Two days after the audience on January 2, 2019 in which Pope Francis suggested that it is better to be an atheist than a Christian living hypocritically in hatred for his neighbor, Monsignor Nicola Bux, consultor to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, commented on these remarks, saying he fears they “will empty churches a little more.”
The former close collaborator of Benedict XVI responded on January 4, 2019 to some questions from the Italian newspaper Quotidiano di Foggia. The Roman theologian and liturgist began by pointing a finger at Francis’ habit of improvising in his speeches: “I think the problem begins the moment the pope leaves the written text he prepared for himself and raises his eyes to the audience,” he explained.
Coming back to the pope’s remarks according to which an atheist is better than a hypocritical practicing Catholic, the consultor to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints wondered:
If I say that those who live in hatred for their neighbor – and who are indeed, therefore, in a state of grave sin – would do best to remain far from the Church, but at the same time I claim that we should grant communion to the divorced and remarried – who are also sinners – I am contradicting myself. In fact, both parties are in a state of sin. So why be strict with those in the sin of hatred and merciful with the divorced and remarried?
In doing this, according to Monsignor Bux, the Holy Father unconsciously slips “into a contradictory and Peronistic vision, a schizophrenia that goes against the very idea of mercy he has spread.”
Msgr. Bux expressed the heart of the matter at the end of his demonstration:
Can the pope propagate his private ideas instead of those that belong to the perpetual Catholic truth? No, he is not a private doctor and (…) cannot teach something that goes against Catholic doctrine and the deposit of the Faith.
And the Roman theologian concluded:
That is why the pastors of the Church must always remain faithful to the permanent and enduring doctrine and the truth without a trace of error, preserving it carefully.