Signs of Pelagianism

My friend Fr. Ray Blake, the distinguished pastor of St. Mary Magdalene in Brighton has a good commentary on his blog today.


Pelagianism: I hate it, but it is very British. It is really a variant of Arianism which says God did not truly become Man, because Jesus was not truly God.

Pelagianism denies the action of Grace in the world, man is saved by his own goodness and efforts, rather than by God.

It is what we do, rather than what God does that matters, therefore the value of the sacraments is the psychological effect they have in our lives, rather than the direct intervention of God. It denies the power of Grace, of the role of the Blessed Virgin, of miracles, of the power of prayer: Pelagians above all would deny the role of the Holy Spirit, of His act of sanctification. Wherever there is attempt to place man at the heart of the faith, there we should expect to find Pelagianism.

Pelagianism expects Man to be strong rather God’s grace to be powerful. Catholicism, or as we could call it, mainstream Christianity, acknowledges mankind is weak and wholly dependant on those things God gives him.
Signs of the Pelagian:

The Church is a human construct, there is nothing or little of Grace about it.

The Liturgy and prayer is about how it makes us feel. Feelings rather than Grace are important.

Revelation is not a given, something given for today and all time, but something of that past that depends on our interpretation.

Ultimately Pelagianism says God is irrelevant to society and to the individual.

Pelagians tend to have a poor view of mankind, what see is what you get, because their is no room for Grace. It is also elitist, insofar as it values a human being by his goodness, his talents, his skills, his willpower.

Devotion to the Blessed Virgin is the destroyer Pelagianism, her whole being was about saying yes to Grace, and being the Mother of God she became the source of Grace. Her life shows the effects and power of Grace

Perhaps another sign of of the Pelagian is a defense of the lame-duck ICEL translations and resistance to the norms of Liturgiam authenticam..

Signs of Pelagianism
0 votes, 0.00 avg. rating (0% score)
FacebookEmailPinterestGoogle GmailShare/Bookmark

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Mail from priests. Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Signs of Pelagianism

  1. RBrown says:

    Pelagianism: I hate it, but it is very British. It is really a variant of Arianism which says God did not truly become Man, because Jesus was not truly God.

    It is also very American.

  2. RichR says:

    Perhaps another sign of of the Pelagian is a defense of the lame-duck ICEL translations and resistance to the norms of Liturgiam authenticam..

    FrZ,

    I listened to a talk by Fr. Peter Stravinskas wherein he said that ICEL had a tendency to avoid translating the Latin word anima in their works. Do you find this to be the case, and why would there be a de-emphasis on this matter?

  3. Fr. Mitch Pacwa once commented that in the United States and Canada, a Pelagian attitude had taken hold of many in the Church over the last 40 years as many bishops focused on social issues and ignored doctrine, as many religious orders abandoned prayer for social justice, setting up prayer and action as mutually exclusive.

    I think the same goes with liturgy. Nowadays it’s often all about what we do to the liturgy, not what the liturgy (submitting to it in it’s objective form) does to us.

  4. RichR: … ICEL had a tendency to avoid translating the Latin word anima in their works. … why would there be a de-emphasis on this matter?

    Well, a soul (anima) might need grace, which could only come from God. But we don’t want to hear such stuff as this at Mass, do we?

  5. Chironomo says:

    Henry…

    Exactly what I was thinking… the whole concept of the human soul requires that we acknowledge the need for God’s grace, and it opens us to the possibility of damaging our soul by our actions or inactions. For the “pelagian”, no soul is necessary because there is no need for God’s grace. When was the last time you heard about actions being a danger to your soul in a homily?

    The most hard hitting characteristic given in the above list is that liturgy is important because of how it makes us feel. I think a great number of “progressive Catholics” would state this as the primary purpose of liturgy without a second thought. The music, the self-centered prayers, the hand holding and talk-show homilies… all to make us “feel good”. Amazing how we are unable to recognize when we are part of a heresy…

  6. Ed says:

    “Liturgy and prayer is about how it makes us feel. Feelings rather than Grace are important.”

    I understand the point, but it remains ambiguous in a very important way, in that it implies that God’s Grace is not tangible, that it can’t be felt; that it can only be “known” by “faith,” with faith understood as tenacious insistence on received doctrine.

    The experience of Grace, “how it makes us feel,” goes so far beyond any dogma I have been taught about Grace.

    Pope Benedict spoke of this in his encyclical on Hope; that our Hope is based on “proof,” personal inner certainty and assurance, based on experience. He also speaks of the rise of an interpretive model that attempts to reduce “Grace” to a mere idea; a proposition that was advanced in Protestant circles and filtered into Catholic thought and teaching.

    I have felt God’s Grace so many times, often at Mass, often not. That the feeling is significant for me doesn’t make me a Pelagian. It’s a proof that does help me through times of disconnect, when I don’t feel anything at all. Sometimes I can only wait for God, but my waiting is based on experience and the felt power of God’s Grace.

