Well, then.

Goodness. I’m sure everyone else has already heard that the Pope announced Tuesday that non-Catholic churches are not true churches and that Catholicism provides the only true path to salvation. Click here if you want to read the article. (Hat tip to my friend Kerry for sending me the article.) What do people think about this?

I’ve often wondered about the balance religion has to strike between including others and not including just anybody. I have no doubt that AA folks would not feel that any meeting was a true AA meeting if, say, its members felt you could drink during the meetings but nowhere else, or that you could drink as long as you didn’t get drunk. The whole point of AA is not to drink at all. But is this the same thing? Why would Catholicism be the only path to salvation? Didn’t Lutheranism arise in part because Martin Luther felt the Catholic Church wasn’t the path to salvation? Was Luther wrong?

 In other news, I’ve met a lovely gal who is a practicing Jew and who has agreed to take me to synagogue sometime soon. I’ve allowed a certain nervousness about new things to get in the way of that, but this seems to be the solution. She goes to both a conservative and a Reform synagogue, so I’ll be able to report on both soon.

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4 Responses to “Well, then.”


  1. 1 Phil July 12, 2007 at 8:29 pm

    Same Post as above, but this time using spell check. (Little embarrassed)

    I guess as the resident Catholic visitor of your site I will comment. I have much to say, but first I would like to get some understanding on what you and maybe some of your readers are thinking.
    Did the Pope really say that the Catholicism is the “only path to heaven”?
    In this scenario that I will give, can both people be right or is one of them in the wrong? The scenario: a person who believes there is no god and a person who believes there is a god.
    What is wrong with saying someone is wrong? Or do you believe that it is wrong to say that someone else is wrong?
    Thanks.

  2. 2 hdolezalek July 12, 2007 at 9:04 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Phil, and I’m looking forward to hearing what you think about this.

    I’ve read the full text of the statement (available here) and while it never uses the exact words “only path to heaven,” the document does suggest – to me – that the Catholic Church is the only true church and that while other churches may have some sacramental uses and aspects, unless they’re Catholic churches, they’re not really quite the real deal.

    As to saying something is wrong, this is possibly a good subject for a post. Part of the reason I’m an agnostic is that I’m unwilling to say that someone else is wrong about God. That, in turn, is because there is no evidence that I can look to that proves the case one way or another. As I’ve discussed in many rambly posts, experiences of mine have suggested that there’s a God – nature, other people’s kindness, etc. – but I have seen nothing that shows the existence of God to me empirically. That doesn’t mean I rule out God, but it does mean that I won’t tell someone else that they’re right or wrong about God, because I don’t know myself.

    The Vatican’s statement suggests that the Catholic Church has decided (has always believed) that there is only one way to be a real, honest-to-murgatroyd Church of Christ, and that others are wrong to believe otherwise. They have a right to say that, without a doubt. But I see no evidence to suggest that’s true, which is why I take issue with it. My experiences have suggested that there are many paths to God at many churches, Catholic and otherwise.

    But as an agnostic, I got nothin, so I want to hear what others think! Fire away!

  3. 3 Joseph Eggleston July 17, 2007 at 3:04 pm

    Holly,

    Since you brought up Martin Luther, I’ll take a stab at the Pontiff’s remarks.

    The Roman church has long viewed their bishop as the head of all bishops, thus, Rome is the head of all churches – everyone else is outside of the true church. But, as the 16th century Reformation held, the true church is not a matter of human hierarchy answering to this bishop or that, but of God’s Word and the grace of the Gospel; when you’ve found these, you’ve found “church” in its full and proper sense.

    That said, I do agree with Benedict’s assertion, “that catholicism provides the only true path to salvation,” though I mean it a bit differently than he does. He means Catholicism as in the institution (big “C”), while I use it to refer to the original and universally accepted Christian faith (small “c”). The original message of the Christian faith and the universal truth of the Gospel, as taught by Jesus, handed down by the apostles, recorded in scripture, and maintained in the church, is catholic. It is orthodox. And, it is the only true path to salvation.

    His Holiness’ disgust for a Lutheran’s point of view notwithstanding.

  4. 4 Phil July 24, 2007 at 3:10 am

    First off I wouldn’t expect you to agree with what the Catholic Church believes about herself. It would be sort of funny if you did. I can just imagine in your About Me section, after you have explained about yourself and your agnostic beliefs you insert a huge BUT… “If I did believe in a God and if I believed that God revealed Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, I would believe that he only founded one church and that Church is the Catholic Church.” That would be some interesting discussions you would have.
    the context of this document? This document was a continuation of profe
    Anyway, my comments on the Pope’s document. What was ssional theological discussion between the Vatican and some reformed communities in Germany. So what the media and the rest of the world did was basically walked into the middle of an ongoing conversation.

