[UPDATED] Reading Francis through Benedict: “a radical refashioning of Christianity”

In “Jesus of Nazareth” (Chapter III, Vol. 1, pp. 53-54), Benedict XVI discusses a certain “secularist reinterpretation of the idea of the Kingdom” that has “gained considerable ground … in Catholic theology”.

He terms it “regnocentrism”, that is, the centrality of the Kingdom - a “radical refashioning” of “Christianity, religions and history” that will, it is claimed, “enable people to reappropriate Jesus’ supposed message”.

A new view of History: The earthly kingdom as the End of History

Benedict XVI’ explains what is at the core of “regnocentrism”:
Kingdom in this interpretation, is simply the name for a world governed by peace, justice, and the conservation of creation. It means no more than this."

This at last, we are told, is the heart of Jesus’ message, and it is also the right formula for finally harnessing mankind’s positive energies and directing them toward the world’s future."

It looks as if now, at long last, Jesus’ words have gained some practical content, because the establishment of the Kingdom has become a common task and is drawing nigh."
So we have a new (un)holy trinity: worldly peace, economic justice, and environmentalism.

A “radical refashioning” of Christianity: radical ecumenism, inter-religious dialogue and beyond

The building of worldly peace involves ending division, building a community of religions and more:
In pre-Vatican II period “ecclesioncentrism” was the dominant position: The Church was represented as the center of Christianity. Then there was a shift to Christocentrism, to the doctrine that Christ is the center of everything. But it is not only the Church that is divisive… since Christ belongs exclusively to Christians. Hence the further step from Christocentrism to theocentrism. This has allegedly brought us closer to the community of religions, but our final goal continues to elude us, since even God can be a cause of division between religions and between people.
The only sin is, of course, divisive proselytism:
This sounds good; it seems like a way of finally enabling the whole world to appropriate Jesus’ message, but without requiring missionary evangelization of other religions.”

A new view of religions: irrelevant instruments at the service of political and social ideals

In this earthly “Kingdom”, the task reserved for religions is the following:
… to work together for the coming of the “Kingdom”. They are of course perfectly free to preserve their traditions and live according to their respective identities as well, but they must bring their different identities to bear on the common task of building the “Kingdom”, a world in other words, where peace, justice and respect for creation are the dominant values.”

… The respect for religious “traditions” claimed by this way of thinking is only apparent. The truth is that they are regarded as so many sets of customs, which people should be allowed to keep, even though they ultimately count for nothing. Faith and religions are now directed towards political goals. Only the organization of the world counts. Religion matters only insofar as it ca serve that objective.

A post-christian ideology: The end of God and exaltation of Man

The building of this earthly kingdom has no place for God. Man is the only actor and the main character:
…the main thing that leaps out is that God has disappeared; man is the only actor left on stage. This post-Christian vision is disturbingly close to Jesus’ third temptation […]”

In Chapter II of “Jesus of Nazareth”, Benedict XVI states that the contemporaneous form of the third temptation of Jesus in the desert is "the interpretation of Christianity as a recipe for progress and recognizing general welfare as the real objective of all religions including the christian religion":
"The tempter is not so crude as to suggest to us directly that we should worship the devil. He merely suggests that we opt for the reasonable decision, that, we choose to give priority to a planned and thoroughly organized world, where God may have its place as a private concern but must not interfere  in our essential purposes. Soloviev attributes to the Anti-Chirst the book 'The open way to World Peace and Welfare'. This book becomes something of a new Bible, whose real message is the worship of well-being and rational planning."
"To the tempter's lying divinization of power and prosperity, to his lying promise of a future that offers all things to all men through power and through wealth, [Jesus] responds with the fact that God is God, that God is man's true Good. To the invitation to worship power, the Lord answers with with a passage from Deuteronomy ... 'You will worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve'. The fundamental commandment of Israel is also the fundamental commandment for Christians: God alone is to be worshiped."

"No earthly kingdom is the Kingdom of God, the total condition of mankind's Salvation... anyone who claims to be able to  establish the perfect world is the willing dupe of satan Those who strive to build heaven on earth are doing the work of the devil and play this world right into his hands."

