I was notified by a friend that I should respond to Mark Shea's article regarding the dogma “No Salvation Outside the Church” because he seems to be popular in conservative Catholic circles. Mr. Shea, being an enthusiastic convert to the Catholic Faith, is most likely troubled by a sentimental empathy for those still outside the bark of Peter, particularly Protestants, which we cradle Catholics at Catholic Vox share as well. The difference lies in the fact that here at Catholic Vox we actually believe the dogma “Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus” for what it says.
Just Exactly Where is the Church?
Unam Sanctam is the sort of document that gives our Protestant brothers and sisters a real jolt, primarily because it looks at first blush as though it teaches that Catholics cannot have Protestant brothers and sisters. Written by Pope Boniface VIII in 1302, this papal bull concludes with this shocking dogmatic definition:
"We declare, say, define and pronounce, that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff."The average modern reader concludes these words mean: "We know exactly where the Church both is and is not. It's in the visible Catholic communion and only members of the visible Catholic Church go to Heaven." After this basic assumption has been made, most people go on to assume it is simply a matter of deciding what you think about that proposition. Generally, people fall into one of the following groups:
1. Those nice people who say hopefully, "That statement was not dogma, but just Boniface's opinion."
2. Those Progressive Dissenting Catholics who say, "That statement used to be narrow-minded Catholic dogma but Vatican II thankfully contradicts all that. How the Church has grown!"
3. Those anti-Catholics say derisively, "That statement used to be unbiblical Catholic dogma but Vatican II reversed all that. How the supposedly infallible Church has flatly contradicted the Bible and itself!"
4. Those Reactionary Dissenting Catholics who say, "That statement used to be glorious Catholic dogma but Vatican II betrayed all that. How the Second Vatican Council has corrupted the One True Faith!"
5. Those orthodox Catholics who say, "Unam Sanctam's definition is still dogma and the teaching of the Second Vatican Council does not contradict it or the Bible. Rather, the Council develops the Faith of the Church infallibly taught since the apostles, a faith which has never demanded we believe that "The Church is found solely in the visible Catholic communion, nor that only members of the visible Catholic Church can go to Heaven."Mr. Shea should have pointed out the most important members of group #5: the members of the Benedictine Monastery of Still River and the religious of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (both men and women). They hold the so-called “rigorist” understanding of the dogma as well as the Second Vatican Council. If this were not true how could all three groups (descendants of Fr. Leonard Feeney) be approved under the Bishop of the Diocese of Worcester, Massachusetts? [OSB(Still River), MICM(St. Anne's House -women/Imm. Heart School-men) link here; explanatory letter link here]
Let's look at these five views of Unam Sanctam.
First things first, I must disappoint Group #1 by making clear that the Faith does not allow us the easy out of denying the dogmatic nature of Unam Sanctam any more than it allowed Arius to fudge the difficult and seemingly contradictory proposition that God is One, yet Three. As John Hardon, S.J. points out in his Catholic Catechism, the passage cited above was "solemnly defined and represents traditional Catholic dogma on the Church's necessity for salvation." When a Pope declares, pronounces and defines, he is using the formula to make crystal clear that he is delivering, not his personal opinion, but the dogmatic teaching of the Catholic Church. The fact is then, Pope Boniface VIII committed the Church to this proposition for the rest of her history. We cannot dodge this with a convenient "that was then, this is now." If it was dogma once, it still is.
Agreed, but Fr. Hardon is hardly an authoritative source for us to know the Unam Sanctam is infallible. I would have preferred if he had used something more substantive :
Pope Leo X, Fifth Lateran Council 1512-17, session # 11:
Pope Pius XII, Encyclical, MYSTICI CORPORIS CHRISTI, June 29, 1943, par #40-41:
However, neither can we dodge another fact of Catholic history: the Second Vatican Council. At that Council, the Church formulated Lumen Gentium in which, 660 years after Unam Sanctam, she declared, "The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter."
I fail to understand the point here. These Christians (many Protestants and Eastern Orthodox, since they are baptized and acknowledge Jesus as Lord God) are joined to the Church in the same sense as a branch cut from a tree is joined in many ways to the tree: it may have the same fragrance, same leaf structure, even the same genetic code but it is severed from the tree and so has lost the source of life. Our Lord Jesus made this clear in the “I am the vine you are the branches” analogy/parable and so did Vatican II as quoted above: “...but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter."
There is an important “BUT” to this all- they are not in communion or unity with Peter (the Catholic Church). That means they are outside the Church– not in union.
