Is explicit faith in our Lord necessary for salvation?
Here are a couple of quotes from two books about this issue (I was reading about it a couple of weeks ago... you can find them on Google Book Search):

“It is a fact that many Catholics of the clergy or laity hold the false opinion that acts of love or perfect contrition are rare among Catholics and most rare among non-Catholics. It is a fact that many more Catholics have held that error in the past than in the present. This is a fact, and we could not hide it even if we wished to do so But those who have said that most exasperating thing, whether at the back-door or in the pulpit, were then teaching the contrary of what had been taught by the Scriptures as ever interpreted by the Fathers, Doctors, Councils, Popes, and Theologians. …


“In this passage we see with our own eyes the fact that in Ireland in 1853 Dr. Murray, citing many grave authors of many places and times, fully and cordially agreed with Dr. Newman (afterward made a Cardinal by Leo XIII), that we may entertain most reasonable hopes that vast multitudes out of the visible pale of the Catholic Church are in a state of invincible ignorance. …


“How much must each one know and believe to be in the true Church of Christ by Baptism of desire, in some way to have adhered to Catholic faith and to have been united to us by the mutual bonds of faith and charity? Absolutely all Catholic theologians reply with St. Paul (Hebr. 11:6), 'Without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who cometh to God must believe that He exists and that He is a Rewarder to them that seek Him'. …


"Theologians here remark that to make an act of love or perfect contrition and be justified we must have not only faith in God but also hope in him, that we would not love God good in Himself, if we did not believe in Him and hope in Him as also good and loving to us; that we could not love God with charity, which is friendship and mutual love, unless we knew and believed God to be a Rewarder to those that seek Him.


“For justification and salvation, for membership in the true Church of Christ by desire if not by reality, is it necessary to know and believe, to have explicit faith, that there are Three Persons in One God or that Christ is God? The large majority of Catholic theologians think, teach as their opinion, that it is uncertain whether that much explicit faith is required by the will of God as a necessary means of membership in the Church, the Mystic Body of Christ. Other Catholic theologians think, teach as their opinion, that it is certain that explicit faith in the Trinity and Incarnation is necessary. If, when these teach this as certain, they tell us do not in this represent the Catholic Church or her theologians or even their own religious order, if they belong to one, but only themselves, they are within their rights. If they teach this as certain without the above explanation and leave the general public under the impression that in teaching this they represent the Catholic Church or her theologians or some great religious order, they are most misleading and are reprehensible. We cannot blame them for thinking or saying or writing that no Jew or Mahometan who is in invincible ignorance of the Incarnation and Trinity can invisibly to us, but visibly to God, by an act of faith, hope, and charity or contrition, be affiliated to the One Visible Church of Christ and thus be saved. But we would blame them for saddling their private opinion or the private opinion of their minority on the Catholic Church as her teaching. Of course there is a most grave divine precept binding every human being to believe everything that God has revealed to us and has been taught by the Church to have been revealed, and there is a grave divine precept to know and believe the Incarnation and Trinity. This explicit faith, or knowledge and belief, is necessary by the necessity of divine precept. This is certain. But it is not accepted by the majority of theologians as certain that this explicit faith is necessary by necessity of means in the same way as explicit faith in God as existing and as a Rewarder.” (The Ecclesiastical Review, Vol. LIX, 1918, Is there Salvation Outside the Church?, pp. 239, 242, 246-247; this section starts on page 238).

“A ‘necessity of means’ demands that a person believe in the existence of God and that God is the remunerator. A ‘necessity of precept or command’ holds the faithful to an explicit belief in all that is contained in the creed and the efficacy of the major sacraments. Authors disagree about whether it is required by a necessity of means to explicitly believe in the Trinity and the Incarnation. But the opinion denying such an obligation is certainly probable” (Charles E. Curran, Catholic Moral Theology in the United States: A History, p. 18).
So, according to these sources, it is a debated opinion on whether or not an explicit faith in Christ and in the Blessed Trinity are necessary for salvation. I'd be very grateful if we could find a definitive answer.
Here are some more pertinent quotes on the issue:
Innocent XI, Various Errors on Moral Subjects (Condemned in a decree of the Holy Office, March 4, 1679)
Denzinger 1172 - 22. Only faith in one God seems necessary by a necessity of means, not, however, the explicit (faith) in a Rewarder.
Denzinger 1214 - 64. A person is fit for absolution, however much he labors under an ignorance of the mysteries of the faith, and even if through negligence, even culpable, he does not know the mystery of the most blessed Trinity, and of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
CLEMENT XI, Concerning Truths which Necessarily Must be Explicitly Believed * [Response of the Sacred Office to the Bishop of Quebec, Jan. 25, 1703]

1349a Whether a minister is bound, before baptism is conferred on an adult, to explain to him all the mysteries of our faith, especially if he is at the point of death, because this might disturb his mind. Or, whether it is sufficient, if the one at the point of death will promise that when he recovers from the illness, he will take care to be instructed, so that he may put into practice what has been commanded him.

