Promising Salvation to Non-Catholics: A Sin against Charity

We all hate it when someone makes a promise and doesn’t keep it. “But you promised!” we will say, and, depending on the level of blame and sensitivity of conscience on the part of the offending party, the reaction can be one of great shame. If this is true of promises one is simply unable to keep because circumstances forbade it, it is more so in the case of false promises: that is, those made with no intention of keeping them, or those one had absolutely no authority to make. To promise salvation to a non-Catholic, either directly or indirectly, falls in the latter category as being particularly shameful. It is shameful because it is sinful. It is sinful because it offends not only against faith, but against the greatest Christian virtue: charity.

That the Church has defined there is no salvation outside her means that this proposition is true, and we know it is so with a divinely guaranteed certitude. Genuine charity is rooted in truth. A lie is an affront to truth and therefore an offense against charity. The ontological and psychological connection between truth and charity is a basic Christian concept, whose origin is in the Trinity Itself. Pope Benedict XVI recently highlighted this truth-charity nexus:

To defend the truth, to articulate it with humility and conviction, and to bear witness to it in life are therefore exacting and indispensable forms of charity. Charity, in fact, “rejoices in the truth” (1 Cor 13:6). … Only in truth does charity shine forth, only in truth can charity be authentically lived. (Caritas in Veritate, No. 1, 3, emphasis in original.)

There are various theories regarding how non-Catholics get to heaven as non-Catholics. Many of these have been advanced by churchmen of high rank. Rather than attempt to disprove these opinions in polemical fashion, I would prefer to show the truth of their contrary, and the consequent duty we have in charity not to waver from it. Out of love for God and for our non-Catholic neighbor, we must not give false or even uncertain assurances concerning how salvation is to be attained, and, consequently, how damnation is to be avoided. That would not be “doing the truth in charity” (Eph. 4:15), as St. Paul enjoins upon Christians.

Let’s consider an oft-cited infallible definition:

“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.)

We often hear the objection that someone does not need to be a “formal” member of the Church in order to be saved. The implication is that the spiritual trumps the juridical, and that God is not a stickler for names on baptismal registers and the like. But the implication often reaches further than such trivialities, to include what the Church has defined is necessary for salvation. The objection frames the issue of being Catholic in a far-too-juridical way. What makes us inside the Church? Three things: Divine and Catholic Faith (explicit in the principal mysteries — the Trinity and the Incarnation — and at least implicit in all other articles), sacramental baptism, and subjection to the Holy Father. These defining elements of Church membership expounded by St. Robert Bellarmine were authoritatively postulated by Pope Pius XII in Mystici Corporis:

Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed. “For in one spirit” says the Apostle, “were we all baptized into one Body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free.” [I Cor., XII, 13] As therefore in the true Christian community there is only one Body, one Spirit, one Lord, and one Baptism, so there can be only one faith. [Cf. Eph., IV, 5] And therefore, if a man refuse to hear the Church, let him be considered – so the Lord commands – as a heathen and a publican. [Cf. Matth., XVIII, 17] It follows that those who are divided in faith or government cannot be living in the unity of such a Body, nor can they be living the life of its one Divine Spirit. (No. 22)

There are many people who would not be considered “formal” members of the Church who are, in fact, Catholics in the dogmatic sense. Consider a case I’m personally familiar with: a teenager baptized in a (schismatic) Orthodox church in Russia. Adopted by a Catholic couple when she was about eleven years old, she continued to communicate and confess in the Catholic Church as she had in the Orthodox parish in Russia. The Catholic priest in this country said that as long as she believed in the pope — which she did — she was free to receive the sacraments. Yet I have been assured that, juridically, she is still considered Orthodox. I am fairly certain that her name appears on no Catholic parish register. For all that, she meets the three of the requisites above. This young lady could not be more Catholic. What is important are not the “juridical” issues, but the ecclesiological, sacramental, and “creedal” elements that truly make one a Catholic. Perhaps we can put it in terms that might make a canonist cringe: de facto Catholicism is what matters, not de jure Catholicism.

Saint Francis Xavier would not allow his hearers to think they could be saved outside the Church.

Saint Francis Xavier would not allow his hearers to think they could be saved outside the Church.

The overly legalistic analysis strikes me as somewhat disingenuous, too, inasmuch as those who advance it generally accuse us (“Feeneyites”) of being hung up on some sort of formalism. Assuredly we are not; but we are hung up on Catholicism.

Note in the definition of the Council of Florence that “pagans, … Jews and heretics and schismatics” are all categorically described as “existing outside the Catholic Church” and, consequently, they cannot “have a share in life eternal.” With only two exceptions, those “outside” the Church according to Florence correspond exactly to those not included as “members” by Pius XII. Those exceptions are 1) unbaptized believers (e.g., catechumens), whom Florence does not mention in Cantate Domino, but whom Pius XII clearly states are not members; and 2) excommunicates, whom Florence does not mention.

The unbaptized catechumen and analogous individuals bear a certain close relationship to the Church, as they have her faith, assent to her government, and seek her sacraments. I don’t see the need to be preoccupied with this question, as some are. God will provide for His own, and these people are His by those ties I’ve just mentioned. God will not cast off anyone who perseveres in His grace.1 Regarding excommunicates, we know from the grave nature of excommunication that those who die in that terrible state — if they really are excommunicated in foro interno — are lost. What concerns me most are the “pagans, … Jews and heretics and schismatics” that do not have the Church’s faith, do not assent to her government, and may or may not have a sacrament or two, or even seven. The Church infallibly assures us that those who fit these descriptions are not in the way of salvation and that “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.” Jesus commands us in the Holy Gospels to preach the unvarnished Catholic Gospel to these. If we let human respect get in the way of the great mandate, we damn ourselves.

These categories are not beyond comprehension. “Pagans” (or the synonymous “infidels”) would include not only unbelievers like atheists and agnostics, idolators like Hindus, or pantheists like Buddhists, but also Muslims, whom the Catholic world lumped into the category “pagan” in the fifteenth century when the Florentine Fathers met. “Jews” are hardly in need of explanation. They identify themselves as such. The words “heretic” and “schismatic” are rarely used in common parlance today, even in ecclesiastical circles, for they are considered “divisive” and even rude. Yet, the Church not only officially uses the words, but also clearly defines them in the current (1983) Code of Canon Law:

Can. 751 Heresy is the obstinate denial or doubt, after baptism, of a truth which must be believed by divine and catholic faith. Apostasy is the total repudiation of the christian faith. Schism is the withdrawal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or from communion with the members of the Church subject to him.

Elsewhere in the Code (1364 §1), we are informed that members of all three categories here mentioned automatically excommunicate themselves from the Church: “An apostate from the faith, a heretic or a schismatic incurs a latae sententiae excommunication…”.

I am very well aware that theologians distinguish between formal and material heresy as well as between formal and material schism. These are perfectly legitimate distinctions. Someone baptized and brought up in an alien sect will inevitably be, for a time anyway, merely in material heresy or schism. Before the age of reason, it’s not even a question: the child is a Catholic plain and simple. There are no infant Lutherans, Syrian Jacobites, or Serbian Orthodox — only pagan ones and Catholic ones. At what point one brought up in such a sect formally adheres to heresy or schism is God’s business and I’ll not lose the least amount of sleep over the question. What is the duty of the Church, however, and what ought to make us lose a few winks, is the duty we have to witness to the truth of where salvation is to be found. To keep people somnolent in their errors is just plain damnable. Let us suppose for a moment that one of the infants we’ve just considered lives to his teens in a blissful merely material heresy. Supposing he commits a mortal sin? Where does he seek forgiveness? Let’s say that his particular denomination believes that sin cannot separate us from God’s love — as so many believe? What then? Will the same priest who puts the fear of God into a Catholic boy struggling against vice do a volte-face and assure the non-Catholic suffering the same moral afflictions a place in Paradise should he die — even though he will not seek the sacrament of God’s mercy because his parents taught him it’s a popish abomination?

