Some of you may see this title as snarky sarcasm. It’s not. I mean it sincerely. Cardinal Müller, former Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, recently gave an interview wherein he said that if the pope’s current Synod on Synodality is successful, it will result in the end of the Catholic Church as we know it.
I’m going to take it a step further and assume that Cardinal Müller is 100% right, because I think he is. Unless the pope dies (or resigns) in the near future, the Synod on Synodality will destroy the Catholic Church as we know it, by fracturing it, into no less than three smaller churches. One of those churches will be the Catholic Church, but it will not look the same as it does now. The split will result in three new juridic churches. The Germans will lead one faction that is favorable to Modernism. The SSPX will lead another faction that is favorable to Traditionalism. While a future pope, unknown to us today, will lead a third faction that will be the authentic Catholic Church. This is the Church the Africans and Asians, who now suffer persecution, will belong to. However, in the immediate years following this three-way schism, it may not be entirely clear who the real pope is, as it is possible that each faction may name their own. As for a timetable for this all to happen, I think within the next few years we should see it begin. As I said, in my opinion, the only thing that can stop it now would be the immediate death (or resignation) of Pope Francis, and his replacement by a much more conservative pope. Since that is unlikely, then schism is inevitable.
I do not fear the coming breakup of the Catholic Church. As a student of history, I know this sort of thing happens with regularity, approximately once every 500 years. Since 2017, we are now officially overdue. I also know that God uses these catastrophic breakups to work his will for good, and they are usually followed by tremendous missionary outreaches throughout the world, wherein the number of Catholics lost to schism is usually replaced entirely with new converts within a generation. So while most Catholics lament, with fear and loathing, the coming breakup of the Catholic Church, I am anticipating with hope and excitement the age of missionary outreach that will immediately follow. I just hope I live to see its fruit.
As for the German-led Catholic faction, while it may garner the following of most bishops and priests in the West, even producing its own antipope in the process, its days will be numbered. It will follow in the wake of the doomed Anglican Communion, wherein their antipope will simply become the equivalent of the Archbishop of Canterbury, a mere figurehead with no real power.
The SSPX-led Catholic faction will have a lot more staying power. It’s going to be with us for a very long time, perhaps centuries, and it will grow into what we might consider a schismatic form of Western Orthodoxy, comparable to the Eastern Orthodox of Constantinople and Moscow, but distinctively Western and Tridentine in appearance and doctrine.
The as yet unseen and future Roman Catholic Church, headed by an orthodox and holy pope, may appear somewhat small when it arises in the West sometime after Francis is gone. It will be backed, however, by the persecuted Church in Africa and Asia. Catholic bishops in Europe, with the exception of just a handful, will likely follow the German-led Catholic faction (and its antipope) into ruin. Europe will then become a prime missionary field. Catholic bishops in the New World (Americas) may likely have some difficulty discerning who the real pope is at first, but in time, it will become crystal clear. This new pope would do well to work toward reuniting the SSPX-led faction as quickly as possible, so as to prevent calcification into a new form of Western Orthodoxy. If he’s a good and holy pope, free of the German-led heretics, I’m sure he can pull it off, and I’m also sure the SSPX-led faction would be more willing to deal with him. Reunification might be possible.
By the time it’s all over, we can expect the following. The German-led faction will be most popular at first, then it will die a slow and agonizing death, merging parishes and dioceses until there is practically nothing left. To hide its failure, it will likely merge with the Protestants in some kind of ecumenical pact. This process will likely take decades, but its failure will be evident within the first few. The SSPX-led faction will either become a new form of Western Orthodoxy, or else it will begin reunification talks with Rome once the true pope is known. Its fate will be unclear until then. The future Catholic Church is currently hidden at this time, tucked within the bosom of the current Catholic Church, a larger shell that is rotting around it, and won’t likely last much longer. When it emerges, with the next true pope, it will start small but grow quickly. As a result it will become a missionary Church, focused heavily on evangelization where Christians are currently persecuted, and re-evangelization of both Europe and the Americas. It will be a glorious time of fantastic growth and revival. To reach this time, however, we must first go through the sad and regrettable passion of the current demolition of what remains of the old Catholic Church.
Don’t be discouraged though. Look forward to the other side of this sad time, with hope, knowing that by standing for what is right now, you will be part of the real Catholic Church that emerges after this current conflagration.