To What Religion Does Your God Belong?

In an interview by Eugenio Scalfari, a Catholic-turned-atheist and now editor of the Italian paper La Repubblica, Pope Francis was quoted as saying, “I believe in God, not in a Catholic God. There is no Catholic God, there is God and I believe in Jesus Christ, his incarnation. . .”

Whoa! The Pope said that? Well, since the words have been printed on newspapers, magazines and in online articles, and with no denial from the Pope himself or from the Vatican, then he must have really said them.

To an average Catholic, these words can have a mind-blowing and shocking effect; to a non-Catholic, these words can be a statement to feast on, a chance to accuse the Catholic Church of going against its very own foundation, while the Pope, of being heretical.

Sadly, due to the interview (plus two other interviews, as well as to some of the contents of his homilies), he has been called names. In fact, in one website and in just one article, he had been called His Phoniness, the Unholy Impostor, Antipope Francis and Chaos Frank.

There were many other questions that the Pope answered during the interview, a couple of those are quoted below:

  • “Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us.” “. . . to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.”
  • “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! 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.” “Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is Good.”

Now, what is wrong with these answers? What is heretical about them? Should the Catholic proselytize, that is, urge non- Catholics to convert to Catholicism? Or was our Lord Jesus Christ’s death meant to redeem only the Catholics?

In the Acts of the Apostles 8:26-27, Philip, who was on the road to Gaza, was commanded by the Spirit to “Go and catch up with that carriage.” Inside that carriage was an Ethiopian eunuch reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah. The eunuch invited Philip into his carriage to explain to him what the words of Isaiah meant; he was converted and baptized before the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away from his sight.

Another story tells about how St. Dominic debated all night with an Albigensian heretic inn-keeper, explaining to him the doctrines of the Catholic faith. In the morning, the heretic was found on his knees, repentant and brought back to the faith.

In both stories conversion took place, without any direct intention to proselytize. Couldn’t this be what Pope Francis really meant when he said that we should know, listen to each other and “improve our knowledge of the world around us?” And with regard to atheists, are they excluded from the redemptive act of Jesus? Certainly not! But why could have the Pope said, “encourage people to move towards what they think is Good?” Wouldn’t this be relativism, that is, good being subjective? If we have been created in the image and likeness of God, then surely, we would inherently know what goodness is and will be drawn towards it like we are drawn towards God.

The words of Pope Francis contained no heresies; yes, they were intriguing, but surely not heretical. Thinking deeply about everything he said, a discerning Catholic would see that his words were borne of knowledge inspired by faith. And, had he said anything heretical, wouldn’t the Catholic Church be the first to condemn him?

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