Heresy? Or new dogma?


"In the latest edition of La Repubblica, Pope Francis' longtime atheist friend and interviewer, Eugenio Scalfari, claims that the Pope told him that once Jesus Christ became incarnate, he was a man, a "man of exceptional virtues" but "not at all a God."

The teaching of the Catholic Church and most Christian churches is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was incarnated as fully man and fully God.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "The unique and altogether singular event of the Incarnation of the Son of God does not mean that Jesus Christ is part God and part man, nor does it imply that he is the result of a confused mixture of the divine and the human. He became truly man while remaining truly God. Jesus Christ is true God and true man. During the first centuries, the Church had to defend and clarify this truth of faith against the heresies that falsified it. (464)"  cnenews


Scalfari writes that Pope Francis denied the divinity of Christ during his existence on earth as a man.  It has been very basic Catholic teaching that Jesus was both God and man and the second entity in the Trinity that is God.  This doctrine emerged as a stabilizing force after several centuries of dispute among Christians as to the nature o Christ.  The doctrine that became official was probably fostered by the Eastern Roman emperor to put an end to what was a constant source of violent dispute within his realm.

If Pope Francis really said that Jesus was not God while living as a man, this is a major thing, something like a constitutional crisis in the US.  Men and women died in the Middle Ages for adopting similar positions.

Is Pope Francis a heretic, or is he proclaiming new doctrine ex cathedra?  pl

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48 Responses to Heresy? Or new dogma?

  1. ted richard says:

    perhaps francis ….is…. the manchurian candidate!

  2. I think we have neither heresy nor new dogma. We have an interpretation of a conversation with Pope Francis by an atheist interviewer concerning the Roman Catholic mystery of the Incarnation. Reading the “Catechism of the Catholic Church” explanation of the Incarnation, there are passages that can be interpreted differently when taken separately. It’s a mystery for a reason, just like the mystery of one God in the Trinity. I agree with George Carlin on these things. I don’t fully understand it. “It’s a mystery.”

  3. turcopolier says:

    I dunno. This sounds a lot like the Arian heresy.

  4. notlurking says:

    To a certain degree I like Francis as a human being and thinker…the rest is mumbo jumbo…don’t mean to disrespect anyone…

  5. The Arian heresy deals more with the nature of the Trinity, seeing Jesus and the Holy spirit as subordinate to God the Father. I don’t think Scalfari went that far in his interpretation.
    Note: I’m looking this stuff us as we go along. I am not at all a scholar of the bible or Catholic doctrine.

  6. prawnik says:

    A lot like Arianism, or its modern incarnation, the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

  7. turcopolier says:

    OK. How about “Adoptianism.?”

  8. turcopolier says:

    Yes you do, and it is disrespectful but the heathen are tolerated here so long as they are not communists. Have you heard of “Pascal’s Wager?”

  9. vig says:

    the mystery of one God in the Trinity.
    Ecce Homo: not easy to grasp, and I would guess it must have sounded pretty heretic in the ears of our Jewish Monotheist brothers and sisters at the time, but really highly inspiring and beautiful once you seriously reflect about it.
    What’s the Muslims take on matters?
    I wasn’t aware of all the theories unfolding around Benedict and Francis. Guess I have to take a look on matters from the American perspective. There may be theological bits and pieces:

  10. Lars says:

    I have long held that the essence of Christianity is the Sermon on the Mount and if you adhere to the lessons of that, you will become a better human being. I am, however, skeptical of the mystical and mythical aspects. I think Pope Francis is injecting some needed fresh air into a moribund organization. No doubt that will create resistance. But it will probably take a few more popes to get the church where it needs to be in the modern world.

  11. Adoptianism or adoptionism – the belief that Jesus was the adopted son of God. I never heard of anything close to that. Sounds more like an episode of “South Park.” This belief seems to hold that Jesus Christ is no more a God than the BVM. Really odd.

  12. tjfxh says:

    I would not rush to judgment on this. Perhaps the interviewer did not know the fine ponts of Christian theology and did not understand precisely what Francis was saying. Without a transcript it is impossible to tell what Francis meant. See “kenosis” at the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia.
    For example, when I was a grad student in philosophy at a major Catholic university in the US, I had the chance to meet with a top Vatican theologian personally when he was visting. The first thing he said to was, “You have to understand that I don’t believe in God.” Being very familiar with Aquinas, I said, “Of course.” Then we had a fine discussion of a few of the many fine points of theology.

