Commentary on Dr. Jeff Mirus’ Commentary

Dr. Jeff Mirus has an article in the Commentary section of his Catholic Culture website called “The Coming of Christ in the Flesh,” in which he attempts to convince a biblical fundamentalist that people need not have explicit knowledge of, and divine Faith in, Christ in order to be saved. He says that this is the teaching of the Catholic Church, which Christ founded upon Saint Peter, and that, without the guidance of this magisterium, the Bible can be misinterpreted, even on so basic a teaching as whether or not explicit faith in Christ is necessary for salvation. Well, the Bible itself teaches the same, as we see in the writings of the first pope, in his second epistle, wherein he warns that some,“the unstable,” wrest the epistles of Paul “to their own destruction” (2. Peter 3:16).

Fine. But, this emailer, whom Mirus is trying to set straight, is not “wresting the scriptures” in order to push some heresy. He is simply quoting the Gospels, taking the pertinent verses in their literal and clear sense, and drawing the conclusion that explicit Faith in the Incarnation is necessary for salvation. Saint Thomas Aquinas drew the same conclusion, basing his teaching not only on the obvious sense of the inspired text, but also on the Church’s traditional teaching, which, coincidentally, also assures the faithful what books were inspired by God and which were not.

Does Dr. Mirus think that the Church today has a new and more inclusive understanding of what the Holy Spirit meant when He inspired Saint Paul to write to the Romans: “Faith then cometh by hearing; and hearing by the word of Christ”? And to the Hebrews: “Without faith it is impossible to please God”? And, the Church seconds this in her infallible axiom, constant in her tradition, that “Faith is the beginning of salvation.” It would seem that Dr. Mirus is saying that Vatican II, and Dominus Jesus, has reinterpreted these truths, or, shall I say, rendered them less categorically irreformable. I am certain that Dr. Mirus would not say that the Church “changed” any of her teachings, or the clear sense of a scriptural text, but what I gather he is saying, if not in these precise words, is that in more modern times the Church has developed her theology in interpreting more inclusively the meaning of the scriptural texts on salvation and her own solemn magisterial pronouncements on the same. In other words “faith” now has a wider definition and is not restricted to Christological content, but can take in just about every religious tenet short of atheism. The theological virtue of “faith,” what the Church defined as “divine and Catholic faith,” infused by God as a power or habit in the soul, is no longer absolutely necessary for justification and salvation. Human faith, even sincerity, will suffice, provided one strives for whatever he believes to be “the good.” Objective content, the matter of true faith, is not the principal thing that “matters,” the subjective state of mind can also prove salvific.

The essence of what I consider to be Dr. Mirus’ error, and of all those who, I believe, misconstrue the teaching of Blessed Pope Pius IX when he spoke of “invincible ignorance,” is that of moving a soul from a state of personal non-culpability (not knowing what one had no way of knowing) to one of personal meritoriousness, i.e., justification without Faith. Justification by good desires, following the natural law, or even by clinging onto error on account of one’s sincerity, or for the sake of one’s traditions, or because one’s parents taught him this or that falsehood. My question is: Where is actual grace, God’s lights, in all this? Are they leading one away from error and to the truth, by God’s providential means, or is actual grace confirming one’s commitment to one’s malformed conscience or religious prejudices — held in utmost sincerity? “There is a way that seems to a man right: and the ends thereof lead to death” (Proverbs 16:25).

Saint Thomas also spoke of those who were inculpably ignorant of divine truths. Of those revealed truths that were needed to be assented to in order to make an act of Faith: the Trinity, the Incarnation, and Redemption. The angelic doctor taught that if a man died in such a state of ignorance he would not be tormented for any inculpable ignorance of divine truth, but for other sins, which he culpably committed. He never taught, nor did Pius IX, that one could receive eternal beatitude who died invincibly ignorant of Christ.

Finally, neither does Lumen Gentium teach what Dr. Mirus and so many other intelligent Catholics seem to think it does. The Constitution teaches that one who is ignorant of the gospel could be saved “if he follows the lights God gives him.” This is a truism. But more, God “will have all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” “Behold the hand of the Lord is not shortened that it cannot save, neither is his ear heavy that it cannot hear” (Isaias 59:1); “Being confident of this very thing, that he, who hath begun a good work in you, will perfect it unto the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6). Any man who cooperates with actual grace (lights) will receive the light of revelation of the Incarnation. Saint Thomas says that God would even send an angel to announce the gospel to one living all alone who desired to know the true God but had no one to teach him, because no man can be saved without knowledge of and Faith in the Incarnate God.

