Reply to a Liberal Part II: Outside the Church There is No Salvation

Contents :

1. Explicit Faith in the Catholic Church and in Her Teaching is Necessary for Salvation.

2. there Two Kinds of Membership in the Church?

3. Can a Person Who Remains Separated from the Church be Saved?

4. Are Protestants Formal Heretics?

5. Pope Pius IX’s Real Teaching with Regard to the Salvation of Non-Catholics

6. Concerning the Question of Ignorance

1. Explicit Faith in the Catholic Church and in Her Teachings is Necessary for Salvation

We now come to something more positive and more doctrinal.

The first point to be made, says Fr. Donnelly, is that the formula ‘extra ecclesiam nulla salus’ must not be understood in the sense that salvation is impossible for any one who does not believe explicitly in the Catholic Church, and does not accept all the revealed truths proposed by her for belief.

Is this really the teaching of the Church on this point? Let us see what Holy Scripture and the tradition of the Church have to say.

Our Lord, sending His Apostles to preach His Gospel, said to them:

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned. (Mk. 16,16.)

St. Paul, in his Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, (I, 7-10), says:

And to you who are troubled, rest with us when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven, with the angels of His power: in a flame of fire, giving vengeance to them who know not God, and who obey not the Gospel of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Who shall suffer eternal punishment in destruction, from the face of the Lord, and from the glory of His power: when He shall come to be glorified in His saints, and to be made wonderful in all them who have believed; because our testimony was upon you in that day.

Again, in the same Epistle (II, 8-11) the Apostle says:

And then that wicked one shall be revealed whom the Lord Jesus shall kill with the spirit of His mouth; and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming, him, whose coming is according to the working of Satan, in all power, and signs, and lying wonders, and in all seduction of iniquity to them that perish; because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. Therefore, God shall send them the operation of error, to believe lying; that all may be judged who have not believed the truth, but have consented to iniquity.

St. Thomas Aquinas, the official teacher of Catholic Doctrine, on the authority of the Apostle (Heb. XI, 6): “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” says that faith in truths revealed by God is absolutely necessary for salvation. 1 Moreover, implicit faith is not enough, nor is it possible to have implicit faith in some truth if one does not hold explicitly other truths. 2 “Therefore, as regards the primary points or articles of faith, man must believe them explicitly, just as he must have faith. ” 3

Now, according to St. Thomas, what are the primary points or articles of Faith which must be believed explicitly by a man who wishes to be saved? They are (besides the belief that God is, that He is a rewarder and a punisher): (a) explicit faith in the mystery of the Incarnation, and all the points which are related to it which are found in the Creed; and (b) explicit faith in the Trinity, and in all the points related to it which are found in the Creed. Saint Thomas speaks as follows:

After the Incarnation, all men, if they wish to be saved, 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 that refer to the Incarnation.” 4 And, after the Incarnation, all men, in order to be saved, “are bound to explicit faith in the mystery of the Trinity.” 5

We see, therefore, that explicit faith in the articles of the Creed is necessary for salvation. But is this enough? Saint Thomas teaches that it is enough only if the person is unable to know more truths explicitly, and does not deny any articles of the Faith. 6 On the contrary, a man who professes to hold the truths of the Faith and at the same time explicitly denies even one truth, does not have the Faith at all, and therefore cannot be saved. 7 This would be true in the case of a man who denied the supremacy and infallibility of the Catholic Church and the necessity of the Church for salvation.

The above clearly refutes Father Donnelly’s statement that explicit belief in the Catholic Church and acceptance of all the revealed truths proposed by her are not necessary for salvation. For further proof that explicit belief in the Catholic Church is necessary for salvation, let us quote St. Thomas and St. Alphonsus Liguori. Saint Thomas says,

Neither formed nor formless faith remains in a heretic who disbelieves one article of faith . . . Consequently, whoever does not adhere, as to an infallible and divine rule, to the teaching of the Church, which proceeds from the First Truth manifested in Holy Scripture, has not the habit of faith, but holds the things which are of faith otherwise than by faith. 8

St. Alphonsus Ligouri says that the motive for believing any truths of the Faith is

that God, the Infallible Truth, has revealed them, and that the Church proposes them to our belief. Behold, then, how we should make an act of faith: “My God, because You, Who are the Infallible Truth, have revealed to the Church the truths of the Faith, I believe all that the Church proposes to my belief.” 9

Hence, it must follow that belief in the truths which the Church proposes is impossible without belief in the Church itself. Therefore, only those who adhere to the teaching of the Church as to an infallible and divine rule can have real faith and find salvation.

