'The Lord has redeemed all of us ... even the atheists'

'The Lord has redeemed all of us ... even the atheists'

                Pope Francis greets pilgrims at his general audience

One of the hallmarks of Pope Francis’ still-young pontificate is its emphasis on non-exclusivity. He seems convinced that the church, in what it says and does to promote the Gospel, must broaden its appeal and expand its dialogue with others.

At this morning’s morning Mass in the Vatican guest house, the pope elaborated on that theme, saying that “doing good” is a principle that provides a meeting ground between Christians and non-Christians – even atheists.

"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!” the pope said.

His words should challenge all Catholics, but especially those who want to use identity politics to rule out cooperation and communication with those who do not share the church’s beliefs.

Pope Francis began his reflection with the Gospel account of Christ’s disciples trying to stop a man from outside their group from doing good. Vatican Radio reports on what the pope went on to say:

“They complain … ‘If he is not one of us, he cannot do good. If he is not of our party, he cannot do good.’ And Jesus corrects them: ‘Do not hinder him, he says, let him do good.’”

The disciples, Pope Francis explained, “were a little intolerant,” closed off by the idea of possessing the truth, convinced that “those who do not have the truth, cannot do good.”

“This was wrong . . . Jesus broadens the horizon. 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. ‘But, Father, this person is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him.”

“Instead, this ‘closing off’ that imagines that those outside, everyone, cannot do good is a wall that leads to war and also to what some people throughout history have conceived of: killing in the name of God. That we can kill in the name of God. And that, simply, is blasphemy. To say that you can kill in the name of God is blasphemy.”

“The Lord has created us in His image and likeness, and has given us this commandment in the depths of our heart: do good and do not do evil”:

"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.”

“Doing good” the pope said, is not a matter of faith. “It is a duty, it is an identity card that our Father has given to all of us, because He has made us in His image and likeness. And He does good, always.”

22 comments (Add your own)

1. Lowell Rinker wrote:
As a life-long Catholic who has been often disappointed in his Church, I keep expecting the bubble to burst....not wanting it to, of course....just expecting it.

But once again, Pope Francis is showing himself as the right man to lead our church....he is transcending the traditional roles and definitions....he is becoming a source of healing; it's a great time to be a Catholic....it's a great time to be a Christian....it's a great time to be a follower of God in any form.

Wed, May 22, 2013 @ 8:59 AM

2. Fran Rossi Szpylczyn wrote:
All means all - it is as simple as that. These are words that I take to heart, as I sit at my little desk, as parish secretary, welcoming all as Christ. All. I often feel a hardness in my heart, I fail more often than I care to admit. But the call for all is just that. This news does my heart good - this news does much more, it serves Christ as Lord of... all.

Wed, May 22, 2013 @ 11:01 AM

3. C. deVille wrote:
Pope Francis is wonderful and challenging...I am not sure what the author means by "Challenging all Catholics....those who use identity politics to rule out cooperation..."

I wish Mr. Thavis was more clear - I agree with Francis that killing in the name of God is blasphemy and we should strive to make doing good our Catholic calling card - I try and fail but keep trying.

But dropping that little bomb of "identity politics" could mean anything...do you mean Church should participate and pay for abortion to "do good" and supply "health care" for example? or change teaching on any number of issues that the secular world is pressuring us about - so people will like us more?

I agree some Catholics in some places can be "unwelcoming" - My own family left the faith for two generations because of a heartless cruel person who was the parish priest...and we all need to strive to do more good in the world - Francis has been amazing teaching us this...He also preaches about the reality of "The Enemy" and hell - so not all rainbows:)

I apologize if I am leaping to the wrong conclusion...but it sounds like the old trap of framing discussions of the Church in modern, western, US political terms...I hope not...but if that sentence was more clear I wouldn't have to wonder and fill in the blanks myself..

I am a fan of Mr. Thavis, bought his book and and mean no disrespect. Just wondering what he thinks the particular "challenge" that he speaks of - is....

Wed, May 22, 2013 @ 1:22 PM

4. Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh wrote:
How refreshing that Pope Francis agrees that Jesus died for us "all", and not just for "the many" as the new reform of the reform Mass translation says.

I love that Jesuit (Ignatian) Spirituality is so inclusive. Karl Rahner, S.J. made it clear that we can all be mystics. We do not have to become a Teresa of Avila or John of the Cross. God communicates God's self to each of us: lay people and ordained, women and men, married and single, straight and gay.

I am hopeful that the spirit of Vatican II will return to the Roman Catholic Church under the leadership of Pope Francis.

