Fr. Hardon: An American Schism? Beware! (video)

In April of 1994, after ten years of pressure from the USCCB, namely at the hands of Archbishop Pilarczyk, who had said in 1984 that he didn’t care whether the Pope approved of altar girls, “he’ll make him approve them,” Cardinal Oretas of the Congregation of Divine Worship issued a letter permitting the practice of girls being altar servers. The New York Times reported on it even, and stated:

The Vatican has granted permission for priests to have girls assist them at Mass, a task traditionally performed by boys and officially restricted to males. The action approves a practice that has become increasingly common in Roman Catholic parishes, particularly in the United States, but has also stirred fierce emotions among many Catholics.


Although the practice was not officially sanctioned, many American bishops have either looked the other way when pastors used girls, typically starting at 9 or 10 years old, as altar servers during Mass or have given outright permission for them to do so. To prohibit girls from serving as acolytes, these bishops felt, was to unfairly exclude them from participating in the life of the church.

Endorsing Growing Practice, Vatican Approves Altar Girls. David Gonzalez, New York Times. April 15, 1994, at section A p. 1 (front page).

Imagine that — front page news! Of course it was… this was the American Bishops flexing to the world that they run the Church. And it came at the hands of the then titled U.S.C.C. (United States Catholic Conference). But notice, and this is important, they didn’t care whether Rome approved it, they were already doing it. Rather, getting someone at the Vatican to nod was merely the gemstone they needed to prove that they were right all along. In other words: “stuff it, trads, we’re the church now!”

Time has moved along and people don’t see this pattern of American stridency as clearly as you could see it back then. Father Hardon, speaking a month later, on the 5th of May, 1994, made a point about the American schism in his lecture that day. Watch the video clip:

There is an American schism. As I’ve said more than once in this class, and over the years to so many of my students, the American hierarchy has two conferences of bishops in America. And the one conference which has all the money, all the power all the personnel. As one bishop told me just recently, every Monday, as sure as there is a Monday, I get a huge stack of mail from the U.S.C.C. my homework for the next week from the USCC — United States Catholic Conference.

There only one problem: the United States Catholic Conference is independent of the Pope and has been since 1966 and Cardinal Dearden signed the bylaws of that non-papal conference here in Detroit. My main work for 23 years for the Holy See.

Not to know what’s going on the tension the confrontation between the Bishop of Rome and the bishops in other countries but with a resounding emphasis in the United States not to know that is to be blind to what’s going on.

Father John A. Hardon, S.J. 5 May 1994. (Fr. Hardon archives available at the Real Presence Association.)

Some object immediately and say, “we’ll they were merged.” By this, they imply that the “schism” was healed by making the USCC legitimate. I won’t argue with that, but I think such an answer merely makes one blind — precisely as Father Hardon alleges at the end.

Does the papering over of the conference status change the attitude of AmChurch at all? Is this schism of 1966 still with us?

Does the appearance of legitimacy (no matter the means) make it right in the Church? What do you think? schism or not?

This article, Fr. Hardon: An American Schism? Beware! (video) is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
Do not repost the entire article without written permission. Reasonable excerpts may be reposted so long as it is linked to this page.

John B. Manos

John B. Manos, Esq. is an attorney and chemical engineer. He has a dog, Fyo, and likes photography, astronomy, and dusty old books published by Benziger Brothers. He is the President of the Bellarmine Forum.

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