Pope Francis on Fundamentalism among Catholics

Pope Francis has cautioned us that some Catholics have fallen into the error of fundamentalism.

“Fundamentalism is a sickness that is in all religions.”
“We Catholics have some - and not some, many - who believe in the absolute truth and go ahead dirtying the other with calumny, with disinformation, and doing evil.”
“They do evil,” said the pope. “I say this because it is my church.”
“We have to combat it,” he said. “Religious fundamentalism is not religious, because it lacks God. It is idolatry, like the idolatry of money.”

What does he mean by that term, and what type of error fits that expression?

My answer is that fundamentalism oversimplifies religion; that is why it is called fundamentalism. On the one hand, a certain simplicity in our love, faith, and hope is virtuous and good. But the error of fundamentalism is found in oversimplification, which results in distortion of doctrine and various errors on faith, morals, and salvation – “disinformation”.

Since fundamentalists think that everything in religion is very simple and clear, they claim absolute certitude on every point. They oversimplify, and this leads to a dogmatization of every opinion, and to absolute certitude in their own fallible understanding of truths that are actually dogmas. They consider their own limited fallible understanding to be nothing other than “absolute truth”.

If everything in religion is so simple, and clear, and absolutely true, as the fundamentalist assumes, then why do so many persons disagree? The fundamentalist answer is that they must be bad persons. So they villainize all who disagree and utter “calumny” against them. Sometimes this leads to acts of violence or to other grave sins – “doing evil”.

Fundamentalism is “idolatry” whenever the fundamentalist exalts his own limited fallible understanding of religion as if it were a god to be worshiped. It is idolatry because the fundamentalist is not worshiping God, and does not love God and neighbor, but only loves his own version of religion.

Here are two further links which put into context what he was talking about.



““No religion is immune from its own fundamentalisms. In any confession there will be a small group of fundamentalists, whose work is to destroy in the interests of an idea, not of a reality. Reality is superior to an idea. God, whether in Judaism, in Christianity, or in Islam, in the faith of those three peoples, accompanies God’s people with His presence. In the Bible we see it, Muslims in the Koran. Our God is a God of nearness, which accompanies. Fundamentalists push God away from the companionship of His people; they dis-Incarnate Him, they transform Him into an ideology. Therefore, in the name of this ideological God, they kill, attack, destroy, and calumniate. Practically, they transform this God into a Baal, into an idol,” Pope Francis said.”

thanks for that link

You’re welcome :slight_smile: The second link was mainly for explaining the condom issue as the original link seemed to be a little off point regarding this …at least, that was my impression.

There is another thread many pages long addressing this…


I’m not sure if the Pope used the word “Fundamentalism”, because at least in English that doesn’t make sense. So, I’m sure it was some kind of translation error.

There’s nothing wrong with Fundamenalist Christianity or Catholicism. Fundamental just means practicing it as the Early Christians did. I mean, it really is no more complicated than practicing it fundamentally. Fundamentally, Christianity is a religion of peace, where its apostles were martyred rather than respond with violence, and Christians went into the catacombs and were murdered in the Colosseum. That is fundamentalist Christianity. Its certainly not violent.

Fundamentalist Islam involves conquering their non-Islamic neighbors by the sword and seeking to dominate them through strength of force and forcing them to convert at the point of a sword.

I think the term “Fundamenalist” is also wrongly applied to Hindus and Buddhists, because Hinduism and Buddhism are not fundamentally violent - [As I understand it, I could be wrong]. But there are Hindus and Buddhists who are violent, and that should be called “Radical” or “Extreme”.

There is a difference between: Fundamentalists, Radicals, and Extremists.
At least from an etymological standpoint, many people wrongly treat these words as synonyms, when in fact they have very different meanings.

**"Therefore, in the name of this ideological God, they kill, attack, destroy, and calumniate. Practically, they transform this God into a Baal, into an idol,” Pope Francis said. **

Yeah, that definitely sounds like Christian extremists the Pope is referring to. I’m sure it was merely the fault of the translator who is probably one of many people who sees no difference between Fundamentalism and Extremism.

Hi Ron, great description of fundamentalism and how it applies to all religions. I really think you have defined it well, and I think what you describe is exactly what the Pope was talking about :thumbsup:

Thanks. We must remove the plank from our own eye, before helping our neighbor with the plank in his own eye.

Popes JP2 and B16 also spoke against religious fundamentalism.

B16: “Today, in fact, people frequently kill in the holy name of God, as both my predecessor John Paul II and I myself have often publicly acknowledged and lamented[68]. Violence puts the brakes on authentic development and impedes the evolution of peoples towards greater socio-economic and spiritual well-being. This applies especially to terrorism motivated by fundamentalism[69], which generates grief, destruction and death, obstructs dialogue between nations and diverts extensive resources from their peaceful and civil uses.”

