Montag, 7. Dezember 2009

The Church and Salvation

In this entry, I would like to discuss the much debated dogma stating "extra Ecclesiam nulla salus" - outside the Church there is no salvation.
Many people do not understand properly the teaching of the Catholic Church regarding the salvation of Non-Catholics. My intention is to outline the Catholic teaching. If there is anything wrong in my exposition, then someone should - rather must - correct me.

Building upon my Biblical exposition on the necessity of being a formal member of the Church (to be found here: ), I now intend to show the traditional belief of the Church regarding the matter of salvation outside the Church:

Part I: ordinary means of salvation:

St. Irenaeus (a.D. 130 - 202):
"The Church is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account we are bound to avoid them . . . . We hear it declared of the unbelieving and the blinded of this world that they shall not inherit the world of life which is to come . . . . Resist them in defense of the only true and life giving faith, which the Church has received from the Apostles and imparted to her sons."

Origen (a.D. 185 - 254):
"If someone from this people wants to be saved, let him come into this house so that he may be able to attain his salvation. . . . Let no one, then, be persuaded otherwise, nor let anyone deceive himself: Outside of this house, that is, outside of the Church, no one is saved; for, if anyone should go out of it, he is guilty of his own death" (Homilies on Joshua 3:5 [A.D. 250]).

St. Cyprian of Carthage:
"Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress [a schismatic church] is separated from the promises of the Church, nor will he that forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is an alien, a worldling, and an enemy. He cannot have God for his Father who has not the Church for his mother" (The Unity of the Catholic Church 6, 1st ed. [A.D. 251]).

"Let them not think that the way of life or salvation exists for them, if they have refused to obey the bishops and priests, since the Lord says in the book of Deuteronomy: ‘And any man who has the insolence to refuse to listen to the priest or judge, whoever he may be in those days, that man shall die’ [Deut. 17:12]. And then, indeed, they were killed with the sword . . . but now the proud and insolent are killed with the sword of the Spirit, when they are cast out from the Church. For they cannot live outside, since there is only one house of God, and there can be no salvation for anyone except in the Church" (Letters 61[4]:4 [A.D. 253]).

"When we say, ‘Do you believe in eternal life and the remission of sins through the holy Church?’ we mean that remission of sins is not granted except in the Church" (ibid., 69[70]:2 [A.D. 253]).

"It is, therefore, the Catholic Church alone which retains true worship. This is the fountain of truth; this, the domicile of faith; this, the temple of God. Whoever does not enter there or whoever does not go out from there, he is a stranger to the hope of life and salvation. . . . Because, however, all the various groups of heretics are confident that they are the Christians and think that theirs is the Catholic Church, let it be known that this is the true Church, in which there is confession and penance and which takes a health-promoting care of the sins and wounds to which the weak flesh is subject" (Divine Institutes 4:30:11–13 [A.D. 307]).

St. Jerome (a.D. 347 - 420):
"Heretics bring sentence upon themselves since they by their own choice withdraw from the Church, a withdrawal which, since they are aware of it, constitutes damnation. Between heresy and schism there is this difference: that heresy involves perverse doctrine, while schism separates one from the Church on account of disagreement with the bishop. Nevertheless, there is no schism which does not trump up a heresy to justify its departure from the Church" (Commentary on Titus 3:10–11 [A.D. 386]).

St. Augustine (a.D. 354 - 430):
"No man can find salvation except in the Catholic Church. Outside the Catholic Church one can have everything except salvation. One can have honor, one can have sacraments, one can sing alleluia, one can answer amen, one can have faith in the Name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and preach it too, but never can one find salvation except in the Catholic Church."

St. Fulgentius (a.D. 468 - 533):
"Most firmly hold and never doubt that not only pagans, but also Jews, all heretics, and all schismatics who finish this life outside of the Catholic Church, will go into eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."

Pope St. Gregory the Great (reigned a.D. 590 - 604):
"The holy universal Church teaches that it is not possible to worship God truly except in Her and asserts that all who are outside of Her will not be saved."

