Vatican condemns new forms of old heresies

What happened?

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued a new letter, Placuit Deo, on the subject of salvation. The letter, approved by Pope Francis, argues that modern culture has difficulty in understanding that Jesus is “the only Saviour”. The letter suggests that “two ancient heresies”, Gnosticism and Pelagianism, have returned in new forms. While Pelagianism sees the individual as “radically autonomous”, Gnosticism suggests that “salvation consists of improving oneself”.

What commentators said

At Catholic News Agency, the theologian Chad Pecknold went back to the roots of Pelagianism, which arose in Rome and was “defeated almost single-handed” by St Augustine. For Pelagius, “salvation was finally up to our individual effort, and was in no way dependent on assistance from God or others.” This was closer to stoicism than Christianity, Pecknold remarked.

As Placuit Deo puts it, certain new trends are “like the old Pelagianism in the sense that ‘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’ ”.

At the National Catholic Register, Edward Pentin reported from the press conference at which CDF prefect Archbishop Ladaria presented the document. He said that when asked to give concrete examples of neo-Pelagianism and neo-Gnosticism, the archbishop said the Pope wouldn’t “point fingers” but wanted to “point out these tendencies” to “self-reliance and to isolation”.

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