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15 Surprising Things Atheists are Saying About Pope Francis

Filed under The Church

Pope Francis just landed yesterday in America, and today he's being welcomed at the White House. Much of the country has turned its attention to his visit.

Whatever you might think of the Pope Francis, it’s hard to deny the fact that people are listening to him; if not his words, certainly his example.

I heard someone say, when Pope Francis embraced that man covered with tumors, the world changed! Beautiful.

Among those being moved by Pope Francis are atheists. I recently spent time hunting down comments from atheists posted on secular news sites. Here are fifteen, though if I kept looking I’m confident I could have found 1,000:

1. I’m an athiest and do not believe, but I love this new Pope, Pope’s are put on a pedestal and seem untouchable, this Pope, from the get go, has been a people person. You can almost feel the love radiating from him. So from one human to another, he shows such compassion and humility. Love him. – Sarah, England, UK.

2. I’m an atheist, but i believe he is a great example of how religious folks ought to be – Cort R

3. As an atheist (not speaking for all of them), I’m a huge fan of this pope. I think people need to find their own reason to be good to others. For some, it is god (whichever flavor he/she/it may be). Others find that they want to be good for other reasons. I’m just glad that the big C found a leader willing to try his best to not just preach to his crowd, but try to show them how.

4. On the other hand, some people use god as their excuse to be a d*ck. So I’m not sure if this is an example of the pope acting like a good god, but rather he is a good person and his faith only amplifies the goodness of his own character. – Wesley_Song

5. Left the church many years ago. Don’t believe in god mainly due to the Catholics and southern baptists is was raised around. This pope embodies the teachings of the church I actually liked. He’s pro something. He takes careof the less fortunate. Wonder what our nation wld be like if all the Catholics and baptists followed his lead and voted for people who cared about the poor?? Go ahead pope. Show the way – Cellstrom.

6. I don’t even believe in God. But, this guy, as a human being, just rocks. – Ironhand43

7. He’s setting a new standard for future popes to follow. I’m an agnostic, but this guy has truly awed me with his actions. So unlike other popes in my lifetime (even JP2, who seemed okay to me). – Rob_Cypher

8. I was raised Catholic but am now an atheist, but I’m growing to respect this man more and more. He’s actually following Christ’s teachings… imagine that! – Alex D

[In response to Alex D was this comment,] Me too! I am returning to the church because of this fine priest! – tau4444

9. A good person is good regardless of religion. I do believe this pope has actually publicly recognized this fact and for that (as an atheist) I applaud him. He seems a very good man. My respect for him grows by the day. – Marc T

10. As an atheist, let me say that I wish more people in general, religious or otherwise, followed this man’s example. The world would be a better place for it. – Thank4Watching

11. As an atheist, I’m impressed, I feel jaded about a lot of religions these days . . . [but] it looks like this pope is making an effort to do some good in the world rather then take advantage of it. – Theoricus

12. I’m an Atheist, and even I have respect for this guy. If he can get Christians to actually act like christians, maybe I won’t have such an issue with “organized” religion. – John S

13. As an atheist, I’m officially changing my opinion of him from ‘admired’ to ‘loved’. This is precisely the “walking the walk” the world needs, especially from its religious population. – Michael Kirby

14. As an atheist this pope does many great things, I still disagree with the church as a whole but as a person this pope gets it. He is a great role model as a person not a living deity. – Vendictavis

15. I don’t believe in gods and myths, but this man is truly a man of his word and someone everyone could look upon as a role model. I just wish that more holier than thou types could be like this man, if so the world would be a better place.Walks what he talks. – Joe Bigg

What do you think about Pope Francis?

(Image credit: Philly Mag)

Matt Fradd

Written by

Matt Fradd is a Catholic apologist and speaker. He is a regular contributor to Catholic Answers magazine. He lives in North Georgia with his wife and four children. Follow Matt on Twitter at @mattfradd and visit his website, MattFradd.com.

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  • ClayJames

    To me, this is more of a Jesuit thing than anything else. The thoughtful and openminded mentality that this pope has a lot to do with the great Jesuit preparation he received and the Jesuit life he has lived.

  • LaDolceVipera

    Why does it surprise you what atheists say about Pope Francis? We recognise and appreciate a decent and intelligent man who is open to other people's opinion. Being a Jesuit always helps!

    • "Why does it surprise you what atheists say about Pope Francis? We recognise and appreciate a decent and intelligent man who is open to other people's opinion."

      Would you say atheists, in general, recognized and appreciated Pope Benedict XVI? If not, does that mean you don't think he was a decent and intelligent man, open to other people's opinion?

      • LaDolceVipera

        No, I do not think that atheists, in general, appreciated Pope Benedict XVI. He was a brilliant but very rigid scholar for whom the Magisterium was his Alpha et Omega. He represented a very old and weary Church, run by the Curia and out of touch with the real world. Of course I do not doubt his integrity as a man but highly intelligent people often are very bad judges of what the real world is like.

