Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Can non-Catholics be saved?

The short answer is yes. Non-Catholics and non-Christians can be saved.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church sums it up this way:
1260 Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.
This is known as the "baptism of desire", an extra-ordinary way of salvation that occurs outside of the sacramental system. The Catechism also says:
1281 [A]ll those who, without knowing of the Church but acting under the inspiration of grace, seek God sincerely and strive to fulfill his will, can be saved even if they have not been baptized.
Now I'll attempt to explain this in my own words. Catholics may correct or clarify what I am about to say, but Feeneyism (the belief that only card-carrying Catholics can be saved) will not be accepted. That is a heresy, and we don't do heresy here in the Bubble. At least not on purpose. :)

First, the foundation.

Every human soul is made for one end: Union with God for all eternity. However, as we've discussed before, union with God cannot be achieved without the grace of Christ, which was won for us on the Cross.

There is no salvation except through Christ Jesus, and it is simply impossible for anyone to get to Heaven without Him.

(That's the basic, immovable ground rule for the rest of what I have to say, so if you forget that as we go along, I will refer you back to it.)

Human beings are hardwired for God. Every man is expected in his lifetime to seek truth, and to do the will of God as best he understands it. People who daily strive to discover what is true, good and beautiful, and who risk great suffering to conform their minds, hearts and lives to God, are rightly called men of good will. During this Christmas season, we should recall the words of the angels who announced Christ's birth (correctly translated in Catholic Bibles but mistranslated in some Protestant Bibles*):

Glory to God in the highest; 
and on earth peace to men of good will. 
-- Luke 2:14

As we discussed recently, God gives everyone the actual grace to seek Him and to desire to do His will. An open heart will naturally search for truth, and as Jesus promised: "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you." -- Matthew 7:7

Those who were raised up in the Catholic Faith have easier access to the fullness of truth than others, with a quicker route to sanctifying grace. That is a blessing beyond words. However, "to whom much is given, much will be required". Those who know more will be accountable for more. To know God's will and yet neglect our duties as Catholics is to act in bad faith, and we become men of bad will. (We should tremble at the thought!)

But non-Catholics who are sincerely ignorant of the necessity of baptism or who have never heard the Gospel are not responsible for the things they -- through no fault of their own -- do not know. After all, God is perfect Justice. He reads each human heart and knows who is truly seeking Him (even if that person hasn't quite found Him yet), and who desires to do His will (even if that person has it wrong at the moment).

This is the soul who would without hesitation ask to be baptized if he knew that baptism was the will of God. This is the soul who might never actually hear the name of Jesus Christ on this earth, but will see Jesus upon his death and say, "It is You! You were the One I was seeking all my life!" He will know Jesus, and Jesus will know him.

So yes, non-Catholics can be saved. And when these "men of good will" reach Heaven, when they are counted among the saints, every one of them (and us) will be of one mind and heart, one big Catholic family, professing Jesus Christ as Lord of all.

*Many Protestant translations are built upon bad theology, and thus many of their Bibles read: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. As you can see, that changes the meaning completely!


  1. I love this! I have found this to be simply unbelievable by so many. A friend grew up "something else" and when we discussed this Catholic teaching it just blew her mind that our church would somehow "allow" that people outside of our religion could get to heaven. How sad it would be to believe that God would have completely foresaken anyone just due to ignorance.

  2. This is one of the most clear and concise descriptions I've heard/read! One of the saddest things I see, particularly (for some reason) at the March for Life in DC, is the "Angry-Catholic" crowd that claims everyone else is going to roast in hell. So not helpful to the cause of evangelization.

  3. This is a teaching that I have understood even from my childhood, but I admire the way you have summarized it. If possible, could you address the situation of persons who are Catholics, but who leave the faith for other religions or those who become atheists. Is it possible that they are "seeking the truth," but are misguided in some way? Is it possible that without conversion they, too, can be saved?

  4. Jennifer, well put! It always strikes me as so unjust (and utterly cruel) when certain sects believe that if you just say one prayer, you are magically "safe" and heaven-bound, no matter what evils you commit, while all the other suckers on earth (many of whom never even had a chance to be evangelized) are going straight to hell, no matter how decent and no matter how much they strive to love and please God. What the heck kind of God would that be?

