Will the Catholic Church Split?

In the recent Vatican notification criticizing Margaret Farley’s book Just Love, under the heading “General Problems,” the reader is warned that:

The author does not present a correct understanding of the role of the Church’s Magisterium as the teaching authority of the Bishops united with the Successor of Peter, which guides the Church’s ever deeper understanding of the Word of God as found in Holy Scripture and handed on faithfully in the Church’s living tradition. In addressing various moral issues, Sr. Farley either ignores the constant teaching of the Magisterium or, where it is occasionally mentioned, treats it as one opinion among others.

“[T]reats it as one opinion among others.” That’s a separate issue, of course, from whether, inJust Love, Farley arrives at conclusions that contradict official Catholic teaching. But taking the notification at face value, surely we may ask: is there any coherent opinion of the world in which official Catholic teaching on sexual ethics is not precisely one opinion among others? By any honest reckoning, that is in fact the state of things, no? One could certainly argue that the teaching of the magisterium (i.e. the pope and bishops) ought to be taken as authoritative. But in making that case, such a one would need to begin by acknowledging a range of opinions, of which official Catholic teaching is precisely one?

Well, you might think so. Such would seem to cohere with the approach advocated by David Gibson, writing for dotCommonweal that he will “settle for that deeper, broader, more satisfying—if crowded and complex and maddening—Common Ground, thanks.” Catholic Common Ground, the organization to which he links, has this as their mission statement:

The Catholic Common Ground Initiative, inspired by the call to be one in Christ, invites Catholics with differing views about critical issues in the Church to engage in prayerful dialogue for the sake of building up the communion of the Church.

– full analysis by Sarah Morice – Brubaker, at Religion Dispatches

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