Archives for September 2010

Elsewhere: Christian church shopping


When catechumens and candidates continue their journey into RCIA, they are received by the Rite of Welcome. The ceremony is beautiful and quite simple with only two questions asked of those entering. The first question is “what do you ask of God’s Church?” to which they respond faith. The second is “What does faith offer your?” to which they respond eternal life.

In the last three weeks I have written about the Church in the road trip of life, the communion of saints, and only Catholics go to heaven? The Church is the Communion of Saints, the Body of Christ, and our guide to faith and eternal life.

Jesus did not institute thousands of independent churches, all teaching a different “truth,” from which we may shop according to our preferences. He create one, from which the others formed out of heresy and schism. Some remain closer to the teaching of His Church while other “progressive” ones stray wider and wider. If it were not so serious, it might be comical:

Once again, Father Longenecker provides great insight into the whole “church shopping” mindset:

Riding up through the hills of upper South Carolina you can’t help but notice the huge number of churches. Every mile or so there’s another one: Pebble Creek Baptist, Maranatha Church, Heritage Church, New Spring, Rocky Rill Baptist, Beaver Run Baptist, Calvary Baptist, Assembly of God, Church of God, Disciples of Christ, Christian Disciples…the names and numbers are bewildering and ever multiplying.

It’s the Protestant principle run riot. The irony is that while the non-Catholics say, “It doesn’t really matter what church you belong to” they seem to think it pretty important to keep breaking up with one church to go and start another one. If it doesn’t matter what church you go to why not go to the one on the nearest corner? The second problem with this commonly held view is that it only takes a short jump from “It doesn’t matter what church you go to” to “Well it doesn’t really matter if you go to church at all.”

Indeed, in a conversation with some good non Catholic folks not long ago they said, “Our teenaged daughter tells us that she doesn’t want to go to church and doesn’t need to go to church because she already has a relationship with Jesus in her heart.” They didn’t have an answer for her, and of course cannot have an answer because according to the Protestant theology they follow there is no such thing as ecclesiology and their daughter is right.

The only thing that remains, therefore, for non Catholic Christians is to make church attractive to people. If they don’t have to go to church, then they should want to go to church and the only way to make people want to go to church is to offer something they want. So we find that the non-Catholic Churches are extremely competitive. They offer a vast range of services and pastoral care and ‘outreach opportunities’. Now, there’s not problem with that necessarily except that what results is the commercialization of Christianity.

The temptation is there to water down the gospel, keep people happy and never challenge them. The worship becomes more and more entertainment oriented. Sentimentality sweeps over. The people want a ‘feel good’ experience and the pastors do everything they can to provide that lest the consumers get tired of what’s on offer and shop around for something they like better.

Read his whole essay here.

Only Catholics go to heaven?

Only Catholics Go To Heaven

Father Leonard Feeney, S.J. knew there is no salvation outside the Church. He knew and taught that only members of the Catholic Church could be saved. Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus – “outside The Church there is no salvation.” That is Catholic doctrine and that is what he quiet literally taught.

There was one problem. Father Feeney interpreted the doctrine incorrectly. The Magisterium does not teach that only Catholics can go to heaven. Ironically, the good Father made the Protestant error of making a personal interpretation. He meant well, but his insistent disobedience to the authority of the Church unfortunately resulted in his excommunication. By God’s mercy he was reconciled many years later before his death in 1978.

Catholics do NOT believe that formal membership in the Catholic Church is an absolute requirement for salvation. If you are Protestant (for example), we do NOT believe that you are necessarily condemned to hell.

I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.

That said, we DO believe that there is no salvation outside the one and only Church instituted directly by Christ. Jesus is the universal Savior, working through his Church and indivisible from it. The living and historical Church works in a wider sphere than its direct members. I can say with complete confidence that while non-Catholics can go to heaven, there are only Catholics in it! At that point we are all fully united in the Body of Christ.

It is a sad fact that there are Christian communities separated from the Church. In their memberships are large numbers of people who seek God with a sincere heart and truly desire to follow His will. Through no fault of their own, they do not know or accept Christ’s Church. They may be aware of the Catholic Church, but through misinformation, conditioning and circumstance, are closed to it. While they know Christ, if not His Church, they are not cut off from God’s mercy.

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.

Gaudium et Spes 22

Even non-Christians may be saved. The Catechism explains it as follows:

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.

CCC 1260

Brothers and sisters please take heed, this is not a “get out of jail free card” to simply find a church that fits your lifestyle. One is not free to ignore God’s will. To the degree that you or your denomination pervert God’s will to that of your own, you are at grave risk. If you are Catholic, being fully aware of the teaching of the Church and rejecting it – you are especially at risk.

None of us on earth today definitively knows our own fate. Our final judgment has not yet been determined. Through His Son Jesus Christ, God has given us His Church to feed and tend us. There are many independent churches that operate in His name with sincere and faithful members. Their hope is not unfounded, but their path is precarious. The surest path to salvation is through the Church Christ Himself created – the Catholic Church.

7 Quick Takes Friday (set #10)

7 Quick Takes Friday

Some random thoughts or bits of information are worthy of sharing but don’t warrant their own full post. This idea was started by Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary to address this blogging need. So, some Fridays I too participate when I have accumulated 7 worthy items. Without further ado:

— 1 —

This guy is a “goner.” Father Zakaria Botros is an Egyptian Coptic priest fearlessly spreading the message of Christ to the Muslim world. Pray for him, this modern martyr in-the-making, that he survive as long as possible against the enforcers of the religion of peace.

— 2 —

A recent report claims bloggers in my age group (27.2% of the population) makeup only 7.1% of the bloggers. The other old geezers just don’t know how to blog…

— 3 —

Catholics have come a long way in America. No longer does the public worry that our religious values will be “forced” upon everyone else. Currently, we hold the second and third positions in succession to the president. Nancy Pelosi explains her duty as a Catholic and the importance of “the word” in public policy:

— 4 —

Understanding the Catholic devotion to the Blessed Mother is difficult for some. In a Catholic Answers forum thread it was discussed (yet again). One helpful commentator provided this excellent list of links:

— 5 —

So, what makes the Constitution of the United States of America different from other objects, such as…   maybe something like…   perhaps…   toilet paper? Let Andrew Klavan explain:

— 6 —

It is CCD season again! Last year I had the opportunity to substitute some, this time I will co-teach a class of 14 6th graders. Wednesday was the first class and already I see there are things to be learned from them.

— 7 —

Some good bumper-stickerish (just invented word) sentiments I like:

If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.


Write your goals in cement, but your plans in sand.