To Groups 2, 3, and 4, this sounds like a flat contradiction. For all these folk make the fatal error of placing one or other of the Church's teachings in opposition to (and superiority over) the other. Thus, Progressive Dissenting Catholics, Anti-Catholics, and Reactionary Dissenting Catholics all assume that Unam Sanctam was simply vetoed by a newly-coined doctrine in Lumen Gentium which essentially declared that our relationship to the successor of Peter doesn't matter one iota. If we agree about this, all that remains for us to do is to decide whether to cheer along with Progressive Dissenters (for the Church's "deepened maturity") to gloat along with anti-Catholics (over the alleged collapse of the Church's infallibility) or to grumble along with Reactionary Dissenters (about those damned modernists who hijacked the Church at Vatican II).
I don't like this phrasing but it is essentially correct. There would be much disagreement even among conservative Catholics that Vatican II was not hijacked by the Modernists. Mr. Shea should read : “The Desolate City: Revolution in the Catholic Church” by Anne Roche Muggeridge, or “The Rhine Flows Into The Tiber” by Rev. Ralph Wiltgen both of whom would be insulted to have been called reactionary. (Reactionary was a common accusation used by the former Soviet Union of those opposed to their revolution. It isn't a typical Catholic term.) Councils are not always very pleasant places. St. Anthony Maria Claret was a Father at the First Vatican Council, and he blamed the stroke that he had, at the Vatican Council, on all the heresies he heard coming from the Council Fathers. Does that make St. Claret a reactionary? Did that mean he didn't accept Vatican I as a valid council?
The problem with this assumption is simply this: it's not true. First, the Church, centuries before Vatican II, regarded Orthodox sacraments as valid, which is awfully hard to do if you don't think Christ can be found anywhere but in the Catholic Church.
This is a half-truth. Yes, the Church acknowledges there are valid sacraments outside the Church, but they do not benefit unto salvation:
POPE PIUS IX, ENCYCLICAL SINGULARI QUIDEM, MARCH 17, 1856 par.#5:
As he implies, the Church acknowledges some of the sacraments preformed outside the Church as valid but they are not beneficial unto salvation. One possible exception to this could be validly baptized babies, but they are true members of the Church until they embrace heresy or schism. (More on this below.)
Similarly, it has always regarded the Baptism of non-Catholics as valid--and a valid Baptism means you are, in some sense, in union with Christ.
Let us clarify this. St. Augustine, although not authoritative like a Pope, explains the Sacred Tradition well:
St. Augustine accepts baptism by non-Catholics as valid but points out that those who receive baptism as children put no obstacle to their salvation until they embrace schism or heresy.
Augustine is confirmed by the infallible definition at the Council of Florence:
Here we see that the Church has confirmed infallibly what St. Augustine, as well as other Church Fathers, said: that the sacraments are only beneficial for those who are in union with the Church. As St. Augustine succinctly points out, all the baptized are members of the Church until they embrace heresy.
Still more recently and most plainly, (but still well before the Council) Fr. Leonard Feeney was excommunicated for insisting that only people in visible communion with the Catholic Church could be saved. So this simplistic "We're in, you're out" reading of Unam Sanctam (and the corollary that Lumen Gentium "cancelled" it) doesn't fly.
First of all, please get the facts straight. Fr. Feeney was not excommunicated for a simplistic view of the dogma. (It could be questioned if he was even excommunicated at all: click here.) He was excommunicated for disobedience because he did not travel to Rome. There was never any reference to his teaching on EENS in this excommunication. He even asked the Vatican why he was being summoned but they never answered. If there were any who feel as though it was a valid excommunication, Fr. Feeney was re-admitted to the Church by Pope Paul VI. He was not ordered to change his views on the dogma of Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus (No Salvation Outside the Church, a.k.a.:EENS) as a condition of reception.
As canon lawyer Peter Vere explains one can hold the “rigorist” view of EENS attributed to Fr. Feeney and still be a Catholic in good standing with the Church. (click here: http://www.catholicism.org/downloads/Peter_Vere_SBC.pdf )
So is there a more balanced picture that reverences both Unam Sanctam and Lumen Gentium as authentic magisterial teaching? Yes. To find it, let's begin with an imperfect analogy.
There is a priest I know (call him Fr. Smith) whom I have come to regard as a second father. I came to do so because, as an Evangelical, I first loved Christ and the things of Christ and was doing so for years before I met this man. As I sought to draw closer to the things of Christ, I then happened to meet Fr. Smith and to discover that he loved and understood far more deeply than me the things that I myself sought, for he is a disciple of our Lord too. When I recognized this, I realized our Lord had put into my life a man who could disciple me and to whom my life was inextricably linked in Christ and by Christ. In short, I had been a disciple of Fr. Smith for years before I met him--because I was first a disciple of Jesus.
