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Karen North wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • In the pre-Vatican II Church, did the Church believe Protestants (non-Catholic Christians) were going to Hell?
  • Is there now a movement in the Catholic Church to go back to a Pre-Vatican II era?
  • Is Pope Benedict in support of this?

My friend (not a Catholic) was telling me this was happening.


  { Did the pre-Vatican II Church believe Protestants were going to Hell and is there a move back? }

John replied:

Hi, Karen —

Thanks for your question.

For the record, the Catholic Church has never officially said anyone is in Hell.

Prior to Vatican II some individuals in the Church held to an erroneous understanding of Church doctrine.

The Church teaches and has always taught: “Outside the Church there is no Salvation.

That is to be understood as meaning the Catholic Church is the Church founded by Christ Himself.  As such, it is in, and through the Church, that it is possible for men to be saved. The Church is the Body of Christ and therefore Christ acts in and through His Body.

That said, were it not for the Church, there would be no Salvation; with that we recognize that there is one Baptism and one Church. Even Protestants are Catholics, in an imperfect way. They are called by the Holy Spirit to continue to pursue the truth. Of course, they would deny this but, the fact is, a Protestant is simply a Protesting Catholic.

Returning to your question, some people misunderstood this doctrine and took it to mean one had to be a card carrying Catholic in order to have a chance of being saved. Well, the Church has never taught that and will never teach that any particular person will go to Hell.

Hell was made for satan and his demons, not for people. Some people will go there, but we don't know whom. At best, we can think or speculate that Judas Iscariot who betrayed Christ went to Hell. There are some texts in the book of Acts that seem to imply that he was condemned, but the Church has never officially said this.

The Catholic Church is the same Church: pre-Vatican II or post-Vatican II. Vatican II didn't change anything we believe. It couldn't if it wanted to. The doctrines of the Church may develop, but in the process, they never negate anything that was previously believed. Again, it's important to distinguish between actual doctrines and theological opinions some may have held.

At any rate, the Church can't go back to Pre-Vatican II era because it didn't go anywhere to begin with. Now, there were changes in practice. For instance:

  • the Western Church or Latin Rite stopped requiring the Mass to be said in Latin.
  • the priest started facing the people instead of the altar

but these aren't doctrinal changes. They are disciplines and, in that respect, there are some who still enjoy the old disciplines, some of which are being restored, but not across the board.

For instance, the Latin Tridentine Mass is offered in every diocese but it's considered extraordinary. You won't find it in every parish. There is also a movement to restore a sense of tradition, majesty, and reverence during the Liturgy and that's pretty much a good thing.

For close to fifty years, there has been a lot of uncalled for and unauthorized experimentation, but Vatican II never authorized those changes. They were abuses. A bunch of people decided they could go crazy and change anything they wanted to.

The Church made a few changes so people could better understand what was happening during the Mass. That's it.

Well I hope this helps,

John DiMascio

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