Proof of the necessity of explicit belief in the Catholic Church and the acceptance of all the revealed truths proposed for belief in order to be saved is found all through the writings of the Fathers, the Doctors, and in the Councils. Let us list here a few additional statements:

St. Thomas says, commenting on the Apostles’ Creed:

No man can obtain the happiness of Heaven — which is the true knowledge of God — unless he know Him first by faith: “Blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed” (Jn. 20, 29). 10

The Council of Trent, which Fr. Donnelly thinks is in his favor, teaches unmistakably:

Indeed, since the Apostle said that man is justified by faith and freely (Rom. 3, 22-24), these words must be understood in that sense, which the perpetual consensus of the Catholic Church held and expressed, namely, that we are thus said to be justified by faith, since ‘faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation and root of every justification, ‘without which it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11,6) and to come to the fellowship of His children. (Sess. VI, Chap. 8. ) 11

St. Robert Bellarmine, S. J., Doctor of the Universal Church, says at the very beginning of his Doctrina Christiana:

We begin the exposition of the dogmas of the Faith of Christ, whose knowledge is necessary for every one who earnestly desires the salvation of his soul. 12

St. Alphonsus Liguori teaches that God calls us in two successive vocations, which necessarily follow a definite order:

This was the first and sovereign grace bestowed upon us, — our vocation to the Faith; which was succeeded by our vocation to grace, of which men were deprived. 13

Thus, sanctifying grace cannot come to an adult in whom faith did not come first.

Pope Pius XI, whom Fr. Donnelly quotes from newspapers, says in his Encyclical Mortalium Animos:

Moreover, when the only Begotten Son of God commanded His legates to teach all nations, He then bound all men with the duty to believe what was announced to them by “witnesses preordained by God.” He attached to His command the sanction, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned.” Now, this double commandment of Christ, which must be observed, to teach and to believe so as to attain eternal salvation, cannot even be understood if the Church does not propose the evangelical doctrine entire and clear and if, in the teaching of it, it is not free from all danger of error. 14

Pope Pius IX, whose utterances have been so pitilessly mutilated and mistranslated by the liberals of our day, says in his Allocution Singulari Quadam:

It is necessary that you inculcate this salutary teaching in the souls of those who exaggerate the power of human reason to such a point that they dare, by its power, to investigate and explain the mysteries themselves, than which nothing is more foolish, nothing more insane. Strive to call them back from such a perversity of mind, explaining indeed that nothing was granted to men by God’s Providence more excellent than the authority of the divine faith, that this faith is to us like a torch in the darkness, that it is the leader that we follow to Life, that it is absolutely necessary for salvation, since “without faith it is impossible to please God,” and “he that believeth not shall be condemned.” (Mk. 16,16) 15

Moreover, concerning explicit faith in the Incarnation and the Most Holy Trinity, Pope Innocent XI, in his condemnation of certain errors on moral questions, “Errores varii de rebus moralibus ,” includes the following heretical proposition:

(It is error to believe that) 64. A man is capable (capax ) of absolution, however much he may labor in ignorance of the mysteries of the faith, and even though through negligence, be it even culpable, he does not know the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity and of the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ. 16

Concerning explicit faith in the Catholic Church and in her supremacy, the Council of Constance condemned the 41st proposition of John Wycliff in which this heretic said that it was not necessary for salvation to believe in the supremacy of the Roman Church. 17

In connection with the question of the necessity of the Catholic Faith for salvation, let me point out the fact that Fr. Donnelly and the other liberals quote texts without seeing that they can be easily turned against them. Thus, the Encyclical Quanto conficiamur by Pius IX is universally quoted by the liberals to support their doctrine that a man totally ignorant of the Catholic Faith can be saved. But what does Pius IX say?

It is known to Us and to you that those who labor under invincible ignorance of our holy religion, and who, zealously observing the natural law and its precepts engraven by God in the hearts of all, and who, prepared to obey God, lead an honest and upright life, are able, by the powerful workings of God’s light and grace, to attain eternal life. 18

This means that God, in His mercy, will find a way of enabling the man who is invincibly ignorant of the Church and who follows the natural law to achieve his salvation. But Pius IX nowhere says that this can be done without the Catholic Faith. On the contrary, he explicitly says, a few lines later, that it is a

Catholic dogma that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church. 19

Thus, God will find the way to enable that man to save his soul, and this way will be the Catholic Faith and the Catholic Church.

What is more, in the very sentence which the liberals quote to support their false doctrine, Pius IX says that God will enable that man to attain eternal life, not by keeping him in his ignorance of the Faith, but by the workings of His light and grace. God must give sanctifying grace to a person before that person can be saved, and He never gives sanctifying grace apart from or even before the Catholic Faith. It is by enlightening the intellect that God gives us His Faith. Thus, to say that God gives His light to a person is the same as to say that He gives His Faith to that person. Thus, we speak of the “light of Faith.”

