What Does “Church Unity” Mean?

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Considering the disunity of the Church in this age, one is tempted to ask what it means for the Church to be “one,” that is, united.

What is the Catholic Church’s claim to unity of Faith if you can go from parish to parish and hear radically different messages and teachings?

From Crisis Magazine, an answer:

Can popes, by their will alone, impose unity of belief on a body that doesn’t already possess it?

For, as of now, Catholics share a common set of institutions but not a common faith.

Such questions need to be asked. Some should have been asked long ago by our hierarchs; they avoid them because any real answers are going to be painful for all involved, and our bishops are nothing if not averse to unpleasantness. But they also help us to understand better why these Latin Mass communities that Francis thinks are divisive continue to grow despite such putative “divisiveness.”

And in this lies the strength of Latin Mass communities. One can reasonably assume that most people in a Latin Mass community are there because they believe the same things—i.e., all the things the Church, in principle, is supposed to believe. As with the liturgy, so it is in matters of faith: when you go to a Latin Mass community, you know what you are going to get, unlike your average parish. This must account for much of their attraction.

In other words, Latin Mass communities possess something like what the fourteenth-century Muslim writer Ibn Khaldun called “asabiyyah,” meaning something like “solidarity,” or “social cohesion.” Khaldun had a theory that history moved in cycles, and that when a kingdom or nation was ascendant, it possessed strong asabiyyah; but when it became urban and decadent, such solidarity was lost. When this occurred, more aggressive, tribal peoples from the hinterlands who still retained strong group cohesion took over the kingdom and started a new dynasty. His name has been in the news recently because of the disastrous withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and their defeat by the Taliban, after seemingly wiping them out twenty years ago. In this case, a modern, sophisticated army with vastly more resources was defeated by a ragtag group of soldiers, possessing little sophistication but a common set of beliefs and a strong sense of common identity.

It’s an outstanding article; give it a read.

Saint Pius X, ora pro nobis!