The battle lines that are being talked about between the liberals in the Church and those who are conservative and openly loyal to the Holy Father seem at first to be very plausible. There can be no doubt that rupture in the Church is forged by those with their own agenda and that agenda is not Christ centred or Petrine. I just have a small problem with defining these liberals as the enemy. Whilst my sympathies do not lie near them (I’ve seen them wreck too many schools and as a result too many children’s notion of the Faith to even like them), I do feel it is unhelpful to point a wagging finger at them and say they are the root of all that is wrong with the Church.
This can’t be good for the Church. It is all too black and white, good versus evil, them against us. Whilst I do not doubt that there are some seemingly within the body of the Church who are hell bent on destroying it, playing out some real life “Lord of the Rings” with our fellow Catholics is wrong.
I offer a humble solution below. Look to the Apocalypse (chapters 2 & 3). The beginning of Revelation concerns the Seven Churches of Asia, the members of the Body of Christ. John is made aware of all the possible sources of rupture that could exist within this body. Forget the liberal/conservative split, look here for guidance, it offers a salutary lesson that we must look, each and every one of us, to our own failings and possible causes for rupture.
Ephesus: A righteous church, but Christ warns John that “they may have less love now than formerly”, I see the most startling parallel with our own conservative brethren here. It is a trap we can all fall into.
Smyrna: A persecuted Church. Hammered by the devil, great saints will be forged here, but isn’t it worth remembering that where persecution is greatest, there are also great opportunities for harm to be done, a persecuted church is asking that all its members behave like saints here on earth. Would not anger, hatred and a desire for vengeance swell in my heart if I were a Catholic in Iraq, the Holy Land or China?
Pergamum: This resembles the Church today in the affluent west. Many openly flouting the laws of the Church yet calling themselves Catholics. Real repentance is called for from all of us, no matter how small our transgressions are. For those of us of a conservative mind set, are we not guilty of the sin of omission, for not shouting out loudly enough what the Church stands for in such a way that others will hear and take note.
Thyatira: A persevering Church, a grade A for effort but only a D+ on sound teaching and theology. A church openly welcoming false prophets and possibly New Age “spirituality”.
Sardis: The sleeping church. Aaaargh, I know this one too well!
Philadelphia: A conservative church that loves the law and doesn’t want to think too much "outside the box". Christ promises to protect them and recognises their weakness. And weakness is probably no bad thing. They seem to be a church that is doing nothing wrong however, one gets the feeling the Philadelphians would probably not make good missionaries.
Laodicea: Wealthy and lukewarm. Offensive, repulsive and a travesty, it offers no solidarity to the poor, the uninformed and the oppressed. Just remember, lukewarm can feel hot if your hand has previously been in cold water. However, we are not a Church of relatives, we are a Church of absolutes, and lukewarm is lukewarm and vomitsome.