Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cardinal Newman on Salvation Outside the Church, Part II

From Cardinal Newman's sermon notes:

January 31
1. I have now explained what is meant by the word of God, by revelation, and by faith, and why they are necessary.
2. There is great correspondence between things of the body and of the soul. We cannot see without light; and even with light we need eyes, and in the dark we grope our way. Now by nature our souls are in darkness, ignorance, etc. Thus you see how it is there is need of God's word, revelation, and faith.
3. And here you see the reason of a solemn declaration, 'Without which there is no one can be saved.' We are going a journey, etc.
4. Our Lord's words, John iii. 18 [Note 39].
5. And still more if they refuse light, John iii. 19 [Note 40].
6. This is one great reason why the light of faith is necessary, because we are so ignorant. {317}
7. Now you will say, 'Is ignorance the fault of men in general? if so, how? if not, why are they punished with the loss of salvation?'
8. No one is punished except for his own fault. No one is punished except for rejecting light. God gives light all over the earth—enough to make men advance forward.
9. Explain: from one grace to another, from one step to another—prayer.
10. And thus those who are in a great deal of ignorance may be saved if they are doing their best, and their ignorance invincible.
11. Heathen, heretics (material), may have divine faith.[Cardinal Newman repeats the doctrine of Augustine here. One may be a material heretic who is mistaken even on something as fundamental as the incarnation, and yet still have divine faith. Likewise he says that heathen may have divine faith.]
12. Who these are is secret. All we know is about ourselves. Application to ourselves.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cardinal Newman on Salvation Outside the Church

I have collected various texts from Cardinal Newman concerning the teaching "Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus," which I plan to reproduce over the next few posts. My comments are in blue.

"As to the condemnation of propositions all she tells us is, that the thesis condemned when taken as a whole, or, again, when viewed in its context, is heretical, or blasphemous, or impious, or whatever like epithet she affixes to it. We have only to trust her so far as to allow ourselves to be warned against the thesis, or the work containing it. Theologians employ themselves in determining what precisely it is that is condemned in that thesis or treatise; and doubtless in most cases they do so with success; but that determination is not de fide; all that is of faith is that there is in that thesis itself, which is noted, heresy or error, or other like peccant matter, as the case may be, such, that the censure is a peremptory command to theologians, preachers, students, and all other whom it concerns, to keep clear of it. But so light is this obligation, that instances frequently occur, when it is successfully maintained by some new writer, that the Pope's act does not imply what it has seemed to imply, and questions which seemed to be closed, are after a course of years re-opened. In discussions such as these, there is a real exercise of private judgment and an allowable one; the act of faith, which cannot be superseded or trifled with, being, I repeat, the unreserved acceptance that the thesis in question is heretical, or the like, as the Pope or the Church has spoken of it. [This is clear. When the Church issues a condemnation, or in fact any kind of decree, she has a certain intention in doing so. In order for her proclamation to accomplish what the Church intends, it must be understood in light of her intention, which can only be grasped either by her explanation, or the circumstances and context of the decree.]

In these cases which in a true sense may be called the Pope's negative enunciations, the opportunity of a legitimate minimizing lies in the intensely concrete character of the matters condemned; in his affirmative enunciations a like opportunity is afforded by their being more or less abstract. Indeed, excepting such as relate to persons, that is, to the Trinity in Unity, the Blessed Virgin, the Saints, and the like, all the dogmas of Pope or of Council are but general, and so far, in consequence, admit of exceptions in their actual application,—these exceptions being determined either by other authoritative utterances, or by the scrutinizing vigilance, acuteness, and subtlety of the Schola Theologorum.

One of the most remarkable instances of what I am insisting on is found in a dogma, which no Catholic can ever think of disputing, viz., that "Out of the Church, and out of the faith, is no salvation." Not to go to Scripture, it is the doctrine of St. Ignatius, St. Irenæus, St. Cyprian in the first three centuries, as of St. Augustine and his contemporaries in the fourth and fifth. It can never be other than an elementary truth of Christianity; and the present Pope has proclaimed it as all Popes, doctors, and bishops before him. But that truth has two aspects, according as the force of the negative falls upon the "Church" or upon the "salvation." The main sense is, that there is no other communion or so called Church, but the Catholic, in which are stored the promises, the sacraments, and other means of salvation; the other and derived sense is, that no one can be saved who is not in that one and only Church. But it does not follow, because there is no Church but one, which has the Evangelical gifts and privileges to bestow, that therefore no one can be saved without the intervention of that one Church.[By "intervention" Cardinal Newman means external intervention, while leaving open the possibility of some spiritual intervention, as will become clearer in the next paragraph.]

Anglicans quite understand this distinction; for, on the one hand, their Article says, "They are to be had accursed (anathematizandi) that presume to say, that every man shall be saved by (in) the law or sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that law and the light of nature;" while on the other hand they speak of and hold the doctrine of the "uncovenanted mercies of God." The latter doctrine in its Catholic form is the doctrine of invincible ignorance—or, that it is possible to belong to the soul of the Church without belonging to the body;[Newman here repeats the same phrase used by St. Robert Bellarmine; the Catechism of Pius X makes this same distinction. It is clear from this that Newman recognizes that some sort of spiritual union with the Church is always necessary for salvation.] and, at the end of 1800 years, it has been formally and authoritatively put forward by the present Pope (the first Pope, I suppose, who has done so), on the very same occasion on which he has repeated the fundamental principle of exclusive salvation itself. It is to the purpose here to quote his words; they occur in the course of his Encyclical, addressed to the Bishops of Italy, under date of August 10, 1863.

"We and you know, that those who lie under invincible ignorance as regards our most Holy Religion, and who, diligently observing the natural law and its precepts, which are engraven by God on the hearts of all, and prepared to obey God, lead a good and upright life, are able, by the operation of the power of divine light and grace, to obtain eternal life."

Who would at first sight gather from the wording of so forcible a universal, that an exception to its operation, such as this, so distinct, and, for what we know, so very wide, was consistent with holding it?"

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich on No Salvation Outside the Church

The following text is taken from the first volume of the "Life of Anne Catherine Emmerich", chapter 41. I have added my own comments in blue.

"On the first Sunday of Advent, 1819, a poor old Jewess came begging an alms of Sister Emmerich for her sick husband; she was kindly received and to a few silver pieces Sister Emmerich added words that both touched and consoled her. It was not the first time the poor woman had sought the couch of suffering for relief in her own sorrows, and she had never come in vain. On this occasion, the invalid was seized with such compassion for the poor Jews that she turned to God with ardent prayers for their salvation. She was most wonderfully heard. Shortly after, she related the following vision in which her task was assigned for the beginning of the ecclesiastical year, prayer not only for the poor Jewess, but also for her whole race.
“It seemed to me that the old Jewess Meyr, to whom I had often given alms, died and went to purgatory, and that her soul came back to thank me as it was through me that she was led to believe in Jesus Christ.[It is clear from this statement that she came to a belief in Jesus Christ; the manner of this faith becomes clearer further on.] She had reflected that I had so often given her alms, although no one gives to the poor Jews; and she had thereby felt a desire spring up in her heart to die for Jesus, if faith in Jesus were the true faith. It was as if her conversion had already taken place or would take place, for I felt impelled to give thanks and to pray for her.[So she was open to Christ in the sense that if faith in Christ were the true faith, then she would give herself whole heartedly to him. Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich describes this desire of hers being "as if her conversion had already taken place." The mere openness and seeking of the true faith thus is a certain kind of faith. This echoes what we already heard from St. Augustine all the way back in the fifth century:

“The Apostle Paul has said: 'A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject, knowing that he that is such is subverted and sins, being condemned of himself.' But though the doctrine which men hold be false and perverse, if they do not maintain it with passionate obstinacy, especially when they have not devised it by the rashness of their own presumption, but have accepted it from parents who had been misguided and had fallen into error, and if they are with anxiety seeking the truth, and are prepared to be set right when they have found it such men are not to be counted as heretics.”]

Old Mrs. Meyr was not dead. But her soul had been disengaged from the body in sleep that she might inform me that, if she died in her present sentiments, she would go to purgatory. Her mother, she said, had also received an impression of the truth of Christianity, and she certainly was not lost. I saw the soul of her mother in a dark, gloomy place, abandoned by all. She was as if walled up, unable to help herself or even to stir, and all around her, above and below, were countless souls in the same condition. I had the happy assurance that no soul was lost whom ignorance alone hindered from knowing Jesus, who had a vague desire to know Him, and who had not lived in a state of grievous sin.

[Bl. Anne Catherine Emmerich says that she had the assurance that no soul was lost who ignorance alone hindered from knowing Jesus, provided that it has a "vague" desire to know him, and has not lived in the state of grievous sin. A couple of points can be drawn out from this:

1) As the Holy Office states in the letter to the Archbishop of Boston, God has willed that the effects of those means necessary for salvation may be attained by a desire for those means, when the means themselves cannot be had actually. Bl. Emmerich makes this same point, since she says that the desire to know Jesus can save a soul who does not actually know Jesus.