St. Francis of Assisi (a.D. 1182 - 1226):
"All who have not believed that Jesus Christ was really the Son of God are doomed. Also, all who see the Sacrament of the Body of Christ and do not believe it is really the most holy Body and Blood of the Lord . . . these also are doomed!"

St. Thomas Aquinas (a.D. 1226 - 1274):
"There is no entering into salvation outside the Catholic Church, just as in the time of the Flood there was not salvation outside the Ark, which denotes the Church."

St. Robert Bellarmine (a.D. 1542 - 1621):
"Outside the Church there is no salvation...therefore in the symbol (Apostles Creed) we join together the Church with the remission of sins: 'I believe in the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins"...For this reason the Church is compared to the Ark of Noah, because just as during the deluge, everyone perished who was not in the ark, so now those perish who are not in the Church."

St. Louis Marie de Montfort (a.D. 1673 - 1716):
"There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church. Anyone who resists this truth perishes."

St. Alphonsus Maria de Legouri (a.D. 1696 - 1787):
"All the misfortunes of unbelievers spring from too great an attachment to the things of life. This sickness of heart weakens and darkens the understanding, and leads to eternal ruin. If they would try to heal their hearts by purging them of their vices, they would soon receive light, which would show them the necessity of joining the Catholic Church, where alone is salvation. We should constantly thank the Lord for having granted us the gift of the true Faith, by associating us with the children of the Holy Catholic Church ... How many are the infidels, heretics, and schismatics who do not enjoy the happiness of the true Faith! Earth is full of them and they are all lost!"

Let us continue with the solemn definitions - i.e. dogmatic - of the Catholic Church:

Pope Innocent III in the Fourth Lateran Council (a.D. 1215):
"There is one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which no one at all can be saved."

Pope Boniface VIII in Unam Sanctam (a.D. 1302):
"We declare, say , define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff."

Pope Eugene IV in the Bull Cantate Domino (a.D. 1441):
"The Most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, also Jews, heretics, and schismatics can ever be partakers of eternal life, but that they are to go into the eternal fire 'which was prepared for the devil and his angels' (Mt. 25:41) unless before death they are joined with Her... No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ can be saved unless they abide within the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church."

All the previous citations demonstrate the Church's teaching on the ordinary means of salvation: that it is absolutely necessary to enter into the Catholic Church in order to be saved. Thus it is taught by the Second Vatican Council that “whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by God through Jesus Christ, would refuse to enter her or to remain in her could not be saved” (Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 14).

The Church is thus to be understood as the "universal sacrament of salvation" (CCC 774 - 776).

"The Church in this world is the sacrament of salvation, the sign and the instrument of the communion of God and men.
" (CCC 780)

Part II: extraordinary means of salvation:

Does all this therefore mean that anyone who happens to not be a Catholic is therefore certainly doomed?

The Christian dogma of "extra Ecclesiam nulla salus" in its traditional sense contains a provision: that those who are invincibly ignorant may be saved despite their not being formal members of the Catholic Church here on earth.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:
"To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son's Church. the Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation. the Church is "the world reconciled." She is that bark which "in the full sail of the Lord's cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world." According to another image dear to the Church Fathers, she is prefigured by Noah's ark, which alone saves from the flood.334

"Outside the Church there is no salvation" (CCC 845)

And in CCC 846:

"How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers?335 Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.336"

And now comes the provision in CCC 847:

This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, 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 - those too may achieve eternal salvation.337

The provision is that those who through no fault of their own know not the Gospel of Christ or His Church - i.e. the invinsibly ignorant thereof - but still try to live a God-pleasing life to the best of their abilities in accordance to their conscience , may be saved.

It is taught by the Second Vatican Council that “those also can attain to everlasting salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience” (Lumen Gentium, 16).

In the past there arose a controversy with the rigorist Father Feeney who taught that absolutely noone - regardless of his knowledge or ignorance of the Gospel and of the Church - may be saved unless he becomes a formal member of the Catholic Church.

