I was delighted to see that the Pope emphasised and re-emphasised to a group of trainee priests in Rome on 12th February that Christianity is not moralism. How often do I try to get this home to people in my Homilies and yet so many still revert to thinking that God only loves me if I do good, or Christians do good in order to get to heaven. Most parents would be horrified if someone suggested that they only love their children when they are good. They do not like it when they are naughty but they would never think of not loving them, and surely this is a reflection of what God is like.
It was thus a great joy to me to see the Pope saying just the same thing. He was preaching on one of my favourite passages where Jesus says “I am the Vine, you are the branches… abide in me.. and you will bear much fruit”. He said “Abide comes first, at the ontological level, namely that we are united with God, he has given himself to us beforehand and has already given us his love, the fruit. It is not we who must produce the abundant fruit ; Christianity is not moralism, it is not we who must do all that God expects of the world but we must first of all enter this ontological mystery : God gives himself. His being, his loving, preceded our action and, in the context of his Body, in the context of being in him, being identified with him and ennobled with his Blood, we too can act with Christ.
Ethics are a consequence of being : first the Lord gives us new life, this is the great gift. Being precedes action and from this being action then follows, as an organic reality, for we can also be what we are in our activity. Let us thank the Lord for he has removed us from pure moralism.”
He goes on a number of other times to stress this point that Christianity is not moralism. It can be found in the English edition of L’Osservatore Romana for Wednesday 17th February 2010 Page 5 and 6 which I think can also be found on The Web at http://www.vatican.va/news_services/or/home_eng.html