Pope: There may be something Catholic, even outside the Catholic Church

Castel Gandolfo (AsiaNews) - "Just as one can find that which is not Catholic in the Catholic Church - that is, in the Church -, one can also find something that may be Catholic outside of the Catholic Church ": this quote from St. Augustine (On Baptism, Against the Donatists: PL 43 , VII, 39, 77) was at the center of reflection that Benedict XVI offered to pilgrims gathered today in the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo during the Angelus. The Pope - as he often does - was referring to the episode narrated in the Gospel of the Sunday Mass (Mark 9: 39-41): "a man, who was not the followers of Jesus had cast out demons in his name. The Apostle John, young and zealous, wants to stop him, but Jesus will not allow him. "


The Holy Father is absolutely right. Elements of the Catholic Church can exist outside of the Catholic Church. We share much in common with members of other religions, especially the Judeo-Christian religions. Of course there are some things that we do not share in common with them but there are things that we do share in common with them. We should emphasize the things that we do have in common with them. I think if we did more of this the world would be a more peaceful place. We are not all enemies. We are people of different religions who have some different beliefs and some common beliefs. Therefore we are allies in at least one sense but we could also be enemies in another sense. Nevertheless, we must love our enemies and pray for their well being and that God would bless them with an abundance of grace so that they may be converted. We should pray for our own conversion (conversion of heart) as well.

So interesting, I love this take as I was thinking of the Gospel reading today at Mass and how those others healing in Jesus’ name could well be our non Catholic brothers and sisters who truly love the Lord and do their best to follow Him but just don’t have the fullness of the faith. I am convert and what I feel the Lord is really showing me lately is how much all believers really need each other right now in this time in world history. Anyway, I agree with the Holy Father, not that he needed that:)

Compare what the Holy Father taught today and an, at the time, very controversial statement put out by the CDF back in 2007:



Why was the expression “subsists in” adopted instead of the simple word “is”?


The use of this expression, which indicates the full identity of the Church of Christ with the Catholic Church, does not change the doctrine on the Church. Rather, it comes from and brings out more clearly the fact that there are “numerous elements of sanctification and of truth” which are found outside her structure, but which “as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ, impel towards Catholic Unity”.[11]

“It follows that these separated churches and Communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation. In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church”[12].

And while the above document (along with this citation) offended both Feeneyites and many Protestants, it remains the truth.

And we should consider this as well.



Most certainly, this issue should be looked at in the totality of Church Tradition. I would argue, that to understand fully the teachings of the Church in this area one should at the very least read he Catechism of the Council of Trent, the Encyclicals released on the subject, the documents of Vatican II, and the Universal Catechism of the Catholic Church. Frankly, it probably needs to go back further than that.

I don’t pretend to have good understanding of Church doctrine on this issue which, like many in the Church, is very nuanced. All of us, me most certainly included, need to be careful at how we present it to others and think of it


I agree, I became Catholic for a reason because I believe it is true- but with the world in such a mess and the need to re-evangelize maybe the Holy Father’s meaning is that we have to meet people where they are so we can lead them home. Just my thoughts from someone Catholic since April:)


Sometimes I think it is even better to leave some parts of doctrine untaught. While A, B and C might be true, if C is above the average parishioner’s paygrade, then it might behoove the Church to just leave it alone. We always have to consider academic limitations and otherwise when teaching catechism, for example.


I tend to think it is better to just teach it properly. The information is out there anyway in the form of Church documents, statements from Popes, etc. The Church can allow confusion to reign, or she can teach the proper interpretation of these issues in a more clear fashion. Ignoring it isn’t going to get rid of erroneous understanding and oftentimes, the Church is too darn nuanced for her own good anyway, which is half the problem. Teaching all of it will force the Church to consider how to present the information in a way that people can understand and use, which in my view would be a very good thing.

I do get where you are coming from though.


I think part of the problem is that it is just so difficult to have cut and dry statements of faith nowadays. I think we really need this, not giant, rambling tomes (CCC). The CCC is a good publication, but as it was never intended to be used as a primary resource for the parishioner’s use, I think it is time that we have an easy catechism with concise answers, perhaps one for each age group.

People who want theological treatises or longer explanations are probably also the people so inclined to look for these on their own, which is fine. I think that, for basic catechism, the Church, at least in America, has set the bar too high in common practice with the CCC.

That’s one of the reasons I never recommend the CCC for beginners. Rather, I suggest the US Catechism for Adults and Catholicism for Dummies. Both are much easier to read, and do a good job presenting the faith.