Indifferentism breeds strange contradictions.

While these distinctions are real, and have a valuable place in Catholic theology, they are not intended to contradict the plain meaning of dogma. Theology is meant to serve the revealed word, not to annul it.

The explanation that I recently read on the blog of a particularly intelligent priest, to the effect that God can save someone outside the Church very much misses the point. To argue from God’s sheer power while prescinding from His revelation is a dangerous thing. God could, by His naked omnipotence, use me — who am not a priest — to confect the Eucharist, couldn’t He? By His omnipotence, God could arrange for a child of our own times to be immaculately conceived. Neither of these things entails an inherent contradiction like squaring a circle, but both contradict defined dogma. It would be wiser to believe that God’s grace and providence will make things happen in conformity to His revelation — despite the apparent “unlikeliness” of it.

If we trust God’s grace, justice, and mercy to conform perfectly to the dogmatic teaching of His Church, we will never regret it. And that, I can promise.

  1. And who would have the temerity to suggest that God cannot or will not provide sacramental baptism for him, even miraculously?
  • Michele Dirks

    I find this article quite interesting. I have been struggling with confusion regarding this very subject lately. (If there were heretics in the infancy of the Church, why wouldn’t those who don’t follow Church teachings today be considered heretics?) There are very few people that want to hear the truth that is only taught in the Catholic Church. I pray that the Holy Spirit will inspire us to reach out to others in charity.

  • All in all, an excellent sermon, and makes a critical point: it is not only wrong but uncharitable to teach implicitly or explicitly that non-Catholics can be secure in their salvation or that non-Catholics do not have a *critical* reason to join the True Church (other than that seeking truth is a holy requirement in itself!).

    However, I do see several issues – what we might call several very real exceptions to rule that the author doesn’t speak to:

    1) The implication is that every or virtually every Protestant becomes a formal heretic and/or a formal schismatic, but that is simply not true: ignorance of the true Church is positively stunning in many areas (the enemy concentrates his strength against the true Church, of course) and the invincible ignorance that the Church recognizes may indeed save many souls from damnation. I know that I myself have known Protestants to be in such ignorance. (And I alway know there are *many* Protestants who intentionally close their eyes to the truth.)

    2) The sermon also implies that sacramental Confession is the only remedy for a mortal sin, but that also is not true: the Church teaches that perfect contrition also absolves mortal sin outside of the sacrament. (The massive advantage that Catholics have is that only *imperfect* contrition is necessary for a Catholic to be absolved by sacramental Confession.)

    3) One of the greatest saints and mystics of the Church, St. Pio, is on-record as testifying to the salvation of a specific Jew (someone who died a practicing Jew) in at least one case. How good the good saint possibly have been wrong about such a thing – this man whose holiness, bearing the Wounds of Christ on his body for five decades, ought to make us tremble? Likewise, Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich, in one of her visions, reveals Jews in purgatory. Perhaps there is a way to be mystically bound to the Body of Christ at the moment of death or immediately thereafter that we don’t understand?

  • Dear Catholic Thinker:

    Thank you for your kind words on my article (it’s not a sermon). Here are my replies to the points you raise:

    1. Invincible ignorance properly so called does absolve one from the guilt of sin. However, it does not supply for want of the virtue of faith. I made the point in my article that we don’t know how many, or even what particular, Protestant(s) are in merely material heresy. But the prima facie evidence, when someone rejects Catholic doctrine, is that he’s making an act of the will to reject truth. To assume that such a one is acting uprightly discounts the importance of truth and the reality of God’s actual grace, which is there to bring people to Catholic truth. Ignorance is a bad thing, not a good thing. It is a condition to be remedied, not encouraged.

    2. You are correct in pointing out the salutary effects of perfect contrition and the sufficiency of “imperfect contrition” (attrition) for sacramental confession. But I did not imply that confession is the only remedy for mortal sin. Catholics are taught not to depend on the perfect act of contrition — certainly not to receive Holy Communion. The idea that a Protestant can spend his whole life making one perfect act of contrition after another for mortal sins, especially when he discounts the notion of mortal sin (which almost all Protestants do) seems quite far-fetched. For someone, for example, to hold the Calvinistic or Lutheran doctrines of sin, perfect contrition is a psychological impossibility. It’s too Catholic a practice for someone with the “vain presumption of the heretics” (Trent).

    3. I don’t believe that Saint Pio thought that a Jew without faith in Christ or the Trinity could be saved. That specific Jew may have miraculously converted before his death, and then been saved. It is no more miraculous for God to save a Jew by the means He has established (and revealed) than it would be to reveal to a prophet like Padrre Pio that a particular man is in Heaven. There is not a “magisterium of the prophets” that can contradict the magisterium of the popes.

  • Justin

    Sadly St. Benedict Center is like a lone voice crying in the wilderness when it comes to this issue. Almost no one in the Church even mentions salvation anymore as even being a topic for discussion. What is implied is that heaven–if it exists–is open to everyone whether they are catholic or not or whether they are even in a state of grace of not. Sadly the Church ( at least many of its members)from the highest levels on down has become a bland, banal “this world” philanthropy organization devoid of anything supernatural. The restoration will come slowly over the course of a century or more and the flame of the faith will be kept alive by small groups on the edges like all of us who support you guys.

    If EENS is not the biggest issue that holds the Church back than it is at least in the top 3. After all, if there is salvation outside the Church and if it is likely than why be Catholic, why try to live a difficult ascetic life and do things like fast and go to confession? If one can be a Buddhist, a Hindu or even an atheist playboy and have just as much a shot at heaven as the most devoted Catholic than what’s the point?

  • Mary E. Dow

    This afternoon I discovered the good news that your group has received a decision that would enable you to continue to build your buildings, etc., after having been discriminated against by your town.

    I looked up to discover how to find your website and congratulate you.

    Having found you online I am also dismayed. You see, by the grace of God, I have received Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord. “By grace are you saved,through faith, and that not of yourselves , it is a gift of God –not of works, lest any man should boast” Eph. 2:8,9
    ” I assure you: Anyone who hears My word and believes Him who sent Me HAS eternal life and will not come under judgment but HAS PASSED from death to life.” John 5:24
    I believe in the inerrant Word of God. I believe in the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ. My life has been changed by God’s grace. I look forward to my future Home with Him because of God’s Word.

    It seems that I am being discriminated against in regards to your teaching that only someone belonging to the Catholic church is capable of being saved. This was quite a shock to read.

    As a believer in Jesus Christ, to Whom I have given my entire life (body, soul and spirit), I am writing to congratulate you for your winning the court case. Then I discover discrimination of a different kind.

    Speaking from my heart, pained by what I have seen while looking to congratulate you…who are located in another Richmond…NH, whereas we’re serving the Lord here in ME :)

    Mary E. Dow
    974 Main St.
    Richmond ME 04357

  • Donald E. Flood

    According to Mary Dow, the One and Triune God must be a bigot. In condemning people to Hell for sins such as mass murder, adulterous and/or homosexual acts, stealing, etc., God is “discriminating” against them. Adolf Hitler, if he is in Hell, has every right to complain. After all, what right did anyone have to pass judgment on him? He did not break any laws of Germany. Rather, he was on the losing side of a war, and as we all know, it is the victors who write history, not the losers. But we all know in our hearts that Adolf Hitler was a cold-blooded murderer, and if he is in Hell, such is his just deserts.

    Does God exist? If so, then objective moral values must exist, unless you are deist who says that God has no opinion on anything. If objective moral values exist, who and/or what defines those values?

    Liberal, dissenting Catholic theologians? 21st-century post-Enlightenment society and its laws? “Creeds can and should change,” to quote one liberal theologian whom I heard on a television show. However, if Creeds can change, are they still creeds? How many politicians have you heard who say that the Bill of Rights can change? If so, that document would no longer be the “Bill of Rights,” but the “Bill of Rights, Second Edition,” or something else (perhaps the 2010 Bill of Rights?)

