Just for Catholics

Who is Guilty of Schism?

Question: Faith communities that have splintered off from the mother church claim the guidance of the Holy Spirit while reading and interpreting Scripture. There was a splinter, then splinters of the splinter - and thousands of smaller splinters through the centuries. The Holy Spirit is guiding them all in true interpretation? Nonsense! The Holy Spirit hasn't splintered.

Answer: It is not without justification that you point out the divisions and the divergent doctrines between the churches that are called Christian. It is a sad reminder of the sinfulness and weakness of the people of God. The fault for doctrinal disunity is not in the clarity of the Bible or the work of the Spirit. We must bear the responsibility for our errors and mistakes.

May I also point out in love that the Roman church is also a splinter from the old catholic church?

By the fifth century, the catholic church was ruled by five patriarchs; the bishop of Rome in the West, and the bishops of Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem in the East. Each patriarch had authority over the bishops in the respective geographic territory. The bishop of Rome was considered "first among equals" but he had no immediate jurisdiction over the Greek churches. From the early middle ages the Popes demanded more power but the Eastern patriarchs, especially the patriarchs of Constantinople, resisted Rome's ambitions. The rivalry between the two patriarchs came to a head in 1054 when Pope Leo IX and Patriarch Michael Cerularius excommunicated one other. The final blow on the relations between the Orthodox and Roman churches came during the Fourth Crusade (1202-1204) when the Latins sacked the city of Constantinople and committed atrocities that are too shameful to mention. The great schism was complete.

The Roman and Orthodox churches must bear the responsibility for the division among Catholics that is numerically greater that all the divisions between the Protestant churches. I am not by any means trying to justify the divisions among Protestants. I simply want to make you aware that when you use that kind of rhetoric against us, you are being willfully forgetful of the history and condition of your own church, like the pot calling the kettle black.

Do you remember the story of the adulteress? Everyone was eager to stone the poor woman. But Jesus cooled down their enthusiasm: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). They all left and went their way. Can you cast your stones to punish us for our sins of divisions, when you as a Catholic are also guilty of the same? Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 

Copyright Dr Joe Mizzi. Permission to copy and distribute this article without textual changes. < BACK TO Q&A