  13. Diana C says:

    If TTG is wrong and this is not just “an interpretation of a conversation,” it would be most definitely heresy.
    The Philip Jenkins book I recommended, Jesus Wars (with a long subtitle), covers the entire long, long debate as to exactly how the church came to an understanding of the nature of Christ (Jesus). It IS an informative read.
    Of course, as an Evangelical Protestant, we definitely view Jesus as the Divine Christ. Most of our sermons come from the New Testament, though some with references back to the Old Testament.
    I remember that as a young girl with several Catholic friends I pondered for a long time the difference between the Catholic crosses, which depict the crucified Christ, and our Protestant crosses, which are empty and which signify the risen Christ.
    I like both crosses because together they capture both sides, so to speak, of Jesus.
    In San Luis, Colorado ( the oldest town in our state) there is a hill on the west side of the highway where a person can walk, so to speak, the Via Dolorosa. The oldest church in CO is on the east side of that, a very small Catholic church with, of course, the stations of the cross depicted on his walls.
    The first time I walked that hill and stopped at each of the stations where a local artist had created bronze statues for each station, when I got to Christ on the Cross, that station was/is on a hill overlooking the San Luis Valley. I got to it just at the time of day when the sky was blood red. Of course, there was no stopping my tears.
    We definitely have a Triune God.
    Christianity is a very complicated and beautiful system of belief. I became so interested in the history of my religion that I have spent many hours of my life studying it. In some way I believe that Christianity is now practiced in different denominations so that the world can somehow get the entire belief system preached.
    As a very young child I sometimes wondered why we didn’t get more sermons and lessons on God. Protestants emphasize Christ.
    Then later in life, I was able to contemplate The Holy Spirit (or Ghost, if you prefer that terminology). There are many Protestant groups that really concentrate on that. However, I learned it by having to contemplate on and pray for the Spirit during a particularly hard time in my life. It was worth going through that time simply to have actually felt the Spirit working for me then.
    I am happy that my particular church concentrates as much on the Old Testament as on the New Testament. As Sunday school students we so enjoyed those many Old Testament stories where God was the main actor of the Trinity during the first part of the book. (I actually read through my Sunday School Bible Story book as often as I have time. It helps me remember the feelings I had when I first believed and became familiar with all those names of the people who were at the center of those stories in both the Old and New Testaments.)
    As an English teacher, I learned early that my best students of literature were students who had attended Sunday school. It’s hard to explain how much the Bible stories are “embedded” and/or referenced in much of our great literature.

  14. artemesia says:

    heh heh
    Pascal’s wager in a time of quantitative easing.
    More circles, Dante; we need more circles.

  15. scott s. says:

    I don’t know how widespread it is in the wider church, but the conservative (might say orthodox) Catholics I know tend to cite the “magisterium” as authoritative, and not subject to easy revision by any individual pope. They consider statements that “the pope can do this, the pope can do that” as protestant misunderstandings or even “fake news”.

  16. turcopolier says:

    I have several time walked the Stations of the Cross on the street in Jerusalem on the Via Dolorosa. The station sites are marked on the walls of the buildings. I did this once in the company of an Israeli MG who was in uniform. The Arabs did their best to ignore him. I talked to one elderly shop keeper in Arabic and he asked me what I was. He said “why are you with them?” I told him that I understood the question but that Amnon Shahak, then CoS of the IDF was a good man. He looked doubtful. Amnon asked what had been said and then offered the man his hand, which he took.

  17. Tidewater says:

    Mark 2:22

  18. turcopolier says:

    Mr. Jefferson revised the Gospels to his taste removing all mention of religion and leaving on;y the moral message.

  19. turcopolier says:

    Scott S.
    IMO that is a doubtful position considering the dogma of papal infallibility.

  20. turcopolier says:

    They generally believe that Jesus was perhaps the greatest prophet and a semi divine being who did not truly die on the cross. They think that a simulacrum of him died on Calvary. The Muslims here will perhaps contest my statement believing that Muhammad, the Messenger of God was the greatest prophet. They think that orthodox Christian beliefs about Jesus are a distortion of the truth.