        • Blobee

          "...a very old and weary Church,...out of touch with the real world"
          Madam, the Church of today is not "out of touch with the real world." The Church of today preaches daily about the horrors of the "real world." It is that the real world of today has fooled itself into believing the sins it commits are new ways of life. Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of history could tell you what people are facing today are the same old sins dressed up in modern clothes.

          • LaDolceVipera

            I think the Church should take a good look at herself before she points a finger at others.

          • Blobee

            Good advice. Practice it.

          • LaDolceVipera

            Practice it? I'm not the one who is preaching about the sins of the world and at the same time committing them at a large scale against innocent children.

        • teigitur

          About as far from reality as it is possible to be on B16. You just swallowed the media line.

          • LaDolceVipera

            I do not "swallow the media line". I have a mind of my own. I witnessed the clash between my university and Joseph Ratzinger, the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

          • teigitur

            He was certainly very good at fighting his corner. But if you believe what you have written above about him,then I am sorry but media line, hook and sinker too!

          • LaDolceVipera

            He lost.

          • teigitur

            As I have no idea of the details I have only your word for that. Perhaps he did , on a worldly level, But I am sure that whatever it was, he was in the right.

        • Mike

          if you think the catholic church is "old and weary" you should see the liberal churches!

          • LaDolceVipera

            The usual story: churches fighting among each other ...

          • Mike

            nah just people voting with their fee.

      • cminca


        Benedict appeared to be a bureaucrat--more concerned about the organizational health of the CC, and its external image--than he did about caring for people. And, since being open to other people's opinion might suggest that Catholicism could learn from others (and was therefore not complete, whole, and perfect) no, IMO Benedict did not appear personally, or as Pope, open to other people's opinions.

        • Mike

          or maybe that was your impression bc the media WANTED bene to appear that way.

    • D Foster

      In general, one only hears from atheists, qua atheist, when one is hearing complaint about religion.

      While I hasten to add that there are many, many thoughtful and open-minded atheists in the world, those I tend to encounter on the internet show definite signs of tribalist "win the argument at all costs" thinking.

      So, yes. It is always a pleasant surprise to see this kind of thing. It leaves me wondering whether it is that I am hearing from different sorts of atheists, or whether the same sorts are being more reasonable.

      • Zachary Bower

        Unfortunately, I am inclined to agree. On subjects outside of atheism, such as feminism, I've had Tubers turn around & use arguments on me that might as well be out of a Creationist playbook. Such as accusing me of being a cultist, or involved in a conspiracy to manufacture evidence.

      • Doug Shaver

        In general, one only hears from atheists, qua atheist, when one is hearing complaint about religion.

        Love the Christian, hate the Christianity :-)

        • D Foster

          I always hated the old "love the sinner, hate the sin" line. Not for what it said, but for what it means in the real world ("hate the sin and hypocritically judge the sinner").

          And, yes, it seems that there is a parallel attitude among anti-theists. This is why I'm always glad to meet those (from either group) who are willing to set aside prejudicial thinking.

  • Paul Brandon Rimmer

    I'd echo many of these statements. The papacy isn't much worth my personal attention, and I wish it didn't catch the attention of the world as much as it does. But the present pope is a person who deserves careful attention. He's saying things and doing things that could help transform the Catholic Church and the world. I'm glad he's taking the time to visit the States. I only wish it wasn't at a time when I'm so far away.

    • Rob Abney

      "I only wish it wasn't at a time when I'm so far away."

      Do you mean that in a literal sense or a spiritual sense?

      • Paul Brandon Rimmer

        Literal. I'm in Scotland. If I were in the US, I'd probably make an effort to see Pope Francis.

        • Rob Abney

          Would you expect to benefit in some way from seeing the Pope if you were nearer?

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            He seems like an amazing person, like Mother Therese or John Paul II, or Gandhi. I think I would have much to learn from him.

        • LaDolceVipera

          I thought you would say "in both senses", but then I can only speak for myself! :-)
          Still stargazing at St.-Andrews?

          • Paul Brandon Rimmer

            Yes I am. It's a beautiful place to do it. A bit cloudy, though.

  • David Nickol

    My impression of Pope Francis is very favorable, but it's going to be interesting to see if he can really pull off what he is reported to be advocating in this news article: Doctrine and pastoral care go hand-in-hand, Pope Francis reminds theologians. Jesus had followers who were "sinners and tax collectors," and though the Catholic Church claims to be made up of "sinners," only certain sinners are welcome, and the Catholic Church is in some ways a rather exclusive club.

    • Robert Macri

      and though the Catholic Church claims to be made up of "sinners," only
      certain sinners are welcome, and the Catholic Church is in some ways a
      rather exclusive club.

