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Is Pope Francis Redefining Catholic Doctrine?
March 19, 2014

Is Pope Francis Redefining Catholic Doctrine?

In the first year of his pontificate, Pope Francis has undeniably shaken up the Catholic world with a dramatic change in approach and style as compared to his predecessors. While much of the mainstream media has been unified in singing praises on the pope’s efforts to “reform” the Church, responses within the Catholic faithful itself are not as unified. In fact, Catholic response to Pope Francis can be classified into three, distinct, emerging “camps”.

The first camp includes the more liberal elements within the Church who, like mainstream media, have leaped on the bandwagon, rejoicing at the seemingly more liberal attitude of the Catholic hierarchy on previously hot-button topics such as gay marriages and abortion.

The second camp includes those in the “middle” who, while recognising the radically different approach, nonetheless insist that the pope really hasn’t changed any Catholic doctrine. Instead, they say that the pope has a more “pastoral” approach, and the difference between him and previous pontiffs is more in terms of emphasis and style rather than substance, or doctrine.

The third camp includes those who are increasingly branded by mainstream media as the “far right”, the “conservatives”, who are alarmed at the dramatic contrast in approach by the current pontiff and his predecessors. Many “conservative” blogs and publications are increasingly pointing out that this is not just a subtle change in style we are witnessing - instead, they say, it is a powerful revolution slowly unveiling that is increasingly leading to fundamental changes not just in “style”, but in “substance”, or Church doctrine.

The key question, therefore, is this: Is Pope Francis actually re-defining Catholic doctrine? Has he made any substantial changes to Catholic doctrine that are fundamentally opposed to the Church’s traditional teachings as contained in the Catechism?

In this article, we examine five (5) teachings of Pope Francis which, upon closer scrutiny, appear to be efforts at re-defining certain important Catholic doctrines.

Can Atheists go to Heaven?

On May 21, 2013, Pope Francis created a global firestorm of religious debate as a result of a homily that talked about atheists. In that controversial homily, the pope essentially emphasized that what matters more is not so much our religious affiliation, but that “we do good”:

If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. “But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!” But do good: we will meet one another there.

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