Proselytize is a bad word these days.

A lot off people are rushing to say that the Holy Father’s Anglican Provisions is not a matter of sheep stealing or, as Card. Kaspar put it “fishing in the Anglican lake”.

Card. Kaspar was stupendously conspicuous at the press conference yesterday – by his absence.

Archbishop Nichols of Westminster said: “This is a response and not an initiative.”

I respond saying: If we open up the door, hang up the open sign, and turn on the lights, we are inviting people to come in.

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  1. daniwcca says:

    It is so demeaning to the Anglicans, to imply that they have no minds of their own, this “sheep stealing”. As if they could not determine what they believe once given the opportunity to return. Does the Anglican Church think they can bully people into staying?

    I like your perspective Fr.!

  2. Tito Edwards says:

    John Allen seems to be saying the same thing. Which isn’t surprising, but to let it out online as he did, he let his biases slip for a moment.

  3. Mariana says:

    Sheep stealing, indeed! These sheep are able to think for themselves and decide on their Shepherd!

  4. Jack Hughes says:

    Can someone please remind Card. Kasper of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, we’ll go fishing in the Anglican lake if we want to, after all we own the fish farm and they stole it from us

  5. I am glad that the Holy Father is more concerned with the salvation of souls that with fruitless, at this point, ecumenical relations.

  6. This “sheep stealing” business is a result of the “dictatorship of relativism”, I believe, which Pope Benedict has made a point of emphasizing quite frequently.
    Salvation of those who believe that the Holy Catholic Church is the One founded by Jesus Christ is the issue, not some kind of petty “school yard brawl” about who gets what.
    If Card. Kasper has a problem with this, it’s HIS problem!

  7. Bryan says:

    “If you build it, they will come”

    For so long, it appeared as if we really didn’t have a core.

    Benedict seems to have put some stakes in the ground and re-established the marching orders
    if you want to call yourself Catholic.

    When people are thirsting for an unchanging point of reference, a sure refuge in a storm,
    they will come to you if that’s what you are.

    If you’ve bought into the formlessness and ‘anything goes’ and apparently let loose from your anchor, you’re no better than anything else.

    I think that’s the dynamic that’s changed (for the better), and now there’s a mechanism by
    which legitimate goals can be realized, rather than goalposts that, to the untrained eye,
    kept shifting.

    Deo gratias.

  8. TNCath says:

    This is really weird. Why are Catholics (even bishops and cardinals) not overjoyed that people are embracing the Faith?

  9. thereseb says:

    “Cdl. Kasper is out of business…”

    And his new book is out of date before the ink is dry……..

  10. ds says:

    The “not fishing in the Anglican Lake” metaphor is rather unfortunate. Considering that Peter is “the Fisherman’ the apostles were called to be “fishers of men” and cast the nets deep. Any Cardinal being against evangelism is bad enough, making figures of speech that only serve to highlite this is just embarrassing

  11. Rachel says:

    I wish I could remember the names and details better, but sometime this century there was a Jewish man who became interested in the Catholic faith. He went for a walk with a Catholic friend and told him that he had been somewhat surprised by the indifference of the Catholics he’d talked to– they’d all assured him that they weren’t going to ask him to convert to their religion. His friend stopped dead and exclaimed, “I’d walk across hot coals to get you to join the Church!” And the Jewish man did. All he’d been waiting for was an invitation.

    And on a personal note, I first became interested in Catholicism three years ago because I heard that the Church makes the audacious claim that everyone should be Catholic. If all I’d heard was wishy-washy ecumenism, I never would have bothered to learn any more.

  12. chironomo says:


    Because they are all so worried about the death of so-called “ecumenism” and their outdated vision of religious freedom. This one action by Pope Benedict says it all… not every faith is equal, and some are just downright inferior.

  13. paladin says:

    Oh, piffle! If memory serves, the “proselytism” which is forbidden to us is the sort of heavy-handed arm-twisting by which someone is genuinely coerced into “joining” (which would probably be an invalid baptism/initiation, anyway). Evangelism–the act of preaching the fact that Christ is truly God; that the Catholic Church is truly His Church (and Bride); that our final “end” is eternal, blissful union with God Almighty in Heaven, if only we have faith in Him and do what He tells us (through the Church He established for that very purpose, among others); and that rejection of Him has eternal consequences–is not only “morally allowed” (with all heartfelt apologies to the politically correct of the world), but morally obligatory for OUR salvation!

