The heresy of indifferentism is the notion that all world religions have an equal chance at getting someone to heaven. Pope Leo XIII taught that the main problem with this heresy is that it overturns the unique mission of Jesus Christ to save people of every nation. In Satis Cognitum (AD 1896) Pope Leo XIII wrote, “The mission of Christ is to save that which had perished: that is to say, not some nations or peoples, but the whole human race, without distinction of time or place.”—Satis Cognitum, #4, emphasis mine.
Without weighing in on the Pentecostal’s implication of heresy and a One-World Religion of Pope Francis, I want to point to something that Bishop Athanasius Schneider recently said. He noted that we have had four main crises in the Church over 2,000 years. The first was the Arian crisis (fought by his namesake). The second was when the papacy was occupied by immoral people of the Roman Mafia in the 9th and 10th century. The third crisis was the great Western Schism (2 alleged Popes in the 14th century, resolved by St. Catherine of Siena.) The fourth is current. Bishop Athanasius Schneider says that we now live in a time of “relativism,” especially “doctrinal and moral” as well as “liturgical anarchy.”
Relativism is the philosophical root of the heresy of indifferentism. Relativism is reflected in phrases like “Whatever floats your boat” and “You have your truth and I have mine.” The theological root, however, comes down to a denial of original sin. Is each person born as a child of God? This is reflected in questions like, “Do you think only Catholics go to heaven?” You immediately feel a dump of epinephrine in your system. You understand very well they mean: “Does God hate everyone who is not-Christian?”
I usually answer this question with an analogy. Imagine an enormous ocean-liner where Hindus, Muslims, Jews and Christians are on the balcony enjoying the sunset. Jesus Christ walks the balcony and throws anyone overboard who does not have the ticket of baptism. This is the basic premise of the questioner who asks “Do you think all non-Catholics go to hell?” In other words, the secular person insists that everyone is born in union with God, but it is we Catholic/Christian fundamentalists want to present an angry Jesus who throws people overboard.
I like to present a different analogy that actually reflects the true doctrine of original sin. Imagine Jesus Christ is walking the balcony of an ocean-liner and there are people from every nation already overboard and drowning: Africans, Asians, Indians and Caucasians are drowning and surrounded by sharks. Jesus Christ throws each person a life-preserver (baptism) and offers to bring them into His boat (the Catholic Church) if only they will accept His love and mercy. The fact that they are already-overboard is the true teaching of original sin. Only when we understand original sin can we actually see Jesus the Savior of all nations…not the selectively-grumpy friend of Europeans.
Do you see the difference between the two analogies refers primarily to original sin? When people say “Do you think all non-Catholics go to hell?” they really mean “Is God mean to all non-Christians?” But if we can show them that the status-quo of humanity begins with separation from God (in the ocean, unbaptized) then we can understand Jesus as the Savior who really wants to save even the worst sinner from any nation.
The Pentecostals in the above link may not use terms like “heresy of indifferentism,” but they do know this: Jesus is not a savior of the human race. Rather, he is the only savior of the human race. This assumes that the status-quo of every person in humanity is separation-from-God. In fact, the following drawing did not originally come from Protestants, but rather from St. Catherine of Siena:
That chasm makes each of us a separated enemy of God. Even the greatest saint (except the Mother of God who herself was saved pre-emptively by the Passion of Christ before sin could set-in) was at one point an enemy of God through original sin. Yes, literally an enemy, but by our decision, not God’s. “For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life.”—Romans 5:10. This is preceded by my favorite line in the Bible: “But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”—Romans 5:8.
By the way, if you need a direct answer to that question on salvation, give them the answer of Pope Pius IX: “By Faith it is to be firmly held that outside the Apostolic Roman Church none can achieve salvation. This is the only ark of salvation. He who does not enter into it, will perish in the flood. Nevertheless equally certainly it is to be held that those who suffer from invincible ignorance of the true religion, are not, for this reason, guilty in the eyes of the Lord.”—Pope Pius IX, Denzinger 1647 (Ott 312)
But if you have the time and ability to explain the love behind the theology of original sin, do that! Then they will understand that “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.”—John 3:17. Then they will understand that it was not exclusivism but love that led the Apostles to proclaim that “there is no other name under Heaven given to men whereby we must be saved.”—Acts 4:12. Pope Leo XIII adds, “The Church, therefore, is bound to communicate without stint to all men, and to transmit through all ages, the salvation effected by Jesus Christ.”
—Fr. Dave Nix. See more writing at www.padreperegrino.org