There’s no doubt we’re living in a time marked by extreme divisions. Whether it be political candidates and parties, economics and foreign policy, marriage and abortion, gender and race—we are a divided nation and a divided people. Religion is not exempt from the plague of division. Today, Catholics are extremely divided on a host of topics, whether it be Vatican II and the liturgy, the morality of vaccines and masking, Pope Francis and the USCCB—we are just as divided as the rest of the world.
In the face of such widespread division, there can be a real temptation to strive for false unity and cohesion. While the desire for unity is, of course, a good one, we must recognize that unity—in and of itself—is not the highest good we ought to strive for. This temptation can be especially strong for Christians.
We rightfully remember the High Priestly prayer of Christ, where he prays extensively for the unity and oneness of His people. Jesus prays, “Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:11). This prayer is not just for His immediate apostles. Christ goes on in His prayer: “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us” (John 17:20-21). In response to this clear prayer for unity, many Christians have the false idea that all unity is good, and all division is evil. This simply is not the case, especially considering Christ’s oft-forgotten words—that He came to bring division.