Pope says, “Only Catholic-flavored Christians are going to Heaven!”

I'm still on hiatus. But I must say, that with all the recent “gifts” in the news lately that it is really difficult to keep biting my tongue.

Like today for instance. Regular readers may remember that I wrote about one of the problems that I have with Christianity is that Christians are broken into many flavors (sects) that interpret the Bible differently and have somewhat different rules for salvation.

Well, Yahoo News is reporting on a new Catholic Doctrinal Document that came out of the Catholic Holy Office (now called the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith or CDF). Yahoo News says that according to this latest Doctrinal Document:
... other Christian communities are either defective or not true churches and Catholicism provides the only true path to salvation.
Which is sort of what this document says. From my reading of the “Responses to some questions regarding certain aspects of the doctrine on the Church” it may still be possible for a non-Catholic to achieve salvation, but just not likely:
"It follows that these separated churches and Communities, though we believe they suffer from defects, are deprived neither of significance nor importance in the mystery of salvation. In fact the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church"
Still this is what I've said before, if you don't belong to the correct “flavor” of Christianity, your soul is in peril. One of the people commenting in my “Flavors” post called me on this, saying in effect that there is no real disagreement in Christianity. I guess I can consider this my “I told you so” response.

Yes, other Christian groups do argue for inclusiveness. As the Yahoo News article points out, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (a large Protestant fellowship) has criticized the Pope for his exclusiveness. According to the WARC document:

We especially find problematic the statement that, “These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called ‘Churches’ in the proper sense.”


An exclusive claim that identifies the Roman Catholic Church as the one church of Jesus Christ, as we read in the statement released today, goes against the spirit of our Christian calling towards oneness in Christ. It makes us question the seriousness with which the Roman Catholic Church takes its dialogues with the Reformed family and other families of the church. It makes us question whether we are indeed praying together for Christian unity.

For now, we are thankful to God that our calling to be part of the church of Jesus Christ is not dependent on the interpretation of the Vatican.
Of course, it is the Pope's fault – according to WARC – that Christianity is divisive instead of inclusive. But WARC has failed to ask the opinion of the Southern Baptist Convention, which takes the Catholics to task for their false teachings, (PDF link) and has specifically resolved to witness to Catholics because, according to SBC doctrine, Catholics have an incorrect view of salvation and require witnessing in order to achieve salvation.

Oh my, to me this seems like quite a dust-up. Southern Baptists advocating “sheep stealing” from the Catholics in order to bring them to salvation; Pope Benedict telling the world that if you're not Catholic then you're not part of the Christian Church and you'll probably go to Hell; and the WARC acting like the Rodney King of the Christian world with their “Can't we all just get along?” statement.

As I see it, the odds are against me – if I pick one Christian sect over another I have a poor chance of picking the “right” sect and winning salvation (if I actually believed in life after life.) And this doesn't even count the non-Christian religions that have, in my opinion, just as much claim to “The Truth” as does Christianity.

You guys let me know when you figure out which Christian bus is really going to Heaven.


Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

Mark, I appreciate your bemused, balanced and critical comments on this, but the whole thing strikes me as absurd.

Churches (the buses we ride) don't get us into heaven. The bus company doesn't matter if you don't have the will to make the journey, and I think in this case the bus drivers are confusing their bus with the road. If this Jesus I claim to follow is real, he can enter into a relationship with anyone he wants any way he wants---and he can use any bus he wants. Or not.

To my mind, this isn't so much a question of competing theologies (which on the question of salvation, differ not so much in terms of the claim but in terms of which claim is emphasized)---rather, this is a case of different positioning statements in the marketplace of religion. "Join our club, we've got the truthiest truth, the brightest brights and the whitest whites."

lor said...

yep. just pick a bus...the destination is what matters.

I've about had it with the "my Jesus is better than your Jesus" crowds.

He's pretty clear that what He wants is unity in His church and that the world should know us by our love for one another.

Scott Hatfield . . . . said...

To piggyback on you comment, lor, I think the world should also know us for our love for anyone who isn't on our bus, 'Christian' or otherwise.

Calladus said...

So, would Jesus use the Fred Phelps bus?

Seriously, how do you know that the Southern Baptists are wrong in their belief that Catholics are going to Hell and must be witnessed in order to achieve their salvation?

