new covenantIn this live stream, I tackle the following questions:

00:01 What is the “New Covenant” that we hear about every week in church?

06:06 Does the doctrine of original sin just make things more complicated? Should we not have it?

09:29 Is it sinful to attend a Mass at an SSPX chapel?

13:09 How to understand Paul’s statements regarding women’s head coverings and women teaching?

17:14 Does Jesus transforming water to wine symbolize the New Covenant replacing the Old?

22:42 Why do some Bible not capitalize divine pronouns (e.g., by referring to God as “he” rather than “He”)?

29:33 Can a Protestant who believes in transubstantiation take Communion in a Catholic Church?

31:34 What is Jimmy’s personal preference on how to receive Communion? (On the tongue? In the hand? Standing? Kneeling?)

34:03 Should we be wary of dangers with the New American Bible?

47:24 How can we explain the sacrifice of the Mass?


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Tim-Tebow-Jets-Bills-Praying00:29 Remembering Stephen Hawking on the occasion of his death.

04:53 What kind of prayers for a sports team are appropriate?

12:42 Is it true that a medieval pope had a previous pope dug up and put on trial?

16:14 Have some saints and popes used tobacco?

20:46 If life exists on other planets, did Jesus incarnate there also?

28:18 Today would we keep a beheaded John the Baptist alive with pumps and stuff?

29:50 How much of your body mass can you lose before you lose your soul?

33:14 If a Catholic is eating a hot dog on a ship and crosses into a time zone where abstinence is required, is it a sin to finish the hot dog?

41:22 Could an artificially intelligent and sentient creature be saved? What is required to have a rational soul?

48:32 Throughout the series Black Mirror, a recurring theme is digital duplicates of human consciousness getting treated with cruelty as they are enslaved by and pitted against actual body-and-soul human beings. As Catholics, who are we rooting for? The humans or the AIs?


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Pope Francis is having his "Inaugural Mass"? What's happens in this Mass, and why is it important?This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 13 June 2017 to 14 March 2018.


Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences



Papal Tweets

  • “I thank all women who every day strive to build more humane and welcoming societies.” @Pontifex 8 March 2018
  • “In the Sacrament of Reconciliation we find our way back to the Lord, and rediscover the meaning of life.” @Pontifex 9 March 2018
  • “If we dedicate more time to prayer, our hearts will reveal the lies with which we deceive ourselves, and we will find true consolation in God.” @Pontifex 10 March 2018
  • “What would happen to us if God did not always give us the chance to start over again?” @Pontifex 11 March 2018
  • “Living the encounter with Jesus means allowing yourself to be turned inside out by Grace every day.” @Pontifex 12 March 2018
  • “When we allow Jesus to enter our lives we discover the secret to keeping alive the flame of our spiritual life.” @Pontifex 13 March 2018
  • “If we encounter Jesus and our brothers and sisters every day, our hearts will not dwell in the past or the future. They will live in God’s present moment, in peace with everyone.” @Pontifex 14 March 2018

Papal Instagram

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When Pope Benedict was elected in 2005, I was overjoyed.

As much as I loved John Paul II, Cardinal Ratzinger spoke to me in a special way, and I was thrilled when he became pope.

I was puzzled, though, by the way people began announcing him as “God’s choice” and speaking as if—in every conclave—the Holy Spirit himself selects the pope.

It’s customary for people to speak that way in the jubilation that occurs whenever a new people is elected.

I knew that, but this was the first conclave I witnessed as an adult, and as a Catholic, and I hadn’t experienced it first hand.

That kind of language is understandable as a way of building confidence for the new pontificate, but is it literally true?

Does the Holy Spirit really select the best possible man for the job, or is it a form of pious hyperbole?


Common Sense

Common sense would suggest the latter. The cardinals in a conclave certainly invoke the Holy Spirit and seek his guidance, but he does not override their free will.

We’ve had some really bad popes in the history of the Church, and not just ones like Peter who made mistakes and then repented.

We’ve had some genuinely bad actors in the papacy (for example, Benedict IX, who reigned three different times between 1032 and 1048).

So in what sense can the election of a pope be said to be God’s will?


Divine Providence

Everything that happens in history takes place under God’s providential care.

By his omnipotence, God could stop any event from occurring, and so if something happens, it’s because God allows it.

The election of a pope thus can be said to be God’s will in the sense that any historical event can.

In this broad sense, however, the fact that something is God’s will does not guarantee that he approves of it.

It may be God’s will to allow a man to commit adultery, but that doesn’t mean he approves of the adultery.