JP2: “because in some countries new forms of religious fundamentalism are emerging which covertly, or even openly, deny to citizens of faiths other than that of the majority the full exercise of their civil and religious rights, preventing them from taking part in the cultural process, and restricting both the Church’s right to preach the Gospel and the rights of those who hear this preaching to accept it and to be converted to Christ.”

Pope Francis mentions fundamentalism several times here:

Fundamentalism is not always violent, and is not restricted to Islam or other non-Christian religions.

IMV, in that article, I didn’t think pope Francis was clear on what he was saying. Besides, If anything, I don’t see fundamentalism in Catholicism, I see instead a gross lack of catechesis among the masses. .

Perhaps he’s referring to Christians that want literal bible translations. Perhaps he’s referring to Catholics who refuse to accept Vatican II. Perhaps he’s referring to Catholics who are trying to live with todays worldly behaviours and looking for loopholes for their behaviour in the bible. Perhaps he’s referring to those who are convinced that people of other faiths are destined for hell.

The problem is that Catholicism does teach certain infallible doctrines, like the Trinitarian nature of God, the uniqueness of the one true church, or the human status of the foetus. Therefore to be a Catholic is to uphold these as infallible, and any believer can regard themselves as infallible when defending these points. With regards to the faith in general, no Catholic recites the creed and ends by saying “and all I have just said may change in light of further reflection, or if new information comes along”. This type of belief undermines the notion of personal fallibility.

So far this should not lead to a descent into fundamentalism, although it does make it much easier, and is a gateway into that kind of thinking. But what does encourage ‘fundamentalism’ is the view that the Church is somehow at war with the secular world.

A better understanding would be that the Church is a refuge from the secular world, and a compassionate antidote. But instead many Catholics cultivate a dislike for it, which is often validated by the Church itself, and soon develops into hate and anger. This hate and anger taints every aspect of the persons mind - it becomes the prism by which they look a the world. Eventually they turn Catholicism into a religion of hate. And in the postmodern, secular world this seems to be a growing phenomenon.

We all know Jesus taught love, (as the highest aspect of the faith, no less) but because hate and quibbling over doctrinal correctness is easier, so many Catholics ignore this and descend into the hate filled, self-righteous version of the religion. And I am not talking about violent, out-bursting rage, but that simmering, passive hate.

This leads to a callous attitude to those who suffer who do not happed to be Catholics - people who are horrified by the fate of Iraqi Christians but shrug off people of other faiths suffering similar torment. Or the self-righteous and negativistic attitudes towards ‘cafeteria Catholics’, or even those who only do ‘the bare minimum’. These people - and those dreaded liberals! - are seen as corrupting the Church and the world from the inside, and as such are, at best, covert and unwitting enemies of the faith. But enemies nonetheless. Even when they pray it feels like it is out of spite for the secular world and all those who disagree.

But apocalyptic expectations of the end of the world and final judgment justify and validate these views in the mind of the fundamentalist. And there is some truth in their reasoning - there is a logic in the Church’s ‘teaching and correcting mission’ and its apocalipticism which justifies and encourages this attitude. But the reality is that this fundamentalism only breeds an insidious negativity that affects the entire person, and maybe even the whole community.

It is easy to say “well I am a Catholic and I am not like that, and neither are many Catholics I know”. But how many Catholics are like that, and is this trend set to grow as the world becomes more tribal?

Well written.

For purposes of understanding that,

How would you rate the following encyclicals, concerning “negativity” towards “cafeteria Catholics” and “liberal, / modernist” Catholics?

Pius IX Syllabus of errors papalencyclicals.net/Pius09/p9syll.htm

Pius X Syllabus condemning errors of the modernists papalencyclicals.net/Pius10/p10lamen.htm

Are those popes fundamentalists for what they wrote? Are they encouraging fundamentalism?

I’m just asking for clarification:)

I would say that in so far as they set out points the Church wants to uphold in a time of changing values everything is fine. There is nothing wrong with the lists themselves, from a Catholic viewpoint.

What I do take issue with is the how this is all framed, as if the modernity itself was a conspiracy. Not everyone who disagrees with the church, or who at a certain moment of their life is doing some questioning and philosophising, is automatically a villainous conspirator with a hidden and fantastically ambitious agenda. Or worse yet, a puppet of Satan.

I would like to highlight this passage at the end of the first encyclical.

In fact, there, for the last few years, a ferocious war on the Church, its institutions and the rights of the Apostolic See has been raging… Venerable Brothers, it is surprising that in our time such a great war is being waged against the Catholic Church. But anyone who knows the nature, desires and intentions of the sects, whether they be called masonic or bear another name, and compares them with the nature the systems and the vastness of the obstacles by which the Church has been assailed almost everywhere, cannot doubt that the present misfortune must mainly be imputed to the frauds and machinations of these sects. It is from them that the synagogue of Satan, which gathers its troops against the Church of Christ, takes its strength.

