The latest news report about the Pope is that he may visit the Holy Land of Israel in 2014, perhaps as early as March: Times of Israel. But the more interesting question is whether Pope Francis will issue a teaching, under the papal magisterium, on the salvation of Jews, in conjunction with that visit. The answer is found, I would say, in the Pope’s behavior since his election. He has not shied away from controversy. He has repeatedly criticized the errors found within the conservative Catholic subculture. He has suggested that perhaps even atheists can be saved without converting. He has condemned anti-Semitism (and by implication anti-Judaism).
I am convinced that in the year 2014, Pope Francis will teach under the papal magisterium that Jews and other non-Christian believers — who possess sufficient accurate knowledge of Christianity yet do not convert before death — can still be saved and have eternal life in Heaven.
As I have detailed in previous posts and in my book (Forgiveness and Salvation for Everyone), I believe that the teachings of Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the Magisterium necessarily imply that non-Christians can be saved even without converting to Christianity and non-believers (atheists, agnostics, others) can be saved without converting to belief in God.
But many conservative Catholics have accepted false teachings, whose source is the conservative Catholic subculture that developed in sinful reaction to the holy teachings of Vatican II. In the realm of salvation theology, these false teachings include the claim that salvation is obtained by only a small percentage of human persons, the claim that anyone who knows about Christianity and does not convert is condemned to Hell, and the claim that atheists cannot be saved without converting to belief in God. The ultra-conservatives also claim that prenatals, infants, and young children, who die without a formal baptism (by water), are sent to the limbo of Hell. Again, as I have written in posts and in my book, these claims are contrary to a faithful interpretation of Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium. But since there is no explicit definitive teaching on these points, certain conservatives continue to spread these false teachings among the poor and weak flock of Jesus Christ.
When Pope Francis visits the Holy Land, perhaps in preparation for that visit, I expect that he will issue a papal document answering the question as to whether Jews who know about Christianity must convert to be saved. But the answer is already clear to my mind: Jews can be saved without converting to Christianity.
The result of this teaching will be a firestorm of criticism from conservative Catholics. They will reassert the pseudo-dogmatic teaching of the conservative Catholic subculture that non-Christians cannot be saved without converting to Christianity and non-believers cannot be saved without converting to belief in God.
Some of them will try to radically re-interpret the papal document, so that salvation for non-Christians is said to be possible but very rare, under very restrictive conditions. They will take the Pope’s words and interpret them so narrowly that very few non-Christians, who know about Christianity and do not convert, would be saved.
Others will try to claim that the Pope’s words are not “of the Magisterium”, but are only an opinion or a prudential judgment. Still others will claim that the Pope’s teaching is simply a rare example of an error in a non-infallible papal teaching.
But Pope Francis is not in the habit of remaining silent when any controversy arises. He will likely respond with public comments rejecting both the radical re-interpretation of his words and the idea that he was not teaching under the Magisterium.
As for the salvation of atheists, Pope Francis might answer that question in the same document. But I think it is more likely that he will teach on that point in reaction to the controversy caused by teaching that Jews can be saved without converting. He will respond to the objection of conservatives by teaching more fully on salvation theology. And this teaching will continue to contradict the ideas of the most conservative Catholics, ideas they treat as if dogma.
And if these dissenters continue to rant about his teaching on the salvation of non-Christians and non-believers, perhaps the Pope will settle the matter using Papal Infallibility. There is an assumption among some Catholics that Papal Infallibility is only used by the more conservative Popes, such as Pope Pius IX, defining the Immaculate Conception, and Pope Pius XII, defining the Assumption of Mary. But every Pope has the ability to teach definitively and infallibly by his sole authority as Roman Pontiff.
I believe that Pope Francis will initiate the great apostasy by teaching truths from Tradition and Scripture, truths entirely compatible with past Magisterium teachings, but which also contradict various assumptions and dogmatized personal opinions held by conservatives. As a result, some conservative Catholics will accuse Pope Francis of heresy and will thereby depart from the true Faith.