The Case of Fr. Leonard Feeney
[Excerpt from The Reign of Mary (winter 1992)]
. . . In this very liberal climate which reigned in the United States, the students of the St. Benedict Center were particularly upset by the erroneous interpretation given to certain dogmas, especially among those involved in the Ecumenical movement. In their opinion, the false interpretation which was being given to the dogma that "Outside the Church there is no salvation," was at the basis of all this liberal teaching. And in reaction to this, they gave the same dogma a most rigorous interpretation. They were playing into the hands of the liberals.
This rapidly stirred up a reaction, and in April of 1949, Dr. Maluf and three other professors, all members of the St. Benedict Center, were expelled from the Jesuit house in Boston for having taught an erroneous doctrine. They claimed that all those who were not explicitly members of the visible Church were damned, and accused all those who denied this of being heretics.
In order to explain the reasons to the press, the Very Reverend William L. Keheler, S.J., President of Boston College, declared: "They persisted in teaching, both in and outside the classroom, doctrines which contradicted the traditional teaching of the Catholic Church, ideas that fostered fanaticism and intolerance."
The affair became a scandal when on April 17, 1949, Father Leonard Feeney publicly undertook the defense of these professors and their doctrine.
The following day, Richard J. Cushing, the Archbishop of Boston, without any warning to the interested parties, declared to the press that Father Leonard Feeney was suspended a divinis, in the archdiocese and the St. Benedict's Center was placed under interdict.
Considering this double sanction to be against canon law, Father Feeney appealed to Rome. From then on, there was open war bewteen the priest and local authorities.
On the 8th of August, 1949, Cardinal Marchetti-Selvaggiani, Secretary of the Holy Office, wrote to the Archbishop of Boston and sent him a Declaration of this Holy Office to be conveyed to Father Feeney, which made clear the sense in which one should understand the doctrine that "There is no salvation outside of the Catholic Church." Father Feeney refused to adhere to this declaration and wrote with regard to the matter that "it can be considered as having established a two-sided policy in order to propagate error."
On October 28, Father Feeney was expelled from the Jesuit Order.
Things remained unchanged until September 14, 1952. At this point, the Archbishop of Boston demanded that Father Feeney retract his false interpretation and make an "explicit profession of submission" to the Roman Declaration within one month or suffer the penalty of being reduced to the state of a layman.
Father Feeney, accompanied by four witnesses, presented himself before his Archbishop. He told him that his only option was to declare the letter of Marchetti-Selvaggiani "absolutely scandalous because it was frankly heretical." Then he asked His Excellency if he was in agreement with the views expressed by the Roman Declaration. He obtained the following response: "I am not a theologian. All that I know is what I am told." Then, in the presence of these witnesses, Father Feeney accused the Archbishop of failing to perform his duty, and left.
On September 24, 1952, a letter was sent from the St. Benedict Center to Pius XII, accusing the Archbishop of Boston of heresy.
In October of 1952, Cardinal Pizzardo summoned Father Feeney to present himself in Rome for a hearing by the Holy Office. Father Feeney accepted on condition that they told him beforehand what the charges against him were. Not receiving any response, he did not comply.
On February 16, 1953, the Acta Apostolicae Sedis announced the excommunication of Father Leonard Feeney. The following is an official translation of the Decree:
"Since Father Leonard Feeney remained in Boston (St. Benedict Center) and since he has been suspended from performing his priestly duties for a long time because of his grave disobedience to the Authority of the Church, in no way moved by repeated warnings and threats of incurring excommunication ipso facto, and has still failed to submit, the most Eminent and Reverend Fathers, charged with the responsibility of safeguarding faith and morals, during a plenary session held on February 4, 1953, have declared him excommunicated with all the effects that this has in law.
"On Thursday, February 12, 1953, Our Most Holy Father Pius XII, Pope by Divine Providence, has approved and confirmed the decree of these Most Eminent Fathers, and ordered that this be made a matter of public record.
"Given in Rome in the general quarters of the Holy Office, February 13, 1953. Marius Crovini, notary."
Since then, and in spite of the sanction of the Holy See, Father Feeney has made the St. Benedict Center the headquarters of a Society of about one hundred individuals who call themselves the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and who have undertaken to propagate this condemned doctrine about the salvation of non-Catholics, while accusing the Archbishop of Boston and all who agree with his interpretation of being heretics.
Declaration Letter to Archbishop Cushing from the Holy Office
THE SUPREME SACRED CONGREGATION OF THE HOLY OFFICE
From the Headquarters of the Holy Office
August 8, 1949
Protocol Number 122/49
This Supreme Sacred Congregation has followed very attentively the rise and the course of the grave controversy stirred up by certain associates of "St. Benedict Center" and "Boston College" in regard to the interpretation of that axiom : "Outside the Church there is no salvation."