The 'marketplace position' of some Christians is that other Christians are not 'true' Christians, and that joining the wrong group endangers my soul. When I was a Christian, I was told - very sincerely - by other Christians that I needed to 'change buses' or perish!

Scott, you seem to describe what I've always called a "Buffet-style" Jesus, an entity where we get to pick and choose the rules we are supposed to follow. I see this as your 'interpretation' of your understanding of the Bible, and I know that other groups will come up with different interpretations, many of which will condemn yours.

Yes, you're not saying "join me or die" (using your 'Darth Vader' voice) but you are saying that I should join something - anything. I could very well join a Christian sect that targets YOU for witnessing as a poor sinner, and I'll bet they would have very good reasons for doing so!

And I seem to be having a hard time pointing out this basic flaw in competing Christian sects. I think it is a Christian blind spot, related to the automatic respect given to someone who professes to be a member of a religion.

When a Christian asks someone what his religion is, if the answer is "Catholic" or "Protestant" or "Methodist" or even "Islamic" or "Jewish" - they will often not pursue the matter further because the person being questioned has a religion.

But when a person responds that they are Atheist, the Christian hears "empty" and thinks, "Good, I have something that can fill him!"

But I'm not empty, Scott. I'm fulfilled in so many ways. Becoming Atheist has been rewarding to me, and it has solved the fear I felt as a Christian, and yes - it has even increased my empathy for others.

And when I look at the vast multitude of Christian sects from the outside, I see many who are pointing their fingers at others and yelling, "Not a True Christian" and others waving at me saying "Don't listen to them! Come on in, the water's fine!"

And that doesn't even start to count all the other religions. All religions, from where I'm standing, look equally valid.

There are a LOT of buses here, and everyone agrees that some of them will end up at the wrong destination. But they all disagree on which ones those are.

lor said...

Scott, please forgive my lack of clarity... I meant one another as human beings - not just Christians. Cal, I hope we've exchanged enough that you would have read it that way. Jesus gives us two commandments - love God, love one another. no qualifiers there anywhere.

The thing about grace is that it is outrageously scandalous and "unfair" to our human perspective. So yes, Jesus does have love and compassion for the Fred Phelps of the world and offers him the opportunity to choose grace as well. no matter how undeserving he may seem to us, which is plenty.

I don't know about the whole "automatic respect" thing so much. Phelps claims to pastor a church but I don't feel any respect for that - or him - at all. And I don't automatically assume you are "empty." I just know as fulfilling and as gratifying as your life is, there could be more. And I don't mean that to be demeaning or insulting in any way. Just my take on what God can do for us when we get out of His way and let Him.

until next time...

Calladus said...

Lor, forgive me if I seem churlish toward you and Scott - I don't mean to be, especially since the two of you have demonstrated the goodwill that so many other self-proclaimed Christians have not.

Still, I have problems with what you are saying. "Love God?" Which God? The fuzzy bunny God of liberal faiths, or the Hellfire and brimstone God of the Old Testament held (barely) in check by his son?

If I fail to love him, will I go to Hell? That seems like a form of spiritual rape to me, "Love me, or I'll shoot you with my Hell gun!"

Anonymous said...

Oh, yay! More Boston Catechism-isms from Maledict.

Holy cow. Though I'm now ignostic, there are times when he makes me want to hide my head and cringe that I grew up in the intellectual tradition of the Catholic Church, which is rapidly vanishing into the ewigkeit.

Honestly, I credit my CC upbringing for a lot of values which I hold dear- my belief in social justice and human rights, for starters- but anyone listening to Maledict and hearing that claim from me would most likely respond with, "Social WHAT?"

*facepalm* Ai yi yi. Yeah, this is the belief system which engendered Father Damien. NOT.

Beth said...

I am a member of the United Church of Christ. We don't have any dogma, we accept all. We do not judge people. We accept all. Certain persons believe that they should push religion for a reason they truly believe. However, by pushing religion on people a back lash is inadvertantly created. People say they don't want to hear about religion all the time, they may or may not make religion the most important public aspect of their lives. They honestly believe they have a relationship with a higher being. This is for them to decide. There are many paths to enlightenment. I think and believe we should respect them and be open to new ideas.

Calladus said...

There are many paths to enlightenment. I think and believe we should respect them and be open to new ideas.

Beth, I completely agree. That's why I encourage worshiping the Invisible Pink Unicorn (Peace be unto her holy hooves). After all, we should be encouraging all religious beliefs, since none of them are wrong.