Thus, in spirit, Fr. Smith became my father and I am, so to speak, subject to him in Christ precisely because I desire what he desires--union with Christ.
If this seems difficult to grasp, it should be noted that it's a concept as old as the New Testament. For when we look there we discover Jesus saying exactly the same thing:
John said to him, "Teacher, we saw a man casting out demons in your name, and we forbade him, because he was not following us." But Jesus said, "Do not forbid him; for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon after to speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is for us. (Mark 9:38-40)
This is true. Mr. Shea is a good example of this – he became a Catholic. Look at the words “soon after,” in the Gospel of St. Mark, soon after doing deeds in the name of Christ with a good heart that person will be lead to REAL membership, i.e.union with the Church. Scott Hahn would be another example of God leading a man of good will to the Church. To oppose the Church is to oppose Christ. Saul, who was sincerely persecuting the Church, and his subsequent conversion illustrates how close the link is of Church , Catholics and Jesus:
'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' he replied. 'Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.' ” (Acts 9; 4-6)
Was St. Paul persecuting Jesus directly? No, he was killing Christians and persecuting the Church. But Jesus asks why he is 'persecuting Me', so we see opposing the Church is opposing Christ himself. God soon led him to the truth and union with the Church in a dramatic way. While it would be presumption to assume God will always use such extraordinary means in leading people to the Church, it is a fact that He searches for the lost sheep and brings the sheep back to his Church. As the book of Acts relates :
As St. John says :“There will be one flock and one Shepard.”- (John 10:16) How can those who reject the Lord's appointed Shepard, the Pope, be in common union? There is only one Church outside of which there is no salvation and those who are not united to it before they die will be damned.
Now let me make it clear that they will not be condemned for not joining the Church, if they didn't know that was necessary. They will be condemned for other sins that, without the licit use of sacraments, they will not be able to avoid.(Many of the saints said it is impossible to live a chaste life without regular participation in the sacraments of confession and communion.) Although being Catholic does not guarantee salvation, the only way to salvation is to be a member of the Church. Not being a member guarantees damnation. All who did not enter the Ark were lost. The Church is the only Ark of salvation.Jesus' point is that, in following Him, both the man casting out demons and the apostles were, whether the man or the apostles realized it or not, brought into some kind of union with one another through Him. It didn't matter whether the apostles or the man were conscious of it. Their mutual obedience to Him put them in relationship to each other, just as the right alignment of spokes to a hub necessarily put the spokes in right alignment to one another. The fact is, it is His Spirit, not us, who is the principle of unity holding His Body together and drawing its members into ever more perfect union with each other. But that does not mean (as I had long believed as an Evangelical) that unity with the Body of Christ doesn't matter so long as one is "spiritual". For to be brought into union with the Body of Christ at all is to brought into the order that Christ has established for that Body since
his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11-13).Or, to put it into the simplest form, if A=B, then B=A. That is, if one is a Christian at all, one is, as Lumen Gentium says, in some kind of union with the Church, the Body of Christ. This is why the Church teaches and has always taught that "outside the Church, there is no salvation". For the Church is the company of the saved. To talk about salvation "outside the Church" is like talking about swimming outside the water. It is the logical consequence of Jesus' statement, "He who is not with me is against me" (Matthew 12:30).
This is where Mr. Shea is spreading confusion. The Church has taught a clear distinction between those who are members of the Church and those who are not. Stated in the negative: All pagans (this would include atheists), Jews, heretics and schismatics are not members of the Church:
# 22,: “Actually only those are to be numbered among the members of the Church who have received the laver of regeneration and profess the true faith.” http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius12/P12MYSTI.HTM
Clearly the Church has made clear who is a member and who is not. Membership is necessary for salvation.
Lumen Gentium does not state that those outside the Church are in UNION with Her. It says they are joined in many ways. (For example, some of these “ways” might include Baptism or using the same Scriptures. These elements in common create some kind of relationship, but not always union or membership. Union cannot exist if at the same time they profess opposition to the Catholic Faith.) It says exactly the opposite:
“...but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter."
When one is dealing with the Faith, language has to be exact. G.K. Chesterton said it well: “The Church and the heresies always used to fight about words, because they are the only thing worth fighting about." One change in a word can alter the entire meaning of a dogma. An example of this is the Filioque debate with the Eastern “Orthodox”.
It therefore follows that to be subject to the gospel to any degree is to be in union,
This does not follow. Accepting the Gospel in any degree is not the same as being a member of the Church. To deny one dogma of the Faith is to deny them all. Faith is not in degrees but in kind. This can be likened to the difference between the priesthood of the Faithful and the sacramental priesthood. They are different, not in degrees but in kind.
