(written in 1974)
The Dogma of Salvation Under Attack
The doctrinal crusade of Saint Benedict Center dates back to the early 1940′s when we began to attack, albeit in their incipient form, the very evils that conservative Catholics are so concerned about now. It was not long before we realized, however, that those troubles afflicting the Church were but symptoms of a much more fundamental one, a deadly heresy responsible for them all.
It became more and more evident what this underlying evil was. It was the denial of the necessity of belonging to the Catholic Church for salvation. The whole collapse in the Church today can be traced to the silencing or weakening of this one doctrine. Most so-called conservatives are not aware of this fact. We are convinced that they will never win one single victory until they are.
Not until this fundamental truth is preached again from every Catholic pulpit shall we see again the triumph of Catholic values and Christian morals. It is only then that we shall see a resurgence of Catholic life — preaching, education, vocations, missions. Only then shall we see the restoration of orthodoxy and tradition, pre-eminently in the restoration of the traditional Mass.
From the start we proclaimed the dogma of faith: “Outside the Church there is no salvation.” We vowed to defend it. It is our duty not to stop our fight until we have succeeded in rousing the sleeping giant — the Church Militant! Others might observe the effects of the present-day apostasy; it is our vocation to proclaim the cause. There can be no Christian civilization without this most fundamental of all Catholic truths, the belief of innumerable multitudes who have gone before us: Outside the Church there is no salvation.
In waging our crusade, even our most determined opponents admit that we have fought courageously and that we have paid the usual price in terms of humiliations and sufferings. Even the most extreme Liberals have been willing to grant us the dubious honor of being sincere. We have never sought, we hope, any compensation for our labor on this earth; but we should be able to expect from conservative fellow Catholics, who at the present share most of our worries, the decent consideration due to pioneers in the conservative campaign. We ourselves extend that courtesy to anyone fighting, let it be confusedly, for Faith and Tradition.
Some conservative journals remind one of professional wailers at the bedside of a very sick man. While awaiting the crucial moment when their services will be in order, namely, the demise of the unfortunate sufferer, they occupy themselves with the wringing of their hands as they proclaim their prophecies of doom. What is more necessary, of course, is a medical man who can interpret the symptoms, name the disease, and prescribe the remedy.
One such professional wailer is the Catholic periodical, The Remnant. Its editor, Walter L. Matt, knows, of course, as the whole world knows by now, that the Catholic Church is very sick. But Mr. Matt cannot name the disease, nor does he have a prescription. He cannot name the disease because Mr. Matt also has it in common with his very opponents. The disease is the heresy of Liberalism; and Liberalism is the belief, so overwhelmingly prevalent in our day, that men are absolutely free to choose their religion. The truth is that men are physically free to choose their religion, but they must make the right choice in order to be saved. In other words, when it is a question of religion, men are free to choose, but in choosing, salvation itself is the thing at stake .
No Christian in the catacombs ever held the belief of the Liberals; no martyr in history ever died for it. This includes, of course, the recently canonized martyrs of the English Deformation (the misspelling is intentional). No saint ever departed from this life believing that a man could be saved without the Faith, the Sacraments, or obedience to God through the authority He established in the Church. All the great preachers preached the opposite doctrine; all the great missionaries undertook their labors in terms of exactly the opposite belief.
But, this is not only true of saints. All ordinary Catholics, of all nations, in all the ages previous to this age of liberalism, always believed “that there is one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which no one at all can be saved .” These are the exact words by which Pope Innocent III defined this dogma in 1215. As is always the case, the Pope was defining, not an innovation, but a truth already held. The Pope was also proclaiming that truth as coming down from the tradition of the Apostles. The usual occasion for a papal definition is that the doctrine in question is being challenged and denied, perhaps for the first time, by some heretics.
Certainly those Catholics of the “Dark Ages” (to use the language of this wonderfully enlightened age) believed that there was no salvation outside the Church. Certainly the Catholics who fought in the Crusades believed that there was no salvation outside the Church; and so did the Catholics who approved and upheld the Inquisition. (It might be fitting to remind ourselves that even some Inquisitors and some Crusaders are named among the saints.) And the Catholic poet who sang in his Chanson de Roland , “The Christians are right and the pagans are wrong,” did not think that man can be saved in any religion, nor did the countless generations of the faithful who echoed his verses. But the editors of The Remnant do so believe, and in so believing they reflect the spirit of our times — a most un-Catholic spirit which is the fruit of the Jewish and Masonic domination of contemporary thought.