After having examined all the documents that are necessary or useful in this matter, among them information from your Chancery, as well as appeals and reports in which the associates of "St. Benedict Center" explain their opinions and complaints, and also many other documents pertinent to the controversy, officially collected, the same Sacred Congregation is convinced that the unfortunate controversy arose from the fact that the axiom: "outside the Church there is no salvation," was not correctly understood and weighed, and that the same controversy was rendered more bitter by serious disturbance of discipline arising from the fact that some of the associates of the institutes mentioned above refused reverence and obedience to legitimate authorities.
Accordingly, the Most Eminent and Most Reverend Cardinals of this Supreme Congregation, in a plenary session, held on Wednesday, July 27, 1949, decreed, and the August Pontiff in an audience on the following Thursday, July 28, 1949, deigned to give his approval, that the following explanations pertinent to the doctrine, and also that invitations and exhortations relevant to discipline be given:
We are bound by divine and Catholic faith to believe all those things which are contained in the word of God, whether it be Scripture or Tradition, and are proposed by the Church to be believed as divinely revealed, not only through solemn judgement but also through the ordinary and universal teaching office (Denziger, n. 1792).
Now, among those things which the Church has always preached and will never cease to preach is contained also that infallible statement by which we are taught that there is no salvation outside the Church.
However, this dogma must be understood in that sense in which the Church herself understands it. For, it was not to private judgments that Our Saviour gave for explanation those things that are contained in the deposit of faith, but to the teaching authority of the Church.
Now, in the first place, the Church teaches that in this matter there is question of a most strict command of Jesus Christ. For He explicitly enjoined on his apostles to teach all nations to observe all things whatsoever He Himself had commanded (Matt., 28:19-20).Now, among the commandments of Christ, that one holds not the least place, by which we are commanded to be incorporated by Baptism into the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church, and to remain united to Christ and to His Vicar, through whom He Himself in a visible manner governs the Church on earth.
Therefore, no one will be saved who, knowing the Church to have been divinely established by Christ, nevertheless refuses to submit to the Church or withholds obedience from the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth.
Not only did the Savior command that all nations should enter the Church, but He also decreed the Church to be a means of salvation, without which no one can enter the kingdom of eternal glory.
In His infinite mercy God has willed that the effects, necessary for one to be saved, of those helps to salvation which are directed toward man's final end, not by intrinsic necessity, but only by divine institution, can also be obtained in certain circumstances when those helps are used only in desire and longing. This we see clearly stated in the Sacred Council of Trent, both in reference to the Sacrament of Regeneration and in reference to the Sacraments of Penance (Denziger, nn. 797, 807).
The same in its own degree must be asserted of the Church, in as far as she is the general help to salvation. Therefore, that one may obtain eternal salvation, it is not always required that he be incorporated into the Church actually as a member, but it is necessary that at least he be united to her by desire and longing.
However, this desire need not always be explicit, as it is in catechumens; but when a person is involved in invincible ignorance, God accepts also an implicit desire, so called because it is included in that good disposition of soul whereby a person wishes his will to be conformed to the will of God.
These things are clearly taught in that dogmatic letter which was issued by the Sovereign Pontiff, Pope Pius XII, on June 29, 1943, "On the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ." (AAS, Vol. 35, an. 1943, p. 193 ff.) For in this letter the Sovereign Pontiff clearly distinguishes between those who are actually incorporated into the Church as members, and those who are united to the Church only by desire.
Discussing the members of which the Mystical Body is composed here on earth, the same August Pontiff says: "Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed."
Toward the end of this same Encyclical Letter, when most affectionately inviting to unity those who do not belong to the body of the Catholic Church, he mentions those who "are related to the Mystical Body of the Redeemer by a certain unconscious yearning and desire," and these he by no means excludes from eternal salvation, but on the other hand states that they are in a condition " in which they cannot be sure of their salvation" since "they still remain deprived of those many heavenly gifts and helps which can only be enjoyed in the Catholic Church" (AAS, loc. cit., 342)
With these wise words he reproves both those who exclude from eternal salvation all united to the Church only by implicit desire, and those who falsely assert that men can be saved equally well in every religion (cf. Pope Pius IX, Allocution "Singulari quadam," in Denziger, nn. 1641, ff. - also Pope Pius IX in the Encyclical Letter "Quanto conficiamur mœrore" in Denzinger, n. 1677).
But it must not be thought that any kind of desire of entering the Church suffices that one may be saved. It is necessary that the desire by which one is related to the Church be animated by perfect charity. Nor can an implicit desire produce its effect, unless a person has supernatural faith: "For he who comes to God must believe that God exists and is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Hebrews, 11:6). The Council of Trent declares (Session VI, chap. 8): "Faith is the beginning of man's salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God and attain to fellowship of His children" (Denz., n. 801)
From what has been said it is evident that those things which are proposed in the periodical "From the Housetops," fascicle 3, as the genuine teaching of the Catholic Church are far from being such and are very harmful both to those within the Church and those without.
