Archbishop warns of 'balkanization' in US church

Latrobe, Pennsylvania — A prominent U.S. archbishop has warned that the divisive nature of the nation's politics – particularly the separation of people into disparate ideological camps – may be seeping into the American Catholic church, leading to a "balkanization" of the faithful.

Indianapolis Archbishop Joseph Tobin also warned against a trend in the U.S. church to "oversimplify what are really complicated questions in the hope of discovering who to blame."

"At the present moment, this behavior helps to contribute to the balkanization of American Catholics into so-called right wing and left wing, or progressive and traditionalist, factions, who point fingers at each other," Tobin said Friday, speaking at the annual assembly of the College Theology Society.

The theme of this year's gathering – "God has begun a great work in us: The embodiment of love in contemporary consecrated life" – was focused specifically on Catholic religious life, partially in the light of the Vatican's continuing criticism of an umbrella group of U.S. Catholic sisters known as the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR).

One of three plenary speakers at the event, Tobin did not specifically mention the row between the Vatican and U.S. sisters during his talk, instead focusing on a wide analysis on the role of religious life in the church. But at several points in his 45-minute address and in answering questions from theologians afterward, the archbishop gave a frank assessment of the struggles facing the American church.

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