Wed, May 22, 2013 @ 2:20 PM

5. RadTrad wrote:
Sounds like an ecumenical banality. Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Hindu, it's all the same. Attend any religious gathering you want. They all lead to the same destination. Blah, blah, blah. Look for the return of the felt banners and kum-bah-yah at services.
(NOTE: I did not use the word "Mass" on purpose. The Mass has not been held since 1965.)
Any guess why Catholicism is dwindling in the US?

Wed, May 22, 2013 @ 2:40 PM

6. Jhalmos wrote:
That "even the atheists" has to be made a special point, doesn't say much for Catholicism's past. Nice to see the Popeship finally stepping up and walking the walk.

Wed, May 22, 2013 @ 3:13 PM

7. Frank Rega wrote:
Already I have received an email saying that the Pope spoke heresy, but he is correct. Redemption and salvation are two different concepts. All have been redeemed (He gave Himself as a ransom for all), but any who reject that redemption of their own free will, and sin without repentance, are not saved.

Wed, May 22, 2013 @ 5:43 PM

8. Jeff wrote:
I don't understand the misconception that some people have that you have the believe in a deity to do good. As an atheist, I can tell you this is simply not true. I do regular charity work, and do as much as I can to help my fellow man. Religion does not have a monopoly on morality.

Wed, May 22, 2013 @ 5:44 PM

9. Brian O'Neel wrote:
I hope the Pope will provide us with some distinctions. The Church has always been clear that Christ died for all and, yes, that all can do good. However, the application will only be pro multis , "for many," as not all will accept salvation. Not all will accept Christ. The Gospels are very clear that not all will be saved. Seeing comments such as those left by Fran and Lowell, with all due respect and no offense intended, I think only shows that by not making distinctions, His Holiness is confirming many in the syncretic errors that have been so prevalent in the past few decades and which have led to the dimunition of a once thriving Church (pace Shaw et al).

Wed, May 22, 2013 @ 6:03 PM

10. Brian wrote:
I am concerned by the Pope's comments. He continues a pattern of informality and imprecision that opens his words to more than one interpretation. Often, the media runs with the interpretation that insidiously undermines Catholic teaching. In this homily, for example, one might think that the Pope means that all have been saved, even those who have rejected Christ and his Church. That is obviously not Catholic teaching, but you have headlines implying exactly that. It will only lead to more indifferentism and less good in the world.

Wed, May 22, 2013 @ 8:16 PM

11. Bob Zyskowski wrote:
Almost makes one wonder how long it will take before we English speakers are back to acknowledging at Mass that Christ died for all, not the "many" that the new Roman Missal mistakenly declares.

Wed, May 22, 2013 @ 8:17 PM

12. Lance Boecker wrote:

What do you base your comment on that the new Roman Missal mistakenly translates pro multis as for many instead of as for all as you claim it should be?

Was the translation incorrect for 400+ years, corrected for 40+, and then incorrectly translated back two years ago?

Also, the translation applies to salvation not redemption, but it is confusing which is why I agree with some people above that the Pope needs to speak with greater clarity and make dustinctions.



Wed, May 22, 2013 @ 10:19 PM

13. Johannes de Silentio wrote:
Mr. Rega is correct and, therefore, what the Pope has said is nothing new or novel, but perfectly orthodox. It is of course troubling but inevitable that the media insists on deceptively framing his words and juxtaposing them against his worthy predecessor in order to mislead their audience.

Thu, May 23, 2013 @ 12:02 AM

14. Gerard Koe wrote:
I believe Pope francis is inclined towards the position of apocathastasis or universal salvation, the belief that eventually all will return to the oneness of God . Even those who in this lifetime are indifferent or who as atheists might even reject belief in GOd. God in his infinite wisdom and compassion will continue offering them his redemptive and atoning grace and other lifetimes of opportunity to achieve theosis or awakening to our divine spark within each of us. As such Francis is confident that our compassionate God will find ways for even atheists in this lifetime or future lifetimes to eventually open themselves to grace, salvation/ redemption and ultimate oneness with him. I believe the previous popes were also inclined towards this theological position which was originally thought by Origen, and espoused by many other church fathers like gregory of naziensus, Maximus the confessor and others, including more modern mega theologians like balthazar, rahner and numerous others.

