PopeWatch: Galatians

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When the Pope engages in exegesis of Scripture, PopeWatch has the sick fascination of someone viewing an impending car crash.  From Vatican Radio:


The Pope pointed out three “attitudes” that we can have with regard to the Spirit. The first is that which Saint Paul rebuked in the Galatians: the belief that one can be justified through the Law, and not by Jesus, “who makes sense of the Law.” And so they were “too rigid.” They are the same kind of people who attack Jesus and who the Lord called hypocrites:

“And this attachment to the Law ignores the Holy Spirit. It does not grant that the redemption of Christ goes forward with the Holy Spirit. It ignores that: there is only the Law. It is true that there are the Commandments and we have to follow the Commandments; but always through the grace of this great gift that the Father has given us, His Son, and the gift of the Holy Spirit. And so the Law is understood. But don’t reduce the Spirit and the Son to the Law. This was the problem of these people: they ignored the Holy Spirit, and they did not know to go forward. Closed, closed in precepts: we have to do this, we have to do that. At times, it can happen that we fall into this temptation.”

The Doctors of the Law, the Pope said, “bewitch with ideas”:

“Because ideologies bewitch; and so Paul begins here: ‘O stupid Galatians, who has bewitched you?’ Those who preach with ideologies: It’s absolutely just! They bewitch: It’s all clear. But look, the revelation is not clear, eh? The revelation of God is discovered more and more each day, it is always on a journey. Is it clear? Yes! It is crystal clear! It is Him, but we have to discover it along the way. And those who believe they have the whole truth in their hands are not [just] ignorant. Paul says more: [you are] ‘stupid’, because you have allowed yourselves to be bewitched.”

The second attitude is grieving the Holy Spirit. This happens “when we do not allow Him to inspire us, to lead us forward in the Christian life,” when “we don’t let Him tell us, not with the theology of the Law, but with the liberty of the Spirit, what we should do.” That, the Pope said, is how “we become lukewarm,” we fall into “Christian mediocrity,” because the Holy Spirit “cannot do great works in us.”

The third attitude, on the other hand, “is to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, and let the Spirit carry us forward. That’s what the Apostles did, [with] the courage of the day of Pentecost. They lost their fear and opened themselves to the Holy Spirit.” In order “to understand, to welcome the words of Jesus,” the Pope said, “it is necessary to open oneself to the power of the Holy Spirit.” When a man or a woman opens themself to the Holy Spirit, it is like a sail boat that allows itself to be moved by the wind and goes forward, forward, forward, and never stops.” But this happens when we pray that we might be open to the Holy Spirit:

“We can ask ourselves today, in a moment during the day, ‘Do I ignore the Holy Spirit? And do I know that if I go to Sunday Mass, if I do this, if I do that, is it enough?’ Second, ‘Is my life a kind of half a life, lukewarm, that saddens the Holy Spirit, and doesn’t allow that power in me to carry me forward, to be open?’ Or finally, ‘Is my life a continual prayer to open myself to the Holy Spirit, so that He can carry me forward with the joy of the Gospel and make me understand the teaching of Jesus, the true doctrine, that does not bewitch, that does not make us stupid, but the true [teaching]?’ And it helps us understand where our weaknesses are, those things that sadden Him; and it carries us forward, and also carrying forward the Name of Jesus to others and teaching the path of salvation. May the Lord give us this grace: to open ourselves to the Holy Spirit, so that we will not become stupid, bewitched men and women who grieve the Holy Spirit.”


Gag.  May we never make another Jesuit a Pope is my fervent prayer.  Of course in Galatians Saint Paul was concerned with members of the Church seeking to impose Jewish ritual purity laws on Gentile converts, particularly circumcision.  Contra the Pope, Galatians is not a general antinomian screed.  Additionally, the Holy Spirit is not taught in Galatians to be a vehicle by which every half baked piece of tripe new teaching can be smuggled into the Church under the banner of being open to the Holy Spirit.  Presumably Pope Francis is so hell bent to enact his changes in the Church that he is blind that his interpretation of Galatians leads to a Protestantism on steroids where every man, woman and child can claim that any teaching they dream up is caused by the Holy Spirit.  However, perhaps for him that is a feature not a bug?  Naah, the Pope gives little evidence of thinking through the logical consequences of anything he writes or says.

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  1. Pope Francis is our modern Luther and is on his way to doing the same level of damage. When it comes to hearing him speak ear plugs are the answer.

  2. “But I wonder if this Pope actually studies any of the Church Fathers?” Of course he does. He knows the history of the Church began with Vatican II. He knows all about those Church Fathers.

