Archive for the ‘Exclusivism’ Category

"It is not Possible to find Jesus Outside the Church"

April 23, 2013

Pope Francis in today’s homily stated (Vatican Radio translation):

And so the Church was a Mother, the Mother of more children, of many children. It became more and more of a Mother. A Mother who gives us the faith, a Mother who gives us an identity. But the Christian identity is not an identity card: Christian identity is belonging to the Church, because all of these belonged to the Church, the Mother Church. Because it is not possible to find Jesus outside the Church. The great Paul VI said: “Wanting to live with Jesus without the Church, following Jesus outside of the Church, loving Jesus without the Church is an absurd dichotomy.” And the Mother Church that gives us Jesus gives us our identity that is not only a seal, it is a belonging. Identity means belonging. This belonging to the Church is beautiful.

I want you to note that line, “it is not possible to find Jesus outside the Church.” There we have an exclusivistic note that we have not noticed in the past few pontiffs.

I can’t predict whether this statement will be qualified to death, or not. However, taking the statement as stated, how can there be “separated brethren”? Are they “brethren” who are separated from Jesus? If so, in what sense are they brethren? Likewise, if people are potentially saved “outside the church,” then are they not saved through Jesus?

Francis’ statement seems to fit better with traditional thought than with the modern inclusivisitic statements we’ve heard from a variety of cardinals. Recall Cardinal George talking about how Mormonism and Roman Catholicism have a “common ground” in Jesus (link). Likewise, recall Cardinal Pell suggesting that hell may be empty or nearly empty (link). Neither of these ideas fits well with what Francis is saying.

I will say this, Francis and Paul VI would be right on the point where he is quoted, if “church” were properly understood as the visible church (composed of all gospel-preaching churches) and if this were described as the general rule. In other words, our love of Christ should lead us to unity with the brethren in the churches. However, except those of us who grow up in the church, we come to faith in Christ outside the church and therefore join ourselves with the churches.

Moreover, Jesus is found in Scripture. The church ought faithfully to proclaim the Scripture and particularly the Gospel, but Jesus can be found and has been found by many outside the visible church, through the work of the Spirit opening their eyes, ears, and heart to the proclamation of the Gospel.


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