Father Stepanich: A Right-Wing Liberal
In two recent issues of The Remnant (Nov. 3, and Nov. 15, 1973) we are singled out for attack. After 25 years of meeting punches coming at us from every direction, we should be immune to shock. Still, there was for us an element of surprise in this uncalled-for attack. One would expect the editors of The Remnant , in the present circumstances of the Church and of the world, to be at least distracted by other evils which, if not as wicked as our doctrinal crusade, are certainly more urgent!
The two articles in The Remnant attacking us were signed by a Franciscan, Father Martin Stepanich, O.F.M. The writer, while naming us in the opening sentence as the target of his attack, proves to be very little acquainted with our own books and documents, but rather concerned with publications for which he mistakenly holds us responsible. However, since Father Stepanich does deal with the dogma for which we stand, we feel obliged to answer.
It has been over a quarter of a century since we first hurled the challenge at the Liberals: “Produce one infallible statement in favor of salvation outside the Church!” The challenge has not been met, nor was it met in the two articles by Father Stepanich. In fact, the Father merely goes on to repeat the same two ambiguous statements — the only new ones that our liberal opponents ever discovered. One of these statements is by Pope Pius IX (1846-1878) and the other by Pope Pius XII (1939-1958). Neither of these statements is infallible. Both statements come from encyclicals the express purpose of which was to combat the very conclusions that the Liberals want to draw .
Before we go a little more deeply into these two documents, let us first enunciate the following Catholic principle: when a statement from the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church seems to conflict with the Solemn Magisterium, it is the Ordinary Magisterium that must give way, or be interpreted in a sense agreeable to the Solemn Magisterium.
Let us establish, therefore, the standard by giving the three infallible pronouncements which fix for all time the teaching of the Church, in the Solemn Magisterium, on the necessity of the Church for salvation.
Ex Cathedra : “There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which no one at all can be saved.” Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215.
Ex Cathedra : “We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” Pope Boniface VIII, the Bull Unam Sanctam , 1302.
Ex Cathedra : “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 almsgiving, 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.
May we remind our readers that when the Pope defines ex cathedra a doctrine of faith, he defines it for the faithful, not for the theologians as such. Every individual Catholic must conform his mind to the infallible definition or suffer the “shipwreck” of his faith , to borrow a figure from Pope Pius IX when defining the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Now let us address ourselves to Father Stepanich. Do you really find, Father Stepanich, that you can affirm these three statements without subterfuge or mental reservation? We understand them to mean exactly what they say, but you call our understanding of them “warped” and “erroneous.” If the popes had intended to define the dogma in our sense, what terms would you have suggested more emphatic than the ones they actually used?
And will you please notice that the successive definitions increase in definiteness and in emphasis rather than the other way round?
Notice also that the date of the first definition is the date of the founding of the Franciscan Order. So for the sake of Franciscan honesty, please, Father Stepanich, admit that Saint Francis must have believed that doctrine, and you do not.
The Authority of Pope Pius XII
Trying to understand the mind of Father Stepanich concerning salvation and where it is to be found, we do not think it unfair to say that, according to him, every man, regardless of what religion he professes, has a chance to be saved. If that man does not belong visibly to the Church by Baptism, he may, according to Father Stepanich, be “in an invisible and mysterious way connected with the Church or ‘related’ to her.”
Indeed, one wonders if anybody is really outside the Church — whether he knows it or not, or whether he wills it or not. For, again to quote the exact words of the Father, “It should now be clear that those living in ‘invincible ignorance’ outside visible membership in the Catholic Church are really NOT TOTALLY (emphasis in the original) ‘outside’ the Church.”
This remarkable statement by Father Stepanich could obviously be said of any unbaptized pagan and, therefore, a fortiori, of every Jew, heretic and schismatic. According to his opinion, no one is totally outside the Church, and the dogma “Outside the Church no one can be saved” is one that the logicians call “lacking suppositum” or just plain silly. If that is all that the popes intended to say they certainly did a very poor job of expressing themselves.
But where does Father Stepanich find authority for this manner of belonging invisibly to the Church? He thinks that he finds it in the Encyclical of Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis , 1943. In that document the Pope speaks of those “who do not belong to the VISIBLE Body of the Catholic Church” and adds that “by an unconscious desire and longing THEY HAVE A CERTAIN RELATIONSHIP WITH THE MYSTICAL BODY OF THE REDEEMER.” (Emphasis throughout is of Father Stepanich.)
