The Pope plays Nice Guy again

Reader Barry sent me this tweet showing Pope Francis’s encounter with a child, who wanted to know whether his dead father could go to Heaven even though he (the father) was an atheist. This will surely be spread widely, because it appears to show what a liberal and kindly man the Pope is.

Although the Pope is universally lauded by the press, and even by atheists, because he says the right things about gays and other sensitive matters—without lifting a hand to change Vatican policy—he screwed up here in several ways.

1.) He revealed something that the boy told him in confidence.

2.) He revealed it so he could expound his own ideas and look compassionate.

3.) He implied that the atheist father was “good” because he had his four children baptized.

4.) He says that only God can decide who goes to Heaven, but the Pope second-guesses God anyway. In fact, he gives the boy a definite answer.

5.) He asserts that if Dad didn’t baptize his kids, Dad would go to hell.

6.) He assumes that the father had the kids baptized because in some sense he wanted the kids to reap any benefits of God belief: a form of Pascal’s Wager. And God approved because baptizing your kids when you’re an atheist is hard!

Meet the new boss—same as the old boss.  He hasn’t done squat to reform his oppressive and medieval Church.



  1. JezGrove
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    The word “father” is missing after “dead” in the opening paragraph.

    • Posted June 18, 2018 at 9:42 am | Permalink

      Yes, I fixed it, thanks.

      • Posted June 18, 2018 at 11:04 am | Permalink

        Sorry, I know this is completely off topic but I thought you and your readers might be interested in this:

        Southern Poverty Law Center, Inc. Admits It Was Wrong, Apologizes to Quilliam and Maajid Nawaz for Field Guide to Anti-Muslim Extremists, and Agrees to Pay $3.375 Million Settlement

        • Posted June 18, 2018 at 11:20 am | Permalink

          Nice. 3.4 million dead presidents…

          “With the help of everyone who contributed to our litigation fund, we were able to fight back against the Regressive Left and show them that moderate Muslims will not be silenced,” said Nawaz.

          …very nice.

        • Posted June 18, 2018 at 11:56 am | Permalink

          I’ve just written a post on it.

        • Jon Gallant
          Posted June 18, 2018 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

          So, the SPLC’s capacious treasury of offshore investments has its value. Bravo Quilliam! Let’s hope the outcome of this case is widely publicized, particularly in the academic world. Certain kinds of behavior can be discouraged if they entail a risk of being taken to the cleaners.

  2. Greg H
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    A former friend of mine who was an atheist when we met over twenty years ago, later converted to Catholicism. He became convinced that Christianity was the one true religion and the Catholic church was the one true church because it bore all the marks of what God’s true church should, according to scripture, look like.

    I was on the opposite journey at the time — from Christianity (though not Catholicism) to deism and eventually to agnosticism and full-blown atheism.

    Here was a guy who had previously mocked the belief in hell, telling me with a straight face that’s where I would end up if I didn’t enter communion with his church.

    When I, in turn, mocked the belief in hell, he stopped being my friend. Go figure.

    • ChrisS
      Posted June 19, 2018 at 12:50 am | Permalink

      Yes, it’s strange the way humans can go from one extreme to the other, the way the pendulum swings.

      I had a friend in a similar situation. From being anti-Christian as a college student,swung the other way and became a full-blown born-again in his twenties.

      He was a man obviously in need of answers, or certainties, which I could not share. We drifted apart.

      A shame because he was a good friend.

  3. Posted June 18, 2018 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    I still give him some credit for undermining the Bible. If he claims his authority through Biblical verse (Matthew 16:18) and then undermines the source of that authority, that has to suggest to at least some Catholics that he’s making it all up as he goes along.

  4. Claudia Baker
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    Ya, this video clip made me cringe when I first saw it. Playing off the poor kid’s agony. It’s despicable.

    • darrelle
      Posted June 18, 2018 at 10:18 am | Permalink


    • Posted June 18, 2018 at 10:32 am | Permalink

      He offered a very twisted, nonsensical, yet creative argument, cleverly manipulating the crowd into assuming responsibility for its Bible-defying conclusions. I’d say that anyone capable of handling the situation better would never have been elected pope in the first place.

  5. W.T. Effingham
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    I particularly enjoy the “evangelical cheerleading” portion of the video where the pope has the crowd responding ” NO! ” to a stream of questions. It strongly resembles televangelists tactics where they have the crowd dancing in the aisles and shouting “YES!” to every thing and the last two questions are “Should I continue serving our lawd?” , and “Do I need this sixty – five million dollar aircraft?”

  6. darrelle
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    I’ve noticed the same and argued the same too. I suppose this Pope is a step in the right direction, maybe, but damn. Too many people have either a really low bar or they just aren’t paying close enough attention.

    Personally it’s a toss up for me which is more disgusting, a straightforwardly nasty piece of work like Ratzinger or a treacly, schmoozy nasty piece of work like this one.

  7. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    As long as you keep shoveling money my way you can all go to heaven. Enough said.

