11 February 2021, The Tablet

America’s coming schism?


America’s coming schism?

President Joe Biden outside Holy Trinity church in Washington DC, after Mass
Photo: CNS/Reuters, Erin Scott

 

Can the bishops unite a Church that is increasingly addicted to its own polarisation, when they themselves are responsible for the bitter divisions between American Catholics? A US-based Italian theologian fears that the Biden presidency may accelerate the slide towards schism

The Catholic Church in the United States has been divided for some time now: a two-party political system has produced a two-party Church, with a solid majority of the bishops in favour of the Republican Party – even Donald Trump’s Republican Party. But now there is a risk of the US Church becoming even more divided – not one community with a variety of different cultures and spiritualities, sometimes in tension with each other, a “big tent”, but two distinct versions of Catholicism, each claiming orthodoxy and existing in a regime of mutual excommunication.

Thoughtful, conservative Christian writers and academics, longtime veterans of the “culture wars”, recognise that, on a political level, they have lost. They have concluded that the United States is no longer a Christian country – indeed, they see it as becoming increasingly hostile to traditional Christianity. But the Catholic “culture warriors” have not laid down their arms or resigned themselves to retreat.

The internal struggles of the Church and of the nation overlap. Trump lent his support to those who refuse to question the myth of the United States as a nation endowed with a special blessing, with a destiny inscribed in the divine plan. He received the support of many voters who oppose not only the Democratic Party but also any critical re-evaluation of this foundational American myth.

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