Neo-Pelagianism and Neo-Gnosticism


Any intellectual or theologian who has ever met me will confirm that I am a lightweight, a bit of fluff, a common-or-garden dullard, or worse.

My saving grace is that I am self-aware of my handicap, and thus constantly look to higher authorities for guidance and discernment. I found one of these yesterday which helped me to better understand some troublesome jargon I had earwigged as a distant associate of the Vatican in the last five years. That jargon is the title of this piece.

Here’s the start of this article by Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, New Jersey. [I have never visited North America, but my media studies tell me that NJ is not famous for much that is good, and that might be just my misunderstanding: that Bishop makes a great deal of sense to me].

Two words are frequently found on the lips of Pope Francis in his addresses and homilies. One is the word “neo-Pelagian;” the other, “neo-Gnostic.” Both words have a long and complicated history. The first is much easier to explain.

Pelagianism designates a school of thought made prominent by the British monk Pelagius (360-418 A.D.). Living in Rome, he was a contemporary of St. Augustine. In response to the moral laxity of the day, Pelagius placed great emphasis on the innate goodness of the human person.

According to Pelagianism, Adam’s sin altered his own relationship with God. It did not affect his descendants. Human nature has not been corrupted by original sin. Thus, an individual is able to fulfill the commandments and choose the good without any special gift of grace.

Pope Francis detects traces of this type of thinking in those people today who act as if salvation depends on human strength or on merely human means. The Pope sees this error in those who would reduce the gospel to a social ideology, make spirituality simply a process of self-awareness or reduce the life of faith to a vestige of an outdated past.

The Pope discerns Pelagianism in the tendency toward restorationism. He rules out any dealing with the Church’s problems by a recourse to “a restoration of outdated manners and forms which, even on the cultural level, are no longer meaningful.” (Pope Francis, “Address to the Leadership of the Episcopal Conferences of Latin America during the General Coordination Meeting,” Rio de Janeiro, July 28, 2013).

In his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis warns against “the self-absorbed promethean neo-Pelagianism of those who 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 from the past.” He further laments that “a supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying” (Evangelii Gaudium, 94)……

Something tells me that, as commonly happens, this post by me will light an incendiary under CP&S’s perch. Then again, more likely, readers may tactically withdraw, and this post will be submerged to drown with all those other rarely read ones. C’est la vie.



About Brother Burrito

A sinner who hopes in God's Mercy, and who cannot stop smiling since realizing that Christ IS the Way , the Truth and the Life. Alleluia!
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21 Responses to Neo-Pelagianism and Neo-Gnosticism

  1. kathleen says:

    Something tells me that, as commonly happens, this post by me will light an incendiary under CP&S’s perch.

    No B.B, the post lights no anger in me, only a sort of sadness.

    You have brought up Pope Francis’ favourite and frequently used adjective, “neo-Pelagian”, in which he describes faithful Catholics who do no more than try to live by all the Church’s teachings and traditions. That, to PF, is the worst thing a Catholic can do, to outrageously, shockingly, try to be a real Catholic… Rather than an openly effusive admirer like him of heretics, sodomites, abortionists, and a very long list of enemies of the Catholic Faith!

    And don’t tell me he only hobnobs with these types in order to try to bring them back into the fold of the Church! Not a bit of it … he tells them they are just great the way they are!

    Is it honestly any surprise that so many nowadays (even Protestants) are asking themselves: “Is the Pope, Catholic?”


  2. geoffkiernan says:

    Yes Kathleen… to often anger is substituted for sadness.


  3. Brother Burrito says:

    Dear Kathleen,

    I am very sorrowed by by your sadness for that was not my intent at all.

    Now that theological debate is occurring worldwide and almost instantaneously, I thought it only right to post a legitimate counter-opinion across the bows of this blog’s navigation, in the name of fairness, goodness, and the welfare of all souls.

    Heresy is an uber-dangerous thing: Heresiarchs in the past have been horribly executed for promoting it. Even today, heresy can be understood as any movement of thought or understanding that leads individual souls away from the Eternal Salvation promised to them by Our Lord Jesus Christ.

    In other words: Heresy is no joke or light matter, When discussing it, we must be as serious as microbiologists discussing the next humanity-culling pandemic.


  4. Guess who said, “If you want to destroy institutions or people, you start by speaking ill of them.” ( That’s right. It’s this current pope, with his ever-ready “Little Book of Insults” (


  5. Gertrude says:

    A counter opinion certainly BB, but I am agreeing with Kathleen insofar as I too feel extremely sad. when our very souls are at stake. It is a great sadness indeed when it becomes a matter of discernment when assessing the words that come from Rome. 2000 years of Martyrs, Desert Fathers, Doctors of the Church and almost every Pope until now have assiduously taught the Faith as handed down from the Apostles, and many have died in defence of that Faith.
    I know you are an admirer of Pope Francis, and God love you for your fidelity to him. Forgive me if I do not share that.


  6. johnhenrycn says:

    I don’t think God will ever be hard on Brother for his fidelity to Pope Francis, but I do think Bother will come to rue it, or at least to corral it with provisos. After giving Francis the room and respect that was his due and wrestling with my own unconditional fidelity for a couple of years, I was presented with the October 2015 Synod on the Family, which is when I became “woke” as some illiterates now say. Pretty much all downhill since then, even though a scintilla of deference to his person still governs my attitude.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. mmvc says:

    Something tells me that, as commonly happens, this post by me will light an incendiary under CP&S’s perch.

    I share in Kathleen’s and Gertrude’s sadness rather than any notions of conflagrations, fiery outbursts etc. that you’ve predicted here and elsewhere since your return to the blog, BB.

