Before all decision to create the world, the infinite knowledge of God presents to Him all the graces, and different series of graces, which He can prepare for each soul, along with the consent or refusal which would follow in each circumstance, and that in millions of possible combinations ... Thus, for each man in particular there are in the thought of God, limitless possible histories, some histories of virtue and salvation, others of crime and damnation; and God will be free in choosing such a world, such a series of graces, and in determining the future history and final destiny of each soul. And this is precisely what He does when among all possible worlds, by an absolutely free act, he decides to realize the actual world with all the circumstances of its historic evolutions, with all the graces which in fact have been and will be distributed until the end of the world, and consequently with all the elect and all the reprobate who God foresaw would be in it if de facto He created it." [The Catholic Encyclopedia Appleton, 1909, on Augustine, pg 97]
In other words before a man is conceived, God in his infinite knowledge has already put that person through the test with millions of possible combinations and possible histories, some histories of virtue and salvation, others of crime and damnation; along with the consent or refusal which would follow in each circumstance (of millions of possible combinations!!!) and God will be free in determining which future history and final destiny He assigns each soul.
The idea of salvation outside the Church is opposed to the Doctrine of Predestination. This Doctrine means that from all eternity God has known who were His own. It is for the salvation of these, His Elect, that Providence has directed, does direct, and will always direct, the affairs of men and the events of history. Nothing, absolutely nothing, that happens, has not been taken into account by the infinite God, and woven into that tapestry in which is written the history of the salvation of His saints. Central in this providential overlordship is the Church itself, which is the sacred implement which God devised for the rescuing of His beloved ones from the damnation decreed for those who would not. (Mt. 23:37).
The Doctrine of Divine ɛƖɛctıon means that only certain individuals will be saved. They will be saved primarily because, in the inscrutable omniscience of God, only certain individuals out of all the human family will respond to the grace of salvation. In essence, this doctrine refers to what in terms of human understanding and vision, is before and after, the past, the present, and the future, but what in God is certain knowledge and unpreventable fact, divine action and human response.
Calvin and others have made the mistake of believing that these words mean that predestination excludes human choice and dispenses from true virtue. Catholic doctrine explains simply that the foreknowledge of God precedes the giving of grace. It means, further, that, since without grace there can be no merit, and without merit no salvation, those who will be saved must be foreknown as saved by God, if they are to receive the graces necessary for salvation.
Those who say there is salvation outside the Church (no matter how they say it) do not comprehend that those who are in the Church have been brought into it by the Father, through Christ the Savior, in fulfillment of His eternal design to save them. The only reason that God does not succeed in getting others into the Church must be found in the reluctant will of those who do not enter it. If God can arrange for you to be in the Church, by the very same Providence He can arrange for anyone else who desires or is willing to enter it. There is absolutely no obstacle to the invincible God's achieving His designs, except the intractable wills of His children. Nothing prevents His using the skies for his billboard, and the clouds for lettering, or the rolling thunder for the proclamation of His word. (Indeed, for believers, He does just this: "The heavens shew forth the glory of God, and the firmament declareth the work of his hands." I Ps. 18: 11. But for atheists the heavens have no message at all.) If poverty were the reason some do not believe, he could load them down with diamonds; if youth were the reason, He could make sure they grew to a hoary old age. If it were merely the want of information, put a library on their doorstep, or a dozen missionaries in their front room. Were it for a want of brains, he could give every man an I.Q. of three hundred: it would cost Him nothing.
The idea that someone died before he was able to receive Baptism, suggests that God was unable to control events, so as to give the person time to enter the Church. If time made any difference, God could and would keep any person on earth a hundred, or a thousand, or ten thousand years.
Thus, what is the meaning of this ɛƖɛctıon? That from all eternity God has ordered the events of history, so that His Elect might have the grace of salvation. And how do they know of this ɛƖɛctıon? By the fact that they are in the Church, through no deservingness of their own? They know of no reason why God should bestow this grace, the knowledge of the truth, and the willingness and power to believe it, upon them, while others, who seem more worthy, go without it. As regards His Elect, not only has God determined to bestow necessary grace, but also, all His actions in the world must be seen as part of His salvific plan. In a word, nothing that He does is unrelated to the salvation of His Beloved Sheep. Human history, apart from the glory of Holy Church, and the salvation of the Elect, and the punishment of the wicked, has little importance for almighty God. Yet, all these purposes are only a part of the manifestation of His glory.
Those who speak of it have the problem of reconciling the mystery of Predestination with the idea of "baptism of desire." From all eternity, almighty God has known the fate of every soul. In His Providence, He has arranged for the entrance into the Church of certain millions of persons, and has seen to it that they receive the grace of faith, the Sacrament of Baptism, the grace of repentance, the forgiveness of their sins, and all the other requisites of salvation. According to the Attenuators, in the case of "non Catholic saints," and of those who died before they might receive Baptism, God was simply unable to see to these necessaries. Untoward and unforeseen circumstances arose which prevented His providing these other millions with the means of salvation. Theirs is a story of supreme irony, that although the God of omniscience and omnipotence mastered the history of all nations and the course of every life, angelic and human, in the case of certain ones, His timing was off by just a few days, or hours, or minutes. It was His earlier intention to make sure that they received Baptism of water; He had it all planned out; but alas! on the particular day of their demise, His schedule was so full, that He simply could not get to them; for which reason, in that it was His fault, He is bound to provide an alternative instrumentality: "baptism of desire" is his substitute for the real thing!
The Diluters of the Doctrine of Exclusive Salvation do not perceive the Pelagian tenor of their position, that some may be saved outside the Church through nothing but their good will. It is exactly because this is impossible and, more important, offensive to God, that the notion must be
rejected. We say impossible, because no man can save himself. The fact that every man must receive Baptism and thus enter the Church means that he is dependent upon God to make it possible for him to receive the Sacrament, and further, through this Sacrament, it is Christ Who acts to purge the sinner of his sins, and ingraft him into His Mystical Body. No individual can do this by himself. He is dependent upon another to pour the water and say the words, and he is dependent upon God to provide this minister, and to make the sacramental sign effective of grace. It is thus so that none may attribute his salvation to his own doing.
Pride is the chief vice of man, as it was and is of the demons of Hell. It is pride more than any other fault that blinds men to the truth, that obstructs faith, and hardens their hearts to conversion from sin.
The Doctrine of Predestination is that almighty God from all eternity both knew and determined who would be saved, that is, who would allow Him to save them. He would be the cause of their salvation, and, as there is no power that can even faintly obstruct or withstand Him, there is no power which can prevent His saving whom He wishes, except, of course, the man himself.