GeE 37-38: An Intellect Without God and Without Flesh

See the source imagePope Francis describes today’s gnostic as “An intellect without God and without flesh.”

37. Thanks be to God, throughout the history of the Church it has always been clear that a person’s perfection is measured not by the information or knowledge they possess, but by the depth of their charity.

Read on to be sure Pope Francis is not advocating the other pole, pelagianism, that persons can effect their own salvation by kindly acts. We’ll get to that worry soon enough at paragraph 47. The distinction here could be summed up in cases where people who about God, rather than knowing God.

The problem is with judging others:

“Gnostics” do not understand this, because they judge others based on their ability to understand the complexity of certain doctrines. They think of the intellect as separate from the flesh, and thus become incapable of touching Christ’s suffering flesh in others, locked up as they are in an encyclopedia of abstractions. In the end, by disembodying the mystery, they prefer “a God without Christ, a Christ without the Church, a Church without her people”.[Homily at Mass in Casa Santa Marta, 11 November 2016]

The gnostic avoids both the human affect, and the impulse to show love on concrete acts that arise from the affect.

38. Certainly this is a superficial conceit: there is much movement on the surface, but the mind is neither deeply moved nor affected. Still, gnosticism exercises a deceptive attraction for some people, since the gnostic approach is strict and allegedly pure, and can appear to possess a certain harmony or order that encompasses everything.


Certainly some Christians are so distrustful of their inner motives–and those of others–that they avoid any semblance of an “unreasoned” response to God and more, criticize it in others. To be sure, many of us Christians, especially those with certain gifts of the intellect, are inclined to live our a gnostic thread now and then. The real problem for the Church is when believers indulge in a tyranny of the intellect, and decline to accept anything less from sisters and brothers in the faith.

You can check the full document Gaudete et Exsultate on the Vatican website.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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