Catholic Explanation of Salvation and Joining the Church?

As someone on my way to Catholicism, I am curious how Catholics present the process of joining the Church to non-believers/members. I can only speak from a Southern Baptist perspective, but I have witnessed other Protestant denominations where the following description applies.

In Protestant denominations like Southern Baptist, a person is usually quoted Romans 10.9 regarding salvation. Often it is followed up with Mark 16.16.

“If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Rom 10.9 RSV-2CE)

“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16.16 RSV-2CE)

That pretty much covers the requirements for salvation and joining the church. Believe and confess faith in the resurrection. Get baptized. Once those things are done, you are a Christian and a member of the church.

Sometimes churches have a “new believers” class to further educate people, but it is not universal nor mandatory in many churches.

What requirements must someone meet to be considered a Christian and join the Catholic Church? If you were to present the requirements for the Catholic Church in the shortest form possible, what would that be?

Thank you

Catholic belief can be best summed up in the Nicene Creed.

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the Only Begotten Son of God,
born of the Father before all ages.
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven,
and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
he suffered death and was buried,
and rose again on the third day
in accordance with the Scriptures.
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
who has spoken through the prophets.

I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

Catholics profess this at Sunday Mass. People converting to Catholicism go through the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), and they are basically taught every aspect of the creed, what it means, and the significance of each statement. All converts must agree with the contents of the creed.

I hope this helps!

Thank you for the response. How about the dogmas? For example, are they told the must believe the creed and believe that Mary was a perpetual virgin? Are they told if they don’t, then they can’t join the Church?

Thank you

My experience of joining the Catholic Church was that anyone who had received a trinitarian baptism was considered a Christian. To join the Church, I was required to go to Inquiry, then started RCIA. Then I moved to another church where they required Inquiry again for another year. I left before completing that and being allowed into RCIA. Then my third church, I went to an adult catechism class for 8 months. I had my first confession, was confirmed and had first communion at Easter. Catholics speak of continuing lifelong conversion where Baptists are more likely to say you had a one-time conversion. Catechism class continued for several more weeks after that. I don’t think they did things exactly right in terms of calling it RCIA or turning it into the required horrible nightmare. I enjoyed it.

So, to sum up my understanding:

Baptism = Christian
RCIA class (Sept-Apr/May-ish), then Easter vigil communion and confirmation = you’re now a full-fledged Catholic

In theory, if you are already a baptized Christian, you can receive instruction outside of RCIA and join the church anytime the priest feels you are ready, but in reality, that is unlikely to be allowed.

You pretty much need to believe everything that is in the creed. In regards to disagreements and dogmas, it is highly recommended that you believe in them. If you don’t, then I think (key word, in my opinion, I’m not sure if this is exactly it) at the minimum, you need to bow to the Church’s wisdom; you’ll believe it since the Church says it’s true, you’ll profess it, and will try to reconcile your understanding with the Church’s.

Yes, you must say that you believe everything the Creed says. You’ll be asked those questions line by line. I don’t remember being asked anything about Mary specifically, but I did agree to abide by the teachings of the Catholic Church.

The only people I know who were told they couldn’t join the church were those who had missed the majority of the catechism classes.

My experience of joining the Catholic Church was that anyone who had received a trinitarian baptism was considered a Christian. To join the Church, I was required to go to Inquiry, then started RCIA. Then I moved to another church where they required Inquiry again for another year. I left before completing that and being allowed into RCIA. Then my third church, I went to an adult catechism class for 8 months. I had my first confession, was confirmed and had first communion at Easter. Catholics speak of continuing lifelong conversion where Baptists are more likely to say you had a one-time conversion. Catechism class continued for several more weeks after that. I don’t think they did things exactly right in terms of calling it RCIA or turning it into the required horrible nightmare. I enjoyed it.

So, to sum up my understanding:

Baptism = Christian
RCIA class (Sept-Apr/May-ish), then Easter vigil communion and confirmation = you’re now a full-fledged Catholic

In theory, if you are already a baptized Christian, you can receive instruction outside of RCIA and join the church anytime the priest feels you are ready, but in reality, that is unlikely to be allowed.

So if you are talking to a non-believer who says they are interested in becoming a Christian, do you tell them they must accept everything in the creed along with the list of 255 dogmas? Can they become a Christian or join the Church if they say there is a dogma they cannot accept?

Thank you

I had never heard that before. I’ve been told by more than one person that I will probably need private RCIA since my knowledge base greatly exceeds the average participant.

I’ll have to ask the priest about it.

Thank you

I would tell them to look at the Nicene Creed and if they want to be Catholic, they need to agree with and believe in every line of it. Becoming Catholic is an irreversible decision. I was initiated into the Church this past Easter, and as soon as the baptismal waters were poured over my head along with the Trinidadian formula, I was forever marked as one. My confirmation was my promise to live out my Catholic faith for the rest of my life. If someone becomes Catholic, declares they believe in all of its doctrines and then suddenly change their mind about one (and/or more) and tries to leave, their soul is in jeopardy.

