During the General Audience of June 23, 2021, Pope Francis began a new cycle of catechesis on themes from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians.
After placing the text in its geographical and cultural context, the Pope described the work of evangelization as practiced by St. Paul in these pagan regions.
He then took up a passage from this epistle, which warns the Galatians, troubled by theories being taught by Christians who had come from Judaism, not to be deceived. St. Paul's reaction is well known: he vehemently reproaches his children in Galatia. These words are worth quoting (Gal. 1:6-9):
“I wonder that you are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ, unto another gospel. Which is not another, only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema. As we said before, so now I say again: If any one preach to you a gospel, besides that which you have received, let him be anathema.”
The Pope then makes an application to our time: “There is no shortage of preachers who, especially through the new means of communication, can disturb communities. They present themselves … to insist, as true ‘keepers of the truth,’ ... what is the best way to be Christians.”
“And they strongly affirm that the true Christianity is the one they adhere to, often identified with certain forms of the past, and that the solution to the crises of today is to go back so as not to lose the genuineness of the faith. Today too, as then, there is a temptation to close oneself up in some of the certainties acquired in past traditions.”
Pope Francis said that these ‘new preachers’ can be recognized by their ‘rigidity,’ which contrasts with “preaching the Gospel that makes us free, makes us joyful.”
“But how do we recognize these people? For example, one of the characteristics of their way of doing things is rigidity.…Always rigidity: we must do that, we must do this… Rigidity is specific to these people.”
The application is curious, in that it reverses the role of past and present. St. Paul affirms that those who troubled the Galatian community were teaching a new gospel, different from the one announced to them.
The Pope reproaches these “keepers of the truth” for wanting to go back to the past, which is the exact opposite of what St. Paul explains. As St. Vincent de Lérins (died around 450) says, if a recent author teaches a doctrine that diverges from the past, who should we believe? We must, he asserts, “focus on antiquity, which, of course, can no longer be seduced by any false novelty.”
The second curiosity is this insistence on rigidity, and the security that some faithful may feel in attaching themselves to the past which “can no longer be seduced” by erroneous novelties. It is the hallmark of any revolution that it wants to cut off from their roots those it wants to drag into a nebulous future.
And that is exactly what the followers of the Second Vatican Council did: they created a “conciliar Church” - the word is from Msgr. Giovanni Benelli - which has a date of birth. What precedes it is past and outdated.