  8. Fat Bastard
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    It baffles me that people are taken in by what is so obviously a marketing effort by the Vatican to stop losing customers.
    Also, remind me again what this man’s expertise is?

    • darrelle
      Posted June 18, 2018 at 11:13 am | Permalink


    • dabertini
      Posted June 19, 2018 at 7:42 am | Permalink

      Riding the buses in Argentina with his people.

  9. busterggi
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    I don’t see what’s so great about Heaven, who wants to spend eternity with Jeffrey Dahmer?

  10. dallos
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    “VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis on Saturday said that the use of abortion to terminate pregnancies likely to produce disabled or chronically ill children was the product of a Nazi mentality.”

  11. Posted June 18, 2018 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Whoever told that kid those stories about hell and gave him the idea his father would go there is a child abuser.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted June 18, 2018 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      That’s my take. I’ve got this tweet in my latest post and my comments are about how much the situation sickens me. Because of the effing Church this poor little boy is terrified his loving father is suffering the torments of hell!

      This pope has said before that good atheists will get to heaven, but he’s made a condition with this now. Good includes getting your kids baptized.

  12. mirandaga
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    I think you’re uncharacteristically off base on this one, Jerry. Watching the video, I thought the Pope handled the situation with tact and compassion. That you and others choose to question his motives strikes me as gratuitously mean-spirited. And in any case, this encounter has nothing whatever to do with his willingness or failure to change Church doctrine.

    The Pope is as open to criticism as anyone, but this kind of low blow is unwarranted.

    • Posted June 18, 2018 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      I stand by what I said. He didn’t have to broadcast what the kid said to him to anybody else.

      As for me and others being characterized as gratuitously mean-spirited, that’s a Roolz violation.

      I don’t see what I wrote as a low blow; I see the Pope’s actions as a carefully calculated “rah rah” response to make himself look good while upholding the same odious doctrines. Every dictator at one time or another does some p.r., and if Francis really believed what he said about gays and so on, he’d actually DO SOMETHING TO TRY TO CHANGE CHURCH DOCTRINE. As it is, he just keeps trying to look like the Good Father when what he really is is the Godfather.

      • mirandaga
        Posted June 18, 2018 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

        “As for me and others being characterized as gratuitously mean-spirited, that’s a Roolz violation.”

        I tried hard to find an antonym for “magnanimous” that would come across as accurate/objective rather than as name-calling/insulting, but apparently failed. My apologies to our host and anyone else I may have offended.

    • Lee
      Posted June 18, 2018 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

      I fully understand da roolz (should that have been capitalized?), but I also feel to disagree a bit with Jerry here. (DR permit that, right? That’s how science works…) I may be wrong, of course. To start with a truly overused platitude here, human beliefs and behavior are very complex, and to remove them from the context of one’s upbringing, culture and present circumstance changes everything. I was a deeply converted, convicted Christian up until a few years back (not Catholic). It was science (evolution in particular) that made religious belief impossible for me, but it was the wonder and beauty of science (so well articulated by Dawkins and Sagan) that spoke to my soul in ways that hitherto only religion had.

      But enough of me… I understand well how religionists are experienced masters of PR. Even so, I’ve followed Francis over the years, and it looks to me as though I see a man with a big heart, the head of a big church, representing both the church and trying to use his office to advocate for the poor, refugees and against the seeker of wealth and power in this world. He gave a talk to church leadership a couple of years back on the topic of shepherding vs. fleecing (not the exact title I’m sure) that left me in tears. I don’t believe the doctrine. I don’t believe in an afterlife. But hang me for a fool if that is not a man who is trying to wake up a world that has turned its back on the poor.

      That I am a fool is a real possibility, of course. But even if that is the case, what of well meaning believers who hear words advocating kindness and mercy, who then hear the words of atheists talking only about what hucksters Catholics are? Doesn’t it reinforce all their (somewhat merited) preconceptions about atheists being mean and soulless?

      I saw the movie “Pope Francis: A man of his word” a few weeks ago. If I could believe again, I might well choose to be Catholic because of that man. As it is, I choose to find common cause with people whose values concur with my own, particularly on the evils of neglecting the poor.

      And yes, of course, I realize the Catholic church’s horrific track record on this matter.

      • dabertini
        Posted June 19, 2018 at 7:59 am | Permalink

        You have just provided more evidence that having two dissonant thoughts makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to think critically.

        • Lee
          Posted June 19, 2018 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

          Just curious- how so? Do you think the Pope is just pretending, or doing PR, when he comes across as caring, or teaches the importance of caring for “the least among us”? It’s all an act? I don’t. I get that he’s playing a role- he wouldn’t have the platform he does if he weren’t head of the Catholic church – but in that context, I think he’s a good man doing what he can. I could be wrong. But where is the illogic in that?

          I get that the factual doctrines are fables. I also have a deeper grip on the subject of logic and reasoning than most (professional in the field for years). I personally think that peoples’ myths about their own rationality can be both as baseless and simultaneously as compelling as the religionists’ myths about the universe.

