ONE RELIGION AS GOOD AS ANOTHER?
There are certain noble-sounding untruths that are uttered time and time again by unthinking men. One of them takes this kind of pattern: "The world’s great religions may differ from one another externally, in their traditions and ceremonies. But at heart they are all the same. They are like different doors into the one great temple." Or, "they are merely different roads taken to reach the same final destination."
The man who talks like that gets a twofold kind of satisfaction. In the first place he can feel wonderfully broadminded – he is a man of universal sympathies, in contract to the fanatic adhering to his rigid creed. And in the second place, he feels himself to be a wonderfully deep thinker: so many people fuss about superficialities, but he, with his greater wisdom, puts his finger right on the nub of the problem.
Let us look at the question, IS ONE RELIGION AS GOOD AS ANOTHER, from the viewpoint of the Catholic Faith which is based on Holy Scripture and Tradition.
St. Paul teaches plainly that the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, and that Christ, Our Lord is Head of that Body. Therefore, the Church and Christ are one. Further, since His Church was, is, and will be until the end of time, it is absolutely true to say that "Outside the Church there is no salvation." This was brought home forcefully to me about ten years ago when I was reading this startling statement of St. Cyprian: "You cannot have God for your Father unless you have the Church for your Mother."
You may say that this is a harsh statement, and I want to disagree. Now, wait a minute and let me explain. You may belong to the One, True, Church in two ways: you become a member of the Church at baptism and, as you grow up, after you reach the age of reason and the teaching of the Church is presented to you, and you accept her teaching and profess it wholeheartedly. Again you may join the Church late in life, at the llth hour we say, but you thereby become a full-fledge member of the One, True Church. Whichever way it happens, you become a member of the visible Church.
But there is also the invisible Church, the many millions known to God alone who belong to the Church in desire. In several encyclicals of recent popes we see them appealing to men of good will. There are countless millions who are men of good will. In order to belong to the invisible Church, one must believe in God, avoid evil, do good, follow one’s conscience and that Light of which St. John speaks in the prologue to his Gospel when he tells us that God "enlightens every man who is born into this world." That is, God gives to every man who reaches the use of reason sufficient grace to save his soul.
The Catholic Faith is a tremendous gift and not one of us appreciates it as he should. There are many obstacles that are experienced by these millions of "good will" which keep them out of the visible Church. The Faith is not preached to them, they have strong prejudices that they simply cannot overcome, and there are many, many other hindrances. But the Good God loves all men because each is His special creation, and He desires them to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, as St. Paul wrote to Timothy. This is absolute truth: God will save every man who gives Him a chance to do so.
To return to the question: IS ONE RELIGION AS GOOD AS ANOTHER? We know that there is some good and truth in every religion. If there weren’t, no one would belong to it. But the fullness of truth is to be found in the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church. The Second Vatican Council about ten years ago reminded us of that fact. The Council also pointed out that there is some truth – in some instances – a lot of truth in other religions, especially among our Protestant brothers. But the Catholic conscience is quite clear: Our Lord founded One Church which will last to the end of time, and all men have an obligation to search for that Church.
The moment you make the statement that ONE RELIGION IS AS GOOD AS ANOTHER, you have opened your mouth and stuck a great big foot into it. The moment you make that statement, you have accepted all other religious practices – for example Hinduism, and you have to go along with their beliefs and practices.