A Homily for the Solemnity of Pentecost
Since he became Pope, the press has been trying very hard to paint Pope Francis as a liberal who will change Church teachings. Numerous false stories have arisen about what the Pope is alleged to have said. The following article from December 2014 is an eye-opening example of how the press create stories and run with them often without checking their facts. Please be very suspicious of anything Pope Francis is alleged to have said, and always check official sources before you accept a news story as truth.
David Gibson, Religion News Service12:12 p.m. EST December 13, 2014
Stories swirled this week that Pope Francis said animals can go to heaven, warming the hearts of pet lovers the world over. Unfortunately, none of that appears to be true.
“Paradise is open to all of God’s creatures,” Francis was reported to have said to comfort a distraught boy whose dog had died.
If true, the story would have been a sparkling moment on a rainy November day, and the setting in St. Peter’s Square would only have burnished Francis’ reputation as a kindly “people’s pope.” The story naturally lit up social media, became instant promotional material for vegetarians and animal rights groups, and on Friday even made it to the front page of The New York Times.
Yes, a version of that quotation was uttered by a pope, but it was said decades ago by Paul VI, who died in 1978. There is no evidence that Francis repeated the words during his public audience on Nov. 26, as has been widely reported, nor was there was a boy mourning his dead dog.
So how could such a fable so quickly become taken as fact?
Part of the answer may be the topic of the pope’s talk to the crowd that day, which centered on the End Times and the transformation of all creation into a “new heaven” and a “new earth.” Citing St. Paul in the New Testament, Francis said that is not “the annihilation of the cosmos and of everything around us, but the bringing of all things into the fullness of being.”
The trail of digital bread crumbs then appears to lead to an Italian news report that extended Francis’ discussion of a renewed creation to the question of whether animals too will go to heaven.
“One day we will see our pets in the eternity of Christ,” the report quoted Paul VI as telling a disconsolate boy years ago.
The story was titled, somewhat misleadingly: “Paradise for animals? The Pope doesn’t rule it out.” It wasn’t clear which pope the writer meant, however.
The next day, Nov. 27, a story in the Italian daily Corriere della Sera by veteran Vaticanista Gian Guido Vecchi pushed the headline further: “The Pope and pets: Paradise is open to all creatures.”
Vecchi faithfully recounted the pope’s talk about a new creation, and also cited Paul VI’s remark.
According to The New York Times, which issued a massive correction to its story Friday, Pope Francis actually said: “Holy Scripture teaches us that the fulfillment of this wonderful design also affects everything around us.” The writer of the article concluded those remarks meant Francis believed animals have a place in the afterlife.
But the headline put Paul VI’s words in Francis’ mouth, and that became the story.
The Italian version of the Huffington Post picked it up next and ran an article quoting Francis as saying “We will go to heaven with the animals” and contending that the pope was quoting St. Paul — not Pope Paul — as making that statement to console a boy who lost his dog. (That story, by the way, is nowhere in the Bible.)
The urban legend became unstoppable a week later when it was translated into English and picked up by the British press, which cited St. Paul as saying that “One day we will see our animals again in (the) eternity of Christ,” while it has Francis adding the phrase: “Paradise is open to all God’s creatures.”
When The New York Times went with the story, along with input from ethicists and theologians, it became gospel truth.
Television programs discussed the pope’s theological breakthrough, news outlets created photo galleries of popes with cute animals, and others used it as a jumping off point to discuss what other religions think about animals and the afterlife. At America magazine, the Rev. James Martin wrote an essay discussing the theological implications of Francis’ statements and what level of authority they may have. It was all very interesting and illuminating, but based on a misunderstanding.
A number of factors probably contributed to this journalistic train wreck:
- The story had so much going for it: Francis took his papal name from St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of environmentalism who famously greeted animals as brothers and sisters.
- Pope Francis is also preparing a major teaching document on the environment, and almost since the day he was elected in 2013 he has stressed the Christian duty to care for creation.
- Francis also blessed a blind man’s guide dog shortly after he was elected, an affecting image that was often used in connection with these latest reports of his concern for animals.
- Moreover, the media and the public are so primed for Francis to say novel things and disregard staid customs that the story was too good to check out; it fit with the pattern.
In most accounts, Francis’ comments were also set against statements by his predecessor, Benedict XVI, who insisted that animals did not have souls. That apparent contrast fit a common narrative pitting the more conservative Benedict against the ostensibly liberal Francis.
That may be true in some areas, but probably not when it comes to animals.
Adding insult to injury, the Times article cited St. John Paul II as saying in 1990 that animals have souls and are “as near to God as men are.” But that, too, was a misquote, as media critic Dawn Eden explained at the website GetReligion.
There should have been warnings signs: Francis has frowned at the modern tendency to favor pets over people, and he has criticized the vast amounts of money spent by wealthy societies on animals even as children go hungry.
Contributing: Katharine Lackey, USA TODAY
I was having dinner with a friend the other night who is not Christian but who was asking me a lot of questions concerning what our Catholic faith is all about. When I explained it to him, he said I pretty much captured it in a nutshell. Since he found it helpful, I thought it might help someone else by posting it on my blog, so here goes!
