Let’s Be Catholic

Today’s Catholics are called to be leaven in the new millennium. This is a tremendous challenge, as the richness of our Catholic faith isn’t reducible to mere soundbytes, and timeless Christian wisdom is often portrayed today as simply one voice among many or as the “spin” of the religious right.

This all points to the ongoing need for prudent inculturation, which is the process of adapting–without diluting or disfiguring–the Gospel for new cultures and generations. Rather than withdraw into a secure Catholic ghetto, we’re called by our Holy Father to be an evangelizing presence in the world, allowing God’s grace to transform a generation that at times seems to be lost in cyberspace.

The Catechism provides an outstanding exposition of the catholicity of the Church, which is one of her distinguishing marks, for we believe in “one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church.” The Church is “catholic,” or “universal,” both because she has already received from Christ the fullness of salvation (cf. Eph. 1:22-23), and because she has been entrusted with the mission of bringing the Gospel to the entire human race.

Regarding the Church’s missionary nature, the Catechism devotes an
important paragraph to inculturation (no. 854), worth quoting in full:

“By her very mission, the Church travels the same journey as all humanity and shares the same earthly lot with the world: she is to be a leaven and, as it were, the soul of human society in its renewal by Christ and transformation into the family of God. Missionary endeavor requires patience. It begins with the proclamation of the Gospel to peoples and groups who do not yet believe in Christ, continues with the establishment of Christian communities that are a sign of God’s presence in the world, and leads to the foundation of local churches. It must involve a process of inculturation if the Gospel is to take flesh in each people’s culture. There will be times of defeat. With regard to individuals, groups, and peoples it is only by degrees that [the Church] touches and penetrates them, and so receives them into a fullness which is Catholic.”

The “new evangelization” requires profound respect for other peoples, cultures, and generations and absolute fidelity to the Person and teaching of Jesus Christ. It’s not an either-or proposition.

The Church calls us to build on the truths we already have in common with others while patiently fostering full communion in the Body of Christ. The glass is never only half full or half empty, it’s both. Dialoguing without ever summoning to conversion is cowardly and weak; summoning to conversion without first connecting with other people is foolhardy and harsh. We need grace and courage to hold these two realities together in our own particular network of relationships.

But, most of us aren’t missionaries in the strict sense. We don’t go anywhere except maybe to work or the grocery store or the mall. How do we live the catholicity of the Church?

First, we have to affirm with St. Paul that in Christ there is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female, for through Baptism all of us can become children of God and heirs of heaven. No group of people is excluded from this invitation. For us to look down on or at least refuse to engage others because of their race, culture, or nationality is an implicit denial of the catholicity of the Church.

Second, the Church is by her nature missionary. She has been sent to make disciples of all peoples. All Catholics are bound to support the missionary efforts of the Church. Certainly material support by way of contribution, clothing, medicine, and the like are all very important. But even more fundamentally, we should regularly pray and offer our daily sufferings for the spread of the Gospel. This spiritual foundation is the engine without which the Church’s missionary activity would be in vain.

Third, we must not be ashamed of the fact that all salvation comes from Christ. As Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said: “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved” (Acts 4:12). And we further believe that Christ entrusted the fullness of the means of salvation to His Church, so that those who hear the apostles and their successors–the Pope and the bishops in union with him–hear Christ Himself.

This does not mean that those who are not Catholic or who are not even Christian can’t be saved, for nothing is impossible with God.

But if we really do believe what the Church teaches about salvation in and through Christ, doesn’t it make sense that we’re going to use every means at our disposal to let the whole world know about it? This is not to use truth as a club to beat people with or as a license to be obnoxious. But I think most of us probably err on the side of being too soft-spoken in our presentation of the Gospel to others.

In this year devoted to St. Paul, let us say with the Apostle to the Gentiles: Woe to us if we don’t proclaim the Gospel!

5 responses

  1. 02.08.2008
    Dear Leon,
    Praised be Jesus and Our Lady.
    Please answer the following questions on yur blog or preferable in an article on FAITH FACTS.

    1)The Old Covenant , Mosaic Covenant has been revoked and been replaced entirely (i. e superseded) by the New Covenant. It is not a “valid” covenant and it does not continue “eternally”?