The great and saintly Pope Leo XIII explains it thus:
POPE LEO XIII, ENCYCLICAL SATIS COGNITUM, JUNE 29, 1896, par. #9 :
Pope Gregory XVI, Mirari Vos #13. Aug. 15, 1832:
“ 'With the admonition of the apostle, that ‘there is one God, one faith, one baptism’ (Eph. 4:5), may those fear who contrive the notion that the safe harbor of salvation is open to persons of any religion whatever. They should consider the testimony of Christ Himself that ‘those who are not with Christ are against Him,’ (Lk. 11:23) and that they disperse unhappily who do not gather with Him. Therefore, ‘without a doubt, they will perish forever, unless they hold the Catholic faith whole and inviolate (Athanasian Creed).”
This is not true as seen above by Pope Leo XIII. To hold any dogma to be false is to be guilty of denying the Faith as a whole. Do these same Christians deny the Infallibility of the Pope?; The Assumption of Mary?; the Authority of the Pope as Head of the Church? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes” then they are not members of the Church and therefore outside of the way of salvation. Remember Pope Leo XIII wrote (above) that it was the “unanimous teaching of the Fathers,” thus making it an infallible teaching, because anything held unanimously by the Fathers of the Church is considered dogmatic.
Naturally, it will be noted that such union with the Roman Pontiff is, for Protestants and Orthodox, imperfect. Just so. But the point nonetheless holds that such union is real. And the reason it is real is precisely because the Pope is not the principle of unity, but merely the sign of unity. The principle of unity is the Spirit of Christ Himself.
Doctrine is the principle of unity. Baptism units one to the Church but if that one refuses any doctrine of the Church or refuses to submit to the Roman Pontiff he is not a member of the Church. It isn't a matter of degree but all or nothing:
POPE LEO XIII, ENCYCLICAL SATIS COGNITUM, JUNE 29, 1896, par. # 8:“...He [Jesus] requires the assent of the mind to all truths without exception. It was thus the duty of all who heard Jesus Christ, if they wished for eternal salvation, not merely to accept His doctrine as a whole, but to assent with their entire mind to all and every point of it, since it is unlawful to withhold faith from God even in regard to one single point.” http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Leo13/l13satis.htm
Pope Leo XIII also states in the same encyclical that the necessity of submission to the Holy Father is not merely accidental but an essential qualification to being a member of the Church:
POPE LEO XIII, ENCYCLICAL SATIS COGNITUM, JUNE 29, 1896, par. # 13:“...the Roman Pontiff is the proof of the true faith and of legitimate communion. Therefore if a man does not want to be, or to be called, a heretic, let him not strive to please this or that man...but let him hasten before all things to be in communion with the Roman See. If he be in communion with it, he should be acknowledged by all and everywhere as faithful and orthodox. He speaks in vain who tries to persuade me of the orthodoxy of those who, like himself, refuse obedience to his Holiness the Pope of the most holy Church of Rome: that is to the Apostolic See.” http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Leo13/l13satis.htm
It is He who binds together the apostolic Church with those who appear (like the exorcist in Mark) to be "outside" the Church yet who are, in a real but imperfect way, in communion with her.
(This is not accurate. I covered this already)
That's because it is simply not possible for there to be more than one Body. This is true, not because the power-hungry Roman pontiff must have absolute control over all Christians, but because Christ cannot ultimately be divided. What Paul said in Ephesians remains just as true today:
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:4-6)So it is simply impossible for there to be, in any ultimate sense, more than one Body. And since that Body is, by Christ's solemn word, founded on Peter the Rock, it is not possible to belong to it without, in some way, being subject to the office of the one who was given the charge to "feed my sheep" (John 21:15-19).
What does “in some way” mean? This is making gray what has been proven to be black and white. While it could be argued that a poor Greek farmer could think all these controversies with the Pope are silly and in his heart accepts the authority of the Pope, the criteria has not changed. He needs to be baptized and accept obedience to the Pope and the Catholic Faith while rejecting heresy and schism.
I say the office, mind you, not the person of the Pope. As a person, a Pope can be a perfect jerk and some have been. In the same way, the office of the Davidic monarch (also founded by God) was often filled by extremely sub-optimal men. But the office never went away nor lost its God-ordained authority.