    If heresy and schism were sins in the first century, then they must be sins today. How could they not be? Unless, of course, you are prepared to say that the Triune God, an immutable being, can change His mind, but then, would He still be God? For this reason and others, it is de fide that Jesus Christ, the God Incarnate, had two natures, one human, the other divine.

    Here are some of the Scripture verses that support EENS. I will restrict myself to three verses per point:

    1) Salvation does not exist apart from Jesus Christ, the One and Only Son of God: Mark 16:16, John 10:9, Acts 4:12

    2) The Body of Christ is the Church: Romans 12:4-5, 1 Corinthians 12:20-27, Ephesians 5:30

    3) Christ is the Head of His Church: Colossians 1:18, Ephesians 4:4-6, Luke 22:29-30

    4) Peter is the earthly head of the Church: Matthew 16:13-20, Luke 22:32, John 21:17-19

    5) The Church is necessary for salvation: Luke 10:16, Matthew 18:17-18, John 10:16

    With just the above, we can draw some firm conclusions through syllogistic reasoning, without any appeal to the Fathers, ecumenical councils, and/or Popes:

    Major Premise: No salvation exists apart from Jesus Christ and His Mystical Body.
    Minor Premise: The Mystical Body of Jesus Christ and His Church, of which Peter and his successors are the head, are one and the same thing.
    Conclusion : No Salvation exists outside the Catholic Church, which is headed by the successor to Saint Peter, the first Pope.

    Yes, we are saved by grace through faith, but not outside the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ. This is why the Fathers and Popes of the Church referred to it as being the Ark. Just as everyone who was outside the Ark perished in the Deluge, so no one will find eternal life, except in the Church of Christ, which is the Catholic Church.

  • Tim Butler

    Brother André Marie,

    I find what you wrote here thought provoking but still inadequate to change my mind on the subject. I am a Catholic of the Latin Rite, who has accepted the dogma that there is no salvation outside the Church, yet nuanced with an understanding that there will be persons having never entered the Church in heaven. What is central for me is the person’s comprehension of truth… of which I think you hinted upon with the example of children prior to the age of reason. As I think you would agree God would be unjust in condemning even Adam or Eve for violating His command not to eat from the Tree if He had not first informed them. The point here is that none of us can do what we don’t know, in fact we cannot even love what we do not know. Furthermore, I cannot ask forgiveness for what I don’t know to be wrong. Like you’ve implied charity and truth are requisite to salvation. Even adults can be children in their understanding, hampered by a fallen conscience as well as many other terrible things going against their knowing the truth that resides within the Church. But I recall Pope John Paul II saying at one time that we make it to heaven by the degree to which we follow the light God has given each of us. This very general statement accounts for even a native African born and raised in the jungles, never having heard of, let alone access to the Church. There are such things as perfect and imperfect unions. Do we not distinguish between mortal and venial sins, the latter only wound union with Christ and His Church while the former sever it completely?

    Nevertheless, this nuance does not give any of us inside the Church, who at best, have only a moral assurance of heaven, permission to stop evangelizing. I think this latter point is at the core of your concern. We who know better are bound by Church teaching while at the same time God is not. He can choose to save those outside the Church in any way He sees fit… and this is a mercy I can and do count on. Yet if I can pass truth to someone I am bound to do so… spelled balance. Therefore, to accept these preconditions to the idea of salvation only inside the Church is in no way to breed indifference. Furthermore, I suspect there will be many Catholics who lived their whole lives inside the Church missing from the joys of heaven precisely because there is this element of intellect and will involved in salvation as much as God’s mercy and grace. Sure, inside the Church we have the best chance of salvation but this can never prevent God from saving those outside Her, who through no fault of their own, did not know better. Again, nevertheless, in all this I still see an urgency to evangelize since truth is freeing and love is what we all seek even if we don’t clearly know it. We cannot be satisfied without God’s presence or in a word, without grace, which robs us of God’s loving presence.

    Thank you for this article and your devotion to Christ and His Church…

    Ratjaws (alias TCB)

  • Tim Butler

    To Cath Thinker & Bro Andre,
    I agree invincible ignorance is to be corrected and not encouraged but the point of Cath Thinker is that when in such state one is not accountable for their mistaken decision, which is why it is mistaken in the first place. Actual grace is given to one to lead them out of ignorance, as well as to us who should be an instrument of God to teach the ignorant (so that we will have the courage and faculty to do so). Still this latter point by Bro Andre does not detract from the fact that a person who is ignorant of any Catholic truth, including that of salvation outside the Church, through no fault of their own, does not acquire the guilt of an objective sin. Thus while in this state a person, having sinned, remains free of the guilt until such time as they are moved to understand by grace and intellectual insight that their thinking is wrong. As such if they maintain their state of grace they cannot be bound for hell. If salvation comes from only inside the Church then they in some way must be joined, if only imperfectly, to that Church.

    Objectively speaking if one remains outside the Church (or partially attached) they have less chance of attaining salvation, but subjectively they still can be free of serious sin, due to their ignorance. Thank God for His omniscient sense of justice! Granted there are other naunces that can be interjected into this scenerio to complicate the issue but suffice to say the point is that we are accountable for what we know… not for what we do not know. Here it would seem to me, contrition and attrition come into play, where a person becomes aware of their error, whether slowly or all at once. At the same time I agree with Bro Andre that for any of us to depend upon perfect contrition is naive, which is probably why Christ gave us a church and the sacrament of confession, that does not need such a hard to maintain act of will. BUT! …and here is the balance I spoke of in my first post, if a person outside the Church is truly ignorant of the moral condition of a particular act then there cannot be an act of contrition in the first place. One who sees no sin will not (cannot!) confess it. The fact that Bro Andre says “especially when he discounts the notion of mortal sin,” implies Protestants in general are ignorant of important truths. I say this carefully because I suspect that even though Protestant’s in general have no formal teaching on the degrees of sin they do on an idividual basis see the difference. For example to steal a penny is not the same as to rob a million dollars and any person with a good conscience sees this and treats life tempered by such knowledge.

    Nevertheless, and here is the crux of the matter, this whole issue is nuanced with so many intricacies that only God can sort it out in the end. At the same time we must invite non-Catholics from all walks of life into the light of truth while reserving judgment for God. We also need to give credit where it is due, therefore I think we need to keep in mind that Protestants who were involved in the Reformation have formally different guilt from their successors. In a sense ignorance can be passed on; on by omission of truth which it seems to me is the case of our non-Catholic brothers and sisters-in-Christ today (keep in mind ignorance cannot undo the effect of baptism which enters one formally into the Church). To the degree they see the truth of the gospel in a proper way is to the degree they are imperfectly joined to the Church (a union which baptism initiated). And I think this goes for even our non-Christian brothers and sisters, in relation to truth, although to a lesser degree than those who have formal union. Is not truth one? In the final analysis it seems to me that both knowledge and will are involved in this issue. Each person has knowledge in degrees and acts according to truth as they see it either appropriately or inappropiately. To be in full communion with the Family is best, but we should not spurn those members who are, so to speak, only clinging to the Family (Think how would we treat an arm cut say, one quarter of the way off? Would we completely sever it or attempt to reattach thus enabling it to continue in the life of the body?). And take note how we treat our members has an affect on those outside the Church as to whether they are attracted or to it not.

    Sincerely, TCB (alias Ratjaws)

  • Dear Ratjaws,

    Thank you for your comments. While we have certain points of staunch disagreement, you show that you are wrestling with the issue. Most people prefer to dismiss this defined truth with little thought.

    Let me comment on some of your statements, please:

    “The point here is that none of us can do what we don’t know, in fact we cannot even love what we do not know. Furthermore, I cannot ask forgiveness for what I don’t know to be wrong.”

