Unwittingly Catholic?


#1

Hi, I’ve yet to become Catholic, though I’m well on my way. I’m mostly convinced that the Catholic Church possesses the Fullness of the Truth. The questions that I do still have are more appropriate, perhaps, for other areas of the board. I just wanted to ask this for now:

Does anyone have any good explanations as to how the Church is One, and the Only One, yet how Christians can exist outside of the Church? I believe this, of course, because both experience and the CCC affirm it to be true…I just don’t understand it. Before, I believed in the “Invisible Church”–and so it made perfect sense that Christians existed outside of the Catholic Church as I perceived it–but I now see, and rejoice (in spite of confusion), that the One Church is very Visible and Tangible. I’ve read in the Catechism that Catholics believe that Christians outside of the official Catholic Communion are simply in an imperfect communion with the Church. Does this mean that, in some sense, they are unwitting Catholics, who simply can’t receive the Eucharist until they recognize, embrace, and commit to this truth?


#2

Valid baptism makes one a Christian, officially. Whether you live as one or not is an entirely different matter. Whether you are incorporated fully into the life of the holy Church is still another. I will come back with the Cathechism later. It is late evening now for me down in South Texas. Later.


#3

Hi, catchy title. You caught my attention, so, I just wanted to say “welcome”. :slight_smile:

Here’s one article from the Catholic Answers library on the subject which you may find helpful:

catholic.com/library/salvation_outside_the_church.asp

%between%


#4

You might get some other answers, but I would say that the simple answer is yes! I definitely believe that people who are not formally Catholics can be saved. But if they are saved, they must be saved by the Catholic Church, in the same way that they must be saved by the sacrifice of Christ. Therefore, you could say that they are “unwittingly” Catholics; although in an imperfect fashion.


#5

This seems like a pretty good understanding. I even like your term, “unwitting.” I would delete one word though. Nothing about their imperfect communion is “simple.”

I pray that someday we will all be One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.


#6

KindredSoul, I think a lot of converts I’ve read about spent some time being Catholic without being Catholic, KWIM? I think it was Scott Hahn who really reveled in it and he could because he could discuss things that most Catholics had minimal understanding of. In fact, a quick Google found these articles by Hahn on the whole One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic stuff.

Most conversion stories have some element of what you are going through (your last sentance) but it may be a differnt doctrine/dogma.


#7

Hey, that’s me! In my heart I was Catholic since the Holy Spirit convicted me while reading John 6. It just took over a year and a half to receive the Eucharist because RCIA for that year had started and I had to wait until the next class.

The OP reminded me of a remark that a lot of people will be surprised to get to heaven and find that they are now Catholic!

I sometimes wonder how much the death of my husband had to do with my conversion… is he in heaven now and praying for me?


#8

Welc:wave:me, KindredSoul!

I was fortunate in that I had been attending Mass at our local Catholic parish that summer, so I was there to attend RCIA that fall.

The OP reminded me of a remark that a lot of people will be surprised to get to heaven and find that they are now Catholic!

I sometimes wonder how much the death of my husband had to do with my conversion… is he in heaven now and praying for me?

And I am sure my Protestant parents, who passed away several years ago, are in heaven, too. Although they may be in that part of heaven the Church calls purgatory, which is why I pray for the repose of their souls every day.

The CCC tells us that those Christians who are baptized but not members of the Catholic Church may saved. This is because they live according to what they know, drawing on the grace of God to do so. God’s grace and mercy are infinite, so we cannot put bounds or restraints on him–not that we’d want to. Of course, we who do know the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded have a deep and grave obligation to help our separated brethren come to see the truth of the Church, in love. And God will judge us accordingly, for Jesus said, “To whom much is given much is required.”


#9

Thanks for the welcome, everyone, and for all your responses!

This seems like a pretty good understanding. I even like your term, “unwitting.” I would delete one word though. Nothing about their imperfect communion is “simple.”

I’ve done it again, lol. I tend to use the word simple when I mean “chiefly”, “mainly”, “solely”, etc…for instance, if someone had Cancer and it’s causing them to die–assuming that they’d live if they had no Cancer–I’d be the type to say “There’s nothing more wrong with them, but simply Cancer;” not because the disease was simple, but because it was the main, perhaps only problem separating them from perfect health.

KindredSoul, I think a lot of converts I’ve read about spent some time being Catholic without being Catholic

Yes…though my original post wasn’t only referring to them, but to all the Baptized, sincere faithful which the Catechism says “deserve to be called Christian.” If the Catholic Church is the Christian Church, it made sense to me that those outside of Her, but still Christian, are in some sense Catholic–unwittingly so, as I said–even if they aren’t approaching conversion (at least not at any rate known to them or anyone else. So this wasn’t only a personal “I feel like I’m the incomplete Catholic” (though I am), but a universal "All ‘non-Catholic’ Christians, who are sincerely trying to serve God through Christ are incomplete Catholics…but still**Catholic nontheless, though they’d be surprised to realize it.

