By Tom Quiner

Bob was excited.

This loyal Quiner’s Diner reader and faithful foil to my modest musings exclaimed:

“I had to find out elsewhere that the new Pope announced that even an atheist like me will go to heaven if my works prove me worthy.”

Although I suspect Bob is a closet Catholic, he seemed euphoric at the prospects of going to a heaven that doesn’t exist in his belief system.

Bob was reacting to an off-the-cuff homily presented by Pope Francis at a daily Mass this week. The Pope set up a dialogue between an atheist and a Catholic:

‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can… “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!” ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can… “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!”

The media, true to form, misrepresented his words, and people like Bob are left with the notion that faith is not necessary for salvation.

Some Catholic heavy hitters weighed in to clarify the Pope’s words, especially these:

“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 press interpreted the phrase “we will meet one another there” meaning that we’ll meet in heaven. Catholic apologist, Jimmy Akin, said they didn’t understand what the Pope was really saying:

Jimmy Akin

Jimmy Akin

Let’s back up a bit. Remember, Pope Francis was just talking about the duty to do good:

“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.”

So if everyone does good, we have a path toward peace. That’s the goal he’s discussing.

“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.

Note the parallelism between the phrases. Pope Francis is talking about a path “toward peace” and wants us to “meet there” by doing our part and doing good so that we build “that culture of encounter” and “meet one another doing good.”

He’s not talking about heaven at all.

He’s talking about earth.

It’s in that context that he has the imaginary interlocutor say:

‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’

And he replies:

“But do good: we will meet one another there.”

What he’s saying is that even atheists need to do good on earth to build their part of the culture of encounter that promotes peace and allows people to “meet together” in harmony.

You can read Jimmy Akin’s full remarks here.

Another Catholic theologian, Scott Hahn, also weighed in with these insights:

Lots of people are criticizing Pope Francis’ teaching earlier this week, as if he’s

Scott Hahn

Scott Hahn

deviating from the Church’s teaching on the need to proclaim the good news. Contrary to what you may read in the media, please notice, nowhere does he even suggest – much less teach – that avowed atheists are saved. Instead, what he actually says is so obviously true and open to a perfectly fair and benign reading:

1. We shouldn’t be so critical of outsiders that we don’t allow ourselves to see or acknowledge whatever good they do, or truth they affirm (even atheists).

2. Christ didn’t die to save only catholics/christians, but everybody (even atheists).

3. Since all are redeemed by Christ – at least potentially – we should be looking for ways to build bridges with them in order to actualize that redemptive potential, by showing them that whatever truth and goodness they embrace comes from – and leads to – Christ.

The redemptive potential exists for each of us. The only question is: will we say yes?

 

 

 

12 Comments

  1. Bob Vance on May 24, 2013 at 8:03 pm

    I sort of figured that there just might be a catch. 🙂

    • quinersdiner on May 24, 2013 at 10:15 pm

      Actually, there’s no catch. Simply throw your head back and say, “Jesus, I’m yours!”

    • Lori on May 25, 2013 at 5:48 pm

      You’re a good sport, Bob.

  2. josephrathjen on May 24, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    Some people fail to realize – and yes, even the most devout Catholics – that living spiritually knows no bounds across religious borders or articles of faith. Finding peace and serenity comes from the Higher Power that lives within us all.

    One only has to seek and being willing to find and accept its will and direction for a meaningful – and spiritual way of life.

    • quinersdiner on May 24, 2013 at 10:18 pm

      I think you express a partial truth, Joseph. Spirituality needs religion. Without religion, and I mean the guiding hand of the Church, we can end up worshipping the wrong thing.

      • josephrathjen on May 25, 2013 at 12:21 am

        Tom, I probably should have expressed that better. Being a Catholic and having accepted God as my Higher Power long ago, I sometimes forget that this is sometimes not the case for everyone. My apologies, my friend.

        • quinersdiner on May 25, 2013 at 6:05 pm

          Thanks for the clarification. I suspected I wasn’t interpreting you correctly.

  3. 8kidsandabusiness on May 24, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    Wait. If Bob’s an athiest, then why would he care if he goes to heaven? He doesn’t believe in heaven. He’s an athiest………….

    • quinersdiner on May 24, 2013 at 10:15 pm

      Doesn’t quite follow, does it?

    • Bob Vance on May 25, 2013 at 6:36 pm

      I always try to keep my options open. 🙂

  4. eMatters on May 25, 2013 at 11:58 am

    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.

    • xPraetorius on May 1, 2014 at 10:22 pm

      What in the world are you talking about?!? The Pope anti-biblical? Where has he ever shown even the slightest indication that he’s anti-biblical?!? One example will suffice, please.

      If I were a betting man, which I’m not, I’d be willing to bet a considerable fortune that you won’t be able to find even one tiny hint of an example.

      And, if I were a betting man, I’d accept your payment in credit card if you wished.

      Best,

      — x

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