Pope plays the heresy card

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The Duomo in Florence as seen from Michelangelo Hill

Petar Milošević

The Duomo in Florence as seen from Michelangelo Hill

The Duomo in Florence as seen from Michelangelo Hill

The Duomo in Florence as seen from Michelangelo Hill

Yesterday Pope Francis traveled to the heart of Renaissance Italy and conjured up the image of a Christian Humanism threatened by ancient heresies. Speaking in Florence’s famed Duomo at the Fifth National Ecclesial Congress of the Italian church, the pontiff seized on this year’s theme of “Jesus Christ, the new humanism” to warn against the “temptations” of  Pelagianism and Gnosticism.

Christian Humanism, according to Francis, is all about humility, selflessness, and beatitude. “These features tell us that we must not be obsessed with power, even when this assumes the appearance of a useful or functional power in the social image of the Church,” he said.

Pelagianism takes its name from a fourth-century British monk who taught that human nature is untainted by original sin and thus choosing good over evil is within the power of the unaided mortal will. This “leads the Church not to be humble, selfless and blessed,” said the pope. “Often it leads us even to assuming a style of control, of hardness, normativity. Rules give to the Pelagian the security of feeling superior, of having a precise orientation.”

Gnosticism, from the Greek word for knowledge, is the name given by historians to dualistic views held by a range of heretical groups in late antiquity. For Francis, it “leads us to place our trust in logical and clear reasoning that, however, loses the tenderness of our brother’s flesh.”

Let’s see. Which members of the hierarchy, which theologians, which lay intellectuals assume a style of control, of hardness, of laying down norms? Which convey a sense of superiority by valorizing logical and clear reasoning over tenderness for others?

It’s hard to imagine any of them missing the point.

  • samuel johnston

    “Jesus Christ, the new humanism” Pope Francis
    ‘”Humanism’typically refers to a non-theistic life stance centred on human agency and looking to science rather than revelation from a supernatural source to understand the world.” Wikipedia
    Where is his integrity? His fair-mindedness? Whoops, I forgot that he was a Catholic and they pay no attention to these personal qualities as long as they stay in the good graces of the Church!

  • Glenn Harrell

    “Christian Humanism” certainly requires a few more of my brain cells to become active.

    Human autonomy, intellect and moral superiority are the pillars of Humanism.

    Is this not like Christian Capitalism?

    I will be the first to say that they need each other for influence and the last to try and walk them down the isle to marital bliss.

    What a different sermon than we received here in the USA. The common theme was caring for the poor and how we must pay people to do it. Evidently there is not quite enough Christian Humanism to feed the poor without an agency, paid CEO, two lawyers and much fine print.

  • “Christian Humanism” is a longstanding concept. In fact, Humanism in its original medieval/Renaissance coinage was by definition Christian. The term “secular” was appended to it in order to identify a non-Christian version; ergo Secular Humanism.

  • MICHAEL SKIENDZIELEWSKI

    Let’s see. Which members of the hierarchy, which theologians, which lay intellectuals assume a style of control, of hardness, of laying down norms? Which convey a sense of superiority by valorizing logical and clear reasoning over tenderness for others?

    Mark, this will take but a second. I wonder if the above statement applies to our current leadership in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia? Always got that sense too when reading the dogma over there at the journal, “First Things”. Even the name of the periodical suggests superiority and logic at the expense of compassion and faith.

    Valorizing…….now that is a very special word indeed. Wonder if there is a special course in “Valorizing” only available to select RCC leadership (here in the USA, of course)?

  • samuel johnston

    Hi Mark,
    ” Humanism in its original medieval/Renaissance coinage was by definition Christian.”
    All this history is reviewed in the Wikipedia articles with this conclusion:
    “In modern times, humanist movements are typically aligned with secularism, and as of 2015 “Humanism” typically refers to a non-theistic life stance centred on human agency and looking to science rather than revelation from a supernatural source to understand the world
    “Jesus Christ, the new humanism” Pope Francis
    This statement can only be designed to mislead the public of 2015, both the Catholic faithful and the Humanists.

