Implied in the recent remarks Pope Benedict gave in an interview, he is framing once again that this is to be preferred
"...The faith community (Church, parish, national Church, Universal Church) does not create itself. It is not an assembly of
men who have some ideas in common and who decide to work for the spread
of such ideas. Then everything would be based on its own decision and,
in the final analysis, on the majority vote principle, which is, in the
end it would be based on human opinion. A Church built in this way
cannot be for me the guarantor of eternal life nor require decisions
from me that make me suffer and are contrary to my desires. No, the
Church is not self-made, she was created by God and she is continuously
formed by him. This finds expression in the sacraments, above all in
that of baptism: I enter into the Church not by a bureaucratic act, but
through the sacrament. And this is to say that I am welcomed into a
community that did not originate in itself and is projected beyond
itself. The ministry that aims to form the spiritual experience of the
faithful must proceed from these fundamental givens.
It is necessary to abandon the idea of a Church which produces herself
and to make clear that the Church becomes a community in the communion
of the body of Christ. The Church must introduce the individual
Christian into an encounter with Jesus Christ and bring Christians into
His presence in the sacrament."
Finally if we are to understand why only 12% to 28% of Catholics attend Mass on any given Sunday and of those many are lukewarm or indifferent, Pope Benedict hits the nail square on the head.
This must be read with what I quote above from Pope Benedict, a horizontal Church which sees salvation coming from diverse communities or as automatic, undermines the reason for the Church. It is for salvation and the requirement of salvation is the orthodox Catholic Faith and orthopraxis (good works):
"If it is true that the great missionaries of the 16th century were still
convinced that those who are not baptized are forever lost – and this
explains their missionary commitment – in the Catholic Church after the
Second Vatican Council that conviction was finally abandoned.
From this came a deep double crisis. On the one hand this seems to
remove any motivation for a future missionary commitment. Why should one
try to convince the people to accept the Christian faith when they can
be saved even without it? But also for Christians an issue emerged: the
obligatory nature of the faith and its way of life began to seem
uncertain and problematic. If there are those who can save themselves in
other ways, it is not clear, in the final analysis, why the Christian
himself is bound by the requirements of the Christian faith and its
morals. If faith and salvation are no longer interdependent, faith
itself becomes unmotivated."
My final comments: We have an interfaith ministry operated by DePaul USA and run by the Daughters of Charity. It is a wonderful ministry to the homeless in Macon. Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims and non believers all work together to aid the homeless. This is good works, but the Catholic Faith isn't necessary for it although certainly at the foundation of this particular good work.
The government, however, or any other non governmental organization (NGO) could do this ministry as well, albeit not a well. There is nothing Christian or religious about good works and caring about people; it is ingrained in every soul, every person, for we are all created in the image and likeness of God and our ability to love is from God.
Good works, by itself, will not save us and good faith by itself won't save us. God 's grace is what saves us which then enables us to have the right faith and the right works by a free, conscious act of the will inspired by God's grace.
But if Catholics who works as our homeless shelter think that anyone can be saved because they are working together in good works, this is a lie and undermines the mission and missionary endeavors of the Church!
There is no need to be a Catholic if this alone will save you and make you feel good about yourself: