Did Pope Francis Preach Salvation by Works??

…and not just salvation by works, but universalism–that all will be saved?

The Huffington Post has a screaming headline, Pope Francis says Atheists Who do Good are Redeemed, Not Just Catholics. Vatican Radio reports on the homily here.

In a homily at daily Mass in the chapel of the Saint Martha hostel, Pope Francis spoke on the principle that “doing good” is a principle that unites all of humanity. Commenting on the gospel where the disciples want to exclude a person who is doing good, but is not of their number, the Pope observes that Jesus says, “Let him be.”  The Holy Father then goes on to make his main point, that rabid intolerance and exclusion eventually leads to violence.

He explains that it does no good to exclude and scapegoat atheists or other non believers. Instead they too should be expected to do good and that is where we encounter them and the dialogue begins. This is too much for some, and the Pope is being accused of Pelagianism and Universalism. (Salvation by works and “Everyone will be saved.”)

Here’s the offending passage:

“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.

This might seem on first reading to be teaching just what the Huffington Post proclaims: “Pope says Atheists are Saved by Doing Good Works.” One can’t blame a HuffPo journalist for getting the wrong end of the stick, and I suspect Todd Unctuous will have a few words to say about this later. However, the Huffington Post writer doesn’t understand the underlying theology.

Unfortunately for those who wish to paint Pope Francis as a lovable liberal, in fact, the Pope is simply affirming certain truths that any somewhat knowledgable Catholic will uphold. First, that Christ died to redeem the whole world. We can distinguish his redemptive work from the acceptance of salvation. He redeemed the whole world. However, many will reject that saving work. In affirming the universality of Christ’s redemptive work we are not universalists. To say that he redeemed the whole world is not to conclude that all will be saved.

Secondly, the Pope is also affirming that all humans are created in God’s image and are therefore created good. Yes, created good, but that goodness is wounded by original sin. Thirdly, he is affirming that all men and women are obliged to pursue what is beautiful, good and true. Natural virtue is possible–even obligatory, but natural virtue on its own is not sufficient for salvation. Grace is necessary to advance beyond natural virtue to bring the soul to salvation. The Pope does not say atheists being good on their own will be saved. He says they, like all men, are redeemed by Christ’s death and their good works are the starting place where we can meet with them–the implication being “meet with them in an encounter that leads eventually to faith in Christ.”

This method of evangelization is no different from the classic method of missionaries from St Paul onward. We meet the non believer on his territory, affirm what is good and beautiful and true about his belief and behavior, and move from there to introduce them to Christ.


  • TheDayOfReckoningWillCome

    Fr. Dwight Longenecker, this is beautifully explained and stated!

  • Al Bergstrazer

    I wouldn’t go to the Huffington Post to read about things they should know about, much less rudimentary theology.

  • Mike Maturen

    Fr. Dwight: First the media had a hissy fit because Pope Francis because he was “obsessed” with Satan. Now, they have their undergarments in a bunch because they think he is saying that all will be saved by simply doing good.

    It’s clear that their agenda is to discredit both the Holy Father AND the Church as a whole. No matter WHAT we do, the anti-Catholic blathering like nattering nabobs of negativity with NEVER be happy.

    This is just one more example of their utter hatred for the Truth.

    • SteveC

      “No matter WHAT we do, the anti-Catholic blathering like nattering nabobs of negativity with NEVER be happy.”
      The Catholic church has a long long long …. way to go before people will be happy.You have a very long and continuing history of socially destructive behaviour. In fact if it wasn’t for your destructive tendancies I’m of the opinion that world we live in would be a much more civil place.
      Don’t feel I’m just picking on you, religion in general has long out lived it usefulness,it has very little to offer except divisiveness and misery.
      It creates a disease – sin – which leads to low self esteem ,then offers the cure, do as I tell you,and don’t question it, or you will be punished for eternity.
      Your new Pope may be putting forth a new image put it is really just repackaging the same old BS.
      And before somebody points out all the good that some religious people do out here in the real world let me say I agree with you there are many very religious people that do a great deal of good. I tend to think it is in spite of the religion and not because of it.

      • tedseeber

        Socially destructive behavior? That’s rich coming from a non-Catholic. The only reason we have civilization at all, is because Catholicism saved the best of the Roman Republic for us.

        Science, philosophy, democracy. In comparison, what have the Atheists done that is unique? NOTHING. All of it existed in Catholicism long ago.

        On the other hand, I can think of no greater social destruction than the genocide of 55 million that the pro-choicers have wrought.

        • The Faithful Agnostic

          lol. your ignorance of the many successful and advanced civilizations that existed in the past (some halfway around the world from rome) betrays you. Not to mention the various religions and origin myths. Buddhists, muslims… Egypt, China, Greece, the Ottoman Empire, Persia… the list goes on. Just because your religion has among the most violent, bloody and cruel histories (I count most abrahamic religions as such) among all the beliefs in the world doesn’t make it number 1!

          Nothing? Did the Greek philosophers do nothing?
          Did Epicurus do as little with his life as you do in front of your computer? Is Stephen Hawking anything short of genius?

          And genocide. You DARE talk of genocide. Do you know that the catholic church backed hitler in his atrocities? In his desire to exterminate and torture the Jews, gay people and every other minority group (non white) in the world?

          Take a look at the history of your church and weep. Weep for all your victims. Weep for all the pain and suffering and death that marks it every step of the way.

          • Quid

            “And genocide. You DARE talk of genocide. Do you know that the catholic church backed hitler in his atrocities?”

            Wow, good for you. I know it’s a lot of fun to hate the Church, but maybe you should do ANY RESEARCH AT ALL before you make outrageous claims that have no historical background. Then again, the testimony of the 800000+ Jews Pius XII saved from Hitler aren’t nearly as important as your own personal, anti-Catholic opinion. Maybe you should take this up with your pet snail.