      That is a gross misrepresentation. There is quite a large difference between embracing a sinner and condoning a sin. Just as a doctor "welcomes" those with all kinds of ailments into his care, so too does the church call forth all sinners without exception; but neither the doctor nor the church can or should have an attitude of acceptance or celebration when it comes to the ailments from which we suffer, not even in the name of the strange modern notion of "respect". All of us, however ill, all called to be healed, and the physician must enjoin us to do our part to turn away from the habits which harm us.

      The church is not a club; it is, among other things, a great hospice. And in carrying out this mission the church must remember that the doctor who calls ailment "health" is no doctor at all. You may perhaps disagree with the church about what does or does not constitute healthy behavior, but I dare say you would not respect her at all if she were to violate her own deeply held beliefs in this regard.

      Which sinners are--according to your view--"unwelcome" in the eyes of the church? Show me such a person and I will show you someone to whom the church says, "You are made in the image of God and are greatly loved by Him. Come, stop harming yourself and others and find spiritual health and true joy by living as Christ taught us."

      Yes, Jesus did indeed call sinners of every stripe, but he called them to repentance, as he said to the woman caught in adultery, after forgiving her, "Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” (Jn 8:11)

      • David Nickol

        I find it interesting that for "conservatives," the lesson of the the story about the woman taken in adultery is that Jesus tells people not to sin.

        • Robert Macri

          Of course the admonition against sin is not the sole lesson of that passage, but neither can it be stripped away. We must not confuse God's mercy with a license to live however we please, as though no behavior is harmful.

          Besides, what is wrong with counseling one whom you love against harmful behavior? Is that not indeed an act of love itself, a duty of mercy and compassion?

          I am not sure why you put the word conservative in quotes there...

        • Blobee

          David Nickol: Oh, I just have to ask...what lesson is it supposed to convey? (This ought to be good!)

          • David Nickol

            One you have apparently not yet figured out yourself.

          • Blobee

            Is that your answer?

          • David Nickol

            How would you characterize the tone of your question? What kind of answer do you think it deserves?

    • Blobee

      David Nickol: All sinners are welcome in the Catholic Church. However, the condition for admittance is acknowledgement and repentance of sin. On a continual basis (confession). It's not a social club.

      • David Nickol

        All who were baptized Catholic are members of the Catholic Church. No matter how sinful a baptized Catholic may be, he or she is not only welcome to attend Sunday mass and in many other ways participate in the Church, he or she is obligated. (Of course, he or she may not receive communion.)

        Pope John Paul II said of divorced and remarried Catholics, who according to Jesus himself are living in adultery:

        The divorced and remarried are and remain her members, because they have received Baptism and retain their Christian faith. Of course, a new union after divorce is a moral disorder, which is opposed to precise requirements deriving from the faith, but this must not preclude a commitment to prayer and to the active witness of charity. . . .

        It is first of all urgently necessary to establish a pastoral plan of preparation and of timely support for couples at the moment of crisis. The proclamation of Christ's gift and commandment on marriage is in question. Pastors, especially parish priests, must with an open heart guide and support these men and women, making them understand that even when they have broken the marriage bond, they must not despair of the grace of God, who watches over their way. The Church does not cease to "invite her children who find themselves in these painful situations to approach the divine mercy by other ways ... until such time as they have attained the required dispositions" (Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, n. 34). Pastors "are called to help them experience the charity of Christ and the maternal closeness of the Church, receiving them with love, exhorting them to trust in God's mercy and suggesting, with prudence and respect, concrete ways of conversion and participation in the life of the community of the Church" (Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church concerning the Reception of Holy Communion by Divorced and Remarried Members of the Faithful, 14 September 1994, n. 2). The Lord, moved by mercy, reaches out to all the needy, with both the demand for truth and the oil of charity. . . .

        I see no reason why the exact same principles should not apply to gay people (including same-sex couples) . Do you?

        • Blobee

          Yes, I do. A person who has broken a marriage vow remains married in the eyes of the Church. They cannot "undo" that. So, just like all the rest of us, they go forward in their broken, imperfect state, and try to avoid sin and become holy. If they marry another person (without an annulment) and act as if they are not committing adultery by doing so, they are committing a grave mortal sin, and causing a public scandal. Their sincerity in wanting to be a follower of Christ is called into question, because they are not avoiding serious sin.

          Pastoral directives are not doctrine. They address how a pastor should shepherd his flock. They instruct pastors how to approach the sometimes painful and complex circumstances people find themselves in, tangled in sin. The Church has always said gay people must be dealt with in charitable ways. That does not mean avoiding the issue.

          A gay person who is not actively involved in a sexual relationship is in the same status as a divorced person who does not remarry, and wishes to follow Christ.
          A gay person who is actively involved in a sexual relationship is in mortal sin, and although they are welcome in the Church if they wish to come, that sin is an obstacle to their relationship with God. If they flaunt that sin, or deny what they are doing is a sin, they also create a public scandal.

