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Francis, Bannon, and the Neopelagian Crisis

The New York Times’ Jason Horowitz attempts to thread together separate strands linking Trump White House counselor Steve Bannon to Cardinal Raymond Burke — recently the object of resistance to attempts by the German bishops to inaugurate a “reform of the reform” contra Pope Francis’ efforts to bridge the divide with our Eastern Orthodox cousins — in an attempt to craft some form of grand nationalist conspiracy against the Catholic Church.

Given the recent controversy over the Sovereign Order of Malta, that would be a narrative that would tremendously benefit the “reformers of the reform” among the German bishops.

One should be clear about the position Pope Francis is currently in, and why Catholics of goodwill have an absolute duty to stand by Francis as the Vatican is under siege from all sides. Among the reformers, there is an attempt to pry the Magisterium so open that the Catholic Faith falls out.  Among the traditionalists, there is an alarming bent towards neopelagianism.

Within both camps, Pope Leo XIII’s condemnation of postmodernism in Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae is proving to be more prophecy than phantom, and much like J.R.R. Tolkien’s Sauron in The Lord of the Rings, the “phantom heresy” is taking real form.

The wisdom and foresight of Pope Leo XIII was to correctly address the rise of post-modernism in Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae as jointly holding both Protestant and Pelagian mindsets. In short, what Francis himself echoed in Evangelii Gaudium as a post-modern mindset trapped among two extremes: gnosticism and neopelagianism.

To be brief, Steve Bannon opposes the Catholic Church because he views it as a source of globalist influence against his nationalist (and Eurasianist) views; an institution held in thrall to the Second Vatican Council and what many on the neopelagian right view as too strong an emphasis on mercy over “the rules.”

Such approaches are echoes of the nouvelle droite that has captured the politics of the Western world of late — a Christendom without the Christ that finds its roots not in the traditions of the West, but in the revanchism of the East, namely, the political theories of Alexander Dugin, and adopted in the far-right politics of France’s National Front, Hungary’s Jobbik Party, UKIP, or Germany’s AfP.

Yet Francis is no liberal. Francis is a Jesuit and perhaps a Molinist at heart, which entails a very different concept of human freedom beyond the neo-Thomist reading emphasized by American Catholics, and taken to be authentic in the wake of the Americanist crisis of the late 19th century.

Our problem as Catholics in America is that we have no other conception of an authentic Catholicism among the laity apart from one seen through the neo-Thomistic lens.  After Leo XIII’s condemnation of Americanism, it was Rome who sent theologians schooled in neo-Thomism, and faithful Catholics in America were quick to adopt what they eagerly believed to be an authentic expression of the Catholic mind.

The very idea that neo-Thomism could be incorrect smacks of liberalism, socialism, communism, and all the -isms that Catholics — in our rise to normalcy in the mid-20th century — find abhorrent. Neo-Thomism is the only language we (and as a former Catholic, Bannon himself) have.

When this neo-Thomistic foundation was unwound in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, the neopelagians left the Church. Of course they begrudged the institution of Catholicism, of course they blamed the reformers.

This perhaps explains why pew sitting Catholics long for the rules, the liturgy, a more traditional Mass, and are ultimately confused by Pope Francis, who speaks of mercy.  Among the pull of German reformers and nouvelle droite provocateurs, it is men like Francis and Burke who have to walk a post-modernist tightrope — perhaps shorthand for rooting out Freemasonic influence? — in order to address the grip of gnosticism and neopelagianism in today’s society.

This raises two points. First and foremost, Francis is no liberal, but is doing his utmost to heal the wounds of the Body of Christ writ large. If the objective is to engage in ecumenical dialogue with the Orthodox, Lutherans, SSPX, and others, it is to be expected that factions held in thrall to the secular religions of the day will attempt to infiltrate that process. To that end, we have but one option: prayer.

Second and perhaps most important for those trying to decipher Francis’ emphasis on mercy over rules is this: Francis is rescuing Catholicism from a neo-Thomist aberration that lends itself to dialectic materialism. Pope St. John Paul II won the war against Marxist materialism; Benedict and Francis have yet to win the war against Randian materialism.

This Randian materialism that emphasizes meritocracy over community is a sickness of post-modern culture, one that has placed the values of the West on a sickbed through sheer obesity and decadence rather than a lack of vitality from within. It is a brand of materialism wrapped in the post-modern acedia that places consumption over consequence — and it is an evil that separates a worthy few from an unworthy mass of humanity — what Pope Benedict called in his condemnation of neopelagianism as a “right to blessedness.”

I have listened to Bannon talk once before at a 2007 meeting of the Virginia Institute for Public Policy in Richmond before a set crowd of about 60 conservative activists at one of their Wednesday Morning Group sessions. In that talk, Bannon’s antipathy for Catholicism and immigration was made brutally clear. To wit, Bannon made the audacious claim that immigrants — specifically Hispanic Catholics — were part of a globalist plot to overwhelm American sic Protestant institutions in order to subjugate the United States to a globalist agenda.

In short, Bannon is a neopelagian because that is what the nouvelle droite embraces in its politics. Consumption over conscience, the rule of law as a maximum good rather than summum iustia summa injuria, the form of Christendom without the substance of Christendom. Christ for the faithful, not for the many.

The Times article is perhaps in a rush to align Steve Bannon and Cardinal Burke (and I think, incorrectly so) due to events concerning the Sovereign Order of Malta (which I firmly believe is more misunderstanding than crisis — give an American a hammer, and the world becomes a nail).

Yet it does go to show that the Vatican — and I think, correctly — believes itself under siege in the rise of the nouvelle droite. And the efforts of individuals such as Bannon, Le Pen, and the ideological high priest in Alexander Dugin all conspire to a “Christendom without Christ” — producing Russian errors and rooted in Russian soil.

Our Lady of Fatima, ora pro nobis.

 

Readers are invited to discuss essays in argumentative and fraternal charity, and are asked to help build up the community of thought and pursuit of truth that Ethika Politika strives to accomplish, which includes correction when necessary. The editors reserve the right to remove comments that do not meet these criteria and/or do not pertain to the subject of the essay.

  • Thomas Sharpe

    So, if I’m confused by muddled thoughts, inspired by clear ones, I’m not thinking like a Catholic?

  • melanie statom

    I just finished reading the late Rev. Richard Wurmbrand’s book “Marx and Satan” this morning. I was able to hear him speak many years ago as an undergraduate and was struck by his compelling witness, having suffered 14 years of imprisonment in Europe for his views against communism. He warned Christians not to be duped by Marxism’s “benevolent disguises”. I found the views in this particular book highly relevant for the global issues facing us today, especially for Christians who conspire knowingly or unknowingly to a ” Christendom without Christ”. Thanks for your essay…I too found myself offering a prayer to Our Lady of Fatima, this morning after closing the pages of his incredible testimony.

  • kneeling catholic

    …..”This perhaps explains why pew sitting Catholics long for the rules, the liturgy, a more traditional Mass, and are ultimately confused by Pope Francis, who speaks of mercy. “….

    Mr. Kenney, just a few questions….

    🙂 what planet do you live on!!!? 🙂 where are pew-sitters longing for rules and tradition? certainly not on planet earth!!

    🙂 🙂 Your jargon, i.e. “neo”-whatever”, novelle- “whatever” name-calling and your reticence to complete any of your thoughts, make your wordy jumble painful to read!! You are not broadcasting on a clear frequency. Are you doing dog-whistles?

    🙂 🙂 🙂 Also, you remarked that Bannon has left the Church. Do you have a source for that, or is that what they call ‘fake news’?

    • Faithr

      I can attest to the Catholics who long for rules and fear/distrust Pope Francis. I know many of them. You might start with fans of The Vortex and Michael Voris.

      • samton909

        Any catholic who puts down faithful Catholics as “longing for rules and fear” needs to get their head out of their behind

        • Faithr

          Why? Are faithful Catholics perfect and never need admonishment or any self-awareness that they may be too legalistic? And is crassly responding to another commenter a virtuous thing or something that will turn other Catholics off because of their grotesque behavior on line? But I don’t know why I bother to have a conversation. You are probably just another nutty troll who gets their thrills being nasty to their fellow men. May God have mercy on us all!

          • BXVI

            Rules are good. We all need – we all long for – rules. And yes, at a time when the Western world seems to have gone completely insane, the faithful are in fact looking for something solid to hold onto – including a set of rules to live by.

      • kneeling catholic

        Dear, Faithr,

        Sorry, buddy, but I have to call BS on you.
        When you say you ‘know many of them’. Do you mean like 1 or 2? How many fans of Voris do you PERSONALLY know? An approximate number please!

        I do wish you were right about the teeming numbers and as to this article, I am totally with you. It is written very snobbily with little regard to us ‘unwashed’ who really cannot understand its mumbo jumbo.

