Two things to know and share…

Akin vs. Akin: Let’s get Technical!


Which Jimmy Akin will you read today?

It’s funny how things work in Novus Ordo Land, where the main focus is not on defending the truth but on defending the increasingly absurd idea that Jorge Bergoglio is the Pope of the Catholic Church (“Francis”).

Jimmy Akin is a senior apologist at so-called Catholic Answers in California, and he is notorious for coming quickly to Francis’ defense whenever the latter opens his Modernist mouth and says what he really thinks, which is usually at odds with Catholic doctrine and dogma. The latest such example was Akin “explaining” to his readers that when Francis said his idea of an ecumenism of blood is “perhaps a heresy”, he didn’t really mean that it’s perhaps a heresy.

Here is what Akin said to defend his man (writing in question-and-answer format for the EWTN-owned National Catholic Register) — note in particular the words we have marked red:

6) Why did he say it might sound “even heretical, perhaps”?

The most likely explanation is that this is a touch of hyperbole, or exaggeration to make a point.

The pope is speaking informally, and his words have to be understood accordingly.

In Catholic theology, the term “heresy” has a precise, technical meaning: The obstinate post-baptismal doubt or denial of a truth that must be believed with divine faith (i.e., God has revealed it) and with Catholic faith (i.e., because the Church has infallibly defined it as such).

Since he is speaking to an ecumenical group that consists largely or principally of non-Catholics, he cannot expect them to interpret the word “heretical” in the technical, Catholic sense.

This is further confirmed by the fact that there would be no grounds on which to criticize his main proposition–that the devil stirs up persecution against Christians because they are Christians–as heretical in the technical sense. God has not revealed that the devil does not persecute Christians of all stripes because they are Christians, and the Church has not infallibly defined that God has revealed this.

As a result, the pope isn’t using the term “heretical” in its technical sense. He’s speaking informally and hyperbolically.

Properly speaking, his proposal not only isn’t heretical, it doesn’t even sound heretical.

In rhetorical terms, the function of including the statement is to draw a line under what he is about to say, to call attention to it and invite people to think about it rather than passing over it quickly.

(Jimmy Akin, “Did Pope Francis say it doesn’t matter what kind of Christian you are? 9 things to know and share”National Catholic Register, May 26, 2015; bold and italics in original; red font added for emphasis.)

We have already blasted Akin for his ridiculous argumentation here; but notice in particular the words in red. Akin is telling you that Francis didn’t mean “heresy” when he said “heresy”, because, well, he was speaking “informally” (allegedly) and addressing Protestants, who couldn’t be expected to know what the word “heresy” means in its technical, formal sense in the Catholic Church.

So far, so good. Well, so bad actually, but we’ll leave that aside.

Now take a look at what the same Jimmy Akin argued a year and a half ago, when he had to defend the same Francis from the charge that he frowns upon converting non-Catholics to Catholicism. Francis had said in an interview with the Italian journalist and former Catholic (now atheist) Eugenio Scalfari: “Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense” (full coverage of the interview here).

In the face of such an impious trashing of the Great Commission (see Mt 28:19-20; cf. Mk 16:16) in the presence of an atheist challenging him on the question of conversion, Akin rushed to the scene to clean up Francis’ mess. This is the “explanation” Akin gave — again, pay close attention to the words in red:

5) Does Pope Francis’s statements regarding proselytization mean that he believes we should not evangelize or convert people?

No. Pope Francis has an extremely clear focus on evangelization. […]

6) Isn’t proselytization the same thing as evangelization?

Although the word has historically been used this way, in recent decades a new, technical meaning for “proselytization” has emerged in ecclesiastical circles.

It is not the same thing as evangelization, and Pope Francis was not dissing evangelization in his remarks.

7) So what is “proselytization” in this new sense?

Basically, it’s trying to strong-arm people into the faith, putting undue pressure on them rather than allowing them to make a free choice for Christ.

An explanation of this usage is found in the 2007 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith titled Instruction on Some Aspects of Evangelization.

