Sunday, June 16, 2013

An Observation Regarding Pope Francis

I think the Holy Father has a remarkable knack for being forthright in identifying the problems in the Church. However, it seems that he has a difficult time targeting where the problems are most obvious.

For example, we recently spoke about his frustration with Church "triumphalism."

More recently, in some well-publicized comments, he expressed worry about Pelagianism. I'm linking to the Rorate take on the story because it gives the full text, rather than because I have agreement with the commenters there.

Here is the relevant section:

I share with you two concerns. One is the Pelagian current that there is in the Church at this moment. There are some restorationist groups. I know some, it fell upon me to receive them in Buenos Aires. And one feels as if one goes back 60 years! Before the Council... One feels in 1940... An anecdote, just to illustrate this, it is not to laugh at it, I took it with respect, but it concerns me; when I was elected, I received a letter from one of these groups, and they said: "Your Holiness, we offer you this spiritual treasure: 3,525 rosaries." Why don't they say, 'we pray for you, we ask...', but this thing of counting... And these groups return to practices and to disciplines that I lived through - not you, because you are not old - to disciplines, to things that in that moment took place, but not now, they do not exist today...

Let's be honest with ourselves. Pelagianism is probably the most rampant heresy in the Church. It's where people get this whole idea that just being a "nice person" will get someone into heaven. Granted, Pelagius would have taken a far more rigorous view than than, but the underlying principle remains the same. So the Holy Father's point is well-taken.

Worrying about this as a trend among "traditionalists" or "restorationists" or whatever you want to call them is weird, though. Most folks who fit this label are probably the furthest thing from Pelagian that you can imagine, hence their constant harping on the loss of the Faith among Catholics, the tendency to ignore/disregard the Magisterium, or the lack of prayers for the grace of conversion to those who need it. For example, why worry about, say, whether or not the Fatima consecration was done properly if grace is a superfluity?

Where do we see Pelagianism most operative? How about liberation theologians, who are so busy building base communities and such that the preaching of the Faith is a secondary item? How about the leaders of the ecumenicool movement who preach a unity of good works but not a unity of Faith or alliegiance to the Truth?

Pope Francis's second concern was expressed as follows:

The second [concern] is for a Gnostic current. Those Pantheisms... Both are elite currents, but this one is of a more educated elite... I heard of a superior general that prompted the sisters of her congregation to not pray in the morning, but to spiritually bathe in the cosmos, things like that... They concern me because they ignore the incarnation! And the Son of God became our flesh, the Word was made flesh, and in Latin America we have flesh abundantly [de tirar al techo]! What happens to the poor, their pains, this is our flesh...

Sure, it's the hippies that are part of this, but this is hardly a news flash. Where is the Gnostic element the strongest? I'd suggest that this is a glaring feature of the charismatic movement, where the focus on and desire for extraordinary manifestations of the Holy Spirit lead people to proclaim belief in personal revelations and mystic knowledge of things like syncretism, the benefits of liturgical horrors, and the rejection of obedience.

Anyways, I don't expect the Pope to know everything, but to single out "restorationists" and hippies seems wrong in the former case and ignoring the 800 pound gorilla in the latter.


James Jordan said...

"Worrying about this as a trend among "traditionalists" or "restorationists" or whatever you want to call them is weird, though. Most folks who fit this label are probably the furthest thing from Pelagian that you can imagine,"

But from the position of a Calvinist who believes in faith alone and loves to accuse everyone who is living right and dares live the Christian life rather than sit on their butt saying "I'm waiting for grace" it makes perfect sense to call the traditionalists Pelagians. That's all Calvinists do really is call Christians who are living the Christian life "Pelagians."

What? You've never committed adultery? You damn Pelagian! You are so obviously trusting in works! To prove you aren't a Pelagian and don't trust in works, I order you to go and shag your neighbor's wife and prove your commitment to justification by grace alone through faith alone and totally apart from all works. Quoth the Calvinist.

Now why is it that the new pope sounds so much like them? Is he a Janesian Calvinist heretic in disguise????

Throwback said...

I don't get any trace of Jansenism from Pope Francis. And before anybody takes that as a shot, even some great saints have seemed to have some Jansenist tendencies (see St. John Vianney). Given the rigorism that Jansenists were famous for, I don't think anybody could accuse them of sitting around waiting for grace. Quietists maybe. Not Jansenists.