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“Ask a Priest: Raised Catholic, Now a Lutheran – Can I Be Saved?”
Q: I was raised Catholic but must admit that in my 20s I completely fell away from the Church. I met, fell in love with and married a Lutheran girl whose family was very involved with their church. I became a Lutheran who since then attends church regularly and has become passionate about my faith in Christ. I know there are some differences in the churches but from a lay perspective they seem so similar. My question is how would the Catholic Church view my road to salvation — given my circumstances, will I be saved? – R.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: The Catholic Church isn’t here to make judgments about the fate of people who leave for another faith. God alone knows the heart and mind of each person.
In any case, a prudent person of any creed shouldn’t presume he will be saved automatically. “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).
What the Church does do is propose the fullness of the teachings of Christ and the apostles. Among those teachings are the ones in regards to the sacraments.
While the Lutherans might share a number of things in common with the Catholic Church, they don’t have some key ingredients that Jesus gave us, such as the sacraments of the Eucharist or confession. They don’t recognize the priesthood or the papacy. And they don’t have the seven deuterocanonical books in their Old Testament.
In other words, the Christianity that Lutherans embrace is shorn of crucial elements. This isn’t to question the sincerity of Lutherans — I’m sure that many of them are trying to lead Christian lives — but it is unfortunate that those who broke with the Church in the 16th century left aside various gifts that Christ gave in order to help us reach heaven.
As for your personal journey, you are certainly entitled to follow your conscience. Following one’s conscience can help bring a person to heaven someday.
You might want to reflect sometime on why you fell away from the Catholic Church. It is here waiting, should you decide to return. To help your own reflection, I’d recommend a book of personal stories from people who journeyed into the Catholic faith from other communities: Surprised by Truth, edited by Patrick Madrid.
If you have a deep relationship with Christ, that is wonderful. Perhaps someday you will rediscover the beauty of his real presence in the Eucharist, and in his workings through the other sacraments.
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I disagree with this response from the good father. Knowing that the Church he left contains the full deposit of the faith with all seven sacraments of the Church, he is bound in conscience to come back to the Church.