    All this is true, and very admirably Augustinian! But don’t leave it there, for if you do, you beg the question that without KNOWLEDGE of divine truth, we cannot be saved. The same St. Augustine who asks “How can I love that which I know not?” also says:

    “A man cannot have salvation except in the Catholic Church. Outside the Catholic Church he can have everything except salvation. He can have honor, he can have Sacraments, he can sing Allelulia, he can answer Amen, he can possess the Gospel, he can preach faith in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: but never except in the Catholic Church will he be able to find salvation” (Discourse to the People of the Church at Caesarea, Migne, PL, 43, 689, 698; cf. Jurgens, The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. III, p. 130.)

    For St. Augustine, one was either a member of the City of God or not. It was pretty simple.

    “We who know better are bound by Church teaching while at the same time God is not.”

    God binds himself to his word. The New Covenant in Christ’s Blood is no less binding on him than His Covenant with Abraham. So, all of his revealed truths bind Him. This does not lessen His power; rather, it directs His power toward doing things in accordance with His revelations.

    “He can choose to save those outside the Church in any way He sees fit… and this is a mercy I can and do count on.” — vs. — “I am a Catholic of the Latin Rite, who has accepted the dogma that there is no salvation outside the Church…”

    I do believe we’ve hit the wall of the principle of non-contradiction. As I said in the article, making God’s omnipotence oppose his revelations is a dangerous thing.

    “we must invite non-Catholics from all walks of life into the light of truth while reserving judgment for God.”

    Amen. We “Feeneyites” do not judge, unless it be enough judgment to determine if someone is…

    1. Ignorant enough to be instructed;
    2. Doubtful enough to be counseled;
    3. Sinner enough to be admonished;
    4. Wrong enough to be borne with patiently;
    5. Offensive enough to be forgiven willingly;
    6. Afflicted enough to be conforted;
    7. Living or dead enough to be prayed for.

  • Donald E. Flood

    One of the most foundational statements of the Catholic Faith is the Athanasian Creed, included the text of the Council of Florence:

    The Creed is quite explicit about salvation:

    1. Whosoever will be saved: before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith:

    Now, the consequence of not believing:

    2. Which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled: without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

    Note the “without doubt”, but repeated again:

    44. This is the Catholic Faith: which except a man believe faithfully [truly and firmly], he can not be saved.

    How many times does the Church have to say it?!

    Ignorance does not save, even if it is “invincible.” Long ago, Saint Thomas resolved this issue to everyone’s satisfaction:

    “Unbelief may be taken in two ways: first, by way of pure negation, so that a man be called an unbeliever, merely because he has not the faith. Secondly, unbelief may be taken by way of opposition to the faith; in which sense a man refuses to hear the faith, or despises it, according to Isaiah 53:1: ‘Who hath believed our report?’ It is this that completes the notion of unbelief, and it is in this sense that unbelief is a sin.

    If, however, we take it by way of pure negation, as we find it in those WHO HAVE HEARD NOTHING ABOUT THE FAITH, it bears the character, not of sin, but of punishment, because such like ignorance of Divine things is a result of the sin of our first parent. If such like unbelievers are damned, it is on account of other sins, WHICH CANNOT BE TAKEN AWAY WITHOUT FAITH, but not on account of their sin of unbelief. Hence Our Lord said (John 15:22) ‘If I had not come, and spoken to them, they would not have sin’; which Augustine expounds (Tract. lxxxix in Joan.) as “referring to the sin whereby they believed not in Christ.” (Summa Theologica, II II, Q.10, A.1, emphasis mine)

    We are all born in a state of sin, not a state of grace. This is why infants and children who die without Baptism cannot attain the Beatific Vision. The Council of Carthage in 418 AD was quite explicit about this:

    “It has been decided likewise that if anyone says that for this reason the Lord said: ‘In my house there are many mansions’ [John 14:2]: that it might be understood that in the kingdom of heaven there will be some middle place or some place anywhere where the blessed infants live who departed from this life without baptism, without which they cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven, which is life eternal, let him be anathema. For when the Lord says: ‘Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he shall not enter into the kingdom of God’ [John 3:5], what Catholic will doubt that he will be a partner of the devil who has not deserved to be a coheir of Christ? For he who lacks the right part will without doubt run into the left [cf. Matt. 25:41,46].”

    Of course, what applies to infants would also apply to adults.

  • Sophie

    I’m a catholic as well and as I have recently discovered, Catholic means Universal. I do think that when Church is mentioned in the scriptures, it means Christ’s Universal Church

    I only want to Quote Marc 9-38,42

    9:38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone who doesn’t follow us casting out demons in your name; and we forbade him, because he doesn’t follow us.”

    9:39 But Jesus said, “Don’t forbid him, for there is no one who will do a mighty work in my name, and be able quickly to speak evil of me. 9:40 For whoever is not against us is on our side. 9:41 For whoever will give you a cup of water to drink in my name, because you are Christ’s, most certainly I tell you, he will in no way lose his reward. 9:42 Whoever will cause one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for him if he were thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around his neck.

  • Sophie: You are correct in saying that Catholic means universal. In strict truth, the “Universal Church” of Jesus Christ is the Catholic Church, the one whose visible head is the Roman Pontiff.That’s why we have the name. The Catholic Church is not a sect limited to some narrow sliver in time or place, but the one spread throughout the world ever since Jesus founded it, guaranteed to remain until the consummation of the world and beyond, in Heaven.

    Your citation of St. Mark is not to the point. Jesus was telling the Apostles that they (the Apostles) did not have a monopoly on the true religion. He was not denying that the Church is “the pillar and ground of the truth” as St. Paul called it (1 Tim. 3:15). Nor was He denying what He Himself affirmed elsewhere: “And if he will not hear the church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican” (Matt. 18:17).

  • wayne

    Im sorry, but i just dont think the Catholic Church has a monopoly on heaven. thanks

  • Tim Butler

    Brother Francis,
    Two things concern me in what you said in your last post:

    First you stated “God binds himself to his word,” yes, I agree. Then you said “so, all of his revealed truths bind him.” These are essentially two different statements and therefore, taken together cannot account for why my perspective would be wrong. To say God binds himself is not the same as to then say God is bound (“all of his revealed truths bind him”), which is the essence of the latter. What you are saying is that God’s will is not free, that there is a contention between God’s essential nature and his will, which in reality are one. God’s will is free, he can determine what he desires then bide by it. He can also make exceptions if he so desires. From your perspective it seems to me God cannot exempt those whom he desires based upon whatever criteria he so desires. This is your group’s interpretation of Church teaching. From mine God not only can… he has.

    So my point rather is intending to bring this distinction out, that God willingly binds himself to what he has revealed to us in relation to our salvation… BUT! …and here again lies the distinction, God is not bound as though in an absolute sense. God could have willed not to save us? Yes. God could have willed to save us in a different manner altogether than what has actually been revealed? Yes. Yet God did not! God revealed his plan (through revelation to the Jews and embodied in Christ, and now guarded by his Church) which I suspect we both agree upon and which in essence takes place from within the Catholic Church. Notice I said from within, meaning it initiates from there radiating outward toward every single person, professing Christian or not. So here is where we really seem to disagree.

    As for that “wall of the principle of non-contradiction,” I believe you think this because you still misunderstand what I have said above. God’s omnipotence is at one with his will and it is from this omnipotent will of God that we have revelation at all. God cannot contradict himself as we both well know and in assuming clear distinction in degrees there is no contradiction. When the Church Fathers speak of salvation outside the Church (or inversely inside) they don’t mean without nuance for this would bring into reality an absolutism in God’s nature that I suggest cannot exist. Nor am I implying here what Sophie means when she speaks of the Church as “universal.” This is the other extreme. It seems her idea of universal is that which I encountered in Protestantism where implicit is this vague idea of all believers. It’s a pseudo-spiritual sense, or I think, the Catholic sense taken to an extreme. Her sense is ambiguous whereas the Catholic sense, as you so well pointed out, has a visible component. As such the Catholic perspective is concrete so to speak.