    Mrs. Mike, I couldn't agree more. They are more fundamentalist Protestant than Catholic in that area! Sad.

    Ruth Ann, those are sad situations, and the question would be, Did the person leaving have knowledge and (even a smidgen of) understanding that he/she was rejecting God? I think in some cases people do leave the Church out of the desire to do what they want in life (the "I will not serve" of the demons). And others may have had such a tainted and unfortunate understanding and experience of the Church that in their earnest search for God they leave the Church in error but with their "good will" intact. The problem is that we can never know why other people do what they do. We can never judge the heart. So, we must leave all that up to God to decipher. He will get it right every time, and know their true motives and responsibility. For us? We just pray for their return and we work on our own holiness and love of God and others so as not to scandalize others and push them away from the fullness of truth (the Church). Does that make sense?

  5. So when I face God, I can say, it's not my fault you made me so dumb, now let me in!! LMBO! Good stuff!

  6. Sew, you kill me, ha ha!!! Your comments deserve an award. Wait, I've already given you a zillion Bubble Awards.

  7. Another gem from the Bubble! Thanks for posting this--too many people think that Catholics believe non-Catholics are going to hell. This explains the church teaching in a concise and easy-to-understand way.

  8. This is a topic of many a "discussion" in our "disparity of cult" household. Here is how I read this - basically DH can go to heaven (God-willing) because he is a man of good will (and Christian) even if he is not a Catholic. He will probably just get some extra time in Purgatory or something like that? Am I totally misunderstanding this?

  9. PS - Leila, I wish I could just have you here in our house when those "discussions" come up. I am not very skilled at apologetics or the art of argument.

  10. This just seems like a thinly veiled way for you to feel good about 1) trying to convert other people to Catholicism 2)reconciling differences in religions from a completely ethnocentric viewpoint

    If the ultimate goal is to be "one big happy Catholic family" No thanks, don't want to be "saved."


  11. Thankful, as long as your husband is responding to the grace that God is sending, he will not be condemned. Only God can know how much of what he hears he rejects because it would require him to humble himself or be obedient in ways he wishes not to. So, again, it's one of those "we cannot read his heart" things, and we entrust him (and ourselves) to the mercy of God. But you are right that Purgatory (the process of ridding ourselves of all self-love and selfishness) is the just thing for those who have not completely turned from God, and who are people of good will truly seeking God and truth!

    And, don't worry: Your life lived well is the main argument that you need! :)

  12. Hello Miss Gwen!

    Not sure how your #1 even fits? Huh? Can you clarify what you mean?

    As for #2, surely you have read enough of the Bubble to know that we do not "reconcile" or compromise on truth? There is something called justice, and something called mercy. You want the courts to have both, for a reason. It's innate, and we understand that justice and mercy are both important. God is just and merciful.

    If you don't want to be "saved", then I assure you God will respect that. He is not a rapist, forcing you to be united with Him. He is a gentleman, and what you choose, you will get. That paradigm should be agreeable to everyone, no?


  13. Also, I completely disagree with this statement: "Human beings are hardwired for God. Every man is expected in his lifetime to seek truth, and to do the will of God as best he understands it."

    We may be "hard-wired" to seek some sort of spirituality, but we are most definitely not hard-wired to believe in one god, one truth that conveniently happens to be Catholic.


  14. We may be "hard-wired" to seek some sort of spirituality

    Great, let's go with that! To get an atheist to agree to that statement alone is saying something very powerful!

    So, define "spirituality" and what "sort" might we be hardwired to seek? And why?

  15. I was thinking about the archaeological record and evidence of our ancestors taking time and consideration to make burials symbolic, of the possibility that the venus figurines suggest some sort of spiritual belief.

    Across cultures there seems to be some desire to make life meaningful or find meaning/symbolism in daily life; whether that manifests as one God, one Goddess, several deities or spirits seems to vary.


  16. But why do you think we would be "hard wired" for that? Animals are not, after all.

    Also, could you clarify on the #1?

  17. Love this post!!! The Catholic beliefs about salvation are incredibly merciful. Someone gave us the Protestant book "Radical" last year and as I flipped through it, was reminded of the horrifying belief some hold--that if someone has not heard the American Protestant version of the Gospel, they are going to Hell. At any rate, I loved how you treated this important topic! Thank you!