  21. Jane says:

    Millions of Christians in the Middle East and South Asia, as well as their diasporas, belong to churches that adhere to the beliefs of a Monophysite or Nestorian theology that differs from Western Christian and Byzantine Orthodoxy in regard to the nature of Christ. The first of the churches in the east that was deemed heretical was the Nestorian faith, what is now known as the Assyrian Church of the East and the “Syriac” [not to be confused with Syrian Orthodoxy, which is the term for Arabic-speaking Greek Orthodox] Orthodox and Coptic churches. The Assyrian and Syriac churches use Syriac as their liturgical languages and speak an Aramaic/Syriac modern language, except for those in India who use the liturgical language but speak their Indian language, such as Malayalam, as native tongue. Egyptian, Ethiopian and Eritrean Copts speak their native languages and partially use their ancient liturgical tongues in church.
    Like their Byzantine Orthodox equivalents these churches have parallel Roman Catholic Eastern Rite [Uniate] churches, after agreeing to abandoned their theology and accept the Pope, but kept their traditional practices in all other respects.
    When a belief become “ex cathedra” it will be formally introduced by the Pope with considerable fanfare. A young child once asked Francis if his dog had gone to heaven when he died, he replied, “Why not?” That did not rise to the level of heresy either.


    There used to be Christians who believed in what Muslims believe today about Jesus – the Spirit of God; the Gnostic Christians.
    A distinction is made in Islam between a Messenger (“Rasul”) and a Prophet (“Nabi”).
    A Rasul is always a Nabi while a Nabi may or may not become a Rasul.
    While a Rasul receives a new Sharia from Allah, a Nabi does not and only follows the Sharia of the Rasul before him.
    Isa Masih was given a book – a message – called Injil, thus making him a Rasul.
    Per the Quran (33-40), the Prophet of Islam was the “Seal of Nabiyin” –
    مَّا كَانَ مُحَمَّدٌ أَبَآ أَحَدٍ مِّن رِّجَالِكُمْ وَلَـٰكِن رَّسُولَ ٱللَّـهِ وَخَاتَمَ ٱلنَّبِيِّـۧنَ وَكَانَ ٱللَّـهُ بِكُلِّ شَىْءٍ عَلِيمًا
    but not necessarily the Seal of Murselin – as far as I understand such issues.

  23. Diana C says:

    I so envy you for having been able to take that walk there.
    I’ve been out of this country only once when I traveled to Istanbul for my older son’s wedding.
    There I spent a day in the Hagia Sophia. I was lucky because I was there when the Turkish government was still “secular.” The building had been turned into a museum. That meant I was able to see it in many parts as it was during the city’s time as Constantinople. Much of it had be restored to the way it looked as a church, while showing parts of it as a mosque.
    I read that under Erdogan, the building has been turned back into just a mosque. That seemed a petty thing to do since the Blue Mosque is just across a small park from it.
    Many people in my congregation have taken trips to the Holy Land. Now, having read your account of your experience, I must try to make myself get over my hatred of flying and try to get there too.
    I recommend and 18th Century “play” by G.E. Lessing entitled “Nathan the Wise.” I thought of it when I read your account.

  24. Serge says:

    The virgin birth and other miracles are explicitly ascribed to Jesus in the Koran, no miracles for Muhammad apart from in the extraneous sirah literature. Even the hadith are near devoid of them. I remember that Gibbon in Decline/Fall says that Islam recognizes the Immaculate Conception of Mary, although I do not know if this is true. I do know that there are numerous versions of hadith with Muhammad affirming that his parents are in the Hellfire for being polythiests

  25. turcopolier says:

    “Injil” translates for us as “Gospel,” the Good News. I have had orthodox Jews maintain to me that the Injil as we have it now is a distortion of early Christian teaching. My question for them would be – how do they know that? Mark is apparently the oldest of the four canonical Gospels. It seems to date from around 60 AD and was probably composed by the Apostle Mark.

  26. Paco says:

    Pope Francisco is fresh air for the Catholic church, much needed in places where she has lost terrain to the evangelical push like in Latin America. He is welcomed in Spain also, where most of the population is baptized but not practicing any more. The remnants are too conservative, Opus Dei types, they are opposing the exhumation of our late dictator Franco, after a long court battle up to the Supreme Court, the Vatican is not opposed, but the dominican prior is, the final stage of the long battle is coming and it will make international noise. It is amazing that some in the church favour the pharaonic burial site of a filonazi dictator with over thirty thousand of his victims, a burial site built with slave prisoner labour and a totalitarian architectural style. I wish good luck to Pope Francisco, he will need it.