          For a same sex couple to attend Mass together and in a public way in defiance of Church teaching also create a public scandal, and their sincerity as followers of Christ is called into question.

          Jesus didn't eat with sinners and tax collectors and condone what they did. He called them to leave off of their sinful ways, and start afresh.

          I just don't know why people would want to say they are Christians who don't want to obey God.

          • David Nickol

            For a same sex couple to attend Mass together and in a public way in defiance of Church teaching also create a public scandal, and their sincerity as followers of Christ is called into question.

            So are you saying that Catholic married couples who are divorced and remarried should not attend Mass together?

          • Blobee

            Are they flaunting Church teaching by doing so? Are they acting defiantly regarding the Church's teachings about marriage? Are they receiving Communion? If so, the pastor needs to address these issues with them. If they do not repent and stop doing what they are doing, then I would expect they would need to be asked not to attend Mass together. I also expect they would be asked to live as brother and sister until their situation is normalized.

  • GuineaPigDan .

    I'd be interested if during his USA trip, Pope Francis went to Kansas and met with "Pope" Michael. No great reason or anything, just for the lolz.

  • Francisco Sandoval

    The most amazing thing is that he has not said anything different from any of his predecessors, yet because of his origin and his demeanor he is said to be different. Go figure.

    • David Nickol

      Oh, I don't know about that. It is impossible to imagine the following coming from Pius XII, Paul VI, or Benedict XVI:

      “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?” Francis told reporters, speaking in Italian but using the English word “gay.”

      Is Francis going to change doctrine on homosexuality (or divorce and remarriage)? I am quite certain that he is not. But that doesn't mean he can't effect a significant change.

      • Francisco Sandoval

        Read the Catechism, read what Benedict or John Paul said about the subject.
        Just because you did not know about it it does not mean it was not there.
        Now, what does he mean? That gay people have their own vocation to reach the Lord, not by acting on their urges but on submitting their will.
        If you read everything the Church AND Pope Francis have said on the subject, you will see that it is exactly that.

        • David Nickol

          Read the Catechism, read what Benedict or John Paul said about the subject.Just because you did not know about it it does not mean it was not there.

          I could hardly be more familiar with what the Catechism says about homosexuality both in the original version (and first English edition) and in the revised version (and second English edition). The second edition, sadly, was "toughened up" by Joseph Ratzinger with a small but extremely significant modification.

          As I said, I do not believe Pope Francis will change any doctrines about homosexuality or divorce and remarriage, but it was a very big step (for the Catholic Church, at least!) for Francis to use the word "gay." None of his predecessors would ever have done so. And Benedict XVI would never have supported the sections on homosexuality or divorce voted on by the bishops last October. Such a thing would almost certainly never have been brought to a vote under Benedict XVI.

          Certainly anyone who expects Pope Frances to approve of same-sex marriage or even committed same-sex relationships is going to be disappointed. But I think the shift in attitude is very real, and very welcome.

          • Michael Murray

            But I think the shift in attitude is very real, and very welcome.

            Meanwhile the Vatican still refuses to co-operate with enquiries into child abuse by priests


          • Rob Abney

            You should keep that link within easy access so that anytime you don't agree with something the Catholic Church does you can post it.

          • Michael Murray

            No I just google. "Catholic Church, child abuse, Vatican". The problem is wading through all the links returned to find the one I want. Sorry to post it. I know you guys want to forget about it. Pity the victims find it so hard to forget isn't it?

            Here's another one for you


          • Rob Abney

            I'm sorry if it's personal to you. I thought you might be just trying to say that Catholicism can never be right about anything now that this abuse had occurred.

          • Michael Murray

            It's not personal in the sense of having anyone I know involved. Just empathy for fellow humans. We primates are like that. Like someone one said

            Most certainly I tell you, because you did it to one of the least of these my brothers , you did it to me.’

          • Blobee

            Careful now, Michael Murray. Remember the same someone also said

            You see the speck in your brother's eye, but don't see the wooden plank in your own....

          • Nancy Rice

            Have some empathy for the children being abused in the public school system. If THAT were ever investigated it would make the (relatively) small number of priests look like nothing in comparison.

          • David Nickol

            To compare the Catholic Church to the public schools is pointless. There are over 14,000 public school districts in the United States, each run by a different group of people. In the case of abuse by priests, every priest is accountable to a bishop, and every bishop answers to the pope. The chain of command in the Catholic Church is very clear and very short.

          • Michael Murray

            I do have empathy. But my initial post was in the context of the Vatican's response. Are you suggesting the Vatican should be held accountable for what is happening in the (US I assume? ) public school system. That seems a bit tough even by my atheistic standards.

            By the way the Australian Royal Commission which is ongoing is into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse -- not targeted at Catholic Institutions. You might be interested.