  18. Brianna, thanks! I am honored that you liked it! I never understood how any Protestant could be comfortable with a God who would condemn people to burn in hell for sincere ignorance! That's definitely not a Catholic notion!

  19. Leila, I always enjoy your posts but I think I like these "Little Teachings from the Bubble" the best. The title says it best: it's little and it's so simple to understand. Yet you are not teaching anything new, just clarifying what so many people (including Catholics like myself who are still learning) want and need to understand.

    You have such a gift, I hope you remember to thank God for it every day! :-)

    Keep it coming and please do more of these "little teachings"!

  20. #1: you said "There is no salvation except through Christ Jesus, and it is simply impossible for anyone to get to Heaven without Him." Is this not the reason behind converting other people? The possibility of "saving" others? of introducing them to your beliefs? If the one true answer is to be one big Catholic family in heaven, this seems like heavy handed justification for trying to bring everyone else into the Catholic Church. Where do observant Jews, Hindus and Protestants go?

    -Why are we possibly hard-wired for religion? Well I guess one answer would be our highly developed brains and our ability to reason and create symbolism. Why humans and not animals? possibly because we are also hard-wired to have culture, to have a shared, patterned set of practices that ensure our own identity and in a way, survival.


  21. Gwen

    We try to convert to bring the same joy and fulfillment to life of another that we ourselves have experienced; not out of some controlling desire to make everyone march in lockstep.

    Grant me for a moment that there is truth that exists outside of individual perceptions and preferences. If we accept that one idea then of course we want everyone to know of that truth because it will make their lives better. I suspect you have no difficulty with this concept when it comes to some aspects of life that you believe to be demonstrable. If you are working in the developing world to make sure that potable water is available you do what you can to teach people that latrines have to be downstream of drinking water. To you this is an obvious truth that must be taught and accepted. Teaching faith is no different for us. We have found a truth we believe to be immutable and to fail to share that truth would be as cruel as allowing a child to drink polluted waters downstream from a latrine.

    That said - I don’t believe this post was about conversion – but about the possibilities of what happens to those who love and honor God, try to follow His truths, but do not have the richness of the Catholic Church to help them in their journey.

  22. Elisabeth, thank you! Well said!

    Gwen, the reason that no one can get to Heaven but through Jesus is that only Jesus, True God and True Man, could reconcile God and man. Only Jesus could offer the perfect Sacrifice of love that opened the gates of Heaven to mankind, which had been closed after the Fall. But for Jesus, and the grace of His Sacrifice, no one could ever enter the glories of Heaven.

    I wrote about that in the link above, which can also be found here:

    I'm still not at all clear on your answer to #1. If animals can survive just fine without being hard-wired for spirituality, why couldn't humans? Why do we need something fake that does not correlate to any reality when we are the more highly developed, reasonable ones? How does a hardwiring for something that doesn't exist help us?

  23. Gwen, you said:

    If the one true answer is to be one big Catholic family in heaven, this seems like heavy handed justification for trying to bring everyone else into the Catholic Church. Where do observant Jews, Hindus and Protestants go?

    In Heaven, there is no error, no sin. Only goodness, truth, beauty. Only true love and union. All that is manifest in One God. The Truths of Christ will be known and loved and shared by all. No dissent, no discord, just perfect union and complete bliss. Everyone will know the Truth, everyone will be a saint: One big Catholic family! Though far beyond what you see here on earth. Read some of the experiences of the saints, the ones who achieved that union here on earth, and you will get a sense of it.

    Those who lived their earthly lives as Hindus and Protestants and Jews of good will will be right there with everyone else, living in the Heart of the Trinity, worshipping the Living Christ, knowing and embracing the fullness of Truth, with the Lord who created them. I thought I made that clear in the piece, but if not, thanks for the chance to clarify!

  24. I'll agree with you Elisabeth that the post is not primarily about converting people. And I can also mostly agree with you on this: "We try to convert to bring the same joy and fulfillment to life of another that we ourselves have experienced"

    As for the latrine analogy, I see things differently. Of course I wholeheartedly support providing everyone on earth with potable water and healthy sanitation. What I don't condone is the often misguided "we know better than you" tone that underlies some projects (community health related or spiritual) and neglects or disrespects the validity of different cultural understandings/practices/beliefs.

