For those of you who read or watch The Onion, you know this headline or something like it is coming. Here is why. This is a real story, not a fake. It is all over the Web.
In comments likely to enhance his progressive reputation, Pope Francis has written a long, open letter to the founder of La Repubblica newspaper, Eugenio Scalfari, stating that non-believers would be forgiven by God if they followed their consciences.
Responding to a list of questions published in the paper by Mr Scalfari, who is not a Roman Catholic, Francis wrote: “You ask me if the God of the Christians forgives those who don’t believe and who don’t seek the faith. I start by saying – and this is the fundamental thing – that God’s mercy has no limits if you go to him with a sincere and contrite heart. The issue for those who do not believe in God is to obey their conscience.
“Sin, even for those who have no faith, exists when people disobey their conscience.”
Robert Mickens, the Vatican correspondent for the Catholic journal The Tablet, said the pontiff’s comments were further evidence of his attempts to shake off the Catholic Church’s fusty image, reinforced by his extremely conservative predecessor Benedict XVI. “Francis is a still a conservative,” said Mr Mickens. “But what this is all about is him seeking to have a more meaningful dialogue with the world.”
If the present Pope’s views had been shared by Leo X in 1517, would Martin Luther have nailed his 95 theses to the church door at Wittenberg? No. There would have been no indulgence market to protest against. John Tetzel would have been in another line of work.
If atheists can get in, then the average believer has a good shot, if he has a clear conscience. That’s where the indulgence market has always been: the “not quite good enough” market.
While the indulgence market has been badly hurt by the Pope’s statement, the market for fusty images has soared. It’s a matter of supply and demand. The supply has just collapsed. That is extremely good news for me. I have been heavily invested in fusty imagery for years. It’s a shame that I did not take a leveraged long position in the futures market in August. I would have made a killing.