2) It is also clear that this desire to know Jesus does not have to be absolute, since it was said earlier that the Jewish woman desired to die for Jesus, on the condition that faith in Him was the true faith. Thus one honestly seeking the truth can desire to know Jesus on the condition that knowing Him is the true faith.

An implication from the second point is that if there were a person honestly seeking the truth, and was willing to die for that truth, that would be sufficient for their salvation, even if they did not yet know that Christ was the one who is the truth.]

Friday, July 24, 2009

Padre Pio on Salvation Outside the Church

Here is an interesting article on Padre Pio's position on Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus. Good evidence is presented that Padre Pio did not hold to the strict interpretation of Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus that some people attribute to him. In one case Padre Pio actually said that a unbaptized Jew who had died had been saved!

Padre Pio on Salvation Outside the Church
by Frank M. Rega, S.F.O.

Originally published in Christian Order, December 2006 issue.

It is quite unfortunate that alleged quotations or viewpoints attributed to Padre Pio have frequently been used to justify the stances, rumors, or agendas of various individuals or groups. Often it is difficult to find reliable documentation to verify his involvement in such scenarios as the "three days of darkness,"1 his alleged opposition to Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, 2 or his purported support of Garabandal.3 Another area of speculation focuses on what he would think of the current state of the Church – where would this Tridentine rite Catholic, known for his lifelong obedience and loyalty to the hierarchy, place his support along the Novus Ordo – Traditionalist – reactionary spectrum?

It is not surprising, then, to find some who contend that St. Padre Pio held their own strict interpretation of extra ecclesiam nulla salus – outside of the Roman Catholic Church no one can be saved. The most notable proponents of this presumed stance of Padre Pio are to be found among the Sedevacantists (the See of Peter is vacant, since it has been occupied by invalidly elected and/or heretical popes since Vatican II). In particular, "Brother" Michael Dimond, a Sedevacantist from the non-canonical Most Holy Family Monastery in Fillmore, New York, has recently written and published an 86-page illustrated booklet on the life of Padre Pio. Regrettably, he promotes this booklet as containing evidence that Padre Pio would support the central tenet of the Most Holy Family Monastery, that absolutely no one can be saved outside of the Catholic Church. Along with adherence to the true Faith, and being in a state of grace at the moment of death, Dimond and his followers insist that a strict requirement for entering the kingdom of heaven is water baptism, and water baptism alone. "Baptism of Desire" and "Baptism of Blood" are rejected as not being true Catholic dogmas. Neither can those invincibly ignorant of the Faith be saved.4

Another member of the Most Holy Family Monastery, "Brother" Peter Dimond, has written a tome which examines the historical documents and pronouncements of the Church on the issue of salvation: Outside the Catholic Church There is Absolutely No Salvation.5 This extensively researched and detailed book attempts to present its case by explaining away all references, regardless of their level of authority, to any other means of salvation other than water baptism for Catholics. Thus, only Roman Catholics who die faithful to the Church, loyal to the Holy Father, and sealed by validly administered water baptism, can enter heaven. Peter Dimond concludes his book with this uncompromising and explicit statement: "In this document I have shown that it is the infallible teaching of the Catholic Church – and therefore the true teaching of Jesus Christ – that only those who die as baptized Catholics can be saved. Anyone who refuses to accept this teaching is not a Catholic."

The full title of the Monastery’s Padre Pio booklet, written by "Bro. Michael Dimond, O.S.B." is Padre Pio: A Catholic Priest who worked miracles and bore the wounds of Jesus Christ on his body.6 On page 62 Michael Dimond writes: "The letters from Padre Pio clearly prove that he didn’t respect false religions and that he held firmly to the dogma that it is necessary for salvation to be a Catholic." On the next page he then quotes from a meditation composed by Padre Pio in which he states: "He [Jesus] sees the sacrileges with which priests and faithful defile themselves, not caring about those sacraments instituted for our salvation as necessary means for it; now, instead, made an occasion of sin and damnation of souls." From this it can be seen that Padre Pio viewed the sacraments as the "necessary means" of salvation. However, in studying the course of his life and ministry as a Catholic priest, evidence can be found that he understood the sacraments as necessary for all in general, but not for all in particular. Thus, while he believed that the sacraments of the Church are necessary as the normative means of salvation, Padre Pio was willing to admit of exceptions on an individual basis. But these exceptions did not compromise his conviction that the one true Church founded by Jesus Christ is the Roman Catholic Church.

Lest anyone be deceived into joining the Sedevacantist camp under the assumption that Padre Pio would support their views if he were alive today, the following documented cases are presented as evidence that Padre Pio believed that non-Catholics could be saved.

Adelaide McAlpin Pyle, a Baptized Protestant

"She will be saved because she has faith."

(Most of the information for this first account comes from the English version of the book Mary Pyle, by Bonaventura Massa.7 This work was diligently compiled from written documents and taped oral testimonies, kept on file in the Archives of Padre Pio’s friary in anticipation of the process for Miss Pyle’s Cause for Beatification.)

The wealthy Presbyterian, Adelaide McAlpin Pyle, was the mother of Mary Pyle, a well-known convert to Catholicism who renounced her family fortune in order to spend her life near Padre Pio. The Pyle family was related by marriage to the Rockefellers, and made their fortune in the soap and hotel business. After Adelaide found out that her daughter Mary had chosen to move to southern Italy to learn about God from a saint, curiosity impelled her to travel from her plush New York townhouse to medieval San Giovanni Rotondo, in order to meet this holy man.

In spite of an unpleasant initial encounter, Adelaide eventually became quite friendly with Padre Pio. She made numerous journeys from America, beginning in the mid-1920s, to visit her daughter Mary, and to meet with the Padre. Mary often tried to convince her mother to convert to Catholicism as she herself had done, but Adelaide reportedly said in Padre Pio’s presence, "I would rather allow myself to be burned alive for my religion!" Padre Pio advised Mary not to push her mother to convert: "Let her be! Don’t upset her peace." 8 However, Mary continued to worry because her mother was not a Catholic, and Padre Pio counseled, "Let’s not confuse her. She will be saved because she has faith."9

In 1936, Adelaide, who had grown older and was nearing death, made one last trip to San Giovanni Rotondo. As she said good-bye to Padre Pio at the end of this visit, the saintly priest pointed heavenward, saying to the Protestant Adelaide, "I hope we will see each other again soon, but if we don’t see each other here, we will see each other up there."10 She passed away in the fall of 1937 at the age of seventy-seven.11 Her daughter Mary then became pre-occupied about her mother’s salvation. After dreaming that her mother was in Rome standing in front of the Vatican, she poured out her anxiety to Padre Pio. He replied, "And who told you that your mother could not be saved?" 12

Did Padre Pio receive a revelation that Adelaide Pyle had secretly ‘in pectore" converted to the Catholic Faith? If that were true, he most certainly would have told this to her daughter Mary, who was obviously distraught from worrying over her mother’s salvation. Further, it seems likely that if Adelaide had converted, she would have shared this good news with her convert daughter. It is reasonable to conclude then that Padre Pio believed that this particular person who died outside the Church could be saved. In addition, there is evidence that Padre Pio would have been willing to hear Adelaide’s confession, and grant her sacramental absolution. On one occasion, she had confided to her daughter her great desire to kneel before Padre Pio in his confessional, but she lamented that her inability to speak Italian made this impossible. When Padre Pio heard of this, (apparently it was after her death), he bemoaned, "Oh! If she had only done it! As for the language, I would have taken care of that!"13

King George V of England, a Baptized Protestant

"Let us pray for a soul . . ."

One evening in 1936 Padre Pio was conversing with some dear friends in his cell. Among those present were Dr. Guglielmo Sanguinetti and Angelo Lupi, who would respectively become the medical director and the builder of Padre Pio’s hospital years later. In the middle of their conversation, Padre Pio suddenly interrupted the discourse with the words, "Let us pray for a soul soon to appear before the tribunal of God." With that he bowed his head, and his guests, although astonished, kneeled and joined him in prayer. When they had finished, Padre Pio announced that they had been praying for the king of England. The next morning, the news blared forth on the friary radio of the unexpected death of King George V of England the previous evening.14 Two of the sources for this story 15, 16 report that Padre Aurelio was also present in the room, while another source states that Padre Pio went to the friary cell of Padre Aurelio at midnight that evening and asked him to join him in prayers for the king of England who "at that moment" was to appear before God.17

An Anglican and the son of the future King Edward VII, George was baptized on July 7, 1865 in the private chapel of Windsor Castle. Upon accession to the throne in 1910, the new king swore the following required oath: "I, N., do solemnly and sincerely in the presence of God, profess, testify and declare that I am a faithful Protestant, and that I will, according to the true intent of the enactments to secure the Protestant Succession to the Throne of my realm, uphold and maintain such enactments to the best of my power."18

In all likelihood, the king was in his final agony or had already died when Padre Pio requested prayers for him, since he was "at that moment" to appear before God. If he believed that the soul of this Protestant were doomed to the everlasting fire, why would he pray for him, and also ask others including another priest to do likewise, other than to ask for his conversion. However, it is not recorded or implied that he asked his confreres to pray for the deathbed conversion of the king – an important intention that Padre Pio in all likelihood would have explicitly stated, if such were his purpose. Although he mentioned the king to his priest colleague, he did not tell the friends in his room that they were praying for a non-Catholic until they had finished their prayers. One cannot therefore say that it is to be assumed that as Catholics they were praying for the king’s conversion.