The controversy was ended by a clarification from the Holy See:
“In the aftermath of the controversy, the Archbishop of Boston, Richard Cushing, received a letter of clarification from the Holy Office. This letter, dated August 8, 1949, is important for its explanation of the necessity of the Church: she is necessary for salvation by divine command, not by intrinsic necessity. The Church, as Christ’s mystical body, is the sole ark of salvation, but direct, formal membership in her through the sacraments is only the ordinary means of salvation. In other words, knowledge of the Church and of her Founder is required of anyone for whom is to be considered necessary for salvation.” (Catholic Encyclopedia, p.862, Reverend Peter Stravinskas, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., Huntington, Indiana, 1991)

Thus, without knowledge neither of the Gospel of Christ and of the Catholic Church, one cannot be judged to be doomed.

Examples of this teaching:

Pope Pius IX in Singulari Quidem (a.D. 1856):
"This hope of salvation is placed in the Catholic Church which, in preserving the true worship, is the solid home of this faith and the temple of God. Outside of the Church, nobody can hope for life or salvation unless he is excused through ignorance beyond his control."

Thus the correct understand of the dogma "extra Ecclesiam nulla salus" is explained by the following words:

Pope Pius IX in Quanto Conficiamus Moerore (a.D. 1863):
"Here, too, our beloved sons and venerable brothers, it is again necessary to mention and censure a very grave error entrapping some Catholics who believe that it is possible to arrive at eternal salvation although living in error and alienated from the true faith and Catholic unity. Such belief is certainly opposed to Catholic teaching."

"There are, of course, those who are struggling with invincible ignorance about our most holy religion. Sincerely observing the natural law and its precepts inscribed by God on all hearts and ready to obey God, they live honest lives and are able to attain eternal life by the efficacious virtue of divine light and grace. Because God knows, searches and clearly understands the minds, hearts, thoughts, and nature of all, his supreme kindness and clemency do not permit anyone at all who is not guilty of deliberate sin to suffer eternal punishments."


There are those who would distort the official teaching of the Church so as to claim that all Non-Catholic Christians will be saved. This is an error since we know that these separated Christians are:
a) not ignorant of the Gospel of Christ
b) not all invincibly ignorant of the Catholic Church

In a sense, one could say that this provision is more likely to apply to Non-Christians than to other Christians - who through their knowledge of the Gospel will be judged by stricter standards (ref.: Luke 12:48; James 1:22-27; 1 John 2:4).

A Non-Catholic Christian who therefore knows of the Gospel and of the necessity of the Catholic Church, but obstinately refuses to enter into her, will not be saved.

Some people have problems with such statements so as to claim that I - by making such statements - were "behaving in a heretical manner" or "being a dick". Furthermore, certain people would claim that I am not allowed to make such statements as I am "not God". Some would even go as far as to say that they would "never join the Catholic Church" because of my behaviour.

Now here is what I have to say:

1) I am fully aware of the fact that I am not God. And that Judgement is God's prerogative. While indeed I may not claim to know who specifically will be in hell - since I know not the hearts of men - we can see in Christian Tradition that it is not wrong to outline the ordinary means of salvation and that according to the dogmas of the Church, the sins of certain people may be judged as being worthy of damnation.

If one does not think this is true, then I would invite people to read e.g. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10:

"Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, nor liers with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor extortioners, shall possess the kingdom of God. "

Certain sins exclude the possibility of salvation. While I cannot say that a person who has committed adultery in his life will definitely perish - since I know not if he will repent or not - I can say that those who persist in this sin and refuse to repent and be forgiven by means of the sacrament of reconciliation will perish.

Similary one can say that unless someone repents, he will perish (ref.: Luke 13:3 & 5).

2) The provision to "extra Ecclesiam nulla salus" is not to be understood in terms of every Non-Christian being invincibly ignorant of the Gospel or the Church of Christ. We live in a time wherein information is very easy to gather. And I find it plausible to assume that there may only be very few people who have never heard of the Gospel of Christ or of His Church. Thus, those who say that they "just do not care" about the claims of the Gospel and of the Church are already disqualified from being invincibly ignorant.

Christ Himself did not teach that those who closed themselves to the Gospel would be saved.

