The Catholic Church - The Only Church?
Recently Pope Benedict reiterated the claim of the Catholic Church as being the only "true" church of Christ. His statement upset many of other denominations. It upset me also. I have collected my thoughts regarding organized religion and offer them for your consideration. Much of what I have to say is in agreement, I believe, with many Catholic authorities.
According to Christian scripture, Jesus said, "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church". From that statement we can assume that Christ intended to have Peter lead a group of people (The word that He used for church means "group of people".) who would follow His ways and spread the message of following His ways. "His Ways" were that of selflessness, love, and charity. That was the way of His life as recorded throughout the Gospels and as recorded in Mat 25: 31- 40 the basis on which we will be judged. He did not leave instructions on rituals or the governing structures of his group of followers. His followers, being human, devised governing structures and rituals.
Being human, there were errors, disagreements and even corruption. There was the split of East and West, termed a "wound" by Pope Benedict and I believe rightly so. But there developed a desperate need of reform, a correction of wrongs and abuses, and the hierarchy, controlled by ego, refusing to admit to error, inflicted a deeper wound out of which Protestantism was born. The floodgates of descent were opened and factions went in every direction. The way of Christ all but forgotten in the manifestation of man's ego in each splinter group as well as the original tree, sure that only each entity knew the mind and the will of God.
I believe that the Holy Spirit continued to work with us and there were sparks of sanity in all this as well as a core of people who retained the original intent and continued to follow the path of Christ. The Second Vatican Council was a step back to the original concept in following the way of Christ and opened the possibility of a unified effort. I don't think total unity will ever be possible again. But that does not mean that God is going to exclude those from the "wrong" denomination from heaven.
Even the Catholic Church does not hold that as a belief. It has been accused of believing that but is now saying that "it never officially held that view". Rejoice in that statement for it is a close as an apology as you are likely to receive for not disavowing the concept before. The view, however is closely akin to the prominent Christian view that "Only Christians can attain salvation". It is this view that was probably at the core of infant Baptism in the Catholic and several Protestant denominations. But even in years past that idea was in trouble in the Catholic Church so "Limbo" was invented as a place for un-baptized babies to escape from Hell. The Church has now discarded that concept as inadequate to account for a merciful God.
The (Catholic) Church now holds that "Baptism by desire" is sufficient to gain salvation, thus making it possible for anyone to gain heaven. Furthermore it admits to the possibility of a non-conscious desire" to have the same result. People who follow Christ, that is, follow "His way" of selflessness, love and charity, can be saved. That opens the door for everyone including non-Christians and even atheists.
So, why go to church or any particular church?
Because Christ said "Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church". He intended that His followers band together in support of each other and to evangelize the world. It is hard to be selfless, particularly when there are ego-driven selfish people all around us. We need mutual support. We need to be a visible group of followers so others will want to join with us. Furthermore, Christ said "Church" not churches. Does that mean that there can be only one and that all others are wrong and their members excluded from salvation? No, we already agreed that even atheists can be saved. (I hope we agreed on that.) It simply makes sense that all Christians would be better off as members of a single Church. If we are to be all united in Heaven, what better way to get there than together.
I will go a step further and say that a good candidate would be the Roman Catholic Church. I know it is not perfect. It is a human institution and subject to human frailties. It does have an unbroken history back to Peter, the Rock on which Christianity was founded. I didn't say unblemished ... but the Holy Spirit has not failed to get us out of trouble on innumerable occasions and I believe He will continue to do so. In my humble opinion it provides the best path to the way of Christ. (Ego? - I hope not) Do all the protestant churches need to surrender and relinquish their identity? I don't think so. There is no reason we need to follow all the same rituals, devotions and methods of prayer. There are diverse rites within the Catholic Church at this time so that isn't new.
So, the answer is ... It could be possible. We just need to put our egos aside and recognize that nobody really knows the mind of God ... other than in the message of Christ. All we can do is strive for lives of selflessness, love and charity. We could start in our religious institutions.
Did Pope Benedict say that there was no salvation
outside the Catholic Church?
NO! In spite of the slant put on his statement by the headlines in the media, he did not say that. He could not without refuting the stated beliefs of the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
1260 "Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery." Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.
My understanding is that "ignorant of the Gospel " doesn't necessarily mean that he as never been exposed to it but that he does not understand it. ... I know of calculus but I certainly don't understand it.
Does the Pope believe that the best path to
salvation lies through the Catholic Church?
You bet he does! If he didn't he wouldn't chose to be Catholic. Doesn't the head of any church believe that his church is the best? Of course he does.
Do I believe the Catholic Church is the best path
to salvation? For a clue, see
How Could I Go
Grandpa Don 07/16/2007
This is not so much about St. Julie Billiart parish, but about the NEW Catholic Church. It may not seem new to my children and definitely not new to my grandchildren but it is no longer the same church that I grew up in and did not understand during that time. It is new and dedicated to Jesus as a result of the Vatican II council of bishops.
The Catholic Church - The Only Church?
World of Grandpa Don