          • tedseeber

            Hitler is nothing compared to the pro-abortion movement. Hitler killed maybe 8 million- the pro-abortion movement has sacrificed 55 million.

        • The Faithful Agnostic

          Also, did you know that democracy was a concept first put forth by the Greeks? They were about as catholic as my pet snail. And gayer than a treeful of monkeys on Nitrous Oxide.

          Not to mention that Rome was not really a democracy. They had a mixed system of aristocracy and democracy, though they had more elements of an aristocracy.

          • tedseeber

            The Greek Democracy was limited to a very small percentage of the population- only land owning males over the age of 18, most of whom owned hundreds of slaves. Females were not included.

            Infanticide and euthanasia were common.

            I wouldn’t call them advanced, not a bit.

            But then again, I don’t consider the United States to be particularly advanced for the same reason.

          • daledor

            America was founded as a Republic, not a democracy – do some research. Incidentally, democracy gave order until immorality and the welfare system and hand out programs along with wicked leaders like Calligula and Nero ran them down. One lesson to learn is the more dependent you are upon government the closer you get to destruction – contrary to DC’s ‘buy now, soak the people later’ spending sprees – you don’t get something for nothing. What you end up with is people that don’t produce and contribute to the general welfare because they are too focused on government handouts – which don’t come out of the air.

            An old saying, “If your deficit exceeds your assets then your a’s sets in the street.” How many trillions of dollars of debt because of wasteful practices can America survive? Do you realize that a trillion dollars is a million million dollars. If you stacked newly printed dollar bills on top of each other one trillion dollars would go to the moon and back.

            You may not like this and refuse to acknowledge truth – As wasteful as things were under Bush — “Deficit spending ‘exploded during the Obama administration’ to $5.3 trillion over four years, compared to $2 trillion in eight years under President George W. Bush.” This means government under Obama is spending 5.3 / 4= 1.35 2 / 8 – .25

            Thus: 1.35 / .25 = 5.5 —- Under Obama government spending has multiplied 5.5 times what Bush encountered. How can our country survive with debt increasing like this????

            Am I for Bush? No! Am I for Obama? No! Nor Clinton! I am not for anyone that is for the subverting of our country into minions of the New World Order!!!!!
            As to atrocities, abortion of millions of babies is a big atrocity – offered as sacrifices to the god of inconvenience and selfishness, with few exceptions.

      • Quid

        Show me the charities, hospitals, shelters etc… established by the atheists. Seems like there aren’t any around. If people do good in spite of their religion (which incidentally preaches that ministering to the poor is essential) then wouldn’t it make sense that there would be a lot more atheist charities since they aren’t enslaved by religion? And yet, while the Catholic Church is the largest charity in the world, I have never found a single one claiming God doesn’t exist. Seems like your argument is a little lopsided (i.e. completely backwards)

      • Jack Gordon

        Steve: I have a suggestion perhaps too Catholic for your tastes, one that emphasizes order and study. I think you should use a spell-checker or, even better, learn to spell properly in English. It’s “tendencies” not “tendancies”, regardless of how you choose to pronounce it. As for the rest of what you write here, it’s sophomoric and facile BS that doesn’t even rise to a level of BS a Catholic would want to bother thinking about very much.

      • Guest

        Jesus loves you and died on the cross for your sins; whether or not you’re religious, you still sin.

      • CathyS12

        A sad sight. The Catholic-Church-Denigrator who thinks that by proclaming something he makes it fact.
        If you can prove that the Catholic Church (and not just some of her members) have a long history of “socially destructive behaviours” then your comment would have some credibility. But till then, this is all just opinion. Ignorant opinion at best.

  • Ce Gzz

    still… this will lead to great confusion among beginners and neophytes.

  • Ian Baldacchino

    Its a great message :)

  • rwaligora

    just take the easy way out people…cast off your rosaries, your chaplet of mercy, confession, mass etc…why go through all the trouble when you can take the easy way of life as any non-believer….nothing but a one world religion here, believe as you will, for I don’t want to offend you

    • yan

      Oh surely right! The first thing he did as Pope was ask for prayers for his predecessor and then for himself. I seem to recall the Our Father and Hail Mary. Prayer, prayer, prayer….the ‘easy way out,’ is that?

    • Martlet

      Why go through all the “trouble?” I thought I was taking the easy way out by praying, attending Mass and going to confession, etc. Much easier than imagining I can make it on my own, and a lot more peaceful than my soul would be without those things. :-)

  • OneTimothyThreeFifteen

    All the atheists I know are Calvinist Atheists :)

    • Alexander S Anderson

      There’s a reason for that. Nearly all atheists are Protestant.

    • tedseeber

      Lucky you- Calvin at least was intelligent. The grand majority of the atheists I know are Biblical Fundamentalist Creationists who insist both that Genesis must be taken literally and that Darwin proved it wrong.

  • Shetland3

    At last, Pope Francis is speaking with the true spirit of Vatican II! So refreshing and beautiful.

