Who is a member of the Body of Christ?

I came across this video (youtube.com/watch?v=WUWVlSgZKJ0) from Catholic Answers Live about a question concerning whether Protestants are members of the Body of Christ and the answer was confusing to me.

The answer given was that Protestants who are baptized and believe in Jesus are members of the Body of Christ, i.e. in the Church, but not in full communion.

I don’t understand how this can be reconciled with past teaching such as that contained in the Council of Florence’s Cantate Domino:

“It firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart “into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels” [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.”

  • Pope Eugene IV - Cantate Domino

This seems to clearly indicate that Pope Eugene IV considered those in schism and in heresy to be outside the Church. So how can one be both outside of the Church but a member of the Body of Christ? I thought the Body of Christ was synonymous with the Church?

There are many people here that can do a much better job at this than I can but untill then I want to pose a scenario to ponder…

I, a Catholic, decide to no longer go to church, reason not relevant, for 2 years. Then one day I decide it is wrong and I need to get right with God and get myself back to church again.

In this scenario the church teaches how simply making a good confession would get me back in good grace with God and resume my Catholic faith but within the 2 year laps of my Catholic faith would i be in violation of the document quoted above by Pope Eugene? If you answer “yes” then I ask you to revisit the scenario with only a 1 year laps, then a 2 month laps then a 2 week laps… If your answer is “no” then I ask you to revisit the scenario with, what if within the original 2 year laps, I decided to attend a Baptist church?

I will await others response on this also…
Peace!!!

In 1943 Pope Pius XII wrote an encyclical explaining what it means to be a part of the Mystical Body of Christ. Which came ‘after’ the understanding by - Pope Eugene IV in Cantate Domino.

w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_29061943_mystici-corporis-christi.html

The protestant members are ‘outside’ the Catholic Church but they still are Christians. They just don’t receive the graces of the Church through the sacraments, except for Baptism which is the sacrament which saves us. (1 Peter 3:21)

Read it and you will see as long as there is a ‘valid’ Christian Baptism the member would be part of the ‘Mystical’ or Supernatural Body of Christ which is the Church. So we are united by our Christian brethren by our baptism.

Why didn’t the Church have that understanding back then? Time brings knowledge of God, even to the Church which itself is an living organism moved by the Holy Spirit.

It look to me these verse spoke by Christ seem to answer the question.

(Joh 15:3 DRB) Now you are clean, by reason of the word which I have spoken to you.

–we are baptized into Christ, (His Church, by the word of baptism)

(Joh 15:4 DRB) Abide in me: and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in me.

–now we need to abide in the Vine (Church)

(Joh 15:5 DRB) I am the vine: you the branches. He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.

–if one does not abide in the Vine, see what happens.

(Joh 15:6 DRB) If any one abide not in me, he shall be cast forth as a branch and shall wither: and they shall gather him up and cast him into the fire: and he burneth.

–we need to abide in Christ words, and the words come from the Church.

(Joh 15:7 DRB) If you abide in me and my words abide in you, you shall ask whatever you will: and it shall be done unto you.

The Church was Catholic, any other belief system other than this, would have some falsehood, incorrect doctrine etc, it would be difficult for a person to produce fruit if they were not abiding in Christ (the Church), which has the fullness of truth.

The scriptures also point to this.

May we all grow in wisdom and understanding as even Our Lord Jesus did and even the Church.

1 Peter 3:18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen

Respectfully I disagree, even partial truths will show fruit. If they didn’t we would never have the ability to move to the truth.

I don’t see anything in Mystici Corporis Christi that explicitly says this, that only a valid Christian Baptism is necessary to be a part of the Body of Christ in the context of those who are members of different denominations? In the excerpt from Mystici Corporis Christi I have quoted below, Pope Pius XII seems to be saying the opposite of what you are saying, that they are not members of the Church (emphasis mine):

  1. Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed. “For in one spirit” says the Apostle, “were we all baptized into one Body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free.”[17] As therefore in the true Christian community there is only one Body, one Spirit, one Lord, and one Baptism, so there can be only one faith.[18] And therefore, if a man refuse to hear the Church, let him be considered - so the Lord commands - as a heathen and a publican. [19] It follows that those who are divided in faith or government cannot be living in the unity of such a Body, nor can they be living the life of its one Divine Spirit.

