Even Atheists

The “money quote” from Pope Francis’ Mass yesterday morning:

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class!” the pope said.

Could this be an indication of how Pope Francis might think the words “pro multis” should be translated in the Eucharistic Prayer?

H/T Jim Chepponis



31 responses to “Even Atheists”

  1. John Drake Avatar
    John Drake

    And maybe he’ll change the translation of all the various English versions of the New Testament too!

  2. Fritz Bauerschmidt Avatar

    As far as I can tell, PF is articulating the traditional faith of the Church, which we’ve managed to maintain for centuries before anyone thought of translating peri pollon as “for all.”

  3. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

    I think this homily is also directed to those in Catholic academia who have tried to sell the theological idea that there is redemption apart from Jesus Christ depending on your religion or lack thereof. Didn’t the American bishops get into a rift with a sister theologian a couple years ago precisely about that? I suspect Pope Francis isn’t going to touch the translation wars but pray what the Church prays which in Italian is still “for all” but not in Latin, not in English, not in Spanish. And Spanish has had the most accurate translation of the Latin long before we English Johnny come lately’s have had it. I wonder if Cardinal Borgoglio whined about the Spanish version “for many?”

    1. Paul Schlachter Avatar

      @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #3:
      The Spanish version of “pro multis” in use in every liturgy in which I have taken part is “por todos los hombres.”

      1. Fr. Ron Krisman Avatar
        Fr. Ron Krisman

        @Paul Schlachter – comment #7:

        Thank you, Paul.

        Every time someone posts a statement saying that the Spanish words are “por muchos” (as Karl Liam did above in comment #4), I scratch my head. Is this true? How did I miss the fact that there are new liturgical books in Spanish and that they change the words of institution?

        I know that some priests (even some bishops) actually change the Spanish words of institution from what is the approved and published text. If priests (and even bishops?) in Argentina are and have been saying “por ustedes y por muchos” instead of “por vosotros y por todos los hombres” have they perhaps just made the change on their own without there having been a change in the Spanish language Misal Romano? I ask my friends if any Spanish-speaking country has approved and published a translation of the Missale Romanum, editio tertia, and I always get a “No.” So this is confusing.

      2. Fr. Ron Krisman Avatar
        Fr. Ron Krisman

        @Karl Liam Saur – comment #12:

        Thank you!

        Unfortunately my computer can’t open this link. It’s happened MANY times before with this vaticaninsider site.

      3. Paul Inwood Avatar
        Paul Inwood

        @Fr. Ron Krisman – comment #13:

        Ron, I had no trouble with the link at all. Here’s the English link, in case it’s any better for you:


      4. Fr. Ron Krisman Avatar
        Fr. Ron Krisman

        @Karl Liam Saur – comment #12:

        I just googled “words of consecration changed for Argentina” and got another hit with “vaticaninsider,” and the URL for that one did not work either.

        I’m wondering if anyone reading this subscribes to Notitiae, and whether there is any notification of the CDWDS confirming this decision of the episcopal conference of Argentina (and perhaps Chile also?), whether the change(s) only involve the words of institution, etc. Perhaps look especially in the years 2009 and 2010.

        Spanish speaking conferences of bishops set up an ICEL-like structure right after Vatican II. It was dissolved after only a few years when it was mutually determined that Spanish-speakers just could not agree on one translations. (I am generalizing, of course).

        In February 1986, representatives from all Spanish-speaking countries were called to a meeting at the Vatican, at which they were presented a Spanish translation of the ordinary of the Mass (including all eucharistic prayers) and told to go home and get their episcopal conferences to approve it. This “texto único” was approved (with some wrangling especially from Mexico) by all the conferences (the NCCB approved it in Nov. 1986) and has formed the basis for all the different editions of the Misal Romano in various countries since that time. So if Argentina (and Chile too?) have changed the words of institution and Spain and Mexico and other countries have not, is the texto único fragmenting a bit?

    2. Joe O'Leary Avatar
      Joe O’Leary

      @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #3:
      Could the “sister theologian” be the English sister whose book was pulped? Pope Francis had better get down to work on solving the English translation mess, if he does not want to seem more seepage. And if he goes on saying “per tutti” he will be fighting against the Vatican, which heavily insisted it want both the Italians and Germans to say “for many”. To call the German and Italian bishops whiners is unfair. By the way, Rahner’s anonymous Christian theory is surpassed by John Paul II and Benedict XVI who teach that God works redemption for non Christians specifically through their religions (though Benedict adds that this occurs ultimately through the mediation of Christ and his Church), rather lofty pontifications.

      1. Bill deHaas Avatar
        Bill deHaas

        @Joe O’Leary – comment #23:
        Joe – on Allan’s *ideologue website* – he suggests that this *all* is the *universalism heresy*.
        So, he takes Francis’ words and interjects his usual nonsense telling folks that, of course, you have to take Francis’s words and *properly understand* them as he re-interprets to fit his Baltimore Catechism mentality. Talk about *self-referential*.

