My Personal Christian Blog

Thanks for sliding into my blog site. This blog bog is a spin-off from my website at Call me a Night Owl, as my full-time mission and hobby are jabbering from midnight until 8 a.m.ish with chatter bugs across the world. Hoot, hoot! Being a retired newspaper guy and a Curious George, I've written and assembled a whack of stuff that I hope you'll find interesting and thought-provoking. Check out the Stories bar on the right side, below, for all my articles - from my web site and this blog.

February 15, 2019


By Paul Tatham

I wanted to know what Roman Catholicism (RC) teaches about how one can get to Heaven.

So I phoned 22 local RC parishes (individual RC churches) in the Florida city where I live, and talked to the “pastor” (the head “father”) or, if not available, an assistant priest. I figured that if anyone could answer my question they could.

I told them that I was retired and starting to think about the future. So that I might get a clearer answer, less adulterated by any denominational slant, I told them I was nominally religious with little spiritual upbringing.

That was a lie, but since it was what RCs call a venial sin (minor sin) I figured God would cut me some slack.

These are the verbatim responses I got:

I was directed to “the very reverend Father _____.” The receptionist repeated that I was to address him as such. I didn’t. Another venial sin.

1. “Contact your nearest RC parish and you can start taking classes, get baptized, etc.”

2. “That’s quite a question. Ummm…only God knows. Believe in God and His goodness and get direction in your life. Then believe and be of good conscience. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.”

3. “Live the laws of God, as summarized in the New Testament—love God and love your neighbor as yourself”

“Is that it?” I asked. “Yup,” he said.

4. “Hmmm…that’s a good question. I suggest that you follow the dictates of your conscience. You must live your faith, love your neighbor, and do your obligations. Help your neighbor. We have an RCIA class you can take. Read the New Testament and reflect on it. Just read small passages at a time.”

5. “It depends on how you live your life. You must practice your faith. Love God and others. Be a good person. You don’t have to be an RC to get into Heaven. Only God knows who is going to Heaven.”

6. “Get baptized. Follow the Ten Commandments. Love your neighbor. Go to church. Do your best. Live a good life. Pray. If you do these things, you can be pretty sure you’ll go to Heaven. This is a good time for you to come into The Church, because it’s Lent.”

7. “The answer to your question is JESUS. If you wish to find Him, you have to be guided by the True Church that He has founded, to the Church that has the fullness of the truth and the Church that has the fullness of salvation: the Catholic Church. Please find the nearest Catholic Church in your area and start your journey to Heaven while it is not yet late. I will keep you in my prayers that as you seek for Him you will be able to discover His loving presence into your life. Remember, He loves you, and He will do everything so that you will be with Him in His kingdom.”

8. “You need to come to a RC church. Receive the sacraments—baptism, confession, etc—to gain the graces of God.”

9. “Hmmm….love your neighbor as Christ loved you. Confession—that’s the first thing. Do reconciliation. Find out what you are lacking. Get back to church—the sacraments, communion, and prayer.”

10. “Jesus died so that we can go to Heaven. Everyone goes to Heaven if they accept the love and presence of God in their life. We must accept God’s love, through communion with other believers, mass, etc. Try to be a better person. Go to penance.”

11. “You have to go to church. Prayers. Rosary. Go to mass every Sunday. Observe the holy days. Confession, at least annually. Get back in the groove. Get remarried in a RC church. Ask your local priest. Be in a state of grace. Document your baptism, so that there’s proof.”

12. “The Catholic Church teaches us that Jesus is the Son of God. He teaches us what we need. We belong to God. Follow the Ten Commandments . . . no getting out of that!  Baptism. Sacraments. Believe in the RC Church. Love God. Love your neighbor. Read the gospels, asking God to guide you.”

13. “The Apostle Paul says we are spirit, soul, and body. The spirit and soul live on. Achieve peace and well-being. Use contemplative prayer. You have to meditate on the gospel to find the truth. Scripture doesn’t make sense if you take it literally. Don’t fall into the fundamentalist straight-jacket way of interpreting. John 8:32 says ‘the truth shall make you free.’ You need a meditative prayer life. 

You need ‘Centering Prayer’ to achieve harmony of body, soul, and spirit. Look up—it focuses on ‘Centering Prayer.’ Not just RCs are welcome. If you practice it, you will go to Heaven. We’re ‘independent Catholics.’”