As a matter of fact, St. Thomas teaches not only that faith and light go together, but that light is the effect of the Catholic faith. In his Commentary on St. John, Chapter 12, St. Thomas says:

Illumination, therefore, is the effect of faith: “That whosoever believeth in Me may not remain in darkness.” “May not remain in darkness,” namely, the darkness of ignorance, of infidelity and of perpetual damnation . . . And, nevertheless, unless they are converted to Christ, they shall be led to the darkness of perpetual damnation. “He that believeth not the Son, the wrath of God abideth on him.” 20

Let us repeat here what St. Alphonsus Liguori said: Our first vocation is to the Catholic faith (whose effect is the illumination — light of the soul), which is followed by our vocation to grace. 21

2. Are There Two Kinds of Membership in the Church?

“Secondly,” says Father Donnelly, “baptism of desire confers membership in the Church ‘in voto.'”

In Part III of this article, I shall consider the question of Baptism and what Father Donnelly calls “Baptism of Desire.” For the moment, let us examine whether there is any such thing as “membership in the Church ‘in voto.'”

A man cannot be more or less a member of the Church. He either is a Catholic, or he is not a Catholic, for the Catholic Church is the Mystical Body of Christ. This means that it is a body in the real sense of the word, and not in a metaphorical sense. Like any other real body, therefore, no member of it can be more or less a part of it. The same soul animates it all, and if a member is separated from the body, it is cut off from it, and is no longer animated by the soul, hence it has no life in it.

Let us ask, therefore, who can be called a member of the Church in any sense? No one can be called a member of the Church in any sense who does not confess the truths of the Faith, does not partake of the Sacraments, and does not submit to the infallible authority of the Supreme Pontiff.

Saint Robert Bellarmine, S. J., says that

the one and true Church is the congregation of men bound together by the profession of the same Christian faith, and by the communion of the same Sacraments, under the rule of the legitimate pastors, and especially of the one Vicar of Christ on Earth, the Roman Pontiff. 22

Saint Peter Canisius, S. J., Doctor of the Universal Church, asks in his Catechism: “ Who is to be called a Christian?” He answers:

He who confesses the salutary doctrine of Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, in His Church. Hence, he who is truly a Christian condemns and detests thoroughly all cults and sects which are found outside the doctrine and Church of Christ, everywhere, and among all peoples, as for example, the Jewish, the Mohammedan, and the heretical cults and sects; and he firmly assents to the same doctrine of Christ. 23

Pope Pius XI says in his encyclical Mortalium Animos,

No one is found in the one Church of Christ, and no one perseveres in it, unless he acknowledges and accepts obediently the supreme authority of St. Peter and his legitimate successors. 24

One wonders what are the sources for Father Donnelly, S. J.’s strange doctrine? His sources are other liberal theologians, one of whom, Father Caperan, he quotes, and another, Father Bainvel, S. J., whose work he does not name explicitly. Let us give a few examples:

In the third chapter of his book, Is there Salvation Outside the Catholic Church?, Father Bainvel examines some solutions given by other liberals to what they call a “contradiction” in Catholic dogmas. These solutions, “good faith, the soul of the Church, the invisible Church, the necessity of precept,” he finds inadequate and against the teachings of the Church. 25 But, in the next chapter, he proposes his own solution!

The solution of the problem lies in the fact that we can be members of the Church in two ways, externally (visibly) and internally (invisibly). 26

Father Bainvel claims that he learned this point from St. Thomas:

This solution is by no means new, for it was advocated by the old theologians, especially by St. Thomas. 27

And he refers the reader to the Summa, part III, q. 68, a. 2, and q. 73, a. 3. The reader, may we say, will find no such thing in either Question 68 or Question 73, Part III of the Summa Theologica of St. Thomas. Nor anywhere else in St. Thomas will the reader find mention of a person being a member of the Church invisibly.

Later in the same book, Father Bainvel says: “This distinction between union with the Church in act and union in desire dates far back into Christian antiquity,” and he gives a quotation from St. Ambrose. 28 Again, the amazed reader finds no mention of this odd doctrine in St. Ambrose, who is speaking, in this instance — as was St. Thomas in the two articles mentioned above — of the reception of Sanctifying Grace in relation to the sacraments and not of invisible membership in the Church or membership of desire.

But this is not the worst! Not only does Bainvel say that affiliation with the Church can be in desire and invisible, but he goes as far as to say that it can even be unconscious, when there is no desire at all of joining the Church! He says,

Souls affiliated with the Church unconsciously are united to her by invisible ties, for they are affiliated with her internally, by an implicit desire, which God is pleased to regard as equivalent to external membership. 29

This is the end of all Christianity and all sanity.

Now, Caperan, one of Father Donnelly’s main authorities, says the same thing in the following two quotations:

When, by reason of invincible ignorance, incorporation into Catholic society is not realized in fact, even an implicit desire to be so incorporated takes the place of actual incorporation. 30

And again, Caperan says,

Concerning the necessity of Baptism and the necessity of membership in the Church, an implicit desire which is included in the general will to do God’s will is sufficient. 31

It is clear that liberal theologians are teaching that there are two churches, the one visible (having a visible head, the Pope, and visible sacraments), and the other invisible and spiritual. Membership in the invisible church is obtained merely by “righteousness and sincerity.” Some of the liberal theologians, like Karl Adam, for instance, achieve the separation by saying that some men can belong to the “body of the Church,” while others belong only to the “soul of the Church.” Other liberal theologians, like Bainvel and Caperan, while claiming to be dissatisfied with the solution of men of Adam’s school, bring about the same division by saying that some men can belong to the true Church visibly, and others invisibly, and even unconsciously.

