There is a Latin phrase divide et impera (divide and conquer) which refers to a military or political strategy used to defeat an opponent in battle. A similar principle can be used to break up and destroy an opponent, to cause division in an organization, to damage the unity of society, even to attempt to destroy a church.
Let’s use a common example from family life. A teenager goes to her mom to get permission from her to go to the mall with her friends. Mom says “no” because she realizes that her daughter has loads of homework and she needs to finish the work first. What does the daughter do? She goes to dad to ask him if she can go to the mall (because she knows from past experience that she’s daddy’s little girl). Dad looks at her and says “okay” without realizing that mom has already said “no.” The teenager played dad off mom and seems to win (at least for the moment).
If the parents are smart they will discuss the situation together first and stand united in their decision. Otherwise, the strategy worked. Division was caused and the teenager won. This can lead to an argument between the parents and further problems down the line.
Apply the principle of divide and conquer up the social ladder and you can see the damage that can be done. Challenge the definition of what a marriage or family is. Cause confusion as to when human life begins. Openly question traditionally acceptable principles of morality and consider them outdated. Undermine the teaching authority of the church and encourage people to do what feels right or good for them.
Jesus teaches us: "Every kingdom divided against itself will be laid waste, and no town or house divided against itself will stand.” (Mt. 12:25) Abraham Lincoln used a similar phrase when referring to slavery in America: “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
Let’s add to this what St. Paul says about the Body of Christ—the Church: “. . . Living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body's growth and builds itself up in love.” (Eph. 4: 15-16)
So when things happen that cause division, dissention or disunity, be on your guard. Question whether love is motivating the situation. Is unity being fostered? Or is father being pitted against mother, one family against another, one town against another, Republican against Democrat, priest against priest, parish against parish?
Creating dissention or disunity will ultimately lead to the downfall and destruction of us all. I go back time and time again to a phrase of my patron saint, Maximilian Kolbe: “Only love is creative.”
May we all work to bring about unity in the Body of Christ—the Church.
Otherwise, the consequences can be devastating to us all.
Fr. Ed Namiotka