EWTN Catholic Q&A
Pope Francis's recent comment on atheists
Question from Bob on 05-31-2013:

I am a third-year Catholic and have done a pretty good job up until now in answering an Evangelical pastor friend of mine about why I became Catholic, but how do I answer his questions about Pope Francis's statement that atheists who do good are saved?

Answer by Catholic Answers on 06-01-2013:


Pope Francis did not say that "atheists who do good are saved." He said:

The Lord created us in his image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and he does good and all of us have this commandment at heart: do good and do not do evil. All of us. "But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good." Yes, he can.... 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!... We must meet one another doing good. "But I donít believe, Father, I am an atheist!" But do good: we will meet one another there.

Boiled down, Pope Francis was saying the sacrifice of Christ achieved the redemption of all mankind, including non-Christians and non-theists. That is basic Christian theology. But although all mankind is redeemed not every individual person necessarily will be saved. Redemption is universal; salvation is personal. But if non-Christians and non-theists do good, there is a possibility they can be saved -- not by the good they do, at least not directly, but by opening themselves by that good to the action of God in their lives.

Michelle Arnold
Catholic Answers