Friday, December 16, 2011


Of course the Church teaches that outside the Church there is no salvation. I believe this is a dogma of the Faith but I am sure you will correct me. Mohamed doesn't save you. Being a Hindu doesn't save you. Being a Buddhist doesn't save you and none of the pagan gods whatever they may be new or of antiquity, will save you. Only God through His Son and His Church by the power of the Holy Spirit saves you! You must be a member of the Catholic Church to be saved!

Of course by Church, Holy Mother Church means the Communion of Saints on Earth, meaning the Church Militant with her sacramental system, Hierarchy (which is a part of the sacramental system, Holy Orders anyone) and her moral laws based upon Divine Law, Natural Law and man made law for the sake of order in the Church Militant.

Then there is the Church Suffering in Purgatory. Those who experience this are a part of the Communion of Saints already redeemed but being purified. There is of course no Hierarchy of Pope and His bishops nor a sacramental system as with the Church Militant. The law of God is written in the hearts of those being purified and so there is no external force to bear as in the Church Militant. The prayers of the Church Militant though assist those Poor Souls or Holy Souls being purified.

Then there is the Church Triumphant in heaven where all the souls who are there are made perfect in the complete sense of salvation, apart from having attained at least in our temporal way of understanding things, limited by time and space, their gloried, risen bodies modeled after the Glorified and Risen Body of our Savior.

In heaven the Church Triumphant of course needs no hierarchy or sacramental system to make visible the hidden presence of Christ and to show forth His sanctifying grace. We see God as He is in the Risen Divine Person of Jesus Christ. The Church as the Body of Christ is made plainly visible and tangible as well as Christ who is the Bridegroom and His redeemed who collectively are His Bride. The Eternal Wedding Banquet of heaven is manifestly experienced and not in any way through sacramental signs. The complete perfection of the Law of Christ is forever imprinted upon our perfected hearts or souls.

So from this point of view, the three aspects of the Church of Christ are necessary for salvation.

But what of those who for no fault of their own or because of invincible ignorance do not know the true God and His Son Jesus Christ. Holy Mother Church does teach that they can and will be saved, but through Christ our Lord. Through the divine truths that are perceptible in their natural or religious life, God is as work (and this is an incomplete aspect of the Church Militant).

When they die, they become members of the Church Suffering (and here I know of no real doctrines concerning this or dogmas, but only from a speculative point of view). Whatever is lacking in their experience of the Church Militant is purified and rectified and brought fully to bear upon them through the direct grace of the Risen Savior and the prayers of the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant.

Then they enter the Church Triumphant, fully members of that catholic (or universal) community that we call the Church! But my question remains, for them, the unbaptized, those of other faiths and no faiths, at the judgement is it possible for them in the sense of complete free will to reject God, but not having led lives of debauchery and hate, they are condemned not to the bottom wrung of hell but to its highest level, Limbo? In this sense is Limbo as a part of hell, which it is clearly called in the Apostles Creed a dogma? Has it truly come to a conclusion or are there others there and for a life time?

Is it as simple at that? Illuminate me where I teach heresy.


Marc said...

This is a great post, Father! I would question the following portion: "When [the invincibly ignorant] die, they become members of the Church Suffering...."

I think this is incorrect just as saying that when a Catholic dies, he becomes a member of the Church suffering or Church triumphant. It doesn't take into account the individual's judgment (the potential for them to have "led lives of debauchery and hate").

Perhaps it would be better to say that the invincibly ignorant are "eligible"* for salvation generally, but God will judge each person individually in accordance with the manner in which each has corresponded to His grace and will.

Your idea about limbo for the unbaptized of good will is interesting. I wonder if, while providing comfort to those who are alive, it is a dangerous idea in that Catholics might lose sight of the urgency of the apostolate if there are no eternal torments for those to whom the Faith is not taught...?

*Surely there's a better word than "eligible," but I can't think of one right now!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Marc, good points all. I do think that for all of us at our personal judgment, there must be some "free will" in the light of that judgment to choose the path of love and God, rather that any other path that may involve some love but the absence of the completeness of God. Limbo as a part of Hell (its upper wrung if you will) is still not heaven and while there is some natural happiness there as in our earthly lives, there is also an awareness of what is lacking. But again, this is speculative and perhaps relies too heavily on what is "implicit" in Church teaching rather than what is explicitly taught. In other words Limbo as a place of the condemned eternally, but not in the same location as where Satan and all who are in league with him exist makes hell a loving solution by God for those who choose something else other that His fullness. I've always had a hard time reconciling the love of God and Him condemning to eternal hell fire and damnation with all the fallen angels those who were good and loving and sometimes more charitable than those in the Church. So in a sense, good works doesn't merit salvation but it merits a better location in hell, what we would call Limbo! How's that.

Marc said...

I like that, Father! I agree we're definitely on shaky theological ground, but it does help us to ponder the juxtaposition of God's infinite mercy and God's infinite justness.

With regard to those who live virtuously without ever being taught the faith, I believe WE (you, me, and every faithful Catholic) will be liable for their failure to enter the True Faith to the extent we could have done better in delievering the Good News and to the extent they would have believed. That is where justice enters the picture of what you're proposing.

