Who are the real Neo-Gnostics?

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.

Please share!

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Liberals, The Drill and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Who are the real Neo-Gnostics?

  1. Eric says:

    I receive the Catholic Thing every morning in my email inbox. I confess I don’t read it every day, but when I do it is usually well done. When I saw that morning that it was penned by Fr. Weinandy I knew I would be reading it. He never disappoints. His books are amazing on a whole other level. Everyone of them isn’t easy but you will close the book and say “wow, that was awesome” (if you enjoy orthodoxy strongly defended). He writes precisely and takes it all on, from whatever corner (like the article above). What a tragedy on his “dismissal” from the USCCB.

  2. tamranthor says:

    Life is difficult enough without trying to become God yourself. Just ask Adam or Eve. They can tell you–it isn’t a very nice way to go through life. And make no mistake. Those who promote “a new paradigm” are simply reaching back the to the old, original sin all over again.

    I truly believe that the “old guard,” meaning those who thought Vatican II was permission to trash 2,000 years of Church teaching and orthodoxy, have become quite shrill and desperate upon seeing the younger generations claiming that history for themselves and the Church. They really thought that, by becoming more Protestant and by condoning sin, they would form a new church that would bring in everyone by never challenging them and never requiring the hard work it takes to get into heaven. The old “if it feels good, do it” crowd who equated physical pleasure with God’s plan for us all: the Neo-Adam and Eve, if you will.

    They still don’t see that a church that offers, basically, nothing is not likely to draw much of anything, either.

  3. cwillia1 says:

    There are people who believe they have a direct channel to God, who tells them how to interpret scripture and with whom they negotiate special deals. I guess you could call them gnostics. Seems to be a common issue with evangelicals who think the Holy Spirit bypasses the church.

  4. DeGaulle says:

    On the other hand, I would never have heard of the good Father had he not been expelled from the tent. And we all know that somewhat vulgar saying about how it is often wiser for the establishment to have certain people doing their business outwards from inside the tent than inwardly from the outside! This is meant to in no way reflect the content of what Fr. Weinandy has to say, which is merely Truth speaking to Power.

  5. Pingback: Who are the real Neo-Gnostics? | Blithe Spirit

  6. Malta says:

    I’m a lawyer, but I detest legalese language; or stupid terms like Neo-Gnosticism or Self-Absorbed Promethean Neo-Pelagians. Come-on, use plain language! People try to sound smart just by using certain language. PUHLEEZ! Anyone now can look-up those terms on their smart phones now in 3 seconds. But, you have to beat them at their own game; what is said below, and Fr. Z’s brackets is very true:

    “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?]”

    The neo-Gnostics are of course the libs who depart from the Bible, and deny, say, St. Paul’s teachings on homosexuality. Why don’t they become Anglicans or Episcopalians already? If you don’t like what the Church teaches–just get out, and leave the rest of us alone.

  7. Malta says:

    And by the by the way, before I became Catholic in my mid-20’s I was an Existentialist Atheistic; I studied the works of Albert Camus, Sartre, Camus etc. extensively. I thought I could linguistically Judo anyone to the ground, and in some cases I could. But the beauty of the Gospels and Epistles is their Simultaneous profundity and simplicity.

  8. Malta says:

    I’m sorry Father, I didn’t proof read before I posted. I said “Camus” twice; I mean to add Samuel Beckett. But, before I knew the Bible (and I have read every word of the New Testament, Ignatius Press Study Bible, and other editions, at least five or six time. And what I love is that St. Paul was up against some of the best minds in the ancient world: Greco-Roman philosophers. But like Socrates he destroyed their way of thinking with simple language, and of course was put to death for it.

  9. Fr. Reader says:

    Very interesting post.

  10. Semper Gumby says:

    Insightful article by Fr. Weinandy.

    He wrote: “What Scripture teaches, what Jesus stated, what the Church conveys through her living magisterial tradition are superseded [according to Gnostics] by a higher “knowledge,” an advanced “illumination.””

    Gnostics tend to view themselves as an Elite amongst mankind. Their sense of “advanced illumination” tempts Gnostics to believe that he/she has “liberated” their Inner Divinity that was “trapped” in their own bodies.

    In 2003 the Pontifical Council on Culture released a document titled “Jesus Christ – The Bearer of the Water of Life: A Christian Reflection on the New Age.” The study was highly critical of New Age spirituality and practices. It also referred to Gnosticism on some two dozen occasions, such as:

    “This may be an exaggerated way of stating the case, but there is much evidence that gnostic élitism and global governance coincide on many issues in international politics.” Which seems to be a polite way of saying that Gnostics tend to favor Marxist utopianism and totalitarian governance.

    A second quote from the document, which here is quoting St. John Paul II: “Gnosticism never completely abandoned the realm of Christianity. Instead, it has always existed side by side with Christianity, sometimes taking the shape of a philosophical movement, but more often assuming the characteristics of a religion or a para-religion in distinct, if not declared, conflict with all that is essentially Christian.”