I think everyone sees what I’m getting at…Atreyu and LittleDeb seem particularly to see it…which seems to imply that it’s not a bad understanding of the relationship between the Church and the Christians formally outside of Her.

Continued…


#10

This raises the question as to how does the Church claim that all the necessary beliefs of the Church are in fact necessary if those outside of the Church can be Christians without believing in, say, the Immaculate Conception?

I have a theory, which may answer my own question…but I don’t know how it pans out. It is believing a lie that seems to inflict condemnation…there is something in the scriptures to the effect of “they will believe a lie and be damned.” However, Christians outside of the Church do not so much believe an outright lie as they believe an incomplete truth.

But what does this mean for Catholics who leave the Church? To reject the full truth after having known it seems very similar to a lie, or at best a reviler’s paranoia, as it actively rejects the truth as opposed to just never having realized it in the first place. If this is so, it would seem that believing the Fullness of the Truth is necessary to be truly Christian once one recognizes it (to whom much is given, much is expected, right?), while allowing some leeway for those who never realize the Fullness of the Truth, but 1) Realize enough to distinguish them as Christians (as opposed to anything else) and 2) Do not add an actual lie (not a simple lack of the full truth) to it so as to make them UnChristian (such as certain cults and sects in America have done).

I don’t know if this makes any sense…it’s just one way I’ve considered that might make some sense of there being Salvation “outside” of The Church while not really being Outside of the Church. What do you think? Does it work (is it one acceptable view) at least?


#11

The same way that small children (who have also probably never heard of it) can be saved without explicitly affirming it. Jesus does not hold us responsible for things we’ve never heard of.

Of course, if they have heard of it, understood it correctly, and then denied it, then of course they have placed themselves out of communion with Christ.

I have a theory, which may answer my own question…but I don’t know how it pans out. It is believing a lie that seems to inflict condemnation…there is something in the scriptures to the effect of “they will believe a lie and be damned.” However, Christians outside of the Church do not so much believe an outright lie as they believe an incomplete truth.

In many cases, that’s probably so.

But what does this mean for Catholics who leave the Church? To reject the full truth after having known it seems very similar to a lie, or at best a reviler’s paranoia, as it actively rejects the truth as opposed to just never having realized it in the first place. If this is so, it would seem that believing the Fullness of the Truth is necessary to be truly Christian once one recognizes it (to whom much is given, much is expected, right?), while allowing some leeway for those who never realize the Fullness of the Truth, but 1) Realize enough to distinguish them as Christians (as opposed to anything else) and 2) Do not add an actual lie (not a simple lack of the full truth) to it so as to make them UnChristian (such as certain cults and sects in America have done).

It is also perfectly possible to be a really bad Christian. Not all Christians will ultimately go to Heaven - there will be a great many Christians in Hell.

I don’t know if this makes any sense…it’s just one way I’ve considered that might make some sense of there being Salvation “outside” of The Church while not really being Outside of the Church. What do you think? Does it work (is it one acceptable view) at least?

There can be no salvation outside the Church - but there are lots of people in the Church who don’t yet realize that they are.


#12

Originally Posted by jmcrae
There can be no salvation outside the Church - but there are lots of people in the Church who don’t yet realize that they are.

Yeah, that’s what I take it that the Church’s teachings are. The main thing I’m trying to find out is exactly what it takes for someone to be truly outside of the Church, and therefore outside of salvation.

When I said:

I have a theory, which may answer my own question…but I don’t know how it pans out. It is believing a lie that seems to inflict condemnation…there is something in the scriptures to the effect of “they will believe a lie and be damned.” However, Christians outside of the Church do not so much believe an outright lie as they believe an incomplete truth.

But what does this mean for Catholics who leave the Church? To reject the full truth after having known it seems very similar to a lie, or at best a reviler’s paranoia, as it actively rejects the truth as opposed to just never having realized it in the first place. If this is so, it would seem that believing the Fullness of the Truth is necessary to be truly Christian once one recognizes it (to whom much is given, much is expected, right?), while allowing some leeway for those who never realize the Fullness of the Truth, but 1) Realize enough to distinguish them as Christians (as opposed to anything else) and 2) Do not add an actual lie (not a simple lack of the full truth) to it so as to make them UnChristian (such as certain cults and sects in America have done).

the point of all that was that I was wondering if that’s an appropriate understanding of the fine line between someone who just doesn’t realize they’re in the Church (complete with disbelieving some of the key teachings thereof) and those who are actually outside of the Church. I think that the final Paragraph of Della’s post might have also been dealing with this…but I just want to be clear.

By the way, I thank all of you very much for your answers, and for making me feel warmly welcom! So far, I’m really enjoying my time on CAF; I think it’s going to be really helpful in getting a feel for the teachings, attitudes, and concerns of the Church and of the faithful within.


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