It often happens, at least to me, that when Pope Francis starts swinging pejorative labels around like so many clubs, it’s hard to know just whom he means to lather.
That said, when Pope Francis uttered the epithet about Self-Absorbed Promethean Neo-Pelagians, I knew right away that that meant catholic libs.
Some years later, he is talking again about “Pelagians” and about new “Gnostics”, though not in the ancient and technical sense of the terms.
At The Catholic Thing, Fr. Thomas G. Weinandy, OFM, Cap. – bane of libs – has set his pen to electronic page to scribe a comment about whom the Pope is really labeling.
The first part describes who Gnostics and what Gnosticism really was/is. Let’s jump in medias res with some of my usual treatments:
They live and are saved not by “faith” but by “knowledge.”
Compared to ancient Gnosticism, what is now being proposed as neo-Gnosticism within contemporary Catholicism appears confused and ambiguous, as well as misdirected. Some Catholics are accused of neo-Gnosticism because they allegedly believe that they are saved because they adhere to inflexible and lifeless “doctrines” and strictly observe a rigid and merciless “moral code.” [Libs in general do this. They justify their aberrations by claiming to be “spirit-filled” or “prophetic” over and against those people who cling to their dogmas and their laws and the “institutional Church. You know the type.] They claim to “know” the truth and, thus, demand that it must be held and, most importantly, obeyed. These “neo-Gnostic Catholics” are supposedly not open to the fresh movement of the Spirit within the contemporary Church. The latter is often referred to as “the new paradigm.”
Admittedly, we all know Catholics who act superior to others, who flaunt their fuller understanding of dogmatic or moral theology to accuse others of laxity. There is nothing new about such righteous judgmentalism. This sinful superiority, however, falls squarely under the category of pride and is not in itself a form of Gnosticism.
It would be right to call this neo-Gnosticism only if those so accused were proposing a “new salvific knowledge,” a new enlightenment that differs from Scripture as traditionally understood, and from what is authentically taught by the living magisterial tradition. [And who might they be?]
Such a claim cannot be made against “doctrines” that, far from being lifeless and abstract truths, are the marvelous expressions of the central realities of Catholic faith – the Trinity, Incarnation, the Holy Spirit, the real substantial presence of Christ in the Eucharist, Jesus’ law of love for God and neighbor reflected in the Ten Commandments, etc. These “doctrines” define what the Church was, is, and always will be. They are the doctrines that make her one, holy, catholic, and apostolic. [Doctrines and dogmas are not “lifeless”.]
Moreover, these doctrines and commandments are not some esoteric way of life that enslaves one to irrational and merciless laws, imposed from without by a tyrannical authority. Rather, these very “commandments” were given by God, in his merciful love, to humankind in order to ensure a holy god-like life. [Doctrine is not “esoteric”. It is promulgated and explained. However, there are those who claim to have insight into things which is superior to that of the Church, expressed in her laws and teachings. They see new and amazing things about, say, 2+2 or the homosexuality, that no one has ever thought of before!]
Those who mistakenly accuse others of neo-Gnosticism propose – when confronted with the nitty-gritty of real-life doctrinal and moral issues – the need to seek out what God would have them do, personally. [What GOD would have them do!] People are encouraged to discern, on their own, the best course of action, given the moral dilemma they face in their own existential context – what they are capable of doing at this moment in time. In this way, the individual’s own conscience, his or her personal communion with the divine, determines what the moral requirements are in the individual’s personal circumstances. What Scripture teaches, what Jesus stated, what the Church conveys through her living magisterial tradition are superseded by a higher “knowledge,” an advanced “illumination.” [Who’s the Gnostic now?]
If there is any new Gnostic paradigm in the Church today, it would seem to be found here. To propose this new paradigm is to claim to be truly “in-the-know,” to have special access to what God is saying to us as individuals here and now even if it goes beyond and may even contradict what He has revealed to everyone else in Scripture and tradition.
At the very least, no one claiming this knowledge should ridicule as neo-Gnostics those who live merely by “faith” in God’s revelation as brought forward by the Church’s tradition.
Good work, Fr. Weinandy.