Do good and avoid evil… without a doubt, that is everyone’s responsibility and no one is able to stifle the inner voice that constantly indicates this obligation in the depths of the heart. However, is everyone able to respond to this call in the same manner, with equal clarity and equivalent effects? This is a complex topic, with nuances that can’t be dealt with lightly. Yet it must be understood with absolute clarity, lest we confuse issues that are of capital importance for our salvation… As always, Catholic doctrine sheds abundant light on such questions amidst the prevalent darkness.
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Instead each and every one not only can but must do good, whatever faith they profess, for “they have within them the commandment to do good”, since they are “created in the image of God”. This was the essence of Pope Francis’ reflection on Wednesday morning, 22 May, for those who took part in the early Mass which he celebrated in the Chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae. The Gospel passage proclaimed at the Mass (Mk 9:38-40) refers to the disciples’ complaint about a person who was doing good but who did not belong to their group. “Jesus reprimands them. ‘Do not prevent him, let him do good’. The disciples, without thinking, were fixed on an idea: we alone can do good, because we alone possess the truth. And none of those who do not possess the truth can do good”, the Pope specified further. However this is an erroneous attitude and Jesus corrected them. Is it licit “for us to ask ourselves who can do good and why? What do Jesus’ words ‘do not prevent him’ mean? What lies behind them?” In this case “the disciples were somewhat intolerant”, but “Jesus broadened their horizons and we may imagine that he said: ‘if this person can do good, we can all do good. So can anyone who is not one of us’”. “The Lord created us in his image”, and if “he does good, let all of us keep this commandment in our heart: do good and do not do evil. Everyone”. The idea that we cannot all do good is a form of closedness, “a barrier”, the Pope emphasized, “that leads us to war”, and “to killing in God’s name. We cannot kill in God’s name”. Indeed, even “saying that one can kill in God’s name is blasphemy”. The Lord redeemed everyone with Christ’s blood, “Everyone, not only Catholics. Everyone”. And atheists? “They too. It is this blood that makes us children of God”. (Homily, Santa Marta, May 22, 2013)
But [asks Scalfari] what happens to those who don’t have faith? The response [of Francis] is that if one has loved others at least as much as oneself (possibly a little more than oneself) the Father will welcome him. Faith helps, but it is not the element of he who judges – it is life. Sin is part of life and repentance too is part of it. Remorse, the sense of guilt, the desire of liberation, the abandoning of egoism… (Interview with Eugenio Scalfari published in La Repubblica, March 15, 2015)
Note: The declarations cited above are found in the article-interview of Eugenio Scalfari and are attributed, without quotation marks, to Francis. However, since these words have never received any official retraction, we include them here along with the habitual array of teachings.
Teachings of the Magisterium
Enter the various parts of our study
117 - “The most wicked and the most blasphemous person is loved by God with the tenderness of a father” 119 - “No one can know if they are touched by grace. Grace is how much light there is in the soul” 23 - All, atheists or those of any religion, are children of God 52 - God is in every person’s life 64 - The privileged place for the encounter with Jesus Christ is our sins
5 thoughts on “16 – Atheists can also do good
Thank you for this website and the great texts from the magisterium!
Great job!! Priests like you are an oasis for us lay people!!
Thank you! Do pray for all of us!
This was informative, but I find some Vatican II references less than compelling. Like: “For their part, however, all believers of whatever religion always hear His revealing voice in the discourse of creatures.”
I believe this is one of those ambiguous statements what sound good but on deeper reading can foster indifferentism.
First, are there other religions? I was taught there was only one true religion, the Catholic one. All other belief systems are sects, or paganism.
Second, does God speak to these sectarians and paganism in their sects? Or does the Catholic Church speak to them on His behalf?
Third, what is meant by “discourse of creatures”? Ambiguity. Which creatures? Other men? Other creatures, animate and inanimate in nature? This quote, like much of what came out of Vatican II, and from John Paul II needs a good priest, well educated in philosophy, theology, and Traditional Church teaching to interpret.
What popes write, that goes out to the whole world through media (that said pope knows full well will disseminate it) must be clearer. Does one need a Doctorate to read Church documents these days?