      • Robert Macri

        What "change" would that be?

        I also am certain that such doctrine will not change, as it cannot. The church has not the authority. What the holy father asks of us in his care is not to condone every behavior, but to better practice the love to which we are called as Christians. That means to invite and embrace the person, not the behavior.

        That is, he is not saying that he cannot judge whether or not homosexual acts are wrong; he is saying that it is not his wish or heavenly mandate to condemn people, but rather to forgive them, to show them them that they are loved, to offer them something better even than that which they choose for themselves...

        In the spirit of sensationalism the media pounced on the "who am I to judge" line, completely ignoring everything the holy father has ever said in his life which affirms the church's teachings regarding homosexuality.

        • George

          I agree with your last line.

        • David Nickol

          Actually, it was a very significant remark, in sharp contrast to his predecessor in both of his roles (as Cardinal Ratzinger, head of the CDF and then as Benedict XVI). Benedict took great care, even making a change in the Catechism, to teach that a homosexual orientation in and of itself was a psychological illness and a moral flaw. The Vatican, under Benedict, barred men with a homosexual orientation from the priesthood. They are to be considered "damaged goods," unfit for the priesthood and a number of other jobs (coaches, teachers, etc.).

          Pope Francis was asked about an alleged "gay lobby" of priests in Rome, and he responded:

          A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will—well, who am I to judge him? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this very well. It says one must not marginalize these persons, they must be integrated into society. The problem isn't this (homosexual) orientation—we must be like brothers and sisters. The problem is something else, the problem is lobbying either for this orientation or a political lobby or a Masonic lobby.

          He did certainly not say, "Who am I to judge a priest who, having committed to a life of celibacy, engages in homosexual relations?" He did not imply any change in Catholic doctrine about the sinfulness of homosexual relations. He did, however, affirm the "equality" and worth of even priests with a homosexual orientation, people who, according to Benedict, shouldn't even exist. He did not say, as Benedict said in his various roles, "Gay people are sick, and they can legitimately be discriminated against in certain situations, and they are sometimes like diseased and dangerously mentally ill people."

          Why is it falling to me—a "bad Catholic"—to argue that the change in tone that Pope Francis is so clearly attempting to effect, is real?

          • Robert Macri

            Why do you refer to yourself as a "bad Catholic"? I certainly did not say or imply any such thing.

            I think we may be looking at the word "change" from different angles. I would not argue that Pope Francis has not brought about certain pastoral changes, but only that the doctrine has not changed.

            The issue of whether or not a man with homosexual orientation should be admitted to the priesthood has nothing to do with "equality and worth" (I use your wording here... I myself am puzzled by what you mean by "equality" in this context) any more than having a male priesthood diminishes the dignity or worth of women. It has to do with the nature of the priesthood (there's a reason we call them "Father") and the prudent administration thereof: that is, these kind of pastoral differences have to do with what one pontiff or another believes is more prudent for the church as a whole as well as for the man who wishes to be a priest.

            By the way, where did Benedict ever say that homosexual orientation is a "moral flaw"? I think your wording there is misleading. Such an orientation is disordered, but not sinful unless it is acted upon. Thus, I would hesitate to use the phrase "moral flaw" so broadly.

            To illustrate all this with a less politically-charged example: if a man is prone to alcoholism, that tendency could be considered disordered, but the man is blameless in as much as he abstains from drink. Now, we might be wary of putting such a man in certain positions (bar-tending comes to mind), but even so we would not be saying anything of his dignity or worth as a human being. We would be trying to keep him free from temptation just as much as we would be caring for others who might be harmed by his drunkenness.

            The pope has a mandate to shepherd prudently and to show love and mercy. Different popes will have different "flavors" in this regard, just as parents may have different styles of child-rearing, even if they agree on what is good or bad for the child.

          • David Nickol

            Do you think it is a mistake for Pope Francis to attempt a more pastoral approach to the issues of homosexuality and divorced and remarried Catholics? Do you think there needs to be a special squad of "orthodox" Catholics who balance out his more pastorally oriented statements by always pointing out that doctrine cannot be changed?

            In my original message (which was meant as a defense of Pope Francis) I said,

            Is Francis going to change doctrine on homosexuality (or divorce and remarriage)? I am quite certain that he is not. But that doesn't mean he can't effect a significant change.

            I believe in every one of my statements I have said clearly THERE WILL BE NO CHANGE IN DOCTRINE, but a change in tone is significant.

            And still I get arguments!

            As for the attitude of the Catholic Church under Cardinal Ratzinger as head of the CDF and then as Pope Benedict XVI, I have found over the years that there is little or nothing to be gained by discussing it in a forum like this.