This destroys one of the most central doctrines of the Church, for the Church has always taught that she is a visible society and the only kind of membership in her must necessarily be a visible and external one. St. Robert Bellarmine teaches that no one can be a member of the Church who is not visibly affiliated with the one visible society founded by Christ, subject to the authority of His vicar, the Roman Pontiff. To quote St. Robert Bellarmine:

The Church is a society, not of Angels, nor of souls, but of men. But it cannot be called a society of men, unless it consist in external and visible signs; for it is not a society unless they who are called members acknowledge themselves to be so, but men cannot acknowledge themselves to be members unless the bonds of the society be external and visible. And this is confirmed by those customs of all human societies; for in an army, in a city, in a kingdom, and other similar societies men would not be enrolled otherwise than by visible signs. Whence Augustine, in Book 19 Against Faustus, Chapter 11, says: “Men cannot assemble in the name of any religion, whether it be true or false, unless they be bound together by some fellowship of visible signs or sacraments.” 32

This shows clearly St. Robert Bellarmine’s teaching on the subject. Let no one, therefore, misunderstand St. Robert’s statement in another chapter of the same work when he says that catechumens are not in the Church in fact, but in voto. 33 This in no way states that there are two ways of being members of the Church, in fact and in voto. It simply means that catechumens have the explicit intention of coming into the Church and of becoming members of the Church, which membership they do not at all have at the moment. Saint Robert Bellarmine proves conclusively in various places that catechumens are not members of the Church in any sense. 34 For example, after giving his definition of the Church, St. Robert says that catechumens are excluded from this definition because they do not have communion of the sacraments. 35

3. Can a Person Who Remains Separated from the Church Be Saved?

Father Donnelly says,

He (Pius IX) likewise teaches in the same place that only those who are ‘contumaciter ‘ and ‘pertinaciter ‘ divided from the Church cannot be saved as long as this condition exists.

In saying this, Father Donnelly gives us the impression that those who know the Catholic Church and the Catholic Faith can remain outside the Church either innocently and with a good excuse, or obstinately and without excuse, and that only the latter cannot attain eternal salvation. This is against Catholic doctrine. No one can refuse to enter the Church and be saved. When Pope Pius IX mentions those who obstinately remain separated from the Church, he does not contrast them with those who innocently remain separated, but with those who never heard about the Catholic Faith. What he says is that those who are ignorant of the Church because they never heard of it, if they have faithfully kept the natural law implanted in their hearts by God, can, with His help, come to the knowledge of the Catholic Church, in which alone they can be saved. But, on the other hand, those who know about the Catholic Church and refuse to enter her will perish. 36 It is to emphasize the heinousness of their refusal that Pope Pius IX calls it contumacious and obstinate, not to distinguish between it and some other hypothetical kind of refusal which would not be obstinate.

Moreover, it is open heresy to say that only those who are contumaciously and obstinately divided from the Church cannot be saved. How about babies who die unbaptized, for example? Are they contumaciously and obstinately separated from the Church? Or will Father Donnelly affirm that unbaptized babies are not condemned? However, there is no end to the surprises which one can find in the heretical writings of the liberals.

Further on in his paper, Father Donnelly writes, concerning the same problem of the salvation of those who are separated from the Church,

It is quite one thing to maintain that Protestants or pagans are just as favorably situated with regard to salvation as Catholics, and quite another thing to maintain that they are in bad faith and are to be spurned because they do not submit to a distorted interpretation of Catholic doctrine.

In other words, Father Donnelly is saying (and this is a favorite liberal theme) that although it is not as easy for Protestants and pagans to get into Heaven as it is for Catholics, we cannot say that it is impossible for them to get into Heaven. We have shown in many places in this article that the contention that a Protestant or pagan can attain eternal salvation while remaining outside the Catholic Church is false. We profess with the whole Catholic tradition that the Catholic Church is the way to salvation. Does Father Donnelly mean to say that there are many ways to salvation, and of these the Catholic Church is the easy way?

Liberalism is a blasphemy against the Incarnation of the Son of God. If there are other ways than the Catholic Church, whether they be easier or harder, the result is that Christ’s Incarnation and death were in vain. Our liberal teachers of doctrine have stopped teaching Christ Crucified, and they are teaching the natural law, morality, good faith, sincerity, and the like. Saint Paul warned us against such blasphemy: “If justice be by the law, then Christ died in vain.” (Gal. 2,21.) And again, “And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? Then is the scandal of the cross made void.” (Gal. 5,11.)