    In other words, what good is an outhouse in rural Bolivia if it is designed to use many buckets of water to manually flush and water is a precious resource? People end up not using the outhouse and continuing to use nearby areas that could potentially contaminate the water used for cooking/laundry. In such cases, working with the community with a more collaborative approach would consider outhouses that use lime covered pits.


  25. I'm still not clear-if you're a devout Hindu how in the world do you end up being in Heaven as part of a Catholic family? That just sounds like quite the shock for everyone lined up at the gate in front of St. Peter.


  26. What I don't condone is the often misguided "we know better than you" tone that underlies some projects

    True, Gwen, but the difference between that whole potable water analogy and Catholicism is that God only has one Truth, and it's for all people. It's a revealed religion, not a subjective one.

    God's truth, unlike various sanitation projects in different cultures, is true for all and right for all and made for all humans, no exceptions.

  27. Miss G, because when the sincere, gods-loving Hindu dies and sees the face of Jesus greeting him (with the angels and saints surrounding him), he will have full knowledge of truth. He will understand what is true, and know that Jesus is Lord of all. And he will be where he was made to be, with the One who always knew him better than himself. It will be glorious!

    Does that help?

  28. Gwen - thre is no question that the methods used to educated others about the truth often have more zeal than efficacy. Every person I know who works to provide services struggles with well-meaning volunteers who want to give last year's cans of condensed milk to the food bank or grandma's wool blankets to the Haitians. :)

    As a Catholic (and a convert) I sometimes cringe over the methods of evangelization used by well-meaning but ill-informed/ill-preprared people. But their clumsy approach (to food banks or evangelization) does not negate the genuine desire they have to share nor the need that exists.

    I often each about the faith, to non-Catholics and Catholics alike. But I know that in each and every instance I must work to respect the indivual dignity of those I am approaching and try to meet them where they are at and not where I perceive or desire them to be. I hope that you would judge me (and others) not by our clumsiness but by our genuine desire to meet a real need.

  29. I love what Chesterton says about the absurdity of a private spirituality/religion:

    "The modern habit of saying, 'Every man has a different philosophy; this is my philosophy and it suits me'--the habit of saying this is mere weak mindedness. A cosmic philosophy is not constructed to fit a man; a cosmic philosophy is constructed to fit a cosmos. A man can no more possess a private religion than he can possess a private sun and moon." --G. K. Chesterton

    The truth of who God is as fixed and universal as are the laws of physics. You wouldn't say that an Indian physicist should have a different law of gravity to work with than an American one, right? Or that it would be arrogant to teach physics to those in Ethiopia?

    What I truly love about the Catholic Faith is that it is not unique to any one culture or nation. It is exactly what its name means: Universal. As it should be. Just like the laws of physics.

  30. PS - I don't each about the faith - I teach about it. Yeat another clumsy approach on my part! :)

  31. I'm new to this blog and would first like to thank Leila and all the commenters for their wonderful contributions. A true inspiration!
    Leila, you've written earlier that "In Heaven, there is no error, no sin." This brings up a topic I've struggled with for a while. It was an archangel, no less (Lucifer), who rebelled against God. How does that reconcile with your statement? And does that mean that even after we are saved, we are never free from temptation and have to continually overcome our own will - and may fail?

  32. Thank you for this beautifully written post on a truly beautiful teaching of the Catholic Church. This teaching is one that beings me much comfort when I think about my Jewish relatives and all the good that they have done in their lives. Someone told me once that even with all we know about Jesus and his teachings, we can never be sure that we know the limits of his mercy. We never give up hope. Thanks for sharing the truth.

  33. Sebastian, great question! The angels were created naturally good, and like us, they had a choice. They could choose God or not. Similar to Adam and Eve, a third of the angels said "we will not serve" and fell. Their choice, which was made with perfect clarity of Who God was, is irrevocable. Our chance to accept or reject God comes during this earthly lifetime. Once we have taken our last breath, our decision becomes irrevocable, too.

    Once we are in Heaven (and before that, in Purgatory being perfected for Heaven), our will is fixed with God's. We will never be tempted and never change our minds. Our eternity (just like the angels') is set forever.

    Does that answer the question?