Is the election of a pope in accord with God’s will only in this minimal sense or does it involve something greater?


Divine Guidance

While God does not override human free will, he does offer guidance. Jesus gave the Church certain promises in this regard, stating:

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth (John 16:13).


Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age (Matt. 28:20).

God has thus promised to give the Church his guidance. He has also promised it to individuals:

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproaching, and it will be given him (James 1:5).

If an individual man seeks God’s guidance, he can count on it being given. This does not mean it will be easy to hear or understand, or that the man will act on it, but it does mean that God will offer his assistance in some way.

Similarly, when the college of cardinals seeks God’s guidance in a conclave, they can be confident he will give it. Indeed, given the weightiness of the decision facing the cardinals and the implications it will have for the entire Church, they can expect he will provide even greater guidance.

This does not guarantee that the guidance will be easy to hear or understand, or that the cardinals will act on it, but it does mean that God’s assistance will be provided.

By presuming the discernment and good will of the cardinals, we may presume the man they elect was chosen in accord with God’s guidance and thus that his election was God’s will in a greater way than if God merely allowed it.


A Marriage Analogy

We should be careful about assuming that there is only one correct choice for pope, for the process of selecting a pope is similar to the process of selecting a spouse.

Pop culture sometimes promotes the idea that everyone has a soul mate—a single, best individual that they should marry—but the reality is more complex.

Each marriage prospect has different strengths and weaknesses, and depending on who you choose, your marriage will unfold in different ways. But that doesn’t mean there is a single, best candidate you must find.

Even if there is, identifying that person with confidence cannot be humanly accomplished, given the number of factors and the number of unknowns in play.

Similarly, candidates for the papacy have different strengths and weaknesses. Depending on who the cardinals choose, the next papacy will unfold in different ways. But there may not be a single, best choice—or one that is humanly knowable.


After the Choice is Made

Once a selection has been made, however, a new mode of divine will comes into play.

In the case of a marriage, once you exchange vows, it is God’s will that you treat that person as your spouse.

The realm of possibilities that existed before has now reduced to a single person, and that person is your divinely ordained spouse. He ordained that you be spouses in the moment the vows were exchanged, and “what God has joined together, let man not separate” (Matt. 19:6).

It’s now your job to make the marriage work, not to worry about what-ifs and might-have-beens.

Similarly, when a man accepts his election as pope, he becomes the divinely ordained pope, and it’s now everyone’s job in the Church to support him in the various ways that are appropriate to their station and to make the papacy work.

Spouses are not perfect, and neither are popes. Just as every marriage has challenges and requires work, so does every papacy.


Cardinal Ratzinger’s Views

When he was still a cardinal, Benedict XVI acknowledged the fact that cardinals can elect sub-optimal popes in an interview with German television back in 1997.

When asked whether the Holy Spirit is responsible for the election of a pope, he said:

I would not say so, in the sense that the Holy Spirit picks out the pope. . . . I would say that the Spirit does not exactly take control of the affair, but rather like a good educator, as it were, leaves us much space, much freedom, without entirely abandoning us. Thus the Spirit’s role should be understood in a much more elastic sense, not that he dictates the candidate for whom one must vote. Probably the only assurance he offers is that the thing cannot be totally ruined (John Allen, The Rise of Benedict XVI, 6).

He continued:

There are too many contrary instances of popes the Holy Spirit obviously would not have picked!

Similarly, in his final address to the college of cardinals, Pope Benedict stated:

Before I say goodbye to each one of you personally, I would like to tell you that I shall continue to be close to you with my prayers, especially in these coming days, that you may be completely docile to the action of the Holy Spirit in the election of the new pope. May the Lord show you the one whom he wants.

Benedict’s prayer that they will be docile to the Holy Spirit indicates the possibility that they will not be docile.


Implications for the Future

Nobody knows when the next conclave will be, but we can draw several implications from all this.

First, we can be confident from the fact that the cardinals seek God’s guidance that he will give it to them, as he has promised.

Second, even if they make a sub-optimal choice, we can be confident that God will ultimately bring good out of it, for “in everything God works for good with those who love him” (Rom. 8:28; cf. CCC 311).

Third, we need to pray. We need to pray now that good cardinals will be chosen, and when they meet in conclave, we need to pray that they will earnestly seek and heed God’s guidance.

