Marquette University theologian Daniel Maguire had a letter published in The New York Times last week suggesting that the Catholic Church could soon go the way of Judaism and split into three branches: Orthodox, Reformed and Conservative. Margery Eagan reports on the story here at the CRUX website.
 
Maguire writes: “Catholicism is going the way of its parent, Judaism. In Judaism there are Reform as well as Conservative and Orthodox communities. This arrangement is not yet formalized in Catholicism, but the outlines of a similar broadening are in place.”
 
Maguire is a former Jesuit. He’s written numerous books supporting gay marriage, contraception, and even abortion rights. In 2006, Maguire published a pamphlet, A Catholic Defense of Same Sex Marriage. In it he declared, “We have no moral right to declare marriage off limits to persons whom God has made gay.”
 
In his letter to the New York Times Maguire comments on the pope’s recent annulment reform decision and continues, “While conservative and orthodox Catholics welcome “this annulment concession by the Vatican…reform Catholics don’t need it. Their consciences are their Vatican. Reform Catholics, whose numbers are swelling, are still bonded to the church but not to the Roman curia.”
 
I’m scratching my head over this one. I confess. I’m a convert and I guess I just don’t understand Catholicism very well even though I’ve been a Catholic now for over twenty years and a priest for ten.
 
How can someone who is considered an “eminent Catholic theologian” come up with such inane statements? Just what is a “reform Catholic” and in what way can it be said that he or she is Catholic at all if their “conscience is their Vatican”? I thought the definition of a Catholic was that they were in unity of heart and mind with the successor of Peter and the teaching of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. If a person’s “conscience is their Vatican” how is that different from being an Protestant?
 
I agree with Daniel Maguire that there are three perspectives within the Catholic Church. I could even put names and faces to his three groups of Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Catholics. The Orthodox are the traditionalists who love the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. The Conservatives are the Novus Ordo “Evangelical Catholics”. The Reform are the Nuns on the Bus, Spirit of Vatican II, “I’ll do it My Way” Catholics. 
 
We all know that these three groups exist within the Catholic Church, and that there is conflict among them. However, despite the conflict we still assert a core unity around the magisterium and authority of the Pope.
 
To break with this is to be in schism, and there is no sense Maguire saying that the Catholic church will “broaden into three categories.” It already has.
 
The Lefebvrists are in schism and there are a whole range of progressive “Catholic” denominations that have been founded. Daniel Maguire is an eminent theologian. Is he unaware that these groups already exist? Is he unaware that groups like this have existed for the last two thousand years? They are called “schisms.”
 
Furthermore, there are far more existing “Reform” schisms than “Orthodox” and there are no “Conservative” schisms. Maguire’s idea that there are three equal groupings in the Catholic Church is simply false. The “Reform” or progressive Catholics are the ones who have already formed a number of schisms.
 
What mystifies me is why people like Daniel Maguire remain in the Catholic Church at all. Other progressive Catholics have been much less hypocritical. Realizing that their views are contrary to Catholic teaching they have left to start their own churches.
 
Why do progressive Catholics stay in the Catholic Church when they could join the Worldwide Ecumenical Catholic Church of Christthe Ecumenical Catholic Diocese of America or the International Ecumenical Catholic ChurchThe Ecumenical Catholic Communion is also available, and of course the the Episcopal Church, Lutheran Church and virtually all the mainstream Protestant denominations offer intercommunion, married priests, gay marriage, women priests, abortion, contraception and all the things Daniel Maguire wishes for.
 
If he wants schism there are plenty of schisms to choose from.
 
Let’s be straight. There is no such thing as a Catholic schism. It’s a contradiction in terms.
 
There is “Catholic” which means “Universal Unity.”
 
And there is “schism” which is not Catholic.