Circle of Prayer - Schism & Division
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Schism is the formal separation from the unity of the Church. It is marked by a rejection of the Pope's authority and refusal to communicate with faithful members of the Church. Schism (separation from the Church) differs from Heresy (denial of a truth of faith). Generally, however, Schism leads to heresy. Moreover, since the infallibility of the Pope is a truth of faith, schism virtually includes heresy, since schism involves rejection of papal authority.

Schismatic priests can say Mass validly, and their bishops can confirm and ordain. But they lose all their ordinary jurisdiction, including the power to absolve, excommunicate, and grant indulgences.

Formal schism is a grievous sin and those guilty of it are, by that very fact, excommunicated. However, those born and brought up in a schismatic faith are schismatics only in an improper sense (material schismatics), because they do not knowlingly cut themselves off from the true Church.

Eastern Schism

The Eastern Schism was the break in Christian Unity which resulted in the formation of what is known today as the Orthodox Eastern Church. The beginning of the break was traced to the year 857, when Ignatius, the Partiarch of Constantinople, was forced to resign, due to the machinations of Caesar Bardus, the emperor's uncle and guardian. Photius, a learned layman, was chosen to replace Ignatius; and was ordained and consecrated. He proved unacceptable to former partisans of Ignatius; and though two papal legates approved his election, the pope was led to reject their testimony.

Confirmed as Patriarch by a Council at Constantinople in 861, Photius began agitating against the Western Church, condemning celibacy and other usages of the Latins, and charging that the addition of the word "Filioque" to the Nicene Creed was heretical. He was deposed and anathematized in 869 by the Council of Constantinople, and Ignatius was was reinstated as Patriarch.

After the death of Ignatius, Photius re-assumed the patriarchate and was confirmed in this by a synod of 879-880. This Council reversed the decision of that of 869; and its findings were ratified by Pope John VIII. Studies in the early 20th century suggest that, contrary to the traditional accounts, Photius was reconciled with the Western Church and died in communion with Rome.

However, the attack he had made on the West during his period of schism was revived in 1053 by the Patriarch Michael Cerularius. Cerularius was excommunicated in 1054, but succeeded in withdrawing the Oriental bishops from communion with the West. This schism was followed by the separation of the Russo-Greek Church in the 12th century.

The Councils of Lyons (1274) and Florence (1439) brought about formal reunion for brief periods; but various historical events tended to widen the breach, and in 1472 the council of Constantinople formally separated. Many of the Eastern Catholics, however, remained faithful to the union effected by the Council of Florence; and in 1595 the Union of Brest brought over 10,000,000 Eastern schismatics, mostly Slavs, back into communion with the Church.

In July of 2001 the Vatican issued Guidelines for admission to the Eucharist between the Chaldean Church and the Assyrian Church of the East stating in the opening address:

"Given the great distress of many Chaldean and Assyrian faithful, in their motherland and in the diaspora, impeding for many of them a normal sacramental life according to their own tradition, and in the ecumenical context of the bilateral dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East, the request has been made to provide for admission to the Eucharist between the Chaldean Church and the Assyrian Church of the East."

"The request for admission to the Eucharist between the Chaldean Church and the Assyrian Church of the East is connected with the particular geographical and social situation in which their faithful are actually living. Due to various and sometimes dramatic circumstances, many Assyrian and Chaldean faithful left their motherlands and moved to the Middle East, Scandinavia, Western Europe, Australia and Northern America. As there cannot be a priest for every local community in such a widespread diaspora, numerous Chaldean and Assyrian faithful are confronted with a situation of pastoral necessity with regard to the administration of sacraments."

Western Schism

The western schism was a temporary conflict within the Church during the 14th and 15th centuries rather than a true schism and is also also known as The Great Schism. It was linked as the ambition of the French to re-establish the papal residence at Avignon in southern France and the determination of the Italians to keep it at Rome, where it had been established again by Gregory XI in 1370, after 65 years at Avignon.

In 1378 Urban VI, an Italian, was chosen to succeed Gregory, but three months after the election, the cardinals who had taken part in the election declared that they had been swayed by the riotously voiced preferences of the Roman people, and that the election of Urban had been invalid.

They thereupon elected Robert of Geneva who shortly afterward took up residence at Avignon. The conflict continued for 40 years, with Spain, Naples, Provence and Scotland supporting the Avignon popes, and the rest of Europe backing Urban and his successors. The schism was ended by the Council of Constance (1414-1418), which elected Martin V as pope. Both parties probably acted in good faith, but it is now believed that the Apostolic Succession was continued only in the Urbanist Popes.

The Reformation

This was a period of distastrous religious and political upheaval which swept Europe in the 16th century, cutting off millions of souls from communion with the Church, breaking the spiritual bond which had previously united the countries of Europe, and replacing the God-centred philosophy of the Catholic tradition with a selfish, naturalistic philosophy of man.

