A priest once told me, “If it feels good, it’s probably a sin, but do it anyway.” Is he a real Catholic? Another priest I met said that he didn’t believe in the Resurrection. Another said that unrepentant sinners do not go to hell. A nun, who was the head of the Adult Faith Office of a diocese, said that abortion is a “complicated matter,” implying that it’s not always wrong. A female Catholic High School chaplain felt that same-sex “marriage” and adoption of children were good things. Millions of Catholics are baptized, receive their First Communions, are Confirmed and then hardly ever attend Mass. The vast majority of Catholics today are largely ignorant of Church teachings or do not agree with many of those teachings. Are all of these people real Catholics?
It seems that the leaders of the Vatican II Church are content to accept pretty much anybody as “Catholic” as long as they have been baptized. It doesn’t usually seem to matter too much to our Church leaders what these “Catholics” believe or what they do. I’ll never forget when John Kerry ran for President. This guy is a member of a secret society with links to Freemasonry. As a politician, he is also firmly pro-choice. But the Church accepts him as a Catholic in good standing. Then there was Paul Martin. As Prime Minister of Canada, he helped legalize same-sex “marriage” -- another Catholic in good standing.
The Vatican II Church, to a large degree, mirrors the pluralism and liberalism of Western democratic society. Many of the Church’s official teachings do radically contradict that culture; however, they are not emphasized by the mainstream Church. Examples are contraception, divorce, cohabitation, homosexuality, and masturbation.
Unlike the 20 councils which preceded it, Vatican II was not convened to define dogma or combat theological errors. The council was called to “update” the Church’s teachings and strategy, especially with regard to the Church’s relations with the non-Catholic world. It seems to me that the Vatican II bishops are trained to allow a high degree of pluralism within the Church and to avoid “unnecessary” friction with the non-Catholic culture.
The liberal atmosphere of the modern Church encourages a “cafeteria” mentality among most Catholics who seem to believe that they have the God-given right to pick and choose what they will believe from among the Church’s teachings. In practice, the Vatican II Church has generally downplayed the seriousness of sin, the reality of hell, and the traditional teaching that being a good Catholic is necessary for salvation. Therefore, the vast majority of Catholics do not seem to take the Church seriously.
However, it is necessary to be a real Catholic in order to be saved. This teaching was upheld by Vatican II and is taught in the present Catechisms of the Catholic Church: “The Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation … 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” (CCC 846). “What is necessary for entering heaven? … We must believe everything that God has revealed and the Church holds before us for our belief” (Pocket Catechism, St. Joseph Edition, 1973). Exceptions are made for those in “invincible ignorance” about Catholic teaching but nevertheless sincerely seek God and obey Him by following their consciouses. Could this exception apply to those baptized into the Catholic Church, those who have been educated in Catholic schools, those who attend Mass, and those who are ordained? I’ll leave that question for you to ponder.