If you can’t keep the Commandments, it’s your fault!
April 10, 2018
Last week I wrote an article about neo-Pelagianism that drew from the recent CDF document titled “On Certain Aspects of Christian Salvation.” I wanted to follow up that article first by drawing from Pope Francis’ brand new Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, regarding neo-Pelagianism and then compare what Saint John Paul II has taught on this issue with Pope Francis.
Pope Francis devotes an entire chapter of Gaudete et Exsultate to discussing two heresies that are present in the Church today, neo-Gnosticism and neo-Pelagianism, “two false forms of holiness that can lead us astray” (GE 35). Concerning the latter, he says:
“Those who yield to this pelagian or semi-pelagian mindset, even though they speak warmly of God’s grace, ‘ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style.’ When some of them tell the weak that all things can be accomplished with God’s grace, deep down they tend to give the idea that all things are possible by the human will, as if it were something pure, perfect, all-powerful, to which grace is then added. They fail to realize that ‘not everyone can do everything…’”
The quote the pope cites here is from St. Bonaventure, and the footnote says, “The phrase is to be understood along the lines of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1735.” Catechism 1735 concerns freedom and culpability. It says, “Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors.” In other words, “not everyone can do everything” because we are limited by fear, habit, and other weaknesses. The pope continues with this pointed statement:
“…and that in this life human weaknesses are not healed completely and once for all by grace” (49).
At the point the pope cites the Summa Theologiae (II-II, q. 109, a. 9, ad 1): “But here grace is to some extent imperfect, inasmuch as it does not completely heal man, as we have said.” In other words, this side of Heaven, grace is imperfect in some way because God does not completely heal us and allows us to remain wounded by sin.