The virtuous outside the Church


#1

I was talking to a friend of mine, who is considering leaving the Church, about a great deal of topics within the Church. Of course the Eucharist came up. I explained that it is the essential nourishment to a Christian life, that which strengthens us against sin and promotes a virtuous life. Her response was a question. How do people outside of the Catholic Church, or even outside of Christianity completely, live exceptionally moral lives without the gift of Christ Himself? I suppose a prime example would be Gandhi. So to her, the whole idea of many paths to one mountain top makes sense. In trying to convey that there is no greater truth than the Catholic Church, where do I begin?

Thank you,
Nick


#2

Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."

That’s direct from Jesus and is exclusive. The only way to salvation is through Christ.
As Christ established the Catholic Church and gave it alone authority it is the only Church with the fullness of truth.


#3

Without doubt, although that’s not exactly what I was looking for. Allow me to better rephrase my question. How can we account for people who live extraordinary lives of kindness and love without ever having Christ proclaimed to them?


#4

We account for by the love and mercy of God.


#5

Look at her question: How do people outside of the Catholic Church, or even outside of Christianity completely, live exceptionally moral lives without the gift of Christ Himself?

The issue is not the life live don earth, but to what goal that life is lived?

Objectively, one can live what is considered a good, moral life without ever attaining to eternal life (perhaps never even thinking of or aspiring to eternal life).
One can deny the existence of God and still live what is considered a good, moral life, displaying great love and great self-sacrifice.

But we, as Catholics, look to the whole of life: the Church militant, the Church suffering, the Church triumphant.

The Sacraments within the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church do do as you expalined to her: they provide the grace to overcome our human nature here on earth. But they also are part of our preparation for the greater part of our life: eternal life.

You can tell her that an exceptionally moral life lived on earth without Christ is great for just this life on earth.

But as thistle stated from Scripture, it is only through Christ that anything we do on earth has any merit on our eternal life.

I would think her “issue” is one of, what happened to Ghandi when he died,being that he was not a Christian?

A very good question - but not one over which to leave the Church!

The only answer I can think to give her is as stated above: I don’t know what happened to Ghandi, but we know God is merciful and just. We also know He is Truth and cannot deceive or be deceived; as such, Christ’s words are true.


#6

Was God able to save Americans before the arrival of the first Christian missionaries in America? If He was then it is possible to be saved (and presumably to be able to live a good life) without explicitly being aware of Jesus. If He was not then I find it strange that the power of an omnipotent God would be limited by the sailing abilities of Christian missionaries. Australian Aborigines would no doubt find it even stranger.

It is possible that there is only one way to salvation, but that way can appear in many guises. CCC 846 - 848 and Lumen Gentium 16 seem to be relevant here.

rossum


#7

“Hold most firmly, and do not doubt at all, that not only all the pagans, but also all the Jews, and all the heretics and schismatics who end this present life outside the Catholic Church, will go into the eternal fire, ‘which was prepared for the devil and his angels’ (Mt. 25:41)” (St. Fulgentius)

Pope Innocent III (1198AD - 1216AD): “With our hearts we believe and with our lips we confess but one Church, not that of the heretics, but the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, outside which we believe that no one is saved.” (Denzinger 423)

Pope Boniface VIII (1294AD - 1303AD) We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff (Bull Unam Sanctam).

Pope Eugene IV (1431AD - 1447AD )The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes, and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgiving, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church (Bull Cantate Domino).

Pope Leo XII (1823AD - 1829AD): “We profess that there is no salvation outside the Church. …For the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth. With reference to those words Augustine says: `If any man be outside the Church he will be excluded from the number of sons, and will not have God for Father since he has not the Church for mother.’” (Encyclical, Ubi Primum)

Pope Gregory XVI (1831AD - 1846AD): “It is not possible to worship God truly except in Her; all who are outside Her will not be saved.” (Encyclical, Summo Jugiter)

Pope Pius IX (1846AD - 1878AD): “It must be held by faith that outside the Apostolic Roman Church, no one can be saved; that this is the only ark of salvation; that he who shall not have entered therein will perish in the flood.” (Denzinger 1647)


#8

“The Affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own do not know Christ and his Church: ‘Those who through no fault of their own do not know Christ or His Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience-those too may achieve eternal salvation.’” CCC 847 Reference in second part is LG 16; cf. DS 3866-3872.