    2)The Old Covenant cannot save the Jews, even if the Old Covenant is somehow promoted as being tied to the News Covenant, or tied to the Abrahamic Covenant, or under the mediation of Jesus Christ, or is categorized as “not being apart from Christ “ or “not outside of Christ”?
    3)that the Jew, (barring instances of invincible ignorance which can only be judged by God) can only be saved by converting to the New Covenant and forsaking any dependence on the Old Covenant ?
    4)Fr.Leonard Feeney was excommunicated for disobedience and not heresy?
    5)The Catholic Church teaches that Non-Catholic religions (Judaism,Islam,Hinduism) are not paths to salvation(to go to Heaven and to avoid Hell)?
    6)The Catholic Church teaches that non-Catholics need to enter the Catholic Church in general, barring the exceptions for salvation?
    7) When I meet a non-Catholic I assume that he is oriented to Hell, not because I know, but because the Catholic Church teaches so?
    8)Non Catholic religions are not the ordinary way of salvation?
    9)Non Catholics can be saved within their religions through Jesus and the Church, however this is the exceptional means of salvation. The ordinary means of salvation is Catholic Faith and the Baptism of Water?

    In Christ
    Lionel

  2. Dear Lionel,
    Leon is occupied with a teaching assignment, and has asked me to reply (though briefly) to your comments:
    1) The Mosaic covenant has indeed been superseded and replaced by the New and Everlasting Covenant of Christ. St. Paul made clear against the Judaizers that observance of Mosaic rituals and ceremonials, sacrifices, and circumscision were no longer obligatory for Christians. But there is certainly an aspect of the Mosaic covenant which remains valid for both Jews and Christians, namely the obsrvance of the Ten Commandments which formed part of the Sinai-Mosaic Covenant.However, the Mosaic Covenant never was fully salvific in itself.
    That is why the deceased holy ones of the Old Covenant had to wait till Christ descended to the dead before they could enter Heaven. It may be possible to say that the Mosaic Covenant retains a certain validity as a preparation for the Gospel (it is fulfilled in Christ), but it was NOT a parallel way to heaven. All who were saved in the Old Covenant were saved by their implicit faith in the coming of the one Messiah/Savior. By the way, there were many convenants that God made with the Israelite people (with
    adam, Noah, Abaham,Moses, David, etc. but it was the Covenant with Abraham which the Church regards as being “irrevocable”, not the Mosaic covenant.
    2) Anyone who is saved is saved by the grace of Christ who is the world’s one and only Savior.
    3) The Jews of today like anyone else are called to conversion to Christ and to baptism in the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church so that they can be saved (i.e., admission to the glory of Heaven where “Christ sits at the right hand of the Father” in the company of all the Angels and Saints. The Church cannot and will not abandon its apostolic mission to all mankind, including today’s Jews.
    4)Fr. Feeney was indeed censured for disobedience, but, and this is what is important to understand, his theological thesis that one had to be a VISIBLE MEMBER OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH to be saved was declared formally erroneous and could not be held by a faithful Catholic. The Tradition of the Church as manifested in the writings of the Fathers, Saints, Popes and leading theologians across the centuries had never held such a rigorous idea which was supported, moreoever, by a number of other errors made by Fr. Feeney (for example> he called “the baptism of desire” heresy, thereby contradicting a host of theologians). The Magisterium on many occasions has defended the fact that those who do not formally become members of the Catholic Church can be saved because God is merciful to those who seek to do His will as they understand it, and who will not be punished for inculpable ignorance of Christ and His Church. As Pope John Paul II said in a memorable address” “It is a mistake to regard the Church as a way of salvation along with those constituted by other religions, which would be complementary to the Church, even if converging with her on the eschatological kingdom of God…It is true that non-Christians, as the Second Vatican Council recalled, can gain eternal life “under the influence of grace”, if “they seek God with a sincere heart” (Lumen Gentium, n. 16). But in their sincere search for the truth of God, they are in fact ‘related’ to Christ and to His Body, the Church (ibid.)They nevertheless find themselves in an unsatisfactory situation compared to those in the Church who have the fullness of the means of salvation.” At the same time it must be noted that the Church has newer wavered in her conviction that :”Christ Himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mk. 16:16; Jn. 3:5), and thereby affirmed the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, KNOWING that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would REFUSE TO ENTER IT, OR TO REMAIN IN IT.”
    (Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, #14).
    5)) The Catholic Church indeed teaches (as noted above) that other religons are not “paths to salv ation”. There is only one path, one Way” and that is Christ Himself, “the Way, the Truth and the Life”.
    6) As noted previously, all men are called to conversion to Christ and to live a life of prayer and holiness with the aid of the Church’s sacraments to be saved. The only “exceptions for salvation” are those who die in mortal sin, and refuse the salvific graces emanating from the Cross of Christ.
    7) The Catholic Church rejects the attitude of meeting non-Catholics and thinking they are oriented to Hell. They may well be in sanctifying grace (and die in the friendship of God) whereas the prejudiced and prejudging Catholic may himself become a “son of perdition”. The Divine Son of God does not predetermine anyone to Hell, but rather calls upon everyone to correspond with the graces He gives to sincere seekers of the truth.
    8 nd 9)There is only one way of salvation, namely Christ and the social Body of His one Catholic Church. A number of the objections made to Catholic teaching concerning the possibility of salvation for non-Catholics and non-Christians seem based on a radical denial that “the Spirit of Truth operates outside the visible confines of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Catholic Church”.
    (See Pius XII’s “Mystici Corporis” and Pope John Paul II’s “Redemptor Hominis”, #6). Salvation, i.e., the Beatific Vision of God, face to face” is offered by Our Divine Savior to all nations, to all peoples, to all individuals. Those who deliberately refuse His grace of salvation are those who will be lost. But who they are who will be lost is not for us to know in this life. As various Fathers of the Church (like St.Augustine)have noted regarding the mysterious operations of grace– to the discomfort of the smug and comfortable in the pews– Some who appear to be outside the visible confines of the Church are really “within” the Church whereas those who appear to be “within” the visible confines of the Church as its members are really in their heart “outside”, and in spiritual jeopardy.
    I believe. Lionel, that all the above observations will be found fully reinforced with texts that you can read in “The Catechism of the Catholic Church”, which sets forth the authentic teachings of the Church’s Magisterium (its Teaching Authority). One has to understand the truths of the Faith in the sense which the Magisterium teaches them, not in the deviations furthered by theologians and writers who are not the Magisterium.

