Media Claims Pope Gave Atheists Pass into Heaven
Pope Francis made waves on Wednesday when he said that atheists can do good; but some media headlines jumped on the chance to portray the new pontiff as bucking Church teaching.
Preaching on Christ‚Äôs words that ‚ÄúWhoever is not against us is for us,‚ÄĚ Pope Francis emphasized that Christ died to redeem all men, ‚Äúeven atheists,‚ÄĚ and insisted we can‚Äôt assume non-believers cannot do good. Such people can do good, he said, and ‚Äúmust,‚ÄĚ because of ‚Äúthis commandment at heart: do good and avoid evil.‚ÄĚ
In fact, it seems Francis wasn‚Äôt going to let atheists off the hook if they failed to do good just because they don‚Äôt believe in God: ‚ÄúWe must meet one another doing good,‚ÄĚ he said, and answered the hypothetical question, ‚ÄúBut I don‚Äôt believe, Father, I am an atheist!‚Äô‚ÄĚ with the emphatic reply: ‚ÄúBut do good: we will meet one another there.‚ÄĚ His words were consistent with Church teaching that God offers redemption to all and each individual must choose to accept it.
Of course, that‚Äôs not how some media outlets saw it. Judging by the headlines, one would think the Pope just cut 2,000 years of Catholic doctrine out of the books. The Huffington Post announced Francis had declared atheists ‚Äúredeemed,‚Äú and claimed the Pope‚Äôs homily ‚Äúrocked some religious and atheist minds today.‚ÄĚ Salon‚Äôs took it a step further, saying that Francis thought ‚ÄúAtheists Are Alright,‚ÄĚ telling atheists that the Pope is ‚Äúon their side‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúthat‚Äôs a cool thing for all of us.‚ÄĚ MsnNOW headlines read that ‚ÄúPope Lets Atheists Off The Hook‚ÄĚ and that the ‚Äúbig guy in the sky‚ÄĚ is really ‚Äúok with everybody.‚ÄĚ The Gawker joined the crowd and declared: ‚ÄúPope Says Atheists Are A-Ok By God.‚ÄĚ
But that wasn‚Äôt the worst of it. Bill Press on Al-Jazeera‚Äôs Current-TV mocked the Pope‚Äôs words. ‚ÄúPope Francis said, anybody can go to heaven--even atheists!‚ÄĚ he laughed, ‚ÄúWell, then, what‚Äôs the point?‚ÄĚ Press claimed that the Pope‚Äôs words got rid of ‚Äúall the ‚Äėtra la la‚Äô of going to church and doing the ceremonies and giving money to the church.‚ÄĚ
No matter to the media, of course, that Pope Francis basically repeated Church doctrine--that God ‚Äúdesires all men to be saved‚ÄĚ (1 Tim 2:4)--and what Jesus Christ said in the Gospel for the Wednesday Mass--that ‚Äúwhoever is not against us is for us‚ÄĚ (Mark 9:40), so if an atheist is doing good deeds he shouldn‚Äôt be shunned.