitched himself to the Germans, Dutch, liberal Americans, liberationist Latin Americans, jesuitical Jesuits, and the rest of the dying Western Church. Once the Africans run the Roman Curia, which will eventually happen (demographics is destiny), then Rome will be Rome again. We’ll have a pope with a spine, and he’ll be black.

#2 Comment By Oakinhouston On November 27, 2018 @ 9:00 pm

@Moone Boy

““Yet some Catholics and Protestants wage war in Northern Ireland…”

I know this misconception is common in the US: but the two communities in Northern Ireland were not fighting over theology – it’s a national/colonial and civil rights conflict, where religion was the group identifier by historical accident”

As accurate as this description is, my recently passed away, Northern Ireland, low church Anglican, sweet,, cake baking, generous, mother in law hated Catholics with such passion that she died without knowing that, under my corrupting influence, her dear son not only had been inside a Catholic Church (*) but once sat through a complete Mass.

And we still haven’t told my father in law either. That would be too much for him.

(*) Before he met me, he had never walked inside a Catholic church. It took me three years before I got him into one, and that was only to look at the tomb of the Cathoic Kings in Granada.

#3 Comment By JEinCA On November 27, 2018 @ 10:06 pm

Rod My Orthodox Brother,

It’s not just the Roman Church looking at the prospects of a “Civil War” and Schism but that is precisely what is happening in the “Orthodox World” right now as the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has decided to elevate his position in the Church from “First Among Equals” to claiming a position of Primacy over all other Orthodox Bishops and Seas. Bartholomew did this when he single handedly decided to create an “Autocephalous” Church in Ukraine under his authority and breaking with all Orthodox precedent before him de-anethematized those Ukrainian Nationalist Schismatic Leaders who’d been rightfully defrocked by the Canonical Orthodox Church under the Patriarch of Moscow. Unlike in the Roman Church a “Civil War” and Schism in the Orthodox World will be bloody and already is bloody in the Ukraine where leaders of the Nationalist Schismatics (like Filaret Denisenko) have led Ultra Nationalist mobs in violent takeovers of Canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Churches with law enforcement authorities standing aside and watching. Blood has already been shed in Ukraine and what Bartholomew has done can only bring more bloodshed if not an outright shooting civil war across much of Ukraine(like the war in Donbass only worse because it will be neighbors and relatives fighting each other).

The Schism has already happened between Constantinople and Moscow and I think will soon tear the Orthodox World in two, but as we know only one side of the two will be truly Orthodox and that won’t be Constantinople or those in communion with Bartholomew.

#4 Comment By David J. White On November 27, 2018 @ 10:39 pm

And then tell me how many in the pews know the difference between the two creeds. Or would recognize the Mass they attend in his description.

Well, I definitely recognize the Mass Esolen describes; I’ve been to many very much like it.

In fact, I used to be the cantor up front bellowing into the microphone. (Thomas Day, in his wonderful book Why Catholics Can’t Sing, calls this figure “Mr. Caruso;” Esolen’s “Beverly Sills” makes the same point.)

As Day remarks, the surest way to discourage the congregation from singing is to have one amplified voice drowning everyone out. I’ve been trying to do penance for that ever since. 😉

#5 Comment By cka2nd On November 27, 2018 @ 10:39 pm

William M. says: “Specifically, he visits an area where warfare between Catholics and Muslims is the national sport. While there, being the progressive Jesuit that he is, [Francis] places all of the blame on the Catholics, in rather strong terms. Possibly even threatens to excommunicate them.”

I really can’t see Francis placing all of the blame on the Catholics, especially seeing as how Africa appears to be the only continent on which the Church is growing.

#6 Comment By David J. White On November 27, 2018 @ 10:41 pm

An addendum to my previous comment about Archbishop Lefevre: Yes, I know that he and the bishops he consecrated without permission were excommunicated (though those excommunications were later lifted); but I don’t think the priests they ordained were ever excommunicated, and the laity who attend their Masses certainly are not.

#7 Comment By Ted On November 28, 2018 @ 7:56 am

Richard Ranger: sorry for the misunderstanding. I read a lot of these blogs at work between tasks and sometimes I miss what people are saying.

David J. White: “And, for the record, I quite agree with you about some of my fellow trads. Some of them can be very hard to take. A dose of humility would do us a lot of good.”

THAT’s the nub, and it was what Richard Ranger was getting as well. Spiritual pride. I go for cheap laughs as to the way many trads dress, but that’s shorthand for what’s really unpleasant about them: their air of superiority. If you really think you’re “saved”, I feel like yelling, go to the evangelicals!