    I’ve argued with many a Protestant that the Church is not just “all believers” in some formless vagarity but has both a visible and invisible component. And this is beautifully mirrored by the nature of the human person. Every aspect of our body has as it’s active form the soul. That which is visible is enlivened by that which is invisible. As such we who are composed body and soul are in effect living icons to the nature of the Church which has a visible head informed by an invisible Holy Spirit. St. Paul using the analogy of the body had to know this which is exactly why he discerned it usable.

    I can also agree with you that the Church does not “have a monoply on the true religion,” in the sense that true religion means truth. I think even Wayne misunderstands this teaching of the Catholic Church. As Pope John Paul II stated so succinctly, the Church has a “fulness of truth.” Still, again, truth is one. So the truth that say the pagan Greeks saw is the same as the truth we Christians (more specifically, we Catholics) see. They may see this from a slightly different aspect (like the facets on a diamond, the same diamond we all view) but even St. Thomas Aquinas (primarily Aristotlian) and St. Augustine (primarily Platonic), whom each of you cite to make your points, agree by using their philosophical perspective as stepping stones to teach what the Church teaches. This is similar to St. Paul (the philosopher) in scripture speaking to the people in Athens using their “unknown idol” as a starting point. Truth is communicable both inside and outside the Church even though it’s correct that truth must originate in God, whom through his Son, has instituted a Church for our salvation. Therefore truth emanating from the Church affects those outside Her. Truth outside the Church, being one, cannot contradict that which is inside. Error is a lack of truth and while it cannot be found in the Church coexists with what truth is outside Her. Therefore truth in general emanates from God outside the Church admixed with error (this error is due rational creatures and not God) while it emanates from God within the Church with no admixture of error where it concerns primarily faith and morals. This latter point is true precisely because Jesus guarantees that not even a jot or tiddle will pass away and this is so because of the Church he instituted. The Catholic Church guards truth, dispenses it, as well as distributes the graces associated with it. The Church must also govern in order to do it’s job therefore She has authority. It seems to me that people like Wayne misunderstand that whereas the Church is not monopolizing truth She guards it so that those within the Church have the greatest chance of attaining heaven. They have this chance precisely because it, the truth, is guarded by a capable authority, capable by the protection of Christ (God incarnate), who alone has the power to carry out the promise of keeping the gates of hades from prevailing against the (Catholic or “universal”) Church.

    Truth as you have said is essential to salvation. Nevertheless I again repeat that those outside the Church (and those inside it to the degree they do not know), who through no fault of their own do not know some aspect of salvatory truth, are not bound by it is the same sense as we who do have access to and know and understand it. Notice In fact, I propose that this applies to those both inside and outside the Church. In saying this I don’t mean to imply that one’s ignorance makes them immune to harm. On the contrary if someone ingests poison even though they don’t know it they will be affected by it. But the analogy breaks down here where I refer to the guilt associated with truth. It is the subjective aspect which guilt refers to (the personal knowledge) while the objective aspect concerns the act of denying a known truth (I.E.: the conscious act of sin itself which is in the will formed by a properly “enlightened” intellect). These are the nuances which you and others seem to gloss over. Of course maybe you see them too which is why we dialogue? But it is these subtle nuances that lead me to disagree with you as well as the firmness of verity therein that prompts me to disagree with Protestant theology (and poorly informed Catholics) that would attempt to refute the constant teaching of “no salvation outside the Church.”

    Sincerely, TCB (alias Ratjaws)

  • Donald E. Flood

    Tim’s post makes no sense for the following reasons:

    1) Liberals and progressives in the Church acknowledge the Church’s traditional teaching of EENS:

    The website states, “Until at least 1854, the official teaching of the Church was that there was no salvation outside the Church. Here are some statements by the Magisterium…” Note the similarity between the Magisterial texts referenced and those of the SBC!

    2) Tim’s arguments lead to self-contradictions. We know this to be so because atheist authors and others have pointed out these contradictions, not just traditional Catholics.

    3) Tim is claiming that the One and Triune God could save someone without them knowing it! As the SBC has posted numerous times, the unchanging teaching of the Church is that the Gospel could be presented to anyone via the ministry of angels and/or through internal inspiration. Such would cover anyone and everyone who was ever born and had reached the age of reason!

    4) Anyone can baptize, and for an infant or young child, a valid baptism is always a fruitful one. The One and Triune God knows everything, and as such, could, in His providence, arrange the infant baptism of anyone whom He knew would seek Him out with a sincere heart. In other words, God knows, from infinity past, who will believe and who will not.

    5) We are all born in a state of damnation and not in a state of grace. The New Theology cannot explain how one goes from being in a state of damnation to a state of grace without the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, which, of course, requires faith on the part of the individual who believes.

  • Tim:

    Two clarifications. First, I’m Brother Andre, not Brother Francis, who went to his reward over a year ago. That I would be confused with him is undeserved flattery, but thank you.

    Second, I did not say that the Catholic Church “does not have a monopoly on the true religion,” for I don’t believe that. The Church IS the true religion. I said that the Apostles did not have a monopoly, meaning that there were other followers of Christ besides those of the apostolic college. I think my drift was pretty

    Of course truth exists outside the Church. When a Buddhist says 2+2=4, he says the truth. But that’s not “the true religion.” The latter is an integral concept, which is by its very nature exclusive. When a Lutheran says, “Jesus is Lord” he says the truth, but he does not have the true religion, which is synonymous with the Catholic religion.

  • Tim Butler

    Brother ANDRE!

    Oops !!! I’m sitting here both laughing at my mistake and horrified at the possibility of it being taken as an insult. I guess I’ve been so concentrated on what I’m writing that I got lost in it and did not notice the mistake. Sorry! Or maybe it was that quote I used from St. Francis…? Oh well, hopefully no insult taken. In fact St. Francis is a good guy to be mistaken for, don’t you think? Brother Francis is a good guy too and is the reason I came across your website. I am reading his course on minor logic and was looking for more of his work here.

    Thanks for correcting me on your statement over religious monopoly. I took it wrong. Of course this is why we dialogue, to share our understanding of truth as well as to iron out any misunderstandings.

    Well again here I say nuance(s). As I’ve said before truth is one which is where your point is centered. Sure 2+2=4 to a Buddhist, Lutheran, atheist or whoever, but this does not concern faith and morals, which is where the Church’s authority over truth resides. This is why you call \the true religion\ an integral concept, meaning it’s not a truth external to the Church. So we agree here. But the fact that a Lutheran says \Jesus is Lord\ is not enough to judge whether they are inside or outside the Church. I would not even frame it that way because they are more accurately said to be attached to the Church. The analogy required to talk about the Church is that of a living being because an inanimate being does not correspond as well to the Church’s nature. So again, St. Paul uses the picture of a body, a human body which has as an intimate principle, life. Lutherans as we know broke from communion with the Church but one cannot say they are completely disconnected because they retain at least two of the sacraments, baptism and matrimony.

    As for the terms \the true religion\ I shy away from using them. As you probably know the term religion means \to bind back.\ Religion is man’s innate drive to find his Source. It’s our thirst for God so to speak. Of course this, I think, is one of the reasons the Church was established… to bring us back to God. But that is the most general sense of the Church’s purpose. She as you well know was instituted to reconcile us to God and enable us to become as St. Augustine said \more fully human.\ God’s grace available in the Church actually lifts us up and makes us more like God in a way we could not accomplish of our own natural powers. So I guess one can say it is the true religion but normally when I hear this term it is used by some sect with the connotation that that they have a monopoly on truth. They don’t neither can it be said the Church does. The Church has the seven sacraments, which no other institution has. But outside the Church there can be an understanding that is correct in relation to faith and morals. As I’ve stated before this truth outside the Church lacks fulness. It is intermixed with error. Thus far I suspect we agree here, right?

