I have broken my ignore all Pope Francis news rule, to observe a few of the more interesting, yet less salubrious quotes (with respect to doctrine) of the Pope of late. One of the most irritating things, is when those who insist the Pope can do no wrong and we must get with it, will always look at something extremely damaging, and say “Oh, its a translation error.”
Being possessed of the ability to fact check this (provided he is speaking in Italian and not Spanish), I decided to look back at a few quotes. Let’s start with the most recent one.
1) Pope Francis is teaching universal salvation
Pope Francis said, during his most recent Wednesday Audience, that we will all go to heaven, so some have gleamed from this that he is teaching universal salvation. Let’s see what he really said. This is my translation:
“The Council’s Constitution Gaudium et Spes, faced with these questions, such as always resonate in the human heart, says: “We do not know the time that earth and humanity will end, and we do not know how all things will be transformed. Certainly, pass over the appearance of this world, so distorted by sin. We know, however, that it is taught that God is preparing a new dwelling place, and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, in which happiness will fill and surpass all the desires of peace arising in the hearts of men” (n. 39). This is the end to which the Church is, as the Bible says, the “new Jerusalem”, or “Paradise.” More than a place, it is a “state” of the soul in which our deepest expectations will be fulfilled so abundantly, and our being as creatures and as children of God, shall come to full maturity. We will finally be covered with joy, peace and the love of God in a complete way, without any limit, and we will be face to face with Him! (cf. 1 Cor 13:12). It beautiful to think this, to think of Heaven. All of us, we will find ourselves up there, everyone. (Tutti noi ci troveremo lassù, tutti.) It is beautiful, and gives strength to the soul.“1 (Source)
This changes things a little bit. He did not in an off the cuff manner say “oh yeah, we’re all going to heaven.” In the context of the eschatological mystery, the unveiling of the new Jerusalem, where we are one with God, he adds “all of us” (Tutti noi), will be up there, and he finds the need to add everyone “tutti” again. While on the one hand, statements the Pope has made in his pontificate might lend one to believe he means this as in each and everyone, it is not absolutely clear that this is his intention in the general audience. It could just as easily cut the other way, since the full context is the New Jerusalem, and the people he is speaking to are Christian pilgrims, not the EU parliament; one could equally argue, based on the context, that presumably the Pope meant that all of us here, provided we live a good life, will meet in heaven. That perhaps is being too generous to the Pope, as he did not make that qualification. Maybe not, and anyone who knows me knows I have little love for this pontificate, nevertheless, we can’t really be sure. It just seems contrary to reason that the same Pope who has talked about Christians going to hell (he usually means Trads of course) would say that without the meaning of at least if they do good works implicitly in mind. On the other hand, he could have used the subjunctive: “troveremmo” we may, or a nuance with trovassimo, but instead he used the future indicative. This one leaves too much room for doubt.
2) Sermon for the feast of Christ the King (on the New Rite Calendar, 23 November)
In this sermon, many people think Pope Francis said something that is outright heretical, whereas those denying claim “Oh, just a translation error.” The context is his discussion of recognizing Christ’s sovereignty. He said:
Salvation does not begin with the confession of the kingship of Christ, but the imitation of the works of mercy, the means by which He has realized the Kingdom. Those who have taken the steps to show that they have accepted the kingship of Jesus, have done so because they have made room in their heart for the love of God. In the evening of life we shall be judged on love, on the closeness and tenderness toward our brothers. From this our entrance into the kingdom of God will depend or not, our position on either side. Jesus, with his victory, opened his rule, but it is up to each of us to enter, starting from this life, making us concretely next to his brother asking for bread, dress, hospitality, solidarity. And if you really will love that brother or sister, we will be compelled to share with him or her what is most precious, that Jesus and his Gospel!2 (Source, My emphasis).
This is a statement loaded with problems. On the surface it looks like a mere nicety, feed the hungry, clothe the needy, take care of the sick, etc. Yet the very first verb sets the tenor of the discussion. “Salvation does not begin with the confession of the kingship of Christ.” What does that mean? Ultimately, it boils down to faith. We are saved by faith, not faith alone, but works done with faith. This means that, faith is not sufficient by itself, because it is not real if it doesn’t have works of charity to prove it. It also means the converse, that works have to be done with faith in order to get to heaven, or else they are simply works of the law, as St. Paul says.
Moreover, St. Paul teaches: “Without faith, no man can please God, and he who would come to Him must believe that He is.”3. St. Thomas asks, is Faith necessary for salvation? He answers:
Wherever one nature is subordinate to another, we find that two things concur towards the perfection of the lower nature, one of which is in respect of that nature’s proper movement, while the other is in respect of the movement of the higher nature. Thus water by its proper movement moves towards the centre (of the earth), while according to the movement of the moon, it moves round the centre by ebb and flow. On like manner the planets have their proper movements from west to east, while in accordance with the movement of the first heaven, they have a movement from east to west. Now the created rational nature alone is immediately subordinate to God, since other creatures do not attain to the universal, but only to something particular, while they partake of the Divine goodness either in “being” only, as inanimate things, or also in “living,” and in “knowing singulars,” as plants and animals; whereas the rational nature, in as much as it apprehends the universal notion of good and being, is immediately related to the universal principle of being.
Consequently the perfection of the rational creature consists not only in what belongs to it in respect of its nature, but also in that which it acquires through a supernatural participation of Divine goodness. Hence it was said above (I-II, 3, 8) that man’s ultimate happiness consists in a supernatural vision of God: to which vision man cannot attain unless he be taught by God, according to John 6:45: “Every one that hath heard of the Father and hath learned cometh to Me.” Now man acquires a share of this learning, not indeed all at once, but by little and little, according to the mode of his nature: and every one who learns thus must needs believe, in order that he may acquire science in a perfect degree; thus also the Philosopher remarks (De Soph. Elench. i, 2) that “it behooves a learner to believe.”
Hence in order that a man arrive at the perfect vision of heavenly happiness, he must first of all believe God, as a disciple believes the master who is teaching him.4
Thus, what St. Thomas is saying one cannot truly love his brother (love of neighbor for God’s sake), unless he has faith, because faith is what orients his actions toward God, and allows him to show the love of God. Faith is what allows a man to strive for God, and, moreover, we do not cause faith, God causes faith in us. We do not make it with our works.
It is particularly telling, when Francis, who comes straight out of a liberation theology tradition, and sets up his home at “St. Martha’s”, even though Christ Himself said Mary had the better part, should now focus on works without faith. In fact, if we look at what he is saying, he is ultimately teaching a form of Pelagianism. To be fair, Pelagianism and its forms taught that one could perfect his nature of his own without God’s assistance. The Pelagians would not have questioned that one needed faith in some sense, just not as an absolute to attain salvation. There is a particular irony that Francis should teach this, when, he has called Trads “Pelagians”, based on the fact that Pelagius is supposed to have been very austere. (Would that trads would be more austere!) Yet here he is teaching something close to the doctrines of Pelagius. Such contradictions are not new for Francis, who one day says “Don’t be too obsessed about yourself” (which is perfectly correct) and then the next day commissioned a biography of himself (which is perfectly contradictory). But hey, God is a God of surprises!
Needless to say, on this one, there is no translation error. Miserere nobis Domine!
Remember to pray, we get the leaders we deserve.