Pope Francis warned that ideologues sow confusion and division in the Church in the name of false clarity, rather than relying on the Pope, the bishops, and Church councils inspired by the Holy Spirit.
“We are human, we are sinners,” he said, adding that there are difficulties even in the Church. Being sinners leads to humility and drawing closer to God who saves us.
Looking to the early Church, Pope Francis made a distinction between those who had “forceful discussions” but “a good spirit,” and those who “sowed confusion.”
“The group of the apostles who want to discuss the problem, and the others who go and create problems,” the Pope distinguished. “They divide, they divide the Church, they say that what the Apostles preached is not what Jesus said, that it is not the truth.”
The Pope’s words came in his homily at Casa Santa Martha May 19, Vatican Radio reports. He reflected on the Council of Jerusalem of 49 A.D., recounted in the Acts of the Apostles, which rejected claims that gentile converts to Christianity would have to be circumcised.
In the early Church, he charged, “there were jealousies, power struggles, a certain deviousness that wanted to profit from and to buy power.”
In the end, the apostles’ discussion came to agreement.
“They had hearts open to what the Holy Spirit said. And after the discussion ‘it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us,’” the Pope said.
This is not “a political agreement” but “the inspiration of the Holy Spirit” that led them to reject the “necessities” some would require of Christian converts, like a refusal to eat meat sacrificed to idols and a requirement to abstain from “illegitimate unions.”
The “liberty of the spirit,” however, allowed gentiles to enter the Church without circumcision.
At that first Church Council, Pope Francis said, “the Holy Spirit and they, the Pope with the bishops, all together,” gathered together in order “to clarify the doctrine,” as would be done through the centuries at successive councils so that “what Jesus said in the Gospels, what is the Spirit of the Gospels, would be understood well.”
The Pope encouraged the congregation not to be afraid in the face of “the opinions of the ideologues of doctrine.” He stressed that the Church has “its proper Magisterium, the Magisterium of the Pope, of the bishops, of the councils.” They should follow the path “that comes from the preaching of Jesus, and from the teaching and assistance of the Holy Spirit.” This path is “always open, always free,” because “doctrine unites, the Councils unite the Christian community” but “ideology divides.”
Pope Francis further warned against divisive elements in the Church.
“But there were always people who without any commission go out to disturb the Christian community with speeches that upset souls: ‘Eh, no, someone who says that is a heretic, you can’t say this, or that; this is the doctrine of the Church,’” he said.
“And they are fanatics of things that are not clear, like those fanatics who go there sowing weeds in order to divide the Christian community.”
He said their “great error” results from when Church doctrine, which comes from the gospel and is inspired by the Holy Spirit, “becomes an ideology.”