4. Are Protestants Formal Heretics?

Very closely connected with this question of obstinately refusing to join the Catholic Church is the following statement of Father Donnelly:

As for that spirit of hostility manifested in the scarcely veiled assumption that Protestants are to be convicted of bad faith, and henceforth to be treated as formal heretics, etc. . . .

Does Father Donnelly mean to say that a Protestant who refuses to believe in the truths of the Catholic Faith and to acknowledge the infallibility and supremacy of the Church is only in material heresy? Let us examine the teaching of the Church and of the Doctors on this point.

Saint Augustine says,

If any there are who defend their opinion, though it be false and perverse, without obstinate fervor, and who seek the truth with all solicitude, ready to correct their opinion when they have found the truth, they are not at all to be accused of heresy. 37

And St. Thomas adds,

namely because they do not have a choice contradicting the doctrine of the Church. 38

Only a faithful Catholic who obeys the Church and is ready to correct his opinions according to her admonitions can be in error in this sense, without being a heretic. This we call material heresy. A man who is in material heresy does not intend to contradict the authority and teachings of the Church. On the other hand, a man who does not intend in the least to follow the teachings of the Catholic Church and to be corrected by her cannot be called a material heretic. It is clear, therefore, that Protestants are not material heretics. Are they, then, formal heretics? What is a formal heretic?

Saint Augnstine says,

A heretic is one who either devises or follows false and new opinions. 39

It is not necessary to tell Father Donnelly that the teachings and opinions of Protestants fall under this last designation, and that Protestants, therefore, hold heresy formally. Of course, if Father Donnelly is referring to those millions of former Protestants who are neither baptized nor call themselves Christians, then we would agree that they are not formal heretics, but pagans. 40 In either case, however, heretic or pagan, they cannot be saved unless they come to the Holy, Roman, Catholic Church.

5. Pope Pius IX’s Real Teaching with Regard to the Salvation of Non-Catholics

Father Donnelly’s great concern in his paper is that Catholics shall not judge Protestants religiously, or suggest to Protestants that they should become Catholics in order to be saved. If this is the way Father Donnelly feels about the matter (which certainly is not the way any Christian apostle or teacher ever felt), why does he not make this a separate issue? Even if we were to be “nice” to Protestants in Father Donnelly’s sense, namely, even if we were to be completely disinterested in their eternal salvation, does that mean that we should change the doctrines of the Church concerning salvation and the necessary means of salvation?

For example, Father Donnelly says:

Pius IX likewise forbids unconditionally any manifestation by Catholics of a spirit of enmity toward those outside the Catholic Church. “But let the children of the Catholic Church in no way whatsoever be hostile to those who are not one with us in faith and love . . . ” (Denz. 1678).

Does this mean, as Father Donnelly wants to give us the impression, that Pope Pius IX is asking Catholics not to show those who are outside the Church any indignation on matters of doctrine, and not to tell them that they must become Catholics if they wish to be saved? Father Donnelly claims that this is the meaning of Pius IX in the above quotation. Let us point out that had Father Donnelly completed the sentence of the Pope, the message revealed would have been a completely contrary one.

Here is the full quotation:

But let the children of the Catholic Church in no way be hostile to those who are not joined with us in the bonds of the same faith and of charity, yea rather, let them always strive to attend upon them and to help them in all the duties of Christian charity, whether they be poor or sick or afflicted with any other calamities, and above all let them strive to snatch them away from the darkness in which they lie miserably, and lead them back to the Catholic truth and to the most loving Mother the Church, who never ceases to extend Her maternal arms lovingly to them and to call them back to her bosom, so that, being grounded and made firm in faith, hope and charity, and being “fruitful in every good work” (Col. 1, 10), they may attain eternal salvation. 41

Can a more deliberate misrepresentation of a Pope’s utterance be found than Father Donnelly’s?

Again: we could also ask Father Donnelly not to take the trouble of underlining sentences in his quotations, because they always turn to his disadvantage. For example, in one of the passages which Father Donnelly quotes from Pius IX, the emphasized phrase proves our point, and not Father Donnelly’s! This is the passage:

But let us, so long as here on Earth we are weighed down by this mortal body which dulls the soul, hold firmly to our Catholic doctrine: ‘one God, one faith, one baptism;’ to try and probe deeper is criminal . . . 42

What does this mean? To try and probe deeper than what is criminal? Deeper than the Catholic doctrine: “one God, one faith, one baptism!” Who is probing deeper than this doctrine? Is it the man who confesses one God, one faith, (the Catholic Faith), and one baptism (the gate to the Catholic Church), as the necessary means for salvation? Is it not, rather, the liberal, who goes around dispensing the name of faith to any arbitrary and false opinion and the name of baptism to any feeling or sentiment, however anti-Christian?

6. Concerning the Question of Ignorance

We come, in this section, to the journalistic authorities used by Father Donnelly. Do we need to remind Father Donnelly that a dogmatic issue cannot be decided by quoting a few sentences from a Pope when he had no intention of defining? This is not real loyalty to the Holy Father, nor is it fair to use him in this manner.