I don’t see this as promoting a charitable spirit. I am seeing tarring a lot of people with one big, indiscriminate, satanic brush. Rather than a conciliatory and loving attitude it is using the imagery of war and enmity, and promoting that same spirit among the faithful. In other words, it is propagating a spirit of hate and fatalism. It seems to echo the warmongering attitudes that led the world to war only a few years later in 1914. The idea of a Judeo-Masonic conspiracy was also very popular at the time, but I believe it has been discredited nowadays. I would answer your question by saying ‘yes’, the encyclicals do encourage fundamentalism in the modern, negativistic and uncharitable sense. Especially towards members of the Church presumed ‘suspect’.

The bottom line is that you don’t have to declare war on people you disagree with. Once you do, you risk corrupting your own soul. Needless to say, loosing the thing you started the fight to protect is a sign of bad strategy.

I would say, Ignoring persecutors, and persecution, doesn’t make persecution go away. Ignoring error and those who spread it, doesn’t make error go away. Hoping things get better doesn’t make problems better.

The Church as the pillar and foundation of truth, has an obligation to teach truth and combat evil.

That 1st encyclical had inside it the following encyclicals it drew from


So far I have said nothing about having to accept persecution, although there is such thing as turning the other cheek. However, public policy differences between the US government and the Catholic church do not count as persecution. Neither do imagined masonic conspiracies.

As far as the duty to teach truth and combat evil goes, this does not excuse the attitude I described in post 10. Nor is it right to portray ‘error and those who spread it’ as evil. Mankind is naturally curious and imaginative, so it is natural for people respond to teachings in a subjective way. But this does not make them a force of evil. Something can be done about it without resorting to the imagery that was used. Why not use the metaphor of a hospital for the sick? Condescending, yes. But not aggressively so.

Where is the compassionate and conciliatory attitude? The pope sound more like a Manichean than a Catholic.

The encyclicals are promoting hostility as the foundation for relations with those the Church disagrees with. And since this affects life within the Church too, they are promoting hostility as the hallmark of the Christian faith.

The Church is of course full of Fundementalists. There’s:

-the SSPX
-people who read Rorate Caeli or subscribe to The Remnant
-people who follow Robert Sugenis and think we’re obliged to believe the sun rotates around the Earth
-people who say things like, “Oh, the Catholic faith is actually really easy to understand, so ignorance probably doesn’t apply to most Protestants and they’re most likely all going to hell” because apparently issues like Divine Simplicity, Predestination, Transubstantiation (something that requires Aristotean metaphysics to understand), and a dozen other things are all really easy to understand, instead of things that even Catholic theologians, and indeed even the Fathers of the Church, disagreed on (contrast Ambrose with Augustine on Predestination for example) because of their complexity
-people who think the dedication of Russia requested in the Fatima Apparitions was not fulfilled in 1984

There are many others, you could go on all day with this stuff.

except that popes don’t write encyclicals on things imagined, neither persecution, nor conspiracies.

knowingly spreading error is most certainly evil. That’s why error needs to be exposed for what it is… and corrected

Medicine does no good if one won’t take it. Metaphorically taking medicine isn’t actually taking the medicine, and it won’t get one better.

Is there anyone more compassionate than Jesus? Did Jesus say to a sinner, don’t worry about your sin, just go about your way and have a good life…or did he say repent and sin no more?

Once one is illuminated about wrong, they need to stop doing that. Therefore wrongs need to be exposed and eliminated from one’s life

Look at all the warnings in scripture to those in sin and those who refuse to change.

The encyclicals give needed direction and warnings about matters that involve the Church, faith and morals.

Definition* (emphasis mine)*

  A papal document treating of matters related to the general  welfare of the Church, sent by the Pope to the bishops. Used especially  in modern times to express the mind of the Pope to the people. Although  of themselves not infallible documents, encyclicals may (and generally  do) contain pronouncements on faith and morals that are de facto  infallible because they express the ordinary teaching of the Church. In  any case, the faithful are to give the papal encyclicals their interior  assent and external respect as statements of the Vicar of Christ. (Etym.  Latin encyclicus; Greek enkyklios, circular, general.)    

An encyclical epistle is like an encyclical letter but addressed to part of the Church, that is, to the bishops and faithful of a particular area. Its contents may be doctrinal, moral, or disciplinary matters of universal significance, but may also commemorate some historical event or treat of conditions in a certain country or locality.

Very good post.

Anyone else bothered by the Pope saying the church is his?

The Pope said: “I say this because it is my church”

No one owns the church except Jesus. Jesus said it was HIS church in this bible quote:

And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. MATT 16:18

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