58. Not infrequently, contrary to the promptings of the Spirit, the life of the Church can become a museum piece or the possession of a select few.
There isn’t any doubt that Christians lose the sense of the Spirit and go off listening to another voice–their own, or that of other people. To be sure, when Pope Francis criticizes those who attach “excessive importance” to certain aspects of Christianity, the presumption is that the means have come to the fore, and the end has been lost, somewhat.
This is a particular diagnosis:
This can occur when some groups of Christians give excessive importance to certain rules, customs or ways of acting. The Gospel then tends to be reduced and constricted, deprived of its simplicity, allure and savor. This may well be a subtle form of pelagianism, for it appears to subject the life of grace to certain human structures. It can affect groups, movements and communities, and it explains why so often they begin with an intense life in the Spirit, only to end up fossilized… or corrupt.
So often, the original impulse is good, connected with the Spirit. Some conservative Catholics see this as a direct insult, but it’s an accurate assessment of any group, movement, community, or individual who have lost their way from an initial congruence. Thing is: all people are merely mortals–flawed, prone to error and even sin. Even believers. Even progressive persons and communities are vulnerable.