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space colonyIn this episode of Catholic Answers Live (March 8, 2018, both hours), Jimmy answers the following questions:
00:07 What are the Orthodox objections to the Filioque (“and the Son”) clause in the Creed, and what are reasonable responses?
09:52 What is the history of sacrificing animals to God?
17:14 Were the Great Flood and other Bible stories ripped off from the Sumerians?
28:47 What should one make of Fr. Raymond Brown and the Jerome Biblical Commentary?
34:58 Are all our future sins forgiven? How to answer this claim?
44:51 What is the status of the Johannine Comma? Is it inspired and part of the Bible?
51:51 What are some recent philosophers that we can learn from the same way that Aquinas learned from Aristotle?
1:02:14 Does Jesus returning to earth for the Second Coming mean that mankind will never establish colonies on other planets?
1:09:50 How to disagree with the pope without making it seem we’re anti-pope or “popier-than-the-pope”?
1:20:48 Could the Internet cloud be the Beast and our smart devices be the mark of the Beast?
1:29:53 If Mary was conceived without original sin, why did she die? Would Jesus have been spared a natural death if he hadn’t been crucified?
1:34:54 Does everything that occurs in our lives have a special divine purpose or do some things not have a special purpose?
1:39:34 What is the difference between development of doctrine and changing doctrine? Can doctrine ever change and become the opposite?
1:46:58 Did God instruct Abraham to perform an intrinsically evil act with the sacrifice of Isaac? How does this relate to God’s goodness?

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7_brass-serpent-crucifixionIn this live stream, I tackle the following questions:

00:01 How to understand Jesus’ reference to the bronze serpent in the desert? (John 3)

07:39 How can a Protestant with an illness receive healing through the Catholic sacraments?

18:09 If God used evolution to produce the human race, were Adam and Eve’s parents non-humans, and would they have had souls?

21:15 If a Catholic wants to marry an atheist, what does the Catholic need to do in terms of the wedding, etc.?

23:30 Should the Church mandate the Tridentine, Latin Mass for everyone to restore reverence?

29:27 Did Jesus appear to Mary after the Resurrection?

31:44 What’s the difference between being unworthy to receive Communion and receiving Communion unworthily?

34:43 What does Paul mean by “works of the Law” in Romans 3:28, given that he talks about sin and morals earlier in the chapter?

44:25 Who is the greatest member of the Legion of Super-Heroes?

45:34 Who created the Nefilim or giants in the Old Testament?

49:24 Is danger of death the only situation in which Protestants can receive Communion in a Catholic church?

52:05 How to answer Bart Ehrman’s charge that the New Testament contains contradictions that undermine Christian claims?

1:02:08 Why did John the Baptist call Jesus the Lamb of God? How did he know this title?

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AdobeStock_115388656Can we pray for God to help someone in the past?

The Church has no teaching on this subject—one way or another—and intelligent, orthodox Catholics can have different opinions.

My good friend and colleague Tim Staples recently wrote a piece arguing that praying for those in the past doesn’t make sense.

I have a different opinion, as I’ve discussed on my personal blog (see part 1 and part 2).

Here I’d like to do a quick recap and then interact with Tim’s objections.


The Basic Idea

Praying for past events can involve three principles:

  • God is eternal, existing outside of time in an eternal now
  • God is omniscient, knowing what is happening in every moment in time
  • God is omnipotent, being able to affect every moment in time

The last two principles are the most important. We’ll see later that the first isn’t essential.

But using all three: If I pray for someone now, in 2018, then God knows about my prayer in the eternal now, and, from there, he can affect any moment in history—whether past, present, or future.


An Example

Fifty years ago, in 1968, one of my grandmothers died of breast cancer. I only have dim memories of her, and I don’t know much about her spiritual life.

I could pray, if she is in purgatory, for God to aid her purification, but I don’t know if she was close to God in life and thus likely to die in his friendship.

I do know God loved her and, even in her dying moments, could give her the grace to make a choice for him.

I also know that God is aware of my prayers. Therefore, today—in 2018—if I ask God to help my grandmother as she lay dying, God will hear my prayer in the eternal now, and from there he is capable of giving her his grace in 1968.

It thus makes sense to me to pray for her dying moments, though they are in the past from my perspective.

I’m not the only one who’s thought this makes sense. Figures such as Padre Pio and C.S. Lewis have said the same thing, and there is traction for the idea in the private revelations of St. Faustina.

Now let’s look at Tim’s arguments.


Argument #1: Changing the Past

Much of Tim’s post warns against the idea of changing the past. Some might think that, by praying for God to do something in the past, we are asking him to change what happened.

Tim is right to object to this line of thought.