From these declarations which pertain to doctrine certain conclusions follow which regard discipline and conduct, and which cannot be unknown to those who vigorously defend the necessity by which all are bound of belonging to the true Church and of submitting to the authority of the Roman Pontiff and of the Bishops "whom the Holy Ghost has placed . . . to rule the Church" (Act, 20:28)
Hence, one cannot understand how the St. Benedict Center can consistently claim to be a Catholic school and wish to be accounted such, and yet not conform to the prescriptions of Canon 1381 and 1382 of the Code of Canon Law, and continue to exist as a source of discord and rebellion against ecclesiastical authority and as a source of the disturbance of many consciences.
Furthermore, it is beyond understanding how a member of a religious institute, namely Father Feeney, presents himself as a "Defender of the faith," and at the same time does not hesitate to attack the catechetical instruction proposed by lawful authorites, and has not even feared to incur grave sanctions threqatened by the sacred canons because of his serious violations of his duties as a religious, a priest and an ordinary member of the Church.
Finally, it is in no wise to be tolerated that certain Catholics shall claim for themselves the right to publish a periodical, for the purpose of spreading theological doctrines, without the permission of competent Church Authority, called the "imprimatur," which is prescribed by the sacred canons.
Therefore, let them who in grave peril are ranged against the Church seriously bear in mind that after "Rome has spoken" they cannot be excused even by reasons of good faith. Certainly, their bond and duty of obedience toward the Church is much graver than that of those who as yet are related to the Church "only by an unconscious desire." Let them realize that they are children of the Church, lovingly nourished by her with the milk of doctrine and the sacraments, and hence, having heard the clear voice of their Mother, they cannot be excused from culpable ignorance, and therefore to them applies without any restriction that principle: submission to the Catholic Church and to the Sovereign Pontiff is required as necessary for salvation.
In sending this letter, I declare my profound esteem, and remain
Your Excellency's most devoted
F. Cardinal Marchetti-Selvaggiani
The Catholic Encyclopedia (1910)
Vol. 14, TOLERATION, J. Pohle
But does the proposition that outside the Church there is no salvation involve the doctrine so often attributed to Catholicism, that the Catholic Church, in virtue of the principle, "condemns and must condemn all non-Catholics"? This is by no means the case. The foolish unchristian maxim that those who are outside the Church must for that very reason be eternally lost is no legitimate conclusion from Catholic dogma. The infliction of eternal damnation pertains not to the Church, but to God, Who alone can scrutinize the conscience. The task of the Church is confined exclusively to the formulating of the principle, which expresses a condition of salvation imposed by God Himself, and does not extend to the examination of the persons, who may or may not satisfy this condition. Care for one's own salvation is the personal concern of the individual. And in this matter the Church shows the greatest possible consideration for the good faith and the innocence of the erring person. Not that she refers, as is often stated, the eternal salvation of the heterodox solely and exclusively to "invincible ignorance", and thus makes sanctifying ignorance a convenient gate to heaven for the stupid. She places the efficient cause of the eternal salvation of all men objectively in the merits of the Redeemer, and subjectively in justification through baptism or through good faith enlivened by the perfect love of God, both of which may be found outside the Catholic Church. Whoever indeed has recognized the true Church of Christ, but contrary to his better knowledge refuses to enter it, and whoever becomes perplexed as to the truth of his belief, but fails to investigate his doubts seriously, no longer lives in good faith, but exposes himself to the danger of eternal damnation, since he rashly contravenes an important command of God. Otherwise the gentle breathing of grace is not confined within the walls of the Catholic Church, but reaches the hearts of many who stand afar, working in them the marvel of justification and thus ensuring the eternal salvation of numberless men who either, like upright Jews and pagans, do not know the true Church, or, like so many Protestants educated in gross prejudice, cannot appreciate her true nature. To all such, the Church does not close the gate of Heaven, although she insists that there are essential means of grace which are not within the reach of non-Catholics. In his allocution "Singulari quadam" of 9 December, 1854, which emphasized the dogma of the Church as necessary for salvation, Pius IX uttered the consoling principle: "Sed tamen pro certo...." (But it is likewise certain that those who are ignorant of the true religion, if their ignorance is invincible, are not, in this matter, guilty of any fault in the sight of God). (Denzinger n. 1647)
. . . As early as 1713 Clement XI condemned in his dogmatic Bull "Unigenitus" the proposition of the Jensenist Quesnel: . . . no grace is given outside the Church. . . just as Alexander VIII has already condemned in 1690 the Jansenistic proposition of Arnauld: . . . (Pagans, Jews, heretics, and other people of the sort, receive no influx [of grace] whatsoever from Jesus Christ). . . Catholics who are conversant with the teachings of their Church know how to draw the proper conclusions. . .
