Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Pope Francis criticized members of his own Catholic Church on Thursday, suggesting it is better to be an atheist than a Christian living a double life.
Francis made the comments in his homily during the private morning Mass in his residence in the Vatican.
"How many times have we heard -- all of us, around the neighborhood and elsewhere -- 'But to be a Catholic like that, it's better to be an atheist.' It is that, scandal," he said, according to a transcript from Vatican Radio.
He described a scandal as "saying one thing and doing another; it is a double life, a double life. A totally double life: 'I am very Catholic, I always go to Mass, I belong to this association and that one; but my life is not Christian, I don't pay my workers a just wage, I exploit people, I am dirty in my business, I launder money ... ' A double life.
"And so many Christians are like this, and these people scandalize others."
In the sermon, he gave the example of a business in financial trouble. The workers hadn't received wages and were unable to pay for necessities. But the head of the company was taking a winter vacation on a beach in the Middle East.
"These are scandals," the pope said.
"Jesus talks, in the Gospel, about those who commit scandal, without saying the world 'scandal,' but it's understood: But you will arrive in heaven and you will knock at the gate: 'Here I am, Lord!' – 'But don't you remember? I went to Church, I was close to you, I belong to this association, I did this... Don't you remember all the offerings I made?' 'Yes, I remember. The offerings, I remember them: All dirty. All stolen from the poor. I don't know you.' That will be Jesus' response to these scandalous people who live a double life."
In a sermon in February 2016, the pope called out the "fakeness" of Christians who talk sanctimoniously, but do little to help others.
In 2013 at Mass, after becoming pope, he said even atheists can go to heaven thanks to the redemption of Jesus. He said: "The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone" he said. Father, the atheists?' Even the atheists. Everyone!"
Also in 2013, he granted an interview with atheist Italian journal Eugenio Scalfari.