14. “This is a good time for you, because it’s Lent. Take classes. There is only one real personal God. We were created to be in Heaven. God is love. Love makes life worth living. God stepped into history to show us the way to live a good life and save us. Jesus was God in the flesh. He is the only path to salvation. He died for our sins. He left us a church—the Roman Catholic Church. 

Take a course, get baptized, then become a child of God. Then follow the means of salvation—confession, prayer, serving. Do the best you can. Jesus died for you on the cross. You have a firm hope. Unlike Protestants, there is no ‘sinner’s prayer’—no guarantee. I would never presume upon God by saying I’m going to Heaven. I’m doing the best I can.”

15. “That’s an interesting question. Do you want the bare minimum to get in?” I told him yes. “You must believe in God and that Jesus was His Son. God sent His Son to save us. You must belong to the faith. It’s more than an intellectual assent. You must invite him into your life. 

It’s a relationship, a living faith. It’s a pilgrimage. You live your life through love. Not just Catholics, or Christians, will get into Heaven. If I’m a Hindu, but never heard the gospel, God could possibly let me in.”

16. “In its simplest form, to get to Heaven you have to follow the Ten Commandments. Live a good life. Get baptized, although baptism is not always necessary as long as you lead a good life. You don’t have to be RC, but as long as you live a good life, according to your religion, you’ll likely get into Heaven. To go to Heaven, you have to love God and have a relationship with Him. 

Believe in Jesus. Follow some kind of Christian life. Fellowship with other Christians. If you do these things you have a pretty good shot at Heaven. The Bible says we have a “sure hope,” which means more of a certainty than just ‘hoping’ in the way we generally use that word. But we can never know with 100% certainty that we’re going to Heaven.”

17. “Believe in Jesus Christ, then you’ll live your life according to the gospel.” He assured me that was all I needed.

18. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. You can’t earn it, and your belief has to be more than just an intellectual assent. Get baptized. It doesn’t take years of study. God deals with each person differently. Be engaged with The Church. Google ‘catechism of the catholic church.’”

19. “Ummm . . . see that Scripture about believing in Me and following Me. Love God and your neighbor. Repent of your sins—this is an ongoing thing, not a one-time deal. Don’t commit a mortal sin. Hang in there and be Christlike.”

20. “Jesus said, in Luke 10:25-28, that the greatest commandment is to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Have a relationship with God.” He then talked about the rich young ruler who could not give up everything and follow Jesus. “How you follow Jesus is very personal—different for every person. Love God. Love everybody, Follow the commandments. Most importantly, care for the poor.”

21. “It’s a lot easier than most people think. Follow the Ten Commandments, as summarized in the New Testament—‘Love the Lord thy God . . . and thy neighbor as thyself.’ Treat others well. Respect God. Go to church.”

I also got an e-mail from the same church:

22. “You had called our office and spoke to Deacon regarding questions on spirituality and entering Heaven. There are two bible sessions that have just started that you might want to consider with these questions in mind. Fr _____ started a class on Wednesday evenings (7 pm to 8:30 pm): Each one of us has tremendous dignity because each of us is created in the image of God. 

We are more than a mass of cells reacting to environmental stimuli.  Father _____ will be leading a discussion on these matters on Wednesday evening in our PLC. Deacon ______ just started a Men’s Bible study which will be a six week walk through the Sunday readings for Lent. Be prepared each Sunday with advanced knowledge of how the Church is urging us to change our lives--Thursday from 7:15 pm to 8:30 pm in the PLC.”

Here are some conclusions I think we can safely draw from these conversations:

    (1) I got the impression that these pastors had rarely, if ever, been asked such a question. They would typically respond with something like, “Well, let me see now. That’s good question.” It was almost as if they had never thought of it before.

    (2) Little Scriptural support for their beliefs.    Instead of “the Bible says” you get “The Church says.”

I had to chase several pastors, re-phoning and re-emailing, for over a week. Sometimes I would leave a message that I was worried about going to Heaven. Still no response or apparent concern. Those of us who have a burden for lost souls would jump at such an opportunity to share the gospel. Perhaps the reason RCs are not much interested in evangelism is that they believe there are many paths to Heaven, as evidenced in their responses.

    (3) RCs have no certainty of Heaven. They can only hope to make it.

    (4) RCism uses some of the same jargon evangelicals use and stand for some of the same moral issues we do (abortion, homosexuality, etc), but that doesn’t mean we’re on the same “team.”

    (5) Salvation is often expressed in vague, abstract terms (e.g. “believe in God and His goodness and get direction in your life”). Whatever that means!

