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Does God Want Everybody to Be Catholic?

IS ONE RELIGION BASICALLY AS GOOD AS ANOTHER?

By Francis E. King | January 1998
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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