RORATE CÆLI: Guest Op-Ed – Resisting the Temptation to Change the Our Father: “A heretical spirit enters the Church when man makes himself the measure of God’s Word”


Deacon Nick Donnelly

A heretical spirit
enters the Church when man makes himself the measure of God
s word, rather than Gods word being the measure of mans thoughts. This hubristic reversal is the
definition of modernism. Pope St Pius X identified what is at the heart of this
modernist mentality towards sacred Scripture,
a philosophy borrowed from the negation of
God, and a criterion which consists of themselves
. (Pascendi dominici gregis, 34.)

One of the better parts
of Vatican II warned that the authenticity of interpreting the word of God
depends on strictly observing the threefold union of sacred Tradition, sacred
Scripture and the Magisterium, which
are so linked together that one cannot stand without
the others
. (Dei verbum,
.) Any interpretation that ignores this threefold union, for example, by
stressing one strand to the point of excluding or even contradicting the two
others is immediately suspect of coming from a heretical spirit. With the above
understanding, I will examine Francis
s change to the Our Father.
Franciss change to the Our Father

Both the French and
Italian Bishops
Conferences have
changed the sixth petition of the Our Father with the encouragement of this
pontificate. Francis gave an interview in 2017 explaining his support for
changes to
lead us not
into temptation