Since as far as is known they were not specifically asked to pray for his deathbed conversion, there are two alternatives. The first is that they were simply praying for the salvation of a Protestant whom Padre Pio did not consider doomed because of his non-Catholic religion; but this would not be acceptable to one who holds that Padre Pio subscribed to a literal extra ecclesiam nulla salus position. Those who hold that position are left with the unlikely alternative that they were praying for a Catholic, and that Padre Pio had requested the prayers because he was given a private revelation that King George V of England was secretly a Roman Catholic, loyal to the Pope!

Julius Fine, an Unbaptized Devout Jew

"Julius Fine is saved . . ."

Fr. Alessio Parente, O.F.M. Cap., lived and worked alongside Padre Pio for many years in Our Lady of Grace Friary at San Giovanni Rotondo. He wrote numerous books about his confrere, and his works provide reliable source material for the saint. The following information is from Fr. Alessio’s book The Holy Souls, 19 and was related by a "very good friend" of his, Mrs. Florence Fine Ehrman, the daughter of the person in question.

In 1965 her father, Julius Fine, who had practiced the Jewish faith all his life and believed firmly in God, was stricken with what is commonly called "Lou Gehrig’s disease." Mrs. Ehrman wrote to Padre Pio beseeching a cure for her father from this fatal illness. A short time later she received the reply that Padre Pio would pray for her father and would take him under his protection.

When her father passed away in February of the next year, she was able to accept his death peacefully. However after some time, she began to worry about whether or not he was saved, even though he had been a very loving and kind husband and father. "This fear came about because I began to hear many people, Protestants and Catholics alike, say that unless person had been baptized they could not be saved."

On a visit to the friary at San Giovanni Rotondo in the fall of 1967, she was told by a personal friend (quite possibly Fr. Alessio himself) to write down whatever she wished to ask Padre Pio, and this friend would present the letter to him. She of course wrote down her concerns about the eternal state of her father’s soul – this good and gentle Jewish man who had never been baptized. The reply from Padre Pio, which she received in writing, was this: "Julius Fine is saved, but it is necessary to pray much for him." Her mind was put at ease by such a "sure and definite" statement," since she understood that her father was in Purgatory, his salvation guaranteed.

Whether Padre Pio was enlightened by his Guardian Angel, the Holy Spirit, interior locution, or some other means is not known. What is known, however, is his ability to make such determinations after intense prayer, nourished by his mystical union with Christ during his Mass and Holy Communion, and by the offering up of his sufferings, especially the painful bloody wounds of his stigmata. In this instance, Padre Pio committed himself to assuring a grieving daughter that her father, who was not baptized, and was not a Roman Catholic, was saved. As in the case of King George V, someone who wishes to force Padre Pio into the strict "absolutely no salvation outside the Church" camp, is only left with this improbable scenario: it was revealed to Padre Pio that the devout Jew, Julius Fine, was secretly a baptized Roman Catholic!

Padre Pio Not a Catholic?

From the above examples it appears that Padre Pio did not blindly adhere to the proposition that only Catholics can be saved. Yet, it would be difficult to find someone more committed to the Catholic Church throughout his life than was Padre Pio. His obedience to the hierarchy was legendary, and he humbly submitted to Vatican-authorized suppression and even persecution without resistance. The spirituality of his epistles astonished even Carmelites, and his writings and teachings, born of the school of suffering, are the basis of an effort to make him a Doctor of the Church. 20

"Brother" Peter Dimond concludes his book on salvation with this dogmatic quote: " . . . only those who die as baptized Catholics can be saved. Anyone who refuses to accept this teaching is not a Catholic." The bizarre conclusion forced by this statement is that Padre Pio was not a Catholic, at least according to the Sedevacantist followers of the Most Holy Family Monastery. And yet they publish a booklet about him that appears designed to mislead others into thinking that Padre Pio would support their reactionary interpretation of the teachings of the Catholic Church!

Padre Pio lived by the Spirit of God, not by the letter of the law, except when his superiors in religion routinely commanded obedience of him. His ingenuous openness to the plenitude of God’s mercy anticipated the explicit declarations of the Church during and after the Second Vatican Council on the possibility that non-Catholic churches can be a "means of salvation,"21 and on the reception by non-Catholics of the sacraments in certain cases.22 Padre Pio actually believed that the gospel of Jesus Christ was Good News!


6. Dimond, Michael, Padre Pio: A Catholic Priest who worked miracles and bore the wounds of Jesus Christ on his body, Fillmore, N.Y., Most Holy Family Monastery, 2006.
7. Massa, Bonaventura, Mary Pyle, She Lived Doing Good to All, San Giovanni Rotondo, Our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary, 1986.
8. Ibid., p. 101.
9. Ibid., p. 116.
10. Ibid., p. 108.
11. Ruffin, C. Bernard, Padre Pio: the True Story (Revised and Expanded), Huntington, IN, Our Sunday Visitor, 1991, p. 240.
12. Massa, Mary Pyle, p. 108.
13. Ibid., p. 101.
14. Parente, Fr. Alessio, The Holy Souls: "Viva Padre Pio," San Giovanni Rotondo, Our Lady of Grace Capuchin Friary, 1990, pp. 151-152.
15. Capobianco, Padre Costantino, Detti e Anedotti di Padre Pio, San Giovanni Rotondo, Convento S. Maria delle Grazie, 1996, p. 49.
16. Parente, The Holy Souls, p. 151.
17. Ruffin, Padre Pio, p. 241, (Ruffin correctly identifies the King who died in 1936 as George V, while the other two sources incorrectly call him Edward VI).
19. Parente, The Holy Souls, pp. 104-106.
20. Rega, Frank M., Padre Pio and America, Rockford, IL, TAN Books and Publishers, Inc., 2005, pp. 280-281.
21. Decree on Ecumenism, Unitatis Redintegratio, n. 3, ( "It follows that the separated Churches and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church."
22. On commitment to Ecumenism, Ut Unum Sint, n. 46, ( "In this context, it is a source of joy to note that Catholic ministers are able, in certain particular cases, to administer the Sacraments of the Eucharist, Penance and Anointing of the Sick to Christians who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church but who greatly desire to receive these sacraments, freely request them and manifest the faith which the Catholic Church professes with regard to these sacraments."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Salvation in the Old Testament

Let us review in summary the positions on the different ways in which men can be justified and saved in the Old Testament that we looked at in our last post.

Post fall, Pre-Circumcision: Adults could be saved by faith in God, infants could be saved by the faith of their parents.

Post fall, Post-Circumcision: Adults could be saved by faith in God with circumcision, and also without it in some cases. (I.e., some of the Gentiles) Infants could be saved by circumcision, and also by the faith of their parents if they died before being able to receive circumcision.

Now, the question is, what about after the institution of baptism? Can infants still be saved by the faith of their parents, even if they die before receiving baptism by water?

We must answer these questions in the affirmative. For, the coming of Christ did not restrict the means of salvation, but rather broadened them. "I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly." (John 10:10) However, if the coming of Christ has caused the means of salvation for infants to be limited to baptism by water, and excludes salvation by the faith of the parents, then at least concretely there are many infants who would have been saved had they lived before Christ came, but were not saved because they lived after Christ came. This would be very unfitting. Hence we conclude that if God formerly sanctified infants in virtue of the faith of their parents, this dispensation for salvation has not been removed by Christ's coming.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Aquinas on Infant Salvation in the Old Testament

An “anonymous” commenter recently commented on my post regarding the possibility of salvation for unborn children. I would like to look at his comment (which is nearly unintelligible) because it gives me an opportunity to explain St. Thomas's position on children in the Old Testament. Our commenter writes:

"You wrote: "Before the coming of Christ, children of devout Jews were able to be saved through the faith of their parents, as St. Thomas says."

See what Fr. Mueller wrote:
St. Thomas asks the question: Did Jesus Christ, when he descended into Limbo, deliver the souls of children who died in original sin? To understand this, we must remember a certain principle and doctrine, namely: There is no salvation possible for any one without being united to Jesus Christ crucified. Hence the great Apostle St. Paul says: "It is Jesus Christ whom God hath proposed to be a propitiation through faith in his blood." (Rom. iii. 25.) Now, those children were not united to Christ by their own faith because they had not the use of reason, which is the foundation of faith; nor were they united to Christ by the faith of their parents, because the faith of their parents was not sufficient for the salvation of their children; nor were those children united to Christ by means of a sacrament, because there was no sacrament under the Old Law which had of itself the virtue of conferring either grace or justification.
Besides, life eternal is granted only to those who are in the state of sanctifying grace. "The grace of God is life everlasting in Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom, vi. 23.) All those, therefore, who died at any age without perfect charity and faith in the Redeemer to come, as well as those who die without the sacrament of spiritual generation after the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ, are not purified from the mortal stain of original sin, and are, consequently, excluded from the kingdom of eternal glory." (De Incarn., Q. lii., art. vii.)

