In recent months, I’ve discussed many faith issues, and presented the Catholic view on these topics. Of course, that only makes sense, since this essay series is titled “The Merry Catholic.” For example, a few weeks ago, the subject was Catholic apologetics, which is defined as offering a defense and explanation of Catholic doctrines.
However, I suspect some folks have concluded that I am one of those “Catholic only” people, who believe Catholic teachings are the ONLY correct teachings, and therefore everyone who is not Catholic is a member of a false religion and has a one-way ticket to eternal damnation. This view was embodied a few generations ago by Fr. Feeney, who erroneously proclaimed, “There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church!”
Although I sincerely and joyfully believe the Catholic Church has been entrusted by the Lord with the fullness of the Faith, that does not mean other Christian denominations are completely wrong and are hurtling at breakneck speed down the Road to Perdition.
Others who agree with my view are none other than St. Pope John Paul II and all the authors of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, published in the 1990s. If you don’t quite remember, the people who compiled that Catechism, under the watchful eye of JP2, were solid, orthodox Catholics. They’ll never be confused with the more progressive members of the Church, the ones who relentlessly insist the Church must cease and desist from taking a firm stand on any issue, especially ANYTHING having to do with human sexuality.
So, it’s safe to say the Catechism is a solid and orthodox presentation of Catholic beliefs and practices. And the Catechism has many interesting things to say about those who are members of non-Catholic denominations, whom we respectfully call “our separated brethren.”
There are four key points the Catechism makes about people in Protestant denominations. First, the Catechism notes that they “possess the Word of God.” Protestant Bibles have the same divinely-inspired message as Catholic Bibles. We believe these sacred texts contain the truth God wished to share with us, and therefore, Protestants are in possession of God’s Holy Word.
Next, the Catholic Catechism explains that Protestants have valid baptism. Have you ever noticed at the Easter Vigil that some people converting into the Catholic Church receive three sacraments: Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation; while others receive only two: Eucharist and Confirmation? This is because they’ve already been baptized in a Protestant community, and whether it was Congregational, Baptist, Methodist, etc., it was a valid baptism that forgave Original Sin and imparted divine grace. There’s no need for them to get baptized again.
Third, the Catholic Catechism says Protestants have the right to be called Christians. If the focus of their faith is Jesus Christ and His teachings, then how could we possibly say they are not Christians?
Finally, and most importantly, the Catechism says our separated brethren in the Protestant communities have the “means of salvation.” The reason sincere and faithful Protestants can go to Heaven is simple: if you have even a little Jesus, you have a LOT of Jesus.
The Lord’s mercy and grace and supernatural Spirit are so powerful, even a lit bit of Him is more than enough to forgive sins and conquer death once and for all.
As I mentioned earlier, I sincerely and joyfully believe the Catholic Church has been entrusted by Jesus Christ with the fullness of the faith. But this does not mean I believe all non-Catholics are doomed to Hell. On the contrary, the Church says they possess divine truth and a valid path to Heaven. Plus, in my personal experience, many of them are far more faithful and loving than I’ll ever be. Thank God for our separated brethren in the faith!