Speech delivered on 21 October in Salerno at the Conference on

“2017, Four centennials: the challenge of history, the Eternal One’s response”

I’ve been asking myself what may be the key element in the events being celebrated this year, 2017: the Lutheran Reformation, the birth of Free Masonry, the Communist revolution, and the apparitions in Fatima. Quite briefly, I think it can been said that the tragic conflict projected by all four events is Gnostic in origin and we are dealing with the battle waged by Gnosis against Logos. This is a battle already lost by Gnosis since the Prologue to the Gospel according to St. John says that “in the beginning there was Logos” and not Gnosis. Nonetheless, the Gnostic apostasy will fight until the very end and this ongoing battle will continue to cause much suffering.

Gnosis is a complicated heresy. Among its many features I would like to recall one particularly important one with regard to what we are considering today. Gnosis denies reality and wishes to mold or shape it anew. As Dostoevskij said, Communism has nothing to do with justice, but with God. The demons of his novel with the same name are not just social reformers; they strive to devastate the plan of God and subvert the order of creation by establishing the “right to dishonor”. The Bible begins with the Gnostic sin,  “Eritis sicut dii”, which was and is continued in Free Masonry and Communism. At Fatima, on the contrary, the Blessed Mother exposed these tragic errors and indicated the way to be victorious in the battle against them.

Lutheranism as a form of Gnosticism

Why do I argue that Luther’s thinking is Gnostic in nature? The main reason is that this German monk replaces fides quae with fides qua. There are two sides to faith: the act of faith of the individual (fides qua), and the content of the truths of faith revealed by God in Jesus Christ (fides quae). Luther’s faith is based on the trustful sincerity of the individual act of faith and not on adhesion to the truths revealed. It is based on self-consistency and not on consistency with Christ. Luther focuses on the Christ of the faith, and not the Christ of history, Christ for me and not Christ in His own right. Implicit in Lutheranism is a demythologization of Christianity implemented in the most radical way by Rudolf Bultmann in our time, and denounced in an equally radical manner by Benedict XVI at Regensburg in 2006. That famous lecture of his was read by people only with respect to the consequences regarding relations with Islam, but also embodied an essential criticism  of Luther’s position that reduced the contents of faith to the act of faith: this is the demythologization in question. A Lutheran thinks his faith needs no reasons, arguments or contents. It is a passion and not a faith. It is a faith without dogmas and hence without heresies as well.

The replacement of the reality of faith with a subjective act of faith is an application of the Gnostic principle of refusing reality and wanting to mold or shape it anew. It is a revolutionary act, and each revolution is rooted in Gnosticism. Lutheranism was a Gnostic revolution and cannot be considered a reformation. This is evident in the contraposition between faith and reason which makes it impossible to know the order of creation and its normative character for personal and social morals: the natural moral order. Reason knows not nature and remains in darkness.

This is how God-creator is set against God-savior in perfect harmony with Gnostic sense. Just as Marcione sustained that created nature was the fruit of an evil God, an oppressive and bloodthirsty master, Luther argues that created nature is hopelessly contaminated by evil, an object of divine rage. Just as Marcione thought the God of Jesus Christ is an understanding and merciful God, Luther thought salvation depends not on our respect for a natural order and grace, but on the merciful mantle with which God decides to cloak our sins much like a debtor writes off his debts. Salvation would stem from the negation of creation and its order as sustained by all the Promethean and chiliastic revolutionary utopias, by the Anabaptists to Thomas Mŭnzer, by Mably to Karl Marx and the theories of Ernst Bloch, but not as may be requested by the God with a human countenance who revealed Himself in Jesus Christ. Examples of post-Lutheran Gnosticism may be seen in history overriding nature, mercy overriding truth, and the theory or doctrine of the apostolate overriding praxis.