  27. Eric Newhill says:

    There are still some gnostics around. I am one of them.
    To us Jesus was a man who was able to set his ego aside so completely that he was filled, like an empty vessel, with aspects of God. God chose to use him because he was so well suited for the task. Jesus was a medium. What he communicated was the unadulterated Word of God. Not everything that God is; just aspects of God that humanity needs to hear and live by and that we can comprehend. There is much more to God that is beyond our capacity to comprehend or use in this life on earth. In other realms there are other bearers of different aspects of God that are helpful and comprehensible in those realms.

  28. How is the Son of God God himself?

  29. turcopolier says:

    Harlan Easley
    Far too cryptic.

  30. Dave Schuler says:

    It’s been a long time since I studied this but my recollection is that Mark is the oldest of the gospels and was used as source material by Matthew and Luke along with a now-lost “sayings of Jesus” work called Q plus additional source material unique to each (called M and L, respectively).

  31. Jane, good point about dogs going to heaven. A remember Father O’Dea, our parish pastor, talking with a bunch of my friends under one of our maples. A friend asked if our pets went to heaven. Father O’Dea didn’t miss a beat. He told us that Heaven is paradise and if paradise meant we would be reunited with our pets, he saw no reason why they wouldn’t greet us when we got there. I don’t think Father O’Dea was a heretic.
    I know that many Lithuanians still kept some of the old pagan beliefs when they eventually converted to Catholicism. After all these generations, my father and I firmly believe all God’s creatures have souls or spirits and that spirits inhabit many places. I guess we’re both heretics.

  32. Pacifica Advocate says:

    One cannot be a human if one knows oneself is a god.

  33. Babak Makkinejad says:

    A Muslim could reply to your question that True Injil is lost, since the Gospels correspond to Sunnah of Prophet and not the Quran.

  34. turcopolier says:

    Babak very like what the Jews say.

  35. Babak Makkinejad says:

    The Good News has been the forgiveness of sins; an inconvenient and inconceivable idea with Muslim Tradition.

  36. d74 says:

    Incredible, what an era!
    The pope is a heretic, even schismatic.
    Soon a rehearsal of the Council of Constance (1412-1418)? Who to burn?
    Constance = Konstanz (Germany) near Kreuzlingen (Switzerland)

  37. anon says:

    Some thoughts i had on various possibilities of spirituality and our place on this earth.Also connects to a post here not so long ago on some trees in a forest.In my mind the abrahamic relegions have led people away from our spiritual connection to the earth and nature much to our detriment.The pope’s stance on the amazon is a good start but more needs to be done.
    I believe that home is where the heart is,but it is quite possible to have more than one home ,just as the weaver bird builds a new home each year to raise its young.
    As i stood under the old mulberry tree watching the weaver birds building their elaborate nests i wondered why we humans cannot abandon our nests each year and move on like the weavers birds.
    I surmised that it is memories that construct the homes where our hearts reside,even if the reality is very different.
    In the tradition of the great kabbalist isaac luria.
    When the soul leaves the body it chooses a suitable tree and occupies a tree with access to both the world above and below and resides there in its new home.
    There it joins the cycle of life.One should always endeavor to plant at least one tree in your short life on this sacred earth so the souls of dead have a place to reside.Just as the living reside in houses made from dead trees so do the souls of the dead reside in houses made of living trees.

  38. vig says:

    this is still ongoing? Grasped bits an pieces.
    I wish good luck to Pope Francisco
    me too

  39. vig says:

    One cannot be a human if one knows oneself is a god.
    Who does, or suggested something similiar on this thread?

  40. Fred says:

    You need to close the italics

  41. Diana C says:

    Gnosticism was always considered a heresy.
    I’ll have to review the history. I remember a story about St. Augustine’s mother, St. Monica, who shed so many tears over her son’s early loose living and dabbling in Gnosticism. The Pope’s answer was something to the effect that no son of a mother who shed so many tears over him would not be saved. As I said, I’m typing just from memory.

  42. JerseyJeffersonian says:

    No, you both are wise beyond the “wisdom” of those who think God can be boxed in. Nicholas of Cusa said, “God is a circle whose center is everywhere & circumference nowhere”. Transcendent/imminent…

