Back in 2007, Pope Benedict XVI made a comment that made my life at work very difficult for a while. As soon as I walked into the breakroom to clock in I was accosted by some of my co-workers. They took offense at Pope Benedict saying that Catholics were the only true Christians. I understood what B-1-6 meant. (I call him B-1-6, because he and I are tight.) The problem is, most do not understand the Church on this point.
The Catholic Church has always said that outside of Itself there is no salvation. It makes sense based on the Church’s belief that Jesus Christ founded the Catholic Church, and no other. But does that mean everyone else goes to Hell? What about Catholics that leave the Church, and due outside of Communion with Her?
Jesus said, “I came that they all may have life, and have it more abundantly.” (Jn. 10:10) He does not wish to see any soul be damned to the eternal flames of Hell. In His great mercy, Jesus offers eternal life to everyone. That doesn’t mean every non-Catholic goes to Hell. The circumstances must be considered. A person who is found to be invincibly ignorant of the truths taught by the Catholic Church can certainly still have a shot to go to Heaven.
Jesus would not condemn someone who has never heard of Him, or His Church. Likewise, there are many who have heard the Church’s Teachings, but they are not convinced of their truthfulness. They are open to discussion, but they have not been convinced. It may be possible for such a one to go to Heaven, if God finds them to have been invincibly ignorant of the truthfulness of the Church’s Teachings. Only God can make this decision, however.
It pains me to say this, but I must speak the truth. Those who leave the Catholic Church are jeopardizing their salvation. I do not desire to see any soul be lost. I hope to go to Heaven, and take everyone else with me! Yet, most of the members of my family fall into this latter category. They have abandoned truth and reason for madness and error. This causes me great inner anguish, and my soul is troubled by it. But it is the truth.
Those who are raised Catholic, and taught the truths of the Faith jeopardize their salvation. Such a one has little chance of claiming invincible ignorance. Only God can ultimately make that call, but the chances are slim. Better to be safe, than sorry. How true that is.
Because only the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ, It alone contains the fulness of truth. It alone was given Christ’s authority. Anyone jumping from this Ship is no better off than those who were caught outside the ark during the Deluge. Actually, they’re worse off. Those who never knew the truth have never known the security and comfort truth brings. Those who do know it, and abandon it, have given up that comfort and security for discomfort and insecurity. It would be like running back into a burning building for the sole purpose of perishing in the flames. You voluntarily choose a brutal death. It’s sheer madness!
That is why Pope Benedict XVI said what he did. He was right. Catholics are the only true Christians in the sense that only they have the full light of truth. I appeal to you fallen away Catholics. When a blind man regains his sight, does he walk around with his eyes closed? Why abandon the light for darkness? I have never known a Catholic who left the Church that actually understood what the Church taught, or who didn’t leave over some ridiculous excuse. Not one person.
Either they didn’t understand Church Teaching (many never really tried), or they didn’t want to. This latter group come up with many dumb reasons to leave the Church.
“Mass is boring. I get nothing out of it.”
“The Church just sits on a pile of money while people all over the world starve. It could easily sell all the artwork it has, and alleviate much suffering.”
“The hierarchy is a bunch of backward old men sitting inside the Vatican walls, talking about things they know nothing about. Like the real world.”
“The Church is full of hypocrites.”
I can go on and on with excuses I have heard. Sadly, the examples I have given I have heard from strangers, friends, and my family. In every single case I have discovered the real reason the individual left the Church had nothing to do with the reason originally given to me.
Once, not long after becoming a bishop, Ven. Fulton Sheen was eating dinner at the rectory of one of his parishes. During the course of dinner, the associate pastor railed against the Church’s supposed greed. After dinner, Ven. Fulton Sheen pulled the priest aside and asked, “How much did you steal?”
The priest was shocked by the question, and he indignantly denied stealing anything. Ven. Sheen asked more forcefully, “How much did you steal?”
The priest began to vehemently deny stealing anything. Finally, Ven. Sheen said, “I will ask you one more time. How much did you steal?”
The priest then admitted his sin. He had been taking money out of the offertory collection, and pocketing it. It was easier for the priest to justify his action by accusing the Church of greed, than to admit he was the greedy one.
It is always the way. It may be that someone simply refuses to accept a certain Teaching of the Church. Like the priest above, they may be trying to cover up some sin, or justify a certain lifestyle. Whatever the case, if you, dear reader, have left the Church, I implore you to return. Only then will you find peace. As St. Augustine of Hippo said, “Our souls are restless, Lord, until they rest in You.”
Peace in Christ,
David J. Pollard
American Catholic Solidarity