(Except Pastafarianism. They preach blasphemy!

lor said...

I don't feel you're churlish. We disagree - that's okay. Doesn't mean there's not value in the discussion along the way.

I understand that you don't quite get what I can't quite communicate :) I can't prove to you that He exists anymore than you can prove to me that He doesn't.

And I do understand your reservations. I have questions that haven't been completely answered, too. But to be honest I'm not bothered by that, because I know they will be. Seems wierd, I know, to be able to take something that huge on faith. (hm, can't decide if I just made a joke there or not.)

Pastafarianism, hah! I saw one of those flying spaghetti symbols awhile back and didn't realize what it was... I'm torn between appreciating the humor in it and feeling uncomfortable at the irreverance of it.

Calladus said...

I understand that you don't quite get what I can't quite communicate :) I can't prove to you that He exists anymore than you can prove to me that He doesn't.

But Lor, I do believe I understand what you are talking about. I come from a background of Christianity, and I can recall thinking in a similar manner.

But I think perhaps you are starting to see the viewpoint that I now hold.

Yes, I can't prove God does NOT exist, but then I'm not required to do so. That is a logical fallacy. There is a great deal that I can't prove does not exist, including unicorns, elves, and fire-breathing dragons. But that doesn't mean I'm going to take up dragon hunting.

Yes, you can claim special knowledge through faith, but a heck of a lot of people have used faith to justify religions that oppose Christian theology. Believers in Islam can demand that I prove the absence of Allah - and I can't. But that doesn't mean I should believe - it isn't rational.

You see Lor,
the 'Burden of Proof' is always on the claimant
Read the post from that link - it isn't long and maybe it will better explain how I see things.

lor said...

part of the thing for me is that I don't feel particularly compelled to prove any burden. which may be why I am okay with letting people disagree with me.

It's just not my place to inform you that you're gonna 'burn in hell'. How do I know what God has planned for you? God moves people at their own pace and in their own way and I trust in the plan.

and the fact that we've agreed to disagree doesn't make your blog any less interesting to me...

your sister is just flat out funny, every time I visit her blog, I laugh out loud.

see ya

Anonymous said...

Tell you a story? I remember when I first met Mrs. Moffett. I was ummm 5? I've been thinking about this a lot lately, because I keep seeing this question a number of books I'm reading.
I asked Mrs. Moffet "Who made God?"
She said, "Oh honey, God always was."

And I didn't get it. Her answer did not click. It didn't make any sense to me then, and it doesn't make any sense to me now.

There's a certain amount of peace that can be obtained only through sanity.
I remember asking Dad a lots of questions when I was trying to understand the nature of God. I couldn't explain it then. I accepted a lot because Dad said so, and I was scared that a lot of it was true, because life made me feel sooooooo guilty all the time.

But in all that time-- I never once felt "the love of God" that people always said I would feel.

I don't think I openly called myself a Christian for more than a couple years. Then before my teens I discovered Richard Bach & was well on my way to becoming "spiritual not religious" for a while.
Even that felt weird. I didn't want to give up the thought of an afterlife-- but on a visceral level I felt like I was swallowing a lie.
Today I don't believe that there could be an afterlife that would compare to what I have right now:


I'm not crazy. Just because a zillion wannabe immortals believe it- doesn't make it true. My earliest instincts looked for at least a few natural explanations.
My prayers don't fall on deaf ears-- there ARE no ears!!
I'm reading through these posts of people that seem very nice.
But there are some underlying prejudices that show through. Not out of malice, but still...

"And I don't automatically assume you are "empty." I just know as fulfilling and as gratifying as your life is, there could be more."

Trust me. I'm missing nothing that a fake god can fulfill.

Atheism is more than just the knowledge that gods do not exist, and that religion is either a mistake or a fraud. Atheism is an attitude, a frame of mind that looks at the world objectively, & fearlessly- always trying to understand all things as a part of nature. -Carl Sagan

I don't try to imagine a personal god; it suffices to stand in awe at the structure of the world insofar as it allows our inadequate senses to appreciate it. - Einstein

Calladus said...

For the curious, Mrs. Moffett was the wife of Dr. J. Robert Moffett, who was the minister of our church, and the man who baptized me at the age of 14.

He and his wife were very warm and loving people and they made a big impression on me. My brat kid sister loved them both too, I know.