Therefore, the emailer’s question: Can a Muslim be saved? It ought to have been answered, “No, not without renouncing Mohammed and embracing the Catholic Faith.” When you get away from the simple challenge of Faith, you end up confusing everybody.

That is why the three ex cathedra definitions that the so-called “Feeneyites” always insist on promoting are so important. They are clear and chaste. Everyone knows what they mean, because that was the intent of the popes who pronounced them, to make these revealed truths perfectly understandable to everyone. They are hence, according to the definition of papal infallibility, “irreformable.” Give them a new “form” under the pretense of “development of doctrine” and you have changed their meaning. Vatican II did not do that, even though, for the sake of a false ecumenism, perhaps some of the council fathers who approved of this Consitution, may have wanted to do that. In any event, since Vatican II did not define anything, its teaching must be measured by the ex cathedra teaching of the solemn magisterium. That is our hierarchy of truth and Pope Benedict has made that perfectly clear when he spoke about the degree of submission required of the faithful in their assent to the council’s teaching. A sensus fidei (consent of Faith) is not required. The Catholic assent of conscience that is proper in considering the texts of Vatican II (mind you, more text than all previous twenty ecumenical councils put together) is the sensus religious, which is due to the teaching of the ordinary magisterium on matters not directly deducible from defined doctrines.

As Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, then Cardinal Ratzinger spoke these words about Vatican II in 1988 in an address he gave to the Bishops of Chile:

“The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest.”

But the assent of Faith is necessary for the three definitions on the necessity of being in the Church for salvation that Dr. Mirus never even referred to. Here is one of the three:

“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.” (Eugene IV, Cantate Domino, papal bull issued during the Council of Florence, 1441)

Now where does true charity lie? Idle speculation? Burying this ex cathedra doctrine, lest we “offend”? Trying to be more inclusive by applying all kinds of loopholes to the ex cathedra teaching? At least Hans Kung was being honest when he said that the pope cannot be infallible because past popes pronounced from the chair that there is no salvation outside the Church. And the Church certainly doesn’t teach that today. Such was his argument.

I think that if we truly loved our non-Catholic neighbors, we would kindly invite them to become Catholic, enter the Church, for there is no salvation outside of her. That’s charity. For there is no true charity if it comes with a false hope, or misinformation, about a soul’s state in relation to eternal life.

Those who believe in the salvation doctrine as defined have often been mocked, and they still are mocked, by the most outrageous caricatures. There they pictured as patting themselves on the back, these exclusivist Catholics, thanking God they are not like the rest of men. They are all set, they are in; keep from mortal sin and they’ve got it made. To hell with everybody else! They are described often as gloating over the sorry fate of those who die outside the Church, muttering things like, “Too bad, it’s your own fault; you rejected grace; now you get what you deserve; alleluia, praise the Lord.”

This is sad. Those who despise those who defend the literal sense of the doctrine haven’t talked to the folks I know at Saint Benedict Center. They haven’t a clue about the love for neighbor that I see in their actions and words. They are out there offering their neighbor the beauty and solace that will be theirs in the Catholic Church. They weep for their friends and relatives who are outside the Church. They pray for them. Many of the folks I know are converts themselves, either from Protestantism or from absentee Catholicism, or they come from a family of converts. They understand the challenge of love that the salvation doctrine really is, because they know what it is like to have been outside the Church. It’s Catholics that are more upset (read, embarrassed) by the salvation doctrine than non-Catholics. Non-Catholics expect the Church to teach that she is the one and only Church of Jesus Christ, the one and only Church of salvation, and that, if one wants to be saved, one must be joined to her.

These are my general thoughts after reading Dr. Mirus’ article. They are not intended as a disputation, but just as a commentary with an opposing view. All in the hope that the truth becomes more clear and prejudices dissipate.

  • Justin

    Mr. Kelly-

    This is an awesome commentary on Dr. Mirus’ essay. I read his essay and was a liitle confused by it all. You clarify much.