  • Humanism, like martyr, is just a word that only has meaning within a particular context. Martyr means “witness”, but over time it has come to mean “dead witness” in its applicability, somehow more noble and distinct from “faithful witness – even unto death”.

    Humanism, when understood within Pope Francis’ context, simply means “human agency in partnership with Christ” (no need for Wikipedia to understand context). To me it is a realization that in Christianity there are no “magic spells”, that discipleship requires willing and active human engagement in the work of Christ through His Body the Church.

    No need to overthink it or try to play “gotcha” with the Church, or attempt to try and insert the pope into some power play. Rather than to become fixated on a single word, the full context has to be taken into account.

  • samuel johnston

    Hi Mike,
    Words are slippery, but they are all we have to consider here. The so called, and much discussed, “secular humanism” has displaced Christanity as the largest common point of view in Europe. So much so, that the Pope has called Europe a mission field.
    Christian sacrements are precisely magic spells. Deny that and you will find yourself outside the Church looking in. May I refer you to:
    THE OATH AGAINST MODERNISM
    Given by His Holiness Pope St. Pius X September 1, 1910.
    To be sworn to by all clergy, pastors, confessors, preachers, religious superiors, and professors in philosophical-theological seminaries.

  • Humpty Dumpty had it right (and I mean this in all sincerity): “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean- neither more nor less.”

    Now, other people might have trouble understanding me if I use the meaning of a word that is not commonly known, but there are enough people around (myself included) that know Humanism is not atheistic (that is, “without god”).

    Pope Francis’ audience knows that what he means. I’m not in his audience and I know what he means. Meaning isn’t written in stone. If you don’t like how the Pope is using a word, you are free to say so.

    But I, for one, am glad that the Pope is using his office to humanize Humanism for Christians.

  • mnemos

    So sin is good as long as you have an emotional rationalization for it.

    Good to know.

    And you think that’s humanism.

    Good to know.

    You can recommend that people do whatever feels right at the time and ignore the consequences. I’m going to continue thinking and believing that I have to consider the consequences of my actions. You can call that ‘control’ and ‘hardness’ if you like. I’m kind of tired of people claiming that formulating guidelines for people means you are trying to control them. I’ve seen too many people hurt themselves by doing dumb things – I’m not buying the idea that applying reason is evil.

  • > Can there be heresies in the secular/atheistic world of the 21st century?

    Of course there can be. And I don’t even have to be Hiumpty Dumpty to say that. One definition of heresy is “dissent or deviation from a dominant theory, opinion, or practice”. People who are proud of their political incorrectness are proud heretics, by definition.

    I’m not sure what point you’re making since, even if we somehow eliminated all belief in god, there would still be unorthodox thinkers.

  • > I’m going to continue thinking and believing that I have to consider the consequences of my actions.

    I’m pretty sure the Pope isn’t calling your exercise of self-control “hard” or “controlling”. Instead, he’s referring (as Jesus did) to those who apply their rules to other people while ignoring “weightier matters”.

  • I don’t think the Pope has the ability to do anything more than excommunicate heretics in the church. Burning, hanging, or even imprisoning heretics isn’t going to happen.

    The most that will happen is that they’ll be barred from the church.

    So, yes, if someone disagrees with the church, he could be banned from the church. That is what happens to heretics in the modern world.

    Your question (“Can there be heresies in the secular/atheistic world of the 21st century?”) didn’t seem to be talking about that, though.

  • Sigh…I’m not sure why but I keep asking atheists like yourself Bernado this same question,and I am sure that one day I will get a coherent answer..So one more time: You KNOW that there is no God exactly how,Bernardo??? I await your reply.

  • samuel johnston

    Socrates maintained that God must be Just because if he were not, he would be a mere deamon.
    God is manifestly not Just in this life. Christians promise a next life when all will be ……….
    A desperate hope at best, more likely just a con job that rises money for the benifit of the numerous leaches of this world.

  • samuel johnston

    Bernardo,
    As any lawyer knows, the burden of proof of any assertion is on those who assert it. Your question is, therefore, logically backwards.

    example: prove that Astrology is untrue.

  • samuel johnston

    Sorry Bernardo, I ment to address Ringo.