It says only those who are baptized AND possess the “truth faith”, which seems to imply that both baptism and possession of the true faith are necessary to be a member of the Church. Lutheranism is not the true faith, nor is Methodism or Calvinism, or whateverism; only Catholicism is the true faith.

And in the last sentence this seems to be a clear reference to those with heretical beliefs or in schism, the former divided on matters of faith, the latter on matters of government.

This seems to be different though, it is not that Pope Eugene IV remained silent on the issue and it was later expanded upon by subsequent Popes, it’s that he seems to be saying something flatly different than this more modern conception of who is a part of the Body of Christ, the Church.

Hi Barricade,

Pope Pious X addressed this issue in his catechism. The catechism talks about two aspects of the Church: the soul of the Church and the body of the Church.

21 Q: What is the constitution of the Church of Jesus Christ?
A: The Church of Jesus Christ has been constituted as a true and perfect Society; and in her we can distinguish a soul and a body.
22 Q: In what does the Soul of the Church consist?
A: The Soul of the Church consists in her internal and spiritual endowments, that is, faith, hope, charity, the gifts of grace and of the Holy Ghost, together with all the heavenly treasures which are hers through the merits of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, and of the Saints.
23 Q: In what does the Body of the Church consist?
A: The Body of the Church consists in her external and visible aspect, that is, in the association of her members, in her worship, in her teaching-power and in her external rule and government.

29 Q: But if a man through no fault of his own is outside the Church, can he be saved?
A: If he is outside the Church through no fault of his, that is, if he is in good faith, and if he has received Baptism, or at least has the implicit desire of Baptism; and if, moreover, he sincerely seeks the truth and does God’s will as best he can such a man is indeed separated from the body of the Church, but is united to the soul of the Church and consequently is on the way of salvation

Note that one need not be baptised, or even be Christian, to be a member of the soul of the Church, the Body of Christ. If a person isn’t aware of Baptism, but has the ‘implicit’ desire of Baptism, he is included. Pope John Paul II explained it further:

Normally, “it will be in the sincere practice of what is good in their own religious traditions and by following the dictates of their own conscience that the members of other religions respond positively to God’s invitation and receive salvation in Jesus Christ, even while they do not recognize or acknowledge him as their Saviour (cf. Ad gentes, nn. 3, 9, 11)” (Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue – Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Instruction Dialogue and Proclamation, 19 May 1991, n. 29; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 1 July 1991, p. III).

To sum it up, everyone who is in Heaven is a member of the Body of Christ. Everyone, not just Christians, who truly seeks God and lives his life accordingly is a member of the Body of Christ and receives salvation in Jesus Christ, thus Heaven.

Xuan

From the CCC
790 Believers who respond to God’s word and become members of Christ’s Body,
805 The Church is the Body of Christ. Through the Spirit and his action in the sacraments, above all the Eucharist, Christ, who once was dead and is now risen, establishes the community of believers as his own Body

from newadvent.org/cathen/03744a.htm
ecclesia is never used by the Apostles to denote the Jewish Church. The word as a technical expression had been transferred to the community of Christian believers
As signifying the Church, the word Ecclesia is used by Christian writers, sometimes in a wider, sometimes in a more restricted sense.
•It is employed to denote all who, from the beginning of the world, have believed in the one true God, and have been made His children by grace
•It may signify the whole body of the faithful, including not merely the members of the Church who are alive on earth but those, too, whether in heaven or in purgatory

from newadvent.org/cathen/10663a.htm
This truth, that the Church is the mystical body of Christ, all its members being guided and directed by Christ the head,

The Body of Christ consists of ALL believers; not just Cap C Catholics
and there are no unbelievers in the Body of Christ

