We got an email from a sincere man who believes the Magisterium has dropped the ball on ecumenism. He claims that Vatican II was all about opening the doors of salvation to all religions and denominations. He claims that the current Magisterium is not acting in the spirit of Vatican II when it continues to hold its position that "there is no salvation outside the Church." Here is a snip of his email:
"Vatican II took quite another view of this sticky problem. Please refer to the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) especially LG 15 and 16. At the same time you might want to look at the Decree on Ecumenism. The final sixteen documents contain some of the most profound and energetic calls for spiritual renewal ever experienced in our Church.
Let us examine the documents he quotes. The first section of the LG lays out a definition of Church.
4. The Spirit dwells in the Church and in the hearts of the faithful, as in a temple (cf. 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19) guiding the Church in the way of all truth (cf. Jn. 16:13) and unifying her in communion and in the works of ministry, he bestows upon her varied hierarchic and charismatic gifts, and in this way directs her; and he adorns her with his fruits (cf. Eph. 4:11-12; 1 Cor. 12:4; Gal. 5:22).
So now having established what the "Church" is, the "hierarchic" Church, they can go on with the business of talking about unity. Specific sections of Church documents were never meant to be read out of context of the entire document. The first 15 sections of the LG prepare us for section 15 and 16. In section 15, the desire for Unity was expressed, but never does it redefine the Church as something not under the authority of the Magisterium. Nor does it infer that Unity denies the claim of Jesus that he is the only way, and the claim of the Church that it is Christ's vehicle for to transmit and guard Jesus' teachings.
15. The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but who do not however profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter. .in order that all may be peaceably united, as Christ ordained, in one flock under one shepherd. Mother Church never ceases to pray, hope and work that this may be achieved, and she exhorts her children to purification and renewal so that the sign of Christ may shine more brightly over the face of the Church.
This passage says that we want to get along with them, but with the view to bring them back under the guidance of the Magisterium.
16. Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways.
This clearly shows that the objective is to help them receive the Gospel. It shows that the Moslems are related to the people of God. If you were related to my family you would not be a full member of my family, but simply a relative. I may or may not leave you something in my will. It would depend on your heart and my generosity.
...But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Moslems:
The passage begs the question "What is the plan of Salvation?" Christ stated the plan of salvation very plainly "I am the way the Truth and the life, no one comes to the father except though me." (John 14:6)
"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 - these too may achieve eternal salvation."
The LG qualifies this statement with:
"...without any fault of theirs, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God, and who, not without grace, strive to lead a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is considered by the Church to be a preparation for the Gospel  and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life."
The LG shows that it is through honest ignorance that they will achieve salvation, not through the validity of their path. The LG 16 goes on to say that those who become:
"...vain in their reasonings, have exchanged the truth of God for a lie and served the world rather than the Creator (cf. Rom. 1:21 and 25). Or else, living and dying in this world without God, they are exposed to ultimate despair."
If you look at all of the footnote references and their supporting documents it becomes even clearer.
"...Hence to procure the glory of God and the salvation of all these, the Church, mindful of the Lord's command, "preach the Gospel to every creature" (Mk. 16:16) takes zealous care to foster the missions."
We don't think the LG could be any clearer than this. Preach the Gospel of Christ. Don't water down the message, and do it in friendly dialogue with other faiths. The final kicker in this paragraph is when we look at the reference they quote from Mark 16:16:
"The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned."
The LG paragraph 15-16 are very clear.
1) There is only one God.
2) There is only one way to God, through Jesus.
3) There is only one body on earth set up by God to administer and oversee the ministry of Jesus, the Catholic Church.
4) There is only one authority that has full discernment over what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church, the Magisterium.
5) We are commanded to "preach the Gospel to every Creature," not just other Catholics.
I appreciate the desire to find evidence that the Catholic Church is very open to the idea that "every path up the mountain is valid", but It is highly erroneous, if not immoral use scholarly sounding arguments to persuade people (who don't know the LG), that VAT II supports the "Every path is valid" vision. I implore them to stop using the Lumen Gentium, the writings of Mother Theresa, and the Pope in this way, which is not at all in alignment with the vision of those great saints, and is not what is said in the LG.
If, for the sake of Unity, Jesus had not said "I am the way the truth and the Life, no one comes to the father except through me" he would have been a liar who was not doing his Father's will. If, for the sake of unity, the Martyrs had said "all paths lead to heaven, so you follow yours, I will follow mine and we will see you at the summit" they would be liars and would have been lost to eternity, and Jesus' Church with them. If, for the sake of unity, the Catholic Church did not say "Outside the Church there is no salvation" it would be lying and would not have been following Jesus' orders for it. (Mat 18:18)
Authority and hierarchy are hard concepts to sell these days. Businesses are adopting horizontal organizational charts. Kids are swearing at their school teaches. The public is pulling apart politicians. Perhaps these are all progressive ideas, but Catholics think this age has authority-phobia. There is hierarchical and structural authority in the heavens among the angels and heavenly creatures (Archangels, Cherubim, Seraphim, etc). The Bible shows that Angels only activate under authority, when they are told what to do by their superior. (Job, 38:7, Gen 3:24, 19, 21:17, 22:11, Acts 7:53, Ex 23:20-23, Judg 13, 6:11-24, Isa 6:5, 1 Kgs 19:5, Jude 1:9, Rev 12:7 etc.) It is a powerful testimony to the Catholic approach to Church. God is not at all afraid of structural authority. Catholics think the Hierarchical Structure of the Church was divinely inspired by God and revealed to those who formed it in the early centuries of Christianity. (Jn 17:20-23, 1 Cor 1:10; 12:25 Phil 1:27 Eph 4:13-15, Eph 4:5).