But by praying for my grandmother, I’m not asking God to change what happened in 1968. It’s not like there was an original timeline in which my grandmother died outside of his friendship and I asked for him to erase that timeline and replace it with one where she didn’t.

In 1968, my grandmother either died in God’s friendship or she didn’t. I’m not asking him to change what happened. But since I don’t know which happened, I’m asking him to give his graces to her when she died.

In other words, I’m asking him to affect that moment, not change that moment.

I thus agree with Tim (and Aquinas, whom he quotes) that once a timeline exists from God’s perspective, it cannot change. That’s not what I’m asking.


Argument #2: The Church’s Liturgy

Tim argues that the Church’s liturgy does not include prayers for past events, and that’s true as far as I know, though I haven’t done a check of its present and past liturgical texts to see.

This doesn’t mean praying about the past is nonsensical or prohibited. In addition to liturgical prayer, the Church has a rich tradition of private devotions and private prayer.

Further, the Church’s tradition is living, and if someone realizes a new form of prayer is possible, it will be allowed under Christian liberty unless it can be shown to be impermissible.

Also, the Church’s liturgy incorporates prayer that isn’t explored in the official texts. That’s what “the prayers of the faithful” are for at Mass.

There are countless topics not mentioned in the Roman Missal (e.g., frozen embryos in fertility clinics, people dying in airplane crashes, astronauts on the International Space Station), and it’s permissible to intercede concerning these during the prayers of the faithful.

In fact, if a priest invites the faithful to offer their own petitions, I would be perfectly free to say, “For my grandmother in her dying moments, we pray to the Lord”—unless someone shows why I can’t.

Until that’s shown, it seems such prayers can find a place in the liturgy at these times.


Argument #3: The Practice of the Church

Tim argues that “the practice of the Church would seem to exclude prayer for the past as a valid option for Catholics. The Church never prays for people in the past other than what we find, for example, in the Catechism in the section on purgatory.”

However, the Catechism isn’t a treatise on everything permitted for Catholics. It is, as its name indicates, a catechetical text—one that provides basic instruction on what the Church teaches. By its nature, it doesn’t go into speculative topics or matters of permitted theological opinion.

The Catechism isn’t meant to be used with an “if not mentioned, then not permitted” hermeneutic. That would shut down the entire enterprise of theology, which by its nature goes beyond basic catechesis.

And when we look at the practice of the Church, we do find individual Catholics—e.g., Saint Padre Pio—praying for people in the past without censure from Church authority.


Argument #4: The Disservice Argument

Tim argues that if it’s possible to pray for the past, then the Church has done a disservice to past souls by not praying for them in the liturgy.

There are several responses.

First, theology develops over time, and we can’t expect earlier ages to use practices only thought of later.

The first Christians didn’t think of reserving the Eucharist in tabernacles for the faithful’s adoration, but we can’t say the Church did a disservice to prior Christians by not having thought of this earlier.

If the idea of praying for the past is only now gaining popularity, the Church hasn’t done a disservice up to now.

Second, the Church does pray for every soul. The Catechism explains:

The Church prays that no one should be lost: “Lord, let me never be parted from you.” If it is true that no one can save himself, it is also true that God “desires all men to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4), and that for him “all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26) (1058).

This doesn’t explore how God may apply his grace to souls. It leaves that up to God. But the Church does pray for every soul.

Third, the Church has always prayed for people in the current day. In 1968, the Church was praying (implicitly or explicitly) for my grandmother as she lay dying.

Thus, there are no souls left out of the Church’s intercession.

Fundamentally, the Church favors praying for the salvation of souls, and unless a compelling reason is shown why I shouldn’t, the Church favors me praying for my grandmother’s salvation.


Argument #5: God’s Eternity

Tim’s final argument deals with the nature of God’s eternity. It’s too complex to describe here, and I don’t share all of Tim’s premises.

We both agree God is eternal (outside of time), but we differ on the nature of time. He holds that only the present exists, while I hold the past and future also exist (see here).

However, for the sake of argument, I can grant everything he proposes about time and eternity.

So let me eject from my argument the fact God is eternal and focus just on his omniscience and omnipotence. Even if (per impossible) God were not outside of time, the following would be true:

  • In 1968, as my grandmother lay dying, God would know (by his omniscience) that in 2018 I would be praying for her happy death.
  • In 1968, God would be capable (by his omnipotence) of giving her his grace.
  • Therefore, in 1968, God would know about my 2018 prayer (by his omniscience) and be capable of granting it (by his omnipotence).