        • Faithr

          I have been a Catholic homeschooler for more than 20 years. I know lots of very traditional Catholics, both in real life and long term on line who post things from Voris, refer to his videos, etc. And you know what, I can still be friends with them, but they, like every single person on earth, should be open to criticism. There is a tribalism going on that isn’t healthy. I didn’t find the article written snobbily. Did I say that?I found it academic. Maybe that is inappropriate for Ethika Politka readers? I don’t read EP often. I assumed it was aimed at a theologically educated audience. I took the time to look up much of what the author was referring to and it all seemed to fit. I looked up neo-Thomism and neopelagianism, etc. Try it! You might find it enlightening and then won’t be so quick to judge.

          • BXVI

            I don’t know “traditionalist” Catholics (at least that I am aware of). I don’t know anyone who attends the Latin Mass. I attend a regular, diverse parish in the United States.

            Most of the people I know would consider themselves “JPII” Catholics. That is, they came of age in the 1980s and 1990s, so St. John Paul the Great was Pope during their formative years. These are not the kind of people who subscribe to The Vortex.

            And many of them are very, very alarmed. They can see exactly what is going on under the current Vatican regime: a not-so-subtle attempt to undermine everything St. John Paul taught about sexual morality, intrinsic evils, and access to the sacraments.

            The people in control now made no secret of the fact that they despised the magisterium of St. John Paul on these subjects before they came to power.

          • Faithr

            I actually just used the Vortex as an example. It’s not the only indicator! I think Francis has some strong points and some not so strong. He has shifted the emphasis to mercy and engagement. That might be a good or maybe not. From my little anecdotal experience, things were politicized from the beginning due to media deciding they hated BXVI and loved Francis because he was ‘liberal.’ And it has just gotten worse, fear, name calling, etc between Catholics who have fallen into seeing things in a left/right worldview. And it isn’t just on the conservative side – I have liberal friends from my college days who are just as tribal. To me, the struggle is to be a good Catholic and eschew the right/left misleading binary of religious issues.

          • BXVI

            Just this week:
            1. The Pope’s Pontifical Academy of Science has invited two of the world’s leading population control experts to speak. One of the two has described the Catholic Church as the greatest force for evil in the world, but has stated that he “likes the direction” Pope Francis is taking the Church.
            2. The Jesuit newspaper which is reviewed for content by the Pope’s staff published an article this week suggesting that it is now time to re-open the issue of women priests.
            3. An interview was released in Pope declared that he is troubled by new religious orders that are booming with vocations because the young people who join them a plagued by a rigidity that betrays psychological problems.
            4. The German bishops published guidelines for AL that basically trash the magisterium of prior popes, while claiming that they are “confident” the Pope is with them.
            The hits just keep coming. Wake up and realize that what is going on here is an attempted revolution. They are pushing as hard as they can on every front.

          • kneeling catholic

            Faithr,

            🙁 Ethika has gone and started blocking posts.
            I just wrote a lengthy apology to you (for calling BS). This will probably be blocked as well….:-(

          • Faithr

            Thank you for the apology! God bless you! And I should apologize too because the comment section of the internet always makes me feel like I need to get to confession pronto! I am sure I have sinned somehow! If only because I am reacting to words and forgetting the God created soul behind them!

      • BXVI

        Of course the followers of The Vortex and the rad-trads are apoplectic over this pontificate. But you make the mistake of assuming that those are the only people who are alarmed. That’s just not the case and it adopts the false narrative being put out by the Vatican that there is nothing to worry about because it is only rad-trad “restorationists and “American conservatives” who oppose the Pope’s agenda. That is an enticing and to some, a comforting, narrative but it is not true. It is a deliberate lie.

    • MarylandBill

      There are lots of Catholics who long for those things, particularly I think among Catholics who have grown up since the “reformers” took the Ordinary Form of the mass and used loop holes to “reform” the mass. Not all of us are fans of Voris, but I was chatting with a Homeschooling Mom the other night who, while not looking for Latin to replace the vernacular, wished that Churches returned to communion at the Alter Rail and liked Ad Orientum worship.

      As for the “jargon”, these terms are hardly obscure terms when one is discussing Catholic Theology. A quick google search on all of them will tell you what you need to know. An author should not have to assume that his audience is totally ignorant on the subject he is writing on.

      • kneeling catholic

        Thanks, MB!

        Fine! lets accept that Mr. Mush-mouth knows what the labels he applies mean.

        maybe you can answer for him since all we get from him is radio-silence……

        How can he say that Neo-Thomism–a dualistic outlook…leads to dialectical materialism–a monistic outlook which denies the immortal soul…?

        Dualism naturally leads to monism?

        I don’t get it!

  • robertobellarmino

    More name calling. More confusion.

    • kneeling catholic

      Right on!
      Wish I had seen your comment earlier, I could have saved myself some electronic ink.

