This section discusses the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church concerning other denominations within Christianity, other religions, ethical groups, philosophies, and spiritual paths. The main topics dealt with are:
The historical teaching of the Roman Catholic Church was "Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus" (Outside the church, there is no salvation). That is, for a person to be saved -- and avoid Hell -- it is absolutely necessary that they be subject to the Pope. All Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and followers of other non-Christian religions were destined for Hell. All members of Protestant, Anabaptist, Mormon, and other Christian denominations were headed there as well.
This position was moderated significantly by two documents written in the late 20th century:
These documents state that Jesus created only a single church, now comprising the Roman Catholic Church together with a number of other Churches that also share a valid Eucharist and Apostolic Succession: 1 [Apostolic succession is the belief held by some Christian denominations that their current bishops have spiritual and ecclesiastical authority that can be traced by an unbroken chain of proper ordinations back to the Apostles, and thus to Christ, in the first century CE.] Roman Catholics recognize the validity of the apostolic successions of their bishops, and therefore the rest of their clergy, as well as the clergy of the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Wikipedia also lists other churches whose apostolic succession is recognized by the Roman Catholic Church:
We are attempting to find a complete authoritative list.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that all other Christian denominations to not feature Apostolic Succession, and thus are not "proper" churches; they are viewed as suffering from "defects." Religions other than Christianity are considered to be "gravely deficient." Their rituals can constitute "an obstacle to salvation" for their followers. Still, the Catholic Church now recognizes that it is possible for some individuals who are not members of churches that have maintained apostolic succession to attain Heaven. 3,4
Some consider the Catholic Church's views to be extremely arrogant and their claims to Apostolic Succession to be ridiculous. However, the Catholic Church is not alone in believing that they alone have the "fullness of truth" while all other Christian faith traditions are viewed as being in error. So, any criticism of the Catholic Church for their stand concerning other faith groups must also be leveled at the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Southern Baptists, Unificationists, and countless other Christian denominations.
Topics covered in this section:
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