Our discussion of Hawaii’s new assisted-suicide law induced my Catholic friend Joe Nelson to cite all sorts of Catholic doctrine, which led to an interesting conversation about applying the Catechism to public policy.
Pope Francis has all that doctrine memorized, so he needs no footnotes to assure a little Italian boy in a poor Roman parish that the boy’s non-believing and now deceased father is in Heaven:
“How beautiful to hear a son say of his father, ‘He was good,’” the pope told the children. “And what a beautiful witness of a son who inherited the strength of his father, who had the courage to cry in front of all of us. If that man was able to make his children like that, then it’s true, he was a good man. He was a good man.
“That man did not have the gift of faith, he wasn’t a believer, but he had his children baptized. He had a good heart,” Pope Francis said.
“God is the one who says who goes to heaven,” the pope explained.
The next step in answering Emanuele’s question, he said, would be to think about what God is like and, especially, what kind of heart God has. “What do you think? A father’s heart. God has a dad’s heart. And with a dad who was not a believer, but who baptized his children and gave them that bravura, do you think God would be able to leave him far from himself?”
“Does God abandon his children?” the pope asked. “Does God abandon his children when they are good?”
The children shouted, “No.”
“There, Emanuele, that is the answer,” the pope told the boy. “God surely was proud of your father, because it is easier as a believer to baptize your children than to baptize them when you are not a believer. Surely this pleased God very much.”
Pope Francis encouraged Emanuele to “talk to your dad; pray to your dad” [Cindy Wooden, “‘Is My Dad in Heaven,’ Little Boy Asks Pope,” America, 2018.04.16].
Pope Francis didn’t say, “Emanuele, God took your papa into heaven.” But when he says, Parla con tuo papa, he gestures with his right hand toward the sky.
An atheist saved? Perhaps the heavens don’t forfend.