The problem, in a nutshell…

…is not that a satire website quotes the pope as saying that hell does not exist and that all religions are equally true at the end of the Third Vatican Council.  It’s that Catholics who ought to know better take such silly things seriously and panic about them.

The New Testament speaks to believers and tells us to wean ourselves off milk and learn to eat meat.  One way to do that is to learn to discern wheat from chaff in cyberspace and not buy every stray rumor about a supposed “radical change” in Church teaching every time a FB meme shows up in our news feed.  The pope is not going to and cannot “abolish hell”.  He can’t declare all religions equal.  He’s not going to say the Eucharist is merely a symbol or that original sin is old hat.

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.  The brave cadre of Catholic apologists like Jimmy Akin out there answering questions are doing a vital and necessary work.  But it should not have to be Jimmy’s job to have to perpetually calm jitters everytime some fresh meme “quotes” the Pope announcing something obviously ridiculous or anti-Catholic.  We Catholics should be able to educate ourselves (and, what is more important, strengthen our faith) so that our first thought is not “So Francis has finally betrayed the faith as I feared he would” but “Why believe this is real?  Why trust this this accurate? Show me the documentation. And if a seemingly troubling quote does turn out to be genuine, what does the pope really mean and how does it comport with orthodoxy?”  We can save ourselves a huge amount of worry if we will simply begin with the reality that the pope is, you know, the pope and will not be teaching anything heterodox.  Then we can begin the fruitful train of thought, “If this is challenging to me, what is it that I need to learn from it?”

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