“Fake Christians” who say they are saved by Jesus but still live corrupt lives will “end badly,” Pope Francis warned pilgrims Wednesday in his weekly audience in Saint Peter’s Square.
“A Christian, if he truly lets himself be washed by Christ, if he truly lets himself be stripped by him of the old man to walk in a new life, while remaining sinful – because all of us are – can no longer be corrupted, since the justification of Jesus saves us from corruption,” the pope said in his general audience before a crowd estimated at tens of thousands.
We are sinners but “not corrupt,” Francis said, and that is why a Christian “can no longer live with death in his soul, nor can he be the cause of death” for others.
“And here I have something sad and painful to say,” the pope continued. “There are fake Christians: those who say, ‘Jesus Is risen’ or ‘I have been saved by Jesus’ — I am in new life, but I live a corrupt life.”
“And these fake Christians will end badly,” he said.
“The Christian, I repeat, is a sinner – we all are, I am – but we have the assurance that when we ask for forgiveness the Lord forgives us,” Francis continued. “The corrupt person pretends to be honorable, but in the end, there is rottenness in his heart.”
As an example, the pope put forward the case of the mafia, crime families that nonetheless claim to be Christian.
“We do not need to go far from home,” Francis said. “We can think of the so-called ‘Christian Mafiosi.’ These have nothing Christian about them. They call themselves Christians, but they bring death in their souls and to others. Let us pray for them, so that the Lord will touch their souls.”
“We have risen with Jesus, and standing with our heads held high, we can share the humiliation of those who, like Jesus, still today bear suffering, nakedness, need, loneliness, and death, to become, thanks to him and with him, instruments of redemption and hope, signs of life and resurrection.”
From early on in his papacy, Pope Francis has drawn a distinction between “sin” and “corruption.”
In a 2014 address to a delegation of the International Association of Penal Law, Francis commented on a variety of troubling international legal issues, including the widespread problem of corruption, which he called “a greater evil than sin.”
According to Francis, remorse is possible only when one is aware of evil, which is not the case with a corrupt person, who is unaware of his state.
“The corrupt person does not perceive his corruption,” he said. “For this reason, it is difficult for the corrupt person to get out of his state through remorse of conscience. More than forgiven, this evil must be cured,” he said.
Corruption is like “bad breath,” he said, so “it is hard for the one who has it to realize it; others realize it and have to tell him.”
“Few things are harder than opening a breach in a corrupt heart,” Francis continued. “When the personal situation of the corrupt becomes complicated, he knows all the loopholes to escape as did the dishonest steward of the Gospel.”
“The corrupt person goes through life taking the shortcuts of opportunism,” said the Pope, “with an air of innocence, wearing the mask of an honest person, which he begins to believe.” The corrupt person “cannot accept criticism, discredits anyone who criticizes him, tries to belittle any moral authority who would question him, does not value others and insults anyone who thinks differently. If the balance of power permits, he persecutes anyone who contradicts him.”
Similarly, in January of this year, Francis once again highlighted the difference between corruption and sin, and told journalists at a press briefing that he had written on the subject.
“I wrote a booklet one time, a very small one, called Sin and Corruption, and the theme was: sinners yes, corrupt no,” he said.
The evil of corruption occurs when a person’s conscience no longer registers right and wrong, he said.
“All of us are sinners,” he said. I am not afraid of sin, I am afraid of corruption, because corruption perverts both body and soul.”
“And a corrupt person is so sure of himself that he cannot go back,” the pope added. “They are like those swamps that you try to get out of and they suck you back in. It’s a swamp. Yes, it’s the destruction of the human person.”
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