I have excerpted this response in full below because I believe it touches upon a crucial challenge facing all serious Catholics and other serious Christians.
My intent here is not to disparage or disprove Ann's assertion regarding the essential role of the Roman Catholic Church in salvation, but rather to focus attention on Ann's understanding that attaining salvation within the Roman Catholic Church is now dependent upon a high and unprecedented level of individual discernment.
The overarching point in my criticism of the bishop's appeal to return to Mass was pegged to my observation that any Roman Catholic who blindly obeys church authority in this time and place is setting himself or herself for self-damnation. In her post, Ann basically agrees discernment is necessary, but posits that this fact does not negate the essential-ness of the Church in salvation.
I believe countless souls have attained salvation through the Church, and I believe individuals can still attain salvation through the Church today - but as Ann points out, attaining salvation within the Church today requires an immense amount of personal discernment:
Dear Francis Berger,
Today you took exception to Bishop Robert Brown's appeal for Catholic's to return to Mass. I can see that you are very angry and some of that is indeed righteous anger. Our shepherds have let us down. They closed down the churches to all but a few for several months and thus relinquished the "last" of their authority to the System.
They were already in the process of abdicating to the System before the Covids hit through allowing the System to dictate what is taught in Catholic schools, allowing non-Catholic procedures in what were once Catholic hospitals and giving only token resistance to System sanctioned sins such as abortion and same sex "marriage".
Added to this we have the sexual abuse scandals within the Church. This helped to whittle away the Church's moral authority in the world. It stopped the Church from insisting upon that moral authority. She had to remove the plank from her own eye.
We have also been suffering under 2 Popes. One is virtually silent and the other makes ambiguous statements hoping to mollify the System.
Most of these things were already happening prior to the Covid and it made me think that because the prophecies of the End Times predicted the cessation of the Mass then the End Times were a long way off since who would persecute such an innocuous institution. It rolls over for every command of the System. Little did I realise that it was the rolling over that would cause the Mass to stop.
So there you are, many reasons for righteous anger. If only we were Jesus and could stay on anger's righteous side. For mixed up in the righteousness is also spite. You say, to leave the Church and follow to a new unprecedented form of Christianity for this is where salvation lies. I say that salvation still lies within the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church unlike the American constitution does not need virtuous citizens to be effective, she was designed by God for sinners, which is lucky for us. Jesus said that she would last until the end of time and the gates of Hell would not prevail against her. (Matt 16:18.) and it is Jesus who gives her her authority. It is also within the Church that we find the sacraments, including the Eucharist and these are for our benefit; a gift from God. We do not need to follow the Bishops who push the vaccine or agree with the Pope's view on climate change. We do need to follow the Magisterium, the truths that the Church has held since the beginning. This includes that the Mass and the Eucharist are essential. The Church was wrong when she prevented us from going and receiving. She is right when she asks us to come back. As Fr Clovis said back in 2017, "It is self-evident that the Catholic Church and the anti-Church currently co-exist in the same sacramental, liturgical and juridical space." It is our job to discern the way the truth and the life and to stay in the Catholic Church and stay out of the anti-Church.
I left the following comment in response:
Thanks for this thoughtful response to my post. Our only real point of disagreement is the role of the Church in salvation. You believe the church is essential to salvation. I, on the other hand, do not.
Contrary to what you allege, this belief does not emanate from spite, but from the conviction that God would not arrange things in such a way as to make staying in the Church essential to salvation. And I say this as someone who still attends Mass regularly and whose son serves as an altar boy every Sunday.
We appear to agree on the importance of personal discernment within the RCC, but very few Catholics I know seem to understand the deeper implications of what this individual discernment within the RCC means and where it leads. A recent comment by Bruce Charlton provides some clarifying insight on the matter:
"Catholics such as yourself claim to be obedient to 'the church' yet everything you do shows that you personally are discerning, picking-and-choosing, within the RC church - even to the level of disobeying the Pope and obeying only a small, selected-by-you minority of Bishops and priests within the church.
This seems to be In Fact a very different way of behaving than a Catholic of 400, 200, 100 years ago. Indeed, I think it is impossible to be a Catholic in the old sense - probably because the RCC (top to bottom, everywhere) is so incoherent and changeable that traditional simple obedience is unattainable.
My point is that you (and all serious Roman Catholics in 2021) apparently Just Are discerning (picking-and-choosing), on personal grounds, all the time, within the RCC; and that this practice invalidates your 'timeless' arguments concerning the nature of the RCC and its place in the scheme of salvation."
Dr. Charlton's observations concerning discernment among Roman Catholics touches upon the larger issue of consciousness. Like it or not, Roman Catholics do not think about, understand, or relate to the Church in the same manner Roman Catholics did in the past. This in itself poses a serious challenge to the "timeless" concept of the Church being sole avenue to the way, the truth, and the life.
And this does not even address the concept of the anti-Church within the Church - that the RCC itself has changed decisively in the past century, which once again poses a serious challenge to the "timeless" arguments concerning the nature of the Church and its necessary role in salvation.
Like Ann, I believe Catholics can attain salvation through the Church, and I am confident Catholics like Ann can still achieve salvation with the Church.
Unlike Ann, I am convinced that salvation is also attainable outwith the Church. Moreover, that the increased level of personal discernment required to attain salvation within the Church is a testament to this reality.
And yes, I still believe that any Christian who blindly obeys church authority in this time and place is setting himself or herself up for trouble.