    I never understood how Muslims can be saved when they explicilty deny Christ’s Divinity and the Trinitarian nature of God. If Christ is the final revelation to man than Mohammed did not recieve his so called revelation from God as we know Him, but from somewhere else. I don’t even have a theology degree and I see that much, so why is there so much confusion, indifferentism and false ecumenism? I think many people are afraid of “offending” others, yet, as you say, true charity would have us proclaiming the Truth rather than letting people suffer both here and herafter for falsehood.

    As a convert who is still in RCIA, I find the position at St. Benedict Center to be the most inspiring one of all, because you folks don’t back down from what tradition has always taught. EENS was never something obscure and because it has become so obscure, people feel no need to enter the Church. I go back and forth with my Calvinist friend on this and he sees no need to convert to Catholicism because the Church teaching on EENS from the new Catechism makes it seem like being a Protestant, a Hindu, an Atheist or whatever else is ok, as long as you have the right intentions or accept Jesus Christ.

  • Tim Garvey

    Mr. Kelly, Thank you for your clear and balanced explanation of the teaching of the Catholic Church as regards those who are most unfortunate as to be outside of Her. It is the greatest charity to tell someone you purport to love, as you love yourself, the truth about where he can and cannot be saved. Thank God for the SBC, Richmond, N.H., which consistently offers the challenge of the Faith to a complacent and self-satisfied world. God gave us His plan for order in the world and it is no other than the Holy, Roman Catholic Church. We ignore it at our peril. Thanks again and may God and Our Lady bless you.

  • Pat Weesner

    See my copied e-mail note to Mirus below. I thought you might enjoy…

    Hi Jeff,

    I have read some of your commentaries in the past and enjoyed them. You are well read and faithful to the Church. Keep up the good work. However, I would have to depart ways with you on your recent article, “The Coming of Christ in The Flesh”. Although I have no affiliation with the St. Benedict Center, Kelley’s commentary is much closer to the traditional teaching on “No Salvation Outside The Church”, which is a binding dogma for Catholics. The interpretation you espouse is actually an “equivocation” of the dogma, something similiar to what Pius vii referred to in “Humai Generus” as using meaningless language when referring to the obligation of belonging to the True Church. No Father, Doctor, Church Council or Pope ever taught the position you espouse (yes, these saints interpreted scripture literally). Even the recent document, “Dominus Iesus” does not necessarily espouse your position. The document specificly demands “divine faith”, which would include an explicit knowledge in the Incarnation for salvation, before departing this life(consistent with Tradition and Aquinas). Also, where is the ministry of the Holy Spirit in leading sinners to True Faith via “actual grace” in this position(John 16:7-10)? I would be careful about being to rough or condescending (“not credible”) on the poor guys at St. Benedict. Your commentary and interpretation has no more authority than theirs. So reconsider your position? :)
    God bless you.
    Pat Weesner

  • Well said, Brian.

  • Peregrinus

    You offer a lengthy criticism. Unfortunately, the position you criticize is not Dr. Muris’ position; for you do not accept the conditions of the hypothetical case Dr. Muris discusses. Dr. Muris discusses the possibility of salvation for the Muslim who responds to the grace God gives him but still does not have the opportunity to know who the Christ truly is. You deny that there could be such a man as this, since you hold that “any man who cooperates with actual grace… will receive the light of revelation of the Incarnation.” You then criticize Dr. Muris for coming to the wrong conclusion based upon your hypothetical conditions, instead of his. Your criticism of Dr. Muris’ position is clearly invalid.

    Your argument for rejecting Dr. Muris’ hypothetical condition and replacing it with your own is unconvincing, even for this modern Thomist. The quotations you cobble together do not necessarily (nor actually) lead to the conclusion you draw; and Aquinas’ speculation about the evangelization of angels is, at best, uncertain.

  • Peregrinus: Why do claim that St. Thomas’ speculation about the angels is “uncertain?”

    Is the Summa’s Article II on faith (secunda secundae) “uncertain” teaching as well. Question 7, the Respondeo:

    “After grace had been revealed, both learned and simple folk are bound to explicit faith in the mysteries of Christ, chiefly as regards those which are observed throughout the Church, and publicly proclaimed, such as the articles which refer to the Incarnation, of which we have spoken above (Question 1, Article 8). As to other minute points in reference to the articles of the Incarnation, men have been bound to believe them more or less explicitly according to each one’s state and office.”