Eternity doesn’t need to be brought into the discussion. Neither does the reality of the future year 2018. God could still, in 1968, grant the prayer I would one day make, so my prayer makes sense.


A Marian Postscript

Tim also discusses an objection some might make concerning Mary’s Immaculate Conception: Didn’t God give her this grace early based on what her Son would later do?

Tim says that he did and that this did not involve changing the past.

He is entirely correct. God did—around 17 B.C.—give graces to Mary in anticipation of what her Son would accomplish in A.D. 33.

In the same way, God could—in 1968—give graces to my grandmother in anticipation of what I would ask in 2018.

There’s more Tim and I could say, but I hope this has been an illuminating discussion of a topic on which Catholics may hold different views.

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FrancisBlessesPalmsThis version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from 25 February  to 7 March 2018.


General Audiences


Papal Tweets

  • “God in His providence offers us the season of Lent each year as a chance to return to Him with all our hearts and in every aspect of our lives.” @Pontifex 1 March 2018
  • “Fasting makes us more alert and attentive to God and our neighbour, and reminds us that He alone can satisfy our hunger.” @Pontifex 2 March 2018
  • “Almsgiving helps us to recognize our neighbour as our brother or sister, and to acknowledge that what we possess is never our’s alone.” @Pontifex 3 March 2018
  • “God, who cannot be outdone in generosity, still uses you and me to help our brothers and sisters.” @Pontifex 5 March 2018
  • “Let us learn to recognize that which leaves a good and lasting mark on our hearts, knowing that it comes from God.” @Pontifex 6 March 2018
  • “If sometimes the flame of charity seems to die in our hearts, it never dies in the heart of God!” @Pontifex 7 March 2018

Papal Instagram

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In my first live streaming from home, I tackle these questions:

03:53 Why did Jesus tell the disciples to take swords but then stop them from using them?

08:25 Why do we trust the Eucharist for eternal salvation?

09:08 What should you do if you want to believe but feel torn between Christianity and skepticism?

18:09 Why the fish on Fridays rule?

21:04 If you aren’t sure whether you believe, can you go to Communion?

23:49 What to make of total consecration according to St. Louis de Montfort?

25:14 What to make of Pelagius?

27:06 How to reconcile the accounts of Saul’s conversion in Acts?

29:46 How to explain we need the Church for the Real Presence?

31:50 How can the Woman in Revelation 12 be Mary when others think she’s Israel? How can she experience pain in childbirth if Mary didn’t?

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salvation_intro_at_the_crossThe Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) has released a new document on the subject of salvation.

The CDF is the department at the Vatican charged with looking out for doctrinal errors, and it does not release documents very often.


1) Why was the document released?

On March 1, the prefect and secretary of the CDF—Archbishops Luis Ladaria and Giacomo Morandi—held a press conference in which they announced the new document.

The document can be read online here.

Archbishop Ladaria explained that the document arose after some theologians asked the Congregation to further examine themes discussed in its earlier document on salvation, Dominus Iesus (2000).

This document proved controversial because it explained the Church’s faith in Jesus Christ as the unique Savior of mankind, which some took as a slight to non-Christian religions.

The new document—Placuit Deo (Latin, “It has pleased God”)—reaffirms Christian teaching on Jesus as “the only Savior of the whole human person and of all humanity” (n. 2), but it does not dwell on the issue.

Instead, it focuses on two problematic tendencies in modern society that Pope Francis has called attention to, comparing them to the ancient heresies of Pelagianism and Gnosticism.


2) What is Pelagianism?

Pelagianism was a heresy which minimized or denied the need for God’s grace in avoiding sin and achieving salvation.

It is named after Pelagius, a monk from the British isles who lived in the 300s and 400s.

Pelagianism was fought by St. Augustine and others, and it was condemned at a variety of councils.

The new document, Placuit Deo, explains:

According to the Pelagian heresy, developed during the fifth century around Pelagius, the man, in order to fulfil the commandments of God and to be saved, needs grace only as an external help to his freedom (like light, for example, [or] power), not like a radical healing and regeneration of the freedom, without prior merit, until he can do good and reach the eternal life (fn. 9).


3) What is Gnosticism?

Gnosticism was a heresy that arose in the second and third century. It took many different forms.

Gnostics claimed to have special knowledge about the nature of the world and an alleged hierarchy of divine, celestial beings.

They commonly saw the material world as evil, being produced by an inferior divine power who was identified with the God of the Old Testament.

Salvation consisted in liberation from the flesh by embracing the gnostic message.