    Imagine the sadness of those who offered rosary bouquets for Pope Francis only to be mockingly identified as ‘Pelagian rosary-counters’, or the disappointment of the many young people called ‘rigid’ for cherishing the beauty and sacredness of the TLM, to name but a few!

    Yet criticisms of traditional Catholics continue, error and confusion abound, vocations are at an all time low and flourishing traditional orders are under threat.

    It is for the Lord to bring His purifying ‘Fire to the Earth’. It is for us to offer Him our sadness and sorrows as we storm heaven for the Church and the world.


  8. johnhenrycn says:

    Good news from across the way. I doubt many of these men will be homosexuals or even devotees of FrancisChurch.


  9. mkoopman2443 says:

    In Patterson that’s just the way it’s done. Gnostic won’t hold that portion of New Jersey. And, yes, what good thing can come from New Jersey?
    Very insightful indicating that Pelagianism led to great violence and heresy is more than just a little tinge of putrid but mortally vile.


  10. Gertrude says:

    I perhaps should add that despite many misgivings about the current occupier of the Chair of Peter, Francis is Pope, and I know that my colleagues here have the greatest respect for the Petrine Office.


  11. Brother Burrito says:

    JH, I give praise for your faint thanks mate.


  12. Brother Burrito says:


    “Guess who said, “If you want to destroy institutions or people, you start by speaking ill of them.” ( That’s right. It’s this current pope, with his ever-ready “Little Book of Insults” (”

    By your own logic, and even this blog’s, you are all out to destroy the Church?? Shurely not!


  13. mmvc says:

    …and even this blog’s, you are all out to destroy the Church?? Shurely not!

    What a strange insinuation, BB!

    I hope you are not speaking for other CP&S team members with your “even this blog’s (logic)”.
    You really should know by now that there is great love for the Church and the Petrine Office here.
    The Church has survived bad popes and she always will. Calling a pope out for confusion, error and scandal is not akin to speaking ill of him. Giving voice to those who defend the Faith with clarity and shed some much needed light into the darkness (such as the often cited +Schneider) does not equal being insulting to the pontiff or “all out to destroy the Church”. S(h)urely?


  14. geoffkiernan says:

    ‘Tis a strange insinuation indeed BB. One thing I have noticed about this site is that all/most have a great love of the Church and the Papacy. You really must learn the difference between the Chair and the very hu-man occupant of that Chair. You seem to have acquired a new found authority of late. Have you earnt this elevation or is it self imposed ?


  15. Brother Burrito says:

    As regards your questioning of my (new found) authority, I could ask you exactly the same question, cobber. I am one of the founder members of this blog, to which you comment, since Founder’s Day 4th July 2010. I helped set it up, rescued it from a coup, added many of its features, and provided many of its posts when my colleagues were indisposed. In comparison, you are a bit of a chippy Johnny-come lately, aren’t you, chummy.

    I am absolutely delighted that all/most (who visit/comment here?) have a great love of the Church and the Papacy: Ad multos annos!

    The Pope is the Pope is the Pope. For good, Christ entrusted the Infallible Keys of the Kingdom to a very fallible man with the Promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against It. Subverting the heir of Peter for whatever reason, seems like the devil’s work to me. I must be so naive.


  16. johnhenrycn says:

    Och! A sparring match between the Paddy in the blue shorts and the Ozzie in the red shorts.
    (Oh dear, where’s that bottle of Laphroaig I put aside for breakfast today?)

    But listen, Brother: people like Geoff, a revert, and me, a convert, are naturally more strident in our tone. We came (me) or came back (he) because of a great thirst for dogmatic truth unsullied by equivocation. I don’t know about Geoff’s years in the outback, but my later years in the theological wilderness of Protestantism made me fed up to the back teeth with their destructive *questioning* of doctrine (even their flawed doctrine) and to see that process played out again in the higher – if not highest – reaches of the Catholic Church is sometimes too much for people like me, and perhaps Geoff also, to bear without lashing out at our tormentors, which is not to say you’re actually one of them, but neither are you exactly “a port in a storm” for the likes of us who seek clarity.


  17. johnhenrycn says:

    Truth, without clarity, is not fit for human consumption.
    johnhenry Collected Works,
    Punkeydoodles Corners
    , 2018.


  18. mmvc says:

    If your Collected Works were available on Amazon, JH, I’d be the first to buy them! ;o)


  19. geoffkiernan says:

    Good for you BB, but remember your endeavor does not automatically bestow wisdom. You can be proud of the success of this blog but remember too that its success cannot be attributable to just one person. many a wiser head than yours alone is responsible.
    Chummy,cobber??? (smiling face here)
    A chippy ‘johnny come lately’ I may be when it come to this blog but I wonder just who is the ‘Johnny come lately’ in the reality of things?
    There are two Catholic Churches currently in existence. The OHC and Apostolic Church and that other one. The Gates of Hell will prevail against one. They will not prevail against both. The ‘devils work’?…. You are naive.

    Pray for the Pope and the Church


  20. Brother Burrito says:

    Thanks Geoff, may God Love us both, the Pope and the Church!


  21. inaruellan says:

    “The Pope is the Pope is the Pope. For good, Christ entrusted the Infallible Keys of the Kingdom to a very fallible man with the Promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against It. Subverting the heir of Peter for WHATEVER REASON, seems like the devil’s work to me. I must be so naive.”

    I absolutely LOVE this !
    and I totally agree
    and it’s so conforting that there still are catholics who totally rely on Christ’s Promise , catholics that against all odds (or devil’s traps) are still able to see that Peter STILL LIVES in the present Pope !


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