Thursday, May 23, 2013

Pope Francis - Atheists who are Good

Pope Francis shocked the world recently by implying that atheists can go to Heaven if they are good. This is no shock to Catholics who are well versed in their faith.  While the Catholic Church is the sole beacon from which one can be saved in Jesus Christ, she is not the only means Christ uses.  Those who are good and through no fault of their own did not hear of Christ or His Catholic Church can go to heaven.  However, this does not apply to atheists who do evil and uncharitable things, or those who reject God.  

The Catechism states the following:

839 "Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways."325

"Outside the Church there is no salvation"
846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers?335 Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:
Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.336

847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:
Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.337

848 "Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men."338

As you can see clearly, God will not hold anyone accountable for not hearing the Word of God for whatever reason.  There are still areas that the Church has not reached completely.  People in those areas have no fault of this and therefore do not merit damnation unless they lived lives that were not good.  Similarly, atheists who are good, help others, donate, volunteer, treat others with love and respect can possibly go to Heaven even if they did not believe in God, granted they were not hostile against Him or rejected Him after learning of Him.   

Jesus Himself died for everyone.  He redeemed all peoples in every place and time. (1 Timothy 2:6)  Jesus is the one who saves people.  He did not come for the Jews, for Catholics, Muslims or whatever; He came for ALL peoples.  Moreover, Jesus says that He has others who do not belong to His main flock in the Catholic Church. (John 10:6)  These sheep hear His voice and follow even if they are not part of the main flock. Obviously, these sheep are the good people in other religions including agnostics and atheists.  

Unfortunately, many atheists are under the impression that they are damned.  They are often told that God hates them and they are "heathens" who will burn in hell for eternity.  This idea comes from Protestantism Fundamentalism which often berates atheists as people who are evil and have no redemption.  Catholicism, which is Christ's One and Only True religion does not teach this nor does it advocate this hate.  Jesus came for all.  He died for all.  Jesus did not come to condemn anyone but to bring salvation. (John 3:17)  This is a verse perhaps Protestant fundamentalists skipped.

God is a Father who wants all of His children to be with Him enjoying the bliss of Heaven.  He would not have sent His Son Christ to die for mere primates if He did not value each one of them.  Whether atheists believe in God or not does not take away from the fact that they belong to Him.  Atheism is part of faith. Many saints have gone through periods of atheism during their spiritual journey.  

I personally believe that atheists of today exist because of a lack of proper Christian education.  Some clergy, religious sisters and brothers, and lay people in teaching positions have abused their authority and taught ideas that are not Catholic.  Because of this, people become atheists after not receiving proper knowledge in regards to faith.  The faith they were taught is irrational and silly.  Furthermore, scandals or bad behavior in the Church can contribute to someone becoming an atheist.  We must all imitiate Christ and not our fallen human nature in order to prevent this.  Nevertheless, atheists still have a desire to know of God.  I write on this in my post, Why do Atheists care about God?      

Pope Francis with his words is merely reminding us that Christ's love has no limits.  He will not deny those who do good even if they did not believe in Him or were never informed.  However, those who do learn of Him and still reject Him are out of luck.   


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