The Vatican has announced that, despite what Pope Francis has said, atheists are still going to hell.
What a relief. For a brief moment there it was possible to imagine a brave new world of compassion, generosity, and acceptance, not qualities we have come to associate with the Holy See.
Said Pope Francis: '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!'
That seemed like a pretty clear admission that people of other faiths and none have intrinsic worth to God and will be saved alongside the faithful. But this turned out to be wishful thinking.
Although they are otherwise good, moral people they are still doomed to burn in a lake of fire for having the temerity to have been born outside of Catholicism or having chosen to remain so.
The Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman, spelled it out for the world. People who know about the Catholic Church 'cannot be saved' if they 'refuse to enter her or remain in her,' he said.
So that's one tall order of eternal hellfire for the rest of us, then.
It makes for an interesting spectacle to see the infallible Pope being corrected by his handlers, doesn't it? For a moment it was possible to recall the welcoming and indulgent style of the short lived Pope John Paul I in the unexpectedly all-embracing words of Pope Francis. But you'll recall how quickly John Paul I was replaced by the much more doctrinaire John Paul II.
There's no question that Pope Francis sees the divinity in all human beings, but that's a message that comes with caveats. God may make them all, Jew and Gentile, but unless they're Catholic they're ultimately kindling. The Vatican waited 24 hours to correct him, but they corrected him.
Yes, yes, the Council of Trent clearly taught that Jesus Christ, humanity's one and only Redeemer, redeemed both Jew and Gentile. But there is a huge difference between redemption and salvation. See how that works? Judas Iscariot was redeemed by Christ's death on the cross, but he was not saved - many (but not all) Catholics believe he is damned in hell.
To be justified requires faith - and that faith must be Catholic. You see where this is going?
If I was Pope Francis, I'd be employing a food tester right about now.
Originally published in 2013.