This is a curious way to use, or rather abuse, a papal document, for the same encyclical condemns this presumption of invisible membership in the Church.
If the Church is a body, it must be an unbroken unity according to those words of Paul: “Though many, we are one body in Christ.” But it is not enough that the body of the Church be an unbroken unity; it must be something definite and perceptible to the senses, as our predecessor of happy memory, Leo XIII, in his Encyclical Satis Cognitum asserts: “The Church is visible because she is a body.” Hence they err in a matter of divine truth, who imagine the Church to be invisible, intangible, a something merely “pneumatological,” as they say, by which many Christian communities, though they differ from each other in their profession of faith, are united by a bond that eludes the senses.”
We give this long quotation from the Encyclical Mystici Corporis of Pope Pius XII to show that the Pope, far from condoning Father Stepanich’s jellyfish conception of the Church — whereby we do not know where it begins nor where it ends, and whereby, in addition to its visible members, it has all kinds of invisible parts of varied “professions of faith” — was actually condemning this very way of thinking. The Pope speaks of the “visible body of the Church” as we speak of “the living God,” namely, in order to emphasize visibility as an attribute of the Church.
At the very opening of this same encyclical Pope Pius XII speaks “with gratitude to God” of “many who, though outside the fold of Jesus Christ, look to the Church as the only haven of salvation.” This can only mean that many non-Catholics know were to find salvation, if they ever intend to seek it seriously.
Would that not only many , but all mankind knew this simple truth! Yet how would they know it unless it were preached to them — unless it were proclaimed to all men from the housetops?
We might say to Father Stepanich: And is this not the very purpose for which the Church exists, and for which you, Father Martin Stepanich, were ordained a priest? Or are you just an apostle of invincible ignorance? If the majority of men are going to be saved, not by the light of Faith, but by the darkness of invincible ignorance, then let us close our seminaries and call off the missions!
The Authority of Pope Pius IX
Father Stepanich was even less original, and at least equally unsuccessful, in trying to make of Pope Pius IX a patron of his own 20th-centruy brand of liberalism. The passage from Pope Pius IX’s Encyclical Quanto Conficiamur Moerore of 1863, which contemporary Liberals insist repeatedly on quoting or misquoting (it is to the credit of Father Stepanich that he did not misquote), ought to be considered as either retracted or, at least, reconciled to the infallible teaching of the Solemn Magisterium by the later document of the same Pope, the famous Syllabus of Modern Errors of 1864.
Let us watch Father Stepanich dealing with Pope Pius IX in The Remnant of November 3, 1973:
Like so many other popes, Pius IX was most emphatic — jarringly emphatic — in maintaining that outside the Church there is no salvation. An example of his teaching is found in his encyclical Quanto Conficiamur Moerore (“With what sorrow We are consumed…”) of August 10, 1863. He first condemns as “absolutely contrary to Catholic teaching” the notion that “persons living in error and outside the True Faith and Catholic unity can reach eternal life.”
Let us stop here for a minute. Pope Pius IX will go on, in the encyclical just referred to, to raise the objections typical of the Liberals of his day. The Liberals of the 19th century, those disciples of Jean Jacques Rousseau, had idealized, romanticized, and all but canonized, the noble savage — the invincibly ignorant native on a desert island, entirely out of reach of Church or civil society. The Pope will try to rationalize to the Liberals of his day the fate of this poor savage as being consonant with the justice and mercy of God.
But before we proceed to study the Pope’s answer to these objections, let us consider the first affirmation he just made. Is not the position that Pope Pius IX called “absolutely contrary to Catholic teaching” exactly the one held by Father Stepanich in his two articles?
If the two articles in The Remnant do not lead inevitably to the conclusion that those living in error and outside the True Faith and Catholic unity can reach eternal life, what in the name of sheer sanity is the real meaning of his message? Was not the message those two articles carried exactly what The Pope issued his “jarring” encyclical to condemn? Pope Pius IX condemned it even more jarringly, the year following, in his glorious Syllabus ! Was not that kind of theology the reason why the opening words of his encyclical are: “With what sorrow we are consumed?”