    These two quotes from “Jesus Christ – The Bearer of the Water of Life” help to explain some recent events, to list a few:

    -Hilary Clinton and her Deplorables.

    -Barack Obama and his Bitter Clingers, and his attack on Christianity, and the Catholic Church specifically, at a National Prayer Breakfast.

    -leftist hatred of the 1st and 2nd Amendments.

    -the uproar at the 2012 Democrat Convention when the word “God” was re-inserted into the Party Platform after it had been deleted.

    -the Spirit Cooking events of 2016. (Spirit Cooking is both Thelemite (Aleister Crowley) and Gnostic. Spirit Cooking is influenced by the diabolical “Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica.”)

    The elitism and anti-Christianity of Gnosticism mixes well with the atheism and totalitarianism of Marxism.

    As Fr. Weinandy correctly points out: “Gnosticism holds a radical dualism: “matter” is the source of all evil, and “spirit” is the divine origin of all that is good.” And: “[Gnostic] salvation consists in obtaining true knowledge (gnosis), an enlightenment that allows progress from the material world of evil to the spiritual realm…”

    Gnosticism, then, would appear to be opposed to, or at least indifferent to, Environmentalism and Islam. However, modern Gnostics differ somewhat from 2nd-century Gnostics. Today’s Gnostics tend to:

    – crave totalitarian power.

    – are part of a broader, modern occult revival.

    – view Earth-worshipping pagans, Wiccans, Islamists, and Reconstructionists as natural allies against Judaism, Christianity, Western Civilization, and the Catholic Church. (Reconstructionists are those reviving the ancient religions of Mesopotamia, Egypt, Canaan, and the Celtic and Germanic religions.)

    – find objectionable, or even detestable, the Catholic fidelity to Truth and the Magisterium, Confession, the Rosary, ad orientem worship, and the reverent reception of Communion.

    Spiritual Warfare indeed.

    “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” Ephesians 6:10-13

  11. robtbrown says:

    The pope is referring not to ancient gnosticism but rather to a version of it that arose in the rationalism of the Enlightenment: Reason usurped the Faith. Its influence in the Church meant understanding was all but eliminated from the study of theology–it was more important to know who said what about doctrine than to understand the doctrine itself.

    This was/has been the theological MO of Germans and Jesuits. IMHO, it reduces theology to a branch of library science.

    Ancient Gnosticism reduces all knowledge of the faith to myths, which serve only to structure the mind as a preparation for Enlightenment . In contemporary times this takes the form of Progressivism, according to which a new dogma can contradict an old one by the power of the Holy Spirit. IMHO, it’s a bit like the Age of the Son replaced by the Age of the Spirit (cf Joachim de Fiore).

    The refutation is found in the Fourth Gospel, where references are made to Spiritus veritatis. Also note the Filioque.

    Addendum: Political Progressives often consider themselves The Enlightened Ones.

  12. robtbrown says:

    The pope is referring not to ancient gnosticism but rather to a version of it that arose in the rationalism of the Enlightenment: Reason usurped the Faith. Its influence in the Church meant understanding was all but eliminated from the study of theology–it was more important to know who said what about doctrine than to understand the doctrine itself.

    This was/has been the theological MO of Germans and Jesuits. IMHO, it reduces theology to a branch of library science.

    Ancient Gnosticism reduces all knowledge of the faith to myths, which serve only to structure the mind as a preparation for Enlightenment . In contemporary times this takes the form of Progressivism, according to which a new dogma can contradict an old one by the power of the Holy Spirit. IMHO, it’s a bit like the Age of the Son replaced by the Age of the Spirit (cf Joachim de Fiore).

    The refutation is found in the Fourth Gospel, where references are made to Spiritus veritatis. Also note the Filioque.

    Addendum: Political Progressives often consider themselves The Enlightened Ones.

  13. Semper Gumby says:

    robtbrown wrote: “The pope is referring not to ancient gnosticism but rather to a version of it that arose in the rationalism of the Enlightenment: Reason usurped the Faith.”

    There are good points in your comment, but that particular statement is unlikely, to say the least. Rather- given the numerous erratic comments and problematic actions of this pontificate (to put it courteously)- Fr. Weinandy is on the mark when he writes: “Compared to ancient Gnosticism, what is now being proposed as neo-Gnosticism within contemporary Catholicism appears confused and ambiguous, as well as misdirected.”

    Good point.

    Furthermore, whether comparing “ancient” or “Enlightenment” or “post-Nag Hammadi” Gnosticism (the 1945 discovery in Nag Hammadi Egypt of Gnostic and Hermetic writings which created yet another revival), the fundamental problem remains:

    “What Scripture teaches, what Jesus stated, what the Church conveys through her living magisterial tradition are superseded [SG here: according to Gnostics] by a higher “knowledge,” an advanced “illumination.” [Fr. Z added: Who’s the Gnostic now?]”

    Good question.

Do you have a comment? Think BEFORE posting! Proof read. For special characters use Unicode.