"And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words: going forth out of that house or city shake off the dust from your feet. Amen I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city." (Matthew 10:14-15)

3) Another very harmful attitude is that of rejecting the message because of the way the message is conveyed or because of disdain towards the messenger. Such attitude is harmful because:

° the truth of a message does not depend upon its way of communication.
° the truth of a message does not depend upon our liking or disliking of the messenger
° with regards to Christian doctrine: rejecting a doctrine because of disliking the way it is conveyed or because of disliking the messenger does not excuse one's rejection of truth

Thus, those who tell me they would "never become a Catholic" because of my behaviour, are doing more harm to themselves than to anyone else.

I do admit that I do not always behave the way I should. There is no excuse. I apologize to everyone who has been offended by my "cold" way of communicating doctrine to people. However, I do not apologize for the orthodox Christian doctrine that I convey. I find it more important to adhere to orthodox doctrine than to "please" everyone I speak to. And since we are commanded to love God above all, problems will arise, and I do not value such "peace" over Divine Truth, that is Jesus Christ.
If you find such attitude to also be appalling, I address you to Matthew 10:34-37.

Furthermore, to reject the Church because one rejects the behaviour of certain people who are formally within the Church or due to disdain towards certain individuals within the Church means that one judges the Church by one's perception of the morality of those within the Church.
This is wrong because this links to the heresy of Montanism and Donatism and because even from within the Church, there will be those who will not be perfect (ref.: Acts 20:29-39).

I will try my best to follow what Pope John Paul II taught:
"The unity willed by God can be attained only by the adherence of all to the content of revealed faith in its entirety. In matters of faith, compromise is in contradiction with God who is Truth. In the Body of Christ, "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6), who could consider legitimate a reconciliation brought about at the expense of the truth? The Council's Declaration on Religious Freedom Dignitatis Humanae attributes to human dignity the quest for truth, "especially in what concerns God and his Church",33 and adherence to truth's demands. A "being together" which betrayed the truth would thus be opposed both to the nature of God who offers his communion and to the need for truth found in the depths of every human heart."
(Pope John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint §18 "The fundamental importance of doctrine")

"Even so, doctrine needs to be presented in a way that makes it understandable to those for whom God himself intends it."
(Pope John Paul II, Ut Unum Sint §19)

Last but not least: there are those who intend to "pick and choose" what they accept as being "essential to salvation" by their own standards. Thus, while some might vehemently oppose the Christian Dogma of "extra Ecclesiam nulla salus", the same could be in total agreement to the teaching that there is no salvation to be found than in Christ: thus indirectly condemning all those who are not Christians.
Furthermore, while someone may think that that "belonging to Church is not necessary for salvation", the same could believe that those who claim to be Christians but are Sodomites will not inherit the Kingdom of God (ref.: 1 Corinthians 6:9-10), i.e. that these will be doomed.

The pattern we can see here is that oftentimes, such people create a list of "essentials" which would make possible their own salvation and also that of the people they like. What we thus experience is the alteration not of the way one conveys Christian doctrine, but of Christian doctrine itself. Instead of being fashioned after orthodox doctrine, i.e. the Truth, one seeks to fashion doctrine according to one's own emotions or desires.

Such an attitude seems to me as a type of idolatry: placing one's desires or emotions above the truth revealed to us by God and safeguarded by His Church until the end of times. And with regards to such people, I claim that those guilty of altering the truth to fit their desires will not be saved unless they repent and turn from their wicked ways.

If you think that this is hard to believe in, then I remind you of those who placed their personal understanding above the words of the Christ:

"Many therefore of his disciples, hearing it, said: This saying is hard, and who can hear it?" (John 6:61)

and then:

"After this many of his disciples went back; and walked no more with him." (John 6:67)

Thus we are taught:

"Take heed to thyself and to doctrine: be earnest in them. For in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee." (1 Timothy 4:16)


"Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine. For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears" (2 Timothy 4:2-3)

Mittwoch, 2. Dezember 2009

Jesus - yes; Church - no?

