What does Pope Francis mean by 'angelic purism'?

From Breitbart:

Democracy has its enemies and “keeping democracy alive in Europe” requires avoiding the temptations that can undermine it, including “angelic purism, dictatorships of relativism, ahistorical fundamentalisms, ethical systems without goodness, and intellectualism bereft of wisdom,” the Pope said.

I understand the rest, but I’m not sure what ‘angelic purism’ is referring to.


First off, it’s usually easier to find out what the Pope means if you go look up the Spanish version. But beyond that, you should definitely go onto vatican.va and look up the actual text, if it’s there.

If you go over to vatican.va and look up the speech, you’ll see that it’s a direct quote from his Apostolic Exhortation, “Evangelii gaudium,” paragraph 231.

"The reality is more important than the idea:

  1. “There also exists a bipole tension between idea and reality. Reality simply is. Idea works itself out. Between the two, one must keep up a constant dialogue, avoiding having the idea end up separated from reality. It is dangerous to live in the kingdom of words alone, of an image, of sophism. Beyond that, one has to postulate a third principle: the reality is superior to the idea. This is supposed to avoid diverse forms of hiding reality, the “angelic pureisms”: the totalitarianisms of the relative, the ethicisms without goodness, the intellectualisms without wisdom.”

I think it’s pretty fair to say that “angelic” is sarcastic here, as the only angel who’d be interested in these -isms would be a fallen one.

So basically, the Pope is criticizing the idea that you can somehow purify your thinking by leaving out really important things. You can’t have ethics without being good, and you can’t be an intellectual without trying to understand and gain wisdom. You can’t let the relative rule you.

Beyond that, I don’t know if he’s referring to any specific book that he got the phrase from.

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