    Honestly, this isn’t rocket science! False ecumenism and “end”-less (in the sense of both time and goal) “dialogue” has not only endangered souls, but it’s muddied the waters of clear thought and communication to the point where the faithful spend precious time doing damage control and untangling verbiage…

  14. Rien says:

    The teaching of the Catholic church based on what Catholic Answers and EWTN and folks from Pacwa to Staples to Madrid to Akin is quite close to the universal salvation taught by the progressives.

    As Open Line host Martinoni likes to say you can be saved in any faith tradition as long as you live a good life but your chances are a little better in the Catholic church as you have access to the graces from the sacraments.

    Patrick Madrid, highly touted orthodox apologists, argue that if you honestly don’t beleive the Catholic church is true you can be saved. You are only damned if you believe the Catholic faith is true and reject it. I ask, practically speaking, like how many folks who believe the church is true and know they will go to hell if they reject it would reject it? Not many I suspect.

    Its basically a new version of universal salvation given the stamp of approval by EWTN and the new wave of apologists. It sounds off though if you think of it and is a circular argument.

    So the new wave of supposedly orthodox Catholics basically take a cue from Kasper and put a more traditional packaging on the progressive idea of universal salvation.

    It’s why there is such a lack of emphasis on evangelization and outreach.

  15. RichR says:

    In the minds of some ecumenists, the goal of dialog with other religions (Christian or not) is to simply recognize the “Christ within”. By emphasizing the good in other religions ad nauseam, we’ve given the impression that their religion is no different than ours. Therefore, in the minds of some, there is nothing to convert to because we are all the same.


    If that is so, then Christ was a fool to come and die on the Cross for our redemption.

  16. Rien says:

    Looking at this on practical terms, I think there is more being made of the announcement than is there. In terms of this resulting in a huge number of “stolen sheep”.

    If you look at the expectation in the UK when women were first admitted to the Anglican priesthood of a mass exodus to Rome – it never happened. Only a blip of converts.

    Too, in the US the Angl-Catholics have pretty much already converted. The Episcopal church here is progressive or evengelical mostly.

    Africa is orthodox but much more evangelioal/charismatic in its Anglicanism and Rome is not likely to appeal to many.

    There is the TAC but even there, with so many divorced/re-married, so many individual beliefs, the desire to retain influence as a Bishop rather than give it up, I’d suspect it will end up being just tens of thousands that eventually come over.

    We will see in time.

  17. If starting a program for Anglicans who want to cross the Tiber is “poaching” and “proselytism”, I guess that makes RCIA and the catechumenate into “orbital mind control lasers” and Baptism into “soulwashing”.

    Catholic bookstores are “missile silos”.

  18. Leonius says:

    The sheep belong to Christ surely not some anglican. All should be in one fold that is what Christ said, though very few people seem to think Chrsits words are very relevant these days given that “modern man” is obviously superior to a primitive who lived 2000 years ago, even if He was God.

    We are merely rounding up the masters property as He ordered us to do. Let us not forget that the anglican flock was once a part of the catholic flock who where stolen by thiefs from the masters one flock long ago anyway.

    Can we take the accusation of sheep stealing as an admission that the anglican flock is a different flock from Chrsts? A “flock” of goats perhaps.

    Its just as well the apostles didn’t worry about fishing in the “Jewish lake” otherwise there probably would be no Church.

  19. Agnes says:

    Does anyone know if sheep swim?


  20. David2 says:

    Rien (2:17) – my sentiments precisely (I’m speaking as a convert, here).

    The other week, I read the Q&A Page of Catholic Answers “This Rock” – for November 2008. The page was titled “Do Atheists go to Heaven?” – apologist Michelle Arnold said:

    While you are correct that man cannot save himself, God can choose to save someone who is unable in conscience to believe God exists but lives as best he can
    according to the knowledge he does have.

