People are sending me notes about Pope Francis’ fervorino from Mass yesterday. News outlets (and panicky emails I am getting) are suggesting that the Pope said that atheists go to heaven. HERE
Alas, we never get what the Pope actually said in its entirety. We are only getting bits and pieces as determined by someone working for either Vatican Radio or L’Osservatore Romano or… well… it’s hard to know! This is a problem. Did the newsie doing the reporting making the right selection of quotes? Is the newsie doing the reporting a theologian? We should either get everything Francis says or nothing. Moreover, the Italian accounts and the English accounts of what Francis said differ somewhat. And who knows how what Francis says in these sermonettes will ultimately be related to the Ordinary Magisterium of the Roman Pontiff? We are told that it is doesn’t form part of his magisterial teaching, but… really? They sure are being played up by the Holy See’s news agencies, aren’t they!
Back to the Pope’s sermon from 22 May.
If you go through his comments as reported, and I did, there is nothing in Pope Francis’s remarks about the possibility of atheists being saved that is not in keeping with the document Dominus Iesus.
In a nutshell, Francis was not talking about non-Catholics or non-Christians. He was not talking about those who profess another religion with their own mediators. He was not talking about those who pray to other gods. He was talking about atheists.
Moreover, Francis was clear that whatever graces are offered to atheists (such that they may be saved) are from Christ. He was clear that salvation is only through Christ’s Sacrifice. In other words, he is not suggesting – and I think some are taking it this way – that you can be saved, get to heaven, without Christ.
So, have a care with these sermons. It is great to get pithy lines from the Holy Father about something that is crystal clear such as, say, the Devil. It is another when the pithy quip veers into something that is more difficult to untangle. It is best not to jump to negative conclusions based on the incomplete reports about fervorini of ambiguous magisterial authority.