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Did Pope Francis say that avowed atheists who do good works are saved and go to heaven?

Scott Hahn's take in FaceBook: Lots of people are criticizing Pope Francis' teaching earlier this week, as if he's deviating from the Church's teaching on the need to proclaim the good news... Contrary to what you may read in the media, please notice, nowhere does he even suggest - much less teach - that avowed atheists are saved. Instead, what he actually says is so obviously true and open to a perfectly fair and benign reading:

1. We shouldn't be so critical of outsiders that we don't allow ourselves to see or acknowledge whatever good they do, or truth they affirm (even atheists).

2. Christ didn't die to save only catholics/christians, but everybody (even atheists).

3. Since all are redeemed by Christ - at least potentially - we should be looking for ways to build bridges with them in order to actualize that redemptive potential, by showing them that whatever truth and goodness they embrace comes from - and leads to - Christ.

9 Answers

  • 7 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    While you are correct that man cannot save himself, that does not mean that God cannot choose to save someone who is unable in conscience to believe God exists but lives as best he can according to the knowledge he does have.

    Pope Francis simply reaffirmed the Catholic teaching that non-Catholics are not invariably damned, as far as we know.

    Gaudium et Spes, a document of the Second Vatican Council, stated about atheism:


    Undeniably, those who willfully shut out God from their hearts and try to dodge religious questions are not following the dictates of their consciences, and hence are not free of blame; yet believers themselves frequently bear some responsibility for this situation. For, taken as a whole, atheism is not a spontaneous development but stems from a variety of causes, including a critical reaction against religious beliefs, and in some places against the Christian religion in particular. Hence believers can have more than a little to do with the birth of atheism. To the extent that they neglect their own training in the faith, or teach erroneous doctrine, or are deficient in their religious, moral, or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than reveal the authentic face of God and religion (GS 19).

    This section implies that the culpability for atheism is not necessarily entirely the individual atheist's. To the extent that belief in God has been made impossible for him by others, there may be some mitigation for his culpability for unbelief. For the atheist, ultimately we must trust that even he too is not beyond the reach of God's mercy if he strives to live morally.

    The second great commandment is love of neighbor and Christ said of those who serve others, even if they do not explicitly do it for Christ's own sake:


    Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?" And the King will answer them, "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me" (Matt. 25:37-40).

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  • Tzadiq
    Lv 6
    7 years ago

    Actually after looking at it.. No Bruce that is not what he said. Every indication is that apart from Yeshua or even apart from God men may receive salvation. This is biblically inaccurate.

    You see I've had dealings with the Catholic church. That is not their teaching. In fact their teaching is that if you are not Catholic you are damned. I've been faithfully married to my wife for 38 years. We are both the only sexual partner that either of us have ever known. So by every biblical definition we are about a married as married can get. However My wife and I and my children are all damned and its put in our face by her Catholic family because she married outside the Catholic church and we refused to raise our children catholic.

    I find it odd that one of the atheist here thinks it great the the Pope put Christ back into Christianity when the dope doesn't even know who God or Yeshua is and certianly professes not to believe in the existance of either. Really Bruce That speaks volumns about the man that those on his side and who most often are quoting him now are godless heathen.

    What the Pope said is diametracally opposed to modern Christianity and even scripture which by the way are not the same. Modern Christianity teaches that Now is the day of salvation. If you do not accept Yeshua NOW you go to hell (a false doctrine through and through ending in the fact there is no hell)

    The scripture says that those who are saved in this live.. that is those who have the testemony of Yeshua AND keep the commandments of God will be raised up in the first resurrection with a better reward.. those who are disobedient or the just plain Godless will be raised up in the second resurrection after the 1000 year reign of Messiah and will be offered salvation through Yeshua and every indication is they will go through yet another life with their minds open. They will still be able to choose life or death but the blinders will have been removed.

    Yes the majority of the world is blind because they believe the lies generated by this satanic world. Yes atheist will have a chance for salvation at some point but so will catholics who belong the the mother of all whores (corrupt false religions) the catholic church and so will all her little slut daughters the protestants. Mainstream Christianity in no way resembles what God intended the church to be via the scriptures.

    God is a just God. If I walk my life according to his commands and faithfully follow him will he give the same reward to those who devote their life to blaspheming his name by action or word? Is that Just?

