Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Upcoming text from Albert the Great

I am currently in the process of translating a passage from St. Albert the Great, on whether or not implicit faith is sufficient for salvation. It should be done in the next couple days.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Cardinal Newman on Salvation Outside the Church, Part III

I am speaking of the mass of the population; and, at first sight, it is a very serious question, whether the population can be said to be simply gifted with divine faith, any more than our own Protestant people; yet I would as little dare to deny or to limit exceptions to this remark, as I would deny them or limit them among ourselves. Let there be as many exceptions, as there can be found tokens of their being; and the more they are, to God the greater praise! [As Pius IX says, "Now, then, who could presume in himself an ability to set the boundaries of such ignorance, taking into consideration the natural differences of peoples, lands, native talents, and so many other factors?"] In this point of view it is, that we are able to take comfort even from the contemplation of a country which is given up whether to heresy or schism. Such a country is far from being in the miserable state of a heathen population: it has {353} portions of the truth remaining in it, it has some supernatural channels of grace; and the results are such as can never be known till we have all passed out of this visible scene of things, and the accounts of the world are finally made up for the last tremendous day.[Cardinal Newman's language here is very close to that of Lumen Gentium] While, then, I think it plain that the existence of large Anti-Catholic bodies professing Christianity are as inevitable, from the nature of the case, as infidel races or states, except under some extraordinary dispensation of divine grace, while there must ever be in the world false prophets and Antichrists, standing over against the Catholic Church, yet it is consolatory to reflect how the schism or heresy, which the self-will of a monarch or of a generation has caused, does not suffice altogether to destroy the work for which in some distant age Evangelists have left their homes, and Martyrs have shed their blood. Thus, the blessing is inestimable to England, so far as among us the Sacrament of Baptism is validly administered to any portion of the population. In Greece, where a far greater attention is paid to ritual exactness, the whole population may be considered regenerate; half the children born into the world pass through baptism from a schismatical Church to heaven, and in many of the rest the same Sacrament may be the foundation of a supernatural life, which is gifted with perseverance in the hour of death. There may be many too, who, being in invincible ignorance on those particular points of religion on which their {354} Communion is wrong, may still have the divine and unclouded illumination of faith on those numerous points on which it is right. And further, if we consider that there is a true priesthood in certain countries, and a true sacrifice, the benefits of Mass to those who never had the means of knowing better, may be almost the same as they are in the Catholic Church. Humble souls who come in faith and love to the heavenly rite, under whatever disadvantages they lie, from the faulty discipline of their Communion, may obtain, as well as we, remission of such sins as the Sacrifice directly effects, and that supernatural charity which wipes out greater ones. Moreover, when the Blessed Sacrament is lifted up, they adore, as well as we, the true Immaculate Lamb of God; and when they communicate, it is the True Bread of Life, and nothing short of it, which they receive for the eternal health of their souls.

And in like manner, I suppose, as regards this country, as well as Greece and Russia, we may entertain most reasonable hopes, that vast multitudes are in a state of invincible ignorance; so that those among them who are living a life really religious and conscientious, may be looked upon with interest and even pleasure, though a mournful pleasure, in the midst of the pain which a Catholic feels at their ignorant prejudices against what he knows to be true. Amongst the most bitter railers against the Church in this country, may be found those who are influenced by divine grace, and {355} are at present travelling towards heaven, whatever be their ultimate destiny.[Cardinal Newman here states that even those who openly oppose the Church may nevertheless be influenced by Divine Grace, and be travelling towards heaven.] Among the most irritable disputants against the Sacrifice of the Mass or Transubstantiation, or the most impatient listeners to the glories of Mary, there may be those for whom she is saying to her Son, what He said on the cross to His Father, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do." Nay, while such persons think as at present, they are bound to act accordingly, and only so far to connect themselves with us as their conscience allows. [As I mentioned in my posts contra Fr. Harrison, someone can indeed be bound to do something that is in itself immoral, if their conscience binds them to do it, and they are not guilty for the formation of their conscience.] "When persons who have been brought up in heresy," says a Catholic theologian, "are persuaded from their childhood that we are the enemies of God's word, are idolaters, pestilent deceivers, and therefore, as pests, to be avoided, they cannot, while this persuasion lasts, hear us with a safe conscience, and they labour under invincible ignorance, inasmuch as they doubt not that they are in a good way."

Nor does it suffice, in order to throw them out of this irresponsible state, and to make them guilty of their ignorance, that there are means actually in their power of getting rid of it. For instance, say they have no conscientious feeling against frequenting Catholic chapels, conversing with Catholics, or reading their books; and say they are thrown into the neighbourhood of the one or the company of the other, and do not avail themselves of their opportunities; still these {356} persons do not become responsible for their present ignorance till such time as they actually feel it, till a doubt crosses them upon the subject, and the thought comes upon them, that inquiry is a duty. And thus Protestants may be living in the midst of Catholic light, and labouring under the densest and most stupid prejudices; and yet we may be able to view them with hope, though with anxiety—with the hope that the question has never occurred to them, strange as it may seem, whether we are not right and they wrong. [Many people find this hard to grasp. It seems to them that since a Protestant has all the means available for him to find the truth, then if he does not seek the truth it is because of some fault on his part. As Cardinal Newman says, this is false. A Protestant child growing up in the faith of his parents, in a world with so many different religions, may very well not even think of the possibility of one religion having more validity than another, and perhaps in his circumstances this is quite reasonable.] Nay, I will say something further still; they may be so circumstanced that it is quite certain that, in course of time, this ignorance will be removed, and doubt will be suggested to them, and the necessity of inquiry consequently imposed; and according to our best judgment, fallible of course as it is, we may be quite certain too, that, when that time comes, they will refuse to inquire, and will quench the doubt; yet should it so happen that they are cut off by death before that time has arrived (I am putting an hypothetical case), we may have as much hope of their salvation as if we had had no such foreboding about them on our mind; for there is nothing to show that they were not taken away on purpose, in order that their ignorance might be their excuse.