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?