No wonder Father Stepanich finds the Pope’s words jarring to his ears. Pious ears are jarred only by the sound of heresy uttered. But Saint Paul prophesied another kind of ear that would show up in the latter times — itching ears that cannot endure sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:3).
The Invincibly Ignorant Native
The Liberals are not interested, as you know, Father Stepanich, in the pagans and savages who have never heard the Faith preached to them. It is men like the Jesuit, Saint John de Brebeuf, or your fellow Franciscan, Saint Francis of Solano, who are truly interested in the “noble” savage and in his soul.
The Liberals want to see the “invincibly ignorant” native in their neighbors — the Episcopalians, the Quakers, the Unitarians, the Christian Scientists and the Jehovah’s Witnesses. And why are all these “invincibly ignorant”? (What a compliment to them or to us!) It is either on account of our cowardice and human respect — failing them in charity whereby every Catholic is meant to love his neighbor as himself by helping him to seek his real and lasting good — or, perhaps, it may be on account of the obstacles that our neighbor places in the way — pride, ancestor worship, foolish concern about temporal advantages or, finally, sheer bad will.
But how about the genuine case — the true and original invincibly ignorant native? Pope Pius IX never says anywhere that he can get to Heaven without the Faith or the Sacraments of the Church. (Once more, it is not the darkness of invincible ignorance but the light of Faith that the Church Militant must spread upon this earth.) Pope Pius IX merely affirms another Catholic truth which we cheerfully believe and which we also proclaim with equal enthusiasm. This truth is that although the native savage on the desert island is apparently out of man’s reach, he cannot be out of God’s reach because, to use the words of Scripture, “nothing is impossible with God.” The grace of God can reach that man with all the means necessary for salvation.
The only case on record of an invincibly ignorant native (of good will, of course) is the story of the minister of Candace told in Chapter 8 of the Acts of the Apostles. The grace of God did reach this poor native in the desert by means of Saint Philip the Deacon who, brought by an angel, taught him the Faith and baptized him with water (Acts 8:26-39).
How does God do it in each and every case? I do not know, nor do I need or want to know. We have all eternity to find out. The Holy Ghost forbids such curiosity: “In unnecessary matters be not over curious” (Eccus. 3:24). Our Lord calls it “the idle word” for which every man must give account on the Day of Judgment.
Other Liberals on the Issue
Although we have restricted our attention in this work to right-wing opponents, our arguments apply a fortiori to Liberals of other shades. So, while we are on the subject of that notorious quotation from Pope Pius IX, we might discuss its appearance in a recent issue of another right-wing periodical.
Catholic Currents , a Triumph publication, in its issue of October 15, 1973, misquoted Pope Pius IX in the same encyclical referred to above.
For God, Who reads comprehensively in every detail the minds and souls, the thoughts and habits of all men, will not permit, in accordance with His infinite goodness and mercy, anyone who is not guilty of a voluntary fault to suffer eternal punishment.
The same passage is more correctly rendered by Father Stepanich.
“…for God, Who has perfect knowledge, examines and judges the minds, the souls, the thoughts and the deeds of all men, and He does not permit, in His sovereign Goodness and Mercy, any men NOT CULPABLE OF WILFUL SIN to be punished with eternal torment.” (The Remnant , Nov. 3, 1973, p. 3.)
A comparison of these two translations, with each other and with the Latin original, could lead one to make a vehement attack on that unbelievable catastrophe of our time — the discarding of the Latin traditional liturgy, the breaking down of a hedge meant to guard both orthodoxy and tradition. But that would be a distraction.
We will concentrate on the point of interest to us at the present. The word suppliciis in the Latin original is translated correctly by “torment” (although “torments” would have been more accurate) in the article by Father Stepanich. It was translated wrongly by the word “punishment” in Catholic Currents .
This might sound merely pedantic, but a very great deal depends on this difference. The very nature of Hell depends on it. Belief or disbelief in original sin depends on it. The whole Catholic Faith could stand or fall, depending on it. According to the erroneous translation in Catholic Currents , the Pope would be denying the Limbo of the unbaptized, or sending the souls of unbaptized infants to Heaven.
We may affirm in the spirit of the traditional Faith that the loss of the Beatific Vision is a punishment but not a torment . The souls of unbaptized infants can enjoy a perfect natural happiness in Limbo (which, by the way, is part of Hell, not of Heaven), but still they are suffering a punishment: they are deprived of an infinite good not due to nature. In the face of such mysteries we can go no further than accept what is revealed, with the simplicity of a child, with the simplicity of the saints, with the simplicity of all our ancestors in the Faith.