  • Faithr

    I found this article fascinating. I had to look up a lot of words, but I appreciated the edifying and insightful glimpse into what is happening now with the rise of the right worldwide and the Church’s relation to all this.

  • bdlaacmm

    Pope St. John Paul II won the war against Marxist materialism; Benedict and Francis have yet to win the war against Randian materialism.

    Loved that line! Thank you for it. In one sentence, you made clear what has been troubling me for some time.

  • samton909

    God, what a load of crap

  • j atkinson

    I would suggest that you do not take any more philosophy classes , … pay attention to actions and when you write this, “First and foremost, Francis is no liberal” perhaps you have your head stuck in a hole somewhere.. either way.. the jumble of thoughts you put down could be tightened up a bit.. good luck with that..

    • Traveler

      But that’s the thing, Pope Francis keeps getting branded by “conservative” Catholics as a “liberal” when the fact of the matter is that he isn’t. More accurately he’s a supporter of the reforms instituted by the Second Vatican Council. He’s very much in the tradition of Pope John XXVIII. Even Saint John Paul the Great and Pope Benedict XVI were proponents of the Second Vatican Council and its reforms, something most “conservative” Catholics seem to conveniently forget. In fact, then Joseph Ratzinger, personal theologian of Cardinal Frings of Cologne, published commentaries of the proceedings (see his Theological Highlights of Vatican II, 1966) in which he defended the reform position at the Council.

      I don’t believe that it serves the Church very well, if at all, for fellow Catholics to continue labeling one another “liberal” or “conservative”. The Church Herself has always been a conservative *institution* as compared to other institutions. That Her membership is divided between reformists and non-reformists is a rather more accurate portrayal of things, I think. And perhaps viewing ourselves as having differences of opinion as Catholics first and foremost can go a long way in appreciating that we are all members of good standing as Christ’s Mystical Body.

      • BXVI

        Bunk. The current regime in the Vatican is doing everything they can, as rapidly as they can, to undermine the magisterium of St. John Paul the Great and holy Pope Benedict. That is the problem.

        To blame “opposition” to their agenda on “American conservatives” who are “restorationists” or “rad-trads” who oppose the Council is malarkey. It is a dishonest feint. People are alarmed because they understand that the current regime rejects the authoritative interpretation of the Council that is reflected in the magisterium of the popes that have reigned since the Council up to Pope Francis.

        • mr. producer

          The failures of both JPII and BXVI to reform the reforms of the disastrous VAT II Council (JPII called it a new springtime in the Church), led directly to someone like Bergoglio becoming pope. He is the natural fruit of Vat. II.

  • Garrett

    Pray tell, how do you define neo-thomism, and how is it an “aberration that lends itself to dialectic materialism?”

    • typically it means some sort of version of what we might refer to as “manualist.” Now, that may not help clarify things because manualism was a specific historical movement and one can easily say “well, duh. I’m not a manualist. i live in the 20th century and i know better.”
      however, i think the term might still be helpful in that it draws a connection to a particular materialist reading of Thomas that is reductivist in its neglect or flattening of Being. Thomas’s “real distinction” is key and those of on this side of the enlightenment have certain cultural biases that might make his metaphysics difficult for us. that is somewhat different from the manualists but neo-Thomism as reductionist does tend towards a dialectic materialism…

      one hates to name names, but you could google it as “Faithr” suggests above. Keep in mind to that there were a few different strands of neo-Thomism and they have significant variances. I don’t think it would be fair to characterize Garrigou-Lagrange as reductivist especially not at the end of his life and work. understanding the it is impolite to name name but since you ask the question…Anscombe, Veatch, and Rhonheimer might get characterized as neo-Thomist. It plays out in some problematic results in their ethics.

      trying to be specific but charitable

      • BXVI

        What is going on is not about some neo-Thomist aberration. It is about the magisterium of several recent popes, one of who has already been canonized.

        What is happening here is not a “correction” of neo-Thomists but a not-so-subtle rejection of major elements of the post-Concillar magisterium by the current Vatican regime.

        They clearly think that Pope St. John Paul the Great and holy Pope Benedict got a lot of stuff wrong, and that they are just the ones to correct it. They are spitting on St. John Paul’s grave, and in Benedict’s face while the poor man still lives. It is the height of hubris, it show great disrespect, and I find it highly offensive.