    Respondeo for Question 8:

    “I answer that, It is impossible to believe explicitly in the mystery of Christ, without faith in the Trinity, since the mystery of Christ includes that the Son of God took flesh; that He renewed the world through the grace of the Holy Ghost; and again, that He was conceived by the Holy Ghost. Wherefore just as, before Christ, the mystery of Christ was believed explicitly by the learned, but implicitly and under a veil, so to speak, by the simple, so too was it with the mystery of the Trinity. And consequently, when once grace had been revealed, all were bound to explicit faith in the mystery of the Trinity: and all who are born again in Christ, have this bestowed on them by the invocation of the Trinity, according to Matthew 28:19: “Going therefore teach ye all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.”

  • Peregrinus

    Aquinas himself shows that his speculation about angels or other special messengers of the Gospel to those otherwise unable to know about Christ is uncertain in Summa theologiae IIa-IIae, q. 2, a. 7, which you cite. He admits of the possibility that some people of this kind may not have learned about the Gospel in any way, including by special messenger, in his response to the third objection where he states: “Si qui tamen salvati fuerunt quibus revelatio non fuit facta, etc. [If there were those who were saved to whom a revelation had not been given]” He admits, therefore, of the possibility that God may not send a special messenger in every case and that some may die without knowing the Gospel.

    Note that this kind of people, which includes Mirus’ hypothetical Muslim, are an exception to the subject of the article. That is to say, Aquinas does not require Mirus’ Muslim to believe explicitly in the mystery of Christ to be saved. He allows Mirus’ Mulsim a more general, implicit faith (“fidem implicitam”) (IIaIIae, q. 2, a. 7, ad 3um).

    Consequently, the argument in the following article, which you call question 8, also does not apply to the hypothetical Muslim, since this article 8 builds upon the conclusions of article 7.

  • Brian Kelly

    St. Thomas was speaking here about the justified in the Old Testament, as his three examples show concerning explcit Faith in a Redeemer to come. Afterwards he concludes, as you indicate, that “If” some were saved without explicit Faith in a Redeemer to come (revelation), they were not saved without Faith in a Mediator, implicit Faith in a Redeemer. These “some” had to believe in the One True God, and HIs Providence, and they were not, could not be, idolaters. In his “I respond” for Article 7 & 8 St. Thomas makes it clear that after “grace” (or as Trent has it “after the promulgation of the Gospel”) all are bound to explicit Faith in the Incarnation. That is why Jesus sent the Apostles out to teach all nations. In the Old Testament the Jews were not sent on any mission to convert the gentiles. The Fathers of the Church held that all were bound to believe in Christ and His baptism after Pentecost, which is the “Birthday” of the Church.

  • Peregrinus

    Take care when reading these passages, lest we spend our time correcting elementary errors, instead of discussing the real issue. The context of the third objection and of Aquinas’ response to it makes it clear that the “gentiles” to whom the Angelic Doctor allows an implicit faith include those who have lived since the Resurrection (IIa-IIae, q. 2, a. 7, ad 3um). Or do you disagree with Dionysius Exiguus’ computation to such a degree that you reckon that “Constantine Augustus” preceded Jesus and that Aquinas’ history is greatly flawed here?

    The real issue under discussion is whether Mirus’ hypothetical Muslim could be saved, and not, as you seem to think, whether there could actually be such as Muslim as Mirus hypothesizes. Mirus’ argument pertains to the former, and not the latter, issue.

  • Peregrinus

    Perhaps I am the one who needs to take care when reading these passages. Your understanding of article 7 is probably correct, given what Aquinas writes about this issue in other places, albeit in earlier treatments of the matter (see esp. Super Sent. Lib. 3, d. 25, q. 2, a. 2 qc 2 co). I apologize for running us around in circles, so to speak. I hope that I am sufficiently repentant about my error.

    Aquinas taught that it was necessary to believe explicitly in the Gospel to be saved since the Resurrection because he also believed, as you have pointed out, that God would reveal the Gospel in some way to those who sought His truth. That is to say, Aquinas concluded that all were bound to an explicit knowledge and acceptance of the Christ, since all obtained knowledge of it in some way, unless that knowledge were avoided through some fault of their own.