Unfortunately, our “anonymous” commenter does not say what his point is, leaving me to guess at it. The only clue is his reference to what I wrote, and the emphasized portions of Fr. Mueller's text.

In the context of the passage cited, Fr. Mueller is arguing the necessity for salvation of dying with the supernatural virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity, and with sanctifying grace. He quotes St. Thomas in regard to whether Christ freed those infants from hell who died in original sin only. His answer is no, because these children were not united to Christ by their own faith, or the faith of their parents, or by a sacrament.

Now, even though this is the principal thing addressed in this passage, it does not seem reasonable that our commenter could have been laboring under the impression that this was in disagreement with something that I had said. It is a dogma of the Church that those souls which die in original sin descend immediately into hell. I am perfect agreement with this. Likewise all those who die without charity are excluded from the kingdom of heaven. Granted. The question I was addressing in my post was whether or not there is reason to hope that God offers to children who die without baptism a way of being cleansed of their original sin without baptism; but sometime before their death, not after. I concluded in the positive.

Thus, the commenter must have had in mind some point which was not directly relevant to the point of the passage quoted. Based on his quotation from my post, he seems to be taking issue with the statement that St. Thomas believed that children could be saved by the faith of their parents before the coming of Christ.

Assuming that this is what he finds objectionable, let use examine St. Thomas's position. First let us look at the text of St. Thomas which is referenced.

"I answer that, As stated above (A6), Christ's descent into hell had its effect of deliverance on them only who through faith and charity were united to Christ's Passion, in virtue whereof Christ's descent into hell was one of deliverance. But the children who had died in original sin were in no way united to Christ's Passion by faith and love: for, not having the use of free will, they could have no faith of their own; nor were they cleansed from original sin either by their parents' faith or by any sacrament of faith. Consequently, Christ's descent into hell did not deliver the children from thence. And furthermore, the holy Fathers were delivered from hell by being admitted to the glory of the vision of God, to which no one can come except through grace; according to Rm. 6:23: "The grace of God is life everlasting." Therefore, since children dying in original sin had no grace, they were not delivered from hell."(ST. TP. Q.52 A. 7 C.)

St. Thomas is merely saying that those infants who die in original sin cannot be saved because, as a simple statement of fact, they were not cleansed by the faith of their parents, not because, as Fr. Mueller's text seems to imply, the faith of their parents was unable to save them. Rather, their parents did not have the faith they needed to save their child. Let us look at a similar text from St. Thomas:

“Although Christ wholly overcame death, yet not so completely did He destroy hell, but, as it were, He bit it. He did not free all from hell, but those only who were without mortal sin. He likewise liberated those without original sin, from which they, as individuals, were freed by circumcision; or before [the institution of] circumcision, they who had been saved through their parents' faith (which refers to those who died before having the use of reason); or by the sacrifices, and by their faith in the future coming of Christ (which refers to adults)." (In Symbolum Apostolum, A.5)

St. Thomas makes it very clear here that Christ only freed those from hell who were without mortal and original sin. The three classes of individuals are 1) adults who were freed from original sin by circumcision, 2) infants before the institution of circumcision who were saved by the faith of their parents, and 3) adults before the institution of circumcision who were saved by faith in the future coming of Christ.

For more references, the following texts should suffice:

“From the beginning of the human race the remedy against original sin could not be applied except in virtue of the mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ. Therefore the faith of the ancients with some protestation of faith profited children unto salvation, not inasmuch as it was a meritorious act on the part of the believers -- hence it was not required that it be an act of formed [i.e. living] faith --, but on the part of that which they had faith in or relied on, i.e. the mediator Himself: for in this way also the sacraments that were afterwards instituted have their efficacy inasmuch as they are certain protestations of faith. Hence it does not follow that the unbelief of the parents would harm their children, except incidentally (per accidens), as removing the remedy of sin.(De Malo Q. 4 A. 8 Ad. 13)

“As soon, however, as it begins to have the use of its free-will, it begins to belong to itself, and is able to look after itself, in matters concerning the Divine or the natural law, and then it should be induced, not by compulsion but by persuasion, to embrace the faith: it can then consent to the faith, and be baptized, even against its parents' wish; but not before it comes to the use of reason. Hence it is said of the children of the fathers of old that they were saved in the faith of their parents; whereby we are given to understand that it is the parents' duty to look after the salvation of their children, especially before they come to the use of reason.”(SS. Q.10 A.12 Ad.1)

OBJ 2: Further, before the institution of circumcision faith alone sufficed for justification; hence Gregory says (Moral. iv): "Faith alone did of old in behalf of infants that for which the water of Baptism avails with us." But faith has lost nothing of its strength through the commandment of circumcision. Therefore faith alone justified little ones, and not circumcision.

Reply OBJ 2: Just as before the institution of circumcision, faith in Christ to come justified both children and adults, so, too, after its institution. But before, there was no need of a sign expressive of this faith; because as yet believers had not begun to be united together apart from unbelievers for the worship of one God. It is probable, however, that parents who were believers offered up some prayers to God for their children, especially if these were in any danger. Or bestowed some blessing on them, as a "seal of faith"; just as the adults offered prayers and sacrifices for themselves.(ST. TP. Q. 70 A. 4)

A note on Aquinas's position: while he primarily considers the faith of the parents to be efficacious for the salvation of infants before the institution of circumcision, nevertheless, even after the circumcision, he holds that if a child were to die before the eighth day it could be saved by the faith of the parents. Likewise, even after the institution of circumcision, all the female children were saved in virtue of the faith of their parents.

“It seems, however, that none of the uncircumcised died in the desert, for it is written (Ps. 104:37): "There was not among their tribes one that was feeble": and that those alone died in the desert, who had been circumcised in Egypt. If, however, some of the uncircumcised did die there, the same applies to them as to those who died before the institution of circumcision. And this applies also to those children who, at the time of the Law, died before the eighth day.” (ST. TP. Q.70 A.4 Ad.4)

Thus, it is clear that even after the institution of circumcision, children who died without receiving it could be saved by the faith of their parents. The principle that St. Thomas gives here applies even to children who die in the womb.

The way in which God offered the possibility of salvation to men in the Old Testament also has significant implications for the new. We will look at some of these implications shortly.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I'm back

Blogging will begin tomorrow.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Blogging break

I will be away without internet access for the next few days; so, I will not be making any new posts until Sunday or Monday.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Council of Trent and Fr. Feeney

We find a number of statements in the Council of Trent relevant to baptism of desire.

" By which words, a description of the Justification of the impious is indicated,-as being a translation, from that state wherein man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace, and of the adoption of the sons of God, through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Saviour. And this translation, since the promulgation of the Gospel, cannot be effected, without the laver of regeneration, or the desire thereof, as it is written; unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God."(Decree on Justification)

"If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation, but superfluous; and that, without them, or without the desire thereof, men obtain of God, through faith alone, the grace of justification;-though all (the sacraments) are not ineed necessary for every individual; let him be anathema."(Decree on the Sacraments)

It is very clear from the decree on justification that the effect of baptism can be received through desire for the sacrament. The decree on the sacraments makes a more general statement, because it includes the other sacraments which one can receive the effects of by desire, such as Penance.

Fr. Feeney recognized that the council of Trent was saying that one could receive the effect of Baptism through desire for it, but he distinguished between justification and salvation, and said that while desire for baptism sufficed for justification, it could not suffice unto salvation. He seems to justify this partly from the fact that the statement about desiring baptism is made in the decree on justification, and not in the treatise on baptism, and partly from the second text which says that the sacraments are necessary for salvation. From this Fr. Feeney concludes that the desire of the sacrament suffices for justification, but the sacrament itself is required for salvation. The two following texts from the treatise on Baptism are commonly cited to support this opinion:

"If any one saith, that true and natural water is not of necessity for baptism, and, on that account, wrests, to some sort of metaphor, those words of our Lord Jesus Christ; Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost; let him be anathema."

"If any one saith, that baptism is free, that is, not necessary unto salvation; let him be anathema."

Father Feeney has this to say about the first quote:
"The Council of Trent, in its second Canon on the subject of Baptism, declares, with the majestic authority of the Church: If anyone shall say that true and natural water is not of necessity in Baptism, and therefore shall turn those words of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, "unless one be born again of water and the Holy Spirit" (John 3:5), into some metaphor, let him be anathema. Therefore, I repeat, metaphorical water is forbidden under pain of heresy. And what is "Baptism of Desire," as the Liberals teach it, but metaphorical water dishonestly substituting itself for the innocent requirement of Christ?" (Bread of Life, The Waters of Salvation)

This is a sorry misreading of this text. First of all, the Council is primarily concerned here with anathematizing those who use something other than water in baptizing. Thus, they are not even talking about the necessity of baptism as such. The fact that they are talking about wresting the words of Christ into some metaphor shows this, i.e., Christ would be speaking metaphorically if he said "water" and used it to signify anything flowing.