In the face of such deep mysteries even Saint Paul gives us no more help than to say:
“Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it: Why hast thou made me thus? Or hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump, to make one vessel unto honor, and another unto dishonor?” (Rom. 9:20-21)
Of course, even Saint Paul’s authority will not be sufficient to convince the Rationalists until they begin to think with their Faith, and not merely with their reason.
Rationalism and the Problem of Hell
But why is that notorious passage from Pope Pius IX so popular with Liberals — even Liberals of the right-wing variety? This passage gave Pope Pius IX so much sorrow and pain when he began to discover the meaning attributed to it that he spent the rest of his long pontificate trying to retract it or, at least, to show the way it must be understood. What makes that passage so popular with Liberals is that it seems to render the Catholic Faith more reasonable — especially when the Liberals can get away with mistranslating it.
Is our Faith reasonable? No. Our Faith is not absurd , but it is not absolutely reasonable either. Reason is natural human intelligence, but the Faith proceeds from Divine intelligence. When the objects of Faith reach our minds they have, inevitably, the aspect of mystery about them. Hell, one of the many objects of Faith, is not absurd, but Hell cannot be fully rationalized. By trying to overrationalize Hell, the Liberals today have ended by making the dogma that “There is no salvation outside the Church” almost mean that “There is no such thing as being outside the Church.” This is the religion of Humanity, rampant in the postconciliar Church.
Hell is not being preached in the postconciliar Church (even where preaching has not been entirely replaced by dialogue). The Liberals now preach only love — not the fear of God. Still, the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Some of the greatest saints rose to the heights of sanctity by the thought of Hell; e.g., Saint Benedict, Saint Jerome, Saint Frances of Rome, Saint Teresa of Avila. (See Le Ciel ou L’Enfer by Chanoine Georges Panneton, Vol. II, pgs. 10-12). Even at the summits of Divine charity the saints never lose the fear of God. When the fear of God is not being preached there is no Divine charity, but rather generic human love.
Pope Pius XII had something to say on this subject:
“We do not have much time to lose if we are to stop the landslide towards irreligion in our own ranks . . . . It is becoming more than ever necessary to preach even about Hell . . . . ” (From an allocution to the clergy of Rome, March 23, 1949.)
In Our Lady’s message at Fatima, the part that left the deepest impression on the minds and lives of the seers was the vision of Hell. Obviously, the Mother of God is equally anxious that the modern world should know that Hell is a reality. She commanded the three children to add to every decade of the Rosary a short prayer, now fast becoming a regular part of the Rosary with all those who still practice that preconciliar devotion:
“O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell. . . .”
The sense of this little addition was already implicit in every Hail Mary, the climax of which is the phrase; “Pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.” That is the hour that will decide for each one of us our eternal destiny — Heaven or Hell.
Are the Liberals Rationalists?
Whether they like it or not, all the Liberals, even those of the right-wing variety, are tinged with the heresy of Rationalism. This is why they prove to be so ineffectual in trying to oppose the rationalistic trends which are fast destroying the Catholicity of the postconciliar Church. The essence of rationalism is the negation of all mystery. When all the mysteries of our holy religion become eventually fully rationalized, the Catholic Church will then have adjusted itself to the Masonic norm . It will have become an acceptable variety of the humanistic superchurch. The Novus Ordo Saeclorum (the Masonic motto we read on every dollar bill).
The Liberals of our time are unquestionably Rationalists and like their brothers of any time they cannot accept any of the mysteries of our Faith. “Adam’s sin hurt only himself,” said the Rationalists of the fifth century whom we sometimes call Pelagians. The Christians retorted, “If that were true, then Christ’s sufferings benefited only Himself.” Now, who is the loser in this bargain — the Christian or the Rationalist? The Rationalist denies all mystery, the Christian believer balances one mystery against another.
Let us return to Pope Pius XII and his Encyclical Mystici Corporis to see what he is teaching us about rationalism, in the very document the Rationalists use in their favor. The Pope there speaks of “false rationalism , which ridicules anything that transcends and defies the power of human genius.” Concerning this rationalism, the Pontiff goes on to say:
“As the Vatican Council teaches, ‘if the human reason enlightened by faith seeks earnestly, piously, and wisely, it is enabled by the grace of God to attain a partial and even profitable understanding of mysteries, both by comparing them with what it knows naturally and also through the connection of mysteries with each other and with the last end of man’; although, as the same Holy Synod warns us, even reason thus enlightened ‘never becomes capable of understanding those mysteries as it does those truths which form its proper object.’” (From the Encyclical on the Mystical Body of Christ by Pope Pius XII.)
