Pope Francis: Atheists Can Be Saved if They ‘Obey Their Conscience’

No matter how much criticism he gets from his faithful, or how often his cardinals scramble to walk his statements back, Pope Francis just won’t stop offering atheists a chance at salvation.

In recent months, newspaper editor and stalwart atheist Eugenio Scalfari has written two open letters to the pontiff, both of which were published in Scalfari’s Italian daily La Repubblica. Scalfari’s letters appear to have addressed some of the Pope’s reflections in his first encyclical, Lumen fidei.

Any earlier pope would have likely ignored the communiqués, but that’s not Francis’ style. Instead he responded in a three-page-long letter that made the newspaper’s front page:

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Pedophile Priest Scandal in Dominican Republic Puts Vatican Officials in the Hot Seat

Once again, the scandal of child sexual abuse perpetrated by priests has made it all the way to Rome. In this case, the Dominican Republic’s papal nuncio (the Vatican version of an ambassador) has been called back to Rome after his name was linked to abuse allegations.

The Vatican insists that Polish-born Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski, removed from office late last month, has not been accused of molesting anybody. However, official channels are withholding details about what really happened. A Vatican spokesman confirmed that the Church is conducting an investigation but refused to provide details about its subject matter. Francisco Dominguez Brito, the Attorney General for the Dominican Republic, however, has not been so reticent, and has announced his plans to investigate and prosecute Wesolowski in spite of the difficulties of criminally investigating a diplomatic figure.

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Pope Francis’ First Encyclical Shows What He Really Believes About Unbelievers

The Vatican has released the first encyclical letter written by Pope Francis.

That’s big news for Catholics, who comprise the target audience for this sort of document, and who often put a great deal of stock in the pontiff’s opinions on how to live their faith. In atheist circles, the most likely reaction is a shrug, a raised eyebrow, and a big ‘so what?’ But with news about outreach to the ‘nones’ and dialogue with non-believers making headlines in the early days of Francis’ pontificate – and it is still early days, at least in relative terms – this document is instructive. It gives us a window into what the pope really thinks about the irreligious. [Click the headline for more...] [Read more...]

Catholic Leaders: The Pope Still Thinks Sexually-Active Gay People Are Going to Hell

I knew all along I would be writing this piece. I had hoped it would come a day or two later. But when people are interpreting the Pope’s words (“Who am I to judge [gay people]?”) as encouragingly tolerant, there isn’t a moment to waste. Doctrinaire cardinals must rush to assure the world that the Church is as tough on gays as ever, and don’t you forget it.

Leading the pack is Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, who hastened to explain that this is just another one of those love-the-sinner-hate-the-sin deals:

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A Ticket to Heaven on Twitter: Pope Francis Offers Social Media Indulgences

These aren’t your great-grandma’s indulgences.

In modern Catholicism, indulgences are typically granted for activities that demonstrate extra faith: certain prayers and pilgrimages, for instance, will get all or part of your currently accrued sin wiped off your slate (assuming, of course, that you confess to a priest and show proper contrition). In September of 2012, Pope Benedict announced a fresh slate of indulgence-worthy acts for the upcoming Year of Faith (2012-2013), where he mentioned the possibility of gaining indulgences by reciting specific prayers “at a moment when the words of the Supreme Pontiff or of the Diocesan Bishops are broadcast via the television or radio” — a bit like a video game player inputting the proper cheat codes at the correct moment of game play.

And if you can do it with television or radio, why not with Twitter or Instagram?

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