Pope Francis and “the greatest and first commandment”
“Master, which is the greatest commandment in the law? Jesus said to him: Thou
shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with
thy whole mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like to
this: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments dependeth
the whole law and the prophets.” – Matthew 22:36-40
A commenter on this post at the blog “That The Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill” alerted me to this problem. A very common error in contemporary Catholic preaching – and indeed in what passes for catechesis throughout much of the Church today – is the reduction of the Gospel to “love one another” as though this were the highest commandment of God, or even more strangely, the “Good News” itself. It’s a perfectly understandable mistake in light of the stark anthropocentric direction of the Second Vatican Council. If you regularly attend the Novus Ordo Mass, chances are you have heard this error in one form or another hundreds of times. Unhappily, even Pope Francis, who should know better, falls into this error in “Evangelii Gaudium” (par 161):
“Along with the virtues, this means above all the new commandment, the first and the greatest of the commandments, and the one that best identifies us as Christ’s disciples: ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.’ (John 15:12).”
No, sorry, the “first and greatest commandment” is “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind”. Why is Pope Francis and the post-conciliar Church so intent on ignoring this? Because this commandment pertains above all to: 1) worship, liturgy, and private devotions thought to be outdated; and b) Christian morality, the transgressions of which cannot be so easily dismissed as “love” when they clearly violate a divine precept. The rest of the paragraph boldly takes Romans 8:10, 13 out of context, and implies that “the greatest and first commandment” doesn’t exist for St. Paul!
Friends, this is grade school Baltimore Catechism stuff:
189. Which are the two great commandments that contain the whole law of God?
The two great commandments that contain the whole law of God are:
- Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength;
- Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
And one of them, a doctor of the Law, putting him to the test, asked him, “Master, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Jesus said to him, “‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.’ This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like it, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:35-40)
190. What must we do to love God, our neighbor, and ourselves?
To love God, our neighbor, and ourselves we must keep the commandments of God and of the Church, and perform the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
My dear children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue, but in deed and in truth. (I John 3:18)
198. What is the first commandment of God?
The first commandment of God is: I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt not have strange gods before Me.
Thou shalt not have strange Gods before me. Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth. (Exodus 20:3-4)
199. What are we commanded by the first commandment?
By the first commandment we are commanded to offer to God alone the supreme worship that is due Him.
It is written, “The Lord thy God shalt thou worship, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Luke 4:8)
200. How do we worship God?
We worship God by acts of faith, hope, and charity, and by adoring Him and praying to Him.
Why bring this up? Why blog a whole series demonstrating that the teachings of “Evangelii Gaudium” are inconsistent with Sacred Scripture and the immutable doctrines of the Faith? It’s a heartbreaking act on my part, and the thought of it has depressed me for days. Catholics naturally look to the Holy Father for sound doctrine, not only in his infallible teachings, but in his ordinary statements and writings such as this Apostolic Exhortation. We expect him to know and teach the Catholic Faith, at all times. But we can’t expect that of Pope Francis. We just can’t. Pope Francis is, I believe, a sincere Catholic with a big loving heart, but he cannot be relied upon to teach the Faith or to uphold the disciplines that flow from it. And that, my friends, is the salient tragedy of our time. Christ will not forsake His Bride, the Church, and He will mercifully limit the damage, but Catholics still need to be paying attention.