Among its causes were the weakening of papal authority due to the Great Western Schism, discussed above, and the conflict of the Popes with temporal monarchs; the growth of nationalism; the dissemination of various heretical doctrines, notably those of Catharism, Waldensianism, Hus and Wyclif; the indifferentism and sceptism which accompanied the Renaissance. These remote causes were implemented by the corruption, in Germany especially,  of both the hierarchy and the lower clergy; the greed and ambition of secular rulers; and a general decline of spiritual life.

The doctrinal reforms proposed by Luther, an Augustinian friar, in 1517 provided the spring which started a catastrophic series of reactions. The Elector of Saxony and other princes championed Luther's heresy and his theological "system" was soon established as a state religion. From Germany Lutheranism spread to the Scandinavian countries.

The uxorious but fickle Henry VIII, king of England, rejected the letter of Lutheranism, but was moved by its spirit when, to legitimate his aldultery, he led the English people into schism. Under his son, Edward VI, the Mass was abolished and formal heresy imposed.

Meanwhile, the German-speaking section of Switzerland was evangelised by Zwingli, an apostate priest; the French cantons and, to some extent, France itself, fell under the influence of Calvin, whose doctrine was compounded by Lutheranism and misinterpretations of Saint Augustine.

The correction of actual abuses within the Church, which was the only credible motive of the reformers, was finally undertaken by the work of the Council of Trent, 1545-1563, and the Counter Reformation

Counter Reformation

Also known as the Catholic Reformation, this movement came about to remedy the religious and moral decline which had contributed to the Protestant schism. The Council of Trent set up a vast programme to restore religious discipline, revive faith, and check the growth of heresy. It was the principal organ of the movement but significant reform activity began some years before the opening of the Council and continued for more than a century.

The Theatines, founded in 1524, helped to reform the secular clergy, and the pious example of Barnabites (1530) led to the reform of a number of Italian dioceses. The Jesuits (1538), another new order, became one of the most powerful adjuncts of the movement by their asstounding zeal and efficiency. Other important instruments were the Holy Office and the Index of Forbidden Books, instituted respectively in 1542 and 1543.

The general reform of religious life outlined by the Council of Trent was undertaken by Pius V (1566-1572) and Gregory XIII (1572-1583). Pius revived discipline, promoted the circulation and use of the Tridentine catechism. Gregory initiated an intensive seminary programme, revitilising existing institutions and founding a number of new ones, and inveighed against simony of benefices (the buying and selling of things essentially spiritual - indulgences, sacramentals etc. - the name of which is attributed to Simon of Magus, a magician, who tried to buy the gifts of the Holy Spirit from Saint Peter).

Both Popes contributed to the reform of the Liturgy. Pius reformed the breviary (1568) and issued a new missal (1570), and Gregory instituted the pre-vatican II liturgical calendar. The period of the Counter Reformation is usually considered to have ended about the middle of the 17th century, when the fervour which marked the epochs of the Council and of the reform popes had declined.

Christian Unity

The origin of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity is closely linked with the Second Vatican Council. It was Pope John XXIII's desire that the involvement of the Catholic Church in the contemporary ecumenical movement be one of the Council's chief concerns. Thus, on 5 June 1960, he established a "Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity" as one of the preparatory commissions for the Council, and appointed Cardinal Augustin Bea as its first President. This was the first time that the Holy See had set up an office to deal uniquely with ecumenical affairs. To see what is happening in this area read the Vatican Documents on Christian Unity.

While the cause of Christian Unity is applaudable, its journey to date is certainly questionable. The changes within the Catholic Church over the past 40 years have been so great as to leave one wondering if, in fact, Catholics have not been worshipping under a stealthy and hidden form of heresy.

The Truths and Teachings of Christ have been altered, omitted and distorted in Scriptures, with numerous modern translations; the Canon of the Mass - the Traditional Mass which had stood the test of time since the early seventh century, has been altered beyond recognition; the reverence and respect of the Eucharist has been demolished; the belief in the true presence of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ in the Eucharist has been weakened to the point of disbelief; and the numbers of Priests who no longer believe in Transubstantiation is disturbing.

In the name of Ecumenism, the Catholic Church is moving away from its Master's Legacy and the Apostolic Traditions and transforming itself into the very forms of worship and beliefs which gave rise to the heretical schisms in the first place. It's ironic that the Catholic Church, despite all of its scoundrels, scandals and misfits over almost two milennia, stayed firm to the true faith and doctrines passed down from Christ Himself through the Apostles, yet in the short space of just 40 years the foundations have almost crumbled as we move into an era of Protestantism within the Catholic Church itself.

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