Notebook

Pelagianism

The term ‘pelagianism’ is bandied about quite a bit, often cryptically. A helpful application is one made by Benedict XVI when he spoke about ‘Bourgeois Pelagianism’. According to Tracey Rowland, commenting on it in a recent interview, it refers to ‘the mentality that Christ does not expect us to be saints. It is sufficient that we are decent types who recycle our rubbish, donate a few dollars to charity, and refrain from murdering and raping our neighbors or stealing their property. The mentality is that Christ was not really serious when he said that we must be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect.’ She generalises the notion of the ‘bourgeois’ (broadly understood as ‘keen on upward social mobility’) by identifying a ‘bourgeois Christianity’, which ‘does not fight on sacramental ground. It does not fight at all. It simply goes in search of Christian-friendly elements of the Zeitgeist with which it might identify and market itself.’

And so one is presented with plenty of scope for new year’s resolutions.