I know Catholics are supposed to be obsessed with sex, but this post is not about that. It’s about sects or sectarianism.
A sect is a breakaway group–a split from the universal church, and put simply, it’s a sin.
The Church does not blame those who are born into a sect because they do not know better, but to have known the Catholic faith and split yourself away from the unity of the church is a grave sin. Dante, in his usual graphic manner portrays schismatics as themselves split down the middle.
Esolen’s translation of Canto 28 of the inferno describes their mutilated bodies like this:
A barrel with the midstave split apart
is not–as I saw one there–so burst wide,
from the chin severed down to where we fart.
His bowels and guts dangled between his legs
his organs showed, and that repugnant bag
that turns whatever we gobble into shit,
While my mind clung entirely to this sight,
he looked at me and with his two hands tore
his chest apart…
So, ““What the sinners did in life they now become, with the mists of self-deception stripped away”
The sin of schism is, at its heart a sin of self-deception. I discuss this self deception in some detail in my book Immortal Combat in which I analyze the “people of the lie”
That self deception is rooted in the complete and utter conviction that “I am right” and even if I disagree with the pope himself “I am right” and he is wrong.
This split from church unity, from family unity, from civic unity is ultimately a sin of violence–thus the violence of Dante’s imagery. Insisting that “I am right” at all costs ultimately isolates us and finally may consign us to the ultimate isolation of hell itself.
Therefore be warned: if you feel disenchanted with your church and want to scoot off to some sect or do religion on your own in your own way you may fall into the sectarian error.
There is, of course, the other, opposite error. It is called “latitudinarianism”. That is the problem not of making your church too narrow and exclusive, but of making it it too broad and with no boundaries whatsoever.
Latitudinarianism is the main fault of Anglicanism and other mainstream Protestant churches. The Church of England was called the C of E…and we used to joke that it stood for “Church of Everybody” So it is that the mainstream Protestant bodies have adopted the gospel of woke. All are welcome–which sounds good enough–kind and nice–but if there are no boundaries or requirements for membership who wants to join? No one. The Church of Everybody soon becomes the church of Nobody.
Saint John Henry Newman wrote (and I paraphrase) “Without an infallible authority one must fall into either the latitudinarian or the sectarian error. The latitudinarian sacrifices unity of truth for unity of form whereas the sectarian sacrifices unity of form for unity of truth.” In other words, in the sect “I am right” along with the other folks who think like me. “We are right…” In the latitudinarian denomination nobody is right. The irony of this is that in our current relativistic society the latitudinarian church will be full of a whole clutch of individuals who think they’re right. All of whom have “their truth” the only shared virtue being that of easy and shallow tolerance.
The Catholic Church–warts and all–stands for a unity of belief without coercion, a unity of values without condemnation and a unity of behavior without uniformity. That is why we say we believe in ONE Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.