 Resp. A promise is not sufficient, but a missionary is bound to explain to an adult, even a dying one who is not entirely incapacitated, the mysteries of faith which are necessary by a necessity of means, as are especially the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation.

Pope Benedict XIV, Cum Religiosi (# 4), June 26, 1754:

“See to it that every minister performs carefully the measures laid down by the holy Council of Trent… that confessors should perform this part of their duty whenever anyone stands at their tribunal who does not know what he must by necessity of means know to be saved…”
Leo XIII, The Faith and Intention Required for Baptism * [Response of the Holy Office, March 30th, 1898]

(Denzinger 1966a) Whether a missionary can confer baptism on an adult Mohammedan at the point of death, who in his errors is supposed to be in good faith:

 1. If he still has his full faculties, only by exhorting him to sorrow and confidence, not by speaking about our mysteries, for fear that he will not believe them.

 2. Whatever of his faculties he has, by saying nothing to him, since on the one hand, he is not supposed to be wanting in contrition, and on the other, it is supposed to be imprudent to speak with him about our mysteries.

 3. If now he has lost his faculties, by saying nothing further to him.

 Reply to I and 2: in the negative, i.e., it is not permitted to administer baptism absolutely or conditionally to such Mohammedans; and these decrees of the Holy Office were given to the Bishop of Quebec on the 25th of January, and the 10th of May, 1703 [see n. 1349 a f.].

 To 3: regarding Mohammedans who are dying and already deprived of their senses, we must rely as in the decree of the Holy Office, Sept. 18, 1850, to the Bishop of Pertois, that is: "If they have formerly given indications that they wish to be baptized, or in their present state either by a nod or any other manner have shown the same disposition, they can be baptized conditionally; but where the missionary after examining all collateral circumstances so judges it wise," . . . His Holiness has approved.
Pope St. Pius X, "Acta," Vatican Press, 1904
The ruin of souls is wrought by this single cause: Ignorance of those most sublime truths, so far beyond the natural understanding of the multitude, which nonetheless must be known by all men in order that they may attain eternal salvation. We positively maintain that the will of man cannot be upright, nor his conduct good, while his intellect is the slave of crass ignorance. This We solemnly affirm: the majority of those who are condemned to eternal punishment fall into this everlasting misfortune through ignorance of the mysteries of the Faith which must necessarily be known and believed by all who belong to the Elect.

Pope St. Pius X, Acerbo Nimis, April 15, 1905


2. It is a common complaint, unfortunately too well founded, that there are large numbers of Christians in our own time who are entirely ignorant of those truths necessary for salvation. And when we mention Christians, We refer not only to the masses or to those in the lower walks of life -- for these find some excuse for their ignorance in the fact that the demands of their harsh employers hardly leave them time to take care of themselves or of their dear ones -- but We refer to those especially who do not lack culture or talents and, indeed, are possessed of abundant knowledge regarding things of the world but live rashly and imprudently with regard to religion. It is hard to find words to describe how profound is the darkness in which they are engulfed and, what is most deplorable of all, how tranquilly they repose there. They rarely give thought to God, the Supreme Author and Ruler of all things, or to the teachings of the faith of Christ. They know nothing of the Incarnation of the Word of God, nothing of the perfect restoration of the human race which He accomplished. Grace, the greatest of the helps for attaining eternal things, the Holy Sacrifice and the Sacraments by which we obtain grace, are entirely unknown to them. They have no conception of the malice and baseness of sin; hence they show no anxiety to avoid sin or to renounce it. And so they arrive at life's end in such a condition that, lest all hope of salvation be lost, the priest is obliged to give in the last few moments of life a summary teaching of religion, a time which should be devoted to stimulating the soul to greater love for God. And even this as too often happens only when the dying man is not so sinfully ignorant as to look upon the ministration of the priest as useless, and then calmly faces the fearful passage to eternity without making his peace with God. And so Our Predecessor, Benedict XIV, had just cause to write: "We declare that a great number of those who are condemned to eternal punishment suffer that everlasting calamity because of ignorance of those mysteries of faith which must be known and believed in order to be numbered among the elect."[3]
3. Instit., 27:18.
EDIT: Didishroom, thank you so much for the article you've provided. It seems as though the CDF document, Dominus Iesus, explains the difference between the theological virtue of faith (necessary - along with charity - for salvation) and the beliefs held by other religions. Theological faith, "the acceptance of the truth revealed by the One and Triune God," necessarily includes belief in the Blessed Trinity and in the Incarnation. 
I conclude by agreeing with the decree of the Holy Office on January 25, 1703, in saying that the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation are "necessary by a necessity of means" (D 1349a/DS 2380). If they are necessary in order to be baptized, then it would seem that they are necessary in order to have the implicit desire for baptism, as mentioned in the Letter of the Holy Office to the Archbishop of Boston in 1949 (DS 3872).

You're very welcome. I'm glad someone got something out of it.
PastorAeternus Wrote:

Is explicit faith in our Lord necessary for salvation?

