The Pope discerns Pelagianism in the tendency toward restorationism. He rules out any dealing with the Church's problems by a recourse to "a restoration of outdated manners and forms which, even on the cultural level, are no longer meaningful." (Pope Francis, "Address to the Leadership of the Episcopal Conferences of Latin America during the General Coordination Meeting," Rio de Janeiro, July 28, 2013).
In his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis warns against "the self-absorbed promethean neo-Pelagianism 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." He further laments that "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" (Evangelii Gaudium, 94).
Gnosticism is more difficult to define than Pelagianism. It embraces many schools of thought. But, all of them hold in common the one tenet that the created, material world is evil. Only the spiritual is good. Redemption comes from being liberated from matter by elite forms of knowledge (gnosis).
The Pope has spoken of neo-Gnosticism as "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" (Evangelii Gaudium, 94). Pope Francis sees neo-Gnosticsim "in elite groups offering a higher spirituality, generally disembodied, which ends up in a preoccupation with certain pastoral "quaestiones disputatae" ("Address to the Leadership of the Episcopal Conferences of Latin America during the General Coordination Meeting").
On March 1, 2018, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith sent a letter entitled "Placuit Deo" to all the bishops of the Church. The letter is intended to clarify the very nature of salvation in light of our complex cultural context. In light of Pope Francis' repeated references to the errors of "neo-Pelagianism" and "neo-Gnosticism," the document positively explains Catholic teaching on salvation. The letter is brief and clear. Its teaching can well serve as a reminder to all Catholics of what our faith truly teaches.
As created by God, we are made for more than this world can offer. Each of us seeks those things that will make us happy. Health. Wealth. Inner peace. Freedom from suffering and, ultimately, death. Yet, when some live as radically autonomous individuals able to obtain their own happiness, they succumb to a new form of Pelagianism. Nonetheless, "the total salvation of the person does not consist of the things that the human person can obtain by himself, such as possessions, material well-being, knowledge or abilities, power or influence on others, good reputation or self-satisfaction" (Placuit Deo, 6 ).