        • BXVI, if I read you correctly here, your comments could summarized or characterized along the following lines:
          Pope Francis = Problem
          Cardinal Burke = Solution

          The article is trying to demonstrate that:
          1. Francis v. Burke is a false narrative.
          2. This false narrative plays very well in MSM and is being revved up.
          3. There will be wolves in the periphery looking to seize the opportunity to harm the Church as the narrative gets ratcheted up.
          4. Be careful and pray for the Church.

          • BXVI

            Actually, I do not necessarily think Burke is the “solution”. He’s not the best “spokesman” because he is perceived to be such a traditionalist / ultra-conservative. But, right now he seems to be the only one who will speak the truth about what’s going on.
            The Vatican is giddy that is being portrayed as a Francis-Burke thing because they feel that is to their advantage.
            Muller would be a better “solution” but he’s having to walk a real tightrope. If he goes too far then he’ll be sacked and we’ll have a doctrinal “progressive” installed at the CDF. Francis has him essentially “trapped” and so he can only say so much. He’s got to restrain himself or risk being replaced by someone like Schonborn, or even worse a Marx or Kasper.

          • Well…Francis is the Pope the Holy Spirit gave us.

          • kneeling catholic

            JM>>>>Well…Francis is the Pope the Holy Spirit gave us.<<<<<

            JM,

            Do you believe that is impossible to have a 'bad pope'? All 250+ were just 'fine'?!!!?

            Forgive me for labelling–though you don't seem to be opposed to it anyway– but I have two names for what you seem to be selling….

            Polly Anna!

      • kneeling catholic

        julianm>>>>but neo-Thomism as reductionist does tend towards a dialectic materialism<<<<

        There's two problems here
        1. you are justifying name-calling
        2. 'tending to lead towards' is a vacuous claim. Here's why….

        I could say Roman Catholicism tends to lead towards atheism…just look how many French Catholics became atheists and lead the Great Terror in France.

        I could say Roman Catholicism tends to lead towards Naziism…just look how many Nazis were once faithful Catholics.

        I could say Roman Catholicism tends to lead towards Protestantism…just look how many of the Reformers were Catholic priests.

        I could say Roman Catholicism tends to lead towards Mennonite pacifism…..just look how Menno Simons was once a Catholic priest…

        • i’m not sure that i understand the name-calling concern. critique is not slander. My intent was to critique. Can you help me understand where you saw me justifying name calling?

          This kind of goes to both of your points 1 and 2 but where we identify a school of thought (Neo-Thomism) this isn’t defamation or libel. That is identification and classification. It is just a normal academic exercise that helps people understand and organize particular developments of thought and methodology.

          Certain developments and methodologies do in fact “tend to lead towards” certain ends. This is not a vacuous claim if we understand causality. St. Thomas is our man (yay!) for helping us work our way through this one. How so? Well, he takes up Aristotle’s distinction of things caused “per se” and things caused “per accidens” (he does so explicitly in Q49 on the subject of evil but it is really everywhere in Thomas).

          A cause per se (proper cause) is something caused by following the proper disposition of the act and or agent. So a sculptor causes per se a sculpture.

          A cause per accidens is something that is not necessary to itself or is caused by some relation outside of itself. The stone causes the sculpture per accidens. There is nothing about being a stone that causes sculptures yet the sculpture comes to be through the stone. Meanwhile there is something about being a sculptor that DOES cause sculptures to come into being.

          So there is nothing about RC “per se “that causes Protestantism to come into being. Yet…there is something related to RC that “per accidens” can in fact be said to cause Protestantism.

          On the other hand one could also argue that there is there IS something in Lollardy that does cause (per se) Protestantism.

          See the difference?

          I tried to explain neo-Thomism’s roots (it was breif so combox confinement does reduce scholarliness). So…with all that typed out…I do believe that you can make the case that neo-Thomism tends towards a dialectic materialism…in other words, a bad metaphysics that reduces and flattens Being. Not all people categorized as neo-Thomists (Maritain, Gilson) end up doing this. Maritain and Gilson were involved in a sort of early and mid 20th century systemization of Thomas so they were sometimes categorized as neo-Thomist. However, they were able to pull off their projects in a way that veered away from a positivists metaphysics. This also is one of the reasons they aren’t really considered neo-Thomists by a lot of people.

          Typically, neo-Thomists were those that systemized our great saint in a way that really was quite modern in that they reduced his writing on the transcendent into a sort of technicality. I named names already. Those named might dispute that they have a bad metaphysics but they do end up arguing for a consequentialist ethics (and sometimes explicitly justifying consequentialism) so…their neo-Thomism does tend towards a dialectic materialism.

          I hope this was helpful. Feel free to critique or ask questions. I won’t receive it as “name calling.” 😉

          • kneeling catholic

            Thanks for the lecture, JM. 🙂

            Just let me have one more question….

            were the neo-thomists dualists or monists?

