Tuesday, April 17, 2018


I have buried a number of Catholics with little or no faith. Are they saved? Catholics don't make that determination in individual, specific cases. We have no authority to do so, not even the pope can declare someone in hell, not even Adolph Hitler.

We can speculate about what can bring about damnation and the fires of hell and use theoretical examples.

Thus we see the pastoral side of a pope trying to reassure a young child whose father had passed away, an atheist.

This is the description of the encounter with the pope and grieving child (keep in mind this is an English translation of Italian from an Italian paper, The Vatican Insider, not known for faithful English translations of the pope:

The child whispered in the Pope’s ear. Emanuel asked him if his father, who was an atheist but had his four children (his two brothers and a sister) baptized, went to heaven after his death. And not to hell (the child’s full question included a specific quote regarding the danger for Emanuel's father to end up in Hell). This is what Francis answered (explaining afterwards that he asked Emanuele for permission to publicly report the question the child had whispered to his 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 - he points out - his father was an atheist, yet he had his four children baptized, he was a good man. 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".  
Francis then emphasizes: "God has the heart of a father, your father was a good man, he is in heaven with Him, be sure. God has a father's heart and, would God ever abandon a non-believing father who baptize his children? God was certainly proud of your father, because it is easier to be a believer and have your children baptized than to be a non-believer and have your children baptized. Pray for your father, talk to your father. That is the answer”.  

What is the pope to say--your father is condemned to the everlasting annihilation? No, the pope gives the child hope and all of us too.

If we are created in the image and likeness of God, isn't goodness a sign of God's grace? 

No we can't say the father is annihilated or in a state of hell, Catholics have a reason to hope in God's power to save the sinner. 

But yes, Catholicism has a Pelagian streak for better or for worse and Italian Catholics are experts at it and yes, the pope's answer was Pelagism at its best. 

But the pope is right. Only God decides who is in heaven or hell and we can speculate even in specific cases about who is in heaven, but not in hell.  


ByzRC said...

I agree with you, Father. Like you said, what was HH to do, terrorize the child by providing a judgement that not one of us is able to provide? Hopefully, the child took comfort in the guidance offered by HH - I'll take a risk by suggesting that to me, it was guidance that seems age appropriate.

Marc said...

Content is not the problem necessarily. The problem is that this was a complete media setup that exploited this little boy.

rcg said...

Was it Voltaire that said he would believe in God in case there was one? I suspect the poor child's father contradictory behavior was expressing something complex by having his children baptized despite his own professed lack of belief. It could be something as simple and diabolical as fear of the in-laws and his desire to crush the faith of his own children by example. It could be that he felt betrayed by God in some events of his own life and he professed atheism to hurt God, but secretly hoped for his children. I hope it is this last one. Only a couple of weeks ago we celebrated Christ's descent into Hell to redeem with a new Covenant the souls separated from God the Father. I hope this is such a soul. I pray he will endure his time in Purgatory until the day he is joined with The Father, the pain of scouring flames salved by the song of his own child's prayers.