    Well, he can, but he might be a little annoyed at all the insults from, say, Richard Dawkins…

    She then quotes Gaudium et Spes, and continues:

    This implies that the culpability for atheism is not necessarily entirely the individual atheist’s.To the extent that belief in God has been made impossible for him by
    others, there may be some mitigation for his culpability for unbelief. For the atheist,
    ultimately we must trust that even he too is not beyond the reach of God’s mercy if
    he strives to live morally (cf. Lumen Gentium 16).


    The second great commandment is love of neighbor (Matt. 22:39) and Christ said of those who serve others, even if they do not explicitly do it for Christ’s sake:

    That comes pretty close to implying universal salvation. With an insinuation that Catholics are partially to blame for atheism.

    So the only people who are damned for missing Mass are those who believe they will be damned for missing Mass? Why bother with this Catholicism stuff, then? Just trust in God’s mercy, and all will be well! As you say, no wonder people don’t evangelize wen apologists forget that it is a spiritual work of mercy, and an act of charity to instruct the ignorant and correct the erring…

    Whilst nobody is beyond the reach of Gods’ mercy, He established the Church for a reason and by emphasizing all the “extraordinary” and “technical” possibilities of salvation outside the Church, so-called orthodox Catholic apologists are recklessly endagering souls.

  21. Not to advance “universal salvation”, which the Church condemns, but there is a lot of “invincible ignorance” out there, thanks to the poor catechesis and bad example of parents, priests and bishops, I might add.
    Just because somebody knows intellectually that the Church teaches something that is to be held in the “obedience of faith” does not mean that they, in fact, are culpable. That’s traditional moral theology, from what I am aware of. They have to be not only aware but know that it is true.
    And to reject Truth is to reject Christ. There are a lot of people who are just confused, misinformed or just stupid. Somehow God deals with them. But we have to be careful about being too black and white about what folks know and believe and what they are just confused about.

  22. Rachel says:

    Re: David2 and Rien’s comments, Pius IX wrote this in 1863: “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….” But he also warned: “Eternal salvation cannot be obtained by those who… are stubbornly separated from the unity of the Church.” The constant temptation is to emphasize the first and ignore the second.

  23. Thank you, Rachel. That says it much better than I did:<)!

  24. Agnes, from what I know from growing up on a farm, sheep are stupid. That’s why they need a shepherd…The Good Shepherd!

  25. Rien says:

    David2 – indeed even Pius IX comments on invincible ignorance leave a huge pool of non-Chritians certainly who seem able to get to Heaven through their goodness of heart and good deeds (a form of works righteousness my fundamentalist friends would claim).

    That aside, I have a co-worker/good friend. A believing Catholic she befriended some Mormons, prayed over the Book of Mormon and had that warm fuzzy feeling some claim. She took it as a genuine religious experience and her heart-felt belief changed. She is a Mormon now and does not beleive the Catholic church is valid or the church founded by Christ.

    She falls under invincibly ignorant on the face of it and will be saved I assume. She truly is a caring and wonderful person and spends most of her free time helping the poor and especially poor, pregnant young women.

    I am not saying universal salvation is a wrong belief. The Mormons surely provide for it through their baptism of the dead. Von Balthasar a very orthodox and conservative theologian wrote a book last century “Is There Hope For Universal Salvation”.

    Scripture says that God desires all men to come to a knowledge of the truth and, on face value, God being true to his word must provide a way for this. Which means those who have never heard the Gospel preached even to this day are afforded a way to salvation we cannot know of. Or non-Christians also.

    I see the Catholic church slowly moving to accept universal salvation – or near such. As one EWTN host noted the church has never said anyone is in Hell. Only that hell exists. But it could end up being quite empty.

  26. Rien says:

    Rachel, you referenced this comment by Pius IX:

    ….” But he also warned: “Eternal salvation cannot be obtained by those who… are stubbornly separated from the unity of the Church.”

    In practical terms just what does this mean. My cradle catholic friend who became Mormon truly believes in the Mormon church. She is not stubbornly separated.

    Neither are the many catholics I know who have become evangelical. I have seen many of them transform their lives after becoming Protestant. Its not a case of stubborness there.

    Or those who simply cease to believe in God – most I’d say do not fall under this description.

    Which on the face of it means hell will not be too full.

