Update: From the “this is awkward” category, the Vatican clarified that not only do they believe that atheists go to Hell, but so does anyone outside the Catholic church.
So the Pope is taking a Second look at letting atheists into heaven?
“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.”
The Pope made one of two mistakes. The first is really bad, the second is off-the-charts bad.
1. He was very sloppy in his use of “redeemed.” If he didn’t mean it in terms of eternal salvation, then he mislead a lot of people. He was basically channeling Major Burns from the M*A*S*H TV show and saying, “It’s nice to be nice to the nice.” It could logically lead to a conversation like this:
Pope: You, my atheist friend, have been redeemed by God with the blood of Christ! Let’s do good works together.
Atheist: Huh? You mean that even though I don’t trust in Jesus and don’t even think God exists that I’ll spend eternity in Heaven with him with no punishment for my alleged sins?
Pope: Oh, no, my bad — you are still going to spend eternity in Hell as punishment for your sins. But in the mean time we’ll do a few good deeds together and your torment in Hell will be slightly less unpleasant! When I said “redeemed by the blood of Christ” I meant _________. [Sorry, this blogger can’t even think of a pretend way to finish that sentence.]
2. He ignores that the New Testament has over 100 passages noting that Jesus is the only way to salvation (it isn’t just John 14:6). That isn’t what makes it true, of course. His resurrection does that. But it does mean to claim to be a Christian means that you should hold that view. Anything else would be silly.
I don’t expect good theology from him (OK, more specifically, I expect bad theology from him), but I do like his pro-life and pro-family views. But once again he fails on the salvation issue.
The Reformation happened for a reason. Actually, 95 of them. And they haven’t changed.
Update: More from the Pope’s speech.
“They complain,” the Pope said in his homily, because they say, “If he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good.” And Jesus corrects them: “Do not hinder him, he says, let him do good.” The disciples, Pope Francis explains, “were a little intolerant,” closed off by the idea of possessing the truth, convinced that “those who do not have the truth, cannot do good.” “This was wrong . . . Jesus broadens the horizon.” Pope Francis said, “The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation”
He appears to be twisting the passage about people casting out demons in Jesus’ name (Luke 9). But that wasn’t some random good deed that atheists might do (even though it wouldn’t be truly good if done out of self-interest). They were <em>casting out demons in Jesus’ name</em>. He implies that atheists are regularly doing that! I shouldn’t be surprised when people like him can’t get the simplest passages right.
And then there is this:
Today is [the feast of] Santa Rita, Patron Saint of impossible things – but this seems impossible: let us ask of her this grace, this grace that all, all, all people would do good and that we would encounter one another in this work, which is a work of creation, like the creation of the Father. A work of the family, because we are all children of God, all of us, all of us! And God loves us, all of us! May Santa Rita grant us this grace, which seems almost impossible.
We are not all “children of God.” John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
And the article wraps up with him praying to a dead person. In an odd way, I appreciate that the guy who is allegedly God’s #1 man here on earth is so clearly and profoundly anti-biblical. It removes any doubt about core Catholic doctrines being false — at least for those who actually read the Bible.