I am not a big fan of the USCCB Catechism. There are subtleties in there that, in my opinion, slightly distort the social doctrine of the Church.

Two examples, the idea of subsidiarity is only discussed in one place in the text. On page 326, it states “The principle of subsidiarity teaches that governments should help and support individuals and groups for who they are responsible without controlling their freedom and initiative (cf. CCC, no. 1883).”

CCC 1883 states:1883 *Socialization also presents dangers. Excessive intervention by the state can threaten personal freedom and initiative. the teaching of the Church has elaborated the principle of subsidiarity, according to which “a community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to co-ordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view to the common good.”*7

You will need to look very carefully to see the difference. You will note that CCC 1883 talks about “in case of need” – not mentioned in the USCCB Catechism. Also, note that the CCC talks about “a community of a higher order…” while the USCCB Catechism talks about “governments”. We know that communities of higher order can talk about the immediate family, the extended family, the neighborhood, the town, the parish, the diocese, and so on…“communities of higher order” are not limited to governments. Yet, if you teach catechism based solely upon the USCCB document, you would not recognize that.

Next, on page 421ff, there is a presentation talking about the Reflections of the Catholic Bishops of the United States on the Church’s Social Teaching: Major Themes.

This portion is a condensation of the USCCB “Pastoral Letter” Economic Justice for All. Economic Justice for All was written by Robert Weakland in 1986. To my knowledge, it did not receive unanimous consent by the US bishops nor did it receive a Recognito from the Holy See (ref CIC Can 455 and Motu Proprio Apostolos Suos). In other words, it is not Magisterial.

(Mind you, the USCCB Catechism did not cite this 1986 document…but it was there, anyway).
This USCCB Document (*Economic Justice) is problematic, to put it mildly. problematic.

A couple of minor points:

  • There is no mention of subsidiarity as a major theme of Catholic Social Teaching (yet, per the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, it is a key principle).

  • The principle of Participation is subsumed within the “Call to Family, Community, and Participation” Participation is a key implication of subsidiarity. As listed in the Compendium, it is a key principle and highlights each Christian’s responsibility for each other…

  • The “Preferential Option for the Poor” is listed as in the USCCB *Catechism *as the “Option for the Poor and Vulnerable.” They aren’t the same thing.

– In the Compendium, the “Preferential Option for the Poor” is subsumed, as it should be, under the “Universal Destination of Goods.” It is discussed immediately after the section affirming the legitimacy of private property (while acknowledging that all private property has a social function).

– On the other hand, in *Economic Justice *(as reported in the USCCB Catechism), it stands alone without explaining the relationship of this within its relationship to the Universal Destination of Goods or to the legitimacy of private property.

And so on.

Don’t get me wrong. These are not so much glaring errors…but the subtlety of them can steer a person down a slightly different vector than studying the actual documents.

If you want a easy to digest document, I would suggest the Compendium of the Catechism. It is written in simple question and answer format and, I believe, could be utilized in much the same fashion as the old Baltimore Catechism series (which, by the way, in my mind, are still very usable).

Thanks. I knew about the language on subsidiarity in the text but had not seen that document.

I may consider recommending the compendium instead going forward.


The Catechism of the Catholic Church is in no way a USCCB document. It is a universal Catechism, translated from the Latin, and promulgated by the Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum for the whole Catholic Church. It is the blueprint by which other Catechisms, even the Compendium, are to be written. YouCat and the Ukranian Greek Catholic Church’s Catechism are two other examples of Catechisms based on this one. The USCCB had little to do, directly, with the development of this Catechism, only an English translation was necessary to publish this in the States. They do, however, host the CCC directly on their own website for the convenience of the faithful; it should also be noted that they offer the Compendium directly orderable from their website as well.

We are talking about the United States Catholic Catechism for Adults, ISBN 1-57455-450-6:

Oh, sorry, my apologies for not reading carefully, but I have never heard of this book until now. Thanks.



To say there is nothing Catholic outside of the Catholic Church is to limit or dictate to the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit breathes where it will and sometimes we must follow it.

Baltimore Catechism and this lovely gem:



I seriously cannot recommend the MCF book enough. It is useful for children to adults. It really breaks things down and has amazing artwork.

I agree, but the BC and other publications from that era are practically anathema in some circles.

You mean the circles of hell and their earthly counterparts? If people have a problem with non-flowery doctrine that doesn’t allow them to make doctrine whatever hippie fest they want it to be, they shouldn’t let the door hit them where the Good Lord…

Priests need to wear steel-toe boots so they don’t hurt their feet kicking people out who won’t submit.

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