  7. Andreas says:

    I could be completely mistaken in all of this but it seems to me that Pelagians taught that if God orders us not to sin then it must be possible not to sin. Otherwise, God would be asking something impossible. Therefore, man can achieve such perfection that he has complete control over his own passions, feelings, impulses, desires and it is impossible for him to sin. And again: this must not be extremely difficult, else, we would be asked to accomplish something that most people cannot accomplish. So it can be said that it is easy and within our own power not to sin and to achieve perfection. Further, to say that we need divine help to avoid sin is a denial of our free will, because if we need God’s help to avoid sin, we are no longer free to avoid sin on our own.

    St. Jerome demolishes their arguments in his dialogue against the Pelagians, but this is not what people think these days. Rather, nowadays people think of sin as “irrelevant”. They don’t seem to care much whether it can be overcome or not. God knows we are sinful and he doesn’t make a “big deal” out of it. I think we suffer from a lack of appreciation of divine justice, which, as the Holy Father stated in Spe Salvi is one of the strongest arguments for the afterlife.

    So it seems to me that we are not very “Pelagian”. Sure, we like the oriental “spirituality” that claims to sedate our passions, but not as a tool to avoid sin, but more as a self-therapy of sorts.

  8. RBrown says:

    I listened to a talk by Fr. Peter Stravinskas wherein he said that ICEL had a tendency to avoid translating the Latin word anima in their works. Do you find this to be the case, and why would there be a de-emphasis on this matter?
    Comment by RichR

    The resistance to anima is hostility to what is perceived as Hellenism.

  9. Chironomo says:

    Ed…

    A good point to be sure. I would say that for a great number of people attending Mass on a given Sunday, their experience of how Mass “makes them feel” is something distinct from how the experience of God’s grace would “make them feel”. So when Fr. Blake speaks of an unhealthy emphasis on how the liturgy “makes us feel” as a sign of Pelagianism, I am fairly certain he is talking about the popular notion, much the same as we mean when we talk about a “feel-good” liturgical style, or use terms like “Fr. Feel-Good” or “The Church of I’m OK, You’re OK”. These are not referring to how we feel when experiencing God’s grace, but ratrher how we feel when experiencing a type of social affirmation from others.

  10. A Random Friar says:

    Best argument against Pelagianism: the countless graveyards and battlefields we have created, where we have interred millions of victims of so-called progressive governments and ideas, each promising to lift man out of the morass of his age.

    Amy Welborn’s blog points out that H.H. Pope Benedict XVI has frequently mentioned Original Sin in his talks. That is something the world needs to realize, and soon.

  11. RichR says:

    The resistance to anima is hostility to what is perceived as Hellenism.

    I am not as literate with different philosophical systems as I thought I was. I don’t know what Hellenism is or what threat it poses to orthodox Catholic thought. Can you elaborate?

  12. A Random Friar says:

    I believe “Hellenism” basically covers the range of Greek philosophical thought, especially Plato and Aristotle. IOW, a reaction against the philosophical bases of much of long-standing Christian philosophical traditions, such as Thomism.

    Merriam Webster gives one of its definitions as “a body of humanistic and classical ideals associated with ancient Greece and including reason, the pursuit of knowledge and the arts, moderation, civic responsibility, and bodily development.”

  13. RBrown says:

    I am not as literate with different philosophical systems as I thought I was. I don’t know what Hellenism is or what threat it poses to orthodox Catholic thought. Can you elaborate?
    Comment by RichR

    Hellenism refers to the pre Christian Greek culture (anima is the Latin for Greek ????). A basic strategy of Protestantism has been to try to eliminate all Hellenistic influences on the Church, even including what is found in Scripture.

    And so even if anima (????) is found in Scripture, we’re supposed to pretend that it’s not there. This is accomplished by using Historical Critical criteria which jettisons any concept that can be attributed to Hellenism in order to reduce Scripture to texts that supposedly represent the pure Palestinian culture.

    BXVI himself has addressed this problem:

    Before I draw the conclusions to which all this has been leading, I must briefly refer to the third stage of dehellenization, which is now in progress. In the light of our experience with cultural pluralism, it is often said nowadays that the synthesis with Hellenism achieved in the early Church was a preliminary inculturation which ought not to be binding on other cultures. The latter are said to have the right to return to the simple message of the New Testament prior to that inculturation, in order to inculturate it anew in their own particular milieux. This thesis is not only false; it is coarse and lacking in precision. The New Testament was written in Greek and bears the imprint of the Greek spirit, which had already come to maturity as the Old Testament developed. True, there are elements in the evolution of the early Church which do not have to be integrated into all cultures. Nonetheless, the fundamental decisions made about the relationship between faith and the use of human reason are part of the faith itself; they are developments consonant with the nature of faith itself.

    http://www.ctureview.us/BenedictIslam.htm

  14. RBrown says:

    The Greek word for anima appeared in my comment, but when it was posted, it appeared as ????