    If all have true knowledge of the Gospel, then, of course, all are responsible for that knowledge. The canons of the Councils of Florence and Trent that you cite confirm this fact. They address those who have had knowledge of the Gospel and have rejected it (i.e., schismatics and heretics) Mirus’ hypothetical Muslim is not, however, among this group. Can he be saved without explicit knowledge and acceptance of the Gospel out of invincible ignorance? The Second Vatican Council and Catechism, elaborating upon or developing the Church’s teaching at Florence and Trent, indicate that, under certain conditions he can (see Lumen Gentium, 16 and CCC, Para. 1260).

    Now you can argue, as you seem to, that Mirus’ hypothetical Muslim is an impossibility; but you are not then addressing Mirus’ actual argument. You are simply rejecting the hypothesis that Mirus assumes. You must accept his hypothetical Muslim and then argue from that hypothesis actually to address Mirus. If you do so, then the authorities you cite are not applicable, since they do not assume Mirus’ hypothesis either.

  • Tim Garvey

    I am bemused at how Peregrinus seems to think that he is the only one who knows what point Dr. Mirus’ was trying to make in his commentary,”The Coming of Christ in the Flesh”. I think that we all understand that Dr. Mirus is attempting to convince Catholic people who read his commentaries that there IS salvation outside the Church, ignoring the Defined Dogmas to the contrary. He alludes to “many magisterial statements” without citing any, which, in any case, would have to be of an inferior level of Magisterial authority to the Defined Dogmas which St. Benedict Center has so long and lovingly defended at so great a cost. Dr. Mirus belittles the St. Benedict Center and defames the name of a faithful and holy priest, Fr. Feeney, while at the same time misleading and confusing the Catholic people. I think Dr. Mirus owes the St. Benedict Center an apology.

  • Peregrinus

    You have mis-read Peregrinus, just as you have mis-read Dr. Mirus.

  • Peregrinus

    I assume that I have given Mr. Garvey enough time to respond. I will, therefore, make one last comment. May it be received in the same manner it is given, namely, with respect and fraternal charity.

    The Church’s teaching on this subject is easily misunderstood, in part, because the Church’s official declarations presenting this teaching have, until recently, been limited and specific, i.e., not addressing the topic fully. The Magisterium has usually made official declarations about the necessity of the Church for salvation in response to those who have belonged to and then rejected the Church or her doctrines (e.g., schismatics and heretics). The declarations contained in Unam sanctam and Cantate Domino are of this type. An objective examination of both the historical background of the documents and the context of the pertinent passages within the documents themselves reveals this fact. The Magisterium has always confirmed that it is necessary for members of these groups to be re-united to the Church to be saved. The Church has discussed this topic officially in a general way (i.e., with respect to every kind of person) only relatively recently, e.g., in Mystici corporis, at the Second Vatican Council, in Dominus Iesus, and in the Catechism. It has affirmed in these general discussions that it is possible for those who are invincibly ignorant of the Gospel and, therefore, of the Church (notwithstanding God’s desire that all men be saved) and yet seek the truth and voluntarily do the will of God as they understand it to be saved without being within the Church (see Lumen gentium, 16; Dominus Iesus, 20f.; and CCC, Para. 1260). Those who have failed to recognize the difference in subject or scope between these earlier and later declarations have erroneously perceived a conflict in the Church’s teaching on this topic. They have been unable to reconcile the teaching of the declarations; and they, therefore, instead defend their position by claiming that the declarations that favor their view have a status superior to those declarations that do not do so. They consequently limit the trustworthy teaching of the Church to extraordinary declarations of the Magisterium.

    The Church has never implied, let alone taught, in any of its declarations that one should not strive to enter fully into the Church, since it might be possible for one to be saved without doing so in certain extra-ordinary circumstances (see, for example, Mystici corporis, 103). Some have, regrettably, concluded otherwise; for they have been so hyper-sensitive to the relativism and latitudinarianism of our age (a significant threat, no doubt) that they have mistakenly found these modern ideologies present in the Church’s more recent and developed teaching on the matter. They have confused the Church’s sober recognition of the limits both of its knowledge of the final disposition of the souls of men and of its direct role in the universal salvation of all humanity with a de-emphasis or rejection of the actual knowledge and role it has as the universal sacrament of salvation (see CCC, Paras. 774-780). Their extreme desire to defend the Church’s teaching in one area has caused them to misunderstand and reject its teachings in another, closely related area.

