Friday, May 24, 2013

Pope Francis a Universalist??? [Updated]

[Update: The comments I have received on this piece state that the words that make Pope Francis sound like a universalist were taken out context in the various media in which they have been quoted.  I certainly hope that is true.  And articles such as this one have quoted Vatican spokesmen and have attempted to put the matter in perspective.  This article, too, attempts to put the matter in a theological context.  But having read the Pope's full remarks in several publications, I still have to say the language is, at best, far more ambiguous than one might wish.  Given the controversy this has caused in several quarters, I would very much like to see some clarification from Pope Francis himself.]

I was cautiously optimistic at the election of Pope Francis though somewhat concerned that he had not been vetted well enough theologically.  (Yes, I know, he was a cardinal archbishop; but there have been plenty of others from among those ranks who have gone off the rails.  And, when it comes to being a theologian, Pope Francis is certainly no Joseph Ratzinger or Karol Wojtyła.)  So, for me, the jury has remained out.

Now Vatican Radio quotes Pope Francis' as saying that everyone is called to "do good" because all are redeemed in Christ:
"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! 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. 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.”
Read it all on the Vatican Radio website.

It is worth wondering whether or not Pope Francis will soon be charged with universalism, joining the ranks of Katharine Jefferts Schori and Rob Bell.   One thing for sure is that it seems a liberal Episcopalian, a lapsed Evangelical, and now the Pope (!) all appear to be saying the same thing.

P.S.  I am praying we get some theological clarification of these remarks from the Pope soon.


Fr. Bryan Owen said...

A helpful clarification of the Pope's remarks can be found in this article by Orthodox priest Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick entitled "Did Pope Francis say everyone will be saved by doing good?"

rick allen said...

What he said was simply that everyone is redeemed by the blood of Christ, a commonplace Catholic doctrine.

One of the five points of Calvinism is the doctrine of limited atonement, the idea that Christ died only for the elect. Catholic doctrine is that Christ died for all. That does not, unhappily, mean that all will avail themselves of his redeeming death.

ericfromnewyork said...

Ya gotta actually read the Vatican Radio report. I too was alarmed at first, but, as so often, the press has gotten this one completely wrong.
Francis actually made some observations that possibly even Ian Paisley could live with.
Francis said nothing about going to Heaven, he was talking about a theologically informed basis for peaceful co-existence here.

Dale Matson said...

I puzzled by his comments also. I wonder if his Jesuit background has any bearing on this. Have any of the traditionalist Roman Catholic websites commented yet?