What do you say to a grieving boy, who asks you if his father, a recently dead atheist, is in heaven? A little boy asked Pope Francis that question. It’s a tough one — especially coming from that little boy. But, assuming the report is accurate, I don’t think the pope answered it quite correctly.
VIDEO: [CNS] Full clip of little boy asking Pope Francis if his atheist father, who had recently passed away, will now be in heaven?
Both secular and liberal Catholic media are making much of the conversation depicted by Rome Reports. No doubt they see this private talk, which should have been left private, as a tool for advancing the “revolution of mercy.” That’s their nickname for Catholic faith that nudges and winks on sexual ethics and theology. Then thunders dogmatic answers on economics, immigration, and climate science.
During “the pope’s encounter with children from the parish of St. Paul of the Cross,” the following exchange ensued:
“My father has been gone for a short time. He was an atheist, but he baptized his four children. He was a good man. Is Dad in Heaven?”
Seeing the young boy was unable to ask his question, the pope told him to whisper it in his ear. After a few moments of speaking with the child, Pope Francis asked him if he could reveal his question and he said yes.
“Come, come, come.”
“I can’t do it.”
“Come to me, Emanuele. Come and tell me in my ear. Tell me in my ear.”
“If only we could cry like Emanuele when we have pain in our hearts. He cries for his father who died, and had the courage to do so before us because there is love in his heart for his dad.
“My father died a short time ago. He was an atheist, but he baptized his four children. He was a good man. Is dad in Heaven?”
It’s nice that a son says that about his father, that he “was good.” If that man was able to raise his children like that, then he was a good man. God is proud of your father.” Do you think that God would be able to leave a man like him far from Him? Do you think that? Louder, with courage.”
Does God abandon His children?
Does God abandon His children when they are good?
Here, Emanuele, this is the answer. God surely was proud of your father, because it is easier when one is a believer to baptize his children, than to baptize them when you are an unbeliever. Surely God like this so much. Talk to your dad, pray for your dad. Thanks Emanuele for your courage.
It’s unclear from the Rome Reports story whether all of what’s above is meant to be what Pope Francis said. Some may be editorializing on the website’s part. I really can’t tell. But it’s all in the same spirit.
What should we make of this? First, we should push back hard against attempts by secular media or secularizing Christians to present this as a doctrine. “Pope says atheists can be saved if they are ‘good.’” That’s heresy. I wouldn’t even call it Pelagianism, because Pelagius was a Christian. He simply thought that you could be a worthy Christian (i.e., avoid sin, serve the poor, and love both God and your neighbor) by your own human efforts. You didn’t need God’s constant help via grace.
Asserting that good behavior saves atheists is a new teaching entirely. In fact, I’d say it’s part of the broader liberal instinct in Christian circles. I call it Pelagianism with very low standards. Or Mini-Pelagianism. (Think of “Mini-Me” from the Austin Powers movies … a very tiny heretic.)
This article continues at [The Stream] Do ‘Good’ Atheists Go to Heaven?