My latest article for CRUX examines Marquette theologian Daniel Maguire’ssplit suggestion that Catholicism might split into three branches: Traditionalist, Magisterial and Progressive

I agree with Maguire that these three tribes can be discerned within American Catholicism. Where I disagree is that there can be any formalized arrangement that establishes three separate groups. The three groups exist within the Catholic Church in an uneasy alliance, and that’s how it has to stay. I’m surprised that a theologian of Maguire’s standing seems unfamiliar with the term “schism,” because any group that separates from the Catholic Church would cease to be Catholic — even if they called themselves Catholic.

Maguire envisions three different “Catholic” groups emerging as separate entities, but why just three? In fact, a plethora of groups have already parted ways with the Catholic Church, and set up shop as “independent Catholic Churches.” A quick rummage through the Web reveals a fascinating set of alternative Catholic denominations who (to use Maguire’s phrase) “don’t need the Vatican. Their conscience is their Vatican.”

They comprise an intriguing collection of eccentric characters who live in a churchy fantasy land of their own making. Self-appointed bishops, archbishops, patriarchs, eparchs, and popes, they are both ultra-traditionalist and ultra-progressive. They live in the basement of Mother Church like a twenty-something who dwells in his mother’s basement, plays video games, and dreams about being a football hero. Exploring their alternative world is like a visit to an ecclesiastical Believe it Or Not museum.

Go here to read the whole article.