  3. Certainly we are called to a new evangelization – the Church exists to evangelize. I hope I am pointing out the obvious when I say that the missionary has some internal problems and complications that severely handicap the work on mission. We all know that the new evangelization must begin in the Church herself.

    In that context, we have a difficult road ahead. There is a now decades-old “new catechesis” that continues to sabotage authentic faith formation for children, for adults, and for candidates and catechumens in RCIA. I continue to be amazed at how proponents of the “new way” can claim to embrace the Catechism, and the Directory, and the Magisterium, and the Liturgy – they can say all they need to say – and yet still they can undermine the mission. The impoverishment continues; the treasure remains untouched; the Church weakens as from malnutrition; we continue “in maintenance mode”, almost blind to “mission.”

    A holy priest I know once said, “It’s a mess – but we have the Holy Spirit. We’ll be OK.” I agree, and I don’t want to become obsessed with the problems, but it is a mess. How we need to grow in holiness! How we need living witness of authentic faith, and hope, and charity! How we need Catholics so grounded in a life of prayer, that true sanctity is habitual to them. We need to know the Faith, love the Faith, and live the Faith. Then, maybe, we’ll be ready to invite others to share this glorious gift that God has entrusted to us.

  4. Thomas,

    You’re absolutely right: The “new evangelization” must begin with us, or rather within us, as we’re called to bring a renewed ardor to our evangelistic and catechetical efforts, which should start with the many lapsed and lukewarm Catholics around us.

    Stay tuned, in a couple weeks I’ll report here about a dynamic new outreach I’m involved with that brings together sound doctrinal teaching and grounding in a life of prayer.

    Lionel, I think Jim more than adequately answered your questions from a theological perspective. Much of what you say is true is terms of what is lacking in non-Catholics. Even among Catholics, our own glasses might not be “full” because of our own sinfulness and failure to embrace and live the fullness of the faith.

    But the goal is to fill the glass, not empty it, so the Church’s approach is to encourage all men and women to the fullness of life in Christ as members of the Church in a way that builds upon whatever truth is already in their glass, even if it’s just a few drops, rather than harp on what’s lacking, which in most cases will turn people away from the fullness of truth rather than attract them.

  5. Dear Leon,
    Praised be Jesus and Our Lady.
    Once again I wish to thank Jim for his positive reply to my questions in Let’s Be Catholic.
    I) BAPTISM OF WATER : I would like to clarify that the Baptism of Water in the Catholic Church is the priority for salvation, this is the ordinary way of salvation.

    Jim writes
    2) Anyone who is saved is saved by the grace of Christ who is the world’s one and only Savior.
    3) The Jews of today like anyone else are called to conversion to Christ and to baptism in the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church so that they can be saved (i.e., admission to the glory of Heaven where “Christ sits at the right hand of the Father” in the company of all the Angels and Saints. The Church cannot and will not abandon its apostolic mission to all mankind, including today’s Jews.

    L.A: Here I assume he means Catholic Faith and the Baptism of water.

    Jim writes:
    4)Fr. Feeney was indeed censured for disobedience, but, and this is what is important to understand, his theological thesis that one had to be a VISIBLE MEMBER OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH to be saved was declared formally erroneous and could not be held by a faithful Catholic.

    L.A II) VISIBLE MEMBER OF THE CHURCH : To say that ONLY a visible member of the Catholic Church without the exceptions (baptism of desire, invincible ignorance etc) can be saved is erroneous.True.Theologically there are exceptions!

    However to be saved one has to be a VISIBLE MEMBER OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH i.e Catholic Faith and the Baptism of water. This is the general means of salvation.