According to that document:

“In this connection, it needs also to be recalled that if a non-Catholic Christian, for reasons of conscience and having been convinced of Catholic truth, asks to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church, this is to be respected as the work of the Holy Spirit and as an expression of freedom of conscience and of religion. In such a case, it would not be a question of proselytism in the negative sense that has been attributed to this term.”

A footnote then explains:

“The term proselytism originated in the context of Judaism, in which the term proselyte referred to someone who, coming from the gentiles, had passed into the Chosen People.

“So too, in the Christian context, the term proselytism was often used as a synonym for missionary activity.

“More recently, however, the term has taken on a negative connotation, to mean the promotion of a religion by using means, and for motives, contrary to the spirit of the Gospel; that is, which do not safeguard the freedom and dignity of the human person.”

8) So what did Pope Francis mean by his comments on proselytization?

He and Scalfari were joking about converting each other in the interview, and Pope Francis assured Scalfari that he wasn’t going to strong-arm him to convert to Christianity right in the interview.

He said that employing such strong-arm tactics is “solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other.”

Later he contrasted proselytization with the way Jesus preached the Gospel, which was based on love.

Finally, he emphasized: “I believe I have already said that our goal is not to proselytize but to listen to needs, desires and disappointments, despair, hope.”

In other words, the Pope believes that evangelization should not involve trying to strong-arm people (proselytization) but that the Gospel should be preached with love and involve a dialogue in which Christians listening to unbelievers and their concerns and help them move toward Christ through a positive demonstration of word and action.

(Jimmy Akin, “Did Pope Francis just say that evangelization is “nonsense”? 8 things to know and share”National Catholic Register, Oct. 1, 2013; formatting changed somewhat from original; red font added for emphasis.)

So, let’s get this straight. While chatting with an atheist, Francis denounces “proselytism” as “solemn nonsense”, precisely in the context of converting his interviewer to Catholicism, and Mr. Akin’s “explanation” is that the “Pope” was using the term “proselytism” in its “technical sense” which is quite “new”. Apparently Francis assumed that an apostate like Scalfari would understand this “new, technical sense”, the meaning of which is given in the 49th footnote of an obscure Vatican document from years prior.

Yet, when Francis uses the term “heresy” to refer to his own idea of an ecumenism of blood — which is thoroughly heretical indeed — and he does so in a scripted, pre-recorded “pontifical” message to a formal gathering consisting mostly of Protestants, all of a sudden Akin tells us that Francis is using that term in its non-technical sense, for the alleged purpose of “underscoring” his point.

Jimmy Akin, whom are you kidding?

What, pray tell, could “perhaps a heresy” mean in a non-technical sense? Akin doesn’t say, and that’s not surprising, because he made it up. Certainly, one could say that “heresy” in a non-technical sense could mean doctrinal error at large, but that isn’t exactly helpful to Akin’s case either. What’s interesting also is that what he says here about Francis speaking informally, etc., he could have just as easily applied — but didn’t, of course — to the case of the interview with Eugenio Scalfari. In fact, let’s have some fun with this: Let’s take Akin’s “explanation” of the “perhaps a heresy” comment and squeeze it into the “proselytism is solemn nonsense” case. Here’s what it would look like:


6) Isn’t proselytization the same thing as evangelization?

Yes, it is; in fact, throughout history the word has been used in precisely this way. Although in recent times a new, technical meaning for “proselytization” has emerged in ecclesiastical circles, Pope Francis was speaking to Eugenio Scalfari, an atheist, informally, and he couldn’t expect his interviewer to be familiar with this unique, technical sense. Besides, he knew that the interview would be publicized widely, and so it wouldn’t make sense for him to use the word in this obscure sense which most people would not understand.

7) So what is “proselytization” in this new sense?

Basically, it’s trying to strong-arm people into the faith, putting undue pressure on them rather than allowing them to make a free choice for Christ. However, one has to dig really deep in order to find this specialized definition, which no common dictionary would list. In fact, the only place I could quickly find this definition was in a footnote of a 2007 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith titled Instruction on Some Aspects of Evangelization. Thank heavens for Google!

8) So what did Pope Francis mean by his comments on proselytization?

