Pope Francis said some interesting things at mass yesterday. From the Vatican Radio website:
Wednesday’s Gospel speaks to us about the disciples who prevented a person from outside their group from doing good. “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”:
“The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. `But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him. Instead, this `closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God. That we can kill in the name of God. And that, simply, is blasphemy. To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy.”
I’m honestly not sure what to think of that. It’s hard to imagine Benedict or John Paul II even acknowledging the basic humanity of atheists, so I guess that’s something. But the condescension is pretty nauseating, as is the conceit that the Catholic Church has unique access to The Truth.
But the really interesting part is yet to come:
“Instead,” the Pope continued, “the Lord has created us in His image and likeness, and has given us this commandment in the depths of our heart: 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! ‘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.”
Wait a second. What does that mean? Atheists are redeemed? I thought redemption was the exclusive province of those with the proper attitude towards Jesus. The Blood of Christ made redemption possible for everyone, but we have to do our part as well. Right?
The Pope cannot possibly be saying that atheists can go to heaven right along with all those right-thinking Catholics. Or that our fate in the afterlife is solely about our acts and not our faith. But then, what is he saying? I’m all in favor of everyone doing good (with the significant proviso that “doing good” is not at all the same thing as, “living in accord with official Catholic moral teachings.&rdquo)
By a “culture of encounter,” I assume he means that all of us, regardless of our religious beliefs, can come together harmoniously in this life. Assuming I’m basically right about that, I would note that it is not atheists who have been standing in the way. Rather, it is the practitioners of exclusivist religions, like Roman Catholicism, that do that. They, apparently, are the ones who need their leaders to explain to them that people can do good even while not being part of their religion. In this they differ from atheists, who were never confused on this point.