The Church is made up of Believers it is true but we are of One Faith, One Baptism For the forgiveness of Sins and One Lord. We are united in our beliefs, which is why we ‘have’ the Catechism and the Creed, etc. Those who don’t believe the same, though they may call themselves Catholic, or Protestant, unite themselves to the Church through the waters of Baptism and throughout their lives it is hoped that they will come to the fullness of what we believe because it is through the Church they will be saved. The Church is a mystical body of Christ, the vehicle which Jesus founded to bring people to heaven. Just ask a Catholic where Is heaven on earth? It is in the tabernacles of our Churches. He is there just waiting for us to receive Him and there is where we offer our lives up to God so that we can live our lives in communion with God. And yes we are united with those departed who are also part of the Church.

As I had mentioned above. We are saved through the Waters of Baptism. Those who have been baptized validly are brought into the Church as mentioned in your post in CCC 805 (See what I underlined and bolded above)

So what happens is that because the person is receives the rite of Christian Baptism they join the Church which is the body of Christ. So through the Church, the Body of Christ we are saved.

It is not our belief in Jesus which saves us, it is Jesus who saves us because of His sacrifice and we are brought into that sacrifice through our Baptism.

Okay to make it simple. Baptism saving us was prefigured in the story of Noahs Ark. The boat saved them through the waters which would otherwise have drowned them. But the waters of Baptism saves us because it anoints us with the Holy Spirit and begins our journey to heaven, the Church being enfolded by Our Mother Mary, is the Body of Christ and the ‘Ark’ of the New and eternal covenant made by God with us so we may be reconciled to God through the sacraments.

The scriptures and Jesus Himself did many teachings on this.

I Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered[d] for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you[e] to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, 20 who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. 21 And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for[f] a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.

Mark 10:35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39 They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.

Matthew 28:19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

I now hope you understand CCC 805 a little better? Submitted Respectfuly, Karen

Pope Eugene mentioned actions of the believers and remaining in Unity of the Catholic church through the sacraments. One of the Sacraments is Baptism which the Church understands now can be valid if it is made in the trinitarian formula in other faith traditions. In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. That is not inconsistent with our beliefs, though that understanding had not yet come to play. It’s interesting that Pope Eugene added ‘exceptions’ unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.”

Also it says that we must remain on the vine or we will whither away and die. That vine is watered by Jesus who is the living water! So to me that says we pray for people to stay on the vine. That prayer to me also unifies them to us. May God have mercy on us all! We should always pray the souls of people whether or not they are members of the Church so they and we may be brought to eternal life as One Body of Christ.

The Council of Florence also says this:

Holy baptism holds the first place among all the sacraments, for it is the gate of the spiritual life; through it we become members of Christ and of the body of the church.

and

…even a pagan and a heretic, can baptize…

In fact, this was also defined by the Council of Trent:

CANON IV.-If any one saith, that the baptism which is even given by heretics in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, with the intention of doing what the Church doth, is not true baptism; let him be anathema.

So, baptisms by heretics are true baptisms and baptism is how we become members of Christ and the body of the Church.

However, by persisting in heresy or schism, or by being excommunicated, we cease to be members of the Church, but that bond created by baptism is not fully destroyed. From Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma:

Although public apostates and heretics, schismatics and excommunicati vitandi are outside the legal organisation of the Church, still their relationship to the Church is essentially different from that of the unbaptised. As the baptismal character which effects incorporation in the Church is indestructible, the baptised person, in spite of his ceasing to be a member of the Church, cannot cut himself off so completely from the Church, that every bond with the Church is dissolved.

This “bond” is what we call partial communion.

Just a little more clarification please…
If an infant is baptized in the Catholic Church: and spends their entire adult life as a God denying atheist;
Are they considered part of the Body of Christ?
IOW are there lifelong God denying atheists who are part of the Body of Christ?