With Original Sin, Heaven was lost to mankind. Satan had his entry into our world, and with him came his greatest weapon: death. No matter how good any one of us tries to be, because of Original sin, when we die, we would enter into Hell and condemnation for all eternity, and there was nothing we could do about it. A good image would be of us being thrown into a prison and shackled to the wall with the door slammed shut behind us. With Satan, all our pleading and begging for mercy to let us out falls on deaf ears. The only one who can help us is God. We need his help; without him we’re doomed. God did come to our help by becoming a man. He took on our human nature precisely so that now he could enter the realm of death, something he couldn’t do as God alone. He took on flesh in the person of Jesus, who is both truly God and truly man. When he died on the cross – which was his plan from the beginning – he was able to enter into Hell and free us. You can imagine it as Satan letting the one person in who had the key to our shackles and the gate to Hell. When he rose from the dead, he destroyed death’s hold over us. It’s as if Jesus paved a highway that goes right through Hell and up to Heaven. So Jesus totally reversed the power of death by taking Satan’s prime weapon and turning it against him. What Satan intended as the means to enslave us in his kingdom – death – is now the way we leave his power and enter into heaven. We will still die, but death now leads to our salvation and not our condemnation. But in order for us to follow the path, we have to be one with Jesus. God took on our nature, and now we must take on his. This is accomplished through the Sacraments. In Baptism, we die with Christ and are buried with him, but we also rise with him. We inherit heaven and become heirs with Christ to everything he won by his death. In the Eucharist, Jesus gives us his body and blood as our food so that our flesh is now made up of his flesh, and every time we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and receive Jesus in Holy Communion, we are on the cross with him in an unbloody and painless manner, are buried with him and risen in him over and over again. It’s as if Jesus created a power line that transverses eternity for us to plug into his death and resurrection and receive the salvation he won for us once and for all. He made the sacrifice he offered on Calvary forever present to us in the Holy Mass. He also gave his teachings to the Apostles with the authority to continue these Sacraments for all of time, and told them to “teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you.” (Matt. 28:20) We still have to walk the path to heaven – there is no moving sidewalk that automatically takes us there – and sometimes, because while Baptism washes away Original Sin, concupiscence (the inclination to sin) still remains – we stray from the path. Christ calls us back to the right path constantly through the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and teaches us through the Church, especially the successor to St. Peter (the Pope) to whom Jesus gave the ultimate authority to speak in his name (cf. Matt. 16:13-20), to help us know when we’re not sure if certain activities or beliefs lead us to heaven or not. So, in order to reverse the effects of Original Sin, we must accept Jesus as God-made-man, be baptized, receive him in Holy Communion every Sunday for the forgiveness of our sins, and allow him to keep us on the path to heaven by following the way he shows us through the teachings of the Church. Do that and you’ll get to Heaven. It’s as simple as that!
P.S. Thanks, Joe, for the inspiration!!
“Do you want to go to heaven?” Anyone who believes in God would almost certainly answer that question with a “yes!” No one who believes would desire anything else. So why, then, do we have to worry about going to heaven? Some people mistakenly hold that, “since God is all-loving, what loving God would want us to burn in hell for our sins rather than be with him in his kingdom? He wouldn’t deliberately condemn any of his children; therefore, everyone will go to heaven!” Unfortunately, that’s not a correct read on God, as they leave out one very important element: free will. Yes it is true: God desires the salvation of everyone. His death and resurrection made that possible for all of us. But in order to enter heaven, we must follow him. That is up to us.
Imagine if you will a ship that has come to rescue people who were tossed overboard in a shipwreck. The ship anchors and sends a ladder down into the water for everyone to climb up to safety. Many people do, but others, for whatever their reason, refuse to climb the ladder. Maybe they are enjoying the water and see no reason to get on the ship, or maybe they’re expecting the captain to jump into the water and drag them out personally. They argue, “The captain doesn’t want us to drown, so he’ll jump in and pull each of us out of the water.” And so they stay treading water waiting for the captain to save them. The ladder is still there and the captain is saying, “Come on! Grab onto the ladder and climb up onto the ship!” but the person says, “No, I don’t have to because I know you’ll come down and get me!” Well, what happens? Glug! Glug! Glug! The person drowns. Did the captain deliberately drown the person because he refused to climb the ladder? No, he is very upset by the fact that the person drowned, but it was the person’s own fault. So those who were saved were saved because the captain threw down a ladder to make their rescue possible. As for those who weren’t saved, it was their own fault!
It is the same way with God. By becoming man and suffering, dying, and rising for us, he made our salvation possible. But you and I have to freely avail ourselves of what he offered in order to enter heaven. Remember that, while we often think of heaven as this big banquet going on in heaven, theologically speaking, “to go to heaven” means to be perfected, to be perfectly formed in the image and likeness of Christ, to be totally present to him. What needs to be perfected? Our muscles? No. Our hairdo? No. Obviously, it is our will. Original Sin occurred when Adam and Eve said no to God and yes to sin. Our salvation is when we reverse that, when we say no to sin and give our full assent to God’s will. Now, if God were to force us to follow him, that would not be our free will, our own consent; it would be coercion. So God cannot drag us by the hair into heaven whether we want to enter or not – he can’t force us to be perfected. He will help us, but it has to be our own choice. Hence, anyone who is saved is saved by the grace of God; anyone who is not, it is his own fault! God saves those who are saved; the condemned man, by his own refusal to follow God, condemns himself!
So therefore, no one can sit back and rest on his laurels thinking his salvation is in the bag. We must work on it every day by following God’s law. Yes, he desires our salvation and he helps us in a thousand ways every day to walk the path, to climb the ladder out of the waters of death, but we have to walk, we have to climb. He cannot do it for us.