In regards to dogmas; part of the Creed states that you believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. This means you submit to the authority and understanding of the Church in matters of faith or morals. You may not know exactly all 255 dogmas by heart or understand why they are the way they are, but you trust the Church. Let’s take contraception as an example. If you refuse to understand why the Church is against it and plan on using it to prevent pregnancy, then you should not become Catholic. If however you have reservations about not using contraception, but acknowledge you are probably wrong and will not use contraception because of what the Church teaches, then that’s fine. You would probably want to talk to your DRE or a Priest to completely reconcile your thoughts to the Church’s teachings.

Does this make sense? Are you struggling with one?

I don’t know that I would introduce that within the first few minutes, but getting across those “Catholic distinctives” (beliefs that Protestants don’t often share) is one of the purposes of RCIA.

I suspect that the vast majority of the 255 dogmas you cite are not Catholic distinctives, but common Scriptural, Creedal, and Christian teachings, so it’s not really “the Creed plus these 255 other things,” though there are of course a few other things.

Note that, as part of one’s acceptance into the Church, one is expected to profess, “I believe and profess all that the holy Catholic Church believes, teaches, and proclaims to be revealed by God.” No sincere believer should want to utter such a thing falsely.

Strictly speaking, RCIA is for the unbaptized, though other Christians seeking full communion with the Catholic Church may be advised/required to go through it. My own parish (where I am part of the RCIA team) has for the last few years allowed those seeking full communion to enter the Church when they and the pastor agree they are ready, rather than waiting for the Easter Vigil as catechumens generally must. Not all parishes follow that pattern, though – I was technically Catholic by infant baptism, but still went through RCIA and entered at Easter when I decided in my 20s to become a practicing Catholic. (A combination of early medical problems in my case and differences of denomination in my parents’ case is the explanation for why I was baptized early but not brought up as a Catholic.) Talking to your local pastor is indeed the best bet.

Usagi

Some of the Marian dogmas as well as others are not necessarily universal to orthodox Christians in all faith traditions (like Orthodox and Protestant). Here’s the list of all 255.

In any case, does the Church teach that someone cannot become a Christian if they don’t accept all of the dogmas or that they just can’t join the Church if they don’t accept all the dogmas?

In other words, are non-believers told if they don’t believe in the perpetual virginity of Mary, then they cannot become a Christian? Or are they told they can become a Christian but they can’t join the Church?

Thank you

A few thoughts:

As previously noted, you have to be willing to do your best to accept the dogmas to become Catholic, not memorize them. Yes, this includes the dogma that Mary is a Virgin (e.g. the creed includes, “born of the Virgin Mary”).

Additionally, you may be used to denominations who are more or less in communion because they agree on “the essentials”. Catholics do not have nonessential dogmas.

Also note that the bible does not list nonessential dogmas and doctrines. If one follows sola scriptura, who defines the essentials or nonessentials?

In any event, your salvation is not dependent upon memorization. It’s more than just your mind.

Since the Catholic Church recognizes any validly baptized person as a Christian, clearly it is possible to become a Christian without believing all the dogmas. Heck, we baptize infants and catechize them as they grow up, so it’s technically possible to be a Christian without believing or even having the mental capacity to understand any of the teachings yet.

That said, I don’t know that a healthy adult seeking baptism would be granted a Catholic baptism if he made it known that he definitively denies a significant aspect of Catholic teaching, though we would recognize his baptism if he acquired it elsewhere.

To be a Christian, you must believe everything the Catholic Church professes. Only Catholics are Christians.

That is not what the Church herself teaches.

But if someone rejects ONE dogma of the Catholic Church, they are excluded from the Church. Heretics are NOT Christians.

Do you consider validly baptized anti-Catholic Protestants to be Christians?

First of all, a heretic by its very definition is a Catholic Christian who denies a post baptismal truth. Ergo, heretics are most certainly Christians, albeit not in good standing.

Second of all, as the Church considers all validly baptized people as part of Christ’s body, validly baptized anti-Catholic Protestants are also Christian.

Lover of truth you are not correct that only Catholics are Christians. I grew up in a Protestant household. A very devout Protestant household. My Mother is still the most devout person I’ve ever met. We observed Lent, as well as Advent. I was baptized as an infant. I know my Mother knew the importance of Mary. She read the Bible every night, my father taught Sunday school. So you see, even though they didn’t have the fullness of faith, they most definitely were Christians. The day I told my Mother I was converting to become Catholic, she was thrilled. They were definitely not anti-Catholic. Since converting three decades ago, I love my church more than ever. My parents are gone now, but I have no doubt they are resting with our merciful Lord.

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