No, I'm not peddling Dan Brown-style conspiracy theories about plots in Rome, or speculating about the fallout from the nearly-concluded Synod on the Family. Instead I refer to one of my favorite books by one of my favorite writers, Walker Percy's Love in the Ruins: The Adventures of a Bad Catholic at a Time Near the End of the World. I won't try to summarize the novel, which follows the inventor of the ontological lapsometer, Dr. Tom More (!), as social chaos unfolds in the "dread latter days of the old violent beloved U.S.A." Its opening pages are among the most immediately gripping I've read, and include this ornery depiction of a Church broken apart, noted below for your perusal:
Our Catholic church here split into three pieces: (1) the American Catholic Church whose new Rome is Cicero, Illinois; (2) the Dutch schismatics who believe in relevance but not God; (3) the Roman Catholic remnant, a tiny scattered flock with no place to go.
The American Catholic Church, which emphasizes property rights and the integrity of neighborhoods, retained the Latin mass and plays The Star-Spangled Banner at the elevation.
The Dutch schismatics in this area comprise several priests and nuns who left Rome to get married. They threw in with the Dutch schismatic Catholics. Now several divorced priests and nuns are importuning the Dutch cardinal to allow them to remarry.
The Roman Catholics hereabouts are scattered and demoralized. The one priest, an obscure curate, who remained faithful to Rome, could not support himself and had to hire out as a fire-watcher. It is his job to climb the fire tower by night and watch for brushfires below and for signs and portents in the skies.
I, for example, am a Roman Catholic, albeit a bad one. I believe in the Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church, in God the Father, in the election of the Jews, in Jesus Christ His Son our Lord, who founded the Church on Peter his first vicar, which will last until the end of the world. Some years ago, however, I stopped eating Christ in Communion, stopped going to mass, and have since fallen into a disorderly life. I believe in God and the whole business but I love women best, music and science next, whiskey next, God fourth, and my fellowman hardly at all. Generally I do as I please. A man, wrote John, who says he believes in God and does not keep his commandments is a liar. If John is right, then I am a liar. Nevertheless, I still believe.
Attentive readers of the novel might recall a rather critical reference to Commonweal also found in its pages, which good manners prevent me from reproducing here.