  • Michael Depietro

    This is all well and good. No objection to any of it. I suspect however that Pope Francis ( God help him..) is at heart a ‘liberal”. A liberal in the sense that his sensibilities and style will lead him to say and do things that sound good to those on the “liberal end” of the Current in house Catholic wars. So so far in the very early going we have heard:
    Atheists can do good ( well yes… but is atheism really something that tends to motivate one to do good.. not a lot of atheist hospitals are there? Atheist charities?
    We have heard about the evils of Capitalism.. ( well of course unbridled Capitalism is a bad thing, but I think actual evidence suggests that Capitalism, that is a free market economy) has done more to lift people out of poverty than any other force, And in fact ,Pope Francis recent comments that the poor are increasingly worse of is simply inaccurate … they are materially better off because of increasing exposure to market forces. does that mean his points that we have a duty to the poor can be ignored” Well of course not, but his comments are not viewed in this vein. They are being used to say we have a moral obligation to have massive government intervention in the economy. This will guarantee more poverty. It has been a problem with social justice Catholics for a long time. ( They seem to have a curious disinterest in the empirical evidence for what causes poverty and what ends it…)
    I think in many ways this is a style issue. I think it unlikely ( actually impossible) that tomorrow Pope Francis will suddenly rethink the contraception thing or say abortion, divorce etc are “ok”. I also think it unlikely he will seriously tackle the widespread dissent on these things either. He like most of the Jesuits I have known( I have spent a lot of my education in Jesuit run Universities) Is a liberal and inclined to the social justice wing of the Church.
    For some of us this is a problem, the world is not imploding because there is too much disrespect for atheism nor too little Capitalism. The demographic implosion caused by a widespread anti-life mentality, and the current trends to see government intervention and control of the economy will do more to actually cause poverty than will the actual apparent concerns recently expressed by Pope Francis. I hope the pattern changes. I continue to pray for our new Pope, but am concerned about the tone. It will be a long haul if “conservatives” have to keep explaining him, as Fr.Longenecker’s post does.

    • yan

      ‘ I suspect however that Pope Francis ( God help him..) is at heart a ‘liberal”. A liberal in the sense that his sensibilities and style will lead him to say and do things that sound good to those on the “liberal end” of the Current in house Catholic wars.’

      Yes certainly. All that talk by the Pope last week or so about the reality of the devil is sure to win him liberal friends and find sympathetic echos in liberal thinking.

    • Paul

      “social justice Catholics”?

      One would hope that would be all Catholics.

    • tedseeber

      Have you even bothered to read what he says about abortion and gay marriage?

  • Gordis85

    Thank you for clarifying what Papa Francis says. I understood it to mean just that and your affirmation of such truths only makes it more clear. God bless you for such!

  • Glenn Gabry

    But if the HuffPost could misunderstand what he said as being Universalism or salvation by good works, so could the MAJORITY of people living in our world who do not understand Catholic theology and/or the Gospel message! In fact…I understand BOTH (especially the GOSPEL!) and I can see how anyone could easily interpret it as such. I would like to see some of my Catholic brethren calling for more clarity of the Gospel message rather than blaming it on the Huff Post as bad as they are. :(

    • http://sacredlibrary.wordpress.com/ Deborah

      “I would like to see some of my Catholic brethren calling for more clarity of the Gospel message..”

      Indeed. Vatican Radio reports that the Pope’s homily was based on “Wednesday’s gospel reading” which was Mark 9:38-40. It is written:

      “John said to him, “Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us. But Jesus said, ‘Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work [dunamis, miraculous power] in MY name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us. (RSVCE)”

      The homily and all the controversies have nothing to do what is actually written in the days Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    • tanzenblume

      I am not a Catholic but I am a Christian. My husband and I discussed this. We were trying to figure out if Pope Francis was saying everyone was going to Heaven or if he was just saying we should all do good works. That Atheists were able to do good works as well as us and that we should work together. Thanks for the clarification. If we can all get to Heaven no matter what we believe then what would have been the purpose of Christ dying for us be?

  • David Hepler

    Excellent clarification!

  • Samaki

    Exactly. Thank you.

  • Yasha Renner

    Well said. I wished to comment on Catholic.org, where I first read about this, but I doubt my comment will be published there. Here’s what I said:

    I will admit, this article and, indeed, the Holy Father’s remarks had me seriously concerned. We have with us, it seems, not a careful theologian, crafting his words with dogmatic precision; we have a man who desires to provoke in us a much needed renewal of faith and love. Certainly this is needed in our day. Personally, I would be more careful with my words, but then again I am not the Pope. Catholic publishers should nevertheless be very careful in their reporting as well as their opinion pieces. So here’s my opinion piece:

    An atheist is by definition “ungodly,” who is thus in a state of mortal sin and cannot merit eternal life, unless by the grace of justification. That is Catholic dogma. Yes, Christ’s work of redemption, his saving love, extends to all people, saved and sinner alike. None are predestined to the eternal fire; all have freedom to choose God with the help of God. But this in no way implies—and I will take Pope Francis’s remarks to mean the contrary—that all who die in their mortal sins, having made a conscious decision to turn from God, will see heaven.

    “[N]o one existing in a state of mortal sin can merit eternal life unless first he be reconciled to God, through his sin being forgiven, which is brought about by grace. For the sinner deserves not life, but death, according to Romans 6:23: ‘The wages of sin is death.’” ST, I-II, Q.114, art. 2, respondeo.

    It seems what Pope Francis meant by his remarks is that even atheists have something of the Divine Image within them, which is reason and free-will. Let us recall, with St. Thomas Aquinas, that “Man’s meritorious work may be considered in two ways: first, as it proceeds from free-will; secondly, as it proceeds from the grace of the Holy Ghost.” ST, I-II, Q.114, A.3, respondeo. The former, while good “relatively,” nevertheless cannot merit salvation by its own power; the latter, on the other hand, merits salvation condignly; that is, worthily with the help of God.

    Thus, for example, the work of an atheist who builds a home for a poor family, or who feeds a starving child, is meritorious only in a relative sense, which is a “kind of good” according to St. Thomas. “For God gives men,” says he, “both just and wicked, enough temporal goods to enable them to attain to everlasting life; and thus these temporal goods are simply good” because “they are useful for virtuous works, whereby we are led to heaven . . . .” ST, I-II, Q.114, A.10, respondeo.

    So what is the moral of the story? Go out and do good, even if it happens to be side by side with an atheist, since our sanctification, our increase in grace after the first free grace, depends on the good work of the whole human family. And who knows, in letting “your light shine before others,” the atheist may even “see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16.

    • Quid

      “An atheist is by definition “ungodly,” who is thus in a state of mortal sin and cannot merit eternal life, unless by the grace of justification. That is Catholic dogma.”

      Where does the Church say that? I’m pretty sure you can’t find that in the CCC. To be in a state of mortal sin implies full knowledge and full consent. I have yet to meet an atheist with full knowledge of the truth which he is rejecting.