Dante, a contemporary of the man who wrote Unam Sanctam, makes precisely this point in his famous Divine Comedy. In an age of Da Vinci Code illiteracy and ignorance of the Catholic faith, it comes as a surprise to many modern readers to discover that so far from running a police state, the medieval Church was, in fact, full of critics who had lots of tart things to say about, among other things, the Pope and other clergy of the time. Dante was chief among these critics in his day and, in particular, was chief among the critics of Pope Boniface VIII, the author of Unam Sanctam. Dante, in fact, places Boniface in his Inferno, damned forever. But note this: Dante does not damn him for the teaching of Unam Sanctam, which he takes for granted. He damns him for his moral corruption yet, like a typical Catholic, honors his office. That's why Boniface is buried upside down in hell: as Pope he is oriented toward Heaven even when, as a sinner, he is worthy of Hell, for the way out of Dante's Hell is not up but down, through the center of the earth, then up Mt. Purgatory, and into Paradise.
So is this partial and imperfect unity enough? Depends on what you mean by "enough". If you mean "enough to be saved" then I submit this is Minimum Daily Adult Requirement thinking. No lover asks "What's the absolute bare minimum amount of contact with my Beloved I can get away with?" Similarly, if, as the Church claims, the fullness of revelation subsists in the Catholic communion, then "How little contact with the fullness of revelation can I get away with?" is the exact wrong question for somebody who is serious about discipleship to Christ.
Again he is thinking in degrees which a lover does not do. A “lover” will just accept Jesus Christ whole and entire. That means if we love Him we will obey the Church. As Pope Leo XIII wrote above “...not merely to accept His doctrine as a whole, but to assent with their entire mind to all and every point of it...”, this is true love. Love is an all or nothing deal.
Our goal, according to Scripture, is not to achieve bare minimums of love, fellowship and discipleship with Christ and His Bride, but to "attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ;… we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love" (Ephesians 4:13-16). When people tell us "I'll be there in spirit!" we know they mean "I won't be there." Similarly, a merely partial spiritual unity, while a good start, is a bad finish. That is why we must all continue to work toward full unity in Christ, neither denying our commonalities nor papering over our differences.
This is an extremely confusing point. If they are already in the Body and can be saved in that state why should we work for Christian unity?
At this point, members of groups 3 and 4 (who tend to take Heaven more seriously as something that is, like, there and not simply--as members of group 2 are wont to say--a "concept" or a "beautiful myth") are likely to ask, "So does all this boil down to saying the Church thinks Catholics are going to Heaven and non-Catholics aren't? Or does it really mean the Church is now saying that everybody is saved?
Again, both of these are the wrong questions: which is to say they are nonsense questions. The Church makes no comments on infernal population statistics. Rather, the Church teaches that because validly baptized non-Catholics are real members of the Body of Christ, they share in the life of the Blessed Trinity and therefore share with Catholics the Hope of salvation.
They are not real members as Lumen Gentium stated (above)
Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, 1943:
POPE LEO XIII, ENCYCLICAL SATIS COGNITUM, JUNE 29, 1896, par. # 13:
That said, mark that it is Hope, not certainty, they share with Catholics. For it is important to remember that Catholics don't even assume that even Catholics are automatically going to Heaven.
While we can hope they will convert before they die, there is no hope if they refuse to join the Church:
Encyclical "Quanto conficiamur," Aug. 10, 1863, etc.
Blessed Pope Pius IX is pointing out here that there was a movement to expand the requirements to be a member of the Church. He was clearly condemning this theory, which people like Mr. Shea seem to be falling into. We cannot consider Protestants part of the Church, nor is there much hope for those who appear to be outside the Church. Technically, a Protestant would only have to make an act of Faith in the Catholic Faith, assuming he was validly Baptized, to be saved. This could be done without the knowledge of anyone but the truth that one must accept the Catholic Faith to be saved must be preached in order to bring about this scenario-- “Faith comes from hearing”(Rom. 10:17) Teachers like Mr. Shea are teaching that they do not need to be 100% Catholic- that they can be Catholic “in general”. This is against the teaching of Leo XIII and the Church Fathers.
The whole point, as Paul says, is that Hope means we have not yet, in this life, attained what we hope for.
For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (Romans 8:24-25)Catholics don't believe in "once saved, always saved" any more than in salvation by demographics. So the mere fact that somebody says they are a Christian, whether non-Catholic or Catholic, doesn't mean we assume they are going to Heaven. Till we die, we retain the radical freedom to reject the grace of God and end up among the damned. So Catholics leave God to judge all that.
But by the same token, Catholics also don't assume that anybody (even a non-Christian and indeed even an atheist) is going to Hell.
