There was a time when I did lectures and fielded questions. That brief time is in part what spurred me to start this blog, because the questions were always very interesting and heartfelt and sometimes kind of funny and sometimes surprisingly misguided. I thought it all might make for a good read.
One time I got this question from the floor and just the other day here it is again from a reader:Hello Sister. I just have a quick question. I am a Protestant and my
Catholic friend told me that according to Catholic Church teachings I
can still get into Heaven. I did not think that was the official
position of the Church. So what's the verdict? Can Protestants get into
Heaven? What about non-denominational Christians? Mormons? I tried
consulting the Catechism on this subject but it confused me a bit.
When I got this question from the live group there was a priest sitting in the front row. I told the lady who asked the question, "The Church believes that only Catholics can get to Heaven."
The priest nodded his approval.
"But the Church doesn't believe that only Catholics can get to Heaven."
The priest nodded again.
"So only Catholics can get to Heaven, but non Catholics can get to Heaven, too. Right, Father?" I said.
He nodded again. Smiling.
And you say the Catechism confused you? I understand. You have to read between the lines.
First of all we have this:
"Those who die in God's grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ."
That would indicate that non Catholics will see the welcome mat at the Pearly Gates. But the Catechism goes on to state:
"By virtue of our apostolic
authority, we define the following: According to the general
disposition of God, the souls of all the saints . . . and other
faithful who died after receiving Christ's holy Baptism (provided they
were not in need of purification when they died, . . . or, if they then
did need or will need some purification, when they have been purified
after death, . . .) already before they take up their bodies again and
before the general judgment - and this since the Ascension of our Lord
and Savior Jesus Christ into heaven - have been, are and will be in
heaven, in the heavenly Kingdom and celestial paradise with Christ,
joined to the company of the holy angels. Since the Passion and death
of our Lord Jesus Christ, these souls have seen and do see the divine
essence with an intuitive vision, and even face to face, without the
mediation of any creature. "
So, now we're also talking Baptism. Okay. The other Christian denominations have Baptism, too. So we've closed the gate on the Wiccans and Buddhists, but there's still a turn style for Baptists and Presbyterians.
But then the Catechism goes on to say:
"This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity - this
communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the
angels and all the blessed - is called "heaven."
The Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed--that would be saints--that's Catholic. And maybe Episcopal, a little bit.
I think if we had a priest sitting in front of us, he would nod if I explained it this way:
We know that you can only get to Heaven if you are a follower of Christ, because Jesus said that you could only get to Heaven through Him. So that much is a given. And we, as Catholics, believe that the most perfect way to be a follower of Christ is to be a Catholic. The Catholic Church is 100% on board with that line of thinking. The Catholic Church is the church that Jesus Himself founded while he was alive on earth. He didn't found the Mormon Church, He didn't found the Episcopal Church and he didn't found the Jehovah's Witnesses.
That's why the Catholic Church basically believes that you have to be Catholic to get to Heaven.
The priest is already nodding...
It's up to God who gets in. If God feels that you are in His friendship and grace, you're in.
But since we know for a fact that Jesus founded a whole church so you could achieve that, why would you take the chance that God wouldn't think, "Say, listen here, I went through a lot of trouble to send my Son there and He went through an awful ordeal to set up this channel between Me and you. Don't watch this movie on your cell phone when you have a big flat screen TV."
So the answer is Yes. and No. but Yes. But not really. But Yes. But ....