    Pastorally,we cannot judge the exceptions.Everyone needs Catholic Faith and the Baptism of water to avoid Hell.

    Fr. Feeney, Jim says, was not excommunicated for heresy. So he was not excommunicated for saying that one had to be a visible member of the Catholic Church.

    Jim writes:
    The Tradition of the Church as manifested in the writings of the Fathers, Saints, Popes and leading theologians across the centuries had never held such a rigorous idea which was supported, moreoever, by a number of other errors made by Fr. Feeney (for example> he called “the baptism of desire” heresy, thereby contradicting a host of theologians).

    L.A: (III) BAPTISM OF DESIRE IN GENERAL: It is heresy to suggest that the baptism of desire for all Jews in general, is the normal way of salvation. It is saying that Jews do not need the baptism of water and Catholic Faith for salvation. It is saying that Jews implicitly are saved in general in Judaism. To say that they are all saved implicitly through Jesus is human judgement.Fr.Jacques DupuisS.J made a similar error and was checked by the Church(CDF,2001,Notification)
    Today if you ask a Catholic if non-Catholics can be saved he will probably answer YES. This is true. But it is also false if one does not qualify ones answer. Baptism of desire is an exception. Baptism of water is the Sacrament and the ordinary means of salvation (Redemptoris Missio 55)

    Jim writes:
    The Magisterium on many occasions has defended the fact that those who do not formally become members of the Catholic Church can be saved because God is merciful to those who seek to do His will as they understand it, and who will not be punished for inculpable ignorance of Christ and His Church.

    L.A: (IV) BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT: This is true however as Jim has written we cannot say that any specific person we know, personally, are in this category. Only Jesus can judge.
    So the call to Catholic Faith and the Baptism of Water is the priority.
    This is what Leonard Feeney could have also been saying if we give him, in charity, the benefit of the doubt.Much of what people knew about him at that time came from the Cardinal,the Jesuits and the Jewish Left media who were opposing him.

    Theologically we acknowledge exceptions (baptism of desire etc). However when we meet a Jew, or other non-Catholic,the Church says he needs Catholic Faith and the Baptism of Water to avoid Hell.

    Jim writes:
    7) The Catholic Church rejects the attitude of meeting non-Catholics and thinking they are oriented to Hell. They may well be in sanctifying grace (and die in the friendship of God) whereas the prejudiced and prejudging Catholic may himself become a “son of perdition”. The Divine Son of God does not predetermine anyone to Hell, but rather calls upon everyone to correspond with the graces He gives to sincere seekers of the truth.

    L.A:(V) NON CATHOLICS ORIENTED TO HELL: The Church does not say that any person will finally go to Hell and that all is lost now.
    However the Church does say that people living in mortal sin are oriented to Hell unless they receive absolution through the Sacrament of Reconciliation at the time of death. Those who are in manifest mortal sin are oriented to Hell is Church teaching.
    Similarly a non Catholic needs Catholic Faith and the Baptism of Water, in general, for salvation i.e to go to Heaven and avoid Hell.
    And of course those who know the truth about the Catholic Church and yet do not convert will go to Hell. They are oriented to Hell. Jesus will finally judge.
    Non-Catholics are not pre-determined to Hell, God loves all people, but with Original Sin and mortal sins committed in that state, they are oriented to Hell.
    Hence I asked in the original questions:
    7) When I meet a non-Catholic I assume that he is oriented to Hell, not because I know, but because the Catholic Church teaches so?
    I think we agree on this point. I am only clarifying it.

    Jim writes:
    8 nd 9)There is only one way of salvation, namely Christ and the social Body of His one Catholic Church. A number of the objections made to Catholic teaching concerning the possibility of salvation for non-Catholics and non-Christians seem based on a radical denial that “the Spirit of Truth operates outside the visible confines of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Catholic Church”.

    L.A (VI)PROTESTANTS CAN BE SAVED: Even Protestants if they believe in Jesus and are baptized can be saved. However if they know that God wants all people to worship Him in the Catholic Church they have an obligation to enter the Church, for salvation.
    It is not enough just to have faith in Jesus throughout ones life without the moral and faith obligations that Jesus asks of us. It is the will of God that Protestants enter the only Church which Jesus founded.
    Also a Protestant can never know when he is in partial or full communion, within or outside the true Church. Hence the need for Catholic Faith along with the Baptism of water which they have already received and which is valid.
    Ad Gentes 7 says God wants all people to enter the Catholic Church for salvation, this would include Protestants, in general.
    Protestants, need to be invited into the Catholic Church for salvation.They do not have apostolic succession and theologically are not churches.
    However they can be in partial communion with the Body of Christ or, in full communion, we do not know specifically. In general, they need Catholic Faith. This is the will of God.
    In Christ
    Lionel

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