“Christian doctrine is not a closed system”

The Vatican has made the Holy Father’s enormously significant Florence speech available in English. After a quick scan, there appear to be some differences between the Vatican’s translation and the Zenit working translation we posted previously. Whether these differences are meaningful is, of course, an open question. As a taste, the Vatican’s translation of the portion that we have discussed a couple of times previously is:

A Church that presents these three traits — humility, disinterest, beatitude — is a Church that is able to recognize the action of the Lord in the world, in culture, in the everyday life of the people. I have said it more than once and I repeat it again to you today: “I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and which then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures” (Evangelii Gaudium, n. 49). However, we know that temptations exist; there are so many temptations to confront. I will present you with at least two of them. Do not be afraid, this will not be a list of temptations! Like the list of 15 that I recited to the Curia!

The first is that of the Pelagian. It spurs the Church not to be humble, disinterested and blessed. It does so through the appearance of something good. Pelagianism leads us to trust in structures, in organizations, in planning that is perfect because it is abstract. Often it also leads us to assume a controlling, harsh and normative manner. Norms give Pelagianism the security of feeling superior, of having a precise bearing. This is where it finds its strength, not in the lightness of the Spirit’s breath. Before the evils or problems of the Church it is useless to seek solutions in conservatism and fundamentalism, in the restoration of obsolete practices and forms that even culturally lack the capacity to be meaningful. Christian doctrine is not a closed system, incapable of raising questions, doubts, inquiries, but is living, is able to unsettle, is able to enliven. It has a face that is supple, a body that moves and develops, flesh that is tender: Christian doctrine is called Jesus Christ.

The reform of the Church then — and the Church is semper reformanda — is foreign to Pelagianism. She is not exhausted in the countless plans to change her structures. It instead means being implanted and rooted in Christ, allowing herself to be led by the Spirit. Thus everything will be possible with genius and creativity.

The Church of Italy lets herself be carried by his powerful — and thus, at times, restless — breath. She always takes on the spirit of her great explorers, who on ships were passionate about navigating the open sea and not frightened by frontiers and storms. May she be a free Church, open to the challenges of the present, never on the defensive out of fear of losing something. Never on the defensive out of fear of losing something. And, encountering the people along the way, she takes on St Paul’s aim: “To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some” (1 Cor 9:22).

A second temptation to defeat is that of gnosticism. This leads to trusting in logical and clear reasoning, which nonetheless loses the tenderness of a brother’s flesh. The attraction of gnosticism is that of “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” (Evangelii Gaudium, n. 94). Gnosticism cannot transcend.

The difference between Christian transcendence and any form of gnostic spiritualism lies in the mystery of the incarnation. Not putting into practice, not leading the Word into reality, means building on sand, staying within pure idea and decaying into intimisms that bear no fruit, that render its dyamism barren.

(Emphasis in original.)