  4. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
    Karl Liam Saur

    Well, FWIW, there were three Spanish translations being used in Latin America, and Argentina’s didn’t shift from “por todos” to “por muchos” until 2010.

  5. Crystal Watson Avatar

    I wondered if this was akin to Rahner’s Anonymous Christian idea or Hans Urs von Balthasar’s idea that no one goes to hell. Pope Francis, the universalist – yay 🙂

  6. M. Jackson Osborn Avatar
    M. Jackson Osborn

    How refreshing and joyous it is to hear the Catholic pontiff state this truth so definitively and without reservation or qualification. The idea is certainly an ancient one held by not a few writers of early times. It has certainly been obscured, though, by centuries of haughty and proudful boasting to the effect that outside the Church there is no salvation. It is Christ who saves us, not the Church. It is Christ whom all will meet and be judged by when they die, not a priest or prelate. This does not prejudice the Church as the ‘blessed company of all faithful believers’ and the channel of graces to them and all. But it does let God out of his box. Bravo, Francis, for saying this so plainly and without fine print.

  7. Bill deHaas Avatar
    Bill deHaas

    Thanks, Fr. Ron – can’t remember using any Spanish translation in Dallas; Guatemala; Chicago; elsewhere in Texas that didn’t use todos but what does Allan know. His comment continues his *dance, bob, weave* antics especially since earlier this week he posted about *there is no salvation outside the church*; his interpretation of Francis’ “ideologues can’t love”; his mantra against academics (current version of the devil – another one of his mantras); his mantra against nuns who don’t wear old fashioned habits and do theology; and continued missing the point from the daily homilies of Francis about self-referential; mission; the poor; etc. (ideologue – sounds like a description of Fr. Z or a blog from Macon, GA)

    Reminds me of a statement in America magazine during Vatican II and speaking about Evelyn Waugh: http://conciliaria.com/2013/04/a-thought-for-the-interim/#more-2324

    Especially this line: “….For Mr. Waugh, you see, lives in every parish, stands in the pulpit of not a few, holds a chair in many a seminary or college, and speaks from the pages of publications everywhere. The object of his protest or demand is not always reprehensible; it becomes so when advanced on grounds of spiritual isolationism. Evelyn Waugh has, therefore, rendered a perhaps unintended service to the Church. He has reminded her leadership that a properly disposed and thoroughly informed laity is vital to the success of the ventures on which this Council has embarked. He has laid his isolationism at their doors.”

  8. Charles Day Avatar
    Charles Day

    I read the article and will say I continue to be impressed with this Pope.

    He makes important points and does so clearly and in relation to the actual Gospel for the Mass he is celebrating. It does not matter to him how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. What matters is that we (all of us, not just Catholics) do the work of The Lord. Talk like this is how doors can be opened for us all to be one Body.

  9. Charles Day Avatar
    Charles Day

    As a funny coincidence, I just watched tonight’s episode of The Colbert Report and he has a humorous (I think) take on this homily.

  10. Alan Hommerding Avatar
    Alan Hommerding

    “Membership has its privileges.” (John 3:16)
    The Colbert piece was pretty funny; anybody who’d like to see it:


    1. Alan Smith Avatar
      Alan Smith

      @Alan Hommerding – comment #14:
      Clicking on this link in the UK generates an invitation to “give up [our] silly accents and move to America.” It would seem that the Church is more inclusive than The Colbert Report.

  11. Jonathan Day Avatar
    Jonathan Day

    Nothing new here, as Fritz suggests. In the second century, St Justin the Martyr wrote:

    We have been taught that Christ is the first-born of God, and we have declared above that He is the Word of whom every race of men were partakers; and those who lived reasonably are Christians, even though they have been thought atheists; as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus, and men like them; and among the barbarians, Abraham, and Ananias, and Azarias, and Misael, and Elias, and many others whose actions and names we now decline to recount … (First Apology, §46)

    Fritz, I agree that the Church has long held this view ‘before anyone thought of translating peri pollon as “for all.”’. On the other hand, for by far the largest portion of that time, nobody translated pro multis or peri pollon in the Mass or the Divine Liturgy at all!

    Better to get the sense of it right, if we are going to translate it.

    1. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
      Jordan Zarembo

      @Jonathan Day – comment #17:

      Jonathan: Better to get the sense of it right, if we are going to translate it.

      At the current moment, one hermeneutic which might result in a reasonable outcome is not an acceptable option.

      I’ve noticed over the years on PTB that the “pro multis debate” often fissions into two highly dichotomous camps. The first desires “for all” (or equivalent in other languages) out of concern that not a few Catholics will not understand the nuance of “many” and perhaps erroneously believe that they are excluded from the sacrament or salvation in general. Hence, “for all” is the only option because it mitigates the chance of misinterpretation.

      In the second case, a fundamentalist approach to translation demands a literal translation of pro multis unconditionally. This approach is also quite deficient, as no reflection is given to consequences of liturgical literalism in the past, present, and future.

