The doctrine of No Salvation Outside the Catholic Church is a hard saying for a great many people today. There is one question with regard to it which practically everybody puts to us.”What about the poor native on a desert island?” Or, “What about the native in the middle of Africa.? Is it fair for God to send him to hell when he has never heard of the Catholic Church?”
We are often tempted to reply, “Your worry about a hypothetical native is odd, in view of the salvation problems staring at you in members of your family and your neighbors next door. But since you will not settle down to think about the matter at home until the apparent plight of the native is settled, let us consider the native.”
Most people seem to think that Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Who is the Infinite God, never thought of or foresaw the predicament of “the native” living in 1951 when He taught, through His Apostles, that there is no salvation for anyone outside the Roman Catholic Church, or without personal submission to the See of Peter. And yet, in some later conversation, the same people will reassure themselves that “the hairs of our head are numbered,” and – “He marks the sparrow’s fall.”
People generally were not taught, and so have no idea, of the rapid growth of the Church during the lives of the Apostles. They do not know that before the death of the last Apostle, St. John, the Faith had been brought to every part of the known world. This world-wide spread of the Faith is called “the miracle of diffusion.” When the modern Catholic thinks of the early Christians at all, he thinks of them as being only a few in number, and that few as the poor and illiterate. But that is not so. The Church had great successes, even in its earliest days. In the centuries following the age of the Apostles, the Church continued to grow, despite the wholesale persecutions.
“The native in darkest Africa” figures so largely in the problem of salvation for the Catholic in our day because the average American looks upon Africa as a dark and primitive land, to which the Faith was never carried. Again, it is the contrary that is the truth. St. Mark brought the Faith to Africa. He was the first Bishop of Alexandria. And Alexandria was a thriving city in his day, the seat of great culture. Men of intellect were attracted to it from all over the world because of its famous Catechetical School, which produced some of the greatest theologians of the Church. This was the school governed by St. Clement of Alexandria and by Origen.
The spread of Christianity from Carthage, in northwest Africa (Alexandria is in northeast Africa), was so remarkable that Tertullian, who was a priest of Carthage, wrote, in 202 A.D., that throughout the cities of Africa, the Christians almost outnumbered the Pagans. St. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, convened a synod there, sometime after 248, at which eighty-seven bishops were present.
The great St. Augustine, renowned throughout all the Christian ages, was an African.
And so the “poor African native” had had the Faith, from its very source. So also had the native in Asia. And in Europe. And on all the adjacent islands. Cortes, way along in 1520, found the American Indian – in Central America – in possession of many religious truths, carefully preserved and handed down from generation to generation.
If there is one thing we at St. Benedict Center have learned it is that the world is a very small place religiously, and that religious news travels, in one way or another, like lightning. Students who have come to us from all over the world have told us that the story of our fight for the pure orthodox doctrines of the Church reached even to the most remote parts of their countries.
We are but one human race, children of the same parents. It is evidence of loss of Faith and loss of true knowledge of God that men today question not only God’s Power – to get His Truth to any and all lands – but His Goodness also – to leave men of good will without the means of salvation. Catholics in our time make themselves out to be more merciful, just, and charitable than God. In their pride and weak Faith they forget that God, in His Omniscience, knows whether men would accept or reject the Church, were it offered to them, and that creatures are generally in the state they choose to be in. The fallen angels, for example, were they given a choice again, would once more choose Lucifer to the Eternal God. The souls in hell could not stand the pure white light of heaven for a single instant.
And so we return to consideration of the “plight of the poor native.” The ancestors of “the native” had the Faith, we know. We have the word of many of the early Saints and Christian writers for that. St. Justin Martyr, for instance, wrote, about 150 A.D.:
There is not any one race of men, barbarian or Greek, nay, of those who live in wagons or who are nomads, or shepherds in tents, among whom prayers and Eucharists are not offered to the Father and Maker of the Universe, through the name of the crucified Jesus.
St. Clement of Alexandria, in Africa, writes, somewhat later:
The word of our Master did not remain in Judea, as philosophy remained in Greece, but has been poured out over the whole world, persuading Greeks and barbarians alike.
The famous Origen, who at eighteen years of age became the head of the School of Alexandria, wrote, sometime after 203:
In all Greece and in all barbarous races within our world, there are tens of thousands who have left their national laws and customary gods for the law of Moses and the word of Jesus Christ. . . . And considering how, in so few years, in spite of the attacks made on us to the loss of life or property, and with no great store of teachers, the preaching of that word has found its way into every part of the world so that Greeks and barbarians, wise and unwise, adhere to the religion of Jesus, doubtless it is a work greater than any work of man.