            What I would be interested in hearing is your opinion on is what looks like a shift in tone (and perhaps more than tone) on the matter of divorced and remarried Catholics. I find the address of John Paul II from 1997 rather remarkable in it's "liberal" tone. Do you think Pope John Paul II pulled his punches? He did say that the new union was a "moral disorder," but he did not point out that divorced and remarried people—in the very words of Jesus—are living in adultery. Do you think divorced and remarried couples should attend mass? Should they be active in parish events and parish governance? Should they be allowed to receive communion?

          • Robert Macri

            No, I would not classify Pope Francis' pastoral style as a mistake. As a matter of fact I think that his emphasis on mercy is wonderful, and genuinely Christian.

            And no, I do not wish to see opposing viewpoints "balancing" one another within the church. I wish to see mercy fully and seamlessly integrated with sound teaching, as it was and is in Christ, not as a balance of seeming "opposites", but as the one true faith. Why must there be one or the other, compassion or law? Did not scripture say, "I will write my law upon their hearts"?

            That is what I want to see: a merciful truth; one that condemns sin but reaches out to sinners; one that teaches gently, not as scolding, but teaches nonetheless. Not one voice shouting "mercy!" while another shouts "repent!", but a single voice singing, "Repent, for God's mercy is upon you."

      • Blobee

        David Nickol: Yep, just like everyone else who listens only to the liberal media, you don't know the context of the quote, or what he actually said, and so you think he said he does not judge homosexual behavior as wrong.
        Here is what actually happened (from a website, About Religion). The press was speaking to the Pope on the plane back to Rome. At the very end of the interview, a reporter asked two questions, the first about claims that Msgr. Battista Ricca, whom Pope Francis had chosen to head up the Institute for the Works of Religion (more commonly known as the Vatican Bank), had engaged in homosexual activity years ago while stationed in Paraguay. The Holy Father replied:
        "I have acted in accordance with Canon Law and ordered an investigation. None of the accusations against him have proved to be true. We haven’t found anything! It is often the case in the Church that people try to dig up sins committed during a person’s youth and then publish them. We are not talking about crimes or offenses such as child abuse which is a whole different matter, we are talking about sins. If a lay person, a priest or a nun commits a sin and then repents of it and confesses, the Lord forgives and forgets. And we have no right not to forget, because then we risk the Lord not forgetting our own sins. I often think of St. Peter who committed the biggest sin of all, he denied Jesus. And yet he was appointed Pope. But I repeat, we have found no evidence against Mgr. Ricca."

        The final question concerned the Holy Father's confirmation of the presence of a "gay lobby" in the Curia. Very few reports (the BBC's report is a notable exception) have mentioned that context, nor have they printed Pope Francis's response in its entirety.
        As the BBC notes, the Holy Father referred to the teachings in the
        Catechism of the Catholic Church, which explains "that homosexual acts were sinful, but homosexual orientation was not," while addressing the "gay lobby" and the question of homosexual clergy in the Vatican (not homosexuals generally). The following text, once again, is Andrea Tornielli's transcription and translation:

        "There is so much being written about the gay lobby. I haven’t met anyone in the Vatican yet who has “gay” written on their identity cards. There is a distinction between being gay, being this way inclined and lobbying. Lobbies are not good. If a gay person is in eager search of God, who am I to judge them? The Catholic Church teaches that gay people should not be discriminated against; they should be made to feel welcome. Being gay is not the problem, lobbying is the problem and this goes for any type of lobby, business lobbies, political lobbies and Masonic lobbies."

        The media immediately jumped on his phrase about not judging, and trumpeted it across the world as if we FINALLY have a Pope that gets that gay is okay. But how do you read it? Did he say that? He obviously reiterated the Church's teachings about homosexuality. Because Pope Benedict would not have assumed he was among friends when he spoke to the press and would have been much more careful in his wording does not mean he would not and did not say the same thing. However, I think Pope Francis had to get burned a couple of times being so off the cuff and is much more careful now when speaking to the press.

        • David Nickol

          Yep, just like everyone else who listens only to the liberal media, you don't know the context of the quote, or what he actually said, and so you think he said he does not judge homosexual behavior as wrong.

          I have never claimed Pope Francis "does not judge homosexual behavior to be wrong." That would be absurd. I have several times in this discussion said Pope Francis will not change Church teaching on homosexuality. Allow me to quote from another message of mine in this thread:

          I believe in every one of my statements I have said clearly THERE WILL BE NO CHANGE IN DOCTRINE, but a change in tone is significant.

          I don't know how I could make myself any clearer.

          I accept your apology in advance.

          • Blobee

            No, I know you didn't say that. What you did say is that you could not imagine other Popes, (Pius XII, Paul VI, Benedict XVI) saying the same thing. No, they most likely would not have said this in the way Francis did, but see the confusion and misunderstanding it caused, and how it was twisted?

          • David Nickol

            Are you implying Pope Francis should speak more carefully because he says things that are too easily misinterpreted?