This makes sense because God's mercy is manifested in the relative ease by which people can be saved - believe in God and the Church and faithfully participate in the Sacraments. I mean, that's pretty easy to do and it demonstrates how merciful God is!

Gene said...

There is really no clear Biblical basis for Limbo. We are speculating. I believe God makes allowances for the ignorant and untaught who have led good lives. However, those of other religions who know about Christ and the Church and who reject it or remain in their pagan/heathen religions are lost in their unbelief. Gee, isn't that ugly and un-pc?

Look, either the Church,the Christian Faith, is right about the fate of the world,and the eternal future or it isn't. Either, this world and the history we read about in the books and newspapers is bracketed at both ends by God's creative and redemptive act or it isn't. World history, nay, cosmic history, takes place in a matrix of Salvation history or it doesn't. We need to cut to the theological chase and quit playing World Religions 101. I took those courses and did the thing about reading about all those gods with too many arms and legs, and Lao Tsu on his water buffalo, and Buddah under whatever kind of tree it was, and the paranoid schiz Mohammed on his flying horse, plagiarizing from the Bible and running in and out of his tent making things up as he went along depending what questions were asked. You know I just don't give a damn what they believe. Let God sort 'em out...

Rabbi Ignotus said...

Adding the word "Catholic" to the phrase "extra ecclesiam nulla salus" isn't kosher.

Marc said...

Good morning, Ignotus. Are you suggesting there is salvation outside the Holy Catholic Church by proposing that the Jews are saved in their religion? Please elaborate.

Gene said...

Rabbi Ignotus, I believe it would be redundant...

BTW, I was in line to confess to you last night at the Penance service. It would have been a great opportunity to quash any Donatist tendencies I may harbor but, alas, the lines were so long from all the "once a year" folks I had to leave to go help with RCIA. My confession may have begun something like, "Forgive me Father, for I have sinned...There is this Modernist Priest in our diocese that just drives me up the wall..." LOL!

Rabbi Ignotus said...

Marc - I am suggesting nothing. I said the word "Catholic" is not in the dictum "extra ecclesiam nulla salus." This addition is the error of the Feeneyites, among others.

I like very much what the Theological Commission said about how we should understand "exta ecclesia," that "there is no salvation which is not from Christ and ecclesial by its very nature."

Gene said...

But, Ignotus, what does that change? Salvation is still predicated upon Christ and His Church, is it not? It seems to me the commission is begging the question regarding "extra ecclesium." Help me out here...

Anonymous said...

Shalom, Rabbi.

In a previous discussion (which I have no interest in visiting here) I argued--and you vehemently denied--that you were glossing a text. Now you are the one who charges another (Marc) with glossing. Makes a difference whose ox is gored, eh? :-)

But on to my main point. Your objection to Marc's "gloss" is anachronistic. Extra ecclesiam nulla salus is both a concept and a phrase that long predates the Protestant revolution. Thus adding Catholic to it prior to the 1500s (or certainly the 1050s) would have been not a gloss, but a redundancy. In light of BXVI's observation that Protestant ecclesial communities are not in fact churches--and the fact that they certainly neither claim nor wish to be part of Holy Mother the Church--it is still arguably a redundancy, but perhaps it is useful as a way to point out to Protestants that they have estranged themselves from the Church.

OTOH, if everyone who in the end is saved ultimately becomes part of the Church Triumphant (or even Church Suffering), being shown and accepting the full truth of the Catholic faith, then it is probably literally correct that outside the insitutional Catholic Church there is no salvation.

In short, let's just say that adding Catholic is a useful instance of dynamic equivalence. :-)

Rabbi Ignotus said...

I don't know how to clarify "there is no salvation which is not from Christ and ecclesial in nature."

It seems to me that some question whether non-Christians who are saved are saved through some process that does not include Christ, to which I would respond, "there is no salvation which is not from Christ and ecclesial in nature."

Marc said...

Esteemed Rabbi, you could clarify by affirming that the phrase "ecclesial in nature" in your construct refers to the Holy Catholic Church.

Because all salvation is from Christ, it is axiomatic that all salvation is from the Catholic Church as Christ cannot be separated from his Body on earth. Hence, there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church for the same reason there is no salvation outside Christ.

Anonymous said...

This is fascinating, but I have to wonder how practical it is. Do I tell people that if they don't repent then the following (A) will happen; if they take another course of action then (B) will happen, and (C) is the result of another. The Chinese may not have grasped salvation with Taoism but they certainly helped organise it with their menu.

Once when I was in Turkey a commander of the local unit was explaining what we were allowed to do and where we were allowed to go. At one point he gestured to a large field and told us that we should not go there. Someone asked why. "Because we will kill you", he explained. Kept it Simple for the Stupid and no one died.

Here again, I feel that we inadvertently appeal to the weak side of human will when we offer echelons of reward and punishment. People will often negotiate to determine the level of reward they will accept for work they are willing to give. We are innately unable to comprehend the full glory of the Creator so basking in less than His full Light would still be pretty good if we are considering sleeping in on a Holy Day.