Thu, May 23, 2013 @ 2:10 AM

15. Father Gabriel OP wrote:
Pope Francis cannot contradict his predecessors and the whole Christian Tradition which explicitly professes that Jesus Christ, by his death on the Cross and Resurrection, has in fact OBJECTIVELY redeemed the whole of creation. However, salvation is NOT automatic, in the sense that God having created IN FREEDOM humanity will not save us without US ASSENTING FREELY to His redemption in Christ and living it out. This is why the SUBJECTIVE dimension of Redemption is absolutely needed. As St. Paul expresses it in his way in Romans 10:9-10: "For if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved". Pope Francis was merely saying that "doing good" is not the monopoly of Christians, but of everyone because God has created us in His image and likeness and therefore "even atheists" can be good and often are very good and that is a great "meeting point" of fruitful dialogue between the Church and atheists. So Huffington Post is more or less twisting what Pope Francis has said which is what the Catholic Church has always believed and affirmed.

Thu, May 23, 2013 @ 2:42 AM

16. Gerard Mpls. wrote:
To add to Bob Zyskowski's comment, I think there are a number of English words and phrases that need revisiting in the new Roman Missal. The whole translation project is the unfortunate outcome of overly pious, non-consultative prelates hell-bent on restoring a precise Latin translation—with no regard for cadence and meaning. Hopefully Francis will fix all this soon.

Thu, May 23, 2013 @ 5:45 AM

17. Darren wrote:
@Bob Zyskowski - Well you can stop wondering and go find out what the "many" the new Roman Missal really means because it definitely does not mean that Christ did not die for "all" of us as you seem to think it does. You can start by reading Brian O Neel's comments above.

Thu, May 23, 2013 @ 6:18 AM

18. Lance Boecker wrote:
@Gerard Mpls.,

I admit that some of the cadence is a bit difficult in the latest translation. That can be overcome with time and practice which seems to be occurring.

More importantly is your claim that the most recent translation is less true to the meaning of the Latin version. I would argue strenuously that is not the case and it is why the most recent translation was put in place. Can you provide some evidence to indicate where the most recent translation is less true to the original Latin meaning?


Lance Boecker

Thu, May 23, 2013 @ 8:55 AM

19. John wrote:
If Christ died for all then all are saved. This is a form of universalism which the Scripture does not teach. Non-believers are not the children of God. Only those who put their faith in Christ are.

Thu, May 23, 2013 @ 9:59 AM

20. Rob B. wrote:
To Jeff:

The fact that you are an atheist who does good raises the question of Who or What defines "the good." You obviously do not believe in moral relativism or you would not say that you "do good." If there are acts that are objectively moral or immoral, then Who set those standards? It cannot be "society," since society is simply an aggregate of human individuals (which would mean moral relativism writ large). So Who?

Thu, May 23, 2013 @ 11:02 AM

21. C. deVille wrote:
@John - Christ did die for "All"...he redeemed all of mankind from original sin...Not ALL will accept it - many reject it...

Redemption and Salvation are two different things - He is saying that we have to "see Christ" in others - we are all made in God's image - we are ALL OFFERED salvation...

Along with others here - I worry that media and wishfull thinkers will twist that into "Pope says all are saved", that is not what he said at all...I'm sure he will follow up - He has a lot to say..

He did get a conversation going with people who would not listen to him or the Church before - maybe he's evangelizing.. :)

Thu, May 23, 2013 @ 12:38 PM

22. Gerard Mpls. wrote:
@Lance Boecker. Thanks for your reply to my comment.

I would agree with you that the New Roman Missal translation is more literally accurate to the original Latin. But I think a bigger question needs to be asked about the unquestioning allegiance to Latin in the first place. Since I'm not a liturgical expert, I found a couple of helpful excerpts from Donald Trautman, Bishop Emeritus of the Diocese of Erie, when speaking on October 22, 2009, to an audience at Catholic University of America about the New Roman Missal -- as follows:

"The Latin text is not inspired. It is a human text, reflecting a certain mind-set, theology, and world view. There are good Latin texts -- balanced, carefully crafted -- and there are bad Latin texts -- convoluted, lengthy, complicated, abstract -- that become a translator's herculean task. Because of literal translation in the New Missal, complicated Latin wording has become complicated English wording...

"In the New Missal all prayers, originally composed in English, are banned. This gives the impression that original vernacular prayers are less holy, less pleasing to God, than Latin. We need to remember that the original liturgical language of the Church was not Latin, but the vernacular...."

From a pastoral perspective, I would say that the Church's love for Latin shouldn't supersede a congregation's ability to participate fully in the Mass. I hope this helps you see my perspective. Thanks again.

Thu, May 23, 2013 @ 2:37 PM

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