The centrality of the conscience and its damages

Luther posits the principal of immanence on the religious level. Christ within conscience and not conscience adhering to Christ and living in Him. The principle of the centrality of conscience has shifted from the religious level to the philosophical and theological level. Coming first is conscience, and within conscience is everything that is. Modern philosophy is basically Protestant insofar as Gnostic: reality is imminent to conscience. Kant separates reason and faith, and considers only what conscience raises to be true. Hegel considers only the system to be true, and the system is conscience unfolding in history. Schleiermacher thinks God is within conscience and proposes a liquid Church. Wittgenstein thinks morals and religion can only show, but nor demonstrate, while Modernism was to argue that the revelation of God takes place in the believing self-awareness of the Church: not Christ in Himself, but Christ for us.

Modern philosophy at large has been influenced by Lutheranism, including its nihilistic developments on the part of those who, beginning with Nietzsche as well of some of his precursors, argued that basically speaking conscience is the outcome of unconscious determinations. Since then, mere ‘happening’ has replaced the principle of imminence itself. The philosophical outcome of the Protestant reformation can be none other than the weak nihilism of indifference.

The influence on Catholic theology

Since Lutheranism has had a determining influence on modern philosophy and modern philosophy has had the same degree of influence on theology, it can be said that Catholic theology has been deeply contaminated by Lutheranism. With one contradiction: if the Lutheran faith has no reasons and theology involves the use of reason, what remains of Catholic theology if the Lutheran position is embraced? Under that influence, in fact, the Catholic Church has waned in its theological claims and theology has become narrative or hermeneutical theology of the faith. Karl Rahner and his student Walter Kasper think, much alike Kant, Hegel and Heidegger, that  man is within the problem and may know only insofar as “situated” historically. That is where the revelation of God would take place in an a priori, a-thematic and pre-religious manner. This is the “anthropological turning point” that imports into Catholic theology the Protestant principle of the primacy of conscience and the prevailing nature of the act of faith over the contents of faith. It is no longer considered possible to encounter the contents of faith, but only their interpretations. Tradition becomes a series of interpretations and not the faithful transmission of any content. Moreover, no longer taught in Catholic theological studies are the contents of the faith – the dogmas – certified and guaranteed by the Magisterium ever attentive to tradition, but the opinions and interpretations of theologians. The victory of hermeneutics over metaphysics in Catholic theology is the most evident testimony of the influence exercised by Protestantism, and a clear victory of Gnosticism, albeit a momentary one.

Simul iustus et peccator

Lutheranism is Gnostic also because it retains that man may be a sinner and an upright person simultaneously. Observant Cathars thought they could be spiritually free in sexual wantonness; that is to say free within, because one thing is the spirit and another thing is the body. The latter is an instrument with no effect on the person who makes use of it. From the invention of the birth control pill to artificial fecundation and wombs for rent, the Gnostic vision of the body has come a long way. It didn’t take long at all for Lutheran sects to accept these new developments, and they are now in the front line in the acknowledgment of the so-called civil rights, and being celebrated in their churches are same sex “marriages”. There is no such thing as a natural order with which the use of the body must comply and man lives as if he were in two kingdoms; the interior kingdom of the faith and the external kingdom of slavery.  Nowadays there are many Catholics, including bishops, who accept homosexuality and artificial fecundation, and this is a symptom of the “Protestantization” of the Catholic faith. For a Cathar it is possible to be holy in moral depravity, and for some Catholic bishops it is possible for a same sex union to be the place where the grace of God is experienced. Standing in the middle is Lutheranism with its simul iustus et peccator doctrine.