            I think denial of the spiritual nature of man , monism, is necessary for any kind of materialism, no?

            Hence I really don’t get your ‘dualism tends towards monism’ argument. It sounds like the “monotheism leads to atheism” argument that some of the new atheists forward.

            ok, one more question…why does Mr. Kenney apply the label ‘Randian’ to Bannon, when Bannon condemns Randian capitalism? Do you think they would have captured the Rust Belt if they were advocating Ayn Rand’s Lassaiz Faire? Economic protectionism is not ‘Randian’!!

      • Garrett

        I see… Ok I don’t really. Neo-thomism, according to my understanding, is the revival of interest in thomistic thought in the Catholic Church in the 19th century, in part due to the recommendation of popes. I have never heard of manualist, and find it strange to explain an established term that I questioned the use of with an even more esoteric term. On the one hand, you might just know more than me. On the other hand, I don’t give much stock to random bloggers and commenters who seem to be using terms, not in their academic sense, but as if they were some special code (ex. using neopelagian and neo-thomist as slurs without justification). I would suspect the motives of such people are more political than truth-seeking.

        I have not studied Elizabeth Anscombe, but I have an initial positive perception of her and her work. I’ll take her over someone making the seemingly ridiculous claim that neo-thomism led to dialectical materialism without mentioning Hegel or Marx (the actual inventors or dialectical materialism, and very anti-thomist and anti-Anscombe at that).

        • i would agree with your summary in the first paragraph, at least regarding the 19th Century origins. Neo-Thomism did developed in a few different directions over the course of the 20th century.

          Neo-pelagian is definitely not code as Pelagianism is a real heresy, and a slippery one at that. Pelagius himself denied the errors of which he was accused and was probably unaware of much of the implications of his teaching. The challenge of the doctrinal issue at hand dealt precisely with the questions of original sin, grace, predestination and freewill. Not easy stuff. Of course neo-Pelagiansim is hard to pin down!

          As a former Protestant Pelagianism might be akin to I used to call “works based righteousness.” That lacks specificity and won’t get you very far in pinning down Pelagias BUT hopefully it does at least help pinpoint the concern here. There is a temptation that we might reduce and/or materialize grace. Its an age old problem and plays out in all sorts of ways in our ecclesiology and our politics…not to mention the lived out personal encounter with the sacraments.

          As for the second part of your earlier post…I think you could grant that it is the aberration of neo-Thomism, not neo-Thomism itself (at least in its origins) that leads to dialectic materialism. In fact, the aberration itself is a real pivot point in the article. But…yeah, you’re right it would help to have a little familiarity with the terms.

          The article does make leave gaps, but that is because it presumes some prior reading. I think that is ok. It’s probably a good article if it causes us all to go back and do some research and further thought.

          • Garrett

            Good to hear your a fellow convert from Protestantism. Explaining Pelagianism as “works based righteousness” is exactly how I would not explain it. Pelagianism denies original sin, meaning we can choose (without grace) good or evil. Describing the heresy while omitting its central tenet (its denial of original sin) is what enables some Protestants (primarily Calvinists, in my experience) to label Catholicism as Pelagianism. We should not indulge them in their misconception.

            And yes, I’m aware that Pelagianism is a real thing. But is the article using it in the academic since of “denying original sin and thinking we can choose without grace to be saved?” I don’t think so. In my experience, the term “neo-pelagianism” is sometimes used by dissident Catholics to justify their sin, or to deny that some acts are sinful because “that would mean that you would have to avoid doing them to be saved, which is works based righteousness.” Like with the Calvinists, we should not indulge these people with their misuse of the term for their own purposes.

          • neo-Pelagianism and also semi-Pelagianism both happen when people think they are denying Pelagianism but actually invent a new sort of false grace (be it works, knowledge, even in their own reception of the sacraments) such that grace is arrived at in their active or act of reception rather in the sacrament itself.

            Karl Rahner’s inclusivist “anonymous Christianity” might be said to be a sort of semi-Pelagianism…he ignores original sin or at least declares it to be universally a non-issue because of the resurrection. Denial of original sin.

            However, there is a danger in a certain sort of traditionalism or conservative disposition (this is NOT NOT NOT to lump in all people who participate in the Tradition Mass)…anyway the danger is that it becomes a neo-Pelagianism under which we see our need for grace as being resolved in OUR act of reception. In this case, sin is resolved by the self and not healed by Christ. Any grace that I need is something that I can go and get for myself by an act of my own free will. Is this subtle error? Sure. Is it likely to play out as more of a material error than a formal error? Yes. Is it a risk, especially for those of us who are theologically, liturgically and morally (at least on the surface) pure?

