St. John the Apostle once complained to Jesus:
“Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us.”Mk 9:38
Jesus responded by basically saying everyone who works in His name is on the same team:
“Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us…”Mk 9:39-42
Here, we see a man who does not have the authority of the Apostles, but is still working in Jesus’ name. This made me think of some common questions:
Do we Catholics think we’re the only true Christians?
No, we recognize that all other religions who believe that Jesus is God (who became incarnate, died for us, rose from the dead, and is now in Heaven) are true Christians. In fact if you were to get baptized in one of those religions and then converted to Catholicism, you wouldn’t get re-baptized because we recognize the validity of Baptism in all truly Christian communities. All Christians are working toward the same goal: drawing closer to Jesus and drawing as many people to Him as possible.
In St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises, the retreatants are asked to picture a great battle between Jesus and Satan and to reflect on whether each of their actions have them battling under Jesus’ banner or Satan’s. Whether they are within the fullness of the Mystical Body of Christ or not, those who work in Jesus’ name are operating under His banner.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church recognizes:
…many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church…CCC 819
Does that mean there is no difference between Catholic Christians and non-Catholic Christians?
No. While, we’re on the same team, only Catholics have the fullness of the truth (all of the teachings), apostolic authority (bishops who are successors to the apostles with the bishop of Rome [Pope] as their head), and all of the Sacraments (Baptism, Reconciliation, Confirmation, Communion, Marriage, Holy Orders, and Anointing of the Sick).
If elements of sanctification and truth are found outside of the Catholic Church, does that mean the Catholic Church doesn’t have ALL the elements of sanctification and truth?
Any elements of sanctification and truth found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church are also found within her. The Catholic Church possesses the fullness of truth and sanctification (not just part of it)–that’s one of the definitions of Catholic (see CCC 830). We definitely recognize the good being done in other Christian religions, but we know that same type of work can be done in the Catholic Church. I recognize in the work of non-Catholics like Randy Clark a great charism of healing, given to him by God, but I also see it in Catholics like Fr. Matthias Thelen.
So, what about non-Christians? Do we believe they are totally wrong or is there anything good in those religions?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church recognizes that, in fact, all religions (not just Christians) have pieces of the truth (some more than others):
The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life. (CCC 843, emphasis mine)
So, in all of these religions, there are pieces of truth that are actually preparing those people to receive the fullness of truth that God has to offer in the Catholic Church.
See more here (1:06:00 – 1:12:25 in the video in tandem with the first handout).