    It’s interesting that even before the Feeney controversies last century about salvation outside the church, the Popes themselves were moving slowing in a direction that almost inevitablly leads to a near empty hell.

    Maybe one day a Pope will declare this as dogma. Who knows?

  27. dcs says:

    I wish I could remember the names and details better, but sometime this century there was a Jewish man who became interested in the Catholic faith. He went for a walk with a Catholic friend and told him that he had been somewhat surprised by the indifference of the Catholics he’d talked to—they’d all assured him that they weren’t going to ask him to convert to their religion. His friend stopped dead and exclaimed, “I’d walk across hot coals to get you to join the Church!” And the Jewish man did. All he’d been waiting for was an invitation.

    The friend is Dietrich von Hildebrand and I believe the Jewish man was a soldier who had been in WWII.

    Hope this helps.

  28. Jack Hughes says:

    rien – I think what the EWTN host meant was that the Church has never declared anyone in particular to be in hell i.e. there is not an oppisite of cannonization, I think it highly likely that Judas, muhammomd,joeseph smith et al are in hell but I don’t know to a Mathmatical certainty, now we know from Our Blessed Lord that there are many in hell, but we don’t know who they are even if we have a good idea.

  29. chcrix says:

    And a little more detail from

    Alice Von Hildebrand: Let me relate an incident that caused my husband grief. It was 1946, just after the war. My husband was teaching at Fordham, and there appeared in one of his classes a Jewish student who had been a naval officer during the war. He would eventually tell my husband about a particularly stunning sunset in the Pacific and how it had led him to the quest for the truth about God. He first went to Columbia to study philosophy, and he knew that this was not what he was looking for. A friend suggested he try philosophy at Fordham and mentioned the name Dietrich von Hildebrand. After just one class with my husband, he knew he had found what he was looking for. One day after class my husband and this student went for a walk. He told my husband during this time that he was surprised at the fact that several professors, after discovering he was Jewish, assured him that they would not try to convert him to Catholicism. My husband, stunned, stopped, turned to him and said, “They said what?!” He repeated the story and my husband told him, “I would walk to the ends of the earth to make you a Catholic.” To make a long story short, the young man became a Catholic, was ordained a Carthusian priest, and went on to enter the only Charter House in the United States (in Vermont)!

  30. chcrix: Beautiful…just wonderful. THAT is evangelization at its finest. Thank you.

  31. Rien says:

    Speaking of downplaying this, the CA chaplain (Serpa) was on the radio today and warned that coming into the church can be hard. Lots of rules I guess.

    What really stuck out, and I am not surprised hearing this from someone associated with CA, was his statement that we should be careful of what we wish for. In reference to Anglicans coming into the church through this provision.

  32. If it is any help in this discussion: “no salvation outside the Church” was, in my understanding, directed by Saint Cyprian, to those who believed that they could separate themselves from the Church (in other words, those already Catholics) in order to have a more “pure” Church. The communion of the Church was at stake, not those who were outside the Church.
    This is an often misunderstood doctrine; in other words, if a Catholic wants to be apart from the rest of the Church for whatever reason, he/she separates himself/herself from the communion of the Church to his/her own damnation.
    I am ready to stand corrected on this.

  33. Jack Hughes says:

    The think about EENS is that its a dogma with lots of fine details, this leads to a misunderstanding of what it actually is and what it is not, both the liberals and the feenyites go to opposite extrmes, Michael Jacobs wrote a very good essay on this as part of his “Econe to Rome” book.

  34. JPG says:

    This is not poaching or crossing the Tiber. The better image is that of people fleeing a burning ship to have a life saver thrown to them
    from the barque of Peter. The initiative is a result of these groups seeking protection of the One True Church. Unlike their predecessors who came to their sense and returned to the Church, they will not be forced to abandon traditions not contrary to the True Faith. One on the outside cannot fathom the acrimony now going on in the TEC. It is from brief reading ugly and one suspects will get uglier with Conservative diocese sued for loss of property, congregations thrown out of familiar Churches as well as a proliferation of competeing groups each seeking the average Churchgoer. Keep in mind I have little doubt that those of a Liberal ilk are in fact nastier in persecution than any conservative. It would be Tyburn hill all over again. It is to my mind stunning to watch the Reformation in a real sense unravel in the fundamental error of private judgement. Sola Scriptorum is simply its evil spawn. One sees the Mainline Churches embracing modernism while the average Churchgoer flees to the surety of a Evangelical sect. One then can change Ecclesial affiliation as one changes one’s shoes. It is small wonder that these groups of Anglicans are seeking union with Rome. One other observation is the conversion of thse same people to the Orthodox Churches. Again for the same reasons.

