Evangelization and Doctrine: Two Sides of the Same Coin
Catholic Apologetics #15
“Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Matthew 28:20-21).
Evangelization Necessitates Doctrine
As reported by news outlets including LifeSiteNews on April 29th, Pope Francis plans to put in place a reorganization of Vatican agencies which will place evangelization in priority ahead of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.[i] Such a claim is unfortunately not a satirical headline but an actual initiative by the Vatican. Despite what these so-called reformers claim, evangelization and doctrine are two sides of the same coin. It is impossible to please God without the Faith (cf. Hebrews 11:6) and it is impossible to spread the Faith and save souls without teaching them sound doctrine (2 Timothy 4:3).
Concerning the virtue of Faith, the Catechism of St. Thomas Aquinas, composed by the Angelic Doctor himself, expounds on this notion when he writes, “The first thing that is necessary for every Christian is faith, without which no one is truly called a faithful Christian.” To be a Christian it is necessary to possess faith – faith in God and in all that His Holy Church teaches. Those who reject certain dogmatic teachings (e.g. Purgatory, the necessity of Confession to a priest, Transubstantiation, et cetera) reject the entirety of the Faith since to reject part of what is necessary for salvation is to reject it wholly. To be a Catholic, one must profess faith in all that the Church teaches, since to reject one dogma is to reject them all, as St. Thomas explains: “…a heretic with regard to one article has no faith in the other articles, but only a kind of opinion in accordance with his own will.”[ii]
As further defined in the Church’s 1983 Code of Canon Law:
“A person must believe with divine and Catholic faith all those things contained in the word of God, written or handed on, that is, in the one deposit of faith entrusted to the Church, and at the same time proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn magisterium of the Church or by its ordinary and universal magisterium which is manifested by the common adherence of the Christian faithful under the leadership of the sacred magisterium; therefore all are bound to avoid any doctrines whatsoever contrary to them…therefore, one who rejects those propositions which are to be held definitively is opposed to the doctrine of the Catholic Church.”[iii]
As such, to claim one may evangelize without prioritizing doctrine is nonsensical! It is not possible to win over souls with anything less than the full and complete Catholic Faith. The Catholic Faith in its entirety is the complete truth, and it is by this truth alone that we can be saved (cf. John 8:31).
The Catholic Faith Is Necessary for Salvation
A fundamental error with Modernism and those who have succumbed to it, is that they refuse to embrace extra ecclesiam nulla salus (“outside of the Church there is no salvation”). Pope Innocent III formally declared at the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215: “There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved.” His Holiness Innocent III unequivocally declared that all men must belong to the Church founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ in order to be saved. And how can adult converts truly belong to the Church if they have not been taught what a Catholic believes? They can’t!
Subsequently, Pope Boniface VIII made the matter even more clear when in 1302 he proclaimed, “We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff” (Unam Sanctam, 1302).And these pronouncements are not the only ones issued by the Holy Catholic Church. The Church continues to teach that outside of the Church there is no salvation. Period. The Church is unchanging in matters of Faith and Doctrine. If it is true that in the past salvation was possible only for Catholics and if this is not true now, then the Faith has changed. But the Faith cannot change because God doesn’t change. As the Scriptures affirm: “Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrew 13:8).
Back when Catholic Bishops better proclaimed the Catholic Faith, Archbishop John Hughes of New York, who was Archbishop from 1842 until 1864, said: “The goal of the Catholic Church is to convert all pagan nations and protestant nations. There is no secrecy in this; it is the commission of God to His one true Church. Everyone should know that we have for our mission to convert the world, including the inhabitants of the United States: the people of the cities, the peoples of the country, the officers of the Navy and the Marines, the commanders of the Army, the Legislature, the Senate, the Cabinet, the President and all.”
And we do this because Our Lord commanded us to convert all peoples and nations. Why? Because He is the only means to be saved. “For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Sadly, with the crisis in the Church only intensifying, we must take a firm and unwavering stand to boldly uphold all doctrines possible. As Our Lord reminds us, “He therefore that shall break one of these least commandments, and shall so teach men, shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven. But he that shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19).
Want to read more?
Latest Catholic Apologetics