Tuesday, 28 May 2013

**Pope on salvation: just to be clear, atheists and apostates are going to hell!

You may or may not have caught the last round of the Christ died 'for all' versus 'for many' debate, this time triggered by some comments made by Pope Francis in one of his daily homilies.

Well now the Vatican has issued a clarifying statement, to make it clear that people who aware of the Catholic church cannot be saved if they refuse to enter her or remain in her.

The offer of salvation has to be accepted!

The original media storm was triggered by these reported comments:

"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!

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."

I didn't bother reporting on it, since it was pretty obviously a storm in a teacup: there is a big difference between asserting that Christ died for all (which is dogma), we all have a duty to do good (the natural law), and asserting that we are all saved (hence the 'for many' words in the Mass).

In short, yes, Christ died for all.

Yes, that offer is open to everyone, no-one is excluded.  Indeed, we should pray hard that every hardened atheist we know has a deathbed (or earlier!) conversion.

There is a critical requirement though, for salvation, namely our co-operation, for God has given us the gift of free will, and that includes the right to reject the offer to be with him for ever in heaven.

Though Christ reopened the way to heaven and invites us to join him there, we have to respond, we have to accept that invitation.  To repeat a quote from St Augustine I cited recently, 'God created you without you but he will not save you without you'.

Thankfully, a Vatican spokesperson, Fr Rosica has now formally clarified just these basic points.

How authoritative are these sermonettes?

Pope Francis' daily sermons are providing rich ground for some restatements of basic truths of the faith, and a fresh emphasis on the realities of Christian life, such as the daily struggle with Satan.

And while I for one loved the theological richness of many of Pope Benedict XVI's sermons, these clear cut, simply put sermonettes are often refreshing in their directness.  For a traditionalist at least, they often seem attractive in their rejection of wishy washy evasions and 'nuance' that has so often prevailed in recent years in many places.

This whole affair, though it certainly does illustrate the problems that can be caused by the selective way in which the Popes ferverinos are released, and the lack of appropriate context for some of the comments.

In particular, rather than the full transcript of the actual sermon being released (tidied up if necessary given they are delivered off the cuff), all we get is a few selected paragraphs courtesy of Vatican Radio.  Often that's fine; sometimes though, it makes it difficult to know what he was really trying to get at.  A bit of refinement of the media strategy would seem warranted.

**Vatican on Pope Francis' sermonettes

And on this subject, the Vatican has issued an explanation of the reasons for only releasing summaries of the sermonettes, and explained that they are of a lower level of authority than his more formal presentations.

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