The Church has taught belief in Jesus is necessary:
Council of Florence 1440:
Pope Eugene IV, The Council of Florence, “Exultate Deo,” Nov. 22, 1439, ex cathedra:
“Holy baptism, which is the gateway to the spiritual life, holds the first place among all the sacraments; through it we are made members of Christ and of the body of the Church. And since death entered the universe through the first man, ‘unless we are born again of water and the Spirit, we cannot,’ as the Truth says, ‘enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:5]. The matter of this sacrament is real and natural water.”
Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei (# 43), Nov. 20, 1947:
Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam, Nov. 18, 1302, ex cathedra:
Outside of this Church there is no remission of sins. If the non-believer is not baptized he cannot be a member of the Church as Trent clearly taught:
Pope Julius III, Council of Trent, On the Sacraments of Baptism and Penance, Sess. 14, Chap. 2, ex cathedra:
# 22,: “Actually only those are to be numbered among the members of the Church who have received the laver of regeneration and profess the true faith.” http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius12/P12MYSTI.HTM
The Church has always believed that those who do not know Christ by name may yet respond to the promptings of His Spirit and so ultimately be saved by Him.
Outside the Church? That is what it sounds like Mr. Shea is saying. This is semi-Pelegianism. He is saying that by good works they can be saved = Pelegianism. Since he states that these good works are the “promptings of His Spirit” this makes Mr. Shea's doctrine semi-Pelagian. He is equating a prompting of actual (aka:helping grace) grace as salvific. This is a total novelty and the Church has never believed this. Even the arch-liberal Karl Rahner is honest enough to admit the absurdity of the thought that non-believers can be saved, based in Sacred Tradition:
"...we have to admit...that the testimony of the Fathers, with regard to the possibility of salvation for someone outside the Church, is very weak. Certainly even the ancient Church knew that the grace of God can be found also outside the Church and even before Faith. But the view that such divine grace can lead man to his final salvation without leading him first into the visible Church, is something, at any rate, which met with very little approval in the ancient Church. For, with reference to the optimistic views on the salvation of catechumens as found in many of the Fathers, it must be noted that such a candidate for baptism was regarded in some sense or other as already 'Christianus', and also that certain Fathers, such as Gregory Nazianzen and Gregory of Nyssa deny altogether the justifying power of love or of the desire for baptism. Hence it will be impossible to speak of a consensus dogmaticus in the early Church regarding the possibility of salvation for the non-baptized, and especially for someone who is not even a catechumen [one who believes]. In fact, even St. Augustine, in his last (anti-pelagian) period, no longer maintained the possibility of a baptism by desire. "(Rahner, Karl, Theological Investigations, Volume II, Man in the Church, Translated by Karl H. Kruger, pp.40,41, 57 Or. 40, 23 (PG 36, 3890), 58 'Sermo contra dilationem Baptismi' (PG 46, 424), 59 Cf. Fr. Hoffmann, Der Kirchenbegriff des hl. Augustinus (Munich 1933), pp.221 sqq., 381 sqq., 464 sqq., New York, The Seabury Press, 1975.)
Unfortunately Mr. Shea converted at a time of great confusion in the Church. He has been mislead on his understanding of this dogma. I sense no bad will on his part, but he must dedicate himself to studying the original sources.
She believes this because it was taught by Jesus Christ in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, which describes the judgment of people who had no idea they were serving (or rejecting) Jesus as they answered (or refused) the demands of conscience with respect to "the least of these".
Jesus Christ charges them here not with a want of faith, but with a want of good works. They certainly believed, the parable starts with those who believe: "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven..." (Matthew 7:21) but they attended not to good works. They believed with a dead faith (a faith not working in charity) could bring them to heaven.
I think Augustine has a more Catholic understanding of what Jesus meant by Sheeps and Goats:
Letters of St. Augustine--Letter 208-To the Lady Felicia, par#3 :
That is why both the saved and the damned in the parable reply with astonishment to the King, "Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?" (Matthew 25:37-39). Some of the saved, says our Lord, are going to be astonished at their salvation. They just thought they were doing the right thing and had no idea they were, in fact, answering the prompting of the Holy Spirit to obey the will of Christ. As Paul says, "When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus" (Romans 2:14-16).
This seems to be saying those outside the Church one can be saved. He may not know what he is stating here, since he is probably just repeating what others have taught him, but he is saying that outside the Catholic Church there IS Salvation. How does one enter the Church without Faith?
“And so Our Predecessor, Benedict XIV, had just cause to write: ‘We declare that a great number of those who are condemned to eternal punishment suffer that everlasting calamity because of ignorance of those mysteries of faith which must be known and believed in order to be numbered among the elect.’”