Personally, I believe that Romans 2:13-16 also speaks to this point, but I may be wrong. Nevertheless, this does NOT negate the words of Jesus, in that such salvation still is through Jesus.


#9
  1. The Natural Law on their hearts.

  2. Grace.


#10

Ghandi was not exactly a holy person. He slept with naked women in his old age, not to have sex, but to prove he had control over his lusts. But, naturally, what he did already gave him some illicit pleasure.

The Church teaches that even those who never heard of Jesus still receive some grace, through Jesus and His Church, to avoid sin in this life to some extent. But, it is only through His Church that we are able to receive the full means of salvation. That is why Catholic saints achieve holiness that no others can come close to.


#11

The Catholic Church teaches that although God instituted the sacraments, He is not bound to His sacraments. God is rich in mercy, and God may have mercy on someone explicitly outside the church and even someone explicitly outside of Christ.

But I want to emphasize that God MAY have mercy. We cannot presume on God’s mercy. It is like a dartboard with concentric circles. The bull’s eye is the Catholic faith. The farther a person deviates from the bull’s eye, the less that person experiences God’s grace. But the person in an outer circle who has less of God’s grace may respond more to God’s grace than a Catholic who receives more of God’s grace.

Still, for someone outside of Christ and His Church to live an exceptionally moral life is very difficult, and very rare. Even in your example of Gandhi, upon closer inspection, he was no saint. Although it was admirable that he was for peaceful resistance and was willing to live a radically ascetic life, he did have his shortcomings. His children did not talk to him when they grew up. He had this weird practise of sleeping with naked women without touching them. And, when introduced to women, he offered to give them enemas (a little perverted).

I would encourage you to read the lives of the saints. I was shocked by how much love they had, something I never saw or read about non-Catholics or a non-Christians. Why is there no non-Christian equivalent to a Mother Teresa or a Father Damien, who spent his life caring for lepers and eventually himself became a leper? Where is the non-Christian counterpart to Maria Goreti, who prayed for her killer and would-be rapist that he would join her in heaven? Where is the non-Christian counterpart to St Francis of Assisi, he took the teachings of Christ so seriously that he gave up everything and became a beggar?

Also, the whole idea of charity organizations started in the Middle Ages by Catholics. Hindus lacked this kind of compassion because they saw that poverty was the fitting punishment for the poor’s previous lives. Buddhists saw suffering as an illusion, so there no point in showing compassion for an illusion. So if the non-Christian cultures are not as compassionate as the Christian cultures, how can non-Christian individuals be just as compassionate as Christians?

I would recommend the book How the Catholic Church Changed Western Civilization by Thomas Woods. Woods show that in the Middle Ages, Christendom alone, apart from any other non-Chistian culture, showed compassion to the poor, justice to the accused and started the concept of human rights

It really shows me how more more abundant God’s grace is within His Church with His sacraments than outside it.


#12

Great book by a very nice man. I’m 3/4 of the way through it. I, too, highly recommend the book!


#13

Try reading a life of the Buddha, particularly the “Great Renunciation”.

Buddhists saw suffering as an illusion, so there no point in showing compassion for an illusion.

The first od the Six Perfections is dana, which is cognate with the Englisn “donation” and is usually translated “Charity”. Please learn more about Buddhism before talking about it.

So if the non-Christian cultures are not as compassionate as the Christian cultures, how can non-Christian individuals be just as compassionate as Christians?

Because individuals are not totally determined by their culture. There are ungenerous and cruel Christians who did not do as well as Gandhi. Remember that Gandhi is supposed to have said: “I like your Christ; it is your Christians that I do not like.” All too many people fall short of the best ideals of their religion. The average Buddhist may be less good than Francis of Assisi, but the average Christian is also less good than Francis of Assisi.

rossum


#14

My goodness, people who have never heard of Jews or Judaism. “Compassion to the poor, justice to the accused and the concept of human rights” are concepts from the Torah which found their inception among the Jewish people over a thousand years before the Catholic church and over two thousand years before the Middle Ages. For instance towards the beginning of the common era Pharisee Judaism became the first group to disallow slavery as contravening the Torah concept of equality. Now as far as Jews and the Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, history would indicate that apparently the Church view was that compassion, justice and human rights did not apply to Jews.


#15

How can we account for people who live extraordinary lives of kindness and love without ever having Christ proclaimed to them?

It would be better to ask, “How much more virtuous would these people be with faith in Christ and frequenty communion?”


#16

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