We know, then, that long ago the Faith was held and lost, in these lands where it had flourished so gloriously. Now, loss of Faith is always culpable. It is always man’s fault, that is, when he has lost his God-given gift of Faith. That is the clear teaching of the Church. It is by man’s sins – whether of neglect, sloth, indifference, worldliness, selfishness, vice – that he no longer believes.
And – and this is the significant fact with regard to the native – the sins of the fathers are visited upon their sons. “Like father , like son” is repeated for our reflection and chastisement in the stories of the human race in all generations. The sin of Adam and Eve is the “original sin” with which every child comes into the world, every man’s inheritance from a sinful father. The sons of Cain were wicked men, as was their father. The cities of Babylon and Jerusalem tell that tale. Chanaan was cursed for the sin of his father, Cham. And on and on it goes. The men who followed Luther and Calvin, John Knox and Henry VIII, passed on to their children their sin. Their children are the Protestants of our day, whose fathers lost the Faith for them.
We have actually been told by Liberal Catholics that we are wrong in calling the Protestants of our day heretics. “They are not heretics,” we are told. “Their great-grandparents were, because they had the Faith and left it. But these descendants of theirs are innocent of heresy. They are living the religion their parents taught them, and in no sense should they be blamed for not having the Catholic Faith.”
“But why should you be blamed and have to be baptized so as to be cleansed of a sin committed by Adam thousands of years ago?” we ask, in answer. “Were you not many times more innocent than the adult Protestant of our day? And yet if you had died unbaptized, with Adam’s sin still upon your soul, you could not have entered heaven. The sins of the fathers are visited upon their children. It is up to the children to remove them. It is up to modern Protestants to come back to the true Faith. It is we who have charity, when we tell them that; you who lack charity, when you leave them in darkness.”
This, Liberal Catholics refuse to see, mainly because they hold their Faith so lightly that they themselves have practically lost it.
It seems to me that if the modern Liberal Catholic would stop trying to pin the Infinite God down to his own sentimental standards of fair play, and humbly hearken to what He is saying, because it is God Who speaks, he might yet save his waning Faith in time to pass it down to his children – lest they become the ” poor native” for succeeding generations.
Men who truly possess the Faith, and therefore knowledge of God as He really is, can be certain from this knowledge that God, when He sees good will and open hearts anywhere in the world, will find a way to get His Church there. He sent St. Isaac Jogues and his companions – the eight North American Martyrs – to North America to bring Baptism and the Blessed Sacrament to the Indians. The only conspicuous fruit of their work was one little Indian girl, Kateri Tekakwitha. God knew she would respond when the Faith was offered her, and give Him love in return for Love – as only those who hunger and thirst for God can.
God, Who is All Power and All Goodness, will bring visible means – His priests – with visible signs – His Sacraments – to all who seek Him truly, in order that they may belong to His visible Church, and thus secure salvation. We know this, it is true, from our knowledge of God. We know it also because He has told us so, very clearly, in Holy Scripture.
It is told in the Acts of the Apostles (Chapter 10) that St. Peter was sent to Caesarea for the sole Purpose of baptizing Cornelius, a Gentile, and his family. Cornelius was a religious man, who feared God. He had taught all in his house to fear God. He gave alms to the people, and he was praying, always.
One day, God sent an angel to Cornelius, to tell him that God had heard his prayers, that his alms and his prayers had ascended to God, and that he must at once send men to Joppe to summon to his home Simon Peter. This Cornelius did, and when St. Peter had made the journey from Joppe to Caesarea, he said to Cornelius:
Acts 10;29: . . . I came when I was sent for. I ask, therefore, for what cause you have sent for me?
30: And Cornelius said: Four days ago, unto this hour, I was praying in my house, at the ninth hour, and behold a man stood before me in white apparel, and said:
31: Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thy alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.
32: Send therefore to Joppe, and call hither Simon, who is surnamed Peter: he lodgeth in the house of Simon a tanner, by the sea side.
33: Immediately therefore I sent to thee: and thou hast done well in coming. Now, therefore, all we are present in thy sight, to hear all things whatsoever are commanded thee by the Lord.
34: And Peter opening his mouth, said: In very deed I perceive, that God is not a respecter of persons.
35: But in every nation, he that feareth him, and worketh justice, is acceptable to him.
Comment: The Catholic Liberal in our day – clerical or lay – would stop right here in the story of St. Peter and Cornelius. The story is finished as far as the Liberal is concerned. He has, to his way of thinking, been assured of Cornelius’ salvation. And nothing is farther from the truth. Cornelius has not yet been baptized. No man can, anymore, be saved without the Sacraments. We have but to read the words of St. Peter in the verses which follow, in this same chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, to know this:
36: God sent the word to the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all).
37: You know the word which hath been published through all Judea: for it began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached.
St. Peter went on to instruct Cornelius and his family in the Faith of Jesus Christ. And “the Holy Ghost fell on all them that heard the word.”
47: Then Peter answered: Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Ghost, as well as we.?
48: And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Then they desired him to tarry with them some days.
The Liberal Catholics would have complimented Cornelius, and have left him unbaptized. St. Peter complimented Cornelius, and opened to him the road to salvation, by the waters of Baptism. Peter, the first Pope, should know the explicit command of Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God, we know it, too, from him and from his successors in the Holy See. And also because the Holy Spirit has preserved it for us so beautifully in this chapter in the Acts of the Apostles.
Now, Cornelius did not live on a desert island, nor did he live in Africa. He could not perfectly be likened to “the poor native” who stirs up so much sympathy salvationally in the year of Our Lord, 1951. And so, almost as if for our benefit Holy Scripture gives us a native, in the desert, and an African!
We learn in the Acts of the Apostles (8;26) that God sent Philip way down to the south, from Jerusalem into Gaza, to find a lone Ethiopian, a eunuch, in order to baptize him. Philip was sent to the eunuch for no other reason than to baptize him.
Now, if it were enough for salvation to have baptism of desire, the sense in which the Liberals of our day hold baptism of desire, certainly this eunuch had it. He was of good will, he sincerely desired God, and he was holy. However, all this was not enough – no more than it was enough for Cornelius, who also possessed these virtues. It still was necessary for the eunuch to be born again, of water and the Holy Ghost. It was necessary for him to be baptized, and by water. Baptism of desire is desire for Baptism of water.
It is clear that God sent Philip on his long journey to the eunuch precisely in order to baptize him, because immediately after the baptism was administered, the Spirit of the Lord took Philip away.
Acts 8;26: Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying: Arise, go towards the south, to the way that goeth down from Jerusalem into Gaza: this is desert.
27: And rising up, he went. And behold a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch, of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge over all her treasures, had come to Jerusalem to adore.
28: And he was returning, sitting in his chariot, and reading Isaias the prophet.
29: And the Spirit said to Philip: Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
30: And Philip running thither, heard him reading the prophet Isaias. And he said: Thinkest thou that thou understandest what thou readest?
31: Who said: And how can I, unless some man shew me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.
32: And the place of the scripture which he was reading was this: “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb without voice before his shearer, so openeth he not his mouth.
33: “In humility his judgment was taken away. His generation who shall declare, for his life shall be taken from the earth?”
34: And the eunuch answering Philip, said : I beseech thee, of whom doth the prophet speak this? of himself, or of some other man?
35: Then Philip, opening his mouth, and beginning at this scripture, preached unto him Jesus.
36: And as they went on their way, they came to a certain water; and the eunuch said: See, here is water: what doth hinder me from being baptized?
37: And Philip said: If thou believest with all thy heart, thou mayest. And he answering, said: I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
38: And he commanded the chariot to stand still; and they went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch: and he baptized him.
39: And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord took away Philip; and the eunuch saw him no more. And he went on his way rejoicing.
This is the story of the “native from darkest Africa” elaborately and clearly told at the very beginning of the Acts of the Apostles.
There is, we might reflect, the further lesson for us of the great singularity of this native in Holy Scripture. He was a eunuch, and therefore was not to be the father of any family or race. But so precious is the individuality of every man before God, so much does He love each of us for our own sakes, that He judges us not as a nation, or a group, or a family, but as persons. Each of us is given a “particular judgment” at the moment of our death. Each of us is personally responsible.
Every native of good will in the world some missionary will find, if the native is willing to take the Faith. The one native whom the Liberal Catholics have never been able to discover is the eunuch staring at them in this story in the Acts of the Apostles. When they say to us:
“What about the native in darkest Africa?”
(this is always a native they do not know really), our answer is, and must be:
“What about the native in Holy Scripture, and how do you explain him?”
Perhaps it were well to pause here for a moment to consider the question of “invincible ignorance.”
A man who lives, let us say, in the United States, knows that it is a governed nation. He knows that this government is for his good, and is indispensably so. He also knows that he must investigate, with reasonable diligence, its laws, because he must observe these laws, or else be punished for not doing so. There is no man who has not enough civic and social wisdom to get rid of his ignorance about the laws of his State.
Likewise, a man looking around the world knows that the world is governed by God. And with Christian challenges staring him in the face and shouting into his ears, he must know that this world is governed by Christ, true God and true Man. If he is to save his soul, he knows that he must investigate what are the laws of this government of Christ. And it is evident to him – or it should be – that the rules laid down for his salvation by Jesus Christ cannot be found in those Christian sects which speak without authority – and which disagree among themselves as to what the rules may be.
It could happen, with regard to a particular law, that the State might find that an individual was ignorant of it through no fault of his own. He would then be morally exonerated, but he would legally be punished, because that is the law.
For example, a man who did not know where he had to pay his income tax, and therefore avoided paying it, would not be excused for not having searched around until he had found out where to pay it. The officer of the law might sympathize with the man in his ignorance, but he would have to penalize him for not observing the law, or else it would be foolish for a State to make laws at all. If the State were to leave it to the sincerity of the citizens to imagine what civic laws should be – and then obey those they privately thought were for the public good – we would see the complete end of the common welfare, for which the State was instituted.
In absolute literalness, we must admit that it is possible for a human being to lose his soul without being guilty of any sin committed by himself. Christ laid down what the law of salvation was, and this law must be observed so as to secure salvation. Even the most Liberal Catholic theologians do and must hold that no unbaptized baby can see God in the Beatific Vision because he has not fulfilled the law laid down for such beatitude. He has never been baptized.
The unbaptized baby is not in the least morally to blame, either for not observing the law, or for not knowing it. But if he is to be let in on the score of non-observance and ignorance, that is the end of the first law of salvation. To give weak efficiency to the State in making its laws is bad enough practice. To tell God, an omniscient Law-Giver, that He does not know how to make laws mercifully is complete and clear blasphemy.
If unbaptized babies can get into heaven, Jesus Christ should have thought of this when He said: “Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost he shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven,” and He should not have made this statement.
“In which case,” Father Feeney said one day, “missionaries and priests and parents would not in the least bother to baptize babies since they would then know there were two ways of getting into heaven: one through the regenerative water of Baptism, and the other through the non-reception of Baptism, in the blissful state of not knowing it had to be received. This would be the end of Law, and may I add, the end of Baptism. It would also be the end of all the other Sacraments for which Baptism is a prerequisite. In short order, it would be the end of Christianity.
“It is ten thousand times more merciful to let an unbaptized baby not see God forever than to blot Christianity off from the face of the earth. But that is what the pretended weepers over the invincibly ignorant do, when they claim it to be an entrance qualification for the kingdom of heaven. It is our duty to take care of God’s law, and let God’s law take care of the baby.
“It is terribly surprising to find that a Catholic – who must admit that his unbaptized baby, who died, let us say, at childbirth, will never see God – holds that some unbaptized native who lived a few more years in the same condition, will. There is no doubt about it that solicitude for the salvation of the unbaptized native (which seems to be the only charitable solicitude which Liberal Catholics possess) is very soon in the United States of America going to lead over to allowing unbaptized babies to receive the Beatific Vision. Already, in Emmanuel College, a Catholic college taught by the Sisters of Notre Dame, and staffed theologically by some professors who are priests from St. John’s Seminary in Brighton, it is being hinted in religion classes that unbaptized babies may get into heaven through what is being called ‘the illumination theory.’ This can hardly be called Baptism of Desire, since the child does not even know its own desires. What it is is a new form of Baptism, a new substitute for the water prescribed by Christ. And very soon we may expect, in Catholic America, to find in our re-edited catechisms, four kinds of Baptism, instead of the present three: Baptism of water, Baptism of blood, Baptism of desire, and Baptism of illumination.
“This is the end of Baptism. The word is beginning now to have no meaning whatsoever. Let us pray that Our Holy Father will guard us from this blasphemous heresy, and preserve for us our one Lord, our one Faith, and our one Baptism.”
God is an omniscient Law-Giver. He is omniscient both in knowing what laws are just, and in knowing how to phrase His laws, with perfect justice and charity. We must not tamper with these laws. If we do, we will not only lose natives on desert islands, we will lose whole nations to the Faith.
To repeat once again, if there is a native on a desert island, whom God knows is willing to receive the message of Christ, God will get him a missionary, just as He got Philip to the eunuch. If no missionary comes, it will be because God sees no missionary would be received, were he to come. The native will not be to blame morally, and will never be punished in hell for having rejected the Faith, because he did not, in fact, do so. It was only God Who knew he would. But he also will never receive the Beatific Vision because he neither had the Faith nor was baptized. And this is God’s Justice.
During this past winter, students from Boston College have come to us with the news that some of the Jesuit Fathers were saying that St. Benedict Center, in its stand on No Salvation Outside the Church, did not take into account the “salvific will” of God. The fact is that we do take into account the “salvific will” of God, but we take care to quote it the way it is expressed in St. Paul.
The term “salvific will” is derived from a half-quotation of a text in Holy Scripture:
1 Tim. 2;4: Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
The Liberals quote the first half of this passage of St. Paul, namely :
God wills all men to be saved,
and go on speaking about the “salvific will” of God. They neglect to finish the text:
and to come to the knowledge of the truth,
which can mean nothing else except:
and come to the knowledge of His Church,
which St. Paul calls, in the very next chapter of Timothy (3;15) :
. . . the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.
Now if, as the Jesuits say, God wills every man to be saved, (whether or not he comes to the knowledge of the truth), how do they explain the beginning of Chapter 4, in this same Epistle to Timothy ? It reads:
Now the Spirit manifestly saith, that in the last times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to spirits of error, and doctrines of devils.
It was precisely because the prince of devils, Lucifer, desired the prerogatives of God that he and his angels were damned for all eternity, and we have the devils, in hell. Modern Liberals actually hold that it is possible for a man holding “doctrines of devils” to be saved so long as he holds them “sincerely”!
The “salvific will” of God could best be expressed this way: God wills all men to come to the knowledge of the truth and thereby to be saved.
This is what St. Paul’s text means and says. St. Thomas, in agreement with all the doctors, confirms this meaning in his Commentary on the First Epistle to Timothy. There is a sense in which it is wrong to say simply: “God wants all men to be saved,” if you do not add, “and come to the knowledge of the truth.” It is heresy to say that God wants all men, or any man, to be saved without coming to the knowledge of the truth.
Those who do not come to the knowledge of the truth, and do not enter the Church which was divinely instituted to preserve and teach it, cannot be saved. God has said so, and unless we are trying to establish a God to our own image and likeness, we had better stop tampering with the decrees that are Divine.
* * * * * * * * * * *
Perhaps, before closing this chapter, it might be well to add, by way of postscript, a word on the question which is second to “the native” in the minds of Catholics today.
“But Our Lord told us to judge not, that we be not judged,” we are told. “And He told us to love our enemies.”
It is true we should love our enemies. But God’s enemies are a different matter. God’s enemies are doing the work of the devil, and should we love the devil, or those he is bringing along to hell with him?
We do not have a right to judge a man’s morals rashly; we never know what has been resisted, and what consented to. Only God knows the secrets of men’s hearts, and we dare not pass false judgment on a man’s drunkenness, anger, gluttony, pride, envy – or impute motives to him with regard to his sins.
But his belief in God, and his following of Jesus Christ are another matter. Our Lord Himself has told us:
John 3;18: . . . But he that doth not believe is already judged.
Our Lord has actually instructed us how to judge with regard to the things of God. When He said:
Matt. 12;30: He that is not with me, is against me,
He expected us to judge who were with Him, and who were against Him. When He admonished us to shake the dust from our feet against some, He presumed we should judge those to whom we should do this. When He commanded:
Matt. 7;6: Give not that which is holy to dogs; neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest perhaps they trample them under their feet, and turning upon you, they tear you. . . .
Jesus enjoined us to know those who are dogs, and those who are swine. We can know men who are dogs and men who are swine only by judging them to be such.
If a father has a little daughter whose innocence and sweetness and purity he wants to protect, how can he do so unless he judges those who would endanger it? Every one of us has had the experience, sooner or later, of being told by one of our parents, “Do not go with him – or her. They are not nice people. Have nothing to do with them.” A parent who would not do this for a child, is not a good parent. And certainly this is judging.
And so if we have a pearl of great price to preserve – our Catholic Faith – which we should not cast before swine, how can we preserve it unless we judge who are swine?
“But I do not think you can win people by being so out spoken,” we are usually told at this point. “I think you can convert many more by good example.”
Howard Cannon once wrote an article in the magazine From the Housetops, showing that what modern Catholics are doing – under this silent-good-example policy – is to bring, not Jesus Christ, but themselves to those outside the Church. They are luring people into liking them, not into loving Jesus and Mary. Whether Catholics are good or bad, nice or not nice, pleasant mannered or unpleasant mannered, is no proof that the Catholic Church is the one true Church.
The Catholic Church is the one true Church because it was founded by Jesus Christ through His Apostles, with Peter and his successors as His Vicars and visible head, and with His promise that the gates of hell shall never prevail against it.