All Dogs Go to Heaven, and That Other Thing Pope Francis Never Said

I’ve done it, you’ve done it–go ahead, admit it–forwarded a meme or an email that was so perfect, such a reflection of and corroboration of personal views, only to find out later it was a pack of lies.  It’s human nature to crave affirmation, and when such a beloved and respected person as Pope Francis is doing the affirming, that’s REALLY affirming.

But let’s remember the famous words of Abraham Lincoln, y’all:

As Francis Fever sweeps the nation, Francis memes, old and new, are flooding the internet.  Two extremely popular ones which I’ve made efforts to combat before are back again and stronger than ever, being forwarded by normally trusted sources including Catholics who really should know better.

pope francis pets

Now, I hope as much as anyone that my dogs are in heaven, but that doesn’t change the fact that this meme is not true.

The above meme comes in many forms, and springs from a longer and more complicated story that made the rounds awhile back and also included the gift of a goat and the blessing of guide dogs.  I was suspicious of the story when I first read it, even though as you can see it was being reported by the mainstream press.  It took me about an hour of clicking back and doing research on the Vatican website to realize that the original article in the Italian press had conflated several events and was being misquoted to boot.  Anyone could have done this research but apparently they did not bother.

Y’all, come on.  I cannot BELIEVE that Catholics are circulating this.  I’ve heard plenty of people saying this, but not Pope Francis.  He didn’t say it or anything like it.

Pope Francis has said a lot of wonderful things.  He has also said a lot of challenging things.  Many are uncomfortable with some of his verifiable statements regarding homosexuals, capitalism, and climate change, to name just a few.

But what he has never done, as he very recently reminded reporters, is say anything that falls outside of Church teaching:

I’m sure that I haven’t said anything more than what’s written in the social doctrine of the Church . . . a colleague asked me . . .  “But is the Church going to follow you?” I told him, “I’m the one following the Church.” . . . Things can be explained, possibly an explanation gave an impression of being a little “to the left”, but it would be an error of explanation . . .  And it if necessary, I’ll recite the creed. I am available to do that, eh.

Yes, y’all, you read that right:  all that awesome stuff Pope Francis says is stuff the Church has been teaching all along! It’s all right there in the Catechism and encyclicals, and even most Catholics never read it, and it’s beautiful.  Pope Francis somehow is able to put these teachings into word and action in a way that resonates with people today.  People are listening to him and hearing the doctrine.  Because many cannot reconcile his words with their perception of the Church, they try to frame him as progressive or liberal or as someone who has come to change the Church, and I believe that is what gives rise to these memes that clearly do not reflect Church doctrine.

Pope Francis follows the Church

I’m linking this up to Worth Revisit, the weekly Wednesday linkup hosted by Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb.  You can join in or read the other contributions by clicking the picture below!


20 thoughts on “All Dogs Go to Heaven, and That Other Thing Pope Francis Never Said

  1. This is great!! And so true! The media is so good at twisting Pope Francis’ words and people get a little too excited and some get scared that he’s not really Catholic or whatnot – all is fine people, just read better sources! haha

  2. It’s just amazing that people are actually dismayed by his advocating to help the poor! You would think such a simple thought which is comprehensively covered in the Bible should be acceptable to all!

  3. I love this post. Because Pope Francis is doing things no other Pope has done before or in the news a lot lately people and the media will sadly use his words in stories and memes to get ratings. And, yes people will circulate anything if it’s getting them attention. Sadly you’re right there are some Catholics that have never read the Catechism and encyclicals.

  4. And our legislators are hating on him big time, saying that “he needs to stay out of politics and leave it to them”….all the while they are not able to leave THEIR religion out of politics.

    There is a lot wrong in the Catholic Church, but I like this Pope the more I hear from him.

  5. Clisby

    Hi, Leslie! Long time no see. This brings to mind my frustration with – not exactly the Catholic Church, but with Catholic educators who in my (atheist) opinion aren’t even correctly teaching what the church says.

    Here are 2 examples:

    When my daughter, now a college sophomore, was a freshman in high school, there was a terrible incident where a fellow high-schooler committed suicide on campus, by setting himself on fire; he died a few days later. The whole thing was awful.