    So what bothers me in what you said is \When a Lutheran says, ‘Jesus is Lord’ he says the truth, but he does not have the true religion, which is synonymous with the Catholic religion.\ The only way a Lutheran or anyone else can say Jesus is Lord is by the power of the Holy Spirit. We know this explicitly from scripture. This means that Lutheran has faith… true faith. Does he have the same fulness we do? No. But an honest truth seeking Lutheran is a part or our Catholic faith to the degree that he professes whatever truth the Church teaches. In professing Jesus is Lord the Lutheran or any other person is exhibiting Catholic faith, if only partially and imperfectly. We must give credit where credit is due. Jesus did not come to start another religion rather to institute a church intended to \guard the good deposit\ as St. Paul said to St. Timothy. In what you are saying you seem to imply that unless a person professes everything the Church teaches and practices all that she commands they are not Catholic. I don’t see it that way. I see degrees of communion and I think the popes and Church Fathers throughout history have expressed this too. For what is communion (communication, communicate, community, commune, etc…) but a \union with\ another.

    The most amazing thing about us humans is that we are capable of uniting with God as well as all other beings in creation in a way that is in accord with their nature. At communion we unite with the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. In marriage we unite with our spouse in a way that has as the possibility of generating new human life. You and I are uniting in thought here as we communicate over the internet. As I look at my cats here, pet them, smell them, etc… I unite with them in the mode of thought. Even with this inanimate computer I type on, there is a union to some degree between it and myself. This union is real and always in relation to the nature of the beings involved. This is why I love the analogy St. Paul uses concerning the individual human body and the ecclesial body. There is a real union that cannot be overlooked or understated. As practicing Catholics we are united with Christ and His Church body (…other Christians, angels, saints, etc.) in a deep and profound way. A Lutheran or any other Protestant by the same token is united with Christ and His Church but to a lesser degree than we who have the fulness of faith.

    So this is where I wonder if we are both speaking past each other or saying two different things? I cannot discount the real union Protestants have with the Church I am intimately part of. Nor can I discount the union a Buddhist has with God… even if it be weak and feeble due to distortions in their understanding. I think we must build off what is already there just as St. Paul did when he was preaching the gospel in Athens. It does me no good to put a Protestant outside the Church when they have a living connection to it. Nor can it do a Protestant good either to deny them what little they have. And as you have stated so susciently in your article it is not charity to ignore truth. The truth is not all persons who don’t profess to be Catholic can be excluded from the Catholic Church. On the flip side if one outwardly professes hatred for the Catholic Church knowing full well that the Church has truth then they can be said to be outside and seriously in danger of supernatural death, if not already dead. But they have to know better. It has to be an enlightened act that is free in order to be culpable. This has been a main point of mine.

    And in light of all this I do not deny the tangible aspect of our Catholic faith. What I’ve said so far risks being interpreted as merely an intellectual assent apart from the material aspects of our faith. And here is where many Protestants part with us, sadly. But we both know that the sacraments as necessary for our salvation are visible signs of invisible realities. Also the sacraments as signs are real material entities. They are \concrete\ to our senses so to speak. So our beautiful Catholic faith takes into account not just mental concepts (very important) but matter itself, and this since God is the author of the material world. God uses it all and so our Catholic faith denies none of it. Visible and invisible. Tangeable and intangeable. Form and matter. Substance and accidens. Body and soul are all important to our fullness of faith and other people need to know this. My point here is not that those who don’t know this are all damned but that they are in a place where they are less able to reach the destination God desires for them without what we Catholics have. In fact it is possible for us to not make it with all we have at our disposal. I’ve heard it said before that as Catholics we will end up in heaven to our greater glory or in hell to our greater damnation and this will be due to our choice(s) in life.

    As Fr. John Hardon said we get to have by our love. To the degree we love is to the degree we are apt to get to heaven. This he explained is why we are born into families where love is necessarily exercised and don’t just appear in this world as Adam did, as individuals with no concern for others except our relationship with God. Scripture states: love God, love others. In it’s most profound sense love has as it’s object other persons. This is at the core of our Catholic faith. Not rules, not laws, not dogmas. At the same time knowing the core of our faith is love and truth which brings forth life and goodness, we Catholics are not like the secular culture who hate conformity to rules, laws and dogmas. We know that such things protect love and life, truth and goodness, and that rules, laws, and dogmas assume an authority. To the secular world authority curtails freedom but to us Catholics we know conformity to proper authority frees us. Proper authority is that which has goodness as it’s end. True authority draws it’s life from charity and conforms to truth. The fruit of such authority is the generation and protection of life. All such things taken together must be good because they come from the mind of God who is these things in their fulness and perfections. This is our Catholic faith in a nutshell.

    Sincerely Tim (alias Ratjaws)

  • Donald E. Flood


    Your verbose writing is typical of modernist theology — you write so much, while at the same time saying so little. I have NO idea how you square your “Catholic” theology with something like Unam Sanctam, the Papal Bull of Pope Boniface VIII linked to above. Traditionalist Catholics have a wonderful saying — “If you were right then, we are right now. If you were wrong then, you are wrong now.” I have no idea where your theology comes from, except, perhaps, your own personal convictions? This is NOT a criticism, just an observation.

    You state, “The only way a Lutheran or anyone else can say Jesus is Lord is by the power of the Holy Spirit.” But, is it not written, “You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe — and shudder.”? (James 2:19, RSV) By the power of the Holy Spirit?

  • Tim Butler

    Mr. Flood,
    Concerning your points on faith from the Athanasian Creed:

    The Creed is quite explicit about salvation:
    1. Whosoever will be saved: before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith:
    Now, the consequence of not believing:
    2. Which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled: without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.
    Note the “without doubt”, but repeated again:
    44. This is the Catholic Faith: which except a man believe faithfully [truly and firmly], he can not be saved.
    How many times does the Church have to say it?!

    There are two terms of primary importance here: belief and faith. Yes one needs faith to be saved. But what is faith? Fr. John Hardon defined faith as “primarily an assent of the mind to truth.” Faith involves our intellect meaning it involves knowledge. I can’t have faith in what I do not know just as I cannot love what I do not know. There must be an object to faith to which I attach, so to speak, my understanding. The object of our Catholic faith is not just God but exactly who God is. We can start pulling this apart, God deserves our love and complete trust, we turn from God spurning His love. God’s justice requires infinite satisfaction, infinite because God is an infinite being. We cannot be reconciled to God on our own power alone so God reached down to us and provided a means. God sent His Son and through His life, suffering, death and resurrection provides the means for our salvation. This is what we must believe and can believe with even greater depth as we learn more. But notice, we must know this in order to assent to it. If this object is not present to us then we cannot assent and therefore we cannot be accountable. Again I say God would be unjust to hold any of us accountable for what we do not know. So, and again, it behoves us who know to present the gospel to unbelievers so that they can choose the faith. But if for some reason not due to their own fault the gospel is not present to a person then they cannot believe, cannot make an assent to our supernatural faith, and therefore are not accountable. If they are not baptized then they have never had a chance to receive sanctifying grace. This is not their fault either. If they go through their life not committing mortal sin or when they do they don’t know it’s serious nature then they are not accountable. They are only accountable to the degree they understand their moral acts as well as the Catholic faith. Here again one is posed with the problem of where does such person go who is not fit for heaven (has not sanctifying grace necessary for heaven) and is not deserving punishment (their moral culpability is null or lessened to a degree less than serious)? I say here one is dependent upon God’s grace since they fall outside the ordinary means. Such persons may be few in reality but this case has to be taken into account by God who will judge us all not based upon our ignorance but upon what we know.