Furthermore, during his
catechesis on the Our Father in May 2019 Francis expanded on his assertion
lead us not into temptationis a bit shakyas a translation:
We must exclude God as the source of the temptations that impede
humanity in its journey as if God himself were on the prowl, setting snares and
traps for his children.Christians don’t have anything to do with a jealous God
who is competing with humanity or who enjoys testing them. These are images of
many pagan divinities
During the worst moments in life, the most insufferable, the most
distressing, God keeps watch with us, God fights with us, he is always near.
Why? Because he is a father. (
1 May 2019
One month later the
Italian bishops followed the example of the French and changed the sixth
petition to
do not abandon
us to temptation
It should be noted that
Francis does not provide an exegetical or linguistic basis for his contention
lead us not
into temptation
is not a good translation; neither does he reference the Church
Fathers who wrote on the Lord
s Prayer nor the teaching of previous popes. Instead, Francis
appears to rely solely on his own idiosyncratic
misericordiaunderstanding of God. Francis asserts that
God plays no part in Satan
s temptation of man and that Gods only role in temptation is to give
paternal assistance to help us recover when we have succumbed and sinned.  He also appears to assume that Satan is an
independent and free agent as tempter. The question is, are Francis
s assumptions about Gods non-role in temptation and Satans free-rein as tempter in accord with
sacred Scripture, sacred Tradition and the Magisterium?
Sacred Scripture and
sacred Tradition on temptation
Sacred Scripture is
clear that God is not an agent of temptation because his divine attributes
absolutely exclude evil, in particular his absolute perfection (Mt 5:48)
absolute veracity (Hb 6:18) and absolute holiness (Is 6:3). As St. James
puts it,
Let no one say
when he is tempted,
I am tempted by
; for God cannot be tempted with evil and
he himself tempts no one.
(Jas 1:13-14). We can take from this that its essential not to underestimate Gods total aversion to sin its not primarily a fathers love that makes it impossible for God to
tempt us, but rather his total hatred of sin.
Having said this,
secular classists such as Dame Mary Beard insist that the most accurate
translation of the sixth petition of the Our Father remains that of sacred
Tradition, lead us not into temptation.(
News June 13, 2019
). The paradox of the absolutely perfect, truthful, holy God leading us
into temptation takes us into the mystery of his relationship with Satan and
the demons
creatures who
are totally evil
and creatures
with an inclination to evil acts
Sacred Scripture is
clear that God does not give autonomy of action to Satan as tempter. Contrary
to gnosticism, Christianity understands that the devil is not an independent
dualistic principle in Creation, but remains a creature held in being by God
and contained within God
s salvific plan unfolding in world history and the history of each
More than this, St.
Cyprian explains that lead us not into temptation means
that the adversary can do nothing against
us unless God allows it beforehand.
(On the Lords Prayer, 25.) While Cyprian could have referenced the example of
Job to illustrate this point, he seeks to explain that
power is given to the evil one in
proportion to our sins
by quoting Gods response to King Solomons grave sins, And the Lord stirred up Satan against
. (1Kg 11:14).
s justice, omnipotence and providence are
the conditions within which the devil acts, and therefore, it is quite wrong to
imply that
Satans jobas tempter is autonomous from God.
Sacred Scripture is
also clear that God does not merely show a father
s solicitude towards sinful man who
succumbs to temptation. St. Cyprian observes that God allows temptation for two
for punishment
when we sin and for glory when we are proved
The caricature of God
as merely a solicitous father entirely excludes Scripture
s salutary wisdom about Gods punishment of unrepentant sinners. God
wills the salvation of every person, but exercises a medicinal and penal
punishment on those who reject his will. 
Not only does God punish hardened, habitual sinners with suffering the
increasing depraved consequences of their sin (Rm 1:24-32), he also
punishes them by allowing them to sink into a moral and spiritual blindness to
the mortal danger of their unrepented sin (Ep 4:8.) Both punishments
involve succumbing to a downward spiral of degrading temptations from the devil
and themselves, which God permits out of respect for the free will of demonic
and human creatures. These punishments are not vindictive, but expressions of
s total aversion to sin and respect of the
free will he has given. Yes, God is a solicitous father to those willing to
repent, giving the merciful graces of knowledge of sin, contrition and
conversion; but to those defiant in their sin he is an implacable, relentless
judge as expressed by the fires of Hell.
Temptation as
glory when we are proved
At first sight Cyprians claim that God allows temptation as glory when we are provedappears enigmatic and counter-intuitive by
associating the proximate danger of sin with glory. However, there is no
dimension of human existence unaffected by our Lord
s Incarnation and Paschal Mystery Christs glorious victory over Satan on the Cross
transforms temptation for those who, through humility and obedience, are
sanctified on the narrow path of Christian perfection. Just as the Father and
Holy Spirit willed the Son
s glorification through his victory over the devils temptations, God wills our sanctification
through our overcoming, with his grace, the testing of our faith and moral
conformity to his commands.  The lives of
the saints reveal the marvellous wonder that temptations are the occasion for
growth in holiness.
Fr. Matthias Scheeben
sought to convey something of the wonder of God
s turning sinful mans experience of utter wretchednessinto glory:
God permits hell to rage, permits it to unfold its full might, in order
later to demolish its work all the more gloriously, in order to celebrate all
the greater triumph over it, in order to snatch victory from its grasp and to
make its defeat all the more shameful at the very moment when it believes it
alone remains master of the field. Thus did God vanquish hell the first time,
when he allowed it to pierce even his Anointed with its sting; it lost the