    Seashore, you are right that we can never fathom God's mercy! I believe it has been called His greatest attribute. :)

  34. Leila, many thanks for taking the trouble to answer my question. I still cannot understand how an angel could choose against God, especially since that choice "was made with perfect clarity of Who God was" - a privilege we humans do not enjoy. That would not only be a foolish choice, but a meaningless one. They were not, after all, created with original sin. I am really sorry, perhaps I am too thick to understand!

  35. Sebastian, no you are not thick at all! But remember, Adam and Eve were not created with Original Sin, either. They choose to leave friendship with God after knowing him intimately, too. Satan and his minions had the mindset that it's better to rule in Hell than to serve in Heaven. We have a small sense of that when we refuse to obey the Lord even in the little things. God gave us free will in order to love. Love has to be a choice, freely given and received. We (and the angels) had to make and "own" the choice for ourselves, or we are not free, we are simply robots or slaves.

    As far as what would move them to such a drastic rebellion, tradition holds that they rebelled when they learned that God would become Man one day, and not an angel. After all, angels are creatures of a much higher order than lowly man. So to them, it was impossible to accept this "affront". Pride is an ugly thing. Humility is hard.

  36. Ummmm, are you spying on me and The Man? We were just talking about this very topic (AND the topic of angels - thanks Sebastian!)...I've sent him the link and he will no longer look at me like I have 3 heads because I can't explain myself so clearly.

    Thank-you Leila - once again I say "why oh why oh why did no one ever explain it this way?!?!"

  37. Rebecca, ha ha! Yes, I was spying on you. :)

    And just remember that it takes a simple mind to explain things simply, ha ha!

  38. Thank you Leila, it is becoming clearer! Sorry for replying so late, I live in Europe and had to run last night after my question. Have a wonderful day!

  39. Thanks so much for your post. I love this blog! I stumbled upon it during our 7 hour car trip during Thanksgiving break. I'm a homeschooling mom of 7. I've already saved your post on Grace to help my high-schooler that had to write a paper on Sanctifying Grace. I will be saving this one as well. As part of our religion, we memorize catechism questions your post is very succinct and will help me to teach the children better. I've always told my kids "to whom much is given, much is expected." Your post does a fantastic job showing this.Keep up the great work! God bless you!!

  40. I have never liked the word "convert," even after I became Catholic. The definition of the word doesn't bother me, just the connotation of the word itself. I don't see myself as someone trying to "convert" others. I only see myself as a disciple of Christ, offering to others my own experiences and feelings. Let's say I know of a beautiful house where a homeless person can go and live and have hot meals and hot showers and be taken care of. I go to these people on the streets and say, "I know of some place you will be safe and fed." I cannot make them go. Because they can't actually SEE this house from where they are, they have to either believe me or not believe me. I can tell him how beautiful it is; I can share others stories of what they experienced when they went to this house, but I can never MAKE them go or even MAKE them want to go.

    That's how I see my belief in God. I know of a beautiful place they can go and I want to share it. I would be remiss in NOT sharing it and keeping it for myself.


  41. Here is my question:
    You said, "But non-Catholics who are sincerely ignorant of the necessity of baptism or who have never heard the Gospel are not responsible for the things they -- through no fault of their own -- do not know"

    What about those who are growing up in the United States, and were taught by their parents and some of their culture that all that Catholic stuff is hogwash. Then, if they marry or are with a religious person, but they still reject it because they sincerely think the baptism stuff is just superstition, does that constitute willful rebellion or is that still marked under "does not truly understand". It seems to me that it would be logically impossible to truly understand the idea of baptism and to reject it.

  42. What do you think about cradle Catholics who haven't quite found God yet and are doing wrong at the moment? I have quite a few people who come to mind with this question. Just because a person is raised Catholic does not automatically mean that their heart is turned toward God or the church, so what about them?

  43. One more thing...recently two of the fallen away Catholics I speak of have said things about individual thought and action. One of them said this idea is in the Catechism. Because of this she believes she does not have to be a practicing Catholic and pretty much holds protestant beliefs now. Is this true? Is there something in the Catechism that gives Catholics the freedom to become protestant and still have the hope of salvation. To me it sounds more like moral relativism, but I don't know much about apologetics so I thought I would ask you.

