“‘There can be nothing more dangerous than those heretics who admit nearly the whole cycle of doctrine, and yet by one word, as with a drop of poison, infect the real and simple faith taught by our Lord and handed down by Apostolic tradition’…. The practice of the Church has always been the same, as is shown by the unanimous teaching of the Fathers, who were wont to hold as outside Catholic communion, and alien to the Church, whoever would recede in the least degree from any point of doctrine proposed by her authoritative Magisterium.”
— Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum §9 (1896)
“We tend to regard this final judgment with a certain trepidation, yet the Church invites us to see it as a source of consolation and joyful hope. … God’s judgment takes place in our lives each day, by the way in which we respond to Christ’s teaching and imitate him in serving our brothers and sisters.”
— Pope Francis (11 December 2013)
“The gift is God’s love, a God who can’t sever himself from us. That is the impotence of God. We say: ‘God is all powerful, He can do everything!’ Except for one thing: Sever Himself from us!”
— Pope Francis (29 October 2015)
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If only the loveliness words were a measure of their truth. Alas, that naive fiction was freshly debunked by the recent Synodal Language Event.
As for Pope Francis, clearly he is passionate about the eternal depth and vitality of the love of God. In his admirable zeal for proclaiming this truth, however, he tends to err by ignoring the other side of the coin, namely, that the rejection of God’s love–even by one mortal sin–entails an eternity spent suffering in Hell. At the very least, his emphasis on who might end up in Hell is curously selective, focusing, it seems, solely on professional mobsters. Even then, it’s hard to know what “Hell” means in his parlance,2 I was first alerted to this problem by the blog post linked above, but failed to include a link to it when I first published this piece. since he has never personally addressed, retracted, or rectified the report that he believes lost souls will be annihilated instead of enduring eternal suffering, as the Catholic Church teaches. The much maligned bona fides of Mr. Scalfari have been ably assessed and vindicated here by Steve Skojec.
Leaving aside the blinkered conspiracy theories in the Catholic blogosphere that relish throwing a professional journalist and trusted friend of Pope Francis under the bus, let us consider an even more striking locus of Pope Francis’s crypto-Origenist universalism. His latest encyclical, Laudato Si’, concludes with a stunning albeit Jesuitically subtle endorsement of universal salvation. Consider that the encyclical is addressed to “every person living on this planet” (§3), without the customary magisterial qualifier about addressing persons “of good will”. Indeed, he makes this no-holds bar approach explicit by saying, “In my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, I wrote to all the members of the Church with the aim of encouraging ongoing missionary renewal. In this Encyclical [by contrast], I would like to enter into dialogue with all people about our common home” (my emphasis). Francis, then, is addressing everyone on the planet–even those of ill will, and those obstinately opposed to the Gospel. As universal pastor that is his prerogative, but it is through this indiscriminately universal rhetorical lens that we must read the following concluding passages of his Eco-Encyclical.
Since “the royal We” has fallen curiously out of favor in recent papal teachings, I shall indicate the audience of Francis’s words the communitarian “WE,” “US,” “OUR,” etc. All phrases suggesting universalism shall be underlined.
241. Mary, the Mother who cared for Jesus, now cares with maternal affection and pain for this wounded world. Just as her pierced heart mourned the death of Jesus, so now she grieves for the sufferings of the crucified poor [sic] and for the creatures of this world laid waste by human power. Completely transfigured, she now lives with Jesus, and all creatures sing of her fairness [in Heaven?]. …
243. At the end [i.e., at the Final Judgment], WE will find OURSELVES face to face with the infinite beauty of God (cf. 1 Cor 13:12), and be able to read with admiration and happiness the mystery of the universe, which with US will share in unending plenitude.3 It follows by modus ponens that if we and the universe are inseparable, then the assured redemption of the universe in the New Heaven entails the assured eternal redemption of the pope’s audience–every soul on earth. Even now WE are journeying towards the sabbath of eternity, the new Jerusalem, towards OUR common home in heaven.4 As one blogger has noted, however, “our common home” is not the earth, but Heaven. Jesus says: “I make all things new” (Rev 21:5). Eternal life will be a shared experience of awe, in which each creature [Spanish: cada criatura], resplendently transfigured, will take its rightful [sic?] place and have something to give those poor men and women who will have been liberated once and for all.
244. In the meantime, WE come together to take charge of this [common] home which has been entrusted to US, knowing that all the good which exists here will be taken up into the heavenly feast. In union with all creatures [Spanish: con todas las criaturas], WE journey through this [earthly] land seeking God…. Let US sing as WE go. May OUR struggles and OUR concern for this planet never take away the joy of OUR hope.
The audience is every soul on earth; the concern is care for the earth; the hope is eternal bliss in Heaven for all creatures.
This is what is known as universalism.
And it seems to be an official papal teaching.
But that’s none of my business.
