Pelagianism began as a fourth-century heresy named after its founder, Pelagius. Chiefly, Pelagianism teaches that grace is not necessary in salvation and that even without God’s direct intervention, people may be saved. As we explain Pelagianism on our sister site, Polemics Report:
Pelagius argued that Original Sin (the Fall of Mankind in Adam) did not so corrupt man’s nature that it left man incapable of choosing God and salvation without a special work of God in or through him. In other words, Pelagius believed and taught that grace was not needed to give man a will inclined toward belief and embrace of God, because he innately has the ability. Orthodox Christianity, on the other hand, teaches that Original Sin so corrupted man that without a special work of God, man would remain dead in his sins.
Regarding the pseudo-doctrine of Free Will, Pelagius taught that man was also so untainted by Original Sin that by his will he could choose to be sinless, and even though grace assisted good works it was not necessary. Essentially, the notion of Pelagius is that if God requires something of us (for example, personal righteousness or justifying conversion) then we are capable of doing it ourselves without God’s enabling grace.
Pelagianism was condemned a heresy at the Council of Carthage in 418 AD and reiterated at the Council of Ephesus in 431. In various forms, it was also condemned as heretical the Council of Orange (529) the Canons of Dort (1618-1619) and many councils in between.
The historic Christian church universally condemned Pelagianism as a damnable teaching, and so thoroughly did they condemn it that even today the term Pelagianism is used as a pejorative or stinging insult towards someone who believes in their own works-righteousness and who denounces or diminishes God’s monergistic role in salvation.
How odd it is, then, that the Pope of Rome would condemn those who care about doctrine as “Neo-Pelagians.” In fact, Pope Francis left a string of insults towards those who believe in sound doctrine that would make most of Luther’s famous insults pale in comparison.
The Pope gave the rebuke toward those within the Romanist church who have accused him of heresy and who have taken issue with his Marxist ideology and his rejection of historic Roman Catholic exclusivism in his “Apostolic Exhortation” called, Evangelii Gaudium. He said:
For those who long for a monolithic body of doctrine guarded by all and leaving no room for nuance, this might appear as undesirable and leading to confusion. But in fact such variety serves to bring out and develop different facets of the inexhaustible riches of the Gospel (Chapter 1, Section IV, Number 40).
Like much of what is being produced intellectually by Pope Francis, he dismisses historic teachings of the Papacy in favor of a Marxist approach to economics. This is a difficult tightrope to walk, considering Vatican II proclaimed the infallibility of the Pope, given that Francis disagrees heartily with other Popes.
One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf (cf. Ex 32:1-35) has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.
While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. Debt and the accumulation of interest also make it difficult for countries to realize the potential of their own economies and keep citizens from enjoying their real purchasing power. To all this we can add widespread corruption and self-serving tax evasion, which have taken on worldwide dimensions. The thirst for power and possessions knows no limits. In this system, which tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits, whatever is fragile, like the environment, is defenseless before the interests of a deified market, which become the only rule (Chapter Two, Section 1, Number 55-56, emphasis ours).
It’s here that the Marxist Pope begins to accuse those who prefer a more capitalistic, individualistic approach to economics of Pelagianism:
This worldliness [speaking of economic injustice] can be fuelled in two deeply interrelated ways. One is the attraction of gnosticism, a purely subjective faith whose only interest is a certain experience or a set of ideas and bits of information which are meant to console and enlighten, but which ultimately keep one imprisoned in his or her own thoughts and feelings. The other is the self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism 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. 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. In neither case is one really concerned about Jesus Christ or others. These are manifestations of an anthropocentric immanentism. It is impossible to think that a genuine evangelizing thrust could emerge from these adulterated forms of Christianity.
This insidious worldliness is evident in a number of attitudes which appear opposed, yet all have the same pretence of “taking over the space of the Church”. In some people we see an ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine and for the Church’s prestige, but without any concern that the Gospel have a real impact on God’s faithful people and the concrete needs of the present time (Chapter 2, Section 2, Numbers 94-95, emphasis ours).
Pope Francis is trying to throw Roman Catholic doctrine in the dustbin. This is a good thing in our estimation, because that’s precisely where it should be. What he is replacing it with, however, is not a good thing. He is replacing the defective doctrines of Rome for the economic religion of Karl Marx, and Communism doesn’t have a better chance at saving anyone than Mary.