Father Donnelly writes:

More explicitly, Pius XI said: “The limits of vincible or of invincible error are among the most difficult to define, even for the most penetrating intellect. Only God, who is truth , who is all truth , who calls every creature to the truth , who gives the means according to His measure to arrive at the truth , only God can with certainty define the limit between vincible and invincible ignorance.” (Allocution published in the L’ Osservatore Romano, 31 January 1938.)

First, why are we not told by Father Donnelly that this allocution was addressed to scientists, and was dealing primarily with their problems and not with theological questions? However, there are passages in the same allocution where the Pope does speak of theological matters (which Father Donnelly does not quote), concerning the inexcusability of those who should know God but who do not know Him, and concerning the necessity of the Catholic Faith for salvation. Here they are.

Pope Pius XI, (speaking of scientists):

May not that terrible vision recur to any of them, that terrible vision which, though for a moment, the Apostle of the Gentiles had: namely, that every high intelligence of this kind ought to become deeply interested in the pursuit of the whole truth, so that it might not happen that an intelligence created by God, illuminated by God, would stop at the creature and would not rise to the Creator? To such an intelligence ought to be applied that great, grave and logical condemnation mentioned by the Apostle himself in these terrible words: “ita ut sine inexcusabiles” (so that they are inexcusable); as if to say that they could not have an excuse not to have known the Maker, the Creator, after having known His worlk, His creature. 43

Likewise, in the same allocution, Pius XI says:

These words which the Divine Master says and repeats are applicable to the Faith: “You are the light of the world . . . Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candle-stick, that it may shine to all that are in the house.” These words are directed to give, above all, the mission, the preaching, the teaching of the Faith: the teaching of those truths which are indispensable for all, even for those to whom to speak of the necessity of science becomes a cruel mockery because they neither have nor will have a predisposition for it, and yet they are in need of the truth, of that essential truth which Hertz and Marconi acknowledged, together with all those who throughout the world saw the work of the Creator, the truth which resolved the mystery of the world: the truth of the Faith. 44

It does not seem from these two excerpts that Pius XI is not judging those who do not come to the knowledge of the Truth, or that he says that the Faith is not indispensable for all men.

But this is not all. The same Pope, in his encyclical Mortalium Animos , rebukes those Catholics who try to promote love and unity between the faithful and those outside the Church without trying to convert the latter to the true Faith without which they cannot be saved.

Pius XI says:

When the question of promoting unity among Christians is under con-sideration, many are easily deceived by the semblance of good. Is it not right, it is said repeatedly, indeed, is it not the duty of all who call upon Christ’s name to cease mutual recriminations together in ties of mutual charity? For who would dare to say that he loves Christ when he will not strive to his utmost to attain that which Christ prayed for to His Father when He asked that His disciples might be “one”? And did not Christ Himself wish His disciples to bear the sign and be distinguished by the characteristic that they love one another: By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another? Would, they add, that all Christians were “one,” for then they might drive out the evil of irreligion which every day spreads more widely and threatens to overturn the Gospel. 45

Pope Pius XI answers these misrepresentations:

All remember how John, the very Apostle of Charity, who in his Gospel seems to have opened the secrets of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and who always inculcated in the minds of his disciples the new commandment, Love ye one another, and wholly forbidden them to have relations with those who did not profess entire and uncorrupted the teachings of Christ. If any man cometh to you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house nor say to him, God speed you. Since charity is founded in whole and sincere faith, the disciples of Christ must be united by the bond of unity in faith and by it as the chief bond. 46

So much for this point. Again, Father Donnelly makes use of an allocution delivered in 1927 by Pope Pius XI to substantiate his own theory about the “judgment of others.” It is with reference to Our Lord’s words from the Cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Father Donnelly implies that Pope Pius XI in this allocution is teaching that Our Lord’s words from the Cross proclaim the innocence of His crucifiers because of their ignorance!

This distortion of the words of Our Blessed Lord, at the most solemn and sad moment of His life, as He is dying for the sins of men, is but one of the instances the liberal theologians use from Sacred Scripture to illustrate their perverse teaching. I will list some other passages they use in this way:

I Cor. 2,8: For if they had known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory.

John, 16,2: They will put you out of the synagogues: yea, the hour cometh, that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doth a service to God.

I Tim. 1,13: Who before was a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and contumelious. But I obtained the mercy of God, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.

These texts do not mean what the liberals interpret them to mean. As a rule, the liberal interpretation of these texts is identical with Abelard’s, which interpretation was condemned. We shall give Abelard’s statement, and St. Bernard’s answer to this theory of innocence through ignorance.

