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Doctrine can become ideology, and is then divisive, Pope warns

May 19, 2017

Doctrine unites the Church, but ideology divides believers, Pope Francis told a congregation at morning Mass on May 19.

Reflecting on the day’s days reading, which recounted the story of the Council of Jerusalem, and the debate on enforcing Mosaic law, the Pope said that the “liberty of the Spirit” led the disciples to an accord.

However, the Pope said that the dispute within the early Church was caused by “jealousies, power struggles, a certain deviousness that wanted to profit from and to buy power.” These temptations are always present in the Church, he said, and the Church must guard against them.

While it is “a duty of the Church to clarify doctrine,” the Pope said, some people cling to particular ideas, turning beliefs into ideologies. These, he said, are “fanatics of things that are not clear, like these fanatics who went there sneering to divide the Christian community.”

The disciples who had insisted on the enforcement of Mosaic law, the Pope said, “were not believers; they were ideologized.” He said that this temptation, too, is a frequent problem. “There have always been those people who, without any assignment, go on to disturb the Christian community with discourses that upset souls.”

The Spirit clarifies doctrine, the Pope said. But when “that doctrine becomes an ideology,” he warned, “this is the great error of these people.”


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  • Posted by: feedback - May. 20, 2017 3:40 PM ET USA

    In the dispute leading to the Council of Jerusalem, I can't see any of "jealousies, power struggles, a certain deviousness that wanted to profit from and to buy power." All I see instead is a discussion of perfectly legitimate concerns among the first Christian believers who wished to serve God and worship Him in truth. The council was not a defeat for anyone involved, but rather victory of truth and clarity. St. Luke reports that the believers were "delighted" with the conclusion [Acts 15:31].

  • Posted by: JDeFauw - May. 20, 2017 3:02 PM ET USA

    I do not agree with Pope Francis' historical interpretation of this debate. I believe that at least some of the Judaizers (and maybe most of them) were acting in good faith, and were merely misguided. Is there any evidence they were motivated by the desire "to profit from and buy power"? If we were living at that time, it would not have been self evident what role the law of Moses would play in the New Covenant.

  • Posted by: brenda22890 - May. 20, 2017 9:59 AM ET USA

    This Pope is the one who is an ideologue, divisive, and I fear, perhaps destroying "the One, Holy, Catholic" Church if it goes on much longer.

  • Posted by: rpp - May. 20, 2017 7:44 AM ET USA

    He takes an example of unity in the early Church and twists it into factional infighting by projecting his own ideology and Marxist attitudes onto those whose motives were discerning the Truth of the Gospel, the Unity of the Church and Love of God.

  • Posted by: bernie4871 - May. 19, 2017 6:42 PM ET USA

    Sometimes, frequently, persons in high places, express themselves in the cliches of the muddleheaded. And those who wish to justify their own mindset will often avail themselves of the "Council of Jerusalem" by perpetuating distortions of Apostolic discussions and twist them into an ideological perspective of their own. Frankly, I am tired of it all. What the outcome will eventually be is not hard to see. God will have His way regardless.

  • Posted by: claude-ccc2991 - May. 19, 2017 5:54 PM ET USA

    What was at question was whether the Mosaic ritual law should be part of Christianity or not (Acts 15:1-6), rather than doctrine becoming ideology. And contrary to Francis' claim that the pro-Mosaic advocates weren't believers, the letter from the Apostles identifies them as "some of our number" (v.24). Mixed in as these are with Francis' frequent references to freedom in the Spirit, this appears to be another nebulous argument for liberating FrancisSpirit from well established Church doctrine.

  • Posted by: Retired01 - May. 19, 2017 2:52 PM ET USA

    Thus if you want clarity in the midst of confusion, you are a fanatic of things that are not clear and you want to divide the Church. Words of wisdom?