Baltimore Catechism No.3
A Catechism of Christian Doctrine prepared and enjoined by order of the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore
Archbishop John McCloskey of New York 1885
Archbishop Gibbons Baltimore 1885
Archbishop Michael Augustine N.Y. 1901
Archbishop Patrick Hayes N.Y. 1921
Rev. Remigius LaFort, Censor Librorum 1901
Arthur Scanlan, Censor Librorum 1921
Q. 510. Is it ever possible for one to be saved who does not know the Catholic Church to be the true Church?
A. It is possible for one to be saved who does not know the Catholic Church to be the true Church, provided that person (I) has been validly baptized; (2) firmly believes the religion he professes and practices to be the true religion, and (3) dies without the guilt of mortal sin on his soul.
Q. 511. Why do we say it is only possible for a person to be saved who does not know the Catholic Church to be the true Church?
A. We say it is only possible for a person to be saved who does not know the Catholic Church to be the true Church, because the necessary conditions are not often found, especially that of dying in a state of grace without making use of the Sacrament of Penance.
Q. 512. How are such persons said to belong to the Church?
A. Such persons are said to belong to the "soul of the church"; that is, they are really members of the Church without knowing it. Those who share in its Sacraments and worship are said to belong to the body or visible part of the Church.
The New Catholic Dictionary (1929)
SOUL OF THE CHURCH
From the 16th century, the Catholic theologians expressed more definitely the theological doctrine of the distinction between the Soul and Body of the Church. . . This distinction. . . is formally expressed by Bellarmine in his study on the members of the Church. According to him, men belong to the Body of the Church by virtue of external profession of the faith, and participation in the sacraments; and to the Soul of the Church through the internal gifts of the Holy Ghost, faith, hope, and charity. He draws three general conclusions relative to the members of the Church. There are those: (a) Who belong always to both the Body and Soul of the Church; (b) Who belong to the Soul without belonging to the Body; (c) Who belong to the Body but not to the Soul. This teaching has generally been followed by Catholic theologians.
P. Pius IX Solemn Allocution
December 9, 1854
It is to be held of faith that none can be saved outside the Apostolic Roman Church . . . but nevertheless it is equally certain that those who are ignorant of the true religion, if that ignorance is invincible, will not be held guilty in the matter in the eyes of the Lord.
P. Pius IX Encyclical
August 10, 1863
We all know that those who are invincibly ignorant of our religion and who nevertheless lead an honest and upright life, can, under the influence of divine light and divine grace, attain to eternal life; for God who knows and sees the mind, the heart, the thoughts, and the dispositions of every man, cannot in His infinite bounty and clemency permit any one to suffer eternal punishment who is not guilty through his own fault."
"What is clearer than that the will is taken for the act, when the act is excluded by necessity?"
Treatise on Baptism
"When we speak of within and without in relation to the Church, it is the position of the heart that we must consider, not that of the body."
"All who are within in heart are saved in the unity of the ark."
Vol. 7, HERESY, J. Wilhelm
Once heresy is in possession it tightens its grip by the thousand subtle and often unconscious influences which mould a man's life. A child is born in heretical surroundings: before it is able to think for itself its mind has been filled and fashioned by home, school, and church teachings, the authority of which it never doubted. When, at a riper age, doubts arise, the truth of Catholicism is seldom apprehended as it is. Innate prejudices, educational bias, historical distortions stand in the way and frequently make approach impossible. The state of conscience technically termed bona fides, good faith, is thus produced. It implies inculpable belief in error, a mistake morally unavoidable and therefore always excusable, sometimes even laudable. . .
Vol. 6, GOOD FAITH, Joseph F, Delaney
One who is in this condition, so far as the violation of positive law, or even, in certain junctures, of the natural law, is concerned, is said to labour under an invincible error, and hence to be guiltless. This consideration is often invoked in behalf of those who are outside of the visible affiliation of the Catholic Church. . .
Vol. 8, JUSTIFICATION, J. Pohle
"But, not to close the gates of heaven against pagans and those non-Catholics, who without their fault do not know or do not recognize the Sacraments of Baptism and Penance, Catholic theologians unanimously hold that the desire to receive these sacraments is implicitly contained in the serious resolve to do all that God has commanded, even if His holy will should not become known in every detail."
Vol. 2, BAPTISM, William H.W. Fanning
X. SUBSTITUTES FOR THE SACRAMENT
. . .It is the teaching of the Catholic Church that when the baptism of water becomes a physical or moral impossibility, eternal life may be obtained by the baptism of desire or the baptism of blood. (1) The baptism of desire (baptismus flaminis) is a perfect contrition of heart, and every act of perfect charity or pure love of God which contains, at least implicitly, a desire (votum) of baptism. . .This doctrine is set forth clearly by the Council of Trent. . . and the contrary propositions are condemned by Popes Pius V and Gregory XII, in proscribing the 31st and 33rd propositions of Baius. . . It is true that some of the Fathers of the Church arraign severely those who content themselves with the desire of receiving the sacrament of regeneration, but they are speaking of catechumens who of their own accord delay the reception of baptism from unpraiseworthy motives. Finally, it is to be noted that only adults are capable of receiving the baptism of desire.