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  • 7 years ago

    strange as atheists dont believe in God, and good works does make a mockery of Christ's redeeming work, and then there is this, Only one life, it will soon be past. Only what is done for Christ will last. It is mentioned that at judgment, those who did not confess Christ as Lord and saviour, will be judged according to their works. But then the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Look at the aboriginal schools, people thought they were doing good works seperating the children from their families and molesting them. and did those priests believe they were doing good works, and what about the pope covering everything up so the donations to the church would not stop coming in this is good works?

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  • 7 years ago

    Well, it's more like him saying that good people of all faiths (and lack of faith) can escape Hell. If the Catholic church acknowledged Paul's teachings about three glorious resurrections and at least five glorious rewards among them, people would understand the pope's statements better.

    But better late than never. My church has been teaching that since 1830.

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  • 7 years ago

    Even most genuine Christians do not have the hope of going to heaven.

    In the United States there is a city, Washington D.C. where the seat of government is located. How many people make up the government? Besides the President and Vice-President there are 535 members of the congress and 9 members of the Supreme Court. That's all out of over 315,000,000 citizens. God's government, or Kingdom, has a seat of authority in heaven, and only a small limited number of humans will be chosen to serve God and mankind there as Kings and Priests with Jesus. The rest of the subjects of God's Kingdom will live right here on the earth.

    (Revelation 1:6) 6 and he made us to be a kingdom, priests to his God and Father—yes, to him be the glory and the might forever. Amen.

    (Revelation 7:4) 4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed, a hundred and forty-four thousand, sealed out of every tribe of the sons of Israel:

    (Revelation 7:9) 9 After these things I saw, and, look! a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, dressed in white robes; and there were palm branches in their hands.

    (Revelation 14:1) 14 And I saw, and, look! the Lamb standing upon the Mount Zion, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand having his name and the name of his Father written on their foreheads.

    (Revelation 14:4) . . .These were bought from among mankind as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb,

    In ancient times the firstfruits were given to God for his service, while the rest of the harvest was for the people to use. God himself chooses who will serve him and where. Those of the “firstfruits” will also be resurrected first. The rest of the “unrighteous” and the “righteous” ( Acts 24:15) will be resurrected to live here on the earth and restore it to a paradise.

    (Matthew 5:5) 5 “Happy are the mild-tempered ones, since they will inherit the earth.

    (Psalm 37:10, 11) 10 And just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more; And you will certainly give attention to his place, and he will not be. 11 But the meek ones themselves will possess the earth, And they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.

    (Psalm 37:29) 29 The righteous themselves will possess the earth, And they will reside forever upon it.

    In the model prayer Jesus did not tell us to pray to go to God's Kingdom, but for it to come to us and do God's will here on earth.

    (Matthew 6:10) 10 Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.

    (Daniel 2:44) 44 “And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite;

    Jehovah's purpose in creating the earth was for humans to live on it and to take care of the earth.

    (Isaiah 45:18) 18 For this is what Jehovah has said, the Creator of the heavens, He the [true] God, the Former of the earth and the Maker of it, He the One who firmly established it, who did not create it simply for nothing, who formed it even to be inhabited: “I am Jehovah, and there is no one else.

    (Genesis 1:28) 28 Further, God blessed them and God said to them: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it, and have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is moving upon the earth.”

    (Genesis 2:15) 15 And Jehovah God proceeded to take the man and settle him in the garden of E′den to cultivate it and to take care of it.

    (Psalm 115:16) 16 As regards the heavens, to Jehovah the heavens belong, But the earth he has given to the sons of men.

    On the earth is where most of us hope to live, and personally I would like to be here where all the beautiful flowers, soft furry animals, and wonderful scenic vistas are located.

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  • Anonymous
    7 years ago

    Maybe and it is certainly an interesting idea. Or maybe good deeds are just the start. More:

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  • 7 years ago

    As I said in an earlier post, it is good to see Francis trying to put Christ back in Christianity. It serves us all well.

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  • 7 years ago

    A lot of pious mumbo jumbo. Even he does not believe what he said. It just sounds good for the public

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  • Anonymous
    7 years ago

    The Catholic Church says that is exactly what he said

    I realize you might not like it, but he did say it.

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