The Vatican spokesperson did offer one advance on one point of what was formerly official Catholic doctrine. He said: "No person is excluded from salvation simply because of so-called original sin; one can only lose their salvation through serious personal sin of their own account." (Of course, not choosing to be a Catholic, if you know about the possibility of being a Catholic, would be considered such a sin.)
When I was a child, I was told in no uncertain terms that Original Sin stained the soul of every living being at birth, and the only way to remove it—which was necessary to get into heaven—was through baptism into the Catholic faith. Babies who for some sad reason died before they could be baptized would not be sent to hell (for they clearly could not have committed any damning offenses), but could not go to heaven, either, because they had not been released from Original Sin. So, Catholic theologians have said through the years that they were sent to a place called Limbo.
I am not making this up. This is what I was told as a child, and what Catholics have been told for centuries. The Church itself has never issued a formal declaration of doctrine of the fate of unbaptized babies. It is one of the Great Unanswered Questions about What God Wants.
Now an opinion, please.
In the book What God WantsI have written that there is nothing that our Deity wants, requires, or demands. Indeed, throughout the 3,000-page dialogue of Conversations with God (CWG) it is confirmed that Pope Francis was correct in the first instance. It fact, CWG goes further than the brave new pontiff, announcing that even so-called "sinners" enter heaven. In other words, it's not even necessary to "do good" to be redeemed. All souls migrate back to heaven after death, the dialogue says.
There are three reasons why this is true, CWG declares. First, it is impossible to damage, hurt, or offend God in any way. Therefore, God has no reason to judge us or punish us for anything. Second, there is no separation between God and any manifestation of life. That is, God and we are One. Therefore, God would be punishing himself if God sent any of God's creatures to a place of everlasting torture. Third, and finally, there is no such place as hell in any event, and the personification of evil who we have variously called Satan, Lucifer, or the Devil does not exist.
The entire paragraph above would be described as blasphemy, of course, by most of the world's religions, which depend on the existence of a place of eternal torture and the possibility of us being sent there after death as the only real "magnet" attracting humans to certain religions, and the only real "guard" against out-of-control human behaviors.
Yet Conversations with God offers us an invitation to consider the possibility that there is something we may not fully understand about God and about Life, the understanding of which would change everything. The question is, would it be good for the human to embrace the notion of a non-judgmental, non-condemning God? And what would be the point of even having a God if it was not to give us firm rules on Right and Wrong, and punish us if we disobey those rules and do not seek forgiveness (or even do seek forgiveness, but through a "wrong" church or belief system)?
These are just two of the major questions that humanity is likely to be facing in the years just before us as circumstances, events, and conditions on-the-ground increasingly invite our species to reassess, at last, its long-held beliefs about Deity, as well as the purpose and function of life. As life on the Earth presents us with more and more turmoil (seventeen more tornados in Oklahoma just days after its devastation from a massive one . . . ongoing killing in Syria as Russia sends jet fighters to the regime presently in power . . . nine hundred protestors detained in Turkey . . . financial crisis predicted for the global economy . . . 4000 Baptist churches shutting down their Boy Scout troops in America because of its decision to accept gay youths in its membership), a new and deep exploration of just what is so about God and Life is now urgently in order.
On the Today show some years ago Matt Lauer asked me if I could put God's message to the world in one paragraph for him. I told him I could do it in five words. That message: You've got me all wrong.
We'll be discussing whether this could be true, and exploring other critical aspects of humanity's current Cultural Story, in the weeks ahead in the blog, Conversations with God and Its Application in Daily Life, here at Patheos.com. I invite you to join us.