What does "self-absorbed promethean neo-pelagianism" mean?
It is phrase Pope Francis has used elsewhere but it appears again in Evangelii Gaudium
94. This worldliness can be fuelled in two deeply interrelated ways. One is the attraction of gnosticism, a purely subjective faith whose only interest is a certain experience or a set of ideas and bits of information which are meant to console and enlighten, but which ultimately keep one imprisoned in his or her own thoughts and feelings. The other is the self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism of those who ultimately trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past. A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyzes and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying. In neither case is one really concerned about Jesus Christ or others. These are manifestations of an anthropocentric immanentism. It is impossible to think that a genuine evangelizing thrust could emerge from these adulterated forms of Christianity.Notice first he uses the them as the other extreme to gnosticism, those "whose only interest is a certain experience or a set of ideas and bits of information which are meant to console and enlighten, but which ultimately keep one imprisoned in his or her own thoughts and feelings." I presume here he is speaking about 'cafeteria' or 'pic n mix' or 'feel good' Catholicism, a Catholicism without traction, that simply gives comfort or backs up one's own worldly ideas.
On the other extreme then is the "self-absorbed promethean neopelagianism".
'Self-absorbtion' is obviously contrary to the Gospel, it is as remote from the teaching of Jesus as masturbation is from the loving, life-giving, self giving encounter between husband and wife, it is a denial of the Great Commandment to love God and our neighbour.
'Promethean' is slightly more difficult. Prometheus was a Greek demigod who created man from clay and gifted him with fire, for which he was punished by Zeus who chained Prometheus to a rock where a vulture came and daily fed on his liver.
The term "Prometheism" was suggested by the Greek myth of Prometheus, whose gift of fire to mankind, in defiance of Zeus, came to symbolize enlightenment and resistance to despotic authority, it was the name of an early 20th century slightly anarchic Polish political movement but it drew its inspiration from the enlightenment which is perhaps significant here. Perhaps what the Pope is suggesting is something individualistic, something which is actually contrary to Catholic Tradition. It is the self-righteous or as the Pope would say, 'self-referential', pretentious Phariseeism that quotes documents and texts to condemn others but actually refuses to be converted by them.
"Neopelagianism" is an easier term, it excludes the necessity of Grace for salvation, again it is individualistic, again it excludes a dependence on God, which is at the heart of Francis' preaching on 'mercy'.
He links the whole phrase to those who, 'observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past'. He has used 'neopelagian' previously to describe certain traditional Catholics, well actually the SSPX. I think what he is saying, which the whole of Evangelii Gaudium seems to be saying is that we have be absorbed into the wondrous life-changing joy of the Gospel of Jesus Christ rather than being curators of a museum or experimenters in a laboratory.
The whole of the document seems to be a call to the centre, not as we would like it to be but as it actually is. Whenever I read Francis I feel like a schoolboy in privileged Jesuit school being given a pep talk by the headmaster, in which I am being told of the importance of everyone pulling together not so much for the good of the school but ultimately for the greater glory of God, Ad maiorem Dei gloriam.
There is always the sense that we are not doing well enough. A friend of mine reminded me that at the heart of Jesuit spirituality was the twice daily examen of conscience, on how prayer and everything else affects our living the Gospel.