    At the Catholic youth group she attended at the time, somehow the subject came up, and some Little Miss Holier-than-Thou decided to opine: “Well, he went straight to hell.”

    I don’t think my daughter ever went back to the youth group, although I didn’t know the reason right away.

    I later told her – and please correct me if my Catholic theology is wrong – the group leader should have immediately told Miss Judgemental that this is not what the church teaches. Yes, this boy killed himself, and yes, I am pretty sure suicide is considered a mortal sin – but as far as I know, the Catholic Church does not teach that committing a mortal sin is a one-way ticket to hell. Only God knows the state of someone’s soul at the time of death. For all I know, Osama bin Laden is in heaven – and no human being, even the Pope, should presume to think otherwise.

    Number two:

    My 13-year-old son came home from Sunday School, indignant that the teacher had said same-sex marriage wasn’t a true marriage.

    He asked why it wasn’t, and the answer he got? “Marriage is for procreation.” Well, even a 13-year-old can see how silly that is, so he asked, “What if two old people get married? That’s not a true marriage?” He never got an answer.

    I’m not really criticizing the church’s stance here – they can oppose whatever marriages they like – but Sunday School teachers should at least be able to come up with something better than “marriage is for procreation”.

    I won’t even go into my astonishment when I found out one of my daughter’s Sunday School teachers was a former assistant at exorcisms. I pretty much said “The inmates are running the asylum over there” and turned it over to my husband the Catholic.

    1. Good to see you, Clisby! This is an extremely valid criticism, and is the result of poor post-Vatican II catechesis. Even those of us who attended Catholic schools in the 70s got a very spotty religious education as the Church struggled to come up with modern religious instruction rather than just having kids memorize the Baltimore catechism. My own Catholic-school educated kids have received excellent religious instruction, but sadly the same is not always true–as you’ve experienced–in CCD classes, where the teachers are volunteers who may or may not understand the faith themselves and the curriculum is not standardized. I agree that it’s a scandal. When kids have intelligent questions they should get intelligent answers, and of course the Church does have an answer for everything if you know where to look for it. But many Catholics still seem satisfied to read what HuffPo says about their own religion rather than taking the time to look at the online catechism or the Vatican website, just to name a few of the easy places they might look for orthodox answers. Regarding suicide, it usually does not meet the conditions for a mortal sin because one of the three conditions for a sin to be mortal is that it must be freely chosen, and since I would assume that most people who are suicidal are experiencing some degree of mental illness, they are not really making a free choice! Furthermore, as you state correctly above, Catholics may NEVER make a judgment on who is in hell—that’s actually heretical. And of course the theology of marriage is way more complicated than the simplistic answer your son was given. Answers like those are a great way to turn young people away from the Church.

  6. Clisby

    I will say, though, that it’s refreshing to be able to combat what they’ve heard in Sunday School with a Catholic argument instead of an atheist argument.

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  10. I think you hit the nail on the head with this: “People are listening to him and hearing the doctrine. Because many cannot reconcile his words with their perception of the Church, they try to frame him as progressive or liberal or as someone who has come to change the Church, and I believe that is what gives rise to these memes that clearly do not reflect Church doctrine.”

    Somehow it is unbelievably hard for people to think outside of the politically liberal or conservative dichotomy. Yet the Church requires just that.

  11. This post is a good reminder that just because you trust the person who posted a meme, doesn’t mean that the meme is correct. I have seen some of these memes and have had the knee jerk reaction of “He said that?” only to do a little research and find out it is a misquote. Thanks for the reminder.

  12. pwcamy

    I love this! I too have been saying – “he’s not saying anything new”!! People are acting like he in not saying what the Church teaches. I find myself shaking my head so often! I love the quote you include where the colleague asks, “will the Church follow you?” and he responds, “I am the one following the Church”!

  13. momstersraisingmonsters

    The Abraham Lincoln meme is hilarious. Reminds me that we give a lot of authority to little pictures that can be made by anyone.

  14. I would love it if my dogs greet me at the pearly gates… that said, my biggest frustration is when people misquote, or only read part of the quotes, by the Pope. The man hasn’t said anything new at all, and often times, I find myself wondering why people are up in arms – he seems pretty logical and rational in his teachings. Then again, I also had a heavy Jesuit influence growing up, too…

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