Those not against us, are with Us

Friends in Christ,  
We live in a ‘pluralistic society,’ for sure, an environment of people of many different religions, and especially people with no religious formation at all.   

How should we see ourselves in relation to these non-Catholics?  The second Vatican Council[i] addressed this question, but since that Council did not really define new doctrines, it was really summarizing what the  Church has believed.   

First, we Catholics: It says that the Church is necessary for salvation. Christ, who is the One Mediator, is present to us in his Body which is the Church.  Baptism is the door into the Church. Those cannot be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God,  would refuse to enter it, or remain in it.  

Now even though one is incorporated into the Church, a person who does not persevere in charity is not saved.  If children of the Church fail to respond to this grace, not only shall they not be saved, but they shall be the more severely judged. So – that’s us, Catholics.  

Next the Council says that those who are baptized but are not Catholics –  if they have a sincere religious zeal, who believe in God the Father, in Christ the Son, who pray – they are, in some real way, joined to us in the Holy Spirit. Now it is desired that the Children of the Church,  would be a real sign of Christ for them, to draw them into unity with us.   

Finally the Council speaks of those who have not yet received the gospel at all. The Jewish people, and those others, who at least believe in God, and even those who, through no fault of their own,  have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God – whatever good or truth that is found among them is considered by the Church to be a preparation for the gospel.  

Those who through no fault of their own do not know the gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and try to do his will as they know it, these too may achieve eternal salvation.[ii]  This idea of course refers to the long-standing doctrine of Baptism by desire.  

Despite our hope that people can be saved who do not know Christ or reside in the bosom of Mother Church,[iii] we must work hard at evangelizing and leading these fellow travelers into the Ark of Salvation,  and along the way, we should not see them as enemies, but rather, we should extend a hand of friendship.   

If the voice of moral people is to be heard in our society, it will take a united effort by people of good will.   

This is what Jesus seems to be hinting at today. The apostles complain that they saw someone driving out demons in Christ’s name, so they “tried to prevent him because he does not follow us.” Jesus replied, “Do not prevent him. He who is not against us, is for us.  

 


[i] Lumen Gentium, #14-17.

[ii] To those who reject this teaching, and claim that the Vatican Council departed from long-standing doctrine, we call the reader’s attention to the case of Fr. Leonard Feeney who taught that no one outside the visible bounds of the Church are saved. This case was well before the Council, and in 1953 he was excommunicated for this teaching.

[iii] St. Peter warns (1 Peter 4:17-18) that if it is difficult for us, for the righteous to be saved, what does this say about the others? We must help everyone to find the fullness of Faith.

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