The policy of the two kingdoms

Two are two kingdoms. In the interior Kingdom man is subject but to God to whom he adheres in the inner sanctum of his own conscience without Church, Magisterium or tradition. In the external kingdom man is subject to everyone. In society he is like a mule that has to be beaten. This is the role of political power whose task is to make sure that ever tethered is the beast man is on the natural level. Political power does not pursue the common good because society does not mirror a natural order comprehensible to reason, Protestants are wary of political power, while at the same time indifferent to it because it has nothing to do with their salvation. They are therefore fearfully submissive to any form of dominant thought. In their eyes, political power is omnipotent and useless at one and the same time. The role assigned to said power is to make sure citizens stay together and not give free rein to their sole driver which is egoism. Without a power structure society would be like a pack of famished wolves tearing one another to pieces. The premises for the despairing vision of Hobbes are to be found in Luther. A man is naught but a wolf for another man. This is why Lutheranism is at the origin of political conventionalism in both Hobbes’ absolutist form and in Rousseau’s democratic form. Without Luther there would never have been the democracy Tocqueville saw devoted to the planned concentration of power, today’s empty and all-powerful democracy, void and hence oppressive and intolerant.  Luther had been intolerant towards farmers in revolt and wanted to see them hung, as they were. Likewise, modern democracy succeeds in being intolerant in its apparent tolerance as an absolute power. This is what transpires today: a society founded on Lutheran freedom of conscience that prevents persons from being able to abide by their own conscience also in public. If the supreme judge is conscience, conscience allied with other consciences can also abolish freedom of conscience.  This is the dictatorship of relativism that necessarily follows the destruction of the contents of conscience as the source of their truth.

Focusing on Luther’s “intentions” is a mistake

It is above all in the theological doctrine of the evolution of dogma, however, that Lutheranism impacts Catholicism. In fact, it is a matter of a way to obliterate tradition or, even better, make it coincide with the believing self-awareness of the Church as if revelation took place in the consciences of the faithful. This was asserted by modernism which stems from Protestantism through Jansenism, and both go back to Gnosticism.

During this 5th centennial of the Protestant Reformation we have witnessed a celebration of Luther also in some very venturesome and temerarious ways and forms. A feature marking the Catholic Church’s attitude on this occasion has been the idea of treating the Reformation not with reference to doctrine, but to Luther’s intentions. Thus was it believed possible to reassess Luther as a person passionately devoted to God, placing the burden of fault on the degeneration of historical contingencies and the rigidity of the Catholic Church. In so doing, however, the Catholic Church embraced the Protestant position which consists precisely in assigning primacy to conscience over dogma. Thusly did it prove possible to say that Luther wanted a reformation and not a devolution, and Cardinal Kasper compared him to St. Francis. It was also said that the differences between Catholicism and Lutheranism are not substantial ones. The intention was to foster a common praxis, but this as well is a concession to the mentality of the Reformation which places praxis before doctrine. Luther had had a “practical” aim, not a cognitive or theoretical one, and that was to feel being in the Grace of God. He was interested in Christ for himself, and not in Christ Himself.

Perhaps the aim behind focusing on the intentions of Luther’s conscience and not Lutheran doctrine is to revisit the doctrinal contents without being evident about it. Were such an hypothesis to prove true it would entail the assumption of the Gnostic principle of reshaping reality on the basis of conscience and espousing the modernist vision of dogma as something that evolves with conscience. Hence, an application of the hermeneutic paradigm as a replacement for the metaphysical paradigm.

The Social Doctrine of the Church

According to the Protestant position, the Social Doctrine of the Church is impossible, and not to be excluded is the possibility that its being slowly abandoned in the Catholic Church may be ascribed to the influence of Lutheranism. The loosening of the relationship between faith and reason, the forgoing of the non negotiable principles, the oblivion into which natural moral law has fallen, the revision of the relationship between procreation, openness to life and sociality, the anthropological turning point with the eternal slogan “begin anew from man” that had already failed at Maritain’s time and Vatican II, the abusive use of the category of discernment, pastoralism without doctrine, presence without identity, and the idea that it is possible to collaborate with one and all constitute a cluster of elements that propels the Social Doctrine of the Church into profound crisis, and Lutheran is the origin of said crisis.

Stefano Fontana

“The replacement of the reality of faith with a subjective act of faith is an application of the Gnostic principle of refusing reality and wanting to mold or shape it anew. It is a revolutionary act, and each revolution is rooted in Gnosticism. Lutheranism was a Gnostic revolution and cannot be considered a reformation.”

Stefano Fontana

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Stefano Fontana

Direttore dell'Osservatorio Card. Van Thuận