Question: Are Protestants who accept Jesus as the means to salvation but reject the tenets of the Catholic faith denied salvation?
— Vernon Edwards, Nelsonville, Ohio
Answer: The Catholic Church, reflecting the teaching of Jesus, has a very generous stance on who may be saved. Those who may be saved include all men and women of good will, that is all who seek to live good lives and follow the best lights of their consciences. This includes Protestants who are baptized into Christ.
It is probably the case that most Protestants do not have a strong grasp of the tenets of the Catholic faith which they reject (just as most Catholics lack knowledge of what Protestants profess). Protestants who reject some tenets of Catholicism generally do so in good faith. Divisions between Christians are the unfortunate legacy of history and cannot be blamed on Christians today.
The Decree on Ecumenism of the Second Vatican Council points out: “One cannot charge with the sin of the separation [between Christian churches and communities] those who at present are born into these communities and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers” (No. 3). The same paragraph states: “It remains true that all who have been justified by faith in baptism are incorporated into Christ; and therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.”
The Catholic Church does not reject non-Catholic Christian communities as of no significance or as places in which salvation is not operative. The decree puts the matter in these words: “It follows that the separated Churches and communities as such ... have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation” (ibid.).
Place of organ, choir
Question: As a deacon in a parish in which there is controversy about the renovation of a historic church, what do official guidelines say about the place of the choir and the organ? This is a hot topic for us.
— Name and address withheld
Answer: Official liturgical guidelines do not offer much in the way of specific guidance on the place of the choir and the organ. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal states: “The choir should be positioned with respect to the design of each church so as to make clearly evident its character as a part of the gathered community of the faithful fulfilling a specific function. The location should also assist the choir to exercise its function more easily and conveniently allow each member full, sacramental participation in the Mass” (No. 312).
The “organ and other lawfully approved musical instruments” should be placed “in an appropriate place so that they can sustain the singing of both the choir and the congregation and be heard with ease by all if they are played alone” (No. 313).
My experience in this matter leads me to suggest that choirs and organs should be placed where they can function the best, but should not be obtrusive or distracting. In historic churches there are generally choir and organ lofts at the rear of the church. These will often be found to be the best place for musicians and instruments.
Msgr. M. Francis Mannion is a priest and theologian of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Send your questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to firstname.lastname@example.org. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.