      The initial question should not be “what to do” with pro multis, περὶ πολλῶν, за многие etc. but a study of the reception of the verba across time and a wide array of liturgical traditions. Here the subjectivity of human reception of the words of institution fuses with the reality of typical and translated texts as actors in liturgy and social anthropology. Subjectivity and pastoral concern are important, but must rest upon a hermeneutic and methodology of greater latitude and longitude.

    2. Jeffrey Pinyan Avatar

      @Jonathan Day – comment #17:
      I’m not sure St. Justin’s remark about “those who lived reasonably” (μετὰ λόγου) before the birth of Christ is making the same point as Pope Francis’ remark that Christ has redeemed all of humanity.

      1. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
        Jordan Zarembo

        @Jeffrey Pinyan – comment #21:

        I’m not quite sure myself. One of the enduring images of the resurrection in eastern Christianity is the icon of ἡ ἀνάστασις, “The Decent into Hell of the Resurrection” (lit. “the raising up”, from ἀνίστημι). Here is a westernized example from St. Mark’s, Venice, 11 c., (courtesy of http://www.icon-art.info), which draws on the eastern traditions. I must admit that I cannot sightread the Latin, as most of this text is written in a extremely challenging orthography. The Greek, however, is quite clear, and reads “The Holy Resurrection” (ἡ ἁγία ἀνάστασις), though in Byzantine majuscule (print), hence lunate sigma.

        In this icon Jesus Christ glorified crushes Hades (anthropomorphized as a red man), and surrounds himself with the patriarchs, philosophers, and prophets imprisoned (i.e, the chains) in Hades before the resurrection. The “Holy Resurrection”, as depicted in both Eastern and Western forms, in my view fully supports St. Justin Martyr’s orthodox understanding of the all-encompassing salvation for all persons. Christ’s atonement, then, does not respect time if persons both before and after the salvific act are explicitly liberated through Christ.

        Pope Francis’s proclamation that salvation is offered for all humankind contains an implicit but profound message. Both Justin Martyr’s “atheists”, as well as atheism as conceived of today, is enfolded within salvation. Pope Francis has a brilliant and succinct way of expression which is so very necessary for our world. His Holiness’ explanation of “for all” in a few but complex words indeed is testimony to this great gift.

      2. Jim McKay Avatar
        Jim McKay

        @Jordan Zarembo – comment #22:

        There is an Italian commentary on this icon from St Mark’s at:
        It quotes a Greek liturgical hymn saying “the soldiers guard you on earth while you are under the earth giving new life to those who have died since the beginning of the world.” A beautiful image of captivity and liberation, even in my translation of an Italian translation of a Greek text.

        The Italian author reads the Latin inscription as MORS ET ERO MORTIS SURGENTUM DUX[QUE] COHORTIS MORSUS ET INFERNO VOS REGNO DONO SUPERNO, which is what I was looking for when I got caught up in the Greek hymn.
        Thanks for this glimpse of beauty.

      3. Jordan Zarembo Avatar
        Jordan Zarembo

        @Jim McKay – comment #26:

        Thank you Jim for the link and a transcription of the Latin. One only hopes that I will live long enough to go to St. Mark’s and see this image in person. I hope to visit St. Mark’s and the 1000 other churches on my list (rough approximation, of course).

  12. Tom Diebold Avatar
    Tom Diebold

    I really am not sure what the controversy is regarding “for many” vs. “for all.” Isn’t there a clear distinction in Christianity between redemption and salvation? All . . . ALL . . . have been redeemed. Salvation is a different matter:

    “. . . the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few (Matt 7:13-14, RSV-CE).”

    All have been redeemed, but the way that leads to life is hard, and few will find it.

  13. Christopher Douglas Avatar
    Christopher Douglas

    Check this out: early-twenty-somethings hoping for angels to meet them…not so bad. Plus, I think that they expect to have to give their consent. Seems to me not heretical. The Most High God gave us free will. He’s not the Supreme Dictator, is he? If you don’t want to go to heaven, he’ll respect your lack of consent. You don’t have to go. He won’t force you to go.

    Here’s the link:


  14. Jonathan Day Avatar
    Jonathan Day

    The Latin reads, roughly,

    And I shall be the death of death, and the leader of the multitude of those risen; and I shall be the sting of hell [i.e. its conqueror]; and I present you with the kingdom of heaven.

  15. Paul Sheppy Avatar
    Paul Sheppy

    Isn’t it anti pollon (rather than peri pollon)?

    The polloi are the “mob”, the people without a voice or a vote – the people the religious elite of 1st century Palestine called “the poor”.

    Pro multis strictly means “for the many”; in reality, it means “for the excluded”. This is, of course, far too political a reading to be used when talking to God….

  16. Joe O'Leary Avatar
    Joe O’Leary

    Vatican has “clarified” pope’s remarks — this regime of “clarification” could be a system for keeping the pope in his place.

  17. Jim Pauwels Avatar
    Jim Pauwels

    Here is one news story on the clarification. Or, for those of us who are optimistic, here is one news story of someone in the Vatican taking advantage of a teaching moment 🙂


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