I think many of the people who contribute to this blog feel a hunger for the Spirit and can't get enough. But it is possible that some do not sense it the same way.

I have a tactic I use frequently when I am helping people make decisions. If I need a decision soon I will offer two distinct choices with one obviously of greater benefit to the person. 90% of people will make a choice in a timely manner. If, on the other hand, the person is about to make a bad decision I will give him three choices that are very comparable to each other. 90% of people will be paralysed trying to discern the benefits and weigh the best choice for themselves. They make no choice and the bad decision is avoided.

I think a lot of what we are doing here is creating a dilemma for people and not real options.


Gene said...

Well, RCG, it is actually pretty simple...either you confess Christ (and thereby His Church), or you do not. "Choose this day who you will serve...."
Or, you have another option:
"Him the Almighty hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky, with hideous ruin and combustion, down to bottomless perdition, there to dwell in adamantine chains and penal fire whom dost defy the Almighty to arms...." Now, see...isn't that simple?

Templar said...

I just think it's entertaining to watch the Modernist twist himself into a pretzel to avoid simply coming out and saying what his Ecumenical Heart longs to blurt out. LOL

Marc said...

For everyone's reference, here is a longer version of the quote that Ignotus is on about (from the International Theological Commission, The Hope of Salvation for Infants Who Die Without Being Baptised para. 99, April 2007):

"However, just as we do not conclude from the latter words that someone who has not received the sacrament of the Eucharist cannot be saved, so we should not deduce from the former words that someone who has not received the sacrament of Baptism cannot be saved. What we should conclude is that no-one is saved without some relation to Baptism and Eucharist, and therefore to the Church which is defined by these sacraments. All salvation has some relation to Baptism, Eucharist and the Church. The principle that there is 'no salvation outside the Church' means that there is no salvation which is not from Christ and ecclesial by its very nature. Likewise, the scriptural teaching that 'without faith it is impossible to please [God]' (Heb 11:6) indicates the intrinsic role of the Church, the communion of faith, in the work of salvation. It is especially in the liturgy of the Church that this role becomes manifest, as the Church prays and intercedes for all, including unbaptised infants who die."

What does Church mean in this context? Well, here's another quote from paragraph 58 of the same document (quoting Pius XI, Singulari Quadam):

It must... be held as a matter of faith that outside the apostolic Roman Church no one can be saved, that the Church is the only ark of salvation, and that whoever does not enter it, will perish in the flood. On the other hand, it must likewise be held as certain that those who live in ignorance of the true religion, if such ignorance be invincible, are not subject to any guilt in this matter before the eyes of the Lord”.

I would note that this Commission appears to serve as an advisory commission to the Holy See and does not claim appear to teach infallibly. I cannot verify that becaues Blessed John Paul II's Motu Proprio Tredecim anni iam, which gave definitive status to this commission, is only available in Italian.

Finally, I will note that, with regard to Limbo of infants, the document cited above from the ITC sets out the long history of Catholic belief in this concept. The ITC fails to recognize that the fact that people have believed in this construct for such a long period of time is itself evidence that it is true.

Anonymous said...

Marc and Pin, that is the exactly right. I have heard priests say in homilies that it's OK to be wiccans, but it's his choice to be Christian. YGTBKM! No, it is NOT alright once you are burdened with the knowledge then you are bound to act and chose. My point is that it very possible that people can never really be exposed to Christ or proselytised correctly. Even in the West we are preaching in a noisy room and people acn have trouble telling what is reasonable or not.

Also, we must be mindful of the damage done to our veracity by the sex abuse crisis, e.g., and our own internal bickering about married priests, etc. People expect a good example, or actually, an example of good. When we fail, they may turn away. It is incorrect, but it is what they do.

Christopher Hitchens died today. He is an example of someone who ardently attacked Christianity for what it is not and should not be. His understanding of it was either founded on a distortion or was consciously distorted. It seems often that the most strident atheists are closer to us in understanding but without the Truth to save them. They often correctly identify errors, but use them as obstacles to faith rather than clarification. Hitchens' energy indicates to me that he had something that he was dealing with internally. I hope that is the case because he could be in the cleansing fire of Purgatory. Otherwise, he may be in Limbo, forever fooled by his own reason. Of course he could also be completely aware of his foolishness, and laying, forever stunned, in the Lake of Fire.


Gene said...

Marc, isn't your last sentence a non sequitur?

Anonymous said...

So here is another question: do the people in Limbo know that they are there? Do they know they blew it in this life? And once they know it would they not feel sorrow and contrition like no other? And would that not lead to finally accepting Christ and salvation?

It seems to me that there must be some reason that we have to have faith without certainty. For example, God could simply write, "I AM REAL" on the Moon and settle it once and for all, but robbing us of free will. That must be somehow important and why Limbo is associated with indecision.


Gene said...

Yeah, RCG, but what if God wrote,"The game is up," on the moon? Then all the papers would read, "World ends tomorrow; women and minorities hit the hardest."