Why Is My Church Divided?
THE divisions within the Catholic Church are so visible that many sincere Catholics feel as did the apostle Paul, who wrote to the divided Corinthian Christians: “It is clear that there are serious differences among you. . . . Has Christ been split up?”—1 Corinthians 1:11, 13, The New Jerusalem Bible.
Many observant Catholics realize full well that Christianity should not be “split up.” Catholics, more than most other claimed Christians, are conscious of the oneness of the true Christian religion. They thought they were practicing such a united religion in the Catholic Church. They considered Protestantism to be a confused mix-up of contradictory religions. For them, the Catholic Church represented stability and, above all, unity. Now they are confused.
The Catholic Church is divided between left-wing progressives, right-wing traditionalists, and the Vatican II mainstream. Many left-wing liberal Catholics are preaching various liberation theologies that justify political revolution. Some have come very near to adopting a Marxist approach and are even justifying armed revolt. Yet, the Founder of Christianity told his disciples: “You do not belong to the world, because my choice of you has drawn you out of the world. . . . Mine is not a kingdom of this world.”—John 15:19; 18:36, NJB.
The traditionalists are defending man-made traditions and a Latin liturgy that does not go back to Bible times, since the language of primitive Christianity was Greek, not Latin. Furthermore, by their intolerance and their aggressiveness, are they not belying their claim to being Christians? Henri Fesquet, former religion columnist in the French daily Le Monde, wrote: “The exhibition of Christians [Catholics] lampooning each other and quarreling over places of worship is a counter-witness that can only backfire on them. Of what use is it to preach the light in the name of the Gospel if one’s acts belie one’s words?”
Jesus told the Pharisees: “For the sake of your tradition you have nullified God’s word.” (Matthew 15:6, The New American Bible) Many sincere Catholics feel the same way about modern-day traditionalists.
Both the progressives and the traditionalists (for opposite reasons) consider that the Vatican II council has produced a mass of wishy-washy mainstream Catholics. Authors Puyo and Van Eersel interviewed French Catholic philosopher Jean Guitton, member of the French Academy. They summed up his feelings as follows: “The Catholic Creed, the essence of the Church, is flying into contradictory pieces, the most zealous among the faithful are devoting themselves exclusively to politics, young Christians [Catholics] calmly make love before marriage, nobody knows how to apply the [Vatican] Council correctly, and God’s people are all at sea.”
Understandably, sincere Catholics are asking, ‘Why is my church divided?’ The answer is: Because not one of its various segments accepts the Bible as the one authentic authority for defining the position of true Christians on all matters. They are therefore divided by diverse theologies and interpretations of traditions.
What Can Sincere Catholics Do?
On one occasion in 1981, traditionalist Catholics broke up an ecumenical service being held in a Catholic church in Paris. Archbishop (now Cardinal) Lustiger of Paris told those who remained in the church after the disturbance: “We came here to request the gifts of the Spirit that reunite scattered sons. Instead, we have seen a mirror of the divisions among Christians, the specter of Babel.”
Babel was where God confused the language of those practicing false worship. (Genesis 11:1-9) Later, it was the site of the city of Babylon, the source of a confused pantheon of gods and goddesses. In the Bible it became a symbol of a worldwide religious system of confused religion. A Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament states: “Even as late as the first century A.D., [the apostle] John referred to the religious system, Babylon, as the ‘Mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth’ (Rev 17:5).”
Referring to this symbolic Babylon, or world empire of false religion, the Bible invites all sincere persons to act quickly, saying: “Depart from her, my people, for fear of sinning with her and sharing the plagues inflicted on her!”—Revelation 18:4, NAB.
Many sincere persons are leaving Christendom’s organized religions. For example, a formerly dyed-in-the-wool Catholic living in the French Alps spontaneously wrote the following to the French branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses: “In line with the 1,000-year-old tradition of the Catholic Church, I was baptized from birth into the Catholic faith. I was an active Catholic for some 50 years. Around 1980, I became convinced that the Catholic Church was wrong. I became demoralized and deeply shocked. I had many arguments with priests who were not respecting their vows. For several years I had heard about Jehovah’s Witnesses, mostly unfavorably. After a long period of reflection, I opened my door to them. They helped me to see that the Bible contains the answers to our questions. I also realized that after 50 years of active service within the Catholic Church, I knew nothing about the Bible, even though I possessed one. It was the Witnesses who helped me ‘discover’ the Bible.”
Ginette, who lives near Paris, was also a staunch Catholic. In fact, when her husband began studying the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses, she did all she could to prevent him, and she maintained her opposition for several years. What made her change? She writes: “I lost confidence. The church was no longer doing me any good. To start with, I arranged a face-to-face meeting between my priest and the Witnesses. But I soon saw that the priest was unable to answer their questions.” Ginette accepted a study of the Bible with the Witnesses. Now she and her husband are happily serving God within the united international family of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
If you are perplexed and distressed because of the divisions within your church, we invite you to seek further information from the Witness who supplied you with this magazine or write to the editors. Jehovah’s Witnesses will be happy to help you find a loving international family of Christians who are truly united in their worship of God.
[Blurb on page 11]
“Of what use is it to preach the light in the name of the Gospel if one’s acts belie one’s words?”—French daily Le Monde
[Blurb on page 12]
“We have seen a mirror of the divisions among Christians, the specter of Babel.”—Cardinal Lustiger of Paris