Does God Want Everybody to Be Catholic?

January 1998By Francis E. King

The Rev. Francis E. King, S.J., is Associate Professor of Theology at the University of San Francisco.

For 2,000 years the gospel has been preached, the sacraments have been conferred, and missionaries have been spreading out around the globe. But voices have been heard in the Catholic Church in recent years which seem to say that God doesn't want all peoples converted to the Catholic faith. Is Catholicism really unique?, they seem to be saying. Are we not presumptuous and arrogant in claiming what seems to be a monopoly on the truth? This seems to be the point of an article in the National Catholic Reporter (Oct. 25, 1991) by Rev. Tissa Balasuriya, recently excommunicated by Rome. He was criticizing John Paul's 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio, on the permanent validity of the Church's missionary mandate. In this document the Pope is very concerned that missionary work continue and that converts be made.

But a form of religious indifferentism is now in vogue, which says that it doesn't matter what religion a person belongs to as long as he is of good will and can be classified as an "anonymous Christian" -- i.e., someone who is somehow a Christian without knowing it. Some Catholics are saying we should leave such "anonymous Christians" alone, on the grounds that they have at least a partial grasp of the truth and that that will be enough to bring them to salvation.

Is the Church, then, wasting her time, money, and energy in her efforts at evangelization and conversion? A brief look at Scripture, official Church teaching, and the liturgy will give a solid indication that God does indeed will all to enter the Catholic Church.

What else could Christ possibly have intended when He solemnly commanded His apostles just before He ascended into heaven: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit..." (Mt. 28:19; see Mk. 16:15-16)? Does this sound as if Christ wants anonymous Christians to remain forever anonymous -- merely implicit Christians? Does He not care if all those who have only a "baptism of desire" remain forever in that state?

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Great Scott! This kind of an article written by a Jesuit, not to mention an associate professor of theology at (ulp) The University of San Francisco?

I guess there is cause for hope that the Society of Jesus will come to its senses.

However, since the piece was written in l998, I wonder where Father Francis is now? Probably a chaplain in a small Alaskan fishing town, near the Arctic Circle
Posted by: Pozzi
May 14, 2008 09:23 AM EDT
I normally go to Our Lady of Peace in Santa Clara, California where I am a daily communicant. When my meager financial resources allows it, I try to go to Saint Margaret Mary (Alacoque) in Oakland for the Latin Mass on Sunday. But just this past Sunday (June 15 2008), I was in Daly City and went to Saint Andrew [Catholic] church. By God's grace, having been aware of the spiritual dynamics [chaos] within the Church these last 3-4 decades [caused by the 'smoke of Satan' that Pope Paul VI warned us about], I always thought I would be ready for anything that is taking place in most parishes. Obviously - now - I wasn't!

I am saying this because I am convinced that all serious Catholics [essentially those who know how to be Catholic!] know that they need to convert non-Christians and non-Catholics into the bosom of our Mother Church. But with so much quagmire in many parishes where it's hard to trace any semblance of Catholicism, we do have a gargantuan job to make the Catholic Church THE CATHOLIC CHURCH before we can effectively overcome indifferentism.
I can use my experience as baby boomer as a 'template' for convincing people: In the late '60s' and '70s' when I was a student in engineering, our passion and effectiveness in street demonstrations picked up progressively because people of all ages can fathom our sincerity for our cause about the apathy and numbness of the government in addressing the plight of the poor and persecuted, as well as the havoc caused by real US imperialism. Unfortunately, the socialism banners most of us carried was, itself a philosophical deception. I know that now, but not then.
So, if we somehow - with God's grace - carry that same conviction for God's glory and always within the protection of the Immaculate Heart of our Blessed Mother, many people outside the Church can be brought in even through blood which as we know is always ready to be spilled when God leads us through that avenue.
I also have a tacit confidence that a slow and stealth re-building of the Church continuous to take place and that the springtime anticipated by Pope John (what roman number?) is on its way, although through a different avenue that only God knows. It may not be a ‘sign’, but the conversion of Tony Blair and the expected conversion of George Bush may be some indications of how God mercifully condescends to our miserable level with His saving hands, having heard the pleas of our Blessed Mother. And then there are also the conversions of some notable Jews and even a prominent Muslim. And we can’t ignore the graceful spiritual plight of the X-gen towards the Church, as traced and described by Colleen Carroll Campbell [who I call the 3C’s & LL’s] – their passion to get close to the real Jesus as introduced by Pope Benedict XVI in his ‘Jesus of Nazareth’
But even as I may have that confidence, we also know that we have to guard against triumphalism. Pope Benedict XVI’s book, The Meaning of Christian Brotherhood articulates what I describe as the two ‘concentric circles’ [forgive me, that’s my own phraseology] of human brotherhood: The brotherhood through Adam & Eve and the Brotherhood through Abraham. If I understood his book correctly, it appears that the salvation history is that ultimately, the brotherhood through Abraham becomes the Mystical Body of Christ who [the Church] will be derided, yelled at and crucified by the rest of humanity [the brotherhood through Adam & Eve], as that Mystical Body begs God the Father, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!”
So, understood loosely, “outside the Church [the crucified Mystical Body] there is no salvation” is in tact, but it is through that Church that the world [the rest of humanity] will be saved.
I am not a theologian and I don’t know how to engage in exegesis. But as a Catholic layman, this is my understanding but always willing to be corrected by our Mother Church through her Magisterium and the Holy See.
Posted by: humblesoldier
June 16, 2008 05:03 PM EDT
"...Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit..." is indeed the mission given to us and in particular, to the clergy. Also "tend your flock". The Clergy of the Church must teach and care for her members. We must also tend to our neighbors and sisters and brothers of the faith. We can do this by good example, by teaching when we have an opportunity, and by learning more about our faith etc. The latter is becoming more difficult to deal with because we have to sort out the truth. Indeed, the Catholic Church is the Church that Christ established whether one likes to hear that or not. The Church's mission, in tending to its members and carrying out Christ's direction, does so by teaching the truth and setting examples via it's members and clergy. It is not a mission of being liked but one of providing the lifeline in a sea of evil and confusion that is the world around us. May God give our Bishops the will and courage to do their job for it, along with visible Catholics in public life, sets the example that either brings those in doubt closer to the Lord or causes them to turn away and take the easy way out. There is no easier way out of doing what is right than to exclaim that all religions are the same or Christ died for us so we are saved, no matter what. Posted by: awunsch
June 17, 2008 01:51 PM EDT
humblesoldier is correct regarding the need to make the Catholic Church the Catholic Church.
Indeed, I am a recent convert... to the Tridentine Mass and this has changed my life completely in that I now know the true meaning of what it means to be Catholic.
Once you school yourself using the Baltimore Catechism, Divine Office, 1962 Roman Missal Liturgy you quickly understand how the church was blessed with so many great saints through the ages.
The new order of the Mass and it's newly evolving traditions has produced lukewarm approaches to a new form of Catholicism, that which is guided by feminist liberals and left leaning clergy.
I don't understand why the holy father can't just see the destructive evidence of the Novus Ordo and end it for the good of Holy Mother Church.

Posted by: latinmasssalvation
October 29, 2012 08:17 PM EDT
Prove that their is such a thing as baptism of desire. Posted by:
October 30, 2012 12:32 AM EDT
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