If it were my business, though, I would feel obliged to remind you, dear reader, of a dogmatic teaching of the Church concerning universalism, pronounced in 553 at the Second Council of Constantinople (my emphasis added):
“If anyone does not anathematize Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, Apollinarius Nestorius, Eutyches and Origen, as well as their heretical books, and also all other heretics who have already been condemned and anathematized by the holy, catholic and apostolic church and by the four holy synods which have already been mentioned, and also all those who have thought or now think in the same way as the aforesaid heretics and who persist in their error even to death: let him be anathema.” (cap. 11)
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It might be reassuring to suppose that Francis’s crypto-Origenist universalism was just an excess of charity towards souls outside the Church. Yet, as a recent sermon of his shows, his obsession with universal inclusion infects even his sense of Christian discipleship and holiness. As they say, a half-truth is a whole lie; or, as Pope Leo XIII warns us, a drop of poison in a glass of seemingly pure water must still be poured out in dread and disgust.
With that in mind, the following is excerpted from this Pope Francis sermon (05/11/2015; my emphasis added):
“Saint Paul exhorts us not to judge and not to despise our brothers, because, the Pope said, this leads to excluding them from ‘our little group,’ to being selective, and this is not Christian. … There are two paths in life: the path exclusion of persons from our community and the path of inclusion. The first can be little but is the root of all wars: all calamities, all wars, begin with an exclusion. … This is the ‘including’ of God, against the exclusion of those who judge, who drive away people, persons: ‘No, no to this, no to that, no to that…’; and a little of circle of friends is created, which is their environment. … Never excluding, we have no right! … If I exclude I will one day stand before the judgment seat of God, I will have to give an account of myself to God. Let us ask the grace of being men and women who always include, always, always! in the measure of healthy prudence, but always. Not closing the doors to anyone….”
Sed contra, the Scriptures teach very plainly that, just as every healthy organism must maintain a membrane that allows for both the absorption of nutrients and the expulsion of toxins and foreign bodies, so it essential to the life of the Body of the Church to expel alien evil from within–or, to cite Pope Leo XIII once more, “to hold as outside Catholic communion, and alien to the Church.” Indeed, the very meaning of holiness is to be separate, set apart, dedicated to God in a way that unholy things are not.
The takeaway is that, if you happen to hear that “Pope Francis told us” not to exclude anyone for any reason, here are some biblical passages (RSV Bible) to know and share in order to charitably set the record straight. My emphasis added:
Matthew 18 –
15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.
Matthew 255 This passage is especially significant, insofar as it is one of Pope Francis’s favorite biblical teachings, yet he does not seem to be able to bring himself to pronounce the same definitive judgment unto eternal Hell, preferring to reduce an eschatological teaching to a moral injunction. –
41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ 45 Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ 46 And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.
John 15 –
1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch of mine that bears no fruit, he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you. … 6 If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples. 9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
Romans 16 –
17 I appeal to you, brethren, to take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them. 18 For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by fair and flattering words they deceive the hearts of the simple-minded.
I Corinthians 5 –
It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. 3 For though absent in body I am present in spirit, and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment 4 in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 7 Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our paschal lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Let us, therefore, celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. 9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral men; 10 not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.”
2 Corinthians 6 –
14 Do not be mismated with unbelievers. For what partnership have righteousness and iniquity? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? 15 What accord has Christ with Be′lial? Or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
“I will live in them and move among them,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
17 Therefore come out from them,
and be separate from them, says the Lord,
and touch nothing unclean;
then I will welcome you,
18 and I will be a father to you,
and you shall be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.”
Ephesians 5 –
6 Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. 7 Therefore do not associate with them, 8 for once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.
Titus 3 –
10 As for a man who is factious, after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned.
2 John –
6 And this is love, that we follow his commandments; this is the commandment, as you have heard from the beginning, that you follow love. 7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, men who will not acknowledge the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh; such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Look to yourselves, that you may not lose what you have worked for, but may win a full reward. 9 Any one who goes ahead and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God; he who abides in the doctrine has both the Father and the Son. 10 If any one comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into the house or give him any greeting; 11 for he who greets him shares his wicked work.
Elliot Bougis (Florida Man™) is a convert from the Reformed tradition. After a decade of teaching in Taiwan, Elliot returned to America and is now a freelance translator, interpreter, marketer, and writer. He is a happily married, multilingual father of three and occasionally a fitness nut. Find out more at ebougis.wordpress.com.
|↑1||Significantly, de Chardin’s once condemned views are cited approvingly in §83 of Pope Francis’s encyclical Laudato Si’|
|↑2||I was first alerted to this problem by the blog post linked above, but failed to include a link to it when I first published this piece.|
|↑3||It follows by modus ponens that if we and the universe are inseparable, then the assured redemption of the universe in the New Heaven entails the assured eternal redemption of the pope’s audience–every soul on earth.|
|↑4||As one blogger has noted, however, “our common home” is not the earth, but Heaven.|
|↑5||This passage is especially significant, insofar as it is one of Pope Francis’s favorite biblical teachings, yet he does not seem to be able to bring himself to pronounce the same definitive judgment unto eternal Hell, preferring to reduce an eschatological teaching to a moral injunction.|