Atheists in heaven? Vatican spin machine leaps into action

CATEGORY: ReligionRemember back in the ’80s when Ronald Reagan would ramble on in front of a crowd, saying all kinds of crazy shit? And immediately after, the reporters would turn to his handlers, who would explain that the president hadn’t said what he just said, that he had in fact said the exact opposite? That’s where the term “spin” came from, and boy, were those the days.

Yesterday we reported on the latest from Pope Francis, who told a crowd this week that even atheists could go to heaven. At least, that’s what everybody thinks he said. I mean, read what he said.

You knew it was too good to be true. While The Gipper His Holiness does appear to have made it through the night without being assassinated, he has certainly not escaped without a tongue-lashing from the apparatchiks he reports to. And today, the Vatican trotted out a spin doctor – actually, I guess he’d be a spin priest, instead of a doctor, huh? – to explain that the pope didn’t say what he said.

The Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman, said that people who [are] aware of the Catholic church “cannot be saved” if they “refuse to enter her or remain in her.”

Ummm. No, that’s what he said. Moving on.

At the same time, Rosica writes, “every man or woman, whatever their situation, can be saved. Even non-Christians can respond to this saving action of the Spirit. No person is excluded from salvation simply because of so-called original sin.”

Rosica also said that Francis had “no intention of provoking a theological debate on the nature of salvation,” during his homily on Wednesday.

Although the pope’s comments about salvation surprised some, bishops and experts in Catholicism say Francis was expressing a core tenant [sic] of the faith.

“Francis was clear that whatever graces are offered to atheists (such that they may be saved) are from Christ,” the Rev. John Zuhlsdorf, a conservative Catholic priest, wrote on his blog.

“He was clear that salvation is only through Christ’s Sacrifice. In other words, he is not suggesting – and I think some are taking it this way – that you can be saved, get to heaven, without Christ.”

Chad Pecknold, an assistant professor of theology at the Catholic University of America, agreed with Zuhlsdorf, pointing out that the pope’s comments came on the Feast of Saint Rita, the Catholic patron saint of impossible things.

So, to sum up, when Francis said that atheists can be redeemed if they do good works, what he meant was that they can’t redeemed by good works unless they stop being atheists? Is that about right?

No word on whether all dogs go to heaven yet, however.

You’re probably confused. I know I am. But that’s okay. The good news here is that we’re entering a new golden age of spin. (Not that the last couple of decades haven’t been pretty fucking remarkable on that front.) Francis is the new Reagan, and with any luck we’re going to get a new sitcom episode every time he opens his mouth.

Enjoy. And now, I’m off to re-read “The Grand Inquisitor.”


  • Pingback: UPDATED: Pope Francis says atheists can go to heaven: Sweet Jesus! The College of Cardinals done elected a hippie | Scholars and Rogues

  • When I pop my clogs and am proven wrong by Jesus sitting on a fluffy cloud, blatantly ignoring the laws of physics (or using technologies like mind bullets), waiting for me saying: “Dude, you were pretty cool. Could have given Sam more chaff, though. Anyways… Believe in me and you can come upstairs for the big party. No animal sacrifice, though, okay?”

    Under those circumstances I’ll give it some serious thought. In the meantime…

  • Reblogged this on Adventures and Musings of a Hedgewitch and commented:
    I wondered how long it would take.

  • Atheists dont care 😉

  • I read the Pope’s original statement and I can’t figure out how ANYONE could have interpreted that as an assurance of Salvation for Atheists. He said they can “do good” and that they are “Redeemed” (as are ALL human beings). That does not assure anyone of Heaven within Catholic theology.

    • So what does “redeem” mean, then? If it means you’re going to hell, anyway, it seems like a fairly meaningless concept.

      • I think “redeem” means that Christ, by His death and resurrection, made it possible for all to go heaven. Whether they do or not is another question.

      • Which makes the Pope’s comments utterly meaningless. He’s making a big deal of the fact that atheists are redeemed, but if that’s the meaning of the word then why even say it? It’s like observing that the sun rises in the east.

  • “Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

    ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

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