"Non-Catholic" and "Non-Christian": Distinction w/o a difference?


#1

During Vatican II, the Church famously offered the statement that Christians of the post-Reformation churches were in “certain but imperfect” communion with the Church of Jesus Christ. Recently, I’ve been woolgathering on that statement and its implications for Protestants, and a few new questions have come my mind.

On the one hand, it’s a genuinely loving and brotherly message aimed at illuminating what we share and what that means; anyone ought to value the spirit in which it was meant. On the other hand, it also occurs to me that that plus three-fifty can get you a venti latte at Starbucks, if you know what I mean. It’s not clear that “certain but imperfect communion” is actually good for anything.

Can a Protestant go to Heaven? Yes, the Church teaches–it’s not a sure bet, but neither is it totally out of the question, so long as circumstance or “invincible ignorance” hides from a Protestant the real truth (i.e., Catholicism). If I’ve expressed the Church’s teaching correctly–flag me down if I haven’t–I’m not sure how a Protestant really differs from a Muslim, Hindu, or pagan. If I understand correctly, the Church teaches that even a virtuous Muslim, Hindu, etc., who hasn’t been able to learn about the true God or His Church, still has a fighting chance of sorts.

So, in any eternally consequential sense, does the Church acknowledge any difference between the likely destinations of the average non-Catholic Christian and the average Buddhist, Muslim, ad nauseam? And is that why “Non-Catholic Religions” are lumped together on this forum?


#2

Yeah, that’s one of the Catholic teachings that I’ve had problems with.

According to Jesus…I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.

The obvious difference between non-Catholic Christians and the “righteous” Buddist monk is that the monk doesn’t know Jesus. If it is not necessary to accept Christ, then why are we told to evangelize. Especially, why did the early church evangelize the Jews, who were the chosen people of God? Because it was necessary.

As for this particular forum, I’d personally like to see it divided out between Christian faiths and non-Christian faiths. The discussion you as a Catholic are going to have with a devout Protestant will differ signfiicantly than a discussion with a devout Muslim.


#3

This original post and RR’s response goes to the heart of the question: Is what we do and believe on earth a tit-for-tat so we get to Heaven? Is that your primary motive?

We are called to love and serve God as best we can. And if we love Him, we should be able to accept His decision on whether or not we get to spend eternity with Him.

And because we are called to know and love and serve God, we evangelize so those we are called to love have the opportunity to know and love and serve God to their fullest ability.


#4

I agree with you. I really don’t know any Budhists, Muslims, Hindus, so I would not even know where to start in terms of talking about any form of Christianity (Catholic, Protestant, or Orthodox). Everybody I know is either Catholic or Protestant. I think it would be good to have a separate forum for non-Christian faiths. Maybe have Protestant, Eastern Christianity (which already has its own category), and non-Christian religions.


#5

I’m guessing it starts out as many a man’s primary motive. By God’s grace, it becomes something more than that. Nevertheless, if one’s primary motives become to love and serve God, then doing it throughout eternity will tend to seem preferable to the alternative. Rightly considered, concern for the destination of one’s soul and devotion to its Creator are not such distinct concerns.

Y’know, I mean no insult or disrespect, but it’s an exquisitely weird sensation to hear a Catholic flirting with predestination: tickles the frontal lobe in a wholly unexpected place. Let me walk that off for a second.

There. Of course, God may do with us as He pleases. I was simply trying to take the long view: eternity’s infinitely lengthier than the world in which we now discuss our topic, so it seemed reasonable to find out what the Catholic church considers to be the difference between Protestants, non-Christians, and outright pagans sub specie aeternitatis.


#6

Actually not. Thomists tend to be more inclined toward predestination than Molinists, but both are Catholic views. But please do not ask me more. I don’t want to derail this thread into Thomist/Calvinist vs. Molinist/Arminian.


#7

Tough crowd…


#8

Regardless of a Protestant’s eternal destination, Protestants practice valid baptism. It is unwise to treat a person who has been validly baptized as exactly the same as a Hindu or Muslim.


#9

Nothing I said was intended to infer any endorsement of predestination. Personally, I find it offensive to think that a God who loves us perfectly is capable of making us with the intention of eternal damnation. I totally believe that we are accountable to Divine Justice when we meet our Creator for how we lived our lives and loved (or not) God. And all the choices were ultimately ours.

What I was trying to say is that we are subject to His judgment exclusively. And, even if my life results in eternal damnation, I pray I’ll be able to at least respond one more time in love by expressing my sorrow for my failure to love Him as He deserved and heartfully expressing my gratitude for the **opportunity **to chose to love and serve Him before He casts me into the fire.

As it is in the Act of Contrition, “because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pains of hell; but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, Who are all good and deserving of all my love”, it is our our failure to love God that is primary. We are to detest our sins more because of what they do to God and not what they do to us.

Frankly, this is the “attitude” that I most oppose in many of our separated breathren. Especially in the OSAS stream of theology, it seems that so much of what they do and say relates to how it impacts their salvation. “I am born again thus my ticket is punched. I can’t lose my salvation no matter how much I show my love for God in private or public.”

The first commandment is to love God completely (body, mind and soul). Just focus on trying to do that and invoke the aid of His Graces and trust God enough to then let the chips fall where they do is my philosophy.

PS: Contrary to my post, Genesis above does a great job of communicating that there is a significant difference between a non-Catholic Christian and a non-Christian. Similarily, there is a significant difference between those faithful worshipping under an Abrahamic faith and those worshipping a false or pagan god.


#10

The Council of Florence defined that it is throught Baptism that we become members of the Church. Pope St. Stephen I condemned the re-baptism of those baptized in heretical churches. Therefore, by their Baptism non-Catholic Christians who are not mortally guilty of heresy or schism are members of the Church.

It is not a perfect communion however, since the communion desired by our Lord is that we be of one mind professing one faith. The terminology traditionally used to describe their relationship to us is that while they are not members of the visible body of the Church, they are united to the soul of the Church.


#11

How does a Catholic deal with this passage from Romans 9, especially those portions underlined for emphasis?

14What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! 15For he says to Moses,
“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy,
and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”[f] 16It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.”[g] 18Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

19One of you will say to me: "Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?" 20But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? "Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, 'Why did you make me like this?' "[h] 21Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? 

22What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

#12

RR, you and I are definitely treading on ground that is a hijack of the thread as we are about to debate predestination. Out of respect to the original poster, I suggest we either debate it in PM or in another thread. Your call.


#13

PM is ok with me. I’ve always been a free will guy, but I have to admit that this passage is one strong endorsement of the predestination concept. I would be interested in hearing how the Catholic Church addresses it.


#14

According to Jesus…I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.

Actually the wording of this verse is such that it allows for the possibility of those outside of the Church to come to The Father.


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