The latest edition of the Gloria.tv news contains a report about a rather startling but growing phenomnenon, that of Jewish leaders insisting that the Pope should acknowledge that Jews do not need to accept Christ in order to be saved. The Jerusalem Post reports that Deborah Weissman, co-chairwoman of the Interreligious Coordination Council in Jerusalem (a commission that, among other things is preparing for the Pope’s visit to the Holy Land), said she hoped an alleged “ambivalence” of the Pope on theological issues affecting Jews would be clarified. She said the Pope still had not made it absolutely clear that Jews did not need to embrace the belief that Jesus was the Messiah to be redeemed.
Why is this notion being insisted upon by her and an increasing number of Jewish leaders? That Jesus alone can save us is a clear and essential dogma of Christian Faith. There is no exemption of any group, nation, or people in the mandate Jesus gave us to make disciples of all nations and baptize them (Matt 28:19 inter al.) For someone to insist that we set aside one of our most fundamentalal teachings and abandon the mandate of Christ to go unto all the world is astonishing in its boldness and displays remarkable insensitivity. I want to stipulate that not all or even many Jewish leaders are insisting on this but those that are simply ask too much.
It is also necessary to state that the Catholic position on salvation is not mechanistic. We do not teach that only “card-carrying” Christians go to heaven. But neither do we teach that accepting or not accepting Christ is just some incidental formality. We are under a mandate of Jesus Christ to go unto all the nations, to summon everyone to explicit faith in Jesus Christ. We do this respectfully, but we must do it. We do it because we love and seek union with all in Christ Jesus. We do not presume that non-Christians have nothing to offer or are in a hopeless situation. Rather respecting the dignity and gift of every human person we seek union with them in Christ and acknowledge that everyone, every nation, every people bring great richness to the Church. But the truth is that everyone needs Jesus Christ. To ask us to deny this is to ask us to deny our faith and our Lord.
Again let me emphasize that the Catholic position on the salvation of anyone who is unbaptized is nuanced. We hold that Baptism is necessary for salvation and that outside the Church there is no salvation. But these truths are not understood in a simplistic or merely mechanistic way. There are some who have not fully come to understand their need to accept Christ and enter the Church. Perhaps it is because they were not effectively evangelized. Perhaps it is due to cultural factors that prevent them from accepting the claims of Christ and the Church. Perhaps they were exposed to poor examples of Christianity or Christians. But if they have sincerely sought the truth, God will surely acknowledge their sincerity. However. this acknowledgement of the patience and mercy of God cannot allow us to become weakened in our resolve to obey Jesus’ mandate that we bring every nation and individualal to explicit discipleship.
It is probably best to let the Catechism of the Catholic Church speak for itself:
Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men. (CCC # 848)
And now to the video that sparked these reflections! Gloria TV news provides a wonderful service in bringing worldwide Catholic news to our attention in a short and accessible way. Almost everyday they provide these wonderful updates on the Church throughout the world