Since they really haven’t been confronted with Scripture in this way, and the protestants provide their verses to “back-up” these beliefs(which are in fact taken out of context), they begin to accept all sorts of other wild misinterpretations based on the same proof-texting methods they used to support the other beliefs. So Bible-study is not about finding out the truth of God but rather substantiating Protestantism.
The Bible alone cannot be the sole rule of faith because the Bible, no matter how much protestants argue this, is not a self-authenticating or self-interpreting authority. The Bible requires an authoritative interpreter to authoritatively say what Scripture means when there is a question regarding faith and morals. That’s why the Bible says that the Church is the “pillar and bulwark or the truth.”
So, the point of all this is this, does someone who leaves the Church for another denomination objectively violate the truth of the Church? Yes.
Is it possible that someone, through “prayer” can deceive themselves by claiming to be “following God” while abandoning the Church? Yes.
Is it possible that someone can study the Bible and at the same time in fact be wrong about God by misinterpreting it and following false doctrines and thus objectively jeopardizing their salvation? Yes.
Objectively speaking, they have abandoned the Church.
Where it gets a little more murky is the intent and the circumstances regarding his abandonment.
Did he intend to leave what he knew to be the true Church? Did he not know that the Church is the true Church? If he knew that the Church was the true Church, but that he just didn’t find the Church agreeable, then it follows that he is most assuredly culpable. If he didn’t know that the Church was the true Church, why not? And is or is not the onus on him to find out before he makes the choice to abandon her?
Then there’s the circumstances that lead him to abandon the Church. Are mediocre liturgies, stale homilies, or the bad example of other Catholics sufficient cause to abandon the Church? Is the bad council of a confessor/priest sufficient cause to abandon the Church? Is there any circumstance which is sufficient cause to abandon the Church?
I would argue “no”. But apparently many think otherwise.
I would argue that anyone who leaves the Church cannot be in invincible ignorance because they at least KNOW about the Church, implicitly if not explicitly.
I was never aware of the Catholic Church until I met my wife. Before that I had been an evangelical protestant and after that an atheist. So it can be said, up to the point that I met my wife, that I was truly “invincibly ignorant”. But God obviously arranged my life so that my ignorance could not possibly last; I was in fact confronted with the choice of the Church.
I wonder if God arranges everyone’s lives such as He did mine, so that all people, at one point or another, become aware of the existence of the Church, and from that they are left to make a choice; either for God and His Church, or against it. As to that I can only speculate.
But I do think that for those of us in the Church, we simply cannot claim to have the excuses that others may claim.
After discovering the truth of the Church I could never leave her, no matter what the circumstances.
If the Church IS the Body of Christ, there cannot be any other. Therefore if there is anyone outside the Church, they are only saved through the Church, through her prayers and her work, which is the prayer and work of Christ. Still anyone outside of the Church is putting their soul in grave jeopardy because they do not have the assurance and access to the grace that those of us within the Church have. That is what the Church has always taught.
I quake for anyone who, like in Matt 22, have in fact been invited to the marriage feast, who arrive without their wedding garment, or(as in Matthew 25) have neglected to make sure that they had sufficient oil and yet arrive too late to be allowed in when the Bridegroom comes.