Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Atheists Are Still Going to Hell???

This article is highly misleading. First of all, Fr. Thomas Rosica is not a Vatican spokesman.  Even if he were, he did not say that "atheists are still going to hell", nor could he even be paraphrased as such.  CNN (surprisingly) provides the relevant context:

The Rev. Thomas Rosica, a Vatican spokesman, said that people who [are] aware of the Catholic church “cannot be saved” if they “refuse to enter her or remain in her.”
At the same time, Rosica writes, “every man or woman, whatever their situation, can be saved. Even non-Christians can respond to this saving action of the Spirit. No person is excluded from salvation simply because of so-called original sin.”

I think "aware" is a key term here.  It's quite arguable that what Fr. Thomas has in mind is not an awareness of the Church's very existence (for we're all aware of that), but of the verity (as Catholics see it) of its teachings.  In other words, those who are not "saved" are those who willingly reject what they otherwise recognize as the truth.  Atheists who are convinced that God doesn't exist (however incorrect they are) don't fall in this category.

Second, Pope Francis's acknowledgement that even atheists can be redeemed is hardly an "evolved" position. St. Justin Martyr expressed similar views as early as the 2nd Century. One might further note that Church Fathers like St. Gregory of Nyssa are widely interpreted as promoting the view that everyone will be redeemed (of course, I am in no position whatsoever to comment on whether this interpretation is correct). In my view, to say so definitively that members of a particular group will or will not "go to hell" at least borders on heresy.