          But we are primates, after all. I try to cut others some slack.

  13. Jenny Haniver
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    All I can say to this is Pa pa pa Oooh mow mow!

    • W.T. Effingham
      Posted June 18, 2018 at 11:52 am | Permalink

      Excellent choreography! I hope Michael Flatly received proper royalties.

    • XCellKen
      Posted June 18, 2018 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

      Ken Kucek’s favorite song from his youth !

  14. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    To be fair, any Pope’s hands are tied re reforming the church. We don’t know of Francis asked the boy permission to tell the story or not.

    I take some umbrage at his asserting the father was good because he baptized the children, but he never implies that had the father not done so he would have been in hell. I see no evidence for items 5 & 6 in the video.

    Catholics have been asserting that non-baptized good people might get to heaven for over a century although the language used is rather condescending. The Eastern Orthodox churches have always held this.

  15. Gordon Davisson
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Regarding point 1: it appears that Pope Francis *did* ask permission before revealing the question. According to the translation in the subtitles here:, he said “I asked Emanuele permission to reveal his question to the public, and he said ‘yes.'”

  16. Posted June 18, 2018 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    I still wonder how exactly the RCC changes policy anyway.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted June 18, 2018 at 2:16 pm | Permalink


      Some beliefs that were almost universally held turn out to have never been officially promulgated, such as belief in Limbo (which is now “in limbo” 🙂 ). Redefinitions of words are also used.
      Policy is easier to change than teaching, notably the 180 degree reversal of its treatment of Protestants circa the 1960s.

      • Simon Hayward
        Posted June 18, 2018 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

        Word definitions and context are important, “denuclearization” in respect to North Korea is a good example

    • mirandaga
      Posted June 19, 2018 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

      “I still wonder how exactly the RCC changes policy anyway.”

      In a word, slowly, but the slowness varies considerably depending on the policy. Some policies are mere tradition and more or less arbitrary and can be changed with the sweep of a Papal pen—e.g., allowing women priests, allowing priests to marry. Others are based on philosophical definitions—e.g., opposition to gay marriage derives from the definition of “natural law” and opposition to abortion from the definition of when human life (and accompanying rights) begins. These latter policies are not likely to change soon or at all, since to do so would undermine the rational consistency of the Catholic world view.

  17. Nell Whiteside
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    I still cannot fathom how the catholic church (or any other religion)still has any followers in this the 21st century? Heaven, hell an all that stuff are not very comforting escapes from reality. Life is a process and when the process ends so does life. Attempting to understand the exquisite complexities of what constitutes life is so much more interesting than anything which religion can manufacture.

  18. John Black
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    I suppose we could have had the alternative from the Pope: “I’m sorry, but the Bible is quite clear here… nonbelievers suffer an eternity in a lake of fire. Sucks to be your dad.”

    Perhaps that would be “better” for the world because it may hasten the demise of Catholicism. But I for one am glad this pope is willing to bend… religion isn’t going away and the more people move toward a softened interpretation of the Bible the better. Indeed, if there were a Muslim Pope and she/he could reinterpret the Quran in a more benign way, the world would be immediately improved for it.

  19. Blue
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    For me and … …
    … … in re ” same as the old boss.
    He hasn’t done squat to reform, ”
    this ( mere ) man has … …
    over all of his time as anything,
    as pope or otherwise, … …
    and of The Same Deal as
    with very many other
    mere men’s comings and goings and
    thinkings and doings,
    … … done nothing to stop the
    ( constant and routine )
    degradation and the dehumanization
    of 53% of the World’s population, … …
    the beings who are its female human ones.



  20. Posted June 18, 2018 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    The fact is he straight out lied to the tormented boy because of his faith in a fairytale.
    His answer is a crafty (got to hand it to him) who knows, but this is probably not the first time this has come up with children, otherwise it’s what you would expect as the boy seems captured and missing his father.
    He could hardly say, NO! the bastards in hell where he belongs.

    One day he might ask the question, why was my father an atheist?

  21. Jon Gallant
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    In November, 1992, Pope John Paul II officially retracted the Inquisition’s judgement of Galileo in 1633. Thus, by admitting an error after a mere 359 years, Holy Mother Church showed itself be be a veritable champion of mindfulness, among religious institutions.

  22. CAS
    Posted June 18, 2018 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    Theologians are spinmeisters. They have to be, given the silly, imaginary things they have to argue about. Note that the pope never gave the boy a direct answer since his response was in the form of a question that made him look good. This avoided the only possible response, consistent with Christian doctrine, that his father was hell bound.

    • Posted June 19, 2018 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      They are also salesmen, which I suppose is a special case of spinmeister.

  23. Diane G
    Posted June 19, 2018 at 12:14 am | Permalink


  24. David Billingham
    Posted June 20, 2018 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    What an excruciating video to watch

  25. Zetopan
    Posted June 23, 2018 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    “He hasn’t done squat to reform his oppressive and medieval Church.”

    Your missing the demonic reformation the pope is quickly addressing by ordering that the church produce many more exorcists. /s

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