If we are to believe Scripture and to look at the example of history, Jesus never meant for this to be a "democracy." If God's people knew what was best, we wouldn't have needed Jesus in the first place. Jesus said "If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake of the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town. You will be hated by all because of my name." (Mat 10:22)
>> When it comes to claims of 'having all the answers the Roman Catholic Church at times is no exception.
I would say that is not accurate. The Catholic Church never claimed that it had all the answers. The spiritual realm is a vast universe of which we are only given a small glimpse. The church is the first to admit it doesn't all the answers. The Church simply says is that there are things that have been revealed to it that it is sure about. These few things are infallible. Scientists don't know all the planets in the universe but we do know for sure there is a planet called Mars, and there are certain characteristics about this that we can claim without a shadow of a doubt. That is kind of like Dogma.
>>>>(1) There is no agreed upon list of dogmas in the Church. One must examine an individual doctrine to see if, in fact, it meets the necessary criteria.
I'm not sure if I understand what you mean by "agreed upon." I suggest we may discern almost all Dogma of the Church according to the criteria you correctly stated and as such may draw up a fairly comprehensive list of Catholic Dogma such as that which Ludwig Otto has done. Those who would like throw out the Magisterium would also like to throw out many of the Dogmas that have been laid out, and that is quite sad, and also quite dangerous to Christ's message.
We believe liberals are followers of "dogma" as I am. The only difference is that I am following the Dogma set forth by the authority to which Jesus gave to exercise it. While, many of the "dogmas" they are following are set forth by theologians who feel they have found a new and progressive vision for the Church. They desire a "French Revolution" in the Church where the authority is wrestled from the Magisterium and given to the people.
They are not the first to have that vision. Martin Luther had a similar vision 500 years ago. Let us look at the fruit of that experiment in Christian Unity: 33,500 denominations and counting, with an average of 500 denominations a year being added, each one claiming the other has it wrong. This is not Unity. Luther's experiment was a total failure. In fact there is not one Church around today that even vaguely looks like what Luther envisioned...that includes Lutheranism. That experiment has caused more division than the Magisterium ever cause do in a million years. Christ's call to unity was through the one Church that he founded. It is the Catholic Church, as administered by the Magisterium. A timeline of it is here.
>>>> "In recent years large numbers of Catholics have left their Church because they no longer felt they were being heard within their own Church or were swept up by the more charismatic and accepting influences of the Christian Evangelical movement"
That is true, and is not the first time in history this has happened... in John 6:56-66 many of Jesus disciples left. Everyone deserted Jesus because he said "I am the bread of life...eat me or else..." Jesus turned to the original 12 and said "will you leave me too?" Peter said "where would I go?..." (Jn 6:53). I feel like Peter. And even if, like on that day, only 12 Catholics are left practicing fidelity to the Magisterium at the end of the ages, I want to be one of those 12. During the Arian heresy most of the Church went bad and many bishops too. But it was defeated and the Church survived. During the Reformation everyone said the Church is going down, but it is presently larger than all the other denominations combined, all 33,500 of them. In North America the Church is smaller but overall, it is still growing faster than ever, especially in the third world where people have not become fat and arrogant.
St. Paul said:
"for the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths" (2 Ti 4:3)
The Magisterium cannot bend to the whims of the people the way the United Church and the Anglican Church have done. Those denominations tried satisfy the "itching ears" of the people and they are on the brink of extinction. They have not increased their numbers. They have only compromised the integrity of Jesus' message, for the sake of the "people's desires". My uncle was an Anglican minister, before his passing. An Anglican magazine that is still delivered to my aunt describes the financial precipice upon which the Anglican Church stands. Why would we think a "French Revolution" in the Catholic Church would yield any different results?
>>> "Love does not need to be defended because it does not know attack." Comes from a reflection on 1 John 4:7-21.
I see nothing in this passage that says, "Love does not know attack". It says "Love knows no fear". The letter is supporting future martyrs on their mission. John said, "fear has to do with punishment" (1 Jn 4:18). In other words if they are afraid, then they are thinking that their martyrdom is a punishment from God, rather than a reward. He is calling them to Love. We must remember this letter was written when the persecution was in full swing and many of John's contemporaries had already been martyred. John called us to love those who persecute us. The kicker of the passage is exactly what we have been discussing: "God's love is revealed to us in this way", "God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him". (1 Jn 4:9) And earlier in the Chapter he says:
"Not every spirit is to be trusted but test the spirits to see whether they are from God. This the proof of the spirit of God: Any spirit which acknowledges Jesus Christ come in human nature is from God, and no spirit which fails to acknowledge Jesus is from God; it is the spirit of the antichrist, whose coming you have heard of; he is already at large in the world." (1 Jn 4:1-3)
I urge liberals to return to the Magisterial teachings. It does not mean that we abandon unity, we can still love those we pray with. I spend much of my time with Evangelicals and non-Christians. I have Moslem friends and I have a phone prayer partner who is an orthodox Jew who attends daily synagogue and calls me a couple of times a month and we pray together. We have mutual respect, but we do not cast away the teachings of our religions for a superficial and false unity.
More importantly, by maintaining the integrity of Jesus' message, and adhering to his teaching body, we are not abandoning him for who we Live, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Lord Jesus, let Your prayer of unity for Christians
become a reality, in Your way.
We have absolute confidence
that you can bring your people together,
we give you absolute permission to move.