‘We all adore the same God’… This type of expression, of significant theological imprecision, is often to be heard when people from different religions engage in careless ecumenical chatter.
But, to be a little more precise, how can the Triune God, Who revealed Himself to humanity in the incarnation of the Word and ordered men to be baptized in His name, be the same deity preached by others, for example, by Islam?
If there is no Catholic God, who do we Catholics adore?
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And I believe in God, not in a Catholic God, there is no Catholic God, there is God and I believe in Jesus Christ, his incarnation. Jesus is my teacher and my pastor, but God, the Father, Abba, is the light and the Creator. This is my Being. Do you think we are very far apart? (Interview with Scalfari, October 1, 2013)
Note 1: The authors of this study are aware that the Press Office of the Vatican has denied the interpretations that some media sources have attributed to certain affirmations contained in the interviews of Francis with Eugenio Scalfari. On the other hand, it is noteworthy that some of these sources are still published on the Vatican website (found by clicking on the links of the articles), lending an official air to their content, seemingly with the approval of Francis himself. In the midst of all the turmoil and confusion caused, we always feel that a presentation of the true doctrine should be made with clarity, together with such affirmations. We must not forget that the majority of the public read only the titles that the media publishes, and, as we know, the latter frequently manipulate the truth. Consequently, it appears that a mere declaration that the content of these interviews does not correspond with the textual words of Francis, is simply not sufficient. As such, we publish this article with the intention of clarifying and orienting the faithful, who have always been the principle objective of this page, as we had expressed in our letter of presentation. In this way, each one can make a correct judgment, having beforehand attained knowledge of the truth.
Dear brothers and sisters, we are never alone. We can be far away, hostile; we can even profess that we are “without God”. The Gospel of Jesus Christ however, reveals to us that God cannot be without us: He will never be a God “without man”. It is he who cannot be without us, and this is the great mystery! God cannot be God without man: this is a great mystery! And this certainty is the source of our hope, which we find safeguarded in our every invocation of the Our Father. (General audience, June 7, 2017)
[Francis]: That is why the Spirit is the author of unity among Christians. That is why unity comes about on our journey, because unity is a grace that one should ask for, and that is why I also repeat that all proselytism among Christians is sinful. The Church never grows due to proselytism but rather “by attraction”, as Benedict XVI said. Proselytism among Christians, therefore, is in itself a grave sin.
[Francis]: Because it contradicts the very dynamic of how to become and continue being Christian. The Church is not a soccer team looking for fans.(Interview with “Avvenire”, November 18, 2016 – English summary)
Enter in the various parts of our study
We consider another abundant source of the evils with which the Church is afflicted at present: indifferentism. This perverse opinion is spread on all sides by the fraud of the wicked who claim that it is possible to obtain the eternal salvation of the soul by the profession of any kind of religion, as long as morality is maintained. Surely, in so clear a matter, you will drive this deadly error far from the people committed to your care. With the admonition of the apostle that ‘there is one God, one faith, one baptism’ (Eph 4:5) may those fear who contrive the notion that the safe harbor of salvation is open to persons of any religion whatever. They should consider the testimony of Christ Himself that ‘those who are not with Christ are against Him,’ (Lk 11:23) and that they disperse unhappily who do not gather with Him. Therefore ‘without a doubt, they will perish forever, unless they hold the Catholic faith whole and inviolate.’ (Symbol .s. Athanasius) Let them hear Jerome who, while the Church was torn into three parts by schism, tells us that whenever someone tried to persuade him to join his group he always exclaimed: ‘He who is for the See of Peter is for me’ (St. Jerome, epis. 57). A schismatic flatters himself falsely if he asserts that he, too, has been washed in the waters of regeneration. Indeed Augustine would reply to such a man: ‘The branch has the same form when it has been cut off from the vine; but of what profit for it is the form, if it does not live from the root?’ (St. Augustine, in psalm. contra part. Donat.) (Gregory XVI. Encyclical Mirari Vos, no. 13, August 15, 1832)
First, the council professes its belief that God Himself has made known to mankind the way in which men are to serve Him, and thus be saved in Christ and come to blessedness. We believe that this one true religion subsists in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, to which the Lord Jesus committed the duty of spreading it abroad among all men. Thus He spoke to the Apostles: ‘Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have enjoined upon you’ (Mt 28: 19-20). On their part, all men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and His Church, and to embrace the truth they come to know, and to hold fast to it. (Vatican Council II, Dignitatis humanae, no. 1, December 7, 1965)
In all of this, the Church gives voice to her awareness that with Jesus Christ she stands before the definitive word of God: he is ‘the first and the last’ (Rev 1:17). He has given creation and history their definitive meaning; and hence we are called to live in time and in God’s creation within this eschatological rhythm of the word; ‘thus the Christian dispensation, since it is the new and definitive covenant, will never pass away; and no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (cf. 1Tim 6:14; Tit 2:13) (Dei Verbum, 4). Indeed, as the Fathers noted during the Synod, the ‘uniqueness of Christianity is manifested in the event which is Jesus Christ, the culmination of revelation, the fulfilment of God’s promises and the mediator of the encounter between man and God. He who ‘has made God known’ (Jn 1:18) is the one, definitive word given to mankind’ (Prop. 4). Saint John of the Cross expresses this truth magnificently: ‘Since he has given us his Son, his only word (for he possesses no other), he spoke everything at once in this sole word – and he has no more to say… because what he spoke before to the prophets in parts, he has spoken all at once by giving us this All who is his Son. Any person questioning God or desiring some vision or revelation would be guilty not only of foolish behaviour but also of offending him, by not fixing his eyes entirely on Christ and by living with the desire for some other novelty’ (St. John of the Cross, Ascent of Mount Carmel, II, 22). (Benedict XVI. Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church Verbum Domini, September 30, 2010)
The Church’s constant missionary proclamation is endangered today by relativistic theories which seek to justify religious pluralism, not only de facto but also de iure (or in principle). As a consequence, it is held that certain truths have been superseded; for example, the definitive and complete character of the revelation of Jesus Christ, the nature of Christian faith as compared with that of belief in other religions, the inspired nature of the books of Sacred Scripture, the personal unity between the Eternal Word and Jesus of Nazareth, the unity of the economy of the Incarnate Word and the Holy Spirit, the unicity and salvific universality of the mystery of Jesus Christ, the universal salvific mediation of the Church, the inseparability — while recognizing the distinction — of the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Christ, and the Church, and the subsistence of the one Church of Christ in the Catholic Church. (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dominus Iesus, no. 4, August 6, 2000)
171. What is the meaning of the affirmation ‘Outside the Church there is no salvation’? (846-848)
This means that all salvation comes from Christ, the Head, through the Church which is his body. Hence they cannot be saved who, knowing the Church as founded by Christ and necessary for salvation, would refuse to enter her or remain in her. At the same time, thanks to Christ and to his Church, those who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ and his Church but sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, try to do his will as it is known through the dictates of conscience can attain eternal salvation. (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no 171)