"I believe in and love Jesus Christ. I do not need any 'Church' or denomination!"

While the above statement may not be an exact quotation, it does reflect upon an ideology which not few Christians believe in. This ideology is about an individualistic "Christian" life; this means that Christians who follow this ideology think that all that is necessary for them to "be saved" is to "love Jesus". The problem with their concept is that they understand this "loving of Jesus" as excluding the Church which Christ has established: it is one which excludes the visible communion of Christians.

In this text, I would like to show why one cannot truly claim to love Jesus when one rejects His Church at the same time. Now, I understand if one will object by saying he does not believe the Catholic Church to be the Church of Christ. However, such an opposition to the Catholic Church does not justify the altogether rejection of the belief that "one cannot have God as Father, who does not have the church as Mother” (St. Cyprian of Carthage; De ecclesiae unitate, 6).

Furthermore, I would like to warn against those who "profess that they know God: but in their works they deny him" (Titus 1:16). It is thus possible to claim to follow God in theory, but to do the opposite in practice.

In my exposition, I will assume the following:
1) that he who claims to love Jesus accepts the Holy Bible as being God's Word
2) that he who claims to love Jesus follows what the Bible teaches

At first let us establish that the greatest commandments consist of loving God above all else and loving one's neighbour as oneself:

from the Gospel of Mark, chapter 12:

28 And there came one of the scribes that had heard them reasoning together, and seeing that he had answered them well, asked him which was the first commandment of all. 29 And Jesus answered him: The first commandment of all is, Hear, O Israel: the Lord thy God is one God. 30 And thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind, and with thy whole strength. This is the first commandment. 31 And the second is like to it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is no other commandment greater than these.

But what does it mean "to love God"? How does one "love God"? My claim is that we love God by obedience. To back this claim, I will cite the following passages:

"If you love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15)

"He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them; he it is that loveth me. And he that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father: and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." (John 14:21)

"Jesus answered, and said to him: If any one love me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him." (John 14:23)

"He that loveth me not, keepeth not my words. And the word which you have heard, is not mine; but the Father's who sent me." (John 14:24)

"If you keep my commandments, you shall abide in my love; as I also have kept my Father's commandments, and do abide in his love.
" (John 15:10)

And to further show that such obedience is necessary for salvation:

"Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matthew 7:21)

Now, as I have said before, it is important that the Christian saying he loves Jesus accepts the Holy Bible as God's Word, i.e. what we are taught to follow in it, is what God wills. Thus, to refuse to follow a command would be an offense against the love of God.

Now, all I have to do is to demonstrate that the Christian faith is one of communion: "rugged individualism", i.e. non-affiliation to the Church, is not only unChristian, it is ANTI-Christian.

Fact 1: Christ Jesus established a visible Church and this Church is one:

"And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18)

Jesus speaks of His Church in the singular. It will be built upon a visible rock: Peter (Kepha). Thus, Jesus established a visible and singular Church.

That the Church is meant to be one is expressed by the following words also:

"And other sheep I have, that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd." (John 10:16)

The unity of the Church is also expressed by the following promise of indefectibility:

"And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." (Matthew 16:18)

And Jesus knowing their thoughts, said to them: Every kingdom divided against itself shall be made desolate: and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand." (Matthew 12:25)

Since the Church is the "house of God" and the "pillar and ground of truth" ( 1 Timothy 3:15) , it cannot be likened unto any earthly kingdoms which will not stand.

And God cannot have willed the division amongst Christians since "God is not the God of dissension, but of peace" (1 Corinthians 14:33)

Fact 2: The Church is Christ's flock and one is a sheep by obedience:

We know that the Church is also called the "flock" since Christians are also termed as Christ's "sheep"; wherefore Christ calls Himself the "Good Sheperd":

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd giveth his life for his sheep." (John 10:11)

One is part of the flock through loving Jesus, i.e. God, by obedience:

"I am the good shepherd; and I know mine, and mine know me. As the Father knoweth me, and I know the Father: and I lay down my life for my sheep." (John 10:14-15)

Christ died for His sheep: Christ died for those who obey Him: thus, His sheep are those who obey Him:

"Greater love than this no man hath, that a man lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends, if you do the things that I command you." (John 15:13-14)

Fact 3: The Church has a visible hierarchy which we owe obedience:

Jesus Christ, the Good Sheperd, entrusted His flock, i.e. the Church, unto a visible leader, Peter:

from the Gospel of John, chapter 21:

15 When therefore they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter: Simon son of John, lovest thou me more than these? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. 16 He saith to him again: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? He saith to him: Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee. He saith to him: Feed my lambs. 17 He said to him the third time: Simon, son of John, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved, because he had said to him the third time: Lovest thou me? And he said to him: Lord, thou knowest all things: thou knowest that I love thee. He said to him: Feed my sheep.

That "feeding the sheep" is an expression of supreme authority can be seen from the Old Testament wherein it is God Himself who "feeds the sheep":

"I will feed my sheep: and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord God." (Ezechiel 34:15)

And promising the coming of Christ, the High Priest of the New and Eternal Covenant, God declared:

"AND I WILL SET UP ONE SHEPHERD OVER THEM, and he shall feed them, even my servant David: he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd." (Ezechiel 34:23)

What does it therefore mean when Christ appoints Peter to "feed His sheep"? Christ Jesus makes Peter His visible Vicar: the visible head of the one flock, of the Church. To thus deny this, is to go against the very words of the Lord Jesus Christ. He who does not follow Him, does not love Him.

Further examples of hierarchy and obedience:

"Take heed to yourselves, and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you bishops (elders), to rule the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." (Acts 20:28)

"Obey your prelates, and be subject to them. For they watch as being to render an account of your souls; that they may do this with joy, and not with grief. For this is not expedient for you." (Hebrews 13:17)

Obedience to prelates can only exist within a structured system, i.e. a Church, wherein there is a system of hierarchy. The "rugged individualist" cannot follow this Biblical command.

That disobedience to the human authorities of the Church is a grave sin is taught also in the New Testament which warns against the "the contradiction of Core" (Jude 1:7).

What did Core do?

"His sons, were Namuel and Dathan and Abiron. These are Dathan and Abiron the princes of the people, that rose against Moses and Aaron in the sedition of Core, when they rebelled against the Lord" (Numbers 26:9)

The original story is in Numbers 16:

1 And behold Core the son of Isaar, the son of Caath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiron the sons of Eliab, and Hon the son of Pheleth of the children of Ruben, 2 Rose up against Moses, and with them two hundred and fifty others of the children of Israel, leading men of the synagogue, and who in the time of assembly were called by name. 3 And when they had stood up against Moses and Aaron, they said: Let it be enough for you, that all the multitude consisteth of holy ones, and the Lord is among them: Why lift you up yourselves above the people of the Lord?

Four things are important to note:

1) The sin of these people who were so greatly punished by the Lord (Numbers 26:10) was that of disobedience. They rose up against the leadership of Moses and Aaron as instituted by the Lord.

2) This disobedience against the earthly hierarchy set up by the Lord is understood as a rebellion against God Himself (Numbers 26:9).

3) The question "why lift you up yourselves above the people of the Lord" denoting a certain apathy towards the hierarchy of the Church and a false understanding of equality is the exact same attitude we get from protestants nowadays who criticize and oppose the Catholic Church and from those who claim to love God, but reject His Church.

4) The obedience to the earthly authorities of God's people taught in the Old Testament IS still required by God from Christians. Otherwise, we would not see this condemnation of Core in the New Testament.

That disobedience towards the Church is a grave sin is expressed already by the following words of Jesus:

"And if he will not hear them: tell the church. And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican." (Matthew 18:17)

That Jesus here speaks of the visible Church is clear from the following verse in which He speaks of the "binding and loosing" authority (Matthew 18:18), which He has first promised in singular manner unto Peter, the Vicar of the Good Sheperd (Matthew 16:19).