The Hell of Faith
All the truths about Hell belong to those mysteries which are not the proper object of reason. The best that we can do with Hell rationally is to show that it is not absurd . The Rationalists make Hell absurd to begin with, and then they try to make it empty — or to make believe that it is empty. In a preconciliar book on Catholic Doctrine by the Very Rev. William Byrne, D.D., published in 1892, Hell is defined as “the state or place of those condemned to eternal punishment.”
It is very hard for us to see from reason how any crime of man can ever deserve eternal punishment. “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” is reasonable. When a man kills another man, kill him, but why send him to eternal fire? Why send the unbaptized baby to an everlasting punishment of loss, and for a crime he did not personally commit? What a prize case for the addicts of sentimental theology!
But the Hell of Faith is not a punishment for crime , but for si n; and sin adds to crime an entirely new aspect — the aspect of contempt or even hatred of God. It is because the everlasting God commanded “Thou shalt not kill” that murder becomes more than a crime — a sin.
The State can change its definition of crime even as regards murder, as our very State has done in the law of abortion, but the State cannot remove the aspect of sin . Even missing Mass on Sunday, or exceeding the limit allowed for servile work on the Lord’s day, if it remains forever unconfessed and unrepented, deserves eternal punishment; that is, in its aspect of contempt for God . Even the guilt of original sin, by which we inherit a nature lacking the supernatural desire for the Beatific Vision, carries with it the loss of that infinite good which, naturally speaking, can neither be desired nor missed by any mere creature not reborn by grace. So much for what concerns the essence of Hell, which according to sound Catholic theology consists in the loss of the Beatific Vision, a punishment common to Hell (proper) and to the Limbo of the unbaptized.
The torments of Hell belong to the accidental part of the eternal punishment. They are completely absent from Limbo. With regard to these, the same Father Byrne we have already quoted says:
“All the damned do not suffer alike. The punishment is proportioned to the malice and gravity of their sins. ‘Give unto her double according to her works.’” (Apoc. 18:6.)
Thus, a careless housewife who missed Mass on Sunday is not punished equally with a Justice of the Supreme Court who approved abortion.
The Souls of Unbaptized Infants in Limbo
The souls of unbaptized infants can be naturally happy. Part of their natural happiness consists in a connatural love of God, their Creator — a love and happiness not forfeited as a result of original sin. But these souls have not inherited the primordial state of grace which belonged to Adam before the fall, nor were they regenerated (born again) by the waters of Baptism. Therefore, those souls would not be happier in the Beatific Vision for which they cannot have any supernatural desire.
However, men who have made themselves personal enemies of God by personal sins involving contempt and hatred of the Divine Majesty would be even more unhappy in the Divine Presence than they are in Hell. Did not George Bernard Shaw say that he never heard a Heaven described where he would want to spend half an hour? (The Irish wit must have heard about the Catholic Heaven.) Do not worry, Mr. Shaw; you will not have to endure any such inconvenience.
And now I can hear the sentimental theologians shouting back at me, “How do you know that George Bernard Shaw is in Hell? My answer is that I do not know if George Bernard Shaw is in Hell any more than I know that Justice Brennan is going to be in Hell. I do not know fully how the first man died nor how the other man will die. I talk about the public man according to the evidence which has come to us. God knows everything, and it is He Who gives definitive judgment. I certainly know that he was on the path that God has told us leads to Hell.
Do We Know What Hell Is?
We have, as we might say, an imperfect knowledge of Hell which comes from the virtue of Faith. But, just as no man knows darkness who has not seen the light, no man fully knows Hell until he has the Beatific Vision. We cannot know Hell now any more perfectly than we can know Heaven; and we know about Heaven merely because He Who came down from Heaven has deigned to reveal that truth to us.
If you ask the natural man to describe what to him would be Heaven, he can at best describe a Hell, more or less comfortable. For Jesus, our Saviour, revealed to us not merely the way to salvation, but the reality itself, and we have to take salvation on His terms.
Here are Our Saviour’s own words:
“Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5.)
“Go ye into the whole world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16.)
