Pope Francis delivered another criticism of some members of his own Church last February 23, suggesting it is better to be an atheist than one of “many” Catholics who he said lead a hypocritical double life.
In improvised comments in the sermon of his private morning Mass in his residence, he said: “It is a scandal to say one thing and do another. That is a double life.”
“There are those who say ‘I am very Catholic, I always go to Mass, I belong to this and that association.’”
He said that some of these people should also say “‘my life is not Christian, I don’t pay my employees proper salaries, I exploit people, I do dirty business, I launder money, (I lead) a double life’.”
“There are many Catholics who are like this and they cause scandal,” he said. “How many times have we all heard people say ‘if that person is a Catholic, it is better to be an atheist’.”
Less than two months after his election, Pope Francis suggested that atheists who do good may still go to heaven.
What the Church Teaches
The First Commandment given by the Lord to Moses is clear: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deut 6:5).
While it is important to love our neighbors, Jesus has pointed out clearly in the Gospel that the first and greatest commandment is to love God:
You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it:* You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments. (Matthew 22: 37-40)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church has condemned atheism as “one of the most serious problems of our time”. The Catechism states (2123-2136):
Atheism must therefore be regarded as one of the most serious problems of our time… Since it rejects or denies the existence of God, atheism is a sin against the virtue of religion…The first commandment summons man to believe in God, to hope in him, and to love him above all else…Since it rejects or denies the existence of God, atheism is a sin against the first commandment.∎
by Michael Shimpert, Veritas