A Catholic Dictionary, Attwater
(Imprimatur/Nihil obstat 1946)
Outside the Church. "Outside the Church, no salvation." This dogma refers to those who are outside the Church by their own fault. There is a command to enter the Church, which is the prescribed way to Heaven. He who refuses to join the Church which Christ founded, recognizing that Christ comanded adhesion to his Church, is in the way of perdition. But those who are in invincible ignorance will not be condemned merely on account of their ignorance. . .Those non-Catholics who are saved are in life outside the visible body of the Church, but are joined invisibly to the Church by charity and by that implicit desire of joining the Church which is inseparable from the explicit desire to do God's will.
DESIRE, BAPTISM OF, is one of the two possible substitutes for Baptism of water. When it is not possible thus to be baptized, an act of perfect contrition or pure love of God will supply the omission. Such acts are a perfect and ultimate diposition calling for the infusion of sanctifying grace, and at least implicitly include a desire and intention to receive Baptism of water should occasion offer. Infants are not capable of Baptism of desire. An heathen, believing, even though in a confused way, in a God whose will should be done and desiring to do that will whatever it may be, probably has Baptism of desire. It may reasonably be assumed that vast numbers of persons unbaptized by water have thus been rendered capable of enjoying the Beatific Vision.
St. Thomas Aquinas
Part II. Question 66. Article 11
". . . a man receives the effect of Baptism by the power of the Holy Ghost, not only without Baptism of Water, but also without Baptism of Blood: forasmuch as his heart is moved by the Holy Ghost to believe in and love God and to repent of his sins: wherefore this is also called Baptism of Repentence."
"The other two Baptisms are included in the Baptism of Water, which derives its efficacy, both from Christ's Passion and from the Holy Ghost. Consequently for this reason the unity of Baptism is not destroyed."
"The other two. however, are like the Baptism of Water, not, indeed, in the nature of sign, but in the baptismal effect. Consequently they are not Sacraments."
". . .the shedding of blood for Christ's sake, and the inward operation of the Holy Ghost, are called baptisms, in so far as they produce the effect of the Baptism of Water. Now the Baptism of Water derives its efficacy from Christ's Passion and from the Holy Ghost, as already stated. These two causes act in each of these three Baptisms: most excellently, however, in the Baptism of Blood. For Christ's Passion acts in the Baptism of Water by way of a figurative representation; in the Baptism of the Spirit of of Repentence, by way of desire; but in the Baptism of Blood, by way of imitating the Divine act. In like manner, too, the power of the Holy Ghost acts in the Baptism of Water through a certain hidden power; in the Baptim of Repentence by moving the heart; but in the Baptism of Blood....
Question 68. Article 2.
". . . 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 forstalled 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.
Doctrinal and Scriptural Catechism
Rev. P. Collot, Doctor of the Sorbonne (1904) Approved by Archbishop John Hughes, D.D., NY.
Q. How [can baptism be supplied] in adults?
A. Either by martyrdom or by an act of charity, with the desire of receiving it as soon as they can.
Children have but one way, which is martyrdom; and adults have two, martyrdom or an act of charity, together with the desire or receiving it as soon as possible.
This is the reason why it is said that there are three sorts of Baptism: the Baptism of blood, the Baptism of the Holy Ghost or of desire, and the Baptism of water, although in reality there is but one, which is that given with water, while pronouncing the words: In the name oft he Father, etc.
Q. Does attrition of itself justify the sinner?
A. No; but it disposes him to receive the grace of justification by absolution, in which the efficacy of the sacrament of Penance principally consists.
Q. What difference is there between perfect contrition and attrition?
A. !st. The one is caused by love, and the other by shame or fear. 2nd. The one justifies the sinner, and the other only disposes him for justification [by absolution].
St. Ambrose, "De obitu Valentiniani"
"But I hear that you grieve because he did not receive the sacrament of baptism. Tell me now what else have we if not desire and will? He in very truth had this wish that, before he came to Italy, he should be initiated into the Church and immediately baptized by me . . . . Had he not then the grace which he desired so earnestly? Did he not have the grace he demanded? Certainly, for he who demands receives. But if it is a fact that because the sacraments are not solemnly celebrated they have no value, then the martyrs if they were only catechumens would not receive the crown of glory; for no one is crowned who is not initiated. But if people are absolved in their own blood, then this man's piety and will absolved him."
The Catechism of the Council of Trent
. . . should any unforseen accident deprive adults of baptism, their intention of receiving it, and their repentance for past sins, will avail them to grace and righteousness.
. . . such is the efficacy of true contrition. . . that through it we obtain from God the immediate pardon of our sins.
THE CATECHISM EXPLAINED
Rev. Francis Spirago, Professor of Theology
(c) 1899, 1921, by Benziger Bros. (Printers to the Apostolic See)
Nihil Obstat: Scanlon. Imprimatur: Archbishop Hayes, D.D.NY
3. Whoever through his own fault remains outside the Church will not be saved.
If, however, a man, through no fault of his own, remains outside the Church, he may be saved if he lead a God-fearing life; for such a one is to all intents and purposes a member of the Catholic Church.
