Pope Francis assures sceptics: You don’t have to believe in God to go to heaven

In comments likely to enhance his progressive reputation, Pope Francis has written a long, open letter to the founder of La Repubblica newspaper, Eugenio Scalfari, stating that non-believers would be forgiven by God if they followed their consciences.

Responding to a list of questions published in the paper by Mr Scalfari, who is not a Roman Catholic, Francis wrote: “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.

independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/pope-francis-assures-sceptics-you-dont-have-to-believe-in-god-to-go-to-heaven-8810062.html

telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/the-pope/10302850/Pope-Francis-reaches-out-to-atheists-and-agnostics.html

Pope Francis’ Letter to the Founder of “La Repubblica” Italian Newspaper
English translation from Zenit:

zenit.org/en/articles/pope-francis-letter-to-the-founder-of-la-repubblica-italian-newspaper

OK so I read the Pope’s letter, and I cannot figure out how this article got to that conclusion

Here is the relevant part of the letter:

“So I come to the three questions you put to me in the article of August 7. It seems to me that, in the first two, what is in your heart is to understand the attitude of the Church to those who don’t share faith in Jesus. First of all, you ask me if the God of Christians forgives one who doesn’t believe and doesn’t seek the faith. Premise that – and it’s the fundamental thing – the mercy of God has no limits if one turns to him with a sincere and contrite heart; the question for one who doesn’t believe in God lies in obeying one’s conscience. Sin, also for those who don’t have faith, exists when one goes against one’s conscience. To listen to and to obey it means, in fact, to decide in face of what is perceived as good or evil. And on this decision pivots the goodness or malice of our action.”

He never said non-believers would go to heaven.

Help me out here…where is this stated?

I wonder if the translation into English is faulty. The one thing I hoped the Holy Father would have communicated would have been to say we must follow our ‘properly formed conscience’ instead of saying we must follow our ‘conscience’. I hope the Italian expresses it as ‘properly formed conscience’…but that the English language perhaps was lacking in translation.

A deranged mass murderer follows his conscience as he commits his many crimes. His conscience is wrong. However, it would be wrong to say that mass murderer is definitely gong to hell. Although we could rightly say that his actions are wrong. The mass murderer could even think he is doing good by committing his crimes.

I am so liking this pope.
He really understands what forgiveness and love is all about.

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Oh man. The protestants are going to have a field day! I’ve spent the better part of my Catholic life saying that the Church does not teach that you earn your way to heaven but rather that through Works AND Faith we are saved. Turns out. It is only works…:shrug:

Original Letter in Italian:
repubblica.it/cultura/2013/09/11/news/sintesi_lettera_bergoglio-66283390/?ref=HREA-1

Yea I’m having trouble seeing that as well.

Then you were teaching them wrong. You don’t get to heaven by works or faith, but by grace through faith working in love.

I don’t understand, he didn’t say anything about non-believers going to Heaven at all. He said that if a non-believer goes to God with a sincere, contrite heart then God will forgive them.

By definition, in order to go to God with a sincere, contrite heart, you would have to believe.

Keep in mind that the Pope was widely reported as ‘changing Catholic teaching on homosexuality’ when he was actually just repeating orthodox Catholic teaching on the subject. I went right to the source on this as well, and the interpretation seemed different from the media portrayal to say the least.

I think part of the issue here is that Francis now has a reputation, a very strong one, as a Pope who cares for the poor, etc. So the media may be trying to force him to fit the mold they want him to fit, rather than deal with someone who both (say) opposes same-sex sexual activity, and believes it’s important to have faith in God, yet whole also cares for the poor and is against war.

The Church teaches it’s by grace we are saved. It sounds like God is full of Grace!:thumbsup:

What Pope Francis said is entirely orthodox:

“You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.

“Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.”

Lumen gentium 16:

Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things, and as Saviour wills that all men be saved. Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.

And Gaudium et spes 16:

In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart: do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law written by God; to obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged. Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths. In a wonderful manner conscience reveals that law which is fulfilled by love of God and neighbor.

Interesting thread, thanks for the quotes. God bless.

But doesn’t that presume a properly formed conscience? Why can’t an abortophile claim that her “conscience” allows her to kill her child?

Tricky question:

Natural law, scripture and church teaching tell us that abortion is objectively gravely wrong.

If a person is aware of the natural law, and purports to follow both scripture and church teaching can this person even claim that their "conscience allows them to have an abortion.

If a person is unaware of the natural law or church teaching then maybe they can be excused for thinking that. But it behooves us to help them see the right path.

A properly formed continence must be presumed, even if he Holy Father didn’t spell it out.

But how can a properly formed conscience exist outside of the Church?

Romans 2:14 So, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, instinctively do what the law demands, they are a law to themselves even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts. Their consciences confirm this. Their competing thoughts will either accuse or excuse them 16 on the day when God judges what people have kept secret, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus.

…the mercy of God has no limits if one turns to him with a sincere and contrite heart;

Or: sincere repentance always leads to forgiveness.

…the question for one who doesn’t believe in God lies in obeying one’s conscience.

Or: if someone does not believe in God, does God forgive them their sins? Well, this forgiveness is dependent on their conscience. Why? Well…

Sin, also for those who don’t have faith, exists when one goes against one’s conscience.

If a person is disobedient to their conscience, regardless of whether or not they have faith, then they sin. It is possible to not have faith and to go against one’s conscience in so doing.

To listen to and to obey it means, in fact, to decide in face of what is perceived as good or evil. And on this decision pivots the goodness or malice of our action.

Our actions are good or evil, for us subjectively, based on the decisions we make as informed by our conscience.

Based on the above: does a murderer follow his conscience in killing, or is he deliberately choosing against his conscience? How do we know? Well, we don’t.

Likewise, is the unbeliever refusing to believe in God as a result of a suppression of their conscience? How do we know? As above, we do not know.

The headline should be disregarded: the Holy Father has not stated whether or not it is even possible to have a conscience that can lead a person to unbelief in God. Furthermore, Pope Francis has not defined, in this letter, what a conscience even is.

I would state, also, that I wonder whether our Holy Father wasn’t speaking directly to Dr. Scarfali’s soul in his comments. You need to examine yourself, and really determine whether or not your own conscience is telling you that disbelieving in God is wrong, because you too will be judged.

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