  35. brianwalden says:

    Rien, I think you may be interpreting the CA apologists a bit harshly. God and your Mormon friend know whether her ignorance is innocent or willful. And being invincibly ignorant of the Church’s teachings does not give someone a free pass. While we do not commit mortal sin by doing something which through no fault of our own we do not know is sinful, we all have some grasp of what is right and what is wrong and are required to act according to it. Just as faithful Catholics still sin and are in need of confession to amend their lives, so too do those with an incomplete understanding of the truth at times act against the portion of the moral law which they do know and are required to make amends in the best way they know how.

    Sin is an act of the will. If we haven’t willfully malformed our consciences and we commit a grave act of which we are genuinely ignorant, we are not culpable – we haven’t willfully turned from God. I think that in general it’s useful to assume that people we come in contact with are innocently ignorant when they deny the truth unless there is explicit evidence otherwise. This isn’t so that we can let them off the hook, but rather so that we can show them the better way. Afterall, if we believe someone is purposely being intellectually dishonest rather than suffering from some defect in knowledge, reasoning, etc. how can we hope show them the truth – they will not be open to it.

  36. David2 says:

    I’ve always found the “nuances” of EENS and “invincible ignorance” to be quite difficult to apply in a practical sense. For example, it is said that nobody can be invincibly ignorant of the natural law. As a general principle, the Catholic Encyclopedia says “The Catholic Church has ever taught that nothing else is needed to obtain justification than an act of perfect charity and of contrition. Whoever, under the impulse of actual grace, elicits these acts receives immediately the gift of sanctifying grace, and is numbered among the children of God. Should he die in these dispositions, he will assuredly attain heaven. It is true such acts could not possibly be elicited by one who was aware that God has commanded all to join the Church, and who nevertheless should willfully remain outside her fold. For love of God carries with it the practical desire to fulfill His commandments. But of those who die without visible communion with the Church, not all are guilty of willful disobedience to God’s commands. Many are kept from the Church by ignorance. Such may be the case of numbers among those who have been brought up in heresy. To others the external means of grace may be unattainable.”. On the face of it, it is easier to entertain hope for those brought up in heresy than for those brought up in the Catholic faith who then defect from it by their own free choice. Such a person would not be “invincibly” ignorant, and therefore they are at risk of being considered guilty and in general the more guilty in proportion as his ignorance is more voluntary. That is, the guilt of the act of defection is measured by the degree of negligence discernible in the act.

    What concerns me is the liberal practice (encountered by such converts as Scott Hahn) of refusing to help people convert and rather suggesting “just be the best protestant / jew / muslim you can be, and everything will be alright”. The opposite extreme is Feenyism.

    We all have a duty to seek the truth and the will of God, and to follow it.

    The point is put very well by the Catholic Encyclopedia which says “Since, then, she [the Church] knows that the way of salvation is through union with her, that in her and in her alone are stored the benefits of the Passion, she must needs be uncompromising and even stern in the assertion of her claims. To fail here would be to fail in the duty entrusted to her by her Lord. Even where the message is unwelcome, she must deliver it.”

  37. Supertradmom says:

    “Go and teach all nation, baptizing in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.” I think this means proselytism is a duty, not an option.

    As to universal salvation, I, too, have been concerned about many Catholics who insist that a person following their conscience is saved. This heresy is probably the most common one and is based on a denial of Original Sin and the Salvific Act of Christ on the Cross, as well as on a relativistic view that all religions, or even religious sensibilities, are equal.

    As to sheep swimming, if they fall into a stream, they fall over and drown, as their wool gets too heavy. They can’t get up. Shepherds are absolutely necessary.