  44. Whoa, great comments and questions! Thanks, guys! And, welcome ugagal! So glad you found us!

    Okay, I have a million responses and angles to what you guys are asking, so I will do this piecemeal. Thanks for patience (all the kids home and want to play).

    First, to Mary's last point (I will address the first question later), which was:

    It seems to me that it would be logically impossible to truly understand the idea of baptism and to reject it.

    Well, first I'd say it depends on the disposition of the person's heart. I have known people who want to live just as they wish. Baptism (and thus the obligation to live out the Christian life of grace) requires something. It requires sacrifice and suffering and discomfort and "going where you do not want to go" (as Jesus said to the Apostle John). I have heard with my own ears folks say things like: "If that is what God wants, then I'd rather go to hell than be with Him in Heaven." People say that more commonly than you might think.

    I am reminded of the story Jesus told of the rich man and Lazarus:

    Luke 16:19-31

    [19] "There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. [20] At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores [21] and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.

    [22] "The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. [23] In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. [24] So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.'

    [25] "But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. [26] And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.'

    [27] "He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, [28] for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.'

    [29] "Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.'

    [30] " 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.'

    [31] "He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' "
    (emphasis mine)

    Also, there is the scene in John chapter 6, the Bread of Life discourse. Jesus says again and again and again that we must eat of His Flesh and drink of His Blood, or we will have no life in us. He says it without ambiguity, and he even uses the Greek word for "gnaw" to drive home the point. Well, this great crowd of disciples heard this, and many of them -- even those who had watched him perform miracles!! -- walked away from the Lord and rejected him! Jesus turned to a bewildered Peter and asked, "Will you, too, go away?" Peter said "To whom shall we go Lord? You have the words of eternal life." Some stayed, some left.

    Sadly, some will not believe, or not follow, no matter how much truth stares them in the face and no matter how much they understand. The disposition of the heart is paramount, truly willing to follow the truth no matter where it leads or what it costs.

    More in a bit, about the question of Catholics who fall away, or are lukewarm, etc….

  45. Julie, I think your friend is talking about the dictate that we must always follow our conscience. It is true that we must. However, dissenters take that in the wrong way. They (conveniently) forget the rest of what the Catechism says on that issue:

    personal conscience "should not be set in opposition to the moral law or the Magisterium of the Church." (Catechism, 2039)

    Now, sincere ignorance is one thing, but then there is willful ignorance:

    This is the case when a man "takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin." In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits. (Catechism, 1791)

    More on conscience and dissent, here:

    Bottom line is: We cannot know whether someone is acting from good will and a pure heart or not. That is between him and God. We should always assume the good intention, of course.

  46. Mary, I don't know if it would be willful rebellion, because I cannot know if the person is seeking truth or merely seeking comfort. Many people choose a church based on the convenience of it, or the fact that it conforms to the person's beliefs! That is not the way we seek God! We seek the Church that teaches truth, and then we conform our lives to it. So, people who seek churches that agree with them are not seeking truth, they are seeking their own will to be confirmed. True faith is going to be HARD. It's going to require sacrifice and obedience. For example, how many folks have left the Church because they "don't like" the hard teachings on say, contraception, divorce, sexual ethics, etc? Many, many have left the Church for those reasons. How will God look on that? I don't know. He reads hearts. Maybe they are fully culpable, maybe only partly culpable.

    When I was a lapsed Catholic, I was still clued in enough to understand the truth of the moral law. I broke that law with nary a blink. I felt bad about it on some level, and again, I KNEW what I was doing was wrong, but I was not fearing hell. Not too much at least. Would I have gone to hell had I died then? I don't know. I pray that God would have been merciful to my pathetic self.

    The most interesting "Just Curious" I ran was the one that dealt with that very question. The comments are amazing:

    My excuse was always, "God understands me."



    Praise God for his patience and mercy!!

  47. Leila
    I don't know if the diocese is doing this all over the U.S, but I know that at least our diocese is passing this book out at all churches for free: "Rediscover Catholicism" by Matthew Kelly. Have you ever read it? I love it, I'm only on Chapter 2 but it's such and easy read and so clear!

