Protestants should not be scared by the term "catholic". It means the universal church founded on Christ. However, there are various denominations which are "Catholic"; most notably in the western world, Roman Catholicism. The term "Church" in the name "Catholic Church" presents more of a problem than does "Catholic" itself.
"Church" (Catechism of the Catholic Church [CCC] Paragraph 845 below) is defined as "the Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation. the Church is "the world reconciled." According to Roman Catholics, they are the true church and other Christians can only commune with them:
CCC paragraph 838:
"Those who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church."
What is "proper baptism" according to the Roman Catholic Church? (CCC paragraphs 1234-1274) Following are the requirements: proper baptism: the words and gestures of the rite, make the sign of the cross, be a sacrament (act of salvation), one or more exorcisms, anointment with oil, water being consecrated, prayer that the power of the spirit be put upon the water, baptism is essential for salvation, by triple immersion or pouring accompanied each time by "in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit", annointment with sacred perfume, taught the catechism of the church. Any person, even one never baptized himself, can perform a Roman Catholic Baptism (CCC para 1256) using the Trinitarian Formula. (Many Protestants simply immerse once and do so in Jesus' name).
Any astute person must realize that few if any "protestants" have been "properly baptized" and as such can not "commune" with the Roman Catholics, or in their eyes, the true church. CCC Paragraph 1400 says explicitly that non-Catholics cannot take Holy Communion in the Catholic Church. Hence, how can other denominations "commune" with the Roman Catholic Church when they cannot take Holy Communion? (CCC 1400) " It is for this reason that Eucharistic intercommunion with these communities is not possible for the Catholic Church..."
Here we find that "the church" is the Roman Catholic Church and "Catholic" by their definition means their denomination; Roman Catholic! I'm not denigrating the Roman Catholic Church. Like other denominations (which it is) the original founders were true to the faith. Apostasy occurred gradually over time until this day when there is little in common between the doctrines of evangelical churches and the Roman Catholic Catechism! However, protestants and Anglican derivatives must agree on one thing. We do owe much to the Roman Catholic Church. Even in separation these churches protested the standard established by the Roman Catholics!
It would appear from CCC that non-Catholic Christians are not part of the church and since "the church" is the place to be saved, hence non-Catholics cannot be Christians. However, Roman Catholics seem to be more generous with pagans!
By reading history I was strongly convinced that Roman Catholics required any person to be Roman Catholic in order to be a Christian. It seems that times have changed!
At work I was talking to a very active Roman Catholic. I made the comment "Catholics believe you must be Catholic to go to heaven." My friend replied "No. Anybody can go to heaven." I informed him that historically the church insisted that all be Catholic! His reply "My sister is a nun and she says anyone can go to heaven. They don't even have to be Christians!" I said "You're wrong!" Was I surprised when I found out how wrong I am!
Pope John Paul II said “It will be in the sincere practice of what is good in their own religious traditions and by following the dictates of their own conscience that the members of other religions respond positively to God’s invitation and receive salvation in Jesus Christ, even while they do not recognize or acknowledge him as their Saviour" (cf. Ad gentes, nn. 3, 9, 11)” (Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue – Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Instruction Dialogue and Proclamation, 19 May 1991, n. 29; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 1 July 1991, p. III). I.
Pope John Paul II said also "It must first be kept in mind that every quest of the human spirit for truth and goodness, and in the last analysis for God, is inspired by the Holy Spirit. The various religions arose precisely from this primordial human openness to God. At their origins we often find founders who, with the help of God’s Spirit, achieved a deeper religious experience. Handed on to others, this experience took form in the doctrines, rites and precepts of the various religions." (Address to the Members of the Roman Curia, 22 Dec. 1986, n. 11; L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 5 Jan. 1987, p. 7).
It would be difficult to get a Roman Catholic official to admit it, but my friend's nun sister did. All this means that the Roman Catholic Church believes in universalism, although they are harder on their fellow Christians than they are the pagan religions! The Pope indicated that pagan religions are Holy Spirit driven attempts to find Christ and that the founders of pagan religions were guided by the Holy Spirit! (i.e., brutal Mohammed was killing in the spirit to form his religion).