      • The Faithful Agnostic

        Are you saying that you have full knowledge of the truth?

        *edges away*

      • Yasha Renner

        Good point. Allow me to clarify.

        The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “Since [Atheism] rejects or denies the existence of God, atheism is a sin against the virtue of religion.” CCC#2125. In support of this assertion the Catechism cites Romans 1:18, to which one might add Romans 1:19: “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” And again in Psalm 14:1 we read, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” St. Thomas Aquinas infers from these versus that, while the existence of God is not self-evident, it is demonstrable.

        Note further the important distinction between rejecting the “existence” of God and the complete “knowledge” of God (i.e., what we can know about God), which is to be found only in the Catholic faith. For the former, Holy Scripture says there is “no excuse,” but as to the latter the Church teaches that the “imputability of the offense [i.e., Atheism] can be significantly diminished in virtue of the intentions and the circumstances.” CCC#2125.

        St. Thomas seems not to have answered the kind of atheism that is rampant in our day; that is, rejecting the existence of God, but that of the sin of unbelief, which arises from the sin of pride and constitutes a conscious rejection of, or opposition to, the faith, which is to say the Catholic faith and all that it entails. See ST, II-II, Q.10. The most vocal atheists today add to their unbelief the sin of
        blasphemy, which is a mortal sin. See CCC#2148 and ST, II-II, Q.13, A.2.

        But practically speaking, most atheists today consciously reject even the basic premise that God exists, which can be known by “natural reason,” as St. Thomas explains in his “five proofs” for the existence of God. See ST, I, Q.2. In my view, this is simply a stupendous intellectual error stemming from pride.

        • Quid

          Ignorance is still not a sin, moral or venial. I would say the majority of atheists are not being honest, and their rejection of God does come from their pride and ego, but the ignorant atheist who doesn’t understand what the Church really is, cannot be held culpable for rejecting it, because he does not have full knowledge of what he’s rejecting.

          God can be known through natural reason, at least the concept of God, but again, a person cannot be culpable for stupidity. An atheist without perfect rationality (just like the rest of us) who honestly cannot believe in the existence of God still has not sinned. Of course there is a huge disinfection between this man and the one recognizes what the Church is, and rejects it anyway. The Church is built on Jesus’ commandment to love, and to reject the true Church is to reject love, which will certainly preclude the possibility of salvation.

          Ultimately only God can determine whether an atheist is sinning by claiming God does not exist. The sin is not contingent on whether or not the atheist is correct, but whether or not he rejects Jesus’ commandment to love, which is the cornerstone of the Church.

          • MJR

            2 Peter 1:3 ‘His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.’

            James 1:5 ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.’

      • MJR

        You have yet to meet an atheist with full knowledge of the truth he is rejecting?? Really? I meet them often! They are what scripture was speaking about when it said in Romans 1:18 “18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness
        and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness; 19Because that which may be
        known of God is manifest in them; for God has showed it to them. 20For the invisible things of
        him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the
        things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are
        without excuse”

  • Chris L

    The statement is too ambiguous. Where is it in the statement that due to the encounter transformation in Christ will take place? Shouldn’t it be said that to “meet one another there” the hope is that the atheist or non- catholic will open up to Christ’s transforming power?

    • Howard

      Exactly. It is not really teaching to make ambiguous statements that can be interpreted in an orthodox fashion. It is teaching to make unambiguous statements that make orthodoxy easier for everyone to understand.

      • Peter H.

        The Holy Father is not teaching, he is EXHORTING. This homily was about Christians’ attitudes towards secularists (and, at the end, about atheists’ attitudes as well). Pope Francis is trying to get us to change our outlook. And, instead, we have to criticize his *homily* for not having the whole *Catechism* in it. This is called missing the point, folks.

        • Howard

          It is possible to exhort without making vague statements that can be taken in more than one way. For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?

          • Paul G

            Try Jesus. The entire Gospel can be taken in more than one way. That doesn’t discredit Jesus but only ignorant listeners.

          • Howard

            Really, Paul? The ENTIRE Gospel? Jesus said NOTHING that was unambiguous? Read the Gospels again.

            Also, you really need to understand that the position of Jesus and the Pope are not the same. Not. at. all. The Pope is the Vicar of Christ, and he acts (at times) in persona Christi, but he is not Christ. Christ came to give us public revelation, and Christ *is* the revelation; all that can be done is to draw out the implications of Christ’s revelation — that is, to explain it. An explanation that is not clear is a waste of breath. An exhortation that is unclear — a call to action that can be interpreted in more than one way — is just so much noise.

            If everyone were serious Catholics, unshakable in orthodox belief and committed to living out the Faith in every aspect of their lives, no damage would result from a Pope making statements that can be interpreted in both orthodox and unorthodox ways (though it would still be wrong to make such statements unnecessarily). Actually, if everyone were such serious Catholics, there would be a lot less work and worry for the Pope.

            In case you haven’t noticed, though, we do not live in such a world. The real world is full of people who are going to parse the Pope’s words NOT to determine what he really meant but rather to see if they can twist those words to endorse the beliefs or practices to which they are already committed. Other people will look for opportunities to claim that the Pope is contradicting established Christian doctrine. Carelessly prepared homilies provide these people with ammunition. It helps the enemies of the Church, and indeed the Enemy of the Church, to snatch away the souls of the weak.

    • MTGradwell

      ‘Shouldn’t it be said that to “meet one another there” the hope is that the atheist or non- catholic will open up to Christ’s transforming power?’

      Not really. That is something that to Catholics should go without saying. And for it to be said openly in a place where atheists can pick up on it might defeat the object, like a doctor telling his patient that the medicine he just prescribed is just a placebo which won’t actually do anything unless the patient believes in it.

  • Florin S.