  3. I’m still recovering from his “mercy has the last word” interpretation of Christ saving Judas ( last week’s plane wisdom) based on a sculpture that contradicts Christ’s actual words on Judas. This is a Pope that you can’t leave your young people with for instruction reasons….yet the Catholic media are filled with the flattery brigade…authors who, short of Pope Alexander VI, can put makeup on any Pope because their audience (ergo income) is tied to the paradigm of an always safe Vatican.

  4. “(T)he Holy Spirit is not taught in Galatians to be a vehicle by which every half baked piece of tripe new teaching can be smuggled into the Church under the banner of being open to the Holy Spirit.”
    Give yourself comment of the week, Donald McClarey.

  5. “Stupid Galatians” is one of the best quotes in the bible…. But this column is shocking and perhaps and example of what St. Paul was writing about. No where in the pope’s comments does he invite anyone to challenge church doctrine. I suppose if you have a chip on your shoulder and you look for something, you can find it anywhere… The Pope is asking us to open our hearts to God through the Holy Spirit. Sounds straightforward enough. Listen for the Spirit and you might help the poor, speak out for life or family values, reach out to those in need and get more involved in your Parish or a Catholic Charity… Goodness, opening your heart to the Holy Spirit is quite dangerous. I do not understand the anger at this Pope who highlights Mercy and caring for the poor while steadfastly defending Catholic values like Pro-life and Pro Family. I am shocked at such nastiness of this author and commentators directed at the Holy Father. Perhaps you all should pray a bit more before you type.

  6. Tim, perhaps you should actually learn something about what the Pope has been doing over the past three years before you pontificate. You might start by reading the over a thousand PopeWatch posts that stretch back to the beginning of his pontificate and provide an almost daily look at the Pope.

  7. Timothy McHugh,

    No…Tim…Pope Francis does not merely highlight mercy, he uses “mercy” heretically…watch as he contradicts Christ on Judas by preferring a sculptor’s departure from the dire series of passages by Christ on Judas…nly one of which follows.

    Here is Christ talking to His Father about Judas in prayer in Jn.17:12…from the NAB translation at the USCCB:
    ” When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled.”

    Judas had not yet completed his betrayal sin and his final despair sin was hours into the future. Yet Christ used the past tense…was lost….which past tense prophecy Justin Martyr noted was certain prophecy unlike future tense prophecy which is conditional as in Jonah giving Nineveh three days til destruction in future tense prophecy and they avoided the doom through repentance.

    Now here is Pope Francis on his last return plane trip solving Judas’ fate not by consulting scripture but by affirming a sculptor’s version of Judas and Christ:

    ” “Mercy has the last word. I like to tell, I do not know if I told you, because I repeat it so much … in the Church of Santa Maria Maddalena – I told you or no? – There is a beautiful capital, but it is more or less from the thirteenth century. Medieval cathedrals were catechesis with sculptures. And in a part of the capital there is Judas hanged with his tongue out and eyes (bulging) out, and on the other side of the capital there is Jesus the Good Shepherd who takes (Judas) and carries him with him. And if you look closely, the face of Jesus, the lips of Jesus are sad on the one hand, but with a small smile of understanding in the other. They understood what mercy is … with Judas, huh! “

  8. I’m with Timothy on this one.
    Not my website, not my call, and I know it, but maybe it’s time to put PopeWatch on hiatus?
    Because it seems to me that we’ve reached the point where we’re looking to find fault with everything Pope Francis has to say.

  9. Then I would just humbly request, as a fan of your blog, that you strive to avoid disagreeing with something the Pope says merely because it’s Francis who’s saying it.
    At the risk of going all pomo lit-crit on you, I’m concerned that you’ve fallen into the hermeneutic of suspicion.
    Not concern-troll concerned. Genuinely concerned.
    Because this is the only blog I bother to comment on, now that the other blog I used to comment on has gone kaput.

  10. I’m with Donald what Pope Francis says with suspicion for the very simple reason that much of what he says is confusing and ambiguous if not downright heretical. I listen to Cardinal Sarah, not Pope Francis.

  11. “Then I would just humbly request, as a fan of your blog, that you strive to avoid disagreeing with something the Pope says merely because it’s Francis who’s saying it.”

    Ernst, I appreciate your kind words. In regard to the PopeWatch analysis of the Pope I can only recite what I have said many times to judges when they have apologized for ruling against me: “Judge, you have to call ’em like you see ’em.” PopeWatch praises the Pope when it is called for, most recently in regard to the Pope’s comments on gender ideology. That such praise has become rarer over time does not reflect a change in the methodology of PopeWatch but a reflection of the news from this papacy.

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