The majority of men who have been brought up in heresy think that they belong to the true Church; their error is not due to hatred of God. A man who leads a good life and has the love of God in his heart, really belongs to the Church, and such a one is saved, not by his heresy, but by belonging to the Church. St. Peter said: "In every nation he that feareth God and worketh justice is acceptable to Him" (Acts x. 35). . . .All who lived up to their lights were Christians, though they might have been looked upon as godless, as, e.g., Socrates among the Greeks, Abraham and Elias among the Jews. They do not belong to the body of the Church, that is, they are not externally in union with the Church, but they are of the soul of the Church, i.e., they have the sentiments which the members of the Church should have.
Thus the Catholic Church has members both visible and invisible.
The visible members are those who have been received into the Church by Baptism. The following are not members: The unbaptized (heathens, Jews, Mohammedans), formal heretics (Protestants), and schismatics (the Greeks), those who are excommunicated. The invisible members are those who without any fault of their own are outside the Church leading God-fearing lives."
If baptism by water is impossible, it may be replaced by the baptism of desire, or by the baptism of blood, as in the case of those who suffer martyrdom for the faith of Christ.
The Emperor Valentinian II was on the way to Milan to be baptized when he was assassinated; St. Ambrose said of him that his desire had been the means of his cleansing. The patriarchs, prophets, and holy men of the Old Testament had the baptism of desire; their love of God was ardent, and they wished to do all thaty He commands. God accepts the will for the deed; in this He manifests His superabundant loving kindness. But all the temporal penalties of sin are not remitted by the baptism of desire.
God has imprinted the natural law on the heart of every man; this forms the fundamental rule of human actions.
A young child who has done something wrong - lied, perhaps, or committed a theft, feels uncomfortable, frightened, or ashamed; though it may never have heard of the Ten Commandments, it is conscious that it has done amiss. It is the same with heathen who knows nothing about God's commandments. Hence we may conclude that there is a LAW OF NATURE in every human heart, a law not written upon it, but inborn in it; an intuitive knowledge of right and wrong. St. Paul declares that the Gentiles do by nature those things that are of the law (what the Ten Commandments enjoin), and consequently they will be judged by God according to the natural law (Rom. ii. 14-16).
Radio Replies, Vol II.
Fathers Rumble and Carty
Imprimatur 1940 Archbishop John G. Murray
722. Does Catholic doctrine allow that the soul of an unbaptized heathen can enter heaven?
Not in the case of unbaptized infants who die before coming to the use of reason and the stage of personal responsibility. The heathens who do come to the age of personal responsibility can attain to the supernatural order of grace and inherit that very heaven for which baptism is normally required on certain conditions. For example, a pagan may never have heard of the Gospel, or having heard of it, may have quite failed to grasp its significance. He remains a heathen, knowing no better, and dies without receiving the actual Sacrament of Baptism. In such a case God will not blame him for that for which he is really not responsible. At the same time, God wills all men to be saved, and will certainly give that heathen sufficient grace for his salvation according to the condition in which he is. If that heathen, under the influence of interior promptings of conscience and the actual inspirations of grace given by God, repents sincerely before death of such moral lapses as he has committed during life, he will secure forgiveness, and save his soul in view of the Baptism he would have been willing to receive had he known it to be necessary, and could he have done so. We Catholics say that such a heathen has been saved by Baptism of Desire. The desire, of course, is implicit only.
St. Robert Bellarmine "De Ecclesia Militante"
". . . (again) there are those who belong to the soul [of the Church] and not the body, as [are] catechumens or the excommunicated, if indeed they have charity [state of grace], which can happen."
Council of Trent, Session VII, Concerning the Sacraments in General, Canon 4
If anyone says that the Sacraments of the New Law are not necessary for salvation, but superfluous, and that without them or their desire [aut eorum voto] men can obtain from God the grace of justification through faith alone, although all [Sacraments] are not necessary for every individual: Let him be Anathema.
Story of a Soul, St. Therese of Lisiuex,
I saw something further; that Our Lord's love shines out just as much through a little soul who yields comepletely to His Grace as it does through the greatest. True love is shown in self-abasement, and if everyone were like the saintly doctors who adorn the Church, it would seem that God had not far enough to stoop when He came to them. But He has, in fact, created the child who knows nothing and can only make feeble cries; and the poor savage with only the natural law to guide him; and it is to hearts such as these that He Stoops.
Vol. 10 CHURCH, G.H. Joyce
The Necessary Means of Salvation. - In the preceding examination of the Scriptural doctrine regarding the Church, it has been seen how clearly it is laid down that only by entering the Church can we participate in the redemption wrought for us by Christ. Incorporation with the Church can alone unite us to the family of the second Adam, and alone can engraft us into the true Vine. Moreover, it is to the Church that Christ has committed those means of grace through which the gifts He earned for men are communicated to them. The Church alone dispenses the sacraments. It alone makes known the light of revealed truth. Outside the Church these gifts cannot be obtained. From all this there is but one conclusion: Union with the Church is not merely one out of various means by which salvation may be obtained: it is the only means.