    May 23rd: I hear over and over again that Pope Francis is the ‘Bishop of Rome’ – and that’s true but if that is overemphasized,then what happens to the rest of the Pontiff’s parish ‘ the world’?? I understand that it is less cumbersome to focus on one tiny part of the globe but a Pope is more than just a Bishop of a small area – and there are so many who hunger and thirst for Christ’s representative on earth. I was so overjoyed when I saw Pope Francis emerge from inside to stand on the balcony…but I have the sense that more and more he is withdrawing from the wider arena to focus on his immediate surroundings, on those physically nearer to him as any local Bishop or Pastor of a Parish would do. Meanwhile here in the United States we have the ongoing slaughter of human babies in the womb, aggressively and publicly promoted by Catholics like Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden and other Catholics…we are faced with the loss of our Religious freedom with another Catholic, Kathleen Sebelius as head of HHS and the Obama Health Care Mandate…we have Bishops who do not stand with the Church on some important issues, universities who award pro abortion public figures….not to speak of the persecutions around the world of Catholics and other Christians. Rome is so far away for some – and although I do not think that Pope Francis needs to travel as faar and as often as Pope John Paul did or even as much as Pope emeritus Benedict did, I do believe he should travel more than he said he intends to…the sheep need to see the Shepherd once in a while and not just on the television…I pray Pope Francis will not spend all his time in Rome but will visit as many as possible of God’s people. There is such need! Such long on the part of the people of God who, at times, feel so defenseless when faced with the ‘wolves’ of our time…meanwhile, we pray for Pope Francis and for our Church and her leaders…and for all in the Body of Christ.

  • Nicole Resweber

    Catholics: Yay! Thank you, Papa, for saying this so plainly!

    Atheists: Huh, well that beats a poke in the eye.


    Oy vey.

    • Bryann Turkin

      AMEN ! The Catholic Church is not christian . Their teachings go against the holy bible. I know because I was Catholic for 28 years, until I became a born again believer. If you do your research, you will find that Catholicism was not started by Jesus Christ .

      • Nicole Resweber

        I think you missed the part where “the Pope is a heretic” is the WRONG response. If he said what Huffington Post tried to represent his words as, sure. But since (as Father has so clearly pointed out) he didn’t, then what the Pope has done os expressed nothing more or less than the good news of the gospel – Christ died for all!

      • Guest

        Show me where in the Bible it says to follow scripture alone.

        • MJR

          From: http://carm.org/bible-alone-sufficient-spiritual-truth

          According to Roman Catholicism, Sacred Tradition and the Bible together provide the foundation of spiritual truth. From this combination the Catholic church has produced many doctrines which it says are true and biblical but which Protestants reject: veneration of Mary, penance, indulgence, purgatory, prayer to saints, et. al. Protestantism, however, rejects these doctrines, and Roman Catholic Sacred Tradition, and holds fast to the call “Sola Scriptura,” or, “Scripture Alone.” Catholics then challenge, “Is Sola Scriptura biblical?”

          The Bible does not say “Do not use tradition” or “Scripture alone is sufficient.” But the Bible does not say “The Trinity is three persons in one God,” either, yet it is a fundamental doctrine of Christianity. 2 Tim. 3:16 says that scripture is inspired and profitable for correction and teaching. Scripture states that Scripture is what is good for correction and teaching, not tradition. However, in its comments on tradition, the Bible says to listen to tradition but also warns about tradition nullifying the gospel — which we will look at below.

          In discussing the issue of the Bible alone being sufficient, several points should be made:

          1) The method of the New Testament authors (and Jesus as well) when dealing with spiritual truth was to appeal to the Scriptures as the final rule of authority. Take the temptation of Christ in Matthew 4 as an example. The Devil tempted Jesus, yet Jesus used the authority of scripture, not tradition, nor even His own divine power, as the source of authority and refutation. To Jesus, the Scriptures were enough and sufficient. If there is any place in the New Testament where the idea of extra-biblical revelation or tradition could have been used, Jesus’ temptation would have been a great place to present it. But Jesus does no such thing. His practice was to appeal to scripture. Should we do any less having seen his inspired and perfect example?

          The New Testament writers constantly appealed to the scriptures as their base of authority in declaring what was and was not true biblical teaching: Matt. 21:42; John 2:22; 1 Cor. 15:3-4; 1 Peter 1:10-12; 2:2; 2 Peter 1:17-19, etc. Of course, Acts 17:11 says, “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so.” Paul commends those who examined God’s Word for the test of truth. He did not commend them for appealing to tradition. Therefore, we can see that the method used by Jesus and the apostles for determining spiritual truth was to appeal to scripture, not tradition. In fact, it is the scriptures that refute the traditions of men in many instances.

          2) It is not required of Scripture to have a statement to the effect, “The Bible alone is to be used for all spiritual truth,” in order for sola scriptura to be true. Many doctrines in the Bible are not clearly stated, yet they are believed and taught by the church. For example, there is no statement in the Bible that says there is a Trinity, or that Jesus has two natures (God and man), or that the Holy Spirit is the third person in the Godhead. Yet, each of the statements is considered true doctrine within Christianity, being derived from biblical references. So, for the Catholic to require the Protestant to supply chapter and verse to prove Sola Scriptura is valid, is not necessarily consistent with biblical exegetical principles, of which they themselves approve when examining such doctrines as the Trinity, the hypostatic union, etc.

          3) In appealing to the Bible for authentication of Sacred Tradition, the Catholics have shown that the Bible is superior to Sacred Tradition — for the lesser is blessed by the greater (Heb. 7:7). You see, if the Bible said do not trust Sacred Tradition, then Roman Catholic Sacred Tradition would be instantly and obviously invalidated. If the Bible said to trust Sacred Tradition, then the Bible is authenticating it and the Roman Catholic Church would cite the Scriptures to that effect. In either case, the Scriptures hold the place of final authority and by that position, are shown to be superior to Sacred Tradition. This means that Sacred Tradition is not equal in authority to the Word of God.