The Liberals, even those of the right-wing variety, would rather have those Divine utterances changed so as to read: “Even a man not born again of water and the Holy Ghost has a chance of going to Heaven;” or “Even a man who believeth not, if he hath not heard the Faith, or, if having heard the Gospel preached, he can still sincerely say that he is not convinced, can yet be saved.”
Such Liberals — Father Stepanich, for example — would render a great service to honesty and to the clarity of plain English were they to come right out and say: “We disagree with the Church; we think that outside the Church there is salvation.”
The Hell of Father Stepanich
In the great ages of Faith, which the superficial “scholars” of our times call the “Dark Ages,” Hell was one of the great objects of meditation. Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell were called the Four Last Things. Those things were real at that time. In those days confession was meaningful, and so was preaching. Most men had the fear of God and many even loved God in addition. A goodly proportion of people were saving their souls in those “Dark Ages,” which, at least, had the light of true wisdom: the knowledge of where salvation could be found.
Father Stepanich is not going to like my calling him a Rationalist any more than my calling him a Liberal. But the symptoms of both infections are evident everywhere in his two articles. Men reading them are not going to be meditating on the Four Last Things, nor are they going to have in their hearts the virtue of the Fear of God.
Neither those outside the Church nor those Catholics who fail to live up to its teachings will be convinced that Hell is meant for them. Non-Catholics will remain outside our Holy Mother the Church, resting secure in their sincerity and their ignorance, and will be perfectly satisfied to remain in their “invisible relationship” with her. Liberal Catholic religious will still find excuses to abandon their vows, and bishops and priests will continue to exchange pulpits with Protestant ministers and Jewish rabbis.
Neither will the fear of God enter into the hearts of the sacrilegious vandals who have torn down the altars of our churches, nor of those nominally Catholic theologians who, in cooperation with ones not even nominally Catholic, have Communized, Protestantized, Masonized, Judaized, and all but invalidated our supreme act of worship, our greatest source of blessings — the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
No! None of all these need fear the Hell of Father Stepanich. It is not for them.
What is this liberal doctrine of salvation doing to “the remnant,” to those who still want to remain good and loyal Catholics? It is undermining the very foundations of their Faith and causing the collapse of all their well-meaning efforts to preserve it. Yes, even what is left of the remnant is fast melting away , and the tide will not turn back until such priests as Father Stepanich again start preaching in its integrity the great Dogma of Salvation!
Father Stepanich turned preacher only once in his two articles: he was preaching to us who still believe in Hell and the Dogma of Salvation. The priest knew instinctively that we are the only kind of people he still can admonish, and he did towards the end (and climax) of his article of November 3.
By conscious and wilful heresy, a Catholic is automatically excommunicated from the Catholic Church, outside of which there is no salvation.
Thank you, Father, for thus finally professing the Faith. Thank you also for the admonition and for the implied compliment: You know that we still have the Faith and the Fear of God. Thank God!
But your readers had thought by then that those two ogres, Hell and the Dogma of Salvation, were long since dead and buried.
It must have given your thoughtful readers quite a jolt. Yes, the Hell of Father Stepanich is just for us!
There was, however, one note of originality in the Friar’s articles — a rather humorous passage, if levity could be allowed in a matter of such sacredness. Let us quote it at length:
“And now, before we conclude, we must point out the awful implications of the denial of Baptism of desire and of blood.
Just imagine a prospective convert, ‘burning with love of God,’ intensely desiring Baptism and well-instructed in the Truth Faith, being overtaken by death through some “unforeseen accident,” before Baptism of water could be administered to him. He comes before the Judgment Seat of God, only to hear the Most High say to him: ‘I’m sorry about that accident that kept you from Baptism of water. It was so nice of you to prepare for Baptism and for the True Faith with such great love for Me, but you weren’t baptized with water, so down to hell you must go!’”
I hope that Father Stepanich has enough Franciscan sense of humor to realize the irony of the situation. The Friar shares the same deistic conception of God common to all the Rationalists and Liberals of our time. He thinks that accidents are just as “unforeseen” to God as to us. Father Stepanich simply does not know of the particular providence of God — or is that merely a Dominican belief?
Believe me, Father Stepanich, the joke is really on you. Imagine the Omniscient and Almighty God saying to his ministering spirits: “This poor man is really meant for Heaven, but what can I do about that truck which is just about to hit him?”