            I’m not worried about indulging Calvinists. I’m worried about pointing out the risk of certain types of conservativism w/out alienating fellow-tradition minded Catholics who we very much need but who also sometimes see their adherence to tradition as being the only hope left for the Church. Our only hope is always the saving grace of Christ.

  • BXVI

    False dichotomy. Pope Francis and his crew want to define the “opposition” to their agenda as being made up almost exclusively of “American conservatives” who are in thrall to a small cadre of rad-trad crank cardinals. You are helping them sell that lie.

    The obvious truth, however, is that the current regime despises the Magisterium of Popes St. John Paul the Great and Benedict and are doing everything they can to undermine it. They clearly don’t agree with basic teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (see, par. 1650-51; par. 2390), or with Veritatis Splendor, or with Evangelium Vitae, or with Humanae Vitae, for that matter.

    How many times does Pope Francis have to “telegraph” what he really thinks but can’t say explicitly for now until people get the picture? When he excoriates those who hew to the teaching of the Catechism as rigid Pharisees or as cold-hearted merciless doctors of the law, he’s really talking not just about Cardinal Burke, or me, but about St. John Paul the Great and holy Pope Benedict and pretty much the whole Church up to yesterday. I suppose Pope Francis the Merciful (if not humble) is here to correct their errors and liberate us all from the shackles in which we have been imprisoned until he arrived on the scene? That is what has people upset. And not just neo-Thomists or rad-trads.

  • Aliquantillus

    The attempt to depict Francis as not a liberal is ridiculous. From his words and actions it is clear that this Pope is actually ultra-liberal and doesn’t care about Catholic doctrine. If Francis is not a liberal, nobody is.

  • Paleoreactionary

    Steering a safe course between the extremes of gnosticism and neopelagianism:

    Among the reformers, there is an attempt to pry the Magisterium so open that the Catholic Faith falls out. Among the traditionalists, there is an alarming bent towards neopelagianism. (…) The wisdom and foresight of Pope Leo XIII was to correctly address the rise of post-modernism in Testem Benevolentiae Nostrae as jointly holding both Protestant and Pelagian mindsets. In short, what Francis himself echoed in Evangelii Gaudium as a post-modern mindset trapped among two extremes: gnosticism and neopelagianism.

    Neopelagians in thrall to an incorrect and inauthentic neo-Thomism (sent by Rome):

    Yet Francis is no liberal. Francis is a Jesuit and perhaps a Molinist at heart, which entails a very different concept of human freedom beyond the neo-Thomist reading emphasized by American Catholics, and taken to be authentic in the wake of the Americanist crisis of the late 19th century. (…) After Leo XIII’s condemnation of Americanism, it was Rome who sent theologians schooled in neo-Thomism, and faithful Catholics in America were quick to adopt what they eagerly believed to be an authentic expression of the Catholic mind. The very idea that neo-Thomism could be incorrect smacks of liberalism, socialism, communism, and all the -isms that Catholics — in our rise to normalcy in the mid-20th century — find abhorrent. Neo-Thomism is the only language we (and as a former Catholic, Bannon himself) have. When this neo-Thomistic foundation was unwound in the wake of the Second Vatican Council, the neopelagians left the Church.

    The Freemasons have done this, but Frankie and Ray are on the case:

    Among the pull of German reformers and nouvelle droite provocateurs, it is men like Francis and Burke who have to walk a post-modernist tightrope — perhaps shorthand for rooting out Freemasonic influence? — in order to address the grip of gnosticism and neopelagianism in today’s society.

    Neo-Thomism – harbinger of dialectical materialism:

    Francis is rescuing Catholicism from a neo-Thomist aberration that lends itself to dialectic materialism. Pope St. John Paul II won the war against Marxist materialism; Benedict and Francis have yet to win the war against Randian materialism. This Randian materialism that emphasizes meritocracy over community is a sickness of post-modern culture, one that has placed the values of the West on a sickbed through sheer obesity and decadence rather than a lack of vitality from within.

    The errors of Russia:

    the Vatican — and I think, correctly — believes itself under siege in the rise of the nouvelle droite. And the efforts of individuals such as Bannon, Le Pen, and the ideological high priest in Alexander Dugin all conspire to a “Christendom without Christ” — producing Russian errors and rooted in Russian soil.

    Lt Columbo: “Thank you so much, ma’am … that’s very interesting. Of course that explains everything. You’ve put my mind at rest. I really appreciate it.”