This doctrine of the absolute necessity of union with the Church was taught in explicit terms by Christ. Baptism, the act of incorporation among her members, He affirmed to be essential to salvation. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: he that believeth not shall be condemned" (Mark, xvi, 16). Any disciple who shall throw off obedience to the Church is to be reckoned as one of the heathen: he has no part in the kingdom of God (Matt., xviii, 17). St. Paul is equally explicit. "A man that is a heretic", he writes to Titus, "after the first and second admonition avoid: knowing that he that is such a one is . . . condemned by his own judgement" (Tit., iii, 10 sq.) The doctrine is summed up in the phrase, Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. This saying has been the occasion of so many objections that some consideration of its meaning seems desirable. It certainly does not mean that none can be saved except those who are in visible communion with the Church. The Catholic Church has ever taught that nothing else is needed to obtain justification than an act of perfect charity and of contrition. Whoever, under the impulse of actual grace, elicits these acts, receives immediately the gift of sanctifying grace, and is numbered among the children of God. Should he die in these dispositions, he will assuredly attain heaven. It is true such acts could not possibly be elicited by one who was aware that God has
commanded all to join the Church, and who nevertheless should wilfully remain outside her fold. For love of God carries with it the practical desire to fulfil His commandments. But of those who die without visible communion with the Church, not all are guilty of wilful disobedience to God's commands. Many are kept from the Church by ignorance. Such may be the case of numbers among those who have been brought up in heresy. To others the external means of grace may be unattainable. Thus an excommunicated person may have no opportunity of seeking reconciliation at the last, and yet may repair his faults by inward acts of contrition and charity.
It should be observed that those who are thus saved are not entirely outside the pale of the Church. The will to fulfil all God's commandments is, and must be, present in all of them. Such a wish implicitly includes the desire for incorporation with the visible Church: for this, though they know it not, has been commanded by God. They thus belong to the Church by desire (voto). Moreover, there is a true sense in which they may be said to be saved through the Church. In the order of Divine Providence, salvation is given to man in the Church: membership in the Church Triumphant is given through membership in the Church Militant. Sanctifying grace, the title to salvation, is peculiarly the grace of those who are united to Christ in the Church: it is the birthright of the children of God. The primary purpose of those actual graces which God bestows upon those outside the Church is to draw them within the fold. Thus, even in the case in which God saves men apart from the Church, He does so through the Church's graces. They are joined to the Church in spiritual communion, though not in visible and external communion. In the expression of theologians, they belong to the soul of the Church, though not to its body. Yet the possibility of salvation apart from visible communion with the Church must not blind us to the loss suffered by those who are thus situated. They are cut off from the sacraments God has given as the support of the soul. In the ordinary channels of grace, which are ever open to the faithful Catholic, they cannot participate. Countless means of santification which the Church offers are denied to them.
Pope Pius XII Encyclical
August 12, 1950
. . . although this sacred Office of Teacher in matters of faith and morals must be the proximate and universal criterion of truth for all theologians, since to it has been entrusted by Christ Our Lord the whole deposit of faith - Sacred Scripture and divine Tradition - to be preserved, guarded and interpreted, still the duty that is incumbent on the faithful to flee also those errors which more or less approach heresy, and accordingly "to keep also the constitutions and decrees by which such evil opinions are proscribed and forbidden by the Holy See," is sometimes as little known as it it did not exist. What is expounded in the Encyclical Letters of the Roman Pontiffs concerning the nature and constitution of the Church, is deliberately and habitually neglected by some with the idea of giving force to a certain vague notion which they profess to have found in the ancient Fathers, especially the Greeks. The Popes, they assert, do not wish to pass judgement on what is a matter of dispute among theologians, so recourse must be had to the early sources; and the recent constitutions and decrees of the Teaching Church must be explained from the writings of the ancients.
Although these things seem well said, still they are not free from error. It is true that Popes generally leave theologians free in those matters which are disputed in various ways by men of very high authority in this field; but history teaches that many matters that formerly were open to discussion, no longer now admit of discussion.
Nor must it be thought that what is expounded in Encyclical Letters does not of itself demand consent, since in writing such Letters the Popes do not exercise the supreme power of their Teaching Authority. For these matters are taught with the ordinary teaching authority, of which it is true to say: "He who hears you, heareth me"; and generally what is expounded and inculcated in Encyclical Letters already for other reasons appertains to Catholic doctrine. But if the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents purposely pass judgement on a matter, according to the mind and will of the same Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians.