Second, even if the Council was actually concerned about asserting the necessity of water baptism here, (which they are not) this does not deny baptism of desire. In the second quotation I gave above they are speaking about the necessity of baptism by water. Nevertheless, when they say this, they are including the desire of the sacrament in that statement. To make this clear, let us look at a similar statement made about the sacrament of Penance:

"So that penance has justly been called by holy Fathers a laborious kind of baptism. And this sacrament of Penance is, for those who have fallen after baptism, necessary unto salvation; as baptism itself is for those who have not as yet been regenerated."(On the Sacrament of Penance)

Notice that that the Council says that the sacrament of Penance is necessary unto salvation just as baptism itself is for those who are not regenerated. Hence, if we are to follow the logic of those who say that receiving the sacrament of baptism itself is necessary for salvation, then we must say that someone who sins after baptism cannot be saved unless he receives the sacrament itself of penance.

The synod makes it clear that one can receive the effect of the Sacrament of penance without actually receiving the sacrament:

"The Synod teaches moreover, that, although it sometimes happen that this contrition is perfect through charity, and reconciles man with God before this sacrament be actually received, the said reconciliation, nevertheless, is not to be ascribed to that contrition, independently of the desire of the sacrament which is included therein."

Thus, if we follow out Fr. Feeney's logic, not only does it follow that one must always receive baptism by water to be saved, but one must, after sinning gravely, always receive the sacrament of penance to be saved. This is something that most feeneyites, we may presume, would be unwilling to hold.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Thomas Aquinas Contra the Feeneyites

St. Thomas Aquinas is very clear that the effect of baptism can be received by desire for the sacrament without it, and also that a man does not necessarily need to receive baptism by water before he dies. Aside from his teaching authority as Doctor of the whole church, his teaching on this matter is also useful to consider because the fathers of the Council of Trent drew heavily from his writings. During the council, St. Thomas's Summa Theologiae was placed on the main altar together with the Holy Bible.

Let us see what St. Thomas has to say:

"In a case of necessity anyone may baptize. And since nowise ought one to sin, if the priest be unwilling to baptize without being paid, one must act as though there were no priest available for the baptism. Hence the person who is in charge of the child can, in such a case, lawfully baptize it, or cause it to be baptized by anyone else. He could, however, lawfully buy the water from the priest, because it is merely a bodily element. But if it were an adult in danger of death that wished to be baptized, and the priest were unwilling to baptize him without being paid, he ought, if possible, to be baptized by someone else. And if he is unable to have recourse to another, he must by no means pay a price for Baptism, and should rather die without being baptized, because for him the baptism of desire would supply the lack of the sacrament."(ST. SS. Q.100 A.2 Ad.2)

Clearly St. Thomas is not talking about being "pre-justified" by desire for the sacrament, and then later receiving it.

"I answer that, The sacrament or Baptism may be wanting to someone in two ways. First, both in reality and in desire; as is the case with those who neither are baptized, nor wished to be baptized: which clearly indicates contempt of the sacrament, in regard to those who have the use of the free-will. Consequently those to whom Baptism is wanting thus, cannot obtain salvation: since neither sacramentally nor mentally are they incorporated in Christ, through Whom alone can salvation be obtained.
Secondly, the sacrament of Baptism may be wanting to anyone in reality but not in desire: for instance, when a man wishes to be baptized, but by some ill-chance he is forestalled by death before receiving Baptism. And such a man can obtain salvation without being actually baptized, on account of his desire for Baptism, which desire is the outcome of "faith that worketh by charity," whereby God, Whose power is not tied to visible sacraments, sanctifies man inwardly. Hence Ambrose says of Valentinian, who died while yet a catechumen: "I lost him whom I was to regenerate: but he did not lose the grace he prayed for."(ST. TP. Q.68 A.2 C.)

Pretty self explanatory.

"The sacrament of Baptism is said to be necessary for salvation in so far as man cannot be saved without, at least, Baptism of desire; "which, with God, counts for the deed" (Augustine, Enarr. in Ps. 57)."(ST. TP. Q.68 A.2 Ad.3)

"So also before Baptism Cornelius and others like him receive grace and virtues through their faith in Christ and their desire[votum] for Baptism, implicit or explicit: but afterwards when baptized, they receive a yet greater fulness of grace and virtues. Hence in Ps. 22:2, "He hath brought me up on the water of refreshment," a gloss says: "He has brought us up by an increase of virtue and good deeds in Baptism."(ST. TP. Q.69 A.4 Ad.2)

I should mention here that St. Thomas says here that one can have an implicit desire[votum] for the sacrament of baptism. Occasionally I run into a person who accepts baptism of desire, but wants to say that it must be explicit, and they argue that because the council of Trent uses the latin word "votum," they had in mind an explicit vow or promise to receive it. While it may be true that they were primarily considering the case of an explicit desire, the word itself is open to both possibilities, as St. Thomas uses it here.

"The Divine power is not confined to the sacraments. Hence man can receive spiritual strength to confess the Faith of Christ publicly, without receiving the sacrament of Confirmation: just as he can also receive remission of sins without Baptism. Yet, just as none receive the effect of Baptism without the desire of Baptism; so none receive the effect of Confirmation, without the desire of Confirmation. And man can have this even before receiving Baptism." (ST. TP. Q.72 A.6 Ad.2)

"And it has been said above (Q68, A2), that before receiving a sacrament, the reality of the sacrament can be had through the very desire of receiving the sacrament. Accordingly, before actual reception of this sacrament, a man can obtain salvation through the desire of receiving it, just as he can before Baptism through the desire of Baptism, as stated above (Q68, A2)."(ST. TP. Q.73 A.3 C.)

"As stated above (Q73, A3), the effect of the sacrament can be secured by every man if he receive it in desire, though not in reality. Consequently, just as some are baptized with the Baptism of desire, through their desire of baptism, before being baptized in the Baptism of water; so likewise some eat this sacrament spiritually ere they receive it sacramentally. Now this happens in two ways. First of all, from desire of receiving the sacrament itself, and thus are said to be baptized, and to eat spiritually, and not sacramentally, they who desire to receive these sacraments since they have been instituted." (ST. TP. Q.80 A.1 Ad.3)

"Wherefore for the remission of both actual and original sin, a sacrament of the Church is necessary, received either actually, or at least in desire, when a man fails to receive the sacrament actually, through an unavoidable obstacle, and not through contempt. Consequently those sacraments which are ordained as remedies for sin which is incompatible with salvation, are necessary for salvation: and so just as Baptism, whereby original sin is blotted out, is necessary for salvation, so also is the sacrament of Penance." (Suppl. Q.6 A.1 Ad.1)

Notice here that St. Thomas says Baptism is necessary for salvation, but he does not mean by it what the heretics do who deny baptism of desire. In fact, he says that it is necessary as penance also is. However, it is clear that the sacrament of penance does not need to be actually received, but can be received in desire only; the council of Trent makes this very clear.

"It is clear that the Holy Spirit is God, since he says, unless one is born again of water and the Holy Spirit (ex aqua et Spiritu Sancto). For above (1:13) he says: "who are born not from blood, nor from the desires of the flesh, nor from man's willing it, but from God (ex Deo)." From this we can form the following argument: He from whom men are spiritually reborn is God; but men are spiritually reborn through the Holy Spirit, as it is stated here; therefore, the Holy Spirit is God.
445 Two questions arise here. First, if no one enters the kingdom of God unless he is born again of water, and if the fathers of old were not born again of water (for they were not baptized), then they have not entered the kingdom of God. Secondly, since baptism is of three kinds, that is, of water, of desire, and of blood, and many have been baptized in the latter two ways (who we say have entered the kingdom of God immediately, even though they were not born again of water), it does not seem to be true to say that unless one is born again of water and the Holy Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
The answer to the first is that rebirth or regeneration from water and the Holy Spirit takes place in two ways: in truth and in symbol. Now the fathers of old, although they were not reborn with a true rebirth, were nevertheless reborn with a symbolic rebirth, because they always had a sense perceptible sign in which true rebirth was prefigured. So according to this, thus reborn, they did enter the kingdom of God, after the ransom was paid.
The answer to the second is that those who are reborn by a baptism of blood and fire, although they do not have regeneration in deed, they do have it in desire. Otherwise neither would the baptism of blood mean anything nor could there be a baptism of the Spirit. Consequently, in order that man may enter the kingdom of heaven, it is necessary that there be a baptism of water in deed, as in the case of all baptized persons, or in desire, as in the case of the martyrs and catechumens, who are prevented by death from fulfilling their desire, or in symbol, as in the case of the fathers of old." (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, Chapter 3, Lecture 1)

This is an extremely instructive passage from St. Thomas's commentary on the Gospel of John, which I have included for the benefit of those who are wish to interpret the passage "unless one is born again of water, etc." in such as way as to exclude baptism of desire.