Respectfully you are looking for an answer that is up to God alone. What we can do is pray for their souls. What I can offer is to share what I know is what I know is a better way to heaven through Jesus Christ who is the way, the truth and the life. I mean we can pray for them, witness to them, share the truth with them but in the end their fate is between them and the mercy of God. As Catholic Christians we are called to build up Gods Kingdom and to do that we do not lean on our own understandings but to let God take charge.

Actually: I am trying to understand the Catholic understanding of the Body of Christ

FYI
my understanding of the Reformed view is:
Every true believer is in the Body of Christ
there are no unbelievers in the Body of Christ.

This may not be the “be all, end all” answer even in Catholicism, but I found this: ewtn.com/faith/teachings/chura1.htm

Speaking of full membership in the Church, Pius XII, in his Encyclical on the Mystical Body, said it is the society of those who have been baptized, and who profess the faith of Christ, and who are governed by their bishops under the visible head, the Pope, the Bishop of Rome.

This strikes me as being fully in communion with the church. Modern thinking considers being baptized believer outside the Catholic Church affords an imperfect, limited union. I would hazard a guess (which I probably shouldn’t) that atheists baptized as Catholics, still bearing the indelible mark of their baptism, have a connection to the body, and they are still Catholic. Perhaps they can be likened to withered limbs which the healing power of God can regenerate still, or an ear cut from the body, but which Christ can reattach. They are dead body parts, if you will.

These are my own analogies. Not claiming to be the first to use them, but I may misunderstand the Catholic position myself, and should probably have remained mum on the topic.

Well of course no one can erase or undo their baptism, when the stain of original sin is washed away, it can’t come back a second time. So in that sense people can’t cut themselves off so much so that they regain original sin as if they had not been baptized. If an apostate returns to the faith there is no necessity for re-baptism for example.

However, it seems confusing that an anti-Catholic atheist who was baptized as a child has partial communion in the scenario you pose but a Protestant Christian who did not receive baptism because their denomination did not believe in its necessity would not be in partial communion despite believing supernatural truths of Christianity that the atheists rejects.

In what I’ve quoted from your post here it seems awfully confusing, I don’t know how else to phrase these scenarios than to say that seemingly someone can be both inside and outside of the Church at the same time. How can one be deprived of membership but still be in partial communion? And if they are, what difference does partial communion make? For the baptized Catholic turned heretic or apostate are they in the body of Christ, ie a member of the Church or are they not? Surely it can’t be both?

Partly because membership and communion are different things. Much like you can be a formal member of a political party, but reject a portion of their platform.

And if they are, what difference does partial communion make?

For one, baptism provides graces that are not available to the unbaptized.

For the baptized Catholic turned heretic or apostate are they in the body of Christ, ie a member of the Church or are they not? Surely it can’t be both?

Seems to me that in order to answer these last two questions, a much clearer definition of “member” and “communion”, as they apply to Church teaching, is required. What do you think each means in this context?

I read that link:
I do not see how that explanation of the Body Christ would include any God denying atheists
I do not see how that explanation of the Body Christ would exclude any true Christian believers

Only true believers are in the Body of Christ.
I agree with this: Don’t Catholics agree?

From the CCC
790 Believers who respond to God’s word and become members of Christ’s Body,
805 The Church is the Body of Christ. Through the Spirit and his action in the sacraments, above all the Eucharist, Christ, who once was dead and is now risen, establishes the community of believers as his own Body

from newadvent.org/cathen/03744a.htm
ecclesia is never used by the Apostles to denote the Jewish Church. The word as a technical expression had been transferred to the community of Christian believers
As signifying the Church, the word Ecclesia is used by Christian writers, sometimes in a wider, sometimes in a more restricted sense.
•It is employed to denote all who, from the beginning of the world, have believed in the one true God, and have been made His children by grace
•It may signify the whole body of the faithful, including not merely the members of the Church who are alive on earth but those, too, whether in heaven or in purgatory

from newadvent.org/cathen/10663a.htm
This truth, that the Church is the mystical body of Christ, all its members being guided and directed by Christ the head,

:ehh: I’m picking that ol’ Eugene is still doing a few years in Purgatory for a dumb statement like that.

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