Pope Gregory XVI on Mixed Marriages and No Salvation outside the Church

I have erred. A couple of weeks ago, I bombed it. Yes, I — the Philosopher — made a colossal mistake. It seems I imprudently trusted a friend who sent me a quote alleged to be from the pen of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. That passage, supposedly from an article in the scholarly journal, Communio, was a total fabrication. My friend was snookered by it, and I trusted him. The Philosopher has never been a fan of Descartes, but it seems I shall have to practice more “methodical doubt” when sent such a quote — even from my friends who are scholarly (never trust a Platonist!).

Now that the unpleasant mea culpa is out of the way, I have for your edification (and my rehabilitatioin) a reliable papal quote from Pope Gregory XVI’s Summo Iugiter Studio (On Mixed Marriages), of May 27, 1832. The following passage is on “no salvation outside the Church”:

5. Next let Us start with the things which concern the faith which, as We mentioned above, some are endangering in order to introduce greater freedom for mixed marriages. You know how zealously Our predecessors taught that very article of faith which these dare to deny, namely the necessity of the Catholic faith and of unity for salvation. The words of that celebrated disciple of the apostles, martyred St. Ignatius, in his letter to the Philadelphians are relevant to this matter: “Be not deceived, my brother; if anyone follows a schismatic, he will not attain the inheritance of the kingdom of God.” Moreover, St. Augustine and the other African bishops who met in the Council of Cirta in the year 412 explained the same thing at greater length: “Whoever has separated himself from the Catholic Church, no matter how laudably he lives, will not have eternal life, but has earned the anger of God because of this one crime: that he abandoned his union with Christ.” Omitting other appropriate passages which are almost numberless in the writings of the Fathers, We shall praise St. Gregory the Great who expressly testifies that this indeed is the teaching of the Catholic Church. He says: “The holy universal Church teaches that it is not possible to worship God truly except in her and asserts that all who are outside of her will not be saved.” Official acts of the Church proclaim the same dogma. Thus, in the decree on faith which Innocent III published with the synod of Lateran IV, these things are written: “There is one universal Church of all the faithful outside of which no one is saved.” Finally the same dogma is also expressly mentioned in the profession of faith proposed by the Apostolic See, not only that which all Latin churches use, but also that which the Greek Orthodox Church uses and that which other Eastern Catholics use. We did not mention these selected testimonies because We thought you were ignorant of that article of faith and in need of Our instruction. Far be it from Us to have such an absurd and insulting suspicion about you. But We are so concerned about this serious and well known dogma, which has been attacked with such remarkable audacity, that We could not restrain Our pen from reinforcing this truth with many testimonies.

The subject matter of the encyclical is mixed marriages, which the Supreme Pontiff is decidedly against, as we can see from the gloriously nineteenth-century opening of the pope’s directive: “The Apostolic See has always ensured that the canons forbidding the marriages of Catholics with heretics have been observed religiously. Occasionally such marriages have been tolerated in order to avoid more serious scandals. But, even then, the Roman Pontiffs saw to it that the faithful were taught how deformed these marriages are and what spiritual dangers they present.”