How the Catholic Church views the legitimacy and authority of these other faith
Whether the Catholic Church believes that the members of these other
groups have a chance of being saved. The Catholic Church teaches that individuals who are
not saved spend
eternity after death being tortured in Hell with no
hope of relief.
The historical teaching of the Roman Catholic Church was "Extra
Ecclesiam nulla salus" (Outside the church, there is no salvation). That is,
for a person to be saved -- and avoid Hell -- it is absolutely necessary that they be subject to the Pope. All
Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and followers of other non-Christian religions were
destined for Hell. All members of Protestant, Anabaptist, Mormon, and other
Christian denominations were headed there as well.
This position was moderated significantly by two documents written in the
late 20th century:
The "Second Vatican Council's Declaration on the relation of the Church to
non-Christian religions" issued in 1976
"Dominus Iesus" written by Pope Benedict XVI in the year 2000 when, as
Cardinal Ratzinger, he was the Prefect of the Congregation for
the Doctrine of the Faith.
These documents state that Jesus created only a single church, now comprising
the Roman Catholic Church together with a number of other Churches that also share a valid Eucharist and Apostolic Succession: 1 [Apostolic succession is the belief held by some Christian denominations that their current bishops have spiritual and ecclesiastical authority that can be traced by an unbroken chain of proper ordinations back to the Apostles, and thus to Christ, in the first century CE.] Roman Catholics recognize the validity of the apostolic successions of their bishops, and therefore the rest of their clergy, as well as the clergy of the Eastern Orthodox Churches. Wikipedia also lists other churches whose apostolic succession is recognized by the Roman Catholic Church:
Old Catholic, and
some Independent Catholic Churches. 2
We are attempting to find a complete authoritative list.
The Roman Catholic Church teaches that all other Christian denominations to not feature Apostolic Succession, and thus are not "proper" churches; they are viewed as suffering from "defects." Religions other than Christianity are
considered to be "gravely deficient." Their rituals
constitute "an obstacle to salvation" for their
followers. Still, the Catholic Church now recognizes that it is possible for some
individuals who are not members of churches that have maintained apostolic succession to attain Heaven. 3,4
Some consider the Catholic Church's views to be
extremely arrogant and their claims to Apostolic Succession to be ridiculous. However, the Catholic Church is not alone in believing that
they alone have the "fullness of truth" while all other Christian faith traditions are viewed as being in error. So, any
criticism of the Catholic Church for their stand concerning other faith groups
must also be leveled at the Jehovah's Witnesses,
Mormons, Southern Baptists,
Unificationists, and countless other Christian denominations.
Joseph Card. Ratzinger, " 'Dominus Iesus' on the unicity and salvific universality of Jesus Christ and the Church," Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, The Vatican, 2000-AUG-06, at: http://www.vatican.va/