    (6) RCism prides itself on the claim that they speak with one voice. This means that, unlike Protestants, RCs take a consistent, clear position on all Bible doctrines and practices. Within Protestant denominations there is often a fairly wide diversity of opinion on issues such as baptism, footwashing, pre-destination, the Sabbath, the Holy Spirit, eschatology. etc.

RCs sometimes scoff at Protestants and their disarrayed beliefs while taking comfort in their perception that “The Church” avoids that confusion. Their beliefs and practices emanate from Rome alone, while Protestants are a trumpet giving an uncertain sound (I Cor 14:8).

But if the above simple phone-survey sampling is any indication, RCism is no better than Protestantism in that regard. The RC pastors I talked to must have missed that memo. Their “plan of salvation”—the mother of all doctrines--is far from consistent. Furthermore, if RC pastors are befuddled, Heaven help their parishioners, the bulk of whom have only a smattering of scriptural knowledge.

    (7) Few, if any, of these RC pastors had an accurate and complete grasp of God’s simple plan of salvation. Some had pieces of the truth (Jesus is God’s Son, He died for our sins, He rose from the grave, etc) but not one had the whole story. None was able to articulate a simple, logical, authoritative what-must-I-do-to-be-saved answer.

instead, I got a lot of “ums and ahs,” and many came across as  fumbling for an answer. You would think they would have had a concise “pat” answer to the most important question anyone could ever ask of them.

Now granted, to make this survey fair to both sides, I should have also contacted a comparable number of Protestant pastors (Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, etc.) posing the same question. But I think I can safely surmise that their responses would have been more biblically accurate and consistent.

According to official Roman Catholic dogma, spelled out in the Vatican II catechism and apparently only partially understood by the RC clergy I contacted, the gospel is borne out in the seven sacraments. They form the heart of the RC plan of salvation.

A “sacrament” is defined as a Christian rite instituted by Christ. Protestants believe there are only two—baptism and communion—while RCs believe in seven, listed below:

The sacrament of Baptism
Typically administered to infants, this absolves the original sin inherited through Adam’s fall. All subsequent sins must be dealt with through the sacrament of Holy Communion and the sacrament of Confession. Through baptism, one becomes a member of The Church.

The sacrament of Confirmation
A ceremony usually administered when one is a teenager, this perfects one’s baptism and brings with it the “graces of the Holy Spirit.”

The sacrament of Holy Communion (a.k.a. Mass or Eucharist or Lord’s Supper)
This is partaking of Christ’s literal body and blood and adds more “graces,” helping us to be even more Christlike. This is required at least once per year. One of the results of Holy Communion is that it will help us keep God’s commandments and practice good works. This sacrament is a re-sacrifice of Christ as a propitiation (appeasement) for our ongoing sins, assuring the penitent that God will indeed forgive them if they carry out the next sacrament, that of Confession.

The sacrament of Confession (a.k.a. Penance)
This is when you confess your sins to a priest. He then grants absolution (forgiveness) and assigns penance that you must do to make amends. RCs are encouraged to do this often.

The sacrament of Marriage
Normally, a marriage is considered valid only if between two Catholics and performed in an RC church, but some exceptions may be granted.

The sacrament of Holy Orders (a.k.a. Ordination)
This ceremony is reserved for those about to assume special roles within The Church—priests, deacons, bishops, etc.

The sacrament of Anointing of the Sick (a.k.a. Last Rites or Extreme Unction)
This is a brief ceremony performed over the dying for the final remission of sins.

Roman Catholicism, at its core, is a gospel of works presented under the guise of grace. One’s “faith journey”—a process, not a done deal—only begins at baptism but must be kept alive by carrying out the other sacraments. With each sacrament you keep you earn more “grace,” which translates into less time you must spend in Purgatory after you die.

Although the concept of Purgatory seems plausible, only RCs believe it actually exists. Purgatory is based primarily on the Apocrypha, a collection of 14 books considered by non-RCs as non-canonical and of doubtful authorship and authenticity, as well as a misinterpretation of Matthew 5:25-26 and I Corinthians 3:15.

RCism contends that Purgatory is a place of punishment necessary to atone for one’s unforgiven sins before being admitted to Heaven--a kind of Hell Lite. Fittingly, some spend much longer in Purgatory than others. After paying their dues, residents of Purgatory are released and go to Heaven, fully purified. Purgatory is punishment for one’s venial sins (minor sins).

Those who have committed a mortal sin (a major sin, such as murder) have little hope of Heaven or, even, of Purgatory. Only a very few individuals bypass Purgatory altogether and go directly to Heaven, but all of Purgatory’s residents do eventually end up in Heaven. None go to Hell.