          • Blobee


    • LaDolceVipera

      The very least you can say about Pope Francis is that his approach is much more pastoral than doctrinal. Wasn't Jesus a pastor rather than a scribe?

  • VicqRuiz

    From my atheist perspective, the Pope seems like a decent fellow. But from my libertarian perspective, his grasp of economics seems to be at about the level of an Oberlin sophomore.

  • GCBill

    I don't have a strong opinion about this Pope. I'm a bit bummed about the current unreliability of NY public transit, but that's not something in his control. I do hope he has a pleasant and productive visit.

  • ben

    Anti-theists always say that the Church is hung up on sex, but what I see here is anti-theists preoccupation with homosexuality.
    Since anti-theists deny God, they don't realize that the Church does not and cannot care about human opinion. The Church's mission is to tell the truth as revealed by Jesus.
    Anti-theists present themselves as rational; however, they seem to think that the truth can change; that the Church should "get with the times".
    The moral teachings/doctrines of the Church come from the Eternal God: they will never change. You are totally free to accept them or reject them; it's all you can do. No Pope really can care about your opinion of doctrine, no vote will ever change it: homosexual activity, abortion, fornication, murder (even of one's self), etc. are and will forever be, mortal sins. Those who die in a state of mortal sin go straight to Hell. It doesn't matter what so called good he may have done in his life. There are no good people in Heaven, only saints.
    All the bishops can do is try to find ways to reach people with that Eternal truth.
    But when some one says, like one here did, that he doesn't care what the Bible says about anything, or that he will never agree with anything Bishop Barron says, why bother to return day after day and spend so much time and ink?

    The Catholic Church has the full revelation of the truth (by Jesus Christ) and has nothing to learn from any man made religion regarding that truth. What the others have is just picked and chosen fragments that sound good. When you reject the doctrines of the Church, you reject Jesus Christ; tomorrow or the next day..you will die and the consequences will be faced. You may comfort yourselves with the false idea that death brings oblivion, but only to a certain point.

    • LaDolceVipera

      Do you think God agrees with all this?

      • David Nickol

        This prompts me to recall someone with whom I was arguing who once responded, "I'm not telling you my opinion. I'm telling you God's opinion!"

      • Doug Shaver

        As far as I can tell, every Christian is convinced that God agrees with whatever they say about him.

        • LaDolceVipera

          Yesterday I was under attack on Facebook by a group of ultra conservative christians. I never expected it to be so vicious. As a good atheist, I forgive them.

          • Mike

            "good atheist"

            isn't that an oxymoron?

          • LaDolceVipera

            It is a tautology

          • Mike


  • smk629

    To me, Pope Francis seems to purposefully imitate St. Francis of Assisi, who has been said to have closely imitated Our Lord. He lives simply and has a humble view of himself, in spite of his position as Vicar of Christ. He loves the poor and abandoned. He is kind to those not in agreement with the Church, without backing down in his Faith. He keeps us on our toes. And he does not expect more of us than he expects of himself.

    If the atheists and agnostics find Pope Francis a good example of how a Christian should conduct himself, that is fine by me. We cannot expect to attract more souls to Jesus by antagonism and exclusivity.

    I have loved all the popes who have led in my lifetime, from Pope John XXIII to Pope Francis. All have had different personalities, approaches, and gifts. But I think the Holy Spirit has selected the best leader for each generation with their specific set of challenges. Viva il Papa!

  • Nick

    not a Catholic but I have a question. Is this pope's actions dramatically different than his predecessor? Just wondering how much of this is media creation. A lot of the things he does are par for what you expect from saints so surprising that so many think he's something new.

    • Robert Macri

      It seems to me that media sensationalism runs rampant with this pope, partially because he more often speaks "off the cuff" than his predecessors. The media also tends to take him out of context, emphasizing what they like and suppressing the rest.

      But of course each pope has his own personality and passion, and will tend to focus on the issues that he thinks are more pressing. Francis has not deviated from the teachings of other popes in the slightest, but his pastoral methods are his own. That is, the beliefs and mission of the church do not change with a new pope, but different popes can have slightly different ways of putting those same beliefs and mission into practice.

      So no, I wouldn't say that his actions are dramatically different, but he does have a different charisma from recent popes, one that seems to be getting the attention of a lot of people.

  • Blobee

    These comments by atheists, in my mind, support the concept of natural law. Somehow, without even thinking of how, these people "know" good from bad, right from wrong, in terms of how they perceive the Pope's actions and behaviors. They approve of what they know of his behavior. It seems "good" to them.
    What they know of him is superficial, and their approval of him is almost like liking a celebrity based on how the person looks and acts on T.V. or in public.
    Unfortunately, they also are most likely hypercritical, and any sin, real or
    perceived, they come to know about in Pope Francis will destroy their
    "faith." They are cynical about persons of religion, and believe them to be hypocrites because they (church goers) are also sinners. So praise of Francis by them is not hope, it's response to celebrity. They are like the people who followed Jesus because He gave them bread to eat and healed people, all the way up until he told them they had to drink His blood. Then it was over.