At this stage the similitude between “regnocentrism” and what the Catechism terms “pseudo-messianism” becomes obvious (see CCC n.ºs 675-676):
"675 … The supreme religious deception is that of the Antichrist, a pseudo-messianism by which man glorifies himself in place of God and of his Messiah come in the flesh.

676 The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the "intrinsically perverse" political form of a secular messianism."

Benedict XVI’s verdict

For Pope Benedict, this “regnocentric” approach is an utopian empty dream filled with secular partisan ideology:
On closer inspection, this whole project proves to be utopian dreaming without any real content, except insofar as its exponents tacitly presuppose some partisan doctrine as the content that all are required to accept…

Let us return, them, to the Gospel, to the real Jesus…

An interpretation of the Bergoglian pontificate in the light of “regnocentrism”

The “regnocentric” mindset doesn't care much about Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, the previous Magisterium, the Church Fathers or the writings of the Saints because the Holy Spirit, after a 1950 years’ sabbatical, finally inspired the Church to “reappropriate” and recognize what is “at the heart of Jesus’ message”.

The center of Jesus‘s teaching is the earthly kingdom of peace, justice and the conservation of creation, and so one would expect to be preached about peace and war, economic justice, the environment.

In order to achieve worldly peace, an integral part of the “regnocentric” magisterium would be the building of the “community of religions” and the reaching out to atheists. So “ecumenical” and “inter-religious” gatherings, “dialogue” and “encounter”, promoting inclusiveness and fighting divisiveness would also be at the center of this pontificate.

Proselytism would be a mortal sin – it would “cause division between religions and between people”.

The building of peace and community at individual level would also involve downplaying conversion, repentance, judgement, condemnation, salvation and the other more divisive dogmas, doctrines and sins and focusing or giving priority to the ‘social’ sins against peace, justice and the environment. In the name of peace and inclusiveness the "regnocentric" magisterium preaches license masquerading as mercy, charity and outreach to the “peripheries”.

But beyond the bergoglian peripheries lie two groups of people. On the one hand, those that directly threaten peace, justice, the environment: the arms traders, the Mafiosi, the robber-baron capitalists, the corrupt. On the other hand, we have those who oppose the ”regnocentric” truth, that is, all those attached to churchcentric, exclusivist, divisive doctrines – dogmatic, rigid people (a.k.a. Catholics). These are all to be chastised, persecuted, silenced, excluded, … proselytized and converted.

Benedict rightly sees that the “regnocentric” community is content-free and so it will necessarily “tacitly presuppose some partisan doctrine”. This only compounds our misery. After decades of liberal, rationalistic, materialistic indoctrination – brought about by the media/entertainment-industrial complex - the default state of mind is anti-catholic, anti-christic - and so is the voice of (bad) conscience and the (un)holy spirit whispering in our hear.

We will then have the oxymoronic situation of a catholic church preaching ant-catholic dogma and trying to ditch the supernatural and all “unuseful” traditions in the name of the Kingdom of God.

And by parroting the worldly truths and embellishing them with a mystical aura, instead of "conflict with the prevailing opinions [and] a looming threat of ... persecution", the "regnocentric" pontificate will be very popular in all the wrong places.

In the end, as Pope Benedict states, all this leads to the exaltation of Man – the (socially) sinless, flexible, inclusive, relativistic builder of the Kingdom -, and the downplaying of God and religion, which are sources of division.

[UPDATE] A final word

Pope Bergoglio's pontificate has been interpreted in a variety of ways.

Some stress it's geographical/ideological origin - the pontificate of "a south american populist"; others prefer the psychological hypothesis - pontificate as ego trip; others still speak about it in terms of Church politics - the progressives got the upper hand; there is also a conspiratorial hermeneutics of the present pontificate - the team Bergoglio/St. Gallen Mafia/Friends of Cd. Martini's pontificate. There are also other less flattering opinions which I will refrain from mentioning here because of the many children that visit this blog.  And then there are the really negative interpretations - the one's along the lines of CCC 675-677.

All these hypotheses are all at least partially true. But "regnocentrism" seems to explain bergoglism's traits more thoroughly then any other single explanation. [/UPDATE]

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