  38. Supertradmom says:

    And, do not forget the excellent article on who started all of this at

  39. Agnes says:

    nazareth priest said, “Agnes, from what I know from growing up on a farm, sheep are stupid. That’s why they need a shepherd…The Good Shepherd!”

    Boy, are we. And boy, do we ever.

  40. Ed the Roman says:

    It’s easy to get the sheep when you have the greenest grass.

  41. Rachel says:

    dcs and chcrix, thanks for fleshing out the story; it’s better than I remembered! And thanks to nazareth priest for the nice comment.

    Rien, I have a lot of friends too whom I hope are invincibly ignorant. But I’d say you can really believe the Church is wrong and still be guilty for it, because you should have known better. About what Pope Leo IX meant in practical terms, his full comments are in paragraphs 7 and 8 here, but concerning a lapsed Catholic the questions might be: Did he put up any real resistance to the loss of his faith? When he heard arguments against the Church, did he search for the Church’s counter-arguments? I don’t know the state of anyone’s soul, but if a Catholic simply abandons his responsibility to think and chooses to follow his feelings, that looks like culpable rather than invincible ignorance.

    Our good instincts of humility and pity cause us to look for the good in our non-Catholic friends and say they’ll probably get to Heaven before us. But following our principles to the logical conclusion, the most charitable and respectful thing one can possibly do for a non-Catholic is to strongly communicate the full extent of the danger he’s in. Jesus talked about Hell more than Heaven.

    If a non-Catholic dies, that’s the time to hope in invincible ignorance or last-second repentance, so that instead of giving up on him we can pray fervently for his soul. Before death, we should be concerned with what will get people into the Church, not what will make them comfortable outside of it.

    All this is my opinion, and I don’t live up to it very well.

  42. Melody says:

    To David2 and Rien:
    I think you are making an incorrect assumption on one point. These teachings do not support universal salvation in any way.
    One one hand, it is true that those outside the faith may be saved due to circumstances that reduce their culpability, such as ignorance, cultural bias, or the general absence of the Church.
    However, the spiritual handicap for those outside the Church is not negligible. It is extremely hard to live a holy life without benefit of the sacraments, most notably confession. However, there are some Non-Catholics in the world who dedicate themselves to works of mercy and uphold the moral law to the best of their knowledge and ability.

    Works of Mercy possible for nonbelievers are:
    * To feed the hungry
    * To give drink to the thirsty
    * To cloth the naked
    * To shelter the homeless
    * To visit the sick
    * To ransom the captive
    * To bury the dead
    * To bear wrongs patiently
    * To forgive offenses willingly
    * To comfort the afflicted

    But even the best of these will have to face purgatory. No doubt purgatory is much greater for those who did not believe in life.
    Most souls can never reach heaven without the Mercy of God obtained through the Sacraments, which is why evangelization is a work of mercy itself.

  43. MichaelJ says:

    If an individual is aware of the claims of the Catholic Church or could have become aware with very reasonable dilligence, their ignorance cannot be considered “invincible” can it?

  44. As a prelude to what I am going to say: I do not believe that being a good Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, or Buddhist, Hindu or whatever will in itself be the way to salvation.

    The Church is clear: Jesus Christ and His Church are the ordinary means to salvation. Period.
    How people are saved outside the arms of Mother Church is God’s own mysterious design, and I would not dare to speculate.

    However, numerous converts to the Catholic Church have told me that it was the example and faith of Catholics they knew that helped them to accept the truth that Jesus Christ founded a Church and that Church is the Catholic Church.

    Coming from a Protestant background, with extreme prejudices against the Catholic Church (all unfounded, but nevertheless, deep and emotional) I have to say that a lot of people who do not become Catholics are under the impression of a lot of error, ignorance, and just plain prejudice.

    Archbishop Sheen himself said that if he believed what non-Catholics believed about the Church, he would not want to be a member either.

    I think we have to give people the benefit of the doubt here; okay, maybe some are aware and just don’t want to give up their errors or sinful lifestyle.

    But there are plenty of people of good-will; my family members among them; who just do not GET IT.
    We have to pray and try to be a good example, “a lamp set upon the hill” so that others will come to know the joy and blessing of salvation in Christ in His Holy Catholic Church.

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