          If Sacred Tradition were really inerrant as it is said to be, then it would be equal with the Bible. But, God’s word does not say that Sacred Tradition is inerrant or inspired as it does say about itself (2 Tim. 3:16). Merely to claim that Sacred Tradition is equal and in agreement with the Bible does not make it so. Furthermore, to assert that Sacred Tradition is equal to Scripture effectively leaves the canon wide open to doctrinal addition. Since the traditions of men change, then to use tradition as a determiner of spiritual truth would mean that over time new doctrines that are not in the Bible would be added and that is exactly what has happened in Catholicism with doctrines such as purgatory, praying to Mary, indulgences, etc. Furthermore, if they can use Sacred Tradition as a source for doctrines not explicit in the Bible, then why would the Mormons then be wrong for having additional revelation as well?

          4) If the Bible is not used to verify and test Sacred Tradition, then Sacred Tradition is functionally independent of the Word of God. If it is independent of Scripture, then by what right does it have to exist as an authoritative spiritual source equivalent to the Bible? How do we know what is and is not true in Sacred Tradition if there is no inspired guide by which to judge it? If the Roman Catholic says that the inspired guide is the Roman Catholic Church, then it is committing the fallacy of circular reasoning. In other words, it is saying that the Roman Catholic Church is inspired because the Roman Catholic Church is inspired.

          5) Sacred Tradition is invalidated automatically if it contradicts the Bible, and it does. Of course, the Catholic will say that it does not. But, Catholic teachings such as purgatory, penance, indulgences, praying to Mary, etc., are not in the Bible. A natural reading of God’s Word does not lend itself to such beliefs and practices. Instead, the Catholic Church has used Sacred Tradition to add to God’s revealed word and then extracted out of the Bible whatever verses that might be construed to support their doctrines of Sacred Tradition.

          Nevertheless, the Catholic apologist will state that both the Bible and Sacred tradition are equal in authority and inspiration and to put one above another is a false comparison. But, by what authority does the Catholic church say this? Is it because it claims to be the true church, descended from the original apostles? So? Making such claims doesn’t mean they are true. Besides, even if it were true, and CARM does not grant that it is, there is no guarantee that the succession of church leaders is immune to error. We saw it creep in with Peter, and Paul rebuked him for it in Gal. 2. Are the Catholic church leaders better than Peter?

          To continue, is it from tradition that the Catholic Church authenticates its Sacred Tradition? If so, then there is no check upon it. Is it from quotes of some of the church Fathers who say to follow Tradition? If so, then the church fathers are given the place of authority comparable to scripture. Is it from the Bible? If so, then Sacred Tradition holds a lesser position than the Bible because the Bible is used as the authority in validating Tradition. Is it because the Catholic Church claims to be the means by which God communicates His truth? Then, the Catholic Church has placed itself above the Scriptures.

          6) One of the mistakes made by the Catholics is to assume that the Bible is derived from Sacred Tradition. This is false. The Church simply recognized the inspired writings of the Bible. They were in and of themselves authoritative. Various “traditions” in the Church served only to recognize what was from God. Also, to say the Bible is derived from Sacred Tradition is to make the Bible lesser than the Tradition, as is stated in Heb. 7:7 that the lesser is blessed by the greater, but this cannot be since Catholicism appeals to the Bible to authenticate its tradition.


          Since the Bible is the final authority, we should look to it as the final authenticating and inerrant source of all spiritual truth. If it says Sacred Tradition is valid, fine. But if it doesnt, then I will trust the Bible alone. Since the Bible does not approve of the Catholic Church’s Sacred Tradition, along with its inventions of prayer to Mary, prayer to the saints, indulgences, penance, purgatory, etc., then neither should Christians.

          Objections Answered

          The Bible comes from Roman Catholic Sacred Tradition.

          The problem is twofold. First, tradition is generally anything the Christian church passed down and doesn’t require inspiration of any sort. But Roman Catholicism claims such generic tradition under its umbrella of Sacred Tradition. This is the fallacy of equivocation. In other words, the meaning of the word “tradition” is changed between the first and second reference. There is no proof that the RCC sacred tradition is inspired. But there is evidence that it is flawed, particularly when we compare what it has revealed (purgatory, Mary-worship, penance, indulgences, etc.) with Scripture and such doctrines are not only absent from Scripture, but contradict Scripture.

          Second, it assumes that the Roman Catholic church produced the Bible. The RCC did not produce the Bible. God produced the Bible and the Christian Church recognized the word of God (John 10:27) and endorsed what God had already authored. To say that the RCC gave us the Bible is to imply that the RCC has the right to tell you what it means. This is problematic because how then do we check what the RCC says?

          Sacred Tradition is divine revelation and equal to scripture.

          At best, this is only a claim that cannot be proven to be false by comparing the revelations supposedly given through Sacred Tradition with the Word of God. As mentioned above, there are many such doctrines devised by people that are not found in the Word of God and even contradict it.

          The Bible clearly tells us that God’s Scripture is divinely breathed forth and that it is inspired. There is no such claim for tradition. In fact, though the Bible tells us to follow tradition, it also tells us to be wary of it. Therefore, tradition cannot be inspired if God’s Word warns us against following it.

          The Bible is for tradition where it supports the teachings of the apostles (2 Thess. 2:15) and is consistent with biblical revelation. Yet, it is against tradition when it “transgresses the commands of God” (Matt. 15:3). By Jesus’ own words, tradition is not to transgress or contradict the commands of God. In other words, it should be in harmony with biblical teaching and not oppose it in any way. See “Roman Catholicism, the Bible, and Tradition”. The Bible clearly tells us that it is the standard of truth. We are not to exceed what the Scriptures say. “Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written, in order that no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of one against the other,” (1 Cor. 4:6).

