Modern liberalism, which makes membership in the Catholic Church unnecessary for salvation, undermines something more than the dogma that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church. In postulating the existence of an Invisible Church, or in suggesting that membership in the Visible Church can be invisible and purely internal, liberals are actually, whether they realize it or not, endangering the doctrine of the Incarnation. The whole point of the Incarnation is that the Person of the Word assumed human flesh in order to redeem us from our sins as Man, by dying on the Cross, and in order to institute a visible society with a visible head and visible sacraments, in which society every man must be visibly incorporated if he wishes to be saved.
Our salvation, therefore, is Jesus Christ, the Incarnate God, who took His flesh from the Blessed Virigin Mary. The Church prevents us from falsely emphasizing the spiritual and invisible, as divorced from the sensible and visible, by keeping constantly before us in infinite repetition the prayer which ushered in the Incarnation, “the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. “ The Son of God did not will our salvation to be achieved apart from His Humanity and, consequently, apart from His visibility.
As Mary was the gate through which our God came to us on Earth, so she is the gate through which we go to Him in eternity. She is the great Mediatrix of all Graces. Now, just as no man can be saved outside the Catholic Church, so, St. Grignion de Montfort says, no man can be saved without Mary. This is what the great Apostle of Our Lady says:
The learned and pious Suarez, of the Society of Jesus, the erudite and devout Justus Lipsius, doctor of Louvain, and many others have proved invincibly, from the sentiments of the Fathers, among others, St. Augustine, St. Ephrem, deacon of Edessa, St. Cyril of Jerusalem, St. Germanus of Constantinople, St. John Damascene, St. Anselm, St. Bernard, St. Bernardine, St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure, that devotion to our most Blessed Virgin is necessary to salvation, and that (even in the opinion of Oecolampadius and some other heretics) it is an infallible mark of reprobation to have no esteem and love for the holy Virgin; while on the other hand, it is an infallible mark of predestination to be entirely and truly devoted to her.
The figures and words of the Old and New Testaments prove this. The sentiments and the examples of the saints confirm it. Reason and experience teach and demonstrate it. Even the Devil and his crew, constrained by the force of truth, have often been obliged to avow it in spite of themselves. Among all the passages of the holy Fathers and Doctors, of which I have made an ample collection in order to prove this truth, I shall for brevity’s sake quote but one:
To be devout to you, O Holy Virgin, says St. John Damascene, is an arm of salvation which God gives to those whom He wishes to save. 1
To conclude, therefore, may we say that, in the modern liberal presentation of the Church’s doctrine concerning salvation outside the Church, there are contained THE FOLLOWING ERRORS:
- One can be saved outside the Church.
- One can be saved without having the Catholic Faith.
- Baptism is not necessary for salvation.
- To confess the supremacy and infallibility of the Roman Church and of the Roman Pontiff is not necessary for salvation.
- One can be saved without submitting personally to the authority of the Roman Pontiff.
- Ignorance of Christ and His Church excuses one from all fault and confers justification and salvation.
- One can be saved who dies ignorant of Christ and His Church.
- One can be saved who dies hating Christ and His Church.
- God, of His Supreme Goodness and Mercy, would not permit anyone to be punished eternally unless he had incurred the guilt of voluntary sin.
- A man is sure of his salvation once he is justified.
- One can be saved by merely an implicit desire for Baptism.
- There are two Churches, the one visible, the other invisible.
- There are two kinds of membership in the Church.
- Membership in the Church can be invisible or even unconscious.
- To know and love the Blessed Virgin is not necessary for salvation.
We feel that nothing short of an infallible pronouncement on the matter by our Holy Father will put an end to these heretical teachings, which are seriously injuring the Faith of Catholics. Therefore, prostrate at the feet of His Holiness, Pope Pius XII, and knowing that no one can be saved outside of the Church of which he is the visible head, nor without that Faith of which he is the protector, nor without personal submission to him, the Vicar of Christ on Earth, we humbly present this paper, and beseech His Holiness to crush the erroneous teachings listed above and to fulfill Christ’s promise to Peter, that through him and his successors the gates of Hell shall not prevail against His Church.
1 St. Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort, True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin, (Fourth English Edition, Ottawa-Eastview, Ontario, 1941,) Part I, Ch. I, Art. II, Cons. II, n. 1, p. 29.