Pope Francis suggested during a Feb. 23 mass in Rome that being a corrupt Catholic is worse than being an atheist.
The Catholic leader said during the homily at the Casa Santa Marta morning mass that "many" Christians exploit people, run "dirty" businesses, launder money and live double lives; in other words, they partake in the "scandal" of "saying one thing and doing another," Vatican Radio quoted Francis saying during the mass, according to CNN.
"So many Christians are like this, and these people scandalize others," he added. "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."
The speech accompanied Mass readings from the Gospel of Mark, in which Jesus says it is better to be drowned than to cause sin in others.
Francis went on to describe a rich Christian at the gates of heaven who told Jesus that he prayed regularly and was an active member of his church.
"Yes, I remember," Jesus says to the man in Francis' story. "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."
The progressive pope is known for his left-leaning views and his inclusion of atheists, whom he said can go to heaven after calling evangelical efforts "solemn nonsense" in 2013, according to Vatican Radio:
The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! "Father, the atheists?" Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class!
We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace.
If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good.