Gottschalk and George Floyd

History shows that the monk Gottschalk of Orbais (d. 868) ran afoul of certain leaders in the Catholic Church (e.g., Hincmar of Rheims) with respect to his teaching on the triune character of God and with respect to his teaching on double predestination.  Setting aside questions of the Trinity, we can note that Gottschalk deliberately followed the line of thinking in Augustine according to which God is so wise that

when his angelic and human creation sinned (that is, did not do what he willed, but what it willed) he could still accomplish what he himself had willed and this through the same creaturely will by which the first act contrary to the Creator’s will had been done.  As the Supreme Good, he made good use of evil deeds, for the damnation of those whom he had justly predestined to punishment and for the salvation of those whom he had mercifully predestined to grace.[1]

In 853, Hincmar presided over the regional Council of Quiercy which rejected Gottschalk’s embrace of double predestination.

Just as there is not, nor has been, nor will be any man whose nature has not been assumed by Christ Jesus our Lord, so also there is not, nor has been, nor will be any man for whom he has not suffered; even if all are not redeemed by the mystery of his Passion.  That not all, however, are redeemed by the mystery of his Passion concerns neither the greatness nor the fullness of the price, but, rather, the part of those who are unfaithful and those who do not believe with that faith “which works through love” (Gal. 5:6); for the cup of human salvation, which was forged by our infirmity and by divine strength, contains within itself what is beneficial for all; but if one does not drink from it, he is not healed.[2]

The current Catechism of the Catholic Church draws on this passage in paragraph 605.

My point here is not to play doctrinal trivia games or to make sure that everyone knows about Gottschalk.  Rather, my point is that Gottschalk provided Quiercy with an opportunity to underscore a teaching about the universality of the Paschal mystery (= “the mystery of his Passion”): “there is not, nor has been, nor will be any [person] for whom he has not suffered.”  When believers proclaim the death of the Lord in Memorial Acclamations A and B, this death is a death for all who live, who have lived or who will live.  When believers assert in Memorial Acclamation C that “you have set us free,” the “us” here is again a reference to all of us, past, present and future.[3]

The universality of the Paschal mystery is temporal but it is also pan-ethnic and across the entire variety of human skin shades.  This mystery is the source from which all sacraments draw their power, but let us focus here on one moment in the Mass.  The next time—and every time—one recites the Memorial Acclamation, one can ponder whether one’s individual and social existence embody this universality.  And one can act accordingly, individually, corporately and ecclesially, to oppose racism—above all that form of racism which demeans, torments, and kills (as the murder of George Floyd demonstrates in gruesome detail).  As theologian Byran Massingale has put it: “Almost every social justice challenge that faces us in the United States is entangled with or exacerbated by racism against persons of color, and African-Americans in particular.”  If one fails to tackle racism, one is not taking worship seriously at all: one will be among those who honor God with their lips while their hearts are far from God (Isa 29:13; Matt 15:7-9; Mark 7:5-7).


Since Pray Tell concerns itself with questions of worship, perhaps a good place to begin is by becoming familiar with the ways in which Christian worship in the United States (including Catholic worship) has in the past been complicit in racist and / or segregationist practices.  In what ways are the practices of worship still perpetuating racism?  See for example, the work of my Villanova colleague Katie Walker Grimes, Christ Divided: Antiblackness as Corporate Vice (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2017), especially pp. 189-235.


[1] Enchiridion on Faith, Hope, and Love 26, 100

[2] DS 624 in Denzinger, Enchiridion Symbolorum (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2012; 43rd ed.)

[3] Restoring “for all” to the Institution Narrative is a desideratum, but that is a question for another time.

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