A leading scholar in the history of Christianity predicts that a widening chasm between the laity and leaders of the Catholic Church will lead to schism in the not too distant future. Diarmaid MacCulloch, a professor at Oxford, said that while the future of the Christian faith as a whole is bright, the Catholic Church should expect fracture. From Religion News Service:
MacCulloch said in an interview that "there are also many conflicts" within Christianity, "and these are particularly serious in the Roman Catholic church, which seems on the verge of a very great split over the Vatican's failure to listen to European Catholics." He predicted that Catholicism faces a division over attempts by popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI to "rewrite the story" of the 1962-1965 Second Vatican Council by portraying it as a "minor adjustment" in church governance, rather than as a "radical move to change the way authority is expressed."
"Conflict in religion is inevitable and usually healthy -- a religion without conflict is a religion that will die, and I see no sign of this with Christianity," MacCulloch said. "But the stance of the popes has produced an angry reaction among those who want to see the council continue. No other church in history has ever made all its clergy celibate. It's a peculiarity of the Western Latin church, and it looks increasingly unrealistic."
The Vatican's refusal to allow Roman Catholics to talk about married or female clergy was "not the reaction of a rational body," MacCulloch said.
Do you see schism on the horizon? Do you agree with MacCulloch’s assessment that Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI have tried to roll back Vatican II reforms? I wonder if Catholics unhappy with their church would go through the trouble of forming a new group, or simply join one of the many denominations that might fit their beliefs more closely?
Michael J. O’Loughlin
Note: An earlier version of this post was deleted unintentionally.