He and Scalfari were joking about converting each other in the interview, and Pope Francis assured Scalfari that he wasn’t going to even attempt to convert him, since his job is to subvert the Gospel rather than preach it. He wanted his interviewer to be entirely at ease, knowing with infallible certitude that under no circumstance would he, the Pope, be interested in the old atheist’s salvation. To underscore this, he called evangelization not only “inappropriate” or “outdated” but used the phrase “solemn nonsense”. Using this description — which is called “hyperbole” and a helpful rhetorical device — allowed him to underscore the point that the last thing on his mind is to obey our Lord Jesus Christ and His command to convert all nations (see Mt 28:19-20).

Finally, the Pope emphasized: “I believe I have already said that our goal is not to proselytize but to listen to needs, desires and disappointments, despair, hope.” Obviously, listening is the exact opposite of preaching (cf. Rom 10:15-18), and this further corroborates my point that Pope Francis detests Catholic evangelization and condemns it.

See how this works? This is what we’d get if we used Akin’s spin on the “perhaps a heresy” comment and applied it to the “proselytism is solemn nonsense” comment. You can see why he had to change his tune for Francis’ latest gaffe.

Of course, the idea that somehow Francis meant “converting people to Catholicism” when he said “our goal [!] is … to listen to needs, desires and disappointments, despair, hope” is another pure fabrication brought to you by the well-paid James Akin. Since this interview, Francis has clarified on numerous occasions that his intent indeed is not to convert Protestants to Catholicism, an idea he rejects entirely; see some examples here:

Tough luck for Akin. Though this evidence appeared after the September 2013 interview with Scalfari, Akin never conceded the point. And it’s clear why: The whole point of Catholic Answers has been to convert people to Catholicism (well, to Novus-Ordo-ism, really, but they think it’s Catholicism) since the 1980s, so to now have a “Pope” who says working for the conversion of non-Catholics is solemn nonsense, just isn’t very helpful to keep the multi-million-dollar enterprise going.

Although towards the beginning of Francis’ “pontificate” one could perhaps cut some slack to various Novus Ordos for trying to give their man the benefit of the doubt and make him look as orthodox as they thought he really was, at this pointafter two years of heresy after heresy, outrage after outrage, error after error, impiety after impiety, the position taken by Akin is beyond inexcusable.

Francis is simply employing the strategies of the Modernists, which have worked well for them in the past. Understanding these tactics is important in spotting and exposing such heretical innovators. Two excellent sources are:

Vagueness, ambiguity, and contradiction are the three chief tools the Modernists employ in their scheming against Catholic truth. A Catholic, by contrast, seeks to communicate clearly so that he will not be misunderstood and so that the truth may shine forth and lead people to salvation (cf. Jn 8:32).

If Akin were correct in his spin about Francis opposing not evangelization as such but underhanded tactics in converting another (“proselytism” in the “new” sense), why didn’t Francis just say to his atheist interviewer, “I certainly greatly desire your conversion, but I would never use deceptive methods to obtain it”? Why the cavalier comments about how proselytism is “nonsense” and he wants to “listen” to Scalfari instead? Keep in mind also that Francis knew he wasn’t just speaking to one man but, through him, to the entire world, for he knew he was being interviewed for a publication that is released worldwide.

By the way, as far as Francis’ statements in favor of evangelization and mission are concerned that Akin alludes to, this too is simply Francis being a typical Modernist — he speaks out of both sides of his mouth, as is amply proved by examining his contradictory words concerning evangelization and then analysing also his actions. He loves to talk about “preaching the Gospel”, yet denounces conversion efforts, and whenever he has an opportunity to tell non-Christians about Christ, he instead confirms them in their errors:

There is one way to reconcile the statements, however, and also make sense of the actions: When Francis talks about “preaching the Gospel” and “witnessing to Jesus Christ”, he means something completely different from how these concepts have traditionally been understood — we have called this novelty Francis’ “gospel of man” and given it a good spanking here:

People, pray for the poor souls who allow someone like Jimmy Akin to delude them into accepting Francis as the Pope of the Catholic Church, or even as an orthodox Catholic. We are so far along in the “operation of error” (cf. 2 Thess 2:10) now that even the “Pope” can refer to his own teaching as heresy and it still doesn’t matter.

Game over, Jimmy.

You lose.