#8 Comment By Chris On November 28, 2018 @ 8:35 am

“…but with a dispensation that the former Orthodox may continue to use their eastern liturgy and not have to express explicitly troublesome teachings (notably the filioque), only affirm them implicitly.”

Implicitly? At my Ruthenian Byzantine Catholic parish we openly profess the Orthodox Nicene Creed sans filioque at every Divine Liturgy. It is clearly printed in our liturgy books.

Ukrainian Catholics suffered terribly under Stalin during World War II as he systematically starved them in attempting to force them back into the State Orthodox Church. They truly paid the price for their faith which they clung to and refused to abandon. I am fully aware that Orthodox Christians endured their own trials under Stalin but the use of the term “submission” in connection with Eastern Catholicism rings hollow.

Eastern Catholics need make no apology for who they are.

#9 Comment By JonF On November 28, 2018 @ 8:53 am

I believe that Bartholomew has been most unwise in the Ukraine business, but the dispute is entirely political not involving doctrine. There have been other such schisms in Orthodoxy, e.g., one over the Bulgarian patriarchate. This doesn’t even rise to the level of the Old Believer schism. Both Moscow and Covstantinople are still quite validly Orthodox even if one patriarch is an arrogant fool and the other a government stooge. The rest of us should be praying for them, not choosing sides.

#10 Comment By Patrick On November 28, 2018 @ 9:02 am

“the biggest political grouping of Catholics…apathetic cultural Catholics who believe in God, but don’t want to hear lectures about birth control _or_ letting refugees in.”

This has been my experience as well, and we’re talking like 80% of the American Catholic Church. Heck, I know Mass- attending Catholics who still wouldn’t recognize the name “McCarrick”.

In my experience a lot of the “rank and file” Catholics don’t give much of a hoot about any scandal and don’t follow what the Pope is doing – it is only the hardcore people, left and right, who are both media-addicts, who follow any of this.

#11 Comment By JonF On November 28, 2018 @ 9:05 am

Rusty, the Old Believer schism in Russia was healed in our lifetime, though efforts at complete reinion are still ongoing.
Also, there were multiple schisms between East and West in the first millennium which were healed over before the later rupture.

GTT, you are citing some alternate reality history apparently. In this world the Anerican Founders rejected a right to secession in both the original Articles of Confederation and the Constitution. In the latter case a secessionist clause was proposed by (who else?) South Carolins and voted down.
It is a fundamental principle of contracts that they cannot be abrogated unilaterally, except insofar as they contain an explicit procedure for so doing, something lacking on our Constitution.

#12 Comment By ginger On November 28, 2018 @ 9:54 am

“Once the Africans run the Roman Curia, which will eventually happen (demographics is destiny), then Rome will be Rome again. We’ll have a pope with a spine, and he’ll be black.”

And we may also have a pope with a high tolerance for abuses of all sorts (including those committed by clergy). When you have African cardinals telling women they need to stay with husbands who beat them because that’s where God put them–and no other cardinals come out to rebuke them for it–you know there are some serious issues in the African episcopacy.


“To the mothers, he reminded them that they are the image of the love of God and that they should let their families be illuminated by this love.

“Stay in your families as your actions reflect the humanity that God gave you. Note that things will never be smooth all the way: sometimes you will even be beaten by the spouses but stay there knowing that you did not send yourself but rather, it was God’s Plan.”

There are stirrings that indicate the lid might be about to blow off the sexual abuse crisis in the African Church, too. Time will tell, but if the truth actually does start coming out, it won’t be pretty.

[NFR: A Vatican source of mine in a position to know said that yes, they know in Rome that when the lid comes off of Africa, it’s going to be a nightmare. Some in the Curia are preparing themselves for it. — RD]

#13 Comment By Stabat Mater On November 28, 2018 @ 10:16 am

David J White:
Trads and other conservatives are getting a greater share of the religious vocations in proportion to their numbers—but those numbers are a very small percentage of all those who identify as Catholic.

Trads are also the ones making babies and sacrificing to make certain their kids are well formed and properly catechised. We might not see the fruit of our labors in our own lifetime, but that has never been the end game.

From generation unto generation…

My kids at ages 6 & 11 dragged me to a worthy liturgy. I can’t wait to tell my grandchildren the story.

And one of the fundamental conflicts is the Novus tells us to go to Mass for ourselves, personal development, societal contribution, fellowship (holding hands & kissing neighbors)- anthropocentric. In contrast the traditional liturgy is an act of justice, developing the virtue of religion in us, as the simple matter/act that the liturgy is what is owed to God. Modernists choke on this simple fact every time: It’s NOT about us and it never has been!