Invincible ignorance?  I'd say no, albeit those saved through ignorance would have had the Faith if they had heard it.  They also have an implicit desire to unite themselves to the true God.

This is really the only example of which I know.  Even baptism of desire requires an explicit faith in Christ.

We know it takes supernatural faith to be saved. I always thought the content of such was open to debate, though. I've seen some theories that it can be as basic as a belief that God punishes the guilty and rewards the just. I've also seen folks say that it at least takes a belief in the Trinity.
No you must have the Catholic Faith. St. Thomas Aquinas said(I'm paraphrasing here) that people aren't damned because of their unblief but sins can't be forgiven unless they believe. You're simply lacking something that can't be replaced.
didishroom Wrote:No you must have the Catholic Faith. St. Thomas Aquinas said(I'm paraphrasing here) that people aren't damned because of their unblief but sins can't be forgiven unless they believe. You're simply lacking something that can't be replaced.

I suppose this is directed to my post.

Letter of the Holy Office, August 8, 1949 Wrote: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 sacrament of penance (, 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.
Obviously someone who is invincibly ignorant does not have or know the faith.  I do not disagree with you that it is a necessity to have the Faith and to be a member of the Church if you hope to have any assurance of salvation.  However, you seem to be negating the doctrine of invincible ignorance.  From my perspective, you're saying "God won't hold the invincibly ignorant person culpable for their unbelief, but they'll be damned because they committed other sins."  This is not true, since a perfect contrition and implicit desire to be united to the true God will surely save the invinciby ignorant.

Quote:This is not true, since a perfect contrition and implicit desire to be united to the true God will surely save the invinciby ignorant.

Salvation is the work of God. What I don't understand is why God would chose to save some people without explicit faith in His Son. Of course, I don't need to understand it. But in light of the fact that there are varying views regarding predestination, for example, and the Church hasn't barred either a Molinist understanding or a more Thomistic, Augustinian understanding of election, we are free to wonder about these issues.

So I wonder, being of the Augustinian persuasion myself, why God would exercise His merciful option and save one of the otherwise justly damned and not infuse that heart and mind with explicit knowledge of His Incarnation and the great sacrifice He went through to effect that person's salvation on the cross. I mean, if salvation is the work of God, why wouldn't He set it up so that those He is going to gratuitously choose to save in His supreme mercy are those whom He has also given explicit knowledge of His Church and His Son, or at least had them baptized in accordance with His edict in John 3:5 ('unless a man is born of water and the spirit . . . "). For example, if everyone who is saved is saved by God's election, why wouldn't He elect to put them in the Church that He has endowed with the truth of His salvation, and save them as members of that Church - as baptized members, not as being "inside" without being baptized members? If He is electing, why wouldn't He elect to save them in the fullness of truth, in the Church He has established as His body, since He could place those souls He wishes to save anywhere in place or time?

I'm struggling to formulate this on the fly, but my thinking is thus: God has determined whom He is going to save as His own, bought then with His supreme price. Why would He save them outside His Church? Or, stated differently, since the thinking seems to be that He saves some and incorporates them inside His Church without filling them with knowledge of His glorious salvation plan, i.e. knowledge of His incarnation, knowledge of the sacrifice of His precious blood, knowledge of His crowning beauty and glory, the Blessed Mother . . . why would He have gone through so much and established such a wondrous and glorious design such as the gospel and then elect to save some without utilizing the very beautiful truths that cost Him so much as the means to do so? Especially when He could simply elect and decide to save them, all He wished to save, as baptized Catholics fully sharing in His glorious truth in all its fullness?

Why establish a true Church and then bother to save someone "outside" it? Oh, I know that the thought is that those who die with perfect contrition and implicit desire are "inside" the Church. But, as one who adopts an Augustinian view of election, I cannot help but wonder why would God would elect to save one of His elect in an "implicit" state when he could simply have placed them in the fullness of truth, where He desires them all to be.

As I said, I was thinking on the fly here and apologize for the stream of consciousness nature of this. I'll try to refine it some time later.


Umm can we get any other sources other than the ambiguous unofficial letter signed by a simple notary of the Holy Office that has no binding effect on dogma whatsoever?

Please read the article I posted before where it deals with the issue we are discussing.
didishroom Wrote:Umm can we get any other sources other than the ambiguous unofficial letter signed by a simple notary of the Holy Office that has no binding effect on dogma whatsoever?

Please read the article I posted before where it deals with the issue we are discussing.

Notary?  I see "F. Cardinal Marchetti-Selvaggiani" and "A. Ottaviani, Assessor" as the signatories.  Both of whom were the top officials in the Holy Office during the pontificiate of Pius XII.  And this letter was released by the Archbishop of Boston.  If it was forged, I'm sure the Holy Office would have made note of it at the time.

Its the Holy Office who determines what defines "doctrine".  Last time I checked, all its decisions were binding...They're responsible for determining how doctrines are interpreted; not lay persons.
I did not say it was a forgery.

But the Holy Office is not infallible.

And if that's the only source that a person who doesn't even know of Jesus can be saved than it is highly suspicious this theory is a complete novelty.

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