    To continue on with what you have said in reference to St. Thomas Aquinas:

    Ignorance does not save, even if it is “invincible.” Long ago, Saint Thomas resolved this issue to everyone’s satisfaction:

    I am not saying ignorance saves. I am saying ignorance exempts one from judgment which is not the same as salvation. Salvation concerns the judgment for having sinned (there are two sense here). Salvation acquits one who has sinned seriously and is accountable for their sin (the second sense it that it provides grace). Salvation is given to one because of God’s mercy in that God’s Son, Jesus, has taken the punishment for our sin. Salvation requires belief (knowledge of the object of faith) as your quotes suggest and faith (assent to the truth of God’s revelation). Now you cite St. Thomas:

    “Unbelief may be taken in two ways: first, by way of pure negation, so that a man be called an unbeliever, merely because he has not the faith. Secondly, unbelief may be taken by way of opposition to the faith; in which sense a man refuses to hear the faith, or despises it, according to Isaiah 53:1: ‘Who hath believed our report?’ It is this that completes the notion of unbelief, and it is in this sense that unbelief is a sin.

    “If, however, we take it by way of pure negation, as we find it in those WHO HAVE HEARD NOTHING ABOUT THE FAITH, it bears the character, not of sin, but of punishment, because such like ignorance of Divine things is a result of the sin of our first parent. If such like unbelievers are damned, it is on account of other sins, WHICH CANNOT BE TAKEN AWAY WITHOUT FAITH, but not on account of their sin of unbelief. Hence Our Lord said (John 15:22) ‘If I had not come, and spoken to them, they would not have sin’; which Augustine expounds (Tract. lxxxix in Joan.) as “referring to the sin whereby they believed not in Christ.” (Summa Theologica, II II, Q.10, A.1, emphasis mine)”

    I agree with St. Thomas’ acessment of unbelief but not with your interpretation of St. Thomas. Unbelief in the first sense of Aquinas’ definition does not bear the character of punishment because we are deserving of punishment only when we disobey. This concerns moral acts only. Ignorance of an authority’s command cannot justly imply punishment from that authority. The proper response of a just authority (God) to our ignorance is education, not damnation. Nor can we be held accountable for our parents, or our parent’s parents, or even our original parent’s sins, which is what you suggest here. Here is where you miss a very important distinction I make between what is termed Original Sin (a state) and Actual Sin (personal acts). Original Sin implies the state we are conceived in with a corresponding deprivation of grace. Adam and Eve were created with this grace infused in their soul but we are not! Adam and Eve lost their state of grace because they disobeyed God. We don’t acquire their guilt for this. And it is this grace that is necessary to make us fit for heaven. Lack of it does not warrant punishment because it has no moral character. It is a created substance we are lacking. On the other hand Actual Sin determines guilt and consequent punishment. SInce acting sin is personal in nature it cannot be transfered from one person to another as you seem to suggest above (at best your statement is ambiguous concerning this distinction I make here). In the case of Actual Sin faith is necessary to regain our position (relationship) with God. In the case of the stain of the original sin of our parents, which is transferable, faith is necessary but not necessarily on the part of the one needing the grace. This is why parents can baptize their infants who are not the recepients of the grace (the infant is). Notice, infants cannot believe, cannot attain knowledge and therefore cannot have faith (more precisely cannot use infused faith that is given at baptism). Baptism puts one back in the state of grace that should have occured the moment we came into existence but did not because Adam and Eve lost it (what one does not have cannot be passed on). Furthermore baptism before the age of reason affects an infant in a slightly different way than an adult who can understand right from wrong. In both cases baptism removes guilt and gives grace, but in the case of an adult they must consent. In the case of those unable to reason they can have a proxy. The point here again is that we Catholics understand that knowledge and understanding of our moral acts is necessary to be culpable if and when we sin.

    As for the quote of St. John and St. Augustine’s comment on it, this again concerns the aspect of knowledge and therefore moral guilt I’ve mentioned over and over again. To be presented the gospel in a way in which a person understands it’s implications is to be presented Christ, and this is to be presented the gospel. It is to be presented truth because Christ is Truth incarnate. To the degree one understands is to the degree one is accountable and to the degree they are deserving of punishment. There is nothing impossible to understand about this and it is Catholic teaching to the core. If one is never presented the truth concerning sin and salvation, the Church’s teaching, etc… then they cannot become accountable to the fullest extent. Also even a pygmie in deepest darkest Africa, while not being responsible for their lack of grace, can be accountable for their personal sin to the degree they understand, which is another way of saying to the degree their conscience is working. As Catholics we are taught that we must properly form our conscience as well as never abuse it by doing what we know is wrong (even if what we know is in error). There is a delicate balance in our operating conscience that must be maintained between how we actually understand truth and how we should understand it. This is why the Church teaches we must remain open to truth and to close ourselves off from it can be a sin. Again it is a sin to the degree we know we are rejecting truth. That’s the key here, what we actually know or how we understand truth. Unfortunately it is possible for us to be biased against truth and not be accountable to the fullest degree. This happens often within our culture or domestic setting where truth is intermixed with falsity and each of us has a different degree of difficulty distinguishing one from the other. Said in another way we cannot be held accountable for being fed what is false in the name of truth. It should be clear that we need an infallible teacher but unfortunately not everyone has access to the Church’s teaching. Can any of us reach the 6.5 billion people presently alive in our world today? Even more so can all of us who are faithful Catholics reach all the people in this world with Catholic truth? Certainly you can see this is not possible because of all the variables involved and so every person will not have the same degree of accountability for their situation. Therefore salvation which comes only through the One,Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church (in the ordinary sense) has nuances as determined by the situation of each person. The grace a pygmie receives, who through no fault of his own does not know the Catholic Church as the sole source of that grace, is the same as the grace you and I receive who are within and must remain within that Church. Likewise for aborted fetus’ and victims of natural abortions. Ditto for the mentally handicapped and on and on to name but the most extreme of cases.

    Sincerely, Tim (alias Ratjaws)

  • Donald E. Flood


    Here is your fundamental error:

    Pope Innocent III: “The punishment of original sin is the deprivation of the vision of God, but the punishment of actual sin is the torments of everlasting Hell. . .” (Denz. 410).

    Everyone that you cite above as falling “outside the ordinary means” would still die with the stain of original sin and would, consequently, be excluded from Heaven, the Beatific Vision:



  • Tim Butler

    Mr. Flood & Brother Andre,
    I had to rewrite this next reply to what Mr. Flood wrote in reply to me on December 10th. I just read the link he gave and now realize we may be talking past each other here. It seems we believe essentially the same thing. I firmly believe there is a bode of the damned, hell. The first half of Brother Andre’s article on the 13th is written to prove this from revelation and the Church Fathers. I also believe it is coexistent with heaven and therefore eternal. It is both a place because we are corporeal creatures and a state of being since God is a pure spirit and we have a spiritual component. There will be a literal fire but in a way that is conducive to the supernatural state our being will be in (I’ve heard it in it this way, that since we’ve sinned in these bodies then our punishment will include them after the resurrection of our body to glorification).

    I further believe there is a heaven for the faithful of God. It is a place and state of perfect happiness where we share in what is called the Beatific Vision. In trying to argue my case I’ve studied further on this very subject and learned more depth about that \face to face\ presence of us with God. We will have an intuitional knowledge of God that is not mediated like our knowledge is here on earth. We will be free from further sin because we have possession of the One we long for and therefore will never want to turn from God. Faith and hope will no longer be necessary virtues, only charity (selfless love).

    There is much more but suffice to say these realities I believe and accept as certain truth, revealed by God through our One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. All this in mind I suspect what Brother Andre termed \limbo of the infants\ in his article and associated with an \essential hell,\ is where our disagreement now lies. It seems I have been taught to believe this \borderland\ or \margin\ where unbaptized infants go (and any others who don’t fit the ordinary means) is heaven rather than hell. It is as was indicated, a state \compatible with some degree of natural happiness — even a perfect natural happiness.\ I’m not sure if this is one of those arguments where two sides are drawn around the glass being half empty and half full? Maybe there is some ontological consideration here I am not familar with that needs to be known but I also believe that Pope John Paul II spoke of this Limbo in relation to heaven. I can see to be in a state of perfect happiness compared to the Beatific Vision is a movement down from or away from heaven. At the same time compared to the just pains of hell this same state of happiness would be a state above. Either way we both still believe in only two states after death (and after the end of purgatory).