    With that said, we need to remember that to have a fruitful and honest discussion we need to have both parties communicate effectively what they believe or our thinking. If one party is not clear in sharing what they believe or is wishy washy or is afraid to speak their mind because they are too afraid to offend some one, than it will be very hard for fruitful discussion to be actualized. So what the Vatican was doing with this document was clarifying what we believe about ourselves and about other Christian groups. What if the Vatican was more concerned about other people’s feeling than wanting to have a fruitful and honest discussion? What would happen is that the Vatican would be doing themselves and the other party a huge disservice and not only that but wasting each other’s time. Have you ever talked to someone and they only told you what u wanted to hear, not the truth about what they were thinking? I am not saying the Vatican should be rude or insensitive, I am saying that the Vatican has an obligation to speak the truth in love. Anyway, enough of the context… lets get to the nitty gritty. I will address two points on what the Catholic Church didn’t say and one point on what she did say.

    1.- Did the Catholic church “slap protestant denominations across the face” as David Kuo wrote because the Vatican said that the other Christian denominations are defective and not true churches? No. Catholics and Protestants have two different definitions of what constitutes a church. If Catholics say that you need A, B, C, to be considered a Church and Protestants say that A, B are not necessary, only C, and D are necessary, than it is not a slap in a face at all. It is opportunity to discuss what actually constitutes a Church. Are Catholics adding to the definition Christ left for us or are Protestants subtracting from the definition? Since Holly is discerning the question of “is there a God”, I don’t think this is the forum to get into the Catholic/Protestant debate. (Holly I hope that did not sound arrogant, that certainly wasn’t my intent….. also if your non-Catholic Christian friends are at curious on why the C.C believes what she believes about herself, I would be more than happy to explain the why behind my beliefs).

    2.- Did the Catholic Church say that she is the only path to heaven? No. Thank you Holly for clarifying that. I would like to first comment on the unreported positive comments this document said about the different denominations and then direct you and your readers to what the catholic Church believes about the eternal destiny of non Christians, Jews, AGNOSTICS, pagans, and so on.

    First, just because something is defective doesn’t mean it still cant work. I have crohn’s disease. I have a defective intestine. With that said, my intestine still works, it still will digest food. It doesn’t digest food the way the created designed it, but it still works. The same can be said about other Christian denominations who reject papal authority or the sacraments, and other Catholic teachings. I believe these truths are gifts from God, if you unknowingly reject them you might still be “saved,” but forfeit all these wonderful gifts God has given his Church. Anyway, what were the positive things said about other Christian denominations?
    In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church.
    Basically the Catholic Church is affirming that Jesus Christ is effectively present within them for the salvation of their members.

    Secondly, if anyone cares what the Catholic Church believes about the non Christian world you can read this exert from the second Vatican council. Catholics are very positive towards other faiths. We believe that there may be more than just Catholics in heaven (I say may because I don’t know who will or will not be saved, only God can judge that). We do believe that it is only through Jesus Christ will we be saved, but that doesn’t mean that one will need explicit faith in him. (I know I am hitting on controversial grounds so please ask questions if you don’t understand). Here’s the excerpt from lumen gentium (# 15 explains the Catholic Church’s relationship with other Christians):
    16. Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God.(18*) In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh.(125) On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues.(126); But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohamedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things,(127) and as Savior wills that all men be saved.(128) Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.(19*) Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.(20*) She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator.(129) Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, “Preach the Gospel to every creature”,(130) the Church fosters the missions with care and attention.
    Did you notice how the Church doesn’t believe that truth is only found in the Church? Truth can be found in your relationships, in your work, in your studies, even in other religions. She believes that whatever is true and good in these things are just a taste, a foreshadowing, a glimpse of what being in relationship with Him is like. With that said, we need to remember, God has a body. God’s body is the Church- God’s arms and feet and hands. Since, God is not a Martian, or some alien monster, we know that God only has one body, not multiply bodies. And its this one body, this one Church that has in it all that we would ever desire and need. I will need my long homily here (sorry, I just got on a role and…) anyway, if Holly allows me, I would love to finish up my novel with giving my answer to what this document was saying and answering the “way.” As in why is it so important for us to grapple with the claims the Catholic Church makes about herself.


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