And I totally understand the turn off of trad psycho drama. I deal with it regularly. The fight has made many crazy. Personal sanctity has to be a part of total spiritual development in tandem with the Mass.
But unbalanced members have always been a part of the Body of Christ, and these are certainly trying to make sense of it all having never experienced authentic Catholic culture within their own lifetime.

#14 Comment By Ted On November 28, 2018 @ 10:35 am

Ginger [and Rod]: Soooo…we have during the ’90s and naughties a church that was suppurating with homosexual networks that actively undermined the magisterium, a church growing in geographies that have decidedly different cultural and sexual norms that what until two years ago was expected in the West, a church with a dumbed down liturgy that offered open season to heresy…and we still think JPII was the Lincoln de nos jours? Still, World Youth Day…sigh…

I guess the answer is, what could he have done? And the answer is, I don’t know, but he did nothing, except to elevate the likes of Uncle Ted to the College. I’m not buying the great man business. A champion narcissist and destructive force, I remain convinced.

#15 Comment By ginger On November 28, 2018 @ 11:06 am

“A champion narcissist and destructive force, I remain convinced.”

The more information that comes out, the more comical it is that there was a rush to call St. JPII “the great.” I honestly wonder how parents can stomach sending their kids to institutions with such a name. But I haven’t heard any of these schools and other institutions closing, which tells me that you and I are still very much in the minority.

The vast majority of Catholics still seem to love the saint. Perhaps he and St. Joseph Calasanz are hanging out together in the heavenly choirs. Certainly the actions of both qualify them as patron saints of clerical cover-uppers and molesters.

#16 Comment By Kevin Davis On November 28, 2018 @ 11:21 am

Thanks, Ginger, for a reminder of the problems in the Church in Africa. A friend of mine who immigrated here from Africa describes herself as a feminist in the African context, because she has a full time, well-paying job, college degree, and a husband who won’t beat her or think he can have sex with her at any time he wants. For her, that’s feminism. But in the American context, she would never describe herself as a feminist — because her traditional views, both cultural and religious, are so far from mainstream feminism in the West that feminists here would hardly recognize her as a feminist. And like my other friends from Africa, the whole LGBT thing is utterly foreign — not that they are unaware of gay people but the whole intransigent ideology that goes with “LGBTQ+” is foreign. They have to explain to their family back home what “gender identity” is.

#17 Comment By pbnelson On November 28, 2018 @ 11:55 am


cka2nd says: November 27, 2018 at 6:06 pm… I would argue that the term “wage slavery” deserves to make a comeback, given the level of control demanded by bosses and owners over the last 40 years of economic restructuring in the First World, shock therapy in the Second, and the spread of labor-intensive sweatshops in the Third.

I couldn’t agree more! I actually used the term, “wage slave” in a recent post here referring to the status of priests relative to their bishops.

I’d say “Wage slave” pretty much describes most of us these days. Rod’s occassional posts about HR Directors demanding submission to some new SJW project illuminate one facet of the phenomenon. Employment-based healthcare is another. I’m amazed at the depth of loathing this life-long “conservative” has come to feel for “Corporate America” in my middle age.

All of which helps make my point regarding the “civil war”. As modern wage-slavery predominates in the North, the South, the Third-World and every thing in between I think we can confidently say, with the benefit of hindsight, that killing 640000 Americans to eradicate chattel-slavery was a waste of life*. It was being supplanted by wage-slavery anyway. Which is not to say that wage-slavery is at all acceptable, only that the accursed “civil war”, far from eradicating slavery, actually hastened its transformation into a new form.

* Or would have been if that were actually why the war was fought.

p.s. As for “The Southern Empire” invading Central America and Cuba, etc.? You will recall that “The American Empire” actually did do so, circa 1890’s-1920’s, in the Spanish-American war, Banana Wars, Nicaragua, Haiti, et. al. We didn’t introduce actual chattel-slavery, but wage-slavery sounds about right doesn’t it?

p.p.s. This is a pretty deep rabbit-hole from the intended “Catholic schism” topic. Sorry about that.

#18 Comment By David J. White On November 28, 2018 @ 1:51 pm

In my experience a lot of the “rank and file” Catholics don’t give much of a hoot about any scandal and don’t follow what the Pope is doing – it is only the hardcore people, left and right, who are both media-addicts, who follow any of this.

I think that’s been the case for a long time. There’s a story about when Al Smith was running for president in 1928. He was the first Catholic major-party candidate, and he faced a real gauntlet of anti-Catholic feeling–far more than JFK did a generation later. An article was written citing Catholic doctrine, including some papal encyclicals, to show that a Catholic could never be trusted to be president. When confronted with this, Smith is supposed to have remarked, “What the hell is an encyclical?”