    So I ask is there something here I miss? The fact that we describe limbo as \a degree of natural happiness\ seems to me to indicate it does not refer to hell. Could it be that there are degrees in heaven? If you say no then why should I think there are degrees to hell which is what limbo associated with hell would be? I tend to lean toward Limbo as being a lower \level\ of heaven because heaven is good since it is essentially a relationship with God, who as scripture states is all good. Maybe I should say limbo is a less intimate relationship with God? The fact that this limbo is a \state of perfect natural happiness\ seems to indicate it is not to be associated with hell. This I assume is because hell is essentially the deprivation of relationship with God (to one degree or another) and therefore deprivation of good. Hell exists yes, but in a way it shares a like nature to evil which of course has no essence. Evil as St. Thomsas defines is the lack of a necessary good. Hell seems to me more a lacking of our being as opposed to heaven which is a greater fulness. All this revolves around God who is the Source of all our relationships, perfections, goodness, being, beauty, etc.

    In relation to natural happiness, wasn’t the Garden of Eden so? I certainly would not consider Adam and Eve’s presence there a hell. In fact our expulsion from Eden can be considered a state more like hell than that primordial garden. So if limbo is something like Eden, or greater in any sense, then I would think it better to consider it as related to heaven than hell?

    I also want to commend Brother Andre for this exposition as it is very thorough, clear and concise. In fact I have downloaded and saved it with the intention of using it as a reference in the future. I hope this is alright?

    Sincerely, Tim (alias Ratjaws)

  • Tim Butler

    It would seem according to Fr. Scanlon the EENS issue revolves around the ideas that “liberty of conscience and of worship is the proper right of every man,” (Enchiridion Symbolorum) versus, “in matters religious no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs.” (Vatican II, Dignitatis Humanae) If we take these two statements in context of when they were presented we will see that “these teachings are consistent with each other: first in regard to a person’s freedom in religious matters in relation to the state; and second in regard to a person’s freedom in religious matters in relation to the Church.” In all this one must keep in mind an official Church teaching is what the Church intended by the teaching at the time of the teaching, rather than what one can read into the formulation of the teaching later on.
    French Rationalists during the so called Enlightenment period (1800’s) were attacking Church authority under the guise of freedom of conscience and religious liberty. Pope Pius IX, in order to protect the necessary and delicate alliance between the Church and state, declared in error the opinion that “liberty of conscience and of worship is the proper right of every man,” meaning simply that “every man” should have “all manner of liberty…not to be restrained by either ecclesiastical or civil authority,”
    Divine and natural law require a certain order between Church and state, the balance of powers being so that the two can work together for the good of all persons. This applies in both the temporal or civil and eternal or spiritual realms of life. Those who wanted to establish a new social order under the banner of Communism rejected these truths. This new order was to be based upon civil law alone, disguised as religious liberty, intended to sever the delicate alliance between Church and state, by attacking the ecclesiastical authority even within it’s own sphere, and thus destroying the just order of society.
    Addressing the universal Church, Boniface VIII stated: “Outside this Church there is no salvation and no remission of sins…[and]…it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every creature [i.e., even Philip IV] to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” So, when Pius IX refused to recognize the right of Catholics to dissent from the Pope and separate from the Church, he was stressing a continuity with Boniface VIII’s teaching in the bull Unam Sanctam.
    There is a difference between one who knowingly and deliberately rejects papal authority and separates from the Church and one who is invincibly ignorant and therefore excused from mortal sin and damnation. (cf. Jn.9:41) Only those who knowingly reject the teachings of Christ are condemned to hell (cf. Mt 10:14; Lk 10:16).
    The Church’s teaching, while remaining constant can develop, opening up our understanding while retaining it’s substance. The way this constant teaching is expressed changes with time and culture while it’s meaning persists. The Vatican II council expounded on every person’s inviolable rights and the constitutional order of society. It did not intend to apply the principles of religious freedom in a person’s relation to the state, to that of a person’s relationship to the Church. Religious freedom, in turn, which men demand as necessary to fulfill their duty to worship God, has to do with immunity from coercion in civil society. Therefore, it leaves untouched traditional Catholic doctrine on the moral duty of men and societies toward the true religion and toward the one Church of Christ.
    Religious rights in relation to the state are to protect individuals from the state’s interference of them acting out their faith. This freedom within the civil sphere, dictated by the dignity of the human person, is limited by the just requirements of public order. In illucidating these ideas the Church has made statements both negative, the unrestrained religious liberty in relation to the state; and positive, the restrained religious liberty in relation to the Church. The former so that all people would be free to seek truth and practice their religion under the new secular states, the latter because while divine law permits people to convert from their religion to the Catholic faith, it does not permit a Catholic to leave his faith for another religion. Again the former so a person can search for truth and the latter to emphasize that once found, a person who is free to find and keep truth has no need to reject it.
    The freedom of the individual is different in relation to the state and to that of the Church. The former “religious freedom” has to do with “immunity from coercion in civil society” while the latter the moral duty of men and societies” to the “true religion” and “one Church of Christ.” This latter point simply means that In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching, and adhere to it with a religious assent of soul.
    There is a legitimate development of religion, in other words of Catholic teaching, in relation to how we understand it and not in it’s substance. Development in this manner means that ideas expand into their innate fulness. With the illegitimate understanding of development there is an alteration where one idea’s essence is exchanged for another, this latter conception being condemned by sound philosophy and Catholic doctrine.

    This is my summation of an article by Fr. Regius Scanlon

  • TIM

    Mr Flood, I think that wonderful saying goes, “If you are right now, they were wrong then. If they were right then, you are wrong now.” Thanks for your many excellent comments and contributions.

  • Robert Wayne Vernon Jr.

    How about what the scriptures says and not what your dogma says, because it is an exclusivist religion that damns other Christians to hell for not being Catholic. Your not loving because no where in the Bible does it say you have to be affiliated with the Catholic church to be saved. it just says to believe in Yeshua and you will not perish.

    Joh 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

    Eph 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not from yourselves—it is the gift of God. 9 It is not based on deeds, so that no one may boast.

    Yeshua (Jesus) is a universal savior he is not just limited to your Catholic church. it is funny one day a Catholic defends this position the next he leaves and stops being Catholic and believes differently. I was just reading something like this and I wonder why with oppressive beliefs such as these.

    Sola Christos through Christ(Messiah) alone, the Catholics believe affiliation saves you not faith but faith to a Catholic is their hierarchy and ministry. You don’t therefore believe that whosoever believes you believe whosoever joins your religion is saved. You are not the only Christians either, who are saved ( and if you say so where is your evidence other than your dogma?) There are some Evangelicals like you who teach that you can only be saved through their church. So basically your dogma is exclusive and is designed to discredit other Christians that exist outside of your religion.

    Your Creeds are decisions made by men, they are not Scripture, and the “Catholic faith” could easily be interpreted as faith in Yeshua not religious affiliation. Then Catholics have deviated from the truth that is found in the scriptures. Then not only did you alienate Jews you removed the Jewishness of Yeshua.

    The Catholic religion when it makes a error it doesn’t admit it, but when people come along to correct the errors they call them heretics or schismatics.

    Your usages of scriptures is wrong, rejecting traditions of men made up by man is not rejecting Christ teaching, your a liar. The Eastern Church rejected papal authority that doesn’t mean they rejected Christ teaching. Why won”t you Roman Catholics quit lying? Your religion wanted to be the only right religion so it made all these theocratic claims. Rejecting the papacy is not the same as rejecting Christ that is a lie, and people are not saved by having faith in the papacy.