It is true that theologians must always return to the sources of divine revelation: for its belongs to them to point out how the doctrine of the living Teaching Authority is to be found either explicitly or implicitly in the Scriptures and in Tradition. Besides, each source of divinely revealed doctrine contains so many rich treasures of truth, that theology through the study of its sacred sources remains ever fresh: on the other hand, speculation which neglects a deeper search into the deposit of faith, proves sterile, as we know from experience. But for this reason even positive theology cannot be on a par with merely historical science. For, together with the sources of positive theology God has given to His Church a living Teaching Authority to elucidate and explain what is contained in the deposit of faith only obscurely and implicitly. This deposit of faith our Divine Redeemer has given for authentic interpretation not to each of the faithful, not even to theologians, but only to the Teaching Authority of the Church. But if the Church does exercise this function of teaching, as she often has through the centuries, either in the ordinary or extraordinary way, it is clear how false is a procedure which would attempt to explain what is clear by means of what is obscure. Indeed the very opposite procedure must be used.
Pope Pius XI Encyclical
Mortalium animos, Jan. 6, 1928
The teaching authority of the Church in the divine wisdom was constituted on earth in order that the revealed doctrines might remain for ever intact and might be brought with ease and security to the knowledge of men. This authority is indeed daily exercised through the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops who are in communion with him; but it has the further office of defining some truth with solemn decree whenever it is opportune, and whenever this is necessary either to oppose the errors or the attacks of heretics, or again to impress the minds of the faithful with a clearer and more detailed explanation of the articles of sacred doctrine. But in the use of this extraordinary teaching authority no fresh invention is introduced, nothing new is ever added to the number of those truths which are at least implicitly contained within the deposit of Revelation divinely committed to the Church; but truths which to some perhaps may still seem obscure are rendered clear, or a truth which some may have called into question is declared to be of faith.
Vol. 10 MASS, J. Pohle
. . . the Church has surrounded with certain conditions, which priests are bound in obedience to observe, the application of Mass for certain classes of the living and dead . . . For a deceased heretic the private and hypothetical application of the Mass is allowed only when the priest has good grounds for believing that the deceased held his error in good faith (bona fide. Cf. S.C. Officii, 7 April, 1875). . . In like manner Mass may be celebrated privately for the souls of deceased Jews and heathens, who have lead an upright life . . .
Added Comments: The sources in which this Catholic doctrine can be found are certainly not limited to the sources referenced here. It may even be said that the defense of this doctrine has been overdone since only a couple of these authoritative quotes should be sufficient proof for any Catholic, especially the Council of Trent, the Encyclical "Quanto Conficiamur" or the Letter from the Holy Office under Pius XII explaining the doctrine for Fr. Feeney. The last excerpt is alone sufficient to show the Church's official recognition of this doctrine in a practical way by allowing priest's to offer Mass for the souls of deceased non-Catholics.
Careful note should be taken especially of what Pope Pius XII says in Humani Generis on page eleven. We can be sure that Pope Pius XII had this "grave controversy" of the Boston College in mind when he authored this Encyclical as it was written after the Declaration letter of the Holy Office, and before Fr. Feeney was excommunicated. He makes it clear that it is solely the office of the living Teaching authority to interpret, elucidate and explain that which may be only implicitly and obscurely contained within the deposit of faith.
The possibility of baptism of desire in a non-Catholic is a solid teaching of our faith. However, the probability of such a thing occuring is another matter. Judging from the Church's Ordinary teaching on this it would seem that such justification by perfect love and contrition is possible but not very probable. It would seem silly, however, to expect the Church to define the degree of probability: whether it is simply difficult, very difficult, or very-very difficult, etc. This doctrine clearly shows the infinite Mercy of God and supports the teachings that God wills the salvation of all men, and that if anyone is damned it is through their own fault.
The objection may be raised that the doctrine of Baptism of Desire with invincible ignorance would destroy the zeal of Catholic missionaries to convert pagans and natives. Those who think this obviously do not understand the doctrine.
We only need to look at the zeal of a Catholic pastor for his parishioners. Even though his parishioners, as Catholics, are in the one true Church - "the way of salvation" - with all the means of grace at their disposal, the parish priest works with much zeal to help keep each member of his flock securely in the state of grace. Knowing this to be so, what must be the zeal of a missionary who seeks to convert savages from "the way of perdition"? The Catholic doctrine of Baptism of Desire in fact greatly supports the zeal of missionaries in their work of conversion: it gives them a greater hope that any particular savage they work with may just be one who is well disposed to do God's will and be more easily converted to the secure "way of salvation", and possibly having even the implicit desire of Baptism.
It seems that the followers of Fr. Feeney at the St. Benedict Center are coming to see the light. Although they still unfortunately deny the Catholic doctrine of "baptism of desire", they no longer follow Fr. Feeney in considering it to be a heresy: In their January 1992 issue of the Crusader, the doctrine of "baptism of desire" has been classified as an "undefined theory" in which "each man has as much right to his opinion as the other." They have yet to see, however, that they are still in error and have no right to hold an opinion contrary to Church teaching on this matter.