CCC paragraph 847:
"Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church (pagans, i.e.), but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation."
What is the catechism saying? Those of other religions who are seeking God and try to do God's will may be saved! Muslims are seeking "god's will". Muslims try to "do good". This means Muslims will be saved! First off, "try in their actions" does not save! Salvation is by the grace of Jesus for those who believe in him as God incarnate. That's not Muslims. Muslims are doomed to eternal punishment regardless of how hard their trying to do God's will! The gods of pagan religions are not God. They are false Gods.
What is universalism? Wikapedia says "a community that calls itself Universalist may emphasize the universal principles of most religions and accept other religions in an inclusive manner, believing in a universal reconciliation between humanity and the divine." In "Herrinese", this means that the god's of all religions are God and that those in all religions will be saved by God.
Regarding my conversation with my fellow worker: I stand corrected. Roman Catholicism is Universalism. It's former head, John Paul II, preached Universalism and the CCC is Universalist! Hence, what the Sister said was true! Catholics believe those in any religion can go to heaven without being saved.
We're to ask not what doctrine says, we're to ask what God says! It only takes one divinely inspired verse to refute universalism:
John 14:6 "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
Without belief in Jesus (as who he says he is) there is no salvation. None for the pagan, none for the atheist and none for "Christians" who strive for goodness by works!
Ephesians 2:8 "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast."
Roman Catholics believe in "works" salvation. That's why baptism is a sacrament. One must be baptized to be saved, according to them. However, in their doctrine they are more lenient. For pagans, baptism is not required. Just works. Not only is that position non-scriptural it's also contradictory!
Catholics believe in universalism to be inclusive. The outside world can be included to make them feel good about themselves. Progressive theologians believe that Christianity is intolerant. That makes Jesus intolerant because he claimed to be the Way? In practice many individual Catholics take this stand. Many don't.
Bill O"Reilly, a staunch Catholic said "If a human being lives a good life, holds sincere beliefs, but just happens to be a Hindu, an all-just and all-merciful God is going to set the guy on fire for eternity? I don't think so. In this harsh judgmental approach espoused by some true believers that has made religion in general a tough sell..."
Mr. O'Reilly is espousing official Roman Catholic Catechism as I have documented above. I don't blame O'Reilly. He's just believes what he was taught. To be truthful, I'm surprised! Based on Roman Catholic persecution of people with other doctrines throughout the ages, it just seems to me that Catholics cannot see the heresy in their own faith.
1) Non-Catholic Christians are allowed to commune with the Roman Catholic Church.
2) The church is a place of unity and salvation.
3) Roman Catholics consider baptism necessary to belong to the "church".
4) Roman Catholics have an extensive ceremony for "proper baptism". Non-Catholics don't.
5) Hence, most non-Catholics are out of communion with the Roman Catholic Church because they do not properly baptize.
6) Roman Catholics profess that baptism is a sacrament. It's essential for salvation. Most non-Catholics don't.
7) With these thoughts in mind non-Catholic churches are not part of the "true church: (Catholic) and cannot commune (take communion) with the Roman Catholic Church and consequently not part of the body of Christ.
8) Roman Catholics believe that pagan religions were founded by leaders directed by the Spirit.
9) Roman Catholics believe that as long as pagans are doing good works in seeking God's will they shall be saved.
10) Universalism is the belief that all will make it to heaven without regard to who they worship.
11) Hence, Roman Catholics believe in Universalism.
12) Scripture tells us that the only way to salvation is through Jesus Christ.
13) Scripture tells us that salvation is not by works.
14) Pagans cannot be saved by "good works".
15) Pagans cannot be saved without accepting Christ, so catholic doctrine is unscriptural on that point.
16) Therefore, Roman Catholicism is wrong in regard to the salvation of pagans (Universalism).
17) "Inclusiveness" (Political Correctness) in CCC takes precedent over scripture.