          Heb. 7:7 is not about scripture, but about people and cannot be used to subject Sacred Tradition to the Bible

          It is true that Heb. 7:7 is about people and not about scripture. But there is more in the text than just people. Heb. 7:4-10,

          “Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils. 5 And those indeed of the sons of Levi who receive the priests office have commandment in the Law to collect a tenth from the people, that is, from their brethren, although these are descended from Abraham. 6 But the one whose genealogy is not traced from them collected a tenth from Abraham, and blessed the one who had the promises. 7 But without any dispute the lesser is blessed by the greater. 8 And in this case mortal men receive tithes, but in that case one receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives on. 9 And, so to speak, through Abraham even Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes, 10 for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him.”

          The writer of Hebrews is mentioning different concepts as well as historical facts. He mentions tithing, descendents of Abraham, the lesser is blessed by the greater, authority, and Federal Headship.1 It is the concept of the greater in authority blessing the lesser in authority that is being examined here in this article. We know that there is a principle of the greater in authority blessing the lesser. Can we not also apply this same principle of authority to the issue of the Roman Catholic Church’s claim on Sacred Tradition as being authoritative as compared to the authority of Scripture? I do not see why not. After all, the Roman Catholic Church appeals to Scripture to support its Sacred Tradition. In so doing, it is submitting itself to the authority of Scripture for validation of its principle.

  • Cranky

    You will find yourself frequently in the position with this pope of trying to explain what he really meant, needing to clarify his statements. It may prove a challenge.

    • Alexander S Anderson

      It’s not the Pope’s fault, though. The media is jumping to read Pope Francis in the most “liberal” way possible, just like they read Benedict in the most “conservative” way possible.

    • CathyS12

      I have to say I agree with that. There certainly is not the same clarity as Benedict and some texts are not fully developed.

      I must say though that he is passionate about evangelization and wants to galvanize the lukewarm.

      Perhaps too, this simple statements are what most can grapple with.

      It must be remembered too that the media is always ready to twist anything. They did that with Benedict as well often by extracting a tiny quote and misrepresenting it as in the case of the use of condoms by prostitutes.

    • AndreiVyshinsky

      This wording of this homily had to be about as poorly chosen as one can imagine. The Pelagianism just shouts out at you. Of all people, the world rightly expects the Pope to be theologically precise in his statements. This botch brings us to the low point in this pontificate.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Brooks/1495080976 Michael Brooks

    We are all redeemed, but not all can have Salvation unless they accept Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Too many non-catholics will lump together Redemption and Salvation as meaning one and the same thing.

  • Potipher

    So if he wasn’t talking about by “doing good,” can a good Catholic tell me what must I do if I’m outside the RCC to get to heaven???

    • Kevin

      Start with reading Mathew 25: 31-46. We can meet there and begin a dialogue on it.

      • Potipher

        Final judgement. Very sobering passage indeed. The sheep to everlasting life, goats to hell, is that correct, in parable terms of course? I’m sure you wanted me to see the “doing to the least of these, you’ve done unto me” right? Agreed. Look closely at v. 34 and can we agree that the sheep are blessed by the Father to inherit the kingdom prepared for them before the foundation of the world?

    • tedseeber

      The real basic? Be prepared to be Catholic in Heaven when you join the Church Triumphant, and plan on spending a lot of time having your mistaken ideas corrected in the Church Suffering.

      Nobody ever said that those outside the RCC (and many of those INSIDE the RCC) can’t go to purgatory.

      • Potipher

        Thank you for your comment. Definitely understand the catholicity of the church. But the term Church Suffering or purgatory I am not familiar with. I was under the impression that Christ suffered once, the just for the unjust, so that by His stripes we are healed? Is that not correct?

        • tedseeber

          Once saved always saved, is a concept from Protestants, not Catholics.

          You are *redeemed* by the suffering of Christ. But that doesn’t assure your salvation by itself. Even “Good Catholics” need to accept that salvation- be prepared to go to heaven.

          All that is in Heaven is perfect. You may be on the way there, but the journey does not necessarily end with this life, you have to be perfected before you can enter Heaven.

          We have to be perfect to be in Heaven, so we must first purge ourselves of our sin, and that is what Purgatory is for.

          For more, I’d refer you to John Paul II’s Wednesday Homilies on the subject, archived at:

          • Potipher

            Yes, from John 10, maybe?? Something about “snatching out of the Father’s hand” if I remember correctly.

          • tedseeber

            The evil one tries, but doesn’t succeed by himself- the sinner has to want his sin.

          • Potipher

            If according to Rom 3:21-28, God put Christ forward as a sacrifice that turns away God’s own wrath against the sinner (propitiation), then what more is there for the sinner to do, except cry out forgive me Father for I am such a sinner may the blood of Christ be applied to me?

            Galations 2:11-21, Galations 3:1-6 Who has bewitched you? paraphrasing..”….you received the Spirit by faith, why are you then trying to become perfect in the flesh???” “just as Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.

            Galations 3:11-14Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for The righteous shall live by faith. 12 But the law is not of faith, rather The one who does them shall live by them. 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

            **So let those of us who are of the household of faith urge one another on toward love and good works…that of course no one can do unless the Spirit of Christ abides in him. (And yes an atheist can do something “good” in humanistic terms, but does he give a cup of water “in Jesus’ name” or his own?)

            These good works that we do are not to “earn” our way to heaven, or “purge” any remaining sin, because we all still sin in this body of death…see Rom 7. “If any man says he does not sin, he is liar, and the love of the Father does not reside in him.” 1 John. But we will be changed in the twinkling of an eye, “and that which is sown corruptible will one day be raised incorruptible” with glorified bodies that are without sin. ALL by God’s grace and mercy. Because He first loved us, and gave His Son for us.

            Yes, work. But rest knowing that Jesus Christ lived the righteous life you could not, died the death you could not, and by faith in Him God applies this sacrifice to you…apart from any good works or requirement on your part. Rest in the comfort of knowing that God saves the ungodly.