  • jackie

    Many of the atheists in this article like the way the pope seems to lead by example, but how many of these atheists are willing to "walk that walk?" It's one thing to admire, but to actually follow? Atheist no. 10's comment demonstrates my point. If everyone followed the pope's example, then this world would be a better place, but people would also become Catholic/Christian in their ways. The problem is, non-Catholics/atheists disagree with sensitive subjects like the gay movement, abortion, women not being priests, etc. - topics that the Catholic Church does not approve of. Many atheists and even not-so-devout Catholics also say very shallow things like "the pope's cool," "he rocks," "he's the man," "he's for the people." But what exactly does that mean? Personally, I think non-religious people and people of different faiths only like the pope because he preaches and does the obvious good deeds like feeding the poor, and caring for the sick. It's easy to admire this, but more touchy subjects like respecting human life? Back to "...and this is why I am not a Catholic...because they oppress..."

  • Charles Griggy

    To all of you atheist, I am a Roman Catholic and I have an optimistic and loving appreciation for every pope. To think that God does not exist or there is no God, suggests that this pope is who he is without God. That is foolishness! He has always believed in God and he always will. As for me, I have the gift of Holy Angels and the Spirit of God reinforces this gift time and time again. In other words, As a Catholic for 68 years, I pray with the Angels every night, and My guardian angels make every effort to do just that; that is, guard me and lead me to eternal salvation. For those who think that this is foolishness, it really means that you don't understand what true faith is all about. Thus, you are being kept in your disbelief, because you do not seek God, and that is just what satan wants you to do. He is very quiet, because he really does not want to change anything about you. Again, you will think that this is foolishness, but if you would truly seek God, you might change your mind.

  • Stephanie

    Seeing Pope Francis has reminded me of a book I
    read about Mother Teresa. She said
    early on in her life she heard Jesus speak to her, telling her that His people
    didn’t love Him because they didn’t know Him.
    Then He said, “bring Me to them.”
    That is what inspired her life’s work.
    This is what is inspiring Pope Francis.
    My hope for all, especially atheists and those of other faiths is that
    if they are inspired by Pope Francis, that they will seek out the One who
    taught him, the One who sent him, the One whose example he is following. Jesus
    asked His apostles to love others the way He had loved them. It’s what He asks of all of us who have
    experienced His love. Pope Francis is doing what he has been asked to do. The love with
    which you see Pope Francis treating people is but a tiny fraction of the love
    that Jesus has for all of us, that He wants to give to us. I hope
    Pope Francis will inspire people to seek out Jesus and ask Him how much He loves
    them. He’ll stretch out His arms wide,
    place them on the cross and say “this much”.
    The Church is Jesus’ instrument on earth, through which He is present to
    us. He chose to place flawed humans at
    the head of it here on earth, but that doesn’t mean people should judge God or turn away from
    God because the members of His church are imperfect. We’re members because we need His love and mercy. Give Him a chance to give both to you Himself.

  • Zachary Bower

    Can I be quoted as saying that he's overrated? No, he hasn't said anything completely reprehensible, but I hardly think that's impressive. And I think his characterization of the right to die movement was frankly completely ignorant.

  • Hans

    Great collection of atheist comments!
    What makes me really angry is the number of fundamentalist Christians who not just criticise Pope Francis, but associate him with evil.

  • Will

    I made the comment earlier that atheism is irrational, so why should we be impressed that atheists like Pope Francis, and the comment was removed. Really?

  • Michael Murray
  • ryan

    I'm Catholic, so my personal opinions about of Pope Francis are not important. They're not important because he's the pope, and there's nothing I can do about that even if I wanted to. Bottom line; as long as the pope doesn't attempt to declare ex cathedra dogmas that contradict or nullify existing dogma, there's nothing to worry about. Unfortunately, this doesn't stop some people from declaring false absolutes themselves!

    I've heard all kinds of critiques from Catholics and non-Catholics alike. accusing Pope Francis of being Marxist, globalist, atheist and Satanist to name just a few. All of these accusations seem to stem from the same fundamental misunderstanding of what the Catholic Church actually is, and what the pope's role is within it. The non Catholic fears the pope because she believes he has way more authority than he actually has. The critical Catholic forgets that God places the leaders where they are, and the pope is just as human as the rest of us. The Church is dogmatic in nature for this very reason. Official Catholic teaching is considered revealed truth. Truth is unchanging. Therefore, no one (including the pope) can change official doctrine. Neither can the pope declare new doctrine that contradicts existing doctrine. So waving our fists at the pope will only result in sore arms and cramped fingers!

    To actually answer the question; It seems to me that the Lord gave us the pope we needed, precisely when we needed him.