In an article published at the Huffington Post, Pope Francis has gone on record to say that all men everywhere are redeemed by the finished work of Christ, even atheists. The Pontiff claims that evidence of redemption are clearly visible whenever and wherever someone performs deeds of goodness and charity. Here is the quote:
“The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can… “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!”.. 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.”
In response to this assertion Father James Martin, S.J, makes the following curious statement:
“Pope Francis is saying, more clearly than ever before, that Christ offered himself as a sacrifice for everyone. That’s always been a Christian belief. You can find St. Paul saying in the First Letter to Timothy that Jesus gave himself as a “ransom for all.” But rarely do you hear it said by Catholics so forcefully, and with such evident joy. And in this era of religious controversies, it’s a timely reminder that God cannot be confined to our narrow categories.”
A number of things come to mind that require comment:
The first, is has Rome departed from its Soteriological position? Or, in other words, has its view of Salvation radically changed since the Counsel of Trent? At Trent, Rome affirmed that regeneration takes place at Baptism and is therefore efficacious for salvation provided no mortal sin is committed. Once a mortal sin is committed, the regeneration at Baptism is undone placing the soul in danger. It is at this point in Roman theology that Faith comes into play enabling the person to perform meritorious deeds in order to work themselves back into a place of Grace. Meritorious deeds include things such as the Rosary, indulgences, pilgrimage, acts of confession along with assorted acts of penance.
Second, if these human acts are necessary to work oneself back into a state of Grace, then how does the Atheist, or Buddhist, or whatever continue on in the road of penance? Do they avoid Purgatory? Or is their stay in Purgatory a little longer than your run of the mill good Catholic because they under the watch care of Catholic Diocese?
Third, how does this affect the so-called dialogue between Protestants and Catholics begun at ECT in the early 90′s? According to the proponents of ECT Catholics view Protestants as misguided or misinformed brothers. Curious when one considers that at ECT Rome did not repudiate Trent nor did the signatories repudiate Sola Fidei, Sola Gratia or Solus Christos. Somehow no one recognized that you cannot have two paths of salvation when only one is clearly delineated in Scripture.
From where we sit, it appears that Rome still does not understand the Biblical teaching of Salvation that comes through the finished work of Christ by Grace through Faith. Nor does Rome appear to understand its own historical position of Salvation. What we have here is biblical vacuity and the embrace of early 20th century Liberalism. It is a form of Social Gospel dressed in vestments and administered by the most public so-called christian face on the planet.
This is not altogether a bad thing. Hopefully, there are enough conservatives within the church that will hold the Pontiff responsible for his comments. Better still would be if the church held up Pope Francis assertions in the light of Scripture and come to the conclusion that the “Wild Boar” mentioned in Exurge Domine by Leo X had it right all along.