RCism teaches that faith in Christ, alone, is not enough. It’s Christ plus. Christ’s atonement on the cross needs some help on our part, a mixture of grace plus works that is roundly condemned in such passages as Galatians 3:1-3, Ephesians 2:8-9, and Romans 4:4-6; 11:6. You need to add your works to the supposedly finished work of Christ.

RCism contends that good works and holy living are the means of salvation, not the result of salvation. This is the primary error of RCism—their belief in “self-salvation,” brought about by adding to what God has already completed on the cross.

The Vatican’s 16th century Council of Trent condemned the belief that justification is by faith alone, labeling such spurious teaching as “anathema”—something to be loathed. Man’s works, it posited, must be added to the work of Christ, primarily by observing the sacraments and following the teachings contained within each. 

RCism teaches that one can never be fully sure he will make it into Heaven. He can merely hedge his bets and hope for the best. They ignore Christ’s promise to His disciples to “rejoice that your names are recorded in Heaven” (Luke 10:29). For RCs, to claim that one can know for sure that he’s going to Heaven is “rash presumption.”

So are any Roman Catholics truly saved?  Yes, but only despite formal RC doctrine, not because of it.

No doubt, there is a remnant of true believers within the RC church who have seen through its erroneous, works-based “complicated plan of salvation” and embraced, instead, God’s “simple plan of salvation.” They have been unfettered from Rome’s tight grip and are rejoicing in their new-found freedom in Christ. 

But sadly, the vast majority of RCs are blindly following the party line and continue to pin their eternal hopes on what The Church, not God’s Word, tells them. They are lost, without hope, counting on their works, and will remain so unless we make it our mission to rescue them.

                 * * * * *

So, exactly how does one get into Heaven?  I’m glad you asked. The answer is quite simple—simple as A, B, C:

Admit--"For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). 
Pray: Lord, I admit that I am a sinner in need of a Savior. Others may have committed bigger sins than I have, but I’m still a sinner.

Believe--"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).  

Pray: Lord, I believe that Jesus is God’s Son, that He died for my sins on the cross, and that He arose from the grave. I believe this in my heart and not just my head.  

Call--"For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Romans 10:13).  
Pray: Lord, I call upon You to save me from my sins. I confess and repent of my sins. I know that Your Son Jesus paid my debt on the cross—a debt I could never pay despite all my good works—and I thankfully accept Your gift of eternal life in Heaven that His death makes possible.

If you pray that prayer—sometimes called “the sinner’s prayer”--and really mean it, God will come into your life and save you from eternal damnation. That’s why we call this all-important decision “getting saved,” or being “born again.”

Please note that good works—wonderful as they may be—are not part of the equation. It is primarily in this point that RCism goes astray. Earning your way into Heaven, through good deeds, certainly seems logical and necessary. But, according to Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves. It is the gift of God--not of works, lest any man should boast.” The next verse declares that we are saved unto good works, not by them. Good deeds should be the result of one’s salvation, not a means to attain it.

No one could possibly do enough good deeds to earn his way into Heaven, which explains why God allowed His sinless Son Jesus to make the payment for us. All we have to do is receive the free gift of salvation that Christ has provided. He died for the sins of the entire world, but only those who receive the free gift will enjoy an eternity in Heaven. 

You cannot simply admire the pretty wrapping; you have to receive it. Christ paid a debt He did not owe; we owe a debt we cannot pay. Those who refuse to accept the gift and, instead, insist on trying to earn their way in, will spend a lost eternity in Hell. And there is no middle ground, no Purgatory. It’s either Heaven or Hell for all eternity.

When you pray to accept Christ, God forgives all your sins—even ones you have not yet committed. Even mortal sins. King David, whom God described as “a man after mine own heart” (Acts 13:22), committed a mortal sin (adultery) with Bathsheba. But as David later lamented over his sin, he cried out to God and implored Him to “restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (Psalms 51:12). David had lost only his joy, not his salvation.

When you get saved, you are “adopted” into the family of God. When you subsequently sin, He does not disown you. He may have to chasten you, but He does not return you to the adoption agency. All your sins have been covered through Christ’s shed blood on the cross.

My dear Catholic friend, quit trying to earn your way into Heaven, hoping against hope that you’ll do enough to win God’s favor. Salvation is not a process, a journey, or a pilgrimage. It’s a one-time transaction—your sins for His salvation. And it’s as simple as A, B, C.

Rejoice in the comfort that you can bypass both Purgatory and Hell.