    Julie's comment about lapsed Catholics made me think of this paragraph that I read (this is regarding the authors view on how many people view Catholics and are angry with them:)

    "...They are saying, whispering, crying out, "Don't tell me! Show me!" Their plea comes from a longing deep within them and represents their great hunger (to know the truth). They don't want to see another TV Evangelist, or read another book or hear another CD about Christianity, they want the REAL thing. They want to witness someone, anyone--just one will do--living an authentic life, someone whose words are supported by the authority of his or her actions. Someone striving humbly but heroically to live by what is good, true and noble in the midst of--and in spite of--the modern climate.

    They are not sending us this message merely to sound the childish cry of "Hypocrite!" Rather, theirs is the natural cry, a cry for help. They are saying to us, "Don't tell me--show me!" because they are so hungry for a courageous example of the authentic life. Seeing the conflicts and contradictions of your life and mine, they often cry "Hypocrite!" out of their hurt and anger. They are angry because the disappointment of discovering that we are not living the life we espouse robs them of their own hope to live an authentic life."

    This quote was longer than intended, but it Julie's question/comment reminded me of how so many people get confused by Catholics. (Not to say that Julie was ever calling us a hypocrite!)

    Such a good book, I would recommend it to anyone to read.

  48. I was intrigued by the title of your post and had to come read :) I haven't been to your blog in months, and since I am not Catholic I was quite curious about what your response would be. But I am a God-fearing, Jesus-loving girl and live my life according to the Word of God. Romans 10:9 - If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. I take these words to heart and believe it is as simple as that...for anyone of any religion. Thank you for creating a place to have important conversations like this one!

  49. Stacy - then the question becomes, "If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead," why aren't you a member of the the church that He established at the very beginning? :)

  50. Becky, thank you for that amazing excerpt! That really is brilliant. He gets to the heart of it, to the core of our human nature and what we profoundly need.

    Stacy, welcome and thanks! I love that Scripture, but of course there is soooooooo much more about salvation in the Bible, and we need to take it all in context. For example, the Bible also says that "baptism now saves you". And it says that "not everyone who says, 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of Heaven". And it says that we "are saved by works and not by faith alone". And so many other things. So, we take it all as a whole, and we understand it all in light of 20 centuries of unbroken Christian Tradition.

    In your belief system, what happens to those folks of good will who never hear the name of Jesus or get a chance to know the Gospel? Are they bound for hell because of it? Thanks!

  51. In answer to the many questions above, I thought this would be of help, too. So many people hear the truth here or there and then they say, "That makes sense, but…." and then they have an excuse for not following through on what they admit makes sense to them. That could be a way of pushing away actual grace. More on that here:

  52. And for some people it's not just about wanting to have things their own way; it's about fear...fear of trusting the Lord with all of us.

    For a long time I understood the Church's teaching on contraception, but I was afraid to trust the Lord enough to give up all artificial contraception. It took me a few years for my faith to over-ride my fear even though I knew what the right thing to do is.

  53. When you said "Feeneyism"... I thought it might be one of the many wise philosophies spouted by Mr. Feeney from Boy Meets World... alas, it is not!

  54. Barbara, good point. I tend to think that fear can lessen culpability. If we fear, then we are not fully consenting to the sin, we just are too scared to do the right thing. (I've always said courage is the most needed virtue these days!). I think pride is the really deadly thing, the "I will not serve" mentality. That's when it gets really dangerous.

  55. Liesl, ha ha! I don't watch the show, but that's funny!

  56. I'm late to the party but I love this post, Leila! Beautiful and succinct!

    "What I don't condone is the often misguided "we know better than you" tone that underlies some projects (community health related or spiritual) and neglects or disrespects the validity of different cultural understandings/practices/beliefs. "

    Gwen, how do you feel about our foreign policy on helping other nations only if they agree to teach "safe sex"? We distribute condoms and artificial contraception to other cultures as if we know better than them...often times their hospitals are full of this stuff and lacking in sanitary conditions or penicillin...

  57. I believe we are saved by grace THROUGH faith. We enter into relationship with God, by receiving His gift of grace according to Ephesians 2:8 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

    I also believe that on our journey as a child of God we demonstrate our faith through our works (James 2).

    In answer to your question, I believe the God of the Bible judges the heart and if someone has never had the opportunity to hear and understand the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I think they will be accepted with open arms.

    Just to clarify: when your reference James 2:24 above about being saved by works, do you believe man is saved through works? Or that their faith produces works?

