Are practicing Catholics saved?
Question: If a Roman Catholic believes wholeheartedly in the Lord Jesus Christ and is committed to serving Him as his Lord; and if he believes that the only way his sins can be forgiven is through Christ’s death as atonement for those sins, and the believer’s repentance, how come he is not saved? Suppose a person has salvation by faith alone, does he lose that salvation by believing in infant baptism? Does he lose his salvation by believing that communion is really the body and blood of Christ, as the Lord said it was? Does he lose his salvation if he believes in purgatory?
Answer: Anyone who believes the gospel, which is “the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth” (Rom 1:16), is saved, whether he be called Catholic, Baptist, etc. If, however, a Roman Catholic “believes wholeheartedly in the Lord Jesus Christ,” as you suggest, then he would find himself in great conflict with the doctrines and practices of his Church. It is logically impossible for a Roman Catholic to truly believe the gospel that saves and at the same time to believe the tenets of Catholicism.
Let me ask you how a person can believe that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for our sins is an accomplished fact of history and that He is now at the Father’s right hand in heaven in a resurrected, glorified body—and at the same time believe that He exists bodily as a wafer on Catholic altars where He is perpetually suffering the agonies of the Cross and being literally “immolated in the sacrifice of the Mass” (Vatican II, Flannery, pp 102-103)? How can a person believe that Christ’s redemptive work on the cross is “Finished!” as He himself said (Jn 19:30)—and at the same time believe that the Mass is a perpetuation of Christ’s sacrifice? How can one “perpetuate and make present” any past event? It is logically impossible. One may remember or memorialize a past event, but one cannot perpetuate it in the present. And why would that be necessary inasmuch as Christ’s death and resurrection fully accomplished God’s purpose?
Let me ask you how any person can believe that Christ does not offer Himself repeatedly, as were the Old Testament sacrifices (Heb 9:25;10:1-3), but that “ once… hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself….Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many” (9:26,28), “this man [Christ], after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God….For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified….there is no more offering for sin ” (10:12-18)—and at the same time believe that the Mass is a “propitiatory sacrifice” that takes away sin and that in it “the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner” ( Catechism of the Catholic Church , 1367)? How can one believe, as Vatican II states, that through Catholic liturgy, “especially in the divine sacrifice of the Eucharist, the work of our redemption is accomplished [i.e., is an on-going process]” (Flannery, p 1)—and at the same time believe that the work of our redemption was accomplished once for all by Christ on the cross, as so many scriptures clearly state (Heb:9:12; Eph:1:7; Col:1:14 , etc.)? How can one believe that by simple faith in Christ one receives eternal life and the assurance of heaven as a free gift of God’s grace, as the gospel that saves declares—and at the same time believe that God’s grace and the merits of Christ (plus the merits of Mary and the saints—who needs them if Christ is sufficient?!) are contained in a treasury which the Roman Catholic Church possesses and from which she dispenses in instalments bits and pieces of this grace (Vatican II, Flannery, p 66, etc.) for attending Mass, saying the rosary, penance, etc., etc.?
A Catholic can’t believe in Christ alone but in Christ plus baptism and the sacraments and other helps given by the Church. Paul cursed the Judaizers who taught that in addition to faith in Christ’s finished work one also must keep the Jewish law. That destroys the gospel. How, then, can one believe in the gospel of Christ plus baptism for salvation and the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice and the other “sacraments of the New Law” which Trent and Vatican II say are essential for salvation, the necessity of the Church and its priesthood, the intercession of Mary, purgatory, indulgences, etc.? You must believe one gospel or the other; you can’t believe two contradictory gospels at the same time. Whoever believes in Christ alone, is saved. Whoever believes in Christ plus anything else for salvation, is lost. He has rejected the gospel of Christ which alone saves those who believe it (Rom 1:16). And, indeed, those who preach this “other gospel” come under Paul’s anathema (Gal 1:6-8)!
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