  • Hospitaller

    Peregrinus: Your explanation sounds plausible except for one thing. It fails to account for Cantate Domino’s exhaustive list:

    “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…”

    In 1441, theologians and the Magisterium could distinguish between those who were members at one time and left, and those who were never members of the Church, and even those who never heard of it. To say, for instance, that Cantate Domino presumes that the category “Jews” includes only those who explicitly rejected the Christian faith after being convinced of its truth, or that the category “Pagans” includes only those who had heard Christian preaching and rejected it, would be gratuitous.

  • Peregrinus

    You note rightly, Hospitaller, that my list “for the sake of example” (exempla gratia or e.g.)is not exhaustive. It is not intended to be. I am referring to past declarations in general. Accordingly, I merely name two groups to whom most of the declarations are generally directed. I appreciate, however, your helping make the list more exhaustive with respect to one of the documents I specifically identify.

    Cantate Domino affirms, among other truths, both the existence of the “one true God omnipotent” and the Triune Godhead. Hence its decalaration concerns not only schismatics and heretics but also those who deny monotheism (generally termed Pagans) and the Trinity (particularly the Jews). That is to say, the declaration concerns Pagans, in general, and Jews, in general. The Church has always taught that these two groups, taken generally, must enter into the Church to be saved. It has never taught, however, including in Cantate Domino, that Pagans or Jews who are invincibly ignorant of the Gospel and, therefore, of the Church and seek the truth and voluntarily do the will of God as they understand it must be within the Church to be saved.

  • Hospitaller

    I did not say, Peregrinus, that YOUR list was NOT exhaustive — please pardon the all caps; that’s apparently the only to be emphatic here. What I said was that Cantate Domino DID provide an exhaustive list that you ignored.

    By the way, as Father Brian Harrison has pointed out, “pagans,” were not only non-monotheists. This category also included (in the time in question) Moslems, who are monotheistic.

    You’re raising the bar a bit on the specificity requisite in Church teaching when you say that Jews “in general” and Pagans “in general” are included (again, gratuitously so), but invincibly ignorant ones are ruled out because not mentioned nominatim. I could apply your high standard here to other areas of Church teaching and say that the prohibition on fornication has never specifically been applied to red heads from Brooklyn who do it on Wednesdays; nor has it been clarified that, while all men, “in general” have inherited Adam’s sin, the doctrine of original sin does not necessarily extend to Algonquin midgets, therefore there could be exceptions. Yours is an overly fastidious parsing of magisterial decrees.

    Lastly, when Innocent III very “innocently” stated that there is one universal Church of the faithful extra quam nullus omnino salvatur, he said it all — or said, rather, “AT all.” OMNINO does not translate “in general.”

  • Peregrinus

    I was giving you the benefit of the doubt. I stand corrected. You did claim that Cantate Domino’s list is exhaustive. This claim is incorrect. The Bull’s list is, it is true, quite long, but the list certainly does not refer to all groups; nor is it meant to do so. What is the purpose of Cantate Domino? Why was it written? What was it meant to do? It is not a general explanation of “extra ecclesiam nulla salus.” It is a statement of shared beliefs between the Roman Catholic Church and the Coptic and Ethiopian churches, which sought unity with the Catholic Church at the Council of Florence.

    You misunderstand my explanation with respect to Cantate Domino and other official declarations that treat of the topic of salvation outside the Church in a limited and specific manner. I do not argue that the declarations do not apply to the invincibly ignorant because the documents do not mention this group by name. I argue, instead, that the declarations do not concern the invincibly ignorant because the background, context, and purpose of the declarations, as well as the content, indicate that they do not intend to address this group. The declarations do not mention this group “nominatim” because they are not concerned with it, and not vice versa.

    One must consider the background, purpose, and context of any document, as I have tried to explain, to arrive at the correct meaning of the document. I am not certain as to which of Innocent III’s extant letters or bulls you are referring. I do not know, therefore, what the specific background, context, and purpose of the phrase you quote from him are. Consequently, I cannot explain the meaning of the quotation, especially since omnino can modify either the noun or the verb in the phrase. I would note, however, that Innocent III wrote much to promote the authority of the Papacy. My preliminary conclusion would be, therefore, that his comment is related to Papal primacy, rather than to teaching generally about salvation outside of the Church.