    JoAnna – My faith isn’t about being a member of a church, it’s about a relationship with the Living God. I don’t believe God will ask me when I meet Him face to face, which denomination or church I was a member of. I believe He will say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”

    I do not wish to debate, but thank you for the opportunity to discuss!

  58. Manda, that is a great question for Gwen, and it harkens me back to this post about how we arrogantly push our contraceptives and sterilizations (even by force and deceit and threat) on the poor people of the developing world:

    Leaves SUCH a bad taste in my mouth. Lord, have mercy.

    Gwen, is it worse to try to teach people about God through words, or to push them into sterility on the promise of food if they submit? (Or make them barren without their knowledge?)

  59. Stacy, we pretty much agree and that is a wonderful thing!

    As for the meaning of "works", that is a whole post in itself, ha ha. What we were freed from by the grace of Jesus was the need to adhere to details of hundreds of points of the Mosaic Law, which could never ultimately save.

    However, we were never "freed" from the universal moral law (the Ten Commandments), as that is a law of truth and love, an unchanging law that is for our good. So, we obey God out of love (or even out of fear, if our faith is weak and that's where we start out).

    We Catholics believe that to flaunt the moral law and commit mortal (or "deadly") sin (1 John 5:16) is a way of showing that our hearts are no longer with God. Catholics don't believe in "once saved always saved" because our conversion and relationship with God is always ongoing, daily. He loves us and we love him. However, although he would never reject us, we can certainly choose to reject him, even after our baptism. We don't believe that we lose our free will after we accept Jesus. How we live our lives (our "works") will be judged by the Lord (I think we can agree that that is all over Scripture!).

    Just doing good works alone will not save anyone, of course. After all, there are evil people who do good works for various reasons and motives. In the same way, faith alone will not save us either, as James makes clear. After all, even the devil knows that Jesus is Lord and acknowledges who He is! Faith without works is dead.

    Grace alone saves us, though we are justified by our faith and our works, as Scripture says and as the Church has always taught. Grace precedes our faith and grace precedes our works. In fact, grace precedes our next breath. :)

    I hope that makes sense, and if not, I will try again! It's a big and important topic, obviously.


  60. PS: I know you don't wish to debate, Stacy, and I respect that (you are brave to come to the Bubble and even talk about this stuff, but we love anyone who comes with an open heart and with respect!). However, I want to ask you: If you believed that Jesus did establish and perpetuate a visible Church on earth, would you think it imperative to be a member of that Church?

  61. Tridentine wife, I am sure your hubby answered it sufficiently for you, but if you want me to follow-up, I will! Or, have him write his explanation here for everyone to see. I've missed him (and you)!!!!


  62. Leila, yes, what you said in answer to my comment way above does make sense. Thank you. Many of us are praying for the return of friends and family members who have left the Catholic faith.

  63. I have heard on many occasions that the Catholic Church is the surest way to heaven. I pray daily for fallen away family members that have apostated themselves and rejected the Truth, which is scary but this post gives me hope. Thanks!

  64. This is a good post, but the comment section is a bit weak. This is a more precise definition of what Holy Mother Church teaches on salvation (please read all the way to the next heading):

    The Baltimore Catechism (#4) also has a good explanation of this doctrine. If you would like, I'll find the relevant text for you.

  65. Thanks so much for this helpful post. I remember being at a large Protestant womens' conference several years ago with some other Catholic women. One of the ladies looked around the amphitheater and asked "So are we (Catholics) the only ones here going to Heaven?" To which one of the other Catholics in my company responded "Of course." At the time I was a wavering Catholic myself and didn't know how to respond, but I knew that just seemed wrong!! This post really clarifies the Catholic position.
    God bless you and thanks for the great blog.

  66. There is no salvation except through Christ Jesus, and it is simply impossible for anyone to get to Heaven without Him.

    But what is possible is to live a good life, die, and simply cease to exist except in the memories of those who knew you and in the pages of history. It is impossible for anyone to get to Heaven with him as well, especially since you can't go anywhere without at least a marginally functioning brain. When you die, your brain no longer functions and, in essence, you do not exist.

  67. Bill, not if there's a God. Then every possibility you state falls apart.

    In an atheist universe? Anything goes, that for sure.


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