sting, and sunk powerless at the feet of him whom it ventured to destroy. (The
Mysteries of Christianity
, p.309-310).
The Magisterium on
of the Council of Trent
was much clearer about the permissive role of God in
temptation than the modern Catechism of the Catholic Church. Trent
explicitly examines why we pray,
lead us not into temptation:
we are said to be led into temptation by him who,
although he himself does not tempt us nor cooperate in tempting us, yet is said
to tempt because he does not prevent us from being tempted or from being
overcome by temptations when he is able to prevent these things
Sometimes, however, we fall, being left to
ourselves by the just and secret judgment of God, in punishment of our sins.
Thereby, Trent
articulated St. Paul and St. Cyprian
s understanding of God allowing temptation as
punishment.  Trent also highlighted the
other strand of Cyprian
s insight into Gods dual purpose for temptation, our sanctification and glory: 
Temptation teaches us to know ourselves, that is, our own weakness, and
to humble ourselves under the powerful hand of God; and by fighting manfully,
we expect to receive a never­fading crown of glory.
The Catechism of the
Catholic Church,
lacking the clarity of Trent,does not refer to God
allowing temptation for punishment or glory, but does refer to St. Paul on God
allowing a limit to temptation and an inherent means of escape. (I Cor 10:13).
So unlike Francis, the Catechism does acknowledge God
s role in temptation to some extent.
However, it shares his keenness to distance God from temptation, thereby
downplaying his justice, omnipotence and providence. In fact, the Catechism
prepares the exegetical ground, detached from Tradition and previous
magisterial teaching, for Francis
s innovation:
It is difficult to translate the Greek verb used by a single English
word: the Greek means both
do not allow us to enter into temptation, and do not let us yield to temptation. God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no
. (Jas 1:13). We ask him not to allow
us to take the way that leads to sin. (CCC 2846).
The new French
interpretation of the sixth petition
— ‘dont leave me to fall into temptationand the new
Italian interpretation
— ‘do not abandon us to temptationare very similar
to the Catechism
interpretation in departing from the fullness of sacred Scripture and sacred
What do we mean when
we pray, lead us not into temptation?
If we accept Scripture,
Tradition and the Magisterium
s insistence that God allows temptation for our punishment or
glorification, what is the perennial understanding of what we
re praying for through the sixth
petition?  Referring to Job
s conclusion that the whole of human life on earth is testing(Job 7:1), Origen says were not praying to be spared from
temptation, which would be impossible,
but so that we should not be overcome when
we are tested
. (On Prayer, 9).
As St. Paul explains,
God is faithful and he will not let you be tempted beyond your
strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you
may be able to endure it
. (I Cor 10:13). Our Lords sixth petition shows us that it is
imperative that we pray for God
s help to not be tempted beyond our strength, to discern the means of
escape he provides with each temptation that he allows and to bear the pain of
temptation when it comes as punishment or the means of glory when proved.
Pope Benedict XVI
composed a paraphrase of the intent of the sixth petition that was true to
Scripture and Tradition:
When we pray it, we are saying to God: I know that I need trials so that my nature
can be purified. When you decide to send me these trials, when you give evil
some room to manoeuvre, as you did with Job, then please remember that my
strength goes only so far. Don
t overestimate my capacity. Dont set too wide the boundaries within which
I may be tempted, and be close to me with your protecting hand when it becomes
too much for me
. (Jesus of
Nazareth. Vol. 1, p. 163.
Are we confronting a
By restricting Gods involvement in temptation to the
solicitous care of the Father
a care exemplified by the father in his favourite New Testament parable
of the prodigal son
Francis denies
the more complex revelation of God
s role in permitting temptation as set out in books of
the Old Testament, such as 1 Kings and Job. By ignoring the whole canon of
Scripture on this matter he is in danger of falling into the trap of Marcionism
in his attempts to justify changing the sixth petition.
The heretic Marcions conception of God solely focused on the
New Testament, to the exclusion of the Old Testament, making a false
distinction between the absolutely just and holy God of the Old Testament and
the merciful and loving God of the New Testament. Furthermore, the Marcion
preference for Scripture that only portrayed a merciful God led to them
misrepresenting the New Testament as well.
As Origen explained in
his commentary on the Our Father, referring to Romans 1:22-27:
We should confront those who divide the divinity, who consider the good
Father of our Lord to be distant from the God of the law. Does not the good God
lead anyone who fails in prayer into testing? Does not the Father of the Lord
hand those who have sinned in any way over to impurity in the desires of their
hearts, so that they might dishonour their bodies among themselves?
Prayer, 12.
Origen warned that
those troubled by Scripture that portrays the God of justice and holiness and
his involvement in temptation and punishment
fashioned another God apart from the one
who made the heaven and the earth
. (Ibid, 13.)
The current novel
interpretation of the sixth petition illustrates the danger of ignoring the
wisdom preserved by sacred Tradition. To do so betrays a modernist mentality against
which Pope St Pius X warned:
To hear them talk about their works on the Sacred Books, in which they
have been able to discover so much that is defective, one would imagine that
before them nobody ever even glanced through the pages of Scripture, whereas
the truth is that a whole multitude of Doctors, infinitely superior to them in
genius, in erudition, in sanctity, have sifted the Sacred Books in every way,
and so far from finding imperfections in them, have thanked God more and more
the deeper they have gone into them, for His divine bounty in having vouchsafed
to speak thus to men. (Pascendi dominici gregis, 34.)

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