is the first in a series of articles answering questions posed by faithful
on topics that give pause for thought. Send in your own questions on any
aspect of the Faith that causes difficulty. You might be surprised, by
Q. Why aren't good Catholics in the modern Church now in Tradition?
The modern Catholic
Church is no longer Catholic. Can people in the modern Church save their
souls? In any case, how then can Our Lord and Our Lady leave fervent Catholics
with devotion to Jesus and Mary within the modern Church and not steer
them to Tradition? There even some good bishops, good priests and sisters
still in this situation. Why? Look how Bishop Lazo was fooled all those
years! That was surely not his fault.
A. The modern Catholic Church is no longer Catholic. Can people in the modern Church save their souls? In any case, how then can Our Lord and Our Lady leave fervent Catholics with devotion to Jesus and Mary within the modern Church and not steer them to Tradition? There even some good bishops, good priests and sisters still in this situation. Why? Look how Bishop Lazo was fooled all those years! That was surely not his fault.
A very good question! The best way to answer it is to compare the situation of good Catholics in the modern Church with that of good Protestants in Protestant churches. Protestants can save their souls - the Church has never said otherwise - but with greater difficulty than Catholics. Those who have grown up in the modern Church are by and large in the same position as contemporary Protestants; their salvation is possible but not as easy as it would have been forty years ago.
The question arises concerning those Catholics who grew up in the preconciliar Church, were fervent in their Faith, and now find its supports removed in the post-Vatican II Church. What will become of them? In answering the question it is important first to make clear the role of Tradition. Tradition is not a universal umbrella under which any and every Catholic disillusioned by the crisis in the Church will, guided by God, find refuge. Rather, it is a beacon, a group within the Church that serves as reminder that the Faith has not changed and can never change. By God's grace it will be the platform from which a genuine reform of the Church will take place, rather like Cluny in the 10th century, but for the moment it is fated, as Cluny was, to be a small minority.
Those Catholics who
do not, for various reasons, find their way to Tradition, are in a very
difficult position, but not one in which they arc obliged to abandon or
dilute their Faith. If they are sincere in their desire to serve Our Lord,
then sooner or later the light will dawn: what is going on around them
is simply not right. Then road then consists of hanging on to their Faith,
finding like-minded Catholics from whom they can draw encouragement, and
by God's grace seeing clearly enough through all the dangerous confusion
around them to persevere in their Catholicism. With that they will save
Q. Will God make special allowances for souls living in these very evil times?
So few people
around us (apart from a few practising Catholics) seem to have a Faith
of any description, and very little hope of salvation, humanly-speaking.
I know God gives everyone enough grace to save their souls, but surely
God will make allowances in the modern world for their situation, as most
are not exposed at all to God. It is not the fault of children who are
brought up godless.
A. The minimum requirement for salvation is that one believe that there is a God, that He, is the Rewarder of good and the Punisher of evil, that one be in a state of grace at death, and that one make a supernatural act of Faith, Hope and Charity during one's life. One can enter into a state of grace through sacramental Baptism or through Baptism of Desire. The latter occurs when someone has sufficient good dispositions for God to raise his natural faith in God to a supernatural Faith by the infusion of grace accompanied by the removal of Original sin.
With all this in mind what is the case with the average modern pagan? It is important to keep in mind that most people still have some belief in a God, however vague or confused it might be. This belief, by itself, it not enough for their salvation, or even for the Baptism of Desire, presuming they are not baptised, but God can use circumstances to raise this belief to a supernatural level.
Typical circumstances would be contact with a Christian acquaintance, some bereavement or failure in life, or even just a direct illumination from God. The person is free to accept or reject the offer of grace, and many do reject it, going no further in their deist faith or even losing that altogether. Their damnation is then likely, but it is through their fault.
Others who accept God's grace will, if they persevere in their good will, shake off their indifference and find a group or church - possibly even the Catholic Church - where their newly found supernatural Faith will receive enough nourishment to endure.
A final word about
Baptism of Desire. Sacramental Baptism is the ordinary means instituted
by divine Providence for, the removal of Original sin and the infusion
of grace. Consequently, Baptism of Desire in an extraordinary means, which
by implication means it is an exception and not a rule. Hence, one can
infer that it is the minority and not the majority of the unbaptised who
Q. Do the majority of people go to Hell?
In the Scriptures, it says that the way (to Heaven) is narrow and few there are that find it. That surely means that the majority of souls (even if it be at least 51% because "few" cannot be the majority) go to Hell.