For, it must be held by faith that outside the Apostolic Roman Church, no one can be saved; that this is the only ark of salvation; that he who shall not have entered therein will perish in the flood; but, on the other hand, it is necessary to hold for certain that they who labor in ignorance of the true religion, if this ignorance is invincible, are not stained by any guilt in this matter in the eyes of God.
This is what Pius IX is saying but many try to twist his words to mean ignorance can save. (For more in depth explanation of Pius IX and invincible ignorance - click here)
As Pius IX writes, these are not guilty of infidelity of not joining the Church if they didn't know it was necessary. They will, however, lack the necessary means to the final grace of salvation, i.e. membership in the Church, and will be found guilty of some other sin, which will condemn them:
Pope Paul III, The Council of Trent, Sess. 7, Can. 5 on the Sacrament of Baptism, ex cathedra:
The Catholic Church tradition always taught that those who will do good will be led by actual grace to the final sanctifying grace of becoming Catholic. The Haydock Catholic commentary( the most popular English Catholic Bible of the 19th century) teaches the same tradition on Rom. 2:14-16:
“When the Gentiles...do by nature, or naturally, that is, without having received any written law, these men are a law to themselves, and have it written in their hearts, as to the existence of a God, and their reason tells them, that many sins are unlawful: they may also do some actions that are morally good, as by giving alms to relieve the poor, honouring their parents, &c. not that these actions, morally good, will suffice for their justification of themselves, or make them deserve a supernatural reward in the kingdom of heaven; but God, out of his infinite mercy, will give them some supernatural graces, by which they come to know, and believe, that he will reward their souls for eternity.”
There has been a movement in the Church trying to weaken the dogma “extra ecclesiam nulla salus”, since the time Modernism struck at the Church, about a hundred or more years ago.
In short, what matters incomparably more than calling Jesus "Lord, Lord" is obeying Him. Or as St. John of the Cross put it more sweetly, "At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love."
But,again, that doesn't mean, "It doesn't matter if you are Catholic or not."
Yes it does.
Even Vatican II teaches necessity of faith in Jesus Christ and entering the Church by Baptism:
Vatican II Ad Gentes, no. 7 -
"7. This missionary activity derives its reason from the will of God, "who wishes all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, Himself a man, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself as a ransom for all" (1 Tim. 2:45), "neither is there salvation in any other" (Acts 4:12). Therefore, all must be converted to Him, made known by the Church's preaching, and all must be incorporated into Him by baptism and into the Church which is His body.
For Christ Himself "by stressing in express language the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mark 16:16; John 3:5), at the same time confirmed the necessity of the Church, into which men enter by baptism, as by a door. Therefore those men cannot be saved, who though aware that God, through Jesus Christ founded the Church as something necessary, still do not wish to enter into it, or to persevere in it."
Therefore though God in ways known to Himself can lead those inculpably ignorant of the Gospel to find that faith without which it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6), yet a necessity lies upon the Church (1 Cor. 9:16), and at the same time a sacred duty, to preach the Gospel. And hence missionary activity today as always retains its power and necessity."
We live in a fallen world and are fallen creatures who need every bit of help we can get from the grace of God to become the glorious love-filled creatures God calls us to be. And even with that help, history demonstrates our genius for being schleps and sinners. We are like patients in a hospital requiring intensive care, but with the hope and promise that the full panoply of modern medicine could give us back our life if we cooperate with the Divine Physician and let Him use all the treatments He has tucked away in His little black bag. That little black bag is called "the fullness of Christ's revelation in the Catholic communion". It includes the common life, common worship, and common teaching of the Church, including the seven sacraments, the accumulated wisdom of the Tradition both in Scripture and in the life of the Church, the Magisterium (including the Papacy), and the "riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints" (Ephesians 1:18).
He is saying here that the Church is a good thing and a great help to salvation BUT not necessary. This is a rejection of Catholic dogma.
Other Churches and ecclesial bodies like to use various items out of that black bag (say, the Bible, or Baptism, or the doctrine of the Trinity, or some particular moral teaching like the indissolubility of marriage, or predestination, or free will) in various combinations and to varying degrees and believers do well to avail themselves of as much of God's treasury in the Church's Tradition as they can lay hold of.
But if you are mortally ill (and the whole human race is mortally ill with sin), it's kind of crazy to say "I find that I'm most comfortable when the Doctor prescribes aspirin, and I do like his penicillin now and then, but I don't want his other prescriptions and treatments and I won't allow him to send other hospital staff to treat me." If we were mortally ill, we'd want whatever the Doctor has available to heal us.