"We should say, therefore, that the sacrament of baptism is necessary for everyone, and it must be really received, because without it no one is born again into life. And so it is necessary that it be received in reality, or by desire in the case of those who are prevented from the former. For if the contempt within a person excludes a baptism by water, then neither a baptism of desire nor of blood will benefit him for eternal life. " (Commentary on the Gospel of St. John, Chapter 6, Lecture 7)

Notice that St. Thomas is very clear that Baptism is necessary for salvation, but it can be received in desire, and this suffices for salvation. In fact, he says that some have "entered the kingdom of God immediately," even though they did not receive baptism by water. This alone is enough to show that St. Thomas most certainly would not agree with the Feeneyite position.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Father Feeney on Justification

In this post I am going to address one of the principal heresies of Father Feeney, and most Feeneyites. For an account of the circumstances and events of Fr. Feeney's life, here is a very good article:

Father Feeney held a very strict "interpretation" of the dogma "extra ecclesiam nulla salus" He believed that baptism by water was absolutely necessary for salvation, and that one could not go to heaven unless he had first been baptized by water. However, he did admit that a person could be justified for a desire for baptism, but that baptism itself was necessary for a person to be saved. He was probably forced to admit justification through desire for water from the council of Trent, which explicitly says that a person can be justified by the desire for baptism.

These two positions, however, led him to an untenable conclusion. Fr. Feeney stated that it was his belief that God would give to all the souls who were justified by desire for baptism, actual baptism before their death. However, he then went on to say that he did not know if there were any souls who died justified, but without baptism by water, but that if there were, than these could not enter heaven.

This, however, is a heretical position. It has been declared many times that a soul is immediately judged upon death, and if it is justified, it either ascends immediately to heaven, or to purgatory to be cleansed, whereas if it is not in the state of justification, it descends immediately to hell.

Let us see Fr. Feeney's position from his own writings:

"Q. Are the souls of those who die in the state of justification saved, if they have not received Baptism of Water?
A. No. They are not saved.
Q. Where do these souls go if they die in the state of justification but have not received Baptism of Water?
A. I do not know.
Q. Do they go to Hell?
A. No.
Q. Do they go to Heaven?
A. No.
Q. Are there any such souls?
A. I do not know! Neither do you!"(Bread of Life, Chapter VII, The Waters of Salvation)

Father Feeney wrote:
“He will then say, “Well, cannot you be justified in the New Testament without Baptism?”
The answer to this is, “Suppose you can?”
He will then say, “If you die in the state of justification, without yet being baptized, are you not saved?”
You must answer him, “No, you are not. That is your reasoning in the matter. That is not Christ’s statement.”
And if he persists in saying, “Well, where does one go who dies in the state of justification which has been achieved without Baptism?” — insist that he does not go to Heaven.
And if he goes on to yell at you angrily, “Where are you going to send him — to Hell?”, say: “No, I am not going to send him to Hell because I am not the judge of the living and the dead. I am going to say what Christ said, ‘He cannot go into Heaven unless he is baptized by water.’” (Bread of Life, Chapter VII, The Waters of Salvation)

"Q. What does "Baptism of Desire" mean?
A. It means the belief in the necessity of Baptism of Water for salvation, and a full intent to receive it.
Q. Can "Baptism of Desire" save you?
A. Never.
Q. Could "Baptism of Desire" save you if you really believed it could?
A. It could not.
Q. Could it possibly suffice for you to pass into a state of justification?
A. It could.
Q. If you got into the state of justification with the aid of "Baptism of Desire," and then failed to receive Baptism of Water, could you be saved?
A. Never."(Bread of Life, Chapter VII, The Waters of Salvation)

“It is now: Baptism of Water, or damnation! If you do not desire that Water, you cannot be justified. And if you do not get it, you cannot be saved.”(Bread of Life, Chapter I, Christmas and Salvation)

"But, let us suppose an act of perfect love has occurred in a man’s soul. Can this man be said to be freed from original sin by this perfect act of love of God? He cannot, in the true and full sense. There has not been imprinted on his soul, by reason of this perfect act of love of God, the character which Baptism imprints, to seal him as redeemed, and outfit him for the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.
Therefore, I should be inclined to say that this man, by his perfect act of love of God, was freed from one of the effects of original sin, namely, the absence of sanctifying grace, but was not freed from the obligation to go on and secure a title to the Beatific Vision."(Bread of Life, Chapter VII, The Waters of Salvation)

In this last statement particularly, Fr. Feeney states that a man who is justified but not baptized still needs to "go on and secure a title" to the Beatific Vision, implying that something is lacking to the one who is justified to attain heaven. This is directly contradicted by the Council of Trent:

"We must believe that nothing further is wanting to the justified, to prevent their being accounted to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life, and to have truly merited eternal life, to be obtained also in its (due) time, if so be, however, that they depart in grace." (Sixth Session, Chapter XVI)

"This disposition or preparation is followed by justification itself, which is not only a remission of sins but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man through the voluntary reception of the grace and gifts whereby an unjust man becomes just and from being an enemy becomes a friend, that he may be an heir according to hope of life everlasting."Sixth Session, Chapter VII)

In regard to Fr. Feeney's position that a justified soul does not attain heaven, this is clearly contradicted by the teaching of the Church.

"1021 Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ. The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul--a destiny which can be different for some and for others.
1022 Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification or immediately, -- or immediate and everlasting damnation."(CCC)

Hence, following Trent, it is necessary to say that the justified man is immediately judged upon death, and receives entrance into heaven, either immediately, or after a purification.

"To be a member of Christ, it is not enough to be united with him in the bond of charity, some other union is needed. [Condemned]" (Council of Basel)

Since the justified person is united to Christ through the bond of Charity, it is clear that no other union is necessary for entrance into heaven, nor does he need "a title" to the beatific vision.

“Souls who after incurring the stain of sin have been cleansed whether in their bodies or outside their bodies, as was stated above, are straightaway received into heaven and clearly behold the triune God as he is.” (Council of Florence)

From this it should be clear that we must hold that all persons dying in a state of justification are saved, even if they have not received baptism by water. If Father Feeney had merely said that God's providence ordains it such that no one dies in the state of justification without baptism by water and left it at that, that would not be heretical. However, to assert that if a soul were to die in the state of justification without baptism by water it would not go to heaven is heretical.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

What is the Use of Believing?

Here is John Paul II's answer to the question that we raised in a earlier post. What is the use of believing; can't we all just be saved by living an upright life without having to bother with the rules and regulations of the Gospel? This is taken from Crossing the Threshold of Hope.

"Today, many who have been formed-or deformed-by a sort of pragmatism and a utilitarianism, seem to ask: “When all is said and done, what is the use of believing? Does faith offer something more? Isn’t it possible to live an honest upright life without bothering to take the Gospel seriously?”

To such a question one could respond very succinctly: The usefulness of faith is not comparable to any good, not even one of a moral nature. The Church, in fact, has never denied that even a nonbeliever could perform good and noble actions. Everyone can easily agree with this. The value of faith cannot be explained, even though efforts are often made to do so, by merely stressing its usefulness for human morality. Rather, one could say that the basic usefulness of faith lies precisely in the fact that a person believes and entrusts himself. By believing and entrusting ourselves, in fact, we respond to God’s word. His word does not fall into a void, but returns to Him, having borne fruit, as was said very effectively in the Book of Isaiah (cf. Is 55:11). Nevertheless, God absolutely does not want to force us to respond to His word.

In this regard, the Council’s teaching, and especially the Declaration on Religious Freedom, Dignitatis Humanae, is particularly important. It would be worthwhile to quote and analyze the entire Declaration. Instead, perhaps quoting a few phrases will do: “And all human beings” we read, “are bound to search for the truth, especially with regard to God and His Church, and as they come to know it they are bound to adhere to the truth and pay homage to it” (Dignitatis Humanae 1).

What the Council emphasizes here, above all, is the dignity of man. The text continues: “Motivated by their dignity, all human beings, inasmuch as they are individuals endowed with reason and free will, and thus invested with personal responsibility, are bound by both their nature and by moral duty to search for the truth, above all religious truth. And once they come to know it they are bound to adhere to it and to arrange their entire lives according to the demands of such truth” (Dignitatis Humanae 2). “The way in which the truth is sought, however, must be in keeping with man’s dignity and his social nature-that is, by searching freely, with the help of instruction or education . . . through communication and dialogue” (Dignitatis Humanae 3).

As these passages show, the Council treats human freedom very seriously and appeals to the inner imperative of the conscience in order to demonstrate that the answer, given by man to God and to His word through faith, is closely connected with his personal dignity. Man cannot be forced to accept the truth. He can be drawn toward the truth only by his own nature, that is, by his own freedom, which commits him to search sincerely for truth and, when he finds it, to adhere to it both in his convictions and in his behavior.

This has always been the teaching of the Church. But even before that, it was the teaching that Christ Himself exemplified by His actions. It is from this perspective that the second part of the Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom should be reread. There, perhaps, you will find the answer to your question.

