Saturday, July 11, 2009

Radio Replies First Volume: "Outside the Church no salvation"

536. Do you maintain that one is obliged to join your infallible, one, holy, catholic, apostolic, and indefectible Church, if he wishes to be saved?

If a man realizes that the Catholic Church is the true Church, he must join it if he wishes to save his soul. That is the normal law. But if he does not realize this obligation, is true to his conscience, even though it be erroneous, and dies repenting of any violations of his conscience, he will get to Heaven. In such a case, it would not have been his fault that he was a non-Catholic and God makes every allowance for good faith.

537. So I deserve Hell because I am a non-Catholic?

If you say, "I know quite well that the Catholic Church is the true Church, which God obliges me to join, but what of that!" then you deserve Hell. That would be a serious sin. But apparently you do not realize this obligation. Your position is based upon insufficient or false information, and this leads you to a wrong if sincere conclusion.

538. If one has to be a Catholic to get to Heaven I shall be glad to stay outside.

That is an absurd statement, for there is no eternal happiness outside Heaven. But I understand what you mean. You believe the Catholic Church to be wrong, and you will not do what you believe to be evil that good may come. But God does not want you to do that. Nor do I. As long as you believe the Catholic Church to be wrong, you are obliged not to join it. Yet if ever God gives you the grace to perceive its truth, you will be obliged to join it, no matter what the cost in renouncing your previous attachments.

539. If a Catholic leaves his Church, and outside that Church lives a good and devout life, could he be saved?

You give an impossible case. To live a devout life is to live a life devoted to God. Now no Catholic can have a really sufficient reason to doubt the truth of his Church. If doubts do come, he owes it to God to make sure of his position before he acts, and inquiry will show such doubts to be unfounded. If he leaves without such inquiry, he is to blame for throwing away the best of God's gifts. If he inquires sincerely, he stays.

540. But what if he be fully convinced that the Catholic Church is wrong, even though his conscience be erroneous, would you blame him for leaving rather than violate his conscience by remaining?

I would blame him for allowing his conscience to become so convinced by insufficient reasons, and for not studying the grounds which absolutely guarantee the Catholic Church as the only completely Christian Church. His first difficulties should have led him to seek advice from competent guides.

541. So if a Catholic becomes a Protestant, he has no hope?

While there is life there is always hope. Such a man may return to the Catholic Church, or at least die sincerely repenting of ever having left it.

542. Are Protestants free to leave the Protestant Church, yet Catholics not free to leave the Catholic Church?

One may always renounce error for truth; but no one is free to forsake truth for error.

543. Christ died for all. He did not say that we must all be Catholics.

Since Christ died for all, it follows that He wants all to belong to the one Church He established and endowed with His authority.

544. Many clever men have examined the Roman claims and have rejected them. They do not think it necessary to join the Catholic Church.

Equally clever men are convinced of its necessity. After all, there are clever men who reject Christianity itself, but that does not make the truth of Christianity uncertain. We cannot argue from the degrees of intelligence in those who accept or reject the Catholic claim. Such differences of human thought prove nothing except that men differ. The real question is not affected. We must study carefully the value of the foundations upon which the claim rests.

545. You said that a Protestant in good faith could be saved. Does not that admit that his religion is sufficiently true?

No. Such Protestants are saved not because of, but in spite of their erroneous religion. They have simply been true to a conscience which was erroneous through no fault of their own.

546. What are the conditions for the salvation of such a good Protestant?

He must have Baptism at least of desire; he must be ignorant of the fact that the Catholic Church is the only true Church; he must not be responsible for that ignorance by deliberately neglecting to inquire when doubts have perhaps come to him about his position; and he must die with perfect contrition for his sins, and with sincere love of God. But such good dispositions are an implicit will to be a Catholic. For the will to do God's will is the will to fulfill all that He commands. Such a man would join the Catholic Church did he realize that that was part of God's will. In this sense the Catholic Church is the only road to Heaven, all who are saved belonging to her either actually or implicitly.

547. Since Protestants can be saved, and it is ever so much easier to be a Protestant, where is the advantage in being a Catholic?

Firstly, remember the conditions of salvation for a Protestant. If he has never suspected his obligation to join the Catholic Church, it is possible for him to be saved. But it is necessary to become a Catholic or be lost if one has the claims of the Catholic Church sufficiently put before him. I myself could not attain salvation did I leave the Catholic Church, unless, of course, I repented sincerely of so sinful a step before I died.

Secondly, it is easier to live up to Protestant requirements than to live up to Catholic requirements. Non-Catholic Churches do not exact so high a standard of their followers as does the Catholic Church of hers. But that is not the question. It is much easier to be a really good Christian in the full sense of the word as a Catholic than as a Protestant, and surely that is what we wish. What advantages contribute to this? They are really too many to enumerate in a brief reply. The Catholic is a member of the one true Church established by Christ. He has the glorious certainty of the true Faith, and complete knowledge of the whole of Christian truth is much better than partial information, if not erroneous information. By submission to the authority of Christ in His Church he has the advantage of doing God's will just as God desires. If he fails at times by sin, he has the certainty of forgiveness by sacramental absolution in the Confessional. He has the privilege of attending Holy Mass Sunday after Sunday, and the immense help of Holy Communion by which he may receive Our Lord Himself as the very food of his soul. He has the privilege of sharing in the sufferings of Christ, by observing the precepts of fasting and mortification. He receives innumerable graces from Sacramentals and from the special blessings of the Church. He may gain very useful indulgences, cancelling much of the expiation of his sins which would otherwise have to be endured in Purgatory. And he is more loved by God in virtue of his being a Catholic even as God loves the Catholic Church more than any other institution on the face of the earth. In short, even as there is an advantage in being a Christian rather than a pagan, so there is an immense advantage in being a true Christian and belonging to the one true Church rather than to some false form of Christianity. Thus a good Catholic has many advantages over and above those possessed by a good and sincere Protestant. But, as I have remarked, if a Protestant begins to suspect his own Church to be defective, inquires into the matter, and becomes convinced that the Catholic Church is the true Church, he has no option but to join that Church if he desires to avoid the risk of eternal loss.

1 comment:

MamaMidwife said...

I. Love. This.

Thank you so much for taking the time to articulate this.

As a recent convert, I am asked these questions often by my Protestant friends. I never really have a good answer for them other than, "Come over for tea and we'll talk."

I'll be linking to you.