Did you hear what the Pope said? No, seriously. DID. YOU. HEAR?
In impromptu remarks made during yesterday’s Mass in his residence, Pope Francis shocked many by declaring that atheists can be just as good as Catholics if they “do good.”
Referencing a passage from the Gospel of Mark in his homily, the Pope recounted the story of a priest who told an inquiring Catholic that Jesus redeemed everyone, even atheists, and all he asks in return is that people “do good and do not do evil.”
“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone!” the Pope quoted the priest as saying.
“Father, the atheists?,” the skeptical Catholic responded. “Even the atheists. Everyone!”
Catholic Online has already embraced the newly christened Pope’s message, taking it a step further by declaring that atheists can “go to heaven too.”
I’m…I’m stunned. This flies in the face of Catholic teaching since…well, since there were Catholics. Also, possibly the Bible.
You can read a fuller account of what His Holiness had to say here, but you won’t be any less surprised. The message isn’t terribly out of line with what I think most liberal Christians these days believe (the ones I know, anyway), but the Roman Catholics have never been as especially liberal institution in general. Yes, it has its progressive corners, but for the voice of the collective body, God’s spokesman here on Earth, to say, in essence, that you don’t need to believe in God so long as you do good works, that’s revolutionary. It may be the single most radical thing that any pope has said in my lifetime.
I now have a couple of follow-up questions to ask:
- Your Holiness, is it okay to be a Jew? (I’m guessing yes on this one.)
- How about a Muslim? (Again, yes.)
- Buddhist? Hindu? (I see no reason why these wouldn’t be yeses as well.)
- Holy Father, can a pagan go to heaven?
And that’s where it might get interesting. Pagans are rather explicitly putting other gods before Him, right, and we know how Yahweh felt about that back in the day. But if you take the whole of the pope’s comments into consideration, the primary criterion seems to have nothing to do with who or what you worship or believe. It’s all about the life you live here on Earth.
Sounds almost secular humanist to me. And aside from the question of whether or not heaven is actually real, it sounds a lot like what I believe.
Stay tuned. We’ll see if Francis survives the night…
UPDATE #2: Vatican spin machine leaps into action.