Likewise, though the Catholic Church rejoices that real elements of the saving gospel are present and working in other churches and ecclesial bodies, though she even rejoices that the semina verbi or "seeds of the Word" can even be found in the various non-Christian religious and philosophical traditions of the world, she nonetheless points out that the best thing of all is to lay hold of the fullness of His gifts. So the Church, of course, encourages anyone who can do so to become Catholic.
Encourages? Did he say the Church encourages people to be Catholic? I assume we are talking about salvation here, since that is the theme of the article. The Church demands anyone wishing to be be saved to become Catholic. There is no other way:
Pope Gregory XVI, Summo Iugiter Studio,par #2, May 27, 1832:
It doesn't presume to judge those who do not, for we mortals cannot know the reasons why others make the choices they do. People may refuse the Church out of ignorance, or woundedness, or some other cause that renders them inculpable for rejecting her.
As I said above there could be ignorance of the Church's existence, which would put no guilt of sin on their part of infidelity of not joining the Church, but they have not the means to the final saving grace which is only obtained inside the Church. While woundedness or the sins of the clergy could mitigate the sin of not joining the Church (we are now speaking of the sin of infidelity, since they are using excuses for not joining, and not claiming ignorance) those outside it have no means to the final grace of salvation . This is the reason saints suffered so much under clerical persecution and did not leave the Church. As St. Peter said “ Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."(Jn 6:68) There is no salvation outside of Jesus, i.e. the Church.
However, it is only sensible to point out that, everything else being equal, if we say we want God, but refuse the fullness of His gifts, then it is worth asking ourselves if we really want God after all or are, in fact, seeking something else.
As an Evangelical who discovered how much truth was in the Catholic faith and how much I agreed with it, I came to the realization that it was not enough for me to say "I share the same goals as Peter, so I am 'spiritually subject' to him already and do not need to be sacramentally and ecclesially subject as well." I realized that the very essence of what Peter proclaims is that the Word became Flesh. Moreover, I came to realize that there was, in fact, nothing in the Church's deposit of Faith that was either opposed to reason, nor anti-biblical. So I eventually concluded that it was therefore my duty, in obedience to Christ's prayer for unity in John 17, to enflesh my faith by becoming really, tangibly, physically, sacramentally joined to the visible Church our Lord commended to Peter's care and feeding. For myself, I could no longer say "I'll be with you in spirit" to the Pope if I was not also willing to really be with him in body as well.
Catholics do not say, and never have said, that they are the sole possessors of revelation. Indeed, the Church does not "possess" revelation at all. Revelation possesses her and that revelation, who is Christ, has (she teaches) committed Himself fully to her. "God," said the great Protestant writer George MacDonald, "is easy to please, but hard to satisfy." On the one hand, God is delighted when the most miserable sinner takes the smallest serious step toward the love of God and neighbor. On the other hand, He will not be completely happy until every last person He came to save is completely perfected in the image of Christ and overflowing with perfect love for God and neighbor. This same pattern is supremely evident in the Catholic Church's understanding of her relationship with her members, whether in full or very imperfect communion.
There he goes again. Imperfect communion is not membership.
For the Church is happy to recognize even the smallest commonalities she may share, not only with other Christians, but even with non-Christian religious traditions and the great philosophical traditions of paganism. The Church can even find things to affirm in virtuous atheists. But at the same time, the Church is acutely aware that there is a real difference between imperfect and perfect unity
It is called the ONE, Holy, Catholic Church. This part of the article implies there is a division in the Church or that there are two (or more) Churches converging.
and so she too--easy to please, but hard to satisfy--labors toward that Day when all the members of the Body of Christ will be perfected in faith, hope and love.
Till That Day, we know where the Church is; we do not know where it is not.
In closing, I would like to thank Mr. Shea for attempting to approach this subject but I would offer the advice of St. Thomas Aquinas who would read his opponents position thoroughly, so he would not misrepresent their views. What I have pointed out above could be found in many sources of those who support “extra ecclesiam nulla salus”. Research into primary sources and you will not go wrong.
Vatican I solemnly defined that dogmas do not change their meaning over time therefore the way the Council of Florence defined “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” is the same today:
Pope Pius IX, First Vatican Council, Sess. 3, Chap. 2 on Revelation, 1870, ex cathedra: “Hence, also, that understanding of its sacred dogmas must be perpetually retained, which Holy Mother Church has once declared; and there must never be a recession from that meaning under the specious name of a deeper understanding.”
3 dogmatic statements of EENS:
* “With Faith urging us we are forced to believe and to hold the one, holy, Catholic Church and that, apostolic, and we firmly believe and simply confess this Church outside of which there is no salvation nor remission of sin..."
We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” (Pope Boniface VIII, the Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302.)
“The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.” (Pope Eugene IV, the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441.)