The following is Abelard’s heretical teaching:

. . . about the Jews who crucified Christ and the others who, persecuting the martyrs, thought they were doing a service to God, . . . we answer that those simple Jews indeed were not acting against their conscience, but rather were persecuting Christ out of zeal for their law; nor did they think they were doing evil, and therefore they did not sin; nor were some of them condemned on account of this, but for preceding sins, in punishment for which they fell into this blindness. And among them were those elect for whom Christ prayed saying: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23,24) Nor did He pray that this sin be remitted to them, for this was not a sin, but rather preceding sins. 47

St. Bernard, in Chapter 4 of his Epistle to Hugh of St. Victor, says:

Perhaps he who asserts that one cannot sin through ignorance never prays for his ignorances, but rather laughs at the prophet who prays and says, “The sins of my youth and my ignorances, do not remember.” (Ps. 24,7) Perhaps he even reproves God Who requires satisfaction for the sin of ignorance, and do one of those things which by the law of the Lord are forbidden, and being guilty of sin, understand his iniquity, he shall offer of the flocks a ram without blemish to the priest, according to the measure and estimation of the sin, and the priest shall pray for him, because he did it ignorantly: and it shall be forgiven him, because by mistake he trespassed against the Lord. (Lev. 5,17-19.)

If ignorance is never a sin, why is it said, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, that the high priest entered alone once a year into the second tabernacle, not without blood, which he offers for his own and the people’s ignorance? (Heb. 9,7.) If the sin of ignorance is no sin, therefore Saul did not sin, who persecuted the Church of God, because he did this, indeed, ignorantly, remaining in incredulity. Therefore, he did well in that he was a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and contumelious, — in that he was breathing threats and slaughter against the disciples of Jesus, — thereby being more abundantly a zealous imitator of the traditions of his fathers! (Gal. 1,13-14) If ignorance is never a sin, then he should not have said, “I obtained the mercy of God,” (I Tim. 1, 13) but, rather, ‘I received my reward,” for certainly, if ignorance renders a man free from sin, then in addition emulation makes him worthy of reward.

If, I say, one never sins through ignorance, what then do we hold against those who killed the Apostles, since indeed they did not know that to kill them was evil, but, rather, by doing this, they thought they were doing a service to God? (Jn. 16,2.) Then also in vain did our Saviour on the Cross pray for those who crucified Him, since indeed, as He Himself testifies, they were ignorant of what they were doing, (Lk. 23, 24) and therefore they did not sin at all! For neither is it allowed in any way to suspect that the Lord Jesus was lying, Who openly bore witness that they did not know what they were doing, nor should one suspect that the Apostle, emulating his flesh, could have lied as a man when he said, “For if they had known it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory.” (I Cor. 2,8.) Is it not sufficiently clear from these passages in what a great darkness of ignorance lies the man who does not know that one can sometimes sin through ignorance? 48

Is ignorance never a sin? Why is it that people are ignorant of the Truth? Saint Alphonsus Liguori, Doctor of the Church, asks the same question:

But why is it, then, that all men have not known it and that, even at this day, so many are ignorant of it? This is the reason: “The light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than the light.” (Jn. 3,19) They have not known Him, and they do not know Him, because they do not want to know Him, loving rather the darkness of sin than the light of grace. 49

Saint John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church, also tells us:

Thus see how, speaking of the Jews, Our Lord deprives them of all excuse: “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin,” and Paul again, “But I say: Have they not heard? Yes, verily, their sound hath gone forth into all the Earth.” For there is excuse when there is no one to tell a man, but when the watchman sits there, having this as the business of his life, there is not excuse any longer . . . Whether you go among the Indians, you shall hear this; whether into Spain, or to the very ends of the Earth, there is no one without the hearing, except it be of his own neglect. 50

Concerning the “inculpability” of the ignorant Jews who crucified Our Lord, the following proposition of Abelard’s was condemned by the Council of Sens in 1141.

(It is error to say, with Abelard) 10. That those who crucified Christ, being ignorant, did not sin, and that whatever is done through ignorance is not to be ascribed to sin. 51

Moreover, concerning the “innocence” of St. Paul as he was persecuting the Church, the following proposition of John Hus was condemned by the Ecumenical Council of Constance:

(It is error to say with Hus) 2. Paul was never a member of the Devil, although he did some acts similar to the acts of those who malign the Church. 52

I know from personal experience that these doctrines of Abelard and Hus are being taught in one of the Catholic colleges of this part of the country.

Now, to return to the allocution of Pius XI in 1927, which Father Donnelly used in his paper, — this is the way he quotes it to make his point:

Sad are these conditions, it is true, but nevertheless they provide some consolation, because the greater the ignorance — and who can ever presume to judge a person’s good faith except God? — the less the responsibility. So true is this that Jesus Himself sought, as it were, His last consolation in the fact of ignorance, when He cried out from the Cross to the Father: “Pardon them, because they know not what they do.” (Allocution of Pius XI, January 11, 1927; L’ Osservatore Romano of this date.)