A further reference to obedience to the Church is:

"We are of God. He that knoweth God, heareth us. He that is not of God, heareth us not. By this we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error." ( 1 John 4:6)

Thus, if one chooses to refuse due obedience to the Church, one is to be considered as the "heathen and the publican": no longer as part of the Church, as the flock, to whom salvation is promised.

Fact 4: The Church is a Eucharistic Communion:

It is taught that "we being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another" (Romans 12:5). Thus, the Church is indeed one. But how is this unity effected? Some may claim that the unity of the Church is "invisible" and that even the "rugged individualist" who refuses visible membership to the Church is necessatily part of the "invisible Church".

Now, despite the fact that the aforementioned Biblical passages totally contradict such a position and that such a position cannot be Biblically defended, the unity of the Church is effected by means of the Holy Communion:

In the first epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 10, we read:

16 The chalice of benediction, which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread, which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord? 17 For we, being many, are one bread, one body, all that partake of one bread.

Hence, the unity of the Church is effected by a visible sacrament: that of Holy Communion. How does a "rugged individualist" partake in this sacrament? He cannot.

But the Lord taught in the Gospel of John, chapter 6:

51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven. 52 If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever; and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world.

Obviously, some of the Jews could not accept in faith what the Lord said:

53 The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying: How can this man give us his flesh to eat?

But Jesus, far from changing his statement, reaffirmed His teaching:

54 Then Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say unto you: Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you. 55 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.

For my flesh is meat indeed: and my blood is drink indeed.

57 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, abideth in me, and I in him. 58 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father; so he that eateth me, the same also shall live by me. 59 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead. He that eateth this bread, shall live for ever.

Obviously, there were those who could not believe what Jesus said. Perhaps because it sounded "irrational". Thus, we have an example of one of the first, if not the first , schisms:

67 After this many of his disciples went back; and walked no more with him.

And as evident from the example from the New Testament, Christians have since then followed Christ's command regarding the sacrament of Holy Communion and does celebrate the Holy Mass on Sundays:
"And on the first day of the week, when we were assembled to break bread, Paul discoursed with them, being to depart on the morrow: and he continued his speech until midnight." (Acts 20:7)

Tree Analogy:

"Every branch in me, that beareth not fruit, he will take away: and every one that beareth fruit, he will purge it, that it may bring forth more fruit." (John 15:2)

"If any one abide not in me, he shall be cast forth as a branch, and shall wither, and they shall gather him up, and cast him into the fire, and he burneth." (John 15:6)

Thus, he who does not "bear fruit" will be damned. Wherefore, it is necessary to remain attached to the Christ, in order to be able to even bear fruit since Jesus said "for without me you can do nothing" (John 15:5)

I would like to use the "tree" since it is referenced in Matthew 13:31-32:

"Another parable he proposed unto them, saying: The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field. Which is the least indeed of all seeds; but when it is grown up, it is greater than all herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come, and dwell in the branches thereof."

If we imagine the Church of Christ to be as a tree, we can imagine Christ as being the root which gives life unto the rest: it is the firm foundation of the tree. The trunk we can imagine to be Peter, whom Christ has elevated to the position of His Vicar, the visible tender of the flock. Christ as the root is invisible, Peter as the trunk is visible. The bigger branches directly attached to the trunk are all the prelates of the Church in communion with Peter and thus to Christ. As the Holy Spirit proceeds in no other way than from the Father and from/through the Son, so also the authority of the prelates of the Church proceeds from God in no other way than though Peter. The smaller branches, twigs and leaves symbolize the laity: all the members of the Church. We see that, as long as they remain attached to the bigger branches, and these to the trunk, and the trunk to the root, there will be fruit. However, if a branch is detached from the trunk, that branch will wither and die. This branch signifies all those who refuse to enter into the visible communion of the Catholic Church.


With all the previous information, one cannot claim to turly love God while rejecting His Church because God wills that a Christian is obedient to His Church.
Therefore it is true to say that "one cannot have God as Father, who does not have the church as Mother".

He who rejects the Church, disobeys Jesus. He who disobeys the Christ, cannot truly love Him. And he who does not love Jesus, is damned:

"If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema, maranatha." (1 Corinthians 16:22)