ROME – Following controversial remarks made by Pope Francis last week in regard to the ability of those of other faiths to do good without Christ, and that Christ has redeemed even atheists, a spokesman from the Vatican has written a blog entry clarifying the Pope’s statements.
As previously reported, in speaking to his audience about his desire for unity, Francis discussed a passage from Mark 9:38-40 where Jesus’ disciples were concerned about a man who was casting out demons in the name of Jesus, but was not one of the twelve.
“Jesus said, ‘Forbid him not, for there is no man which shall do a miracle in My name that can lightly speak evil of Me,’” the Scripture reads. “For he that is not against us is on our part.”
“They complain,” Francis stated of today’s followers of Christ, “if he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good.”
But he asserted that Jesus corrected his disciples.
“Do not hinder him, He says, let him do good,” Francis said.
He stated that the disciples “were a little intolerant” of others, and believed that “those who do not have the truth cannot do good.”
“This was wrong … Jesus broadens the horizon,” Pope Francis contended. “The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation. ”
“The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us,” he continued. “‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can — must! Because he has this commandment within him.”
The Pope specifically cited atheists as he began to discuss that redemption is available is for all mankind.
“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the blood of Christ. All of us, not just Catholics. Everyone!” he declared. “‘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!”
However, in a follow-up blog entry called “The Meaning of Salvation According to Pope Francis,” Vatican spokesman Thomas Rosica is now providing a thorough explanation on the beliefs of the Catholic Church, and asks, “How can atheists be saved?”
“Pope Francis has no intention of provoking a theological debate on the nature of salvation through his homily or scriptural reflection,'” Rusica wrote. “Always keep in mind the audience and context of Pope Francis’ daily homilies. … He is speaking to other Catholics and religious leaders. His knowledge, rooted in deep, Catholic theology and tradition are able to be expressed in a language that everyone can understand and appropriate.”
He then provides text from the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to expound on Roman Catholic beliefs.
“Christ will judge with the power he has gained as the Redeemer of the world who came to bring salvation to all,” the text outlines. “The secrets of hearts will be brought to light as well as the conduct of each one toward God and toward his neighbor. Everyone, according to how he has lived, will either be filled with life or damned for eternity.”
However, the true Church, the text provided by Rusica insists, is only found in the Catholic Church.
“The one Church of Christ, as a society constituted and organized in the world, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him,” it states. “Only through this Church can one obtain the fullness of the means of salvation since the Lord has entrusted all the blessings of the New Covenant to the apostolic college alone whose head is Peter.”
“This means that all salvation comes from Christ, the Head, through the Church which is his body. Hence they cannot be saved who, knowing the Church as founded by Christ and necessary for salvation, would refuse to enter her or remain in her,” it continues.
“At the same time, thanks to Christ and to his Church, those who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ and his Church but sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, try to do his will as it is known through the dictates of conscience can attain eternal salvation,” the quoted text adds.
Rusica then notes that the Catholic Church does not subscribe to a universalist worldview.
“Catholics do not adopt the attitude of religious relativism which regards all religions as on the whole equally justifiable, and the confusion and disorder among them as relatively unimportant,” he said. “God truly and effectively wills all people to be saved. Catholics believe that it is only in Jesus Christ that this salvation is conferred, and through Christianity and the one Church that it must be mediated to all people.”
As previously reported, Pope Francis had made similar statements last month, declaring that “[i]t is not possible to find Jesus outside the Church.”
“The Christian identity is not an identity card: Christian identity is belonging to the Church, because all of these belonged to the Church, the Mother Church,” he said. “Because it is not possible to find Jesus outside the Church. The great Paul VI said: ‘Wanting to live with Jesus without the Church, following Jesus outside of the Church, loving Jesus without the Church is an absurd dichotomy.’”
However, many took issue with these assertions.
“So now we are back to ‘extra Ecclesiam nulla salus’ (no salvation outside the Church),” one reader wrote. “How sad and how offensive!”
“Jesus is the head of the body, and the body has many parts, and many of them aren’t even Roman Catholic,” stated another.
“Any true Christian knows the Catholic church is not needed to find, acknowledge and accept Jesus,” a third reader wrote. “May the Lord have mercy on him and all who think and believe like him.”