If this translation of Pope Pius XI’s allocution is to be trusted, we can be sure that the Pope did not mean by it what Father Donnelly claims that he did. Although we know that in this allocution the Holy Father was not speaking ex cathedra, yet it would be presumptuous to assume that he was teaching heresy, for in the light of the evidence already given it would be heretical to hold that the Jews who crucified Our Lord were not guilty of sin because of ignorance. We wish that liberals would be more careful in the way in which they quote our Popes, or else they will be attributing heretical utterances to the successors of St. Peter, who are the guardians of the Faith.

1 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part II-II, qu. 2, a.3.

2 St. Thomas Aquinas, Op. cit., id. a. 5.

3 Ibid. in Corp.

4 St. Thomas Aquinas, Op. cit., Part II.II, qu. 2, a. 3.

5 Id., a. 8.

6 Id., a. 6.

7 St. Thomas Aquinas, Op. Cit., Part II-II, qu. 5, a. 3.

8 Ibid., Ibid., in Corp.

9 St. Alphonsus Liguori, Instruction on the Commandments and Sacraments, Part I, Ch. I, Sect. I “On Faith.” n. 6.

10 St. Thomas Aquinas, Collationes de Pater Noster, et Credo in Deum, Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed, First Article.

11 Council of Trent, Sess. VI, Ch. 8, Denz. 801.

12 St. Robert Bellarmine, Doctrina Christiana. “Introduction.”

13 St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Incarnation, Birth and Infancy of Jesus Christ. “Meditation for the Feast of the Epiphany.” (English translation of the Ascetical Works of St. Alphonsus , vol. 4, p. 286).

14 Pope Pius XI, Encyclical Mortalium Animos.

15 Pius IX, Singulari Quadam, Denz. 1645.

16 Pope Innocent XI, Errores varii de rebus moralibus (4 March, 1679), n. 64. Denz. 1214.

17 Council of Constance, Sess. VII, Errors of John Wycliff, n. 41, Denz. 621.

18 Pius IX, Quanto Conficiamur, Denz. 1677.

19 Ibid.

20 St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, Ch. XII, Lect. VIII, n. 6.

21 St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Incarnation, etc., Cf. note 13.

22 St. Robert Bellarmine, On the Church Militant, (Latin Ed. Venice, 1721) Bk. III, Ch. II, (Tom. 2, p. 53D).

23 St. Peter Canisius, Catechism, “First Question.”

24 Pius XI, Enc. Mortalium animos.

25 Bainvel, Op. cit., Ch. III, pp. 25ss.

26 Id. Ch. IV, p. 37.

27 Ibid.

28 Bainvel, Op. cit., Ch. VI, p. 54.

29 Ibid.

30 Rev. Louis Caperan, Le Probléme du salut des Infideles (new ed., Toulouse, 1934). Vol. II, p.102.

31 Louis Caperan, Union Missionaire du Clerge (October, 1945 and January, 1946) article entitled, “La mission de l’ Église et les missions dans le plan providential du salut.”

32 Saint Robert Bellarmine, On the Church Militant, Bk. III, Ch. XII (Tom. 2, p.71 D-E).

33 Id. Bk. III, Ch. II, (p. 54B).

34 Id. Bk. III, Ch. III, (p. 54 D, D, A, B) — Also: Bellarmine, On Penance, Bk. II, Ch. XIV (Tom. 3, p. 525B).

35 Bellarmine, On the Church Militant, Bk. III, Ch. II, (Tom. 2, p.53E)

36 Pius IX, Quanto Conficiamur, Denz. 1677.

37 St. Augustine, Epist. XLIII Ad Glorium, Eleusium, Felicem Grammaticos et caeteros, Ch. I (J. P. Migné, Patrologiae Cursus Completus, Series Latina, Vol. 33, p. 160.)

38 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part II-II, qu. 11, a. 2, ad 3.

39 Id., a. 1, S. C.

40 St. Thomas Aquinas, Op. cit. Part II-II, qu. 10, a. 5, In Corp.

41 Pius IX, Quanto Conficiamur, Denz. 1678.

42 Pius IX, Singulari Quadam, Denz. 1647.

43 L’ Osservatore Romano, 31 January, 1938.

44 Ibid.

45 Pius XI, Mortalium Animos.

46 Ibid.

47 St. Bernard, Epist. CXC., Capitula Haeresum Petri Abaelardi, Cap. XI, (Migné, Vol 182).

48 St. Bernard, Epist. LXXVII, to Hugh of St. Victor , De Baptismo, etc., Cap. IV (Migné, P. L. Vol. 182).

49 St. Alphonsus Liguori, The Incarnation, etc., (Cf. note 13). “Meditation VIII for the Novena of Christmas” (Ascetical Works, Vol 4, p. 33).

50 St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, Homil. V, n. 4, Chrysostom, Vol. 9, part 1, p. 55A-B).

51 Council of Sens, 1140 or 1141, Errors of Peter Abelard, n. 10, Denz. 377.

52 Council of Constance, Sess. XV, 1415, Errors of John Hus, n. 2, Denz. 628.