  15. Tom Lanter says:

    Fr.Z.;

    This thread hits home with me, I was a creature of habit at the age of two now at seventy this habit now registers to the tenth power. About twenty-five years ago my wife informed me I always said “…and my soul shall be healed” at Mass instead of I shall be healed. I didn’t know everyone had changed, to this day I have not changed what I was taught in the forties. If they hadn’t stopped the ancient Mass I would not have changed to the new Mass.

    The ICEL mistranslation is not what gets me, there will always be agendas, at least it’s in the Latin. What I find more hurtfull are the prayers for All Souls Day. I have read that many of the (optional?) prayers which contained anima were dropped to where we almost have NO Souls Day. If true [You move from “I have read…” to “If true…”] this came from Rome not wayward bishops and their committees.
    Why would Rome drop those prayers in the new Mass?
    JMJ
    Tom Lanter

  16. Now that I think about it…look at the Domine non sum Dignus prayer with the lame duck translation of “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and (I) shall be healed. Dómine, non sum dignus, ut intres sub tectum meum: sed tantum dic verbo, et sanábitur ánima mea. (my soul) = anima mea…

    I don’t ever believe I’ve heard soul used in the NO…(at least in the English Translation)

    This is affecting America for sure.

  17. Alessandro says:

    Fr. that description of Pelagianism make me think of another heresy nowadays buried only in the pages of Denzinger: MODERNISM. The authority of feelings and intepretations instead of objective truth and magisterium in my opion is far more modernist than pelagianist. But I agree that the root of all the western deviations of faith are in the pelagian attitude towards sin, grace and our works. By the way, Martin Luther was of that opinion too!!!

  18. Phillip says:

    Wow. All my life, I thought it was “and my soul shall be healed.” I have always said this at mass, not just “I shall be healed.” I guess I need to change this.

  19. JPG says:

    My learning of theology is old and mainly self taught. The description of Pelagianism sounds an awful lot like Modernism. Fr Z would you be so kind as to suggest some books or sources which outline the earlier heresies as well as point out the underpinnings of modernism under which we all seem to labor? (by this I mean many such ideas have been inculcated through mistranslation and sermon as to be nearly undetectable.
    JPG
    Fairfield,CT

  20. peregrinus says:

    “Wow. All my life, I thought it was “and my soul shall be healed.” I have always said this at mass, not just “I shall be healed.” I guess I need to change this.

    Comment by Phillip — 17 December 2008″

    Not so fast. The new English translation of the Ordo Missae returns the response to its correct form: “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.”

  21. Rommel Lopez says:

    “Pelagianism denies the action of Grace in the world, man is saved by his own goodness and efforts, rather than by God.”

    Oprah Winfrey champions this using a new name… “The Law of Attraction” in the book “The Secret”. I was right in telling my wife that Oprah is the patron saint of the New Age Movement.

  22. Make me a Spark says:

    I think that this is the greatest book ever on Heresies(my selection is limited however), and many parts of it are posted on EWTN’s Library.

    http://www.marianland.com/errors009.html

  23. John says:

    One of the things that bothers me the most about the translations (besides the “et cum spiritu tuo,” the Credo being changed to credimus, and the Domine non sum dignus”) is the phrase “Lord, help us to…” Definitely the Pelagianism coming out in the translations.

  24. Marcin says:

    In the context of this post, Western accusations toward the Byzantines of (semi)-Pelagian tendences on the basis of their doctrine of ‘synergy’ make me laugh really hard.

  25. Besides devotion to the Blessed Virgin, a good cure for Pelagianism is Hilaire Belloc’s song, “The Song of the Pelagian Heresy.” Full title: “The Song of the Pelagian Heresy for the Strengthening of Men’s Backs and the Very Robust Out-Thrusting of Doubtful Doctrine and the Uncertain Intellectual.”

    It’s in his novel The Four Men. Have beer handy when you sing it.

  26. patrick finley says:

    Pelagianism also has a false understanding of feminism. I was talking to a lady at my home parish who says she found the Extraordinary form of the mass “dimeaning” to women, because some women choose to wear veils. I proceeded to tell her that its a choice, and that my wife doesnt wear a veil (though she wants too, she just hasnt found one she likes). I was still met with the same answer. It was disheartening, because this person was incredibly educated. Still, education sometimes doesnt yeild to common sense. I also pointed out the scriptural backings for it. Her answer “we dont do have the things that are in scripture anymore”. Then she sorta skulked off.

    I met her with every bit of compassion naturally. Its just kinda sad that we think we dont need scripture, and that all the “old stuff” is just “hooey”. Though I really see a rubber band effect happening very soon. The church can only take the modernism so far, before it corrects herself totally.