Phil Lawler, blogger at CatholicCulture.org and author of books on Catholicism, has committed formal public schism. Therefore, he is automatically excommunicated and should be denied Communion.
Canon 751: “schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him”.
Canon 1364, n. 1: “an apostate from the faith, a heretic, or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication”
Can. 915 “Those who have been excommunicated or interdicted after the imposition or declaration of the penalty and others obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to holy communion.”
Phil Lawler is guilty of formal schism. His schismatic acts are public, and therefore constitute manifest grave sin. He is obstinate, given the longstanding nature of his rejection of papal authority. Therefore, he falls under the above Canons.
Three Schismatic Acts
1. In a recent blog post, Phil Lawler proclaims the papacy of Pope Francis to be “disastrous,” suggests that the Vicar of Christ poses a “danger to the integrity of the Catholic faith,” and claims that Pope Francis has shown “disdain for what the Church has always taught and believed and practiced.” [This Disastrous Papacy]
As bad as those assertions may be, Lawler goes even further in accusing Pope Francis. He uses the figure of a household with sons to describe Pope Francis as a father whose “pathological behavior threatens the welfare of the whole household.” The he states outright, “I consider this papacy a disaster,” and next he goes entirely off the edge of the cliff. He states that we cannot look to Rome for guidance any longer.
“We have grown accustomed to looking to Rome for guidance. Now we cannot…. But if we cannot count on clear directions from Rome, where can we turn?”
Lawler then suggests that we be guided by the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Bishops, since we cannot be guided by the Roman Pontiff. Finally, he says: “But if I am right, and the current Pope’s leadership has become a danger to the faith….”
Well, it is sad to say, but the set of assertions by Phil Lawler (in the above-quoted article) constitutes formal schism. He has publicly condemned the Roman Pontiff and has stated that we cannot look to him to guide the Church any longer. By the statements in that post, Phil Lawler has utterly rejected the papal Magisterium, and the role of Pope Francis as the Father and Teacher of all Christians. He is clearly stating a refusal of submission to the authority of the Roman Pontiff over doctrine and discipline. And that is the sin of formal schism.
2. The Book, “Lost Shepherd: How Pope Francis is Misleading His Flock”
The very title of the book is schismatic, as it proclaims to the world that the Roman Pontiff is “lost” and is “misleading his flock”. Who would submit to the authority of a Pope who was lost and was misleading everyone? No one would do so. Here is a clearly implied refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff.
Not only is Lawler committing formal public schism by the publication of this book, he is also committing the grave sin of scandal and the grave sin of leading others in to schism. So “obstinately persevering in manifest grave sin” applies to these sins as well, making him all the more unfit to receive Communion.
3. The Book, “The Smoke of Satan: How Corrupt and Cowardly Bishops Betrayed Christ, His Church, and the Faithful . . . and What Can Be Done About It”
This book, too, is schismatic, but for a different reason. Certainly, the book continues the assumption that Pope Francis has gone astray from the true faith. But the focus of this book is an accusation against the body of Bishops. And this is another way to commit schism: the “refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him”. Accusing the body of Bishops of betraying Christ, His Church, and the faithful is a schismatic accusation. It implies that Lawler is refusing communion with those Bishops.
Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.