Is Catholicism a “Two-Party System?”


One of my favorite religion writers, Mark Silk, thinks so.

Here is a taste of his recent piece at Religion News Service:

Although Crux’s John Allen likes to pretend otherwise, Roman Catholicism is now clearly divided between the Party of Francis and the Party of Benedict. Not since the days of the Jesuits and the Jansenists has the Catholic elite — clerical and lay intellectual — been at daggers drawn as it is now.

Yesterday, the New York Times nicely encapsulated the partisan divide in profiling the two big Irish-American archbishops facing each other across the Hudson — Timothy Dolan of New York and Joseph Tobin of Newark. Can anyone doubt that by making one of the country’s most progressive bishops a cardinal and sending him into its dominant media market Francis wasn’t sending a shot across the bow of Benedictine conservatism?

On the other side, Pope Emeritus Benedict delivered a shot of his own Saturday in the form of a eulogy for the cardinal archbishop of Cologne, Joachim Meissner, who retired in 2014.

“We know that it was hard for him, the passionate shepherd and pastor of souls, to leave his office, and this precisely at a time when the Church had a pressing need for shepherds who would oppose the dictatorship of the zeitgeist, fully resolved to act and think from a faith standpoint,” Benedict wrote. “Yet I have been all the more impressed that in this last period of his life he learned to let go, and live increasingly from the conviction that the Lord does not leave his Church, even if at times the ship is almost filled to the point of shipwreck.”

Read the rest here.

2 thoughts on “Is Catholicism a “Two-Party System?”

  1. If my canonical transfer of rite to the Byzantine Catholic Church is rejected, I plan to defect to the Russian Orthodox Church.


  2. I agree with the essential premises of Silk’s article–that there are liberal and conservative wings of the Catholic Church, and currently the cultural conflict between the two is clearly apparent.

    But I think I disagree with the corollary assessment that we Catholics are at each other with daggers drawn.

    Historically in the Catholic Church there has always been tension between conservative and liberal impulses; in this globalizing age of internet communication, it has become easier than ever to track the conversation between clerics and laypersons. Perhaps Silk is overestimating the reality and impact of the problem, giving too much credit to the rhetoric of know-it-all bloggers and social media engines.


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