It is an answer that echoes the teaching of the Fathers and the theological tradition from Saint Thomas Aquinas to John Henry Newman. The Council merely reaffirms what has always been the Church’s conviction. The position of Saint Thomas is, in fact, well known: He is so consistent in his respect for conscience that he maintains that it is wrong for one to make an act of faith in Christ if in one’s conscience one is convinced, however absurdly, that it is wrong to carry out such an act (cf. Summa Theologiae 1-2. 19. 5). If man is admonished by his conscience-even if an erroneous conscience, but one whose voice appears to him as unquestionably true-he must always listen to it. What is not permissible is that he culpably indulge in error without trying to reach the truth. If Newman places conscience above authority, he is not proclaiming anything new with respect to the constant teaching of the Church. The conscience, as the Council teaches, “is man’s sanctuary and most secret core, where he finds himself alone with God, whose voice resounds within him. . . . In loyalty to conscience Christians unite with others in order to search for the truth and to resolve, according to this truth, the many moral problems which arise in the life of individuals as well as in the life of society. Therefore, the more a good conscience prevails the more people and social groups move away from blind willfulness and endeavor to conform to the objective norms of moral behavior.

Nonetheless, it often happens that conscience errs through invincible ignorance, without, for this reason, losing its dignity. But this cannot be said of the man who does very little to search for truth and good, or when through the habit of sin conscience itself becomes almost blind” (Gaudium et Spes 16).

It is difficult not to be struck by the profound internal consistency of the Council’s Declaration on Religious Freedom. In the light of its teaching, we can say that the essential usefulness of faith consists in the fact that, through faith, man achieves the good of his rational nature. And he achieves it by giving his response to God, as is his duty-a duty not only to God, but also to himself.

Christ did everything in order to convince us of the importance of this response. Man is called upon to give this response with inner freedom so that it will radiate that veritatis splendor so essential to human dignity. Christ committed the Church to act in the same way. This is why its history is so full of protests against all those who attempted to force faith, “making conversions by the sword.”

In this regard, it must be remembered that the Spanish theologians in Salamanca took a clear stance in opposition to violence committed against the native peoples of America, the indios, under the pretext of converting them to Christianity. Even earlier, in the same spirit the Academy of Kraków issued at the Council of Constance in 1414 a condemnation of the violence perpetrated against the Baltic peoples under a similar pretext. . . . Christ certainly desires faith. He desires it of man and he desires it for man. To people seeking miracles from Him He would respond: “Your faith has saved you” (cf. Mk 10:52). The case of the Canaanite woman is particularly touching. At first it seems as if Jesus does not want to hear her request that He help her daughter, almost as if he wanted to provoke her moving profession of faith “For even the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the table of their masters” (Mt 15:27). He puts the foreign woman to the test in order to be able then to say: “Great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish” (Mt 15:28).

Christ wants to awaken faith in human hearts. He wants them to respond to the word of the Father, but He wants this in full respect for human dignity. In the very search for faith an implicit faith is already present, and therefore the necessary condition for salvation is already satisfied. From this point of view your question finds a rather complete response in the words of the Council’s Constitution on the Church. Therefore it deserves to be read once again: “In fact, those who through no fault of their own are not aware of the Gospel of Christ and of the Church, but who nonetheless search sincerely for God, and with the help of grace attempt to carry out His will, known through the dictates of their conscience-they too can attain eternal salvation. Nor will Divine Providence deny the help necessary for salvation to those who have not yet arrived at a clear knowledge and recognition of God, and who attempt, not without divine grace, to conduct a good life” (Lumen Gentium 16).

In your question you speak of “an honest, upright life even without the Gospel.” I would respond that if a life is truly upright it is because the Gospel, not known and therefore not rejected on a conscious level, is in reality already at work in the depths of the person who searches for the truth with honest effort and who willingly accepts it as soon as it becomes known to him. Such willingness is, in fact, a manifestation of grace at work in the soul. The Spirit blows where He wills and as He wills (cf. Jn 3:8). The freedom of the Spirit meets the freedom of man and fully confirms it.

This clarification was necessary in order to avoid any danger of a Pelagian interpretation. This danger already existed in the time of Saint Augustine, and seems to be surfacing again in our time. Pelagius asserted that even without divine grace, man could lead a good and happy life. Divine grace, therefore, was not necessary for him. But the truth is that man is actually called to salvation; that a good life is the condition of salvation; and that salvation cannot be attained without the help of grace.

Ultimately, only God can save man, but He expects man to cooperate. The fact that man can cooperate with God determines his authentic greatness. The truth according to which man is called to cooperate with God in all things, with a view toward the ultimate purpose of his life-his salvation and divinization-found expression in the Eastern tradition in the doctrine of synergism. With God, man “creates” the world; with God, man “creates” his personal salvation. The divinization of man comes from God. But here, too, man must cooperate with God."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Salvation for Unbaptized Children

The International Theological Commission came out relatively recently with the document, "The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptized" where they basically conclude that there is good hope for these unfortunate children.

That document can be found here:
Here is the conclusion of their study:

"The conclusion of this study is that there are theological and liturgical reasons to hope that infants who die without baptism may be saved and brought into eternal happiness, even if there is not an explicit teaching on this question found in Revelation. However, none of the considerations proposed in this text to motivate a new approach to the question may be used to negate the necessity of baptism, nor to delay the conferral of the sacrament. Rather, there are reasons to hope that God will save these infants precisely because it was not possible to do for them that what would have been most desirable— to baptize them in the faith of the Church and incorporate them visibly into the Body of Christ. "

One of the texts that this document cites in support of its claim is this:

"The Church believes that “the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery”"(Gaudium et Spes 22)

This text seems to say that every child who dies before baptism in some way have the opportunity of attaining eternal salvation. The only interpretation which would exclude this is if the text was only referring to adults. However, that seems contrary to the text, and there is no indication that this is what is meant.

Pius IX wrote in Quanto Conficiamur Moerore, "Because God knows, searches and clearly understands the minds, hearts, thoughts, and nature of all, his supreme kindness and clemency do not permit anyone at all who is not guilty of deliberate sin to suffer eternal punishments"

It is not clear why God's mercy would require that he not permit an adult who had not commited deliberate sin to to suffer eternal punishments, but not an infant. Hence it seems more reasonable to apply God's mercy in a universal way, so that to both adults and infants He offers the possibility of eternal salvation. This is also in accordance with the text from Gaudium et Spes.

If we consider the relation between infants in the Old Testament and those in the New, it seems rather strange that we would say that after the coming of Christ it became harder for infants to be saved. Before the coming of Christ, children of devout Jews were able to be saved through the faith of their parents, as St. Thomas says. Thus, while we cannot assert that the same thing holds true in the New Covenant, it would be strange that the condition for Baptism being a means for salvation is that God should limit his graces upon those children who are so unfortunate as not to receive it.

Cardinal Ratzinger writes something that seems to imply this:

"The question of what it means to say that baptism is necessary for salvation has become ever more hotly debated in modern times. The Second Vatican Council said on this point that men who are seeking for God and who are inwardly striving toward that which constitutes baptism will also receive salvation. That is to say that a seeking after God already represents an inward participation in baptism, in the Church, in Christ.
To that extent, the question concerning the necessity of baptism for salvation seems to have been answered, but the question about children who could not be baptized because they were aborted then presses upon us that much more urgently.
Earlier ages had devised a teaching that seems to me rather unenlightened. They said that baptism endows us, by means of sanctifying grace, with the capacity to gaze upon God. Now, certainly, the state of original sin, from which we are freed by baptism, consists in a lack of sanctifying grace. Children who die in this way are indeed without any personal sin, so they cannot be sent to hell, but, on the other hand, they lack sanctifying grace and thus the potential for beholding God that this bestows. They will simply enjoy a state of natural blessedness, in which they will be happy. This state people called limbo.
In the course of our century, that has gradually come to seem problematic to us. This was one way in which people sought to justify the necessity of baptizing infants as early as possible, but the solution is itself questionable. Finally, the Pope [John Paul II] made a decisive turn in the [1995] encyclical Evangelium Vitae, a change already anticipated by the [1992] Catechism of the Catholic Church, when he expressed the simple hope that God is powerful enough to draw to himself all those who were unable to receive the sacrament."(God and the World)

Hence, while we cannot actually assert anything about whether unbaptized infants are saved, we nevertheless have good reasons to hope for their salvation. It is not clear whether it is possible to say more than this on the matter, but at least this can be said for the time being.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Salvation by Habitual Faith II

Continuing our discussion of salvation by habitual faith, the question we now need to address is this: While infants can be saved by habitual faith, is it ever possible for an adult to have this?

The answer is yes. How do we know this? Consider the following case: An infant that belongs to an atheist, is baptized secretly by a Catholic nurse at the hospital. Thus, the child is justified and possesses the habits of faith, hope, and charity. Suppose the child grows up never hearing of God and Christ and the Church. What happens to the child upon reaching the age of reason?

Since the Child has no knowledge of God, Christ, or the Church, he cannot make an act of explicit faith in them. On the supposition that explicit faith is absolutely necessary for the state of justification, there are three possibilities. Either the child can 1) continue after reaching the age of reason in the state of justification without any act of explicit or implicit faith, or 2) the child must necessarily commit a mortal sin and lose the state of grace, or 3) the child must receive a divine revelation of the truths which he must believe explicitly in order to remain justified.

