Indifferentism is a Condemned Heresy: Gregory XVI’s Mirari Vos

“Indifferentism” is the belief that it does not matter what religion a man professes, he can be saved nonetheless. The Church has roundly condemned this notion as a heresy in very strong language, holding it to be a denial of extra ecclesiam nulla salus. Here, we feature a brief passage from Mirari Vos, by the last great monk-pope, Gregory XVI (August 15, 1832). All emphasis (bold and italics), paragraph numbers, and reference numbers as in original on the Papal Encyclicals site; please go there to see the references.

13. Now We consider another abundant source of the evils with which the Church is afflicted at present: indifferentism. This perverse opinion is spread on all sides by the fraud of the wicked who claim that it is possible to obtain the eternal salvation of the soul by the profession of any kind of religion, as long as morality is maintained. Surely, in so clear a matter, you will drive this deadly error far from the people committed to your care. With the admonition of the apostle that “there is one God, one faith, one baptism”[16] may those fear who contrive the notion that the safe harbor of salvation is open to persons of any religion whatever. They should consider the testimony of Christ Himself that “those who are not with Christ are against Him,”[17] and that they disperse unhappily who do not gather with Him. Therefore “without a doubt, they will perish forever, unless they hold the Catholic faith whole and inviolate.”[18] Let them hear Jerome who, while the Church was torn into three parts by schism, tells us that whenever someone tried to persuade him to join his group he always exclaimed: “He who is for the See of Peter is for me.”[19] A schismatic flatters himself falsely if he asserts that he, too, has been washed in the waters of regeneration. Indeed Augustine would reply to such a man: “The branch has the same form when it has been cut off from the vine; but of what profit for it is the form, if it does not live from the root?”[20]

14. This shameful font of indifferentism gives rise to that absurd and erroneous proposition which claims that liberty of conscience must be maintained for everyone. It spreads ruin in sacred and civil affairs, though some repeat over and over again with the greatest impudence that some advantage accrues to religion from it. “But the death of the soul is worse than freedom of error,” as Augustine was wont to say.[21] When all restraints are removed by which men are kept on the narrow path of truth, their nature, which is already inclined to evil, propels them to ruin. Then truly “the bottomless pit”[22] is open from which John saw smoke ascending which obscured the sun, and out of which locusts flew forth to devastate the earth. Thence comes transformation of minds, corruption of youths, contempt of sacred things and holy laws — in other words, a pestilence more deadly to the state than any other. Experience shows, even from earliest times, that cities renowned for wealth, dominion, and glory perished as a result of this single evil, namely immoderate freedom of opinion, license of free speech, and desire for novelty.

— Pope Gregory XVI, Mirari Vos

  • Justin

    “Experience shows, even from earliest times, that cities renowned for wealth, dominion, and glory perished as a result of this single evil, namely immoderate freedom of opinion, license of free speech, and desire for novelty.”

    This is pretty chilling because it sums up our own nation and our own culture.

    Some within the Church sort of foster this indifferentism which is most unfortunate.

  • SK

    I am on another website which tells me that those of other faiths, if they live moral lives can also be saved and they reference the following. Thoughts? Opinions? Ways to counter this position?

    “Although non-Christians can be saved through the grace which God bestows in “ways known to him”,[21] the Church cannot fail to recognize that such persons are lacking a tremendous benefit in this world: to know the true face of God and the friendship of Jesus Christ, God-with-us. Indeed “there is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know him and to speak to others of our friendship with him”.[22] The revelation of the fundamental truths[23] about God, about the human person and the world, is a great good for every human person, while living in darkness without the truths about ultimate questions is an evil and is often at the root of suffering and slavery which can at times be grievous. This is why Saint Paul does not hesitate to describe conversion to the Christian faith as liberation “from the power of darkness” and entrance into “the kingdom of his beloved Son in whom we have redemption and the forgiveness of our sins” (Col 1:13-14). Therefore, fully belonging to Christ, who is the Truth, and entering the Church do not lessen human freedom, but rather exalt it and direct it towards its fulfilment, in a love that is freely given and which overflows with care for the good of all people. It is an inestimable benefit to live within the universal embrace of the friends of God which flows from communion in the life-giving flesh of his Son, to receive from him the certainty of forgiveness of sins and to live in the love that is born of faith. The Church wants everyone to share in these goods so that they may possess the fullness of truth and the fullness of the means of salvation, in order “to enter into the freedom of the glory of the children of God” (Rom 8:21).”

    [21] Second Vatican Council, Decree Ad gentes, 7; cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 16; Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, 22.

    The Sovereign Pontiff Benedict XVI, in the Audience granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect on 6 October 2007, approved the present Doctrinal Note, adopted in the Ordinary Session of this Congregation, and ordered its publication.

    Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 3 December 2007, Memorial of Saint Francis Xavier, Patron of the Missions.

    William Cardinal Levada

    Angelo Amato, SDB
    Titular Archbishop of Sila

  • SK: If one were to attempt to read this with the “hermeneutic of continuity,” one would be obliged to hold that it does not contradict Gregory XVI’s condemnation. Moreover, this CDF Doctrinal Note would have to be read “in light of” the three infallible definitions — — that nobody may deny. Therefore, one would have to conclude that the proposition, “non-Christians can be saved through the grace which God bestows in ‘ways known to him’…” means that such people must perforce enter the Church before their deaths, but in an extraordinary or miraculous way.

    One may object that this does a bit of violence to the text. My reply would be that it were better to do violence to a text of lesser magisterial authority than to a text of greater magisterial authority. The alternative is to throw the principle of non-contradiction on the trash heap.

  • SK

    Thank you for your reply. I’m involved in a rather intense debate on this subject here –> … and would welcome you to join in.

  • Daniel Crowley

    It’s hard work putting this stuff into the hermeneutic of continuity, eh Brother? Recently, the actual writers of the Vatican II council documents have admitted that they had to choose vague wording to gain the consent of all factions at the council. This explains why there’s so much confusion. There’s truth in the documents, but it’s hidden under obscure wording and hard to extract. Hopefully the Church will produce a syllabus of errors to solve this problem.

  • Yes, Daniel, we need a new “Syllabus of Errors,” like those of Bl. Pius IX and St. Pius X!

    On the hermeneutic question, Pat Archbold makes some apt observations here:

    And Monsignor Brunero Gherardini trenchantly observes that this continuity must be proved and not simply proclaimed:

  • Daniel Crowley

    I can definitely agree with Pat Archbold in that article. I feel the exact same way. I know I came back to the Church by the convincing writings of the saints. I know most protestants come to the Church that way, too. It’s really like we’re looking at two different religions when we look at post-concilliar stuff. I just hope and pray that this madness comes to an end, that it’s just a blip on the radar. Luckily, I think we’re beginning to see a lot more people, apologists and evangelists, bring up the difficulties that the ambiguity V2 creates through its wording.

    Keep up the good work, Brother. Your community are in our prayers!

  • Yankeegator

    Somebody better tell our current Pope because he is knee deep In Indifferentism…