A. The exact text of the Scriptural quote is as follows: "Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to perdition is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Mt 7:13&14)
A golden rule in interpreting Holy Scripture is always to take the first and most obvious interpretation of a passage unless there is a clear reason for discounting it, in which case look for another interpretation, perhaps a symbolic one. The six days of creation in Genesis is a good example. It is clear that Moses was not speaking of six literal, 24-hour days, since he speaks of evening and morning on the first three days whereas the sun was created only on the fourth day. The six days could be six periods of time of unknown length or simply a literary device that shows how God created everything systematically and with order.
How does one apply this rule to the passage in Matthew?
It must be asked: does one have any good reason for discounting the obvious meaning of the passage, i.e. that most people go to Hell? The answer is no. Nothing in the rest of Holy Scripture or in the definitive teaching of the Church affirms or implies that most people save their souls. There is one argument that is brought forward for Christ to succeed in His work of Redemption it would be necessary for most of humanity to be saved, otherwise the devil, in taking most souls to Hell with him, could claim the victory. However, nothing says that Christ's victory depends on the salvation of the majority. The devil thought he had conquered Adam and Eve and their descendants because they could not go to Heaven, whatever they did. Since the Redemption, it is possible for men of good-will to do so; they are not bound by the devil, they can break free of his influence if they wish. If most do not wish to it is not a defeat for Christ: they have only themselves to blame; not the inefficacity of the graces offered by Our Lord
How big the majority is today is unknown to us, but common sense would dictate that it is larger now than in the past. The moral of the tale: be wholehearted in the practice of the Faith!
Q. Is it possible that the many seemingly "pius" non-catholics will save their souls?
Outside the Catholic Church, there is no salvation. Bishop Williamson once said that if "pious" Protestants, far example, are saved, it is by the Catholicism still left in their religion that they are saved, as opposed to the errors. There seem to be many such "pious" Protestants out there who clearly believe that they are on the right path to Heaven. Is it possible that most of them will be saved in their "religions"? One could extend that to many Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc. It is not their fault they were not born into and raised in a practising Catholic family.
A. Let us start by defining "pious". Piety in the traditional and religious sense of the word is a virtue whereby one is zealous and faithful in one's duties towards God. It can be a natural or supernatural virtue, in the latter case assisted by corresponding Gift of the Holy Ghost. If it is just a natural virtue, founded on a natural belief in God, then by itself it will not enough for salvation. The Pharisees were pious. If the piety in question is supernatural (which I think is what Bishop Williamson means) then there is great hope for that person's salvation, since it carries with it the seeds of perseverance. It is possible for anyone in a state of grace to possess this piety, be he Protestant, Jew, Muslim or Hindu, although his degree of piety is certainly going to be affected by the religion he is in. The more a religion enables someone to render effective homage to God the greater that person's piety will be and the greater his hope of salvation. "Effective homage" includes a spirit of adoration and reverence for God, some knowledge of and respect for His Commandments, some degree of prayer and an avoidance or at least diminution of evil practices, such as various forms of religious fanaticism, that undermine true piety.
On a television
programme called the "600 Club", hundreds of people have "given
witness of how they have turned away from their evil lives by this Protestant
evangelisation. The fruits are obviously there after several years. How
is this possible How can error bear such fruit?
A. Error does not bear fruit, but truncated Truth can. Even in the Church there are Catholic who have extremely inaccurate ideas about certain aspects of the Faith and yet lead good and holy lives. Their goodness and holiness comes from the truths they hold, not from the errors they have mixed in with them. This can be applied mutatis mutandis to Protestants. Working through the truths they hold, God is able to build up in these Protestants a Faith that is sufficient to enable them to reform their lives, helped by His grace. The only part their errors play in this process is to retard and limit it. If they were Catholics they could have gone much further: there are thousands of saints in Catholicism, but none in the Protestant religions.
in mind that God does not work though the Protestant religions themselves,
as He does though Catholicism, but only though the truths that are still
preserved in them, and though the one or two sacraments they may have
retained. One can compare a Protestant religion to a ship foundering in
a storm. The ship itself is of no use to anyone, but there are pieces
of the ship that can float, and by clinging to them one can save oneself
from drowning. The Catholic ship, although badly battered, is not foundering