It is clear that position number 2 cannot be correct, for there is no such thing as a "necessary" mortal sin. A sin that is "necessary" is not a sin. Hence opponents of position number 1 are forced to take position number 3. This third position, aside from the fact that there is no special reason for upholding it, is unreasonable.

Why? There have been many documented cases in which people have admitted to baptizing children of unbelieving parents without them knowing, sometimes even doing this over a long period of time (in the case of the hospital nurse). There are almost certainly far more cases that are not known. Hence, if the third position was correct, it would be almost certain that there would be cases of children having divine revelations when they reached the age of reason. But we do not have this evidence. Thus, the third position is wrong, and the first one must stand.

Furthermore, even in the case of someone who is not baptized, it is not unreasonable to believe that God could infuse Charity into a person who does not have a bad will, even if they have no explicit knowledge of Him. The reason for this is that mortal sin is the only thing contrary to Charity; hence, since it is not necessary for a man to commit a mortal sin, it will be possible that the man not commit a mortal sin, and not have his will directed towards mortal sin.

Someone might object, the cases are different, because the man who is baptized is already sanctified, hence since he does not have to commit a mortal sin, he can remain in the state of grace. However, since the man who is not baptized has original sin, doesn't this mean that his will is turned away from God, and so God cannot infuse charity into such a man.

This is false; the disposition that prevents the infusion of charity into a man is when the man either actually seeks after some temporal good in such a way as to prefer that good to God himself, or he has a disposition in himself such that if the opportunity arose, he would prefer that good to God. However, a man after committing a mortal sin may repent in such a way that he would no longer place another creature above God, while at the same time not placing his end in God. Hence he may be in the state of mortal sin, yet not have a disposition which prevents God from infusing Charity in him.

This can be manifested from the Sacrament of Confession. A man need not have perfect charity to receive the sacrament; if he commits a mortal sin, and then has imperfect contrition only, he will be in the state of mortal sin, and nevertheless he is able to receive the sacrament, by means of which God infuses charity into him.

This should explain why St. Thomas can say universally that a child attaining the age of reason is able to be sanctified from sin, regardless of his state of knowledge. Since the child is able to turn away from the good which is completely contrary to the good of reason (avoid committing a mortal sin), then God is able to infuse charity within him, even if he has not act of faith.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Salvation by Habitual Faith

Now that I have addressed the possiblity of salvation by implicit faith, I would like to go a step further, and make the perhaps shocking claim that one can be saved without explicit or implicit faith. Faith is still necessary, but to be salvific, faith does not need to exist in act, but only in habit.

If one stops to think about this for a moment, this is not something strange or unusual. In fact, the Church has taught it quite consistently for the last 2000 years. When an infant is baptized, the habits of faith, hope, and Charity are infused within the soul of the child, even though the child itself is unable to have any actual acts of these. In virtue of these habits alone, the child can be saved. Here is an instructive selection from St. Thomas on this:

Whether children receive grace and virtue in Baptism?
OBJ 1: It seems that children do not receive grace and virtues in Baptism. For grace and virtues are not possessed without faith and charity. But faith, as Augustine says (Ep. xcviii), "depends on the will of the believer": and in like manner charity depends on the will of the lover. Now children have not the use of the will, and consequently they have neither faith nor charity. Therefore children do not receive grace and virtues in Baptism.

Reply OBJ 1: Faith and charity depend on man's will, yet so that the habits of these and other virtues require the power of the will which is in children; whereas acts of virtue require an act of the will, which is not in children. In this sense Augustine says in the book on Infant Baptism (Ep. xcviii): "The little child is made a believer, not as yet by that faith which depends on the will of the believer, but by the sacrament of faith itself," which causes the habit of faith. (ST. TP. Q.69 A.6 Rp. 2)

This exposes the fallacy of those who accumulate magisterial quotations on the necessity of faith in order to try and show that explicit faith is necessary for salvation. Nearly all of these kind of quotations are referring to the universal necessity of faith for salvation, and thus including both implicit faith (as many before Christ had), and habitual faith (as infants have).

Now, the most likely response to this of someone who believes that explicit faith is necessary would be to say, "Well, perhaps habitual faith can suffice for children, but for adults explicit faith is necessary." However, as we shall see in our next post, this is not true.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bishop Fellay and the SSPX

A so called "traditionalist" made a claim to me recently that the SSPX did not accept the authority of the 1949 letter of the Holy Office to Father Feeney. I responded by giving him the text from Archbishop Lefebvre that I quoted in an earlier post. He asserted that while Archbishop Lefebvre accepted the letter, nevertheless the SSPX did not. Of course he offered no evidence of this.

I would like to take this opportunity to expand on my earlier post on Archbishop Lefevbre, and show that the SSPX continues to hold his position. This should be of value for those who think this position is heretical, especially as the SSPX begins doctrinal discussions with the Church. If this position is heretical, as some people make out (the traditionalist I mentioned earlier asserted that I was a "modernist heretic" for holding this position), then presumably the SSPX will be forced to recant their position on this before being reconciled with the Church.

First, the SSPX on their website have a page treating of Father Feeney's errors:
They make it quite clear here that they do not follow Fr. Feeney's errors. They even finish the article by quoting the 1949 letter of the Holy Office! So much for not accepting it. Bishop Fellay a few years ago made this statement:

Bishop Bernard Fellay, Conference in Denver, Co., Feb. 18, 2006: “We know that there are two other baptisms, that of desire and that of blood. These produce an invisible but real link with Christ but do not produce all of the effects which are received in the baptism of water… And the Church has always taught that you have people who will be in heaven, who are in the state of grace, who have been saved without knowing the Catholic Church. We know this. And yet, how is it possible if you cannot be saved outside the Church? It is absolutely true that they will be saved through the Catholic Church because they will be united to Christ, to the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Catholic Church. It will, however, remain invisible, because this visible link is impossible for them. Consider a Hindu in Tibet who has no knowledge of the Catholic Church. He lives according to his conscience and to the laws which God has put into his heart. He can be in the state of grace, and if he dies in this state of grace, he will go to heaven.” (The Angelus, “A Talk Heard Round the World,” April, 2006, p. 5.)

This is basically identical to what Archbishop Lefevbre said in "An Open Letter to Confused Catholics." Hence, we see there is no grounds for those make assertions such as the "traditionalist" I mentioned previously. The motivation seems to be to try and gather as much support for their position as possible, especially from those they consider to be more traditional.

Whatever other errors the SSPX may have made, this was not one of them.

Blog on Magisterial Interpretation

I have added a blog to the sidebar, which is devoted to laying out principles of Magisterial Interpretation. I think this is extremely relevant to the topic of EENS, because almost all misunderstandings of EENS go along with misunderstandings of how to interpret Magisterial texts.

I would like to invite my readers, to feel free to check out the blog, and post all and any comments, questions, concerns, doubts, etc.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Why be Catholic? Part II

The next question that I intend to address is the inherent value of belonging to the Church, even aside from the greater probability of being saved within it. Thus, even if one assumed that all men had the exact same probability of being saved, it would still be better to belong to the Church than to be a pagan.

There is a good quote from the CDF on this:

“Although non-Christians can be saved through the grace which God bestows in “ways known to him,” 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.” The revelation of the fundamental truths 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.” (Doctrinal Note on some Aspects of Evangelization, CDF)

This makes it clear that non-Catholics, and those who do not know the face of Christ explicitly, even if they are united to him implicitly, nevertheless lack a real good. To make an analogy, one could consider a father who has a son and a servant working for him. The son works together with the father, helping him with his job; he is close friends with him. The servant works in a dusty office, and has a long and boring job; he never sees the father. Both the son and the servant are paid. Does this mean that there is no advantage for the son over the servant?

We can see this in the above quoted text from the CDF: "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." What a tremendous loss, to not be able to know explicitly the God whom one is serving. In a certain sense, this puts a limit on the degree one can love God.

Someone who does not know who Jesus Christ is, that he became man out of love for men, and died a terrible death for men, will have a much harder time eliciting the same act of love that a man who does know this. It is easier for one to love Christ when one sees how much Christ loves him. Thus, because Christ's act was such a great manifestation of his love for man, one who knows this act will be able to love God more. The following quotation from the Catechism supports this point:

"The Word became flesh so that thus we might know God's love: "In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him." "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." (CCC 458)

As the CDF pointed out, St. Paul calls acceptance of the Gospel a liberation "from the power of darkness," and an entrance into "the kingdom of his beloved Son in whom we have redemption and the forgiveness of our sins." This goes along with what I have been saying, and is why the Church is so strongly urging missionary activity in the Church, even now. Missionary activity is necessary to bring the light and goodness of Christ to all peoples, so that they might become friends of Christ, and be saved in Him.

It should be clear how a statement such as this is compatible with saying that there can be some among those ignorant of Christ who are seeking God with a sincere heart, and are justified by their implicit faith. This does not detract from the importance of the Gospel; the justification of such a man only comes through Christ, regardless of whether he knows it or not. Christ is what such a man is seeking, and the Church has a grave obligation to bring Christ to all peoples.