Atheist and magician Penn Jillette defended the pope's position and Catholicism in a fiery exchange with CNN's Piers Morgan, who is Catholic, in a recent interview.
Jillette, author of Every Day is an Atheist Holiday and God, No!, said to Morgan in a Feb. 28 "Piers Morgan Tonight" show, "Well, I think I may be somebody who believes in the Pope's position more than most Catholics. I really take people at their word. And it seems like all of the cynicism and all of the – who are we going to get in, modernizing – there's not supposed to be modernizing. It's supposed to be [the] word of God."
The famed atheist magician then asked Morgan, "You call yourself a Catholic. Don't you follow everything?"
Morgan replied, "No, that's the point. I have become increasingly like many young Catholics, I think, really disgruntled by the failure of successive popes and the Vatican to move at all with the times when society is changing so fast."
Seeming to better understand the claims of those of the Catholic faith than Morgan does, Jillette stated, "This is great, what side you're picking here. I would say on my side that if you have someone who is a conduit to God and is speaking God's word, even if you can't understand exactly what God's plan is, even if you do see suffering, that you consider unacceptable, or any suffering is unacceptable, that still doesn't mean you get to vote on what God actually believes."
Morgan listed some of the Roman Catholic dogmas that are not spelled out in Scripture, such as Catholic priests not being able to marry, divorced Catholics not remarrying in church and that female priests can't be ordained. He stated that none of these things actually came from Jesus Christ's mouth, causing Jillette to respond by saying that Morgan sounded like a Protestant.
"Absolutely. But now you're talking Martin Luther. That was Martin Luther saying that an individual …could interpret the Bible themselves. The idea, as I understand it, of the Catholic Church is that it's not interpreting the Bible yourself. You have somebody who is actually able to do that."
Jillette argued, "Once you have somebody that is telling you, we are interpreting God for you, it seems like you either agree or you don't. You either say, like Martin Luther, I'm going to have a direct relationship with the word of God, or I'm going to go through a conduit of God on Earth, which would be the Pope."
Matt Slick, president and founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, told The Christian Post on Friday, "Penn is right about what he says about Catholicism. According to what the Roman Catholic Church teaches, the Pope is the conduit of God so to speak, so there shouldn't be any modification of what God says according to their teaching. Penn is right. It's kind of funny that an atheist is talking about things like this."
"The Protestant Church cites the Bible alone as the source of doctrinal knowledge. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, cites the Bible and Tradition. It is apparent that the Roman Church has added much to the scope of Christian doctrine that is not revealed in scripture. This is an issue that needs to be addressed. It is vital," Slick said in a written statement.
On the show, Morgan said in closing, "I can't believe I have Penn Jillette in front of me actually defending my church against my own criticisms of it."