4) Is Gnosticism the belief that we are “saved through knowledge”?

No. This common claim is a mistake based on where the word “gnostic” comes from (gnosis, one of the Greek words for knowledge) and that ignores what gnostics actually believed.

Religions generally see a connection between salvation and knowledge. They hold people need to know what to do to be saved:

  • In Christianity, people need to know and act on the gospel of Jesus Christ.
  • In Buddhism, people need to recognize the Four Noble Truths and follow the Eightfold Path.
  • In Islam, people need to know and submit to the will of God.

Each of these religions could be called “gnostic” if all you mean by that is that they think people need knowledge to be saved.

What makes Gnosticism distinct is not its belief that knowledge is important for salvation. It’s the specific content of the knowledge they thought would let one achieve salvation. The CDF explains:

In general, the gnostics believed that the salvation is obtained through an esoteric knowledge or gnosis. Such gnosis reveals to the gnostic his true essence, i.e., a spark of the divine spirit that lives inside him, which has to be liberated from the body, external to his true humanity. Only in this manner, the gnostic returns to his original being in God from whom he has turned away due to a primordial fall (fn. 9).


5) What are the tendencies in modern society that the CDF warns against in the new letter?

The first tendency is a kind of self-sufficient individualism that doesn’t properly appreciate the role of Jesus in salvation:

On one hand, individualism centered on the autonomous subject tends to see the human person as a being whose sole fulfilment depends only on his or her own strength.

In this vision, the figure of Christ appears as a model that inspires generous actions with his words and his gestures, rather than as he who transforms the human condition by incorporating us into a new existence, reconciling us with the Father and dwelling among us in the Spirit (n. 2).

The second tendency is a kind of isolationism that conceives of salvation as an exclusively personal thing that involves only the individual and God. This is sometimes called a “just me and Jesus” attitude, and it does not appreciate our obligations toward others and the world:

On the other hand, a merely interior vision of salvation is becoming common, a vision which, marked by a strong personal conviction or feeling of being united to God, does not take into account the need to accept, heal, and renew our relationships with others and with the created world (ibid.).


6) How has Pope Francis spoken of these tendencies?

The CDF explains:

Pope Francis, in his ordinary magisterium, often has made reference to the two tendencies described above, that resemble certain aspects of two ancient heresies, Pelagianism and Gnosticism.

A new form of Pelagianism is spreading in our days, one in which the individual, understood to be radically autonomous, presumes to save oneself, without recognizing that, at the deepest level of being, he or she derives from God and from others. . . .

On the other hand, a new form of Gnosticism puts forward a model of salvation that is merely interior, closed off in its own subjectivism. . . .

It presumes to liberate the human person from the body and from the material universe, in which traces of the provident hand of the Creator are no longer found (n. 3).


7) In speaking of these tendencies as Pelagianism and Gnosticism, is the pope being literal?

No. The CDF explains:

Clearly, the comparison with the Pelagian and Gnostic heresies intends only to recall general common features, without entering into judgments on the exact nature of the ancient errors. . . .

However, insofar as Gnosticism and Pelagianism represent perennial dangers for misunderstanding biblical faith, it is possible to find similarities between the ancient heresies and the modern tendencies just described (n. 3).


8) What does the CDF see as the antidotes to these problems?

A complete discussion can be found by reading the document in full, but put concisely:

  • Contra individualism (“neo-Pelagianism”), we cannot rely simply on ourselves for salvation (e.g., by trying to be morally good person). God’s grace in Jesus Christ is essential for salvation. The sacraments are means by which God gives us his grace.
  • Contra isolationism (“neo-Gnosticism”), salvation is not a purely private and spiritual matter. We must take seriously our responsibilities toward other Christians, the Church, and all of creation.


9) Are there any particularly interesting points the document discusses?

One is a rejection of the common idea that our final destiny is to live as disembodied spirits with God in heaven. While we may be disembodied before the final resurrection, the document reminds us that, “total salvation of the body and of the soul is the final destiny to which God calls all of humanity” (n. 15).

Another point, which will be particularly interesting for Protestant Christians, is the document’s acknowledgement that Mary is “first among the saved” (n. 15), meaning that she also is a recipient of God’s grace (cf. CCC 508).


10) Did we have any idea this document was coming?

Yes. In his annual address to the CDF last January, Pope Francis mentioned it.

He also mentioned that the CDF has been doing a study of Christian principles and economics and another study on euthanasia and the care of the terminally ill.

We may soon see documents on those subject also.

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