The Gospel of DesireIn the April 23, 2005 World Magazine, Edward Veith said, among other things:
In one area, the late pope was not traditional at all. By emphasizing that good works are the fruit of God's grace, he had many Lutherans and evangelicals thinking that Catholics now agree with them on justification by faith. But the pope applied this principle to other religions, as well. If Muslims and Hindus demonstrate good works, that must be a sign of God's grace. Now, Catholics are teaching that not just other Christians but believers in other religions can be saved, even apart from conscious faith in Jesus Christ. This ecumenical theology tallies well with relativism, making Catholicism palatable to our new polytheistic culture.That is not an accurate description of this Catholic teaching. George MacDonald does a better job in The Princess and Curdie:
"All men, if they do not take care, go downhill to the animal's country; many men are actually, all their lives, going to be beasts. People knew it once, but it is long since they forgot it."The liberal idea is that all roads lead to heaven. Protestant teaching is that Christ is the only road that leads to heaven. Catholic teaching is even more restrictive: the Holy Catholic Church, the Body of Christ, is the only road that leads to heaven[1,3]. Vatican II says that God is faithful, and will not suffer any to be lost who set foot on that road in faith. A one sentence summary is, "Be true to the light that you have, and God will give you more light."
The Catholic idea is that a sincere Protestant who is faithful to the truth of Scripture, will eventually come to embrace the full truth of the Catholic Church as he seeks after God. Many Protestants do come to that point in this life, but the new clarification concerns those who do not become visible members of the Catholic Church before they die. Prior to Vatican II, it was assumed that these poor Protestants were condemned to Hellfire. The clarification is that those Protestants, and others, who have begun the journey to Catholic faith, can be saved.
In the early church, many believers were martyred before they could be baptized. There was concern as to whether these souls were lost, since Christ commanded us to "believe and be baptized". The decision of the elders was that these martyrs had a "baptism of blood". Their sincere desire to obey the Lord in baptism counted as baptism in the face of their death. Hence, the "Gospel of Desire". Those who are seeking after God, and obey the light they receive, will be given more light, and on are their way to becoming Catholic - even if death intervenes.
This is indeed different from a typical Protestant formula, but Protestants such as George MacDonald C.S. Lewis had a view closer to the Catholics (the young Calormene in The Last Battle, The Great Divorce). The important point is that the Catholic teaching is the opposite of the Liberal idea that "all roads lead to heaven": there is but one Way and one Church that leads to Heaven. Be sure you are on that Way.
 Dominus Iesus, On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of JesusChrist and the Church
 Catechism of the Catholic Church, para. 818, 819
 ibid, para. 846
 ibid, para. 847
Posted 1/31/2006 at 11:15 PM