The Catholic church prides itself on being a beacon of unity in a sea of chaos. It decries the proliferation of religious “sects.” It lays exclusive claim to Jn 17:21-22. It promotes ecumenism, in the one-sided sense of calling on all Christian denominations to return to Mother church.
What’s ironic and indeed hypocritical about all this is that the Catholic church is a very divisive force in Christendom. The Catholic church is a precipitating factor in many “schisms.”
We could run down a very long list. I’ll just cite a few examples to illustrate the point.
Pope Victor unilaterally excommunicated Christians living in the East who celebrated Easter on a different date than Rome. That’s hardly an action that promotes church unity. And it was a completely unnecessary controversy.
At some point the Filioque clause was added to the Nicene Creed, and the church of Rome formalized that addition. I’m not debating the merits of the Filioque. I’m merely pointing out that the actions of Rome were very divisive in that respect.
At the Council of Trent, the Tridentine Fathers were divided over the scope of the OT canon, for tradition itself was divided over the scope of the OT canon. Yet Trent decided to anathematize Christians who rejected the Apocrypha. That was a very exclusionary action.
Assumption of Mary
In 1950, Piux XII elevated the Assumption of Mary to Catholic dogma. This was despite the fact that this dogma lacked any solid foundation in the traditions of the ancient church. Anyone dissident was implicitly forced to leave the church.
When, in the wake of Vatican II, the papacy introduced a revised Missal, this was a very disruptive action, and predictably so.
For one thing, Catholic apologists used to invoke the Latin Mass as an emblem of Catholic unity and universality. A Catholic who traveled to any part of the world where the Mass was celebrated would hear the Mass in the same language (Latin). By using the vernacular, this destroyed the unity and universality of worship. (Not to mention additional changes to the Missal.)
In 1896, Leo XIII nullified Anglican ordinations. By definition, that was a very exclusionary action.
When the Catholic church takes these actions, there are winners and losers. The winners draw lines which create insiders and outsiders. It generates de facto and de jure schisms.
Now, I’m not saying that’s good or bad. And I don’t have a personal stake in some of these controversies.
My point is simply that the Catholic church has frequently taken provocative actions which disenfranchise many professing believers. The Catholic church has deliberately instigated many schisms through its factious and fractious policies. It uses its unilateral ax to split Christendom into many different splinter groups.
Now, if you’re Catholic, you can claim that all these actions were justified. I’m not debating the merits of each case. I’m simply noting a fundamental tension between the claims of Rome to be a champion of Christian unity, as well as a leader in ecumenical dialogue–on the one hand–and various actions by which she has alienated many professing believers and ejected them from the ranks of the “faithful”–retroactively defined.