            For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Rom. 5:7-8

  • Navin Start

    “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son” ( John 3:17-18 ).

    There is no redemption for the atheist.

  • DKeane123

    So upset now. I thought for sure I was going to get into a non-existent heaven.

  • Andreas Kjernald

    I don’t really get why a Catholic would be upset about what a Pope says since the Pope can’t change what the Church believes as true. I might be wrong but I thought that dogma and doctrine was decided in the Magistrate. Am I wrong?

    However, I wonder what he meant by saying that the blood of Jesus makes everybody a child of God. Doesn’t the Bible teach us that when we are saved, or accept the gift of salvation by faith, we are adopted into God’s family and become co-heirs with Jesus (i.e. children of God)?

    Thus, if everybody already is a child of God and children of God are saved but only those who accept by faith the gift of salvation…how does that work?

  • Mark Hunter

    Whatever the pope meant by “there” can be debated and maybe the pope will clarify it one day but let’s hope that it doesn’t foster more disagreement because at least this is a point where conservative Christians and atheists can agree “There are no atheists in heaven”.

    • tedseeber

      Or rather, to go with Pope John Paul II on top of Pope Francis- there are no atheists who WANT to be in heaven. Why would an atheist want to be converted into an eternal praisebot anyway?

      • Quid

        There are no atheists in heaven insofar as it’s impossible to reject God while in eternal union with him. What the pope is saying is it’s possible for people who were atheists on earth to get to heaven.

        To describe the Church Victorious as “eternal praisebots” is a horrible misrepresentation of what heaven is like, which the atheists like to capitalize on. The only thing we know about heaven is that it is an eternal union of love between the saints and God which we cannot begin to comprehend on earth.

  • Marian

    Fr. Dwight, your last paragraph explains it all. And I totally agree with you. I’ve spent over 15 years alongside missionaries in Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, and for the last 10 years, in China, and that is exactly how one begins an encounter and then begins to introduce a person to Jesus Christ…..by meeting them where they are and affirming where they are and go from there. Remembering that God is entirely capable , and it’s His deal anyway, to warm the heart, ready the soil, and give us the words to show one the beauty of Jesus is so important. Otherwise, we mistakenly think it’s all up to us. I believe our Holy Father was showing us how to love as he made his remarks.

  • Quid

    Why does everyone seem so upset by the proposition that atheists can get to heaven? Is heaven not elitist enough for you? Would eternal happiness be ruined if you had to spend it with people who used to have different beliefs than you?

    If you don’t like what Pope Francis says, maybe you should consider what Jesus had to say about salvation: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Mt 25, 40). Incidentally, the sheep in this parable had no idea they were serving Jesus in feeding the hungry, clothing the naked etc… and not until final judgement do they realize that their love for others includes love for Jesus as well. Jesus’ greatest commandment isn’t “believe that I am God,” but “love one another” (Jn 13, 34). Jesus calls us to love, and this certainly isn’t limited to those who acknowledge him, but “those who do the will of my father in heaven” (Mt 7, 21).

    • tedseeber

      Here’s one reason it upsets me. I was once an atheist. I can’t imagine why any self-respecting atheist would want to go to heaven, where he’d have to spend time with all of those horrid believers.

      • Quid

        Maybe, but I always assumed atheists would resent the opposite: believers telling them they’re going to hell. Francis is not a universalist, he’s just saying it’s certainly possible for atheists to get to heaven. In the end, of course, it’s a personal choice.

  • mtm

    I think he should have been more clear. He should have been aware that people would love to hear such a thing as do your own thing if you think it’s good and heaven is yours. No church, no prayer, no sacrifice. If abortion is a good to you, help it along. If communism is a good thing to you, help it along. If divorce is a good work, help it along. You get the idea. I think it was rather naive for him to make this statement without realizing how that might be interpreted.

    • Silky Johnson

      Well said. He may not have meant to preach universal salvation and salvation by works, but he was so ambiguous, that HuffPo (which is so wrong about so many things) has a valid interpretation of his homily.

  • tedseeber

    Isn’t Universalism, rightly understood, Catholicism?

  • OneTimothyThreeFifteen

    Even if Pope Francis did mean it, double-predestination – when taken to its logical conclusion – means life is a lottery. Calvinism is incoherent so any criticism of him by anyone who believes in predestination is in a glass house.


    John 6:28,29–Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do , so that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them ” this is the work of God, that you BELIEVE in Him whom He sent.”

    1st Corinthians 13:3 –And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned (martyred), but do not have Godly sacrificial love, it profits me nothing.————these verses imply that we cannot have the right motives while in disbelief. ( of Christ as mankind’s only redeemer)—–should we not read ALL the Bible says about belief and works ???

  • http://www.facebook.com/tess.adams.35 Tess Adams

    Jesus said “There is no one who does good”. So for an Atheist or anyone who is not born again they have no power to do any good. Jesus also said “our works are as filthy rags”. So it’s only once we have been saved can we do good in God’s eyes.

  • http://ashesfromburntroses.blogspot.com/ Manny

    In fairness to the writer at Huff Post the distinction between “redeemed” and “saved” requires a fair amount of subtle knowledge on the issue. I needed posts such as yours to explain it to me. Now you would think that a writer on religion at a major news site like that would have such knowledge, but in thinking about that I bet a fair amount of religious news reporters at major news institutions don’t have that knowledge. Still that writer should have checked before he wrote. Thanks for spreading the clarification around

  • http://twitter.com/Call_Me_Mom Bel P

    The message here, that atheists should be expected to do good is not logical. Atheists have no absolute moral standard by which to judge good and evil. I wonder if they should even be acknowledging the terms “good” and “evil” since that is the case? In any event, logically, atheists should be expected to do whatever they think will serve them best.

  • akanka

    Your explanation of Papa’s words is a fine example of theological hair splitting. Atheists are said to be redeemed but not saved. What does the redemption consist in then? Why call it redemption? Can one be saved and not saved at the same time?