  43. Diana C says:

    It’s getting very deep on this thread. Here are some of my simple (from my Protestant background) explanations of the two ideas that have helped me understand the Triune God: God in Three Persons. God created mankind, using Adam as the first example. He gave us free will, which we used to commit the sin that infects us. Using the once popular way of tying ideas from the Old to New Testament (Typology is, I believe, what it was called), we say that through one man’s sin we all inherited sin, and through one man we could all be saved. That man would be Jesus (the man and the Christ).
    (The Catholics, came up with the idea of immaculate conception to explain the virgin birth. Mary was born through immaculate conception. I remember that the engineers I worked with at a computer storage manufacturing company used to call a “mother board” Mary as a joke of some kind. But I digress.) I just accepted the biblical explanation of the angel’s announcing to Mary that she would carry God’s child, though she was still a virgin. An angel also announced John the Baptist’s birth about the same time.)
    Jesus as he walked on earth performed miracles that could only be explained by some special divinity, if you ask me.
    Christ’s (Jesus’s) appearing to Mary in the open tomb, Christ’s blinding of Saul who became the Apostle Paul, the Ascension of Christ as several of the apostles witnessed and many other miracles described in the New Testament all seem proof to believers of Jesus’s double nature while on earth.
    God’s Triune nature was shown completely at Pentecost when the Spirit, the Advocate, the Comforter or what other term you want to use for the “still small voice” arrives, as Christ Jesus had promised.
    If a person believes and if that person’s life experiences give witness to the truth of the nature of God as three persons in one God, that is all that is necessary for me to understand Jesus as the Son of God.
    Anyone can think he/she can explain my belief in some psychological way he or she wants.
    I believed early as a young child, the minute I was introduced to it in Sunday School. And they often say that children can believe what is hard for adults to believe. My belief has always seemed justified throughout my now pretty long life. And I often felt sorry for people who did not believe. They seemed to get themselves into many unpleasant and painful situations. My belief even during some very emotionally painful periods of my life kept me strong and determined to live through them, and that was especially helped by the Spirit.
    If God could be easily understood, there would be no need for us to search for God in our lives, to strive to know God. God has always wanted a relationship with us, so He wants us to question and search.
    My mother’s family were Lutheran. My father’s family were from a Huguenot/Pietist tradition, with some Baptist infusion later on.
    We attended an Evangelical Congregationalist church–where I am now still a member-as that was the denomination that was able to provide us a German-speaking pastor. Most of our families came out of Russia but spoke German. Until all the older people died, I heard a sermon in German and then one in English. We sang out of the Volga Gesangbuch, some singing in German and some in English. I had to attend a little over seven months’s of Saturday confirmation school until I was confirmed in the church at 14. We were asked questions from the catechism as we sat in front of the church on Palm Sunday. Then we were deemed knowledgeable and prepared enough to be able to take Holy Communion. And to refer to one person who commented here, we had to be able to recite the Ten Commandments as well as the Sermon on the Mount.

  44. vig says:

    Yes, Fred I noticed, but considering matters statistically, I have to admit it felt slightly unlikely. Once in while, but constantly?
    On the other hand, considering repetitions in communications?
    Should I worry about watching it? After all what exactly made me change M to K or M.B. to K.B. and Russia to Russian? Made a lot of difference after all.

  45. Vig says:

    Diana, wasn’t the problem mother-and-son-wise Manichaeism? At least the legend seems to tell us. A variation only? I wonder?
    Other then that the mother had problems of her own, as the legend tells us?
    Ever read Augustine?

  46. prawnik says:

    The Orthodox Bishop who taught me told me that it is possible that animals will also go to heaven.

  47. Diana C says:

    As I understand it Manichaeism was an early form leading to Gnosticism. It becomes very confusing. In either case, neither would not have been accepted then by the church. As far as St. Monica is concerned, all I can say is that somehow she became a saint. I leave that to the Catholics.
    In regard to the issue that started this whole discussion–the sinful behavior of priests in regard to sexual acts with young children–the one person we studied only briefly who might be pertinent to the discussion was Origen. The rumor was that he literally castrated himself (See Matthew 19:12) since he was teaching young girls and men. Most doubt that is true.
    However, mostly our group studied the writings of women, especially women writing during the Middle Ages and later. My favorite was Julian of Norwich. St. Therese of Claivaus (sp?) and St. Terese of Lisieux (sp?0, the Little Flower” were quite interesting. We read St. Bernard also, as we were trying to understand all the various orders of the religious estate: “those who pray” as opposed to “those who work” and “those who fight” while we were reading The Canterbury Tales.
    I posted only from my memory of reading about St. Augustine during that time when I was digging deep into these subjects. It was most likely Manichaeism St. Augustine had dabbled in. It too would not have been accepted by the Church.

  48. Diana C says:

    Belief is quite different from Logic. I believe some things that I would never try to explain logically.

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