  • DLink

    I was ready to consider some of the remarks in this article until I saw the comments on Randian materialism, which doesn’t exist. Ayn Rand was merely stating the manner in which objective economics works in the secular world. She freely acknowledged that though she was an atheist, everyone was free to act with material goods in an altruistic manner in any way that pleased them. Also, the comment on Bannon was taken completely out of context. He was referring, correctly, to the tendency of many immigrants of recent years to refuse to integrate into society in a meaningful way. Little wonder that the Vatican has developed an attitude of suspicion. It’s a problem that arises when one pays too much attention to media with an agenda.

  • There is a glaring assumption in your argument: that neo-Thomism has been eclipsed. If this is true, why did John Paul II require Thomism to be taught in seminaries (I was one of those seminarians, by the way)? This was not “ping the way” toward a larger dialectic; it was at the root of the Catholic theological tradition. I do agree that neo-pelagianism is rampant in the Roman Catholic Church in the United States. However, I think throwing out St. Thomas Aquinas is a bit much.

    The crisis in the Church right now is one of core identity. Time and again, the U.S. has swung the opposite of the papacy. If the pope is encouraging more traditional approaches, then the U.S. clergy go toward the more liberal end. When the pope tends toward more liberal approaches (yes, Pope Francis is in this camp; one only needs to see the strains of liberation theology and a trashing of Theology of the Body), then the U.S. goes toward more traditional approaches.

    The truth is that the U.S. clergy never like to be told what to do. They call the shots, and no one can tell them otherwise. This is a perennial problem rooted in the nation itself. Veiled Protestantism? Yes, I believe so.

    At the root is Christ, and if we look at St. Thomas, Christ is clearly at the core. If we look toward the newer theological opinions, they are clearly in the direction of vanity, extreme rationalism and blatant pelagianism.

    Festina lente. Make haste slowly.

    • I want to thank you for this, because I hesitated to add another paragraph explaining the differences between Thomism and neo-Thomism (and authentic neo-Thomism and the sort that is hijacked by the neo-pelagians), but demurred. In retrospect, I probably should have explored that a bit.

      There is nothing wrong with Thomism at all. In fact, it is the Catholic philosophical tradition that I hail from. In areas though, there are aspects where Aquinas himself probably would wince at neo-Thomistic definitions. One hesitates to add specifics because it would entail something even an 800 word essay might not be able to describe in sufficient detail.

      Nevertheless, if one accepts the premise that there is distance between Thomism and the neo-Thomistic project, then (I would hope) there is applicable room for both the observations made here and your very prescient observations made above. Thomism should be alive and well; neo-Thomism could use a rescue team.

      • A sigh of relief. As I was taught early on, “Never throw anything out; make distinctions first.” Making the distinction between “classical” Thomism and neo-Thomism is vital in the discussion. The neo-Thomist approach is scary, because it starts to create rules where rules do not exist, and forget the underlying assumptions of Thomas himself, which are critical to understand Thomas and its 21st century application.

        Honestly, I think Alisdair McIntyre is one of the ones who spearheaded the neo-Thomist movement, and it went from there. There is an attraction to Thomism for its clarity and ability to peacefully make a molehill out of a mountain(!). The neo-Thomist takes that attraction into infatuation, and, like a twitterpated teenager, tends to become a Pharisee in the process. An odd mixture emerges of a sort of philosophical fascism coupled with post-modern skepticism. (I hope I’m clear here.)

        The way through is simple enough: go swimming in St. Thomas Aquinas, and don’t have such an open mind that your brains fall out. Honestly, I don’t think neo-Thomism needs a rescue team; it needs to get back to its roots. When I encounter neo-Thomism, I admit feeling a great deal of anxiety. Like the children’s story, “Madeline”, “something’s just not right!” That anxiety stems from a recognition that people are playing fast and loose with a tradition that has been carefully and painstakingly developed. Yes, St. Thomas Aq was a genius, but he was a careful one. We owe him the same attention to detail. His genius lay in his presentation and clarity, not parroting or sounding like the characters of the Dark Side in Star Wars.

        Alas, I think my neurons have called it a day for now. Thank you for helping me feel like I’m not the only one seeing the neo-pelagian bents that seem to be occurring these days. Now back to raising six children!

        • Six children is fantastic! Seven children here… so the struggle (and joys) are real indeed.

          MacIntyre is an excellent example of the grappling hooks that Marxism and neo-Thomism throw each other’s way. Probably another great thinker that perhaps has been distorted by the appendage of neo- (or in his case, the “Benedict Options”).