The Controversial Pope

Posted on December 14, 2014 by


Alexandra Harrington


Christianity is one of the most popular religions all across the world, with Catholicism being the largest denomination. The Catholic Church is controlled by one of the most influential figures, the Pope. While there have been a couple hundred popes since the founding of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has caused a lot of controversy and raised some red flags recently. In the growing technological world of the 21st century, the Pope’s actions and words can be accessed through a variety of sources, each giving the reader their own analysis of the subject. My final project will cover a few of the Pope’s recent controversial actions and how the media is portraying it to the public.

Can atheists be saved?

Well, according to Pope Francis, they sure can! During a Wednesday Mass, the Pope spoke about the saving grace of God being extended to not only the believers, but also the non-believers. He spoke very frankly on the matter, saying “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!” (Pope Francis Says Atheists) During his homily, the Pope backed up his claim by quoting Mark’s Gospel. Jesus’ disciples’ idea of a person not being able to do good because they are not one of them was shot down by Jesus ordering them to let the person do good. The Pope utilized this message as a foundation for his claim; however, it didn’t convince everyone, especially Catholics, that his message followed the Church’s tradition and conservative views. In their minds, an atheist cannot be saved due to the fact that they reject the idea of God in general.

Opinions on this event were even controversial by those covering the story.  Huffington Post, who published an article and newscast on the topic, could not seem to agree on whether or not the Pope’s words were in line with the Church’s teaching. According to the article, “Pope Francis Says Atheists Who Do Good Are Redeemed, Not Just Catholics”, the Pope “rocked some religious and atheist minds” (Pope Francis Says Atheists) but the rest of the article carries on presenting a controversial portrayal in which Christians are disagreeing. However, when USA Today News covered the same story they presented a much different, more positive portrayal. In her article, “Pope Francis Defends Atheists”, Kimberly Winston says “Reactions among American nonbelievers ranged from mild surprise to warm welcome.” (Winston) The rest of the article continues with this same positive theme, including testimonies from atheists expressing gratitude and respect, and really does not depict actual signs of controversy.

Faulting the Catholic Church?

The Pope is the central and most important figure of the Catholic Church. While the Pope has several roles as the leader of the Church, his primary role includes representing “Christ’s love and concern for every single individual” (The Role of the Pope). This role also relates back to Pope Francis’s comments about atheist. Essentially, the Pope is the face and the word of the Catholic Church. With that being said, no one, especially Catholics, would expect the Pope to say anything demeaning towards the Church, but some argue that he has done just that.  The Pope has gone on record, speaking nontraditionally of the Church on major moral issues such as abortion, homosexual marriage, and divorce. Pope Francis is quoted saying “We know what the Church believes, but need to communicate the Gospel of life in a more effective manner.” (Coren) His idea of a more effective manner consists of being more open and understanding while still holding true to Church doctrine. Pope Francis feels so strongly on that matter that he has gone as far as creating a “preliminary document…calling for the church to welcome and accept gay people, unmarried couples and those who have divorced”  (Coren). As with the issue above, the media has had a difficult time reporting this in a single opinion.

Not only is the media struggling to agree, people everywhere are struggling to agree. While some people think the Pope’s ideas are a refreshing revolution, others think the Pope is stepping out of line and going against Church doctrine. According to Michael Coren’s article “Pope Francis’ Revolutionary Vision” there are Catholics “who feel betrayed by this, but they have got it wrong” (Coren). Coren’s article is very much in support of the Pope’s ideas and does a sufficient job of providing evidence to support the Pope. He is trying to persuade the reader to support the Pope. However, on the other hand, “At the Vatican, a Shift in Tone Toward Gays and Divorce” presents just the opposite message. Povoledo and Goodstein present a message in which the Pope’s actions are detrimental to holding onto the Church’s teaching. The authors described the Popes actions as “a striking departure from traditional Catholic preaching” (Povoledo).


Media is growing more and more every day and reaching people all across the world. The media covers just about everything, from worldwide disasters to local heroes to popular trends. It’s no different in Vatican City. Pope Francis’s actions are watched and covered regularly and the media presents the information in such a way they feel fitting. As with anything, the media could cover a million different opinions. One article may present one view, while another presents just the opposite. The Pope has made some controversial decisions since he became head of the Church and will probably continue. Another thing that will also continue is the media’s coverage of it.

Works Cited

Coren, Michael. “Pope Francis’ Revolutionary Vision.” NY Daily News. NY Daily News, 22 Sept. 2013. Web. 15 Nov. 2014.

“Pope Francis Says Atheists Who Do Good Are Redeemed, Not Just Catholics.” The Huffington Post., 23 May 2013. Web. 01 Dec. 2014.

Povoledo, Elisabetta, and Laurie Goodstein. “At the Vatican, a Shift in Tone Toward Gays and Divorce.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 13 Oct. 2014. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.

“The Role of the Pope.” The Role of the Pope. Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2014.

Winston, Kimberley. “Pope Francis Defends Atheists.” USA Today. USA Today, 23 May 2013. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.

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