Actually, for centuries the Catholic rank and file probably went about their business and practiced their faith with only the faintest notion, if any, of what the pope said or even who the current pope was. Sometimes I wish we could get back to those days. I have long suspected that the election of Francis was the Holy Spirit’s way of telling us to knock off the rampant papalatry that has mushroomed over the past century or so.

#19 Comment By charles cosimano On November 28, 2018 @ 2:07 pm

[NFR: A Vatican source of mine in a position to know said that yes, they know in Rome that when the lid comes off of Africa, it’s going to be a nightmare. Some in the Curia are preparing themselves for it. — RD]

I would guess that they are hoping that the explosion will be muted by the fact that it is in Africa and no one in West cares very much about anything that happens in Africa. It will, however, make electing an African the next Pope very unlikely because then it would blow up the whole Church.

#20 Comment By joshua On November 28, 2018 @ 4:39 pm

In response to your reader it wouldn’t be impossible because Benedict is still alive and could reasonable argue that he claim’s secession from Paul. Besides it’s happened before that two Pope’s claimed supremacy, ironically enough one of them was a Benedict also.


#21 Comment By David L. Gray On November 28, 2018 @ 5:46 pm

Thank you for this paper and use of the lead up to the Civil War as a type of analogy of what’s going on in the Catholic Church today. You make a very vital point that there is no middle ground at this point. JPII and Benedict XVI tried to create the illusion of one, but it was only just an illusion.

#22 Comment By TR On November 28, 2018 @ 7:54 pm

General DeGaulle insisted that the Pope remove a number of Vichy bishops after WWII. Pius negotiated and they compromised on a smaller number. Bishop Williamson may be an outlier in his holocaust denial, but Archbishop LeFebrve’s group specifically objects to Vatican II’s new take on Judaism.

#23 Comment By Jon In Maine On November 29, 2018 @ 7:33 am

On Nov. 27 8:41PM Old West says “How Catholics worship ultimately *does not matter* in Catholicism. They are merely matters of personal preference and aesthetics.”

It actually matters quite a bit. How you worship is how you believe and always has even predating Christianity – for ancient Israel Temple worship was mandated by God down to the last detail. As Catholics the Mass is the re-presentation of the one sacrifice of Christ on the Cross for our salvation with the consecration of bread and wine to be the actual Body and Blood of our Lord. The banal liturgy only exists because most Catholics don’t really believe this are are de facto Protestants or MTD’s.

#24 Comment By John Michaels On November 29, 2018 @ 9:48 am

Rod, you should look to how the Orthodox Church handles Modernism, Ecumenism, and the general decay of the Church Hierarchy beginning in the early 20th Century. What is called a “schismatic” group, the Old Calendarists, remained Orthdodox while the vast majority of the “official” Hierarchy violated countless canons and dogmas and led the laity into a Modernist Ecumenistic heresy. The “small flock” preserved Holy Tradition and flourishes today, albeit in smaller numbers than the canon flaunting “canonical” church. See the paper Fr. Maximos Marretta presented at the University of Chicago in 2007: [11]

#25 Comment By JonF On November 29, 2018 @ 1:19 pm

John Michaels, Apart from some leniency regarding admitting Ethiopians to Communion, I’m not aware of any squishiness in the major Orthodox churches when it comes to intercommunion or indeed retaining core doctrine, including on the filioque. The boogeyman of ecumenism is a way that schismatic groups justify their schisms, not unlike the insistence of the Old Believers that they and only they practiced the dogmatic way of crossing oneself. Just behaving cordially toward others one disagrees with is not a heresy, nor is working together on secular matters of common interest. Orthodoxy ought be a shinning light on high, not a guttering lamp hidden under a bushel living in fear of everything else.

#26 Comment By Marius On November 29, 2018 @ 2:21 pm

As a liberal atheist, I have to quite seriously ask: Why does architecture always get brought up? It’s something I see a fair amount on culturally conservative blogs/sites and it’s very puzzling to me.

#27 Comment By craig On November 29, 2018 @ 5:45 pm

Marius says: “As a liberal atheist, I have to quite seriously ask: Why does architecture always get brought up? It’s something I see a fair amount on culturally conservative blogs/sites and it’s very puzzling to me.”

That’s like someone with low libido asking why sex is an issue in marriage. The larger question is, what do human relationships look like in physical expression?

Architecture (like other sensory creations such as music and ritual) shapes and expresses human perceptions, priorities, aspirations, interpersonal relationships, and so on. It does this both at the individual level and at the societal level. There is a qualitative difference between societies where the largest/tallest/costliest structures belong to churches, market halls, agencies of state, banks, or stadiums. (Allowances can be made for purely functional size requirements, e.g. for factories or airports. But the point merely underscores how all architectural elements beyond minimum functionality are intrinsically expressive of something.)