Why do so many Catholics drop the ball when it comes to EENS?
This whole issue was dealt with in the following thread just a few weeks ago:


"Monsignor Joseph Clifford Fenton on the Singulari quadam" Wrote:(American Ecclesiastical Review, March 1948, pages 222-228, published by the Catholic University of America Press)

"During the earlier history of Christianity there was never anything like a concerted effort to explain away the necessity of the Church for salvation. Hence the Pontifical and Conciliar documents to which we have referred thus far dealt with what was, for the men of the times during which these documents were written, a truth that entered into the very center of the Catholic dogmatic message and which they had never seen. So unquestionable did this truth appear to the men of Christian civilization that the very heretics who broke away from and launched themselves against the Catholic communion never dreamed of denying the dogma of the Church’s necessity for salvation. The teaching occurs in the heresiarch Calvin’s Institutio christianae religionis[10] and in several Protestant statements of belief. Among these latter are the Belgic Confession of 1561,[11] the Scottish Confession of 1560,[12] the Irish Articles of Religion of 1615,[13] and the Westminster Confession of 1647.[14] The last-named document, incidentally, speaks of the visible Church as something outside of which there is ordinarily no salvation. This manner of speaking was and remains quite in harmony with the peculiar ecclesiology manifest in the Westminster Confession, although it is quite inadequate as an expression of the divinely revealed truth about the true Church of Jesus Christ.

During the nineteenth century, however, the traditional Catholic teaching on the necessity of the Church had become obscured or confused in some Catholic circles. Hence, Pope Pius IX found it necessary to insist upon this dogma and to take measures to overcome the misunderstanding generated by a somewhat naïve “Catholic liberalism.” His most extensive treatment of the dogma of the Church’s necessity is to be found in his Allocution, the Singulari quadam, pronounced on Dec. 9, 1854.

In this Allocution the Holy Father dealt with two distinct errors then troubling the minds of European Catholics. Having completed his teaching on rationalism, the first of these errors, he proceeded to deal with the other.

Not without sorrow have we seen that another error, and one not less ruinous, has taken possession of certain portions of the Catholic world, and has entered into the souls of the many Catholics who think that they can well hope for the eternal salvation of all those who have in no way entered into the true Church of Christ. For that reason they are wont to inquire time and time again as to what is going to be the fate and the condition after death of those who have never yielded themselves to the Catholic faith and, convinced by completely inadequate arguments, they expect a response that will favor this evil teaching. Far be it from Us, Venerable Brethren, to presume to establish limits to the divine mercy, which is infinite. Far be it from us to wish to scrutinize the hidden counsels and judgments of God, which are a “great deep,” and which human thought can never penetrate. In accordance with our apostolic duty, we desire to stir up your episcopal solicitude and vigilance to drive out of the mind of men, to the extent to which you are able to use all of your energies, that equally impious and deadly opinion that the way of eternal salvation can certainly be found in any religion. With all the skill and learning at your command, you should prove to the people committed to you care that this dogma of Catholic faith is in no way opposed to the divine mercy and justice.[15]

The basic approach of Pope Pius IX to the dogma of the Church’s necessity was such as to show very clearly that the great Pontiff regarded this particular truth as one about which the faithful should be particularly well informed. The contradiction, or even the weakening of this dogma must be regarded as an evil which the Bishops of the Catholic Church are bound to oppose with all the intellectual forces at their disposal. And, we must remember that the Holy Father was not dealing with any crass denial of the axiom “extra ecclesiam nulla sallas.” He was faced with a situation in which it was taken for granted that non-Catholics would be saved through the use of those spiritual resources available to them as non-members of the Church of Christ, apart from any real acceptance of the Catholic Faith or of the Catholic Church. It was precisely this attitude or opinion which Pius IX characterized as impious and deadly.

The Singulari quadam then goes on to give the fundamental explanation of that teaching which the Holy Father had commanded the Catholic Bishops to expound to their own flocks. They had been told those over whom they were placed that the Catholic dogma on the necessity of the Church for salvation was in no way opposed to the truths about the divine justice and mercy. They were to proceed in this fashion.

Certainly we must hold it as of faith that no one can be saved outside of the apostolic Roman Church, that this is the only Ark of Salvation, that the one who does not enter this is going to perish in the deluge. But, nevertheless we must likewise hold it as certain that those who labor in ignorance of the true religion, if that (ignorance) be invincible, will never be charged with any guilt on this account before the eyes of the Lord. Now who is there who would arrogate to himself the power to point out the extent of which ignorance according to the nature and the variety of peoples, regions, talents and so many other things? For really when, loosed from these bodily bonds, we see God as He is, we shall certainly understand with what intimate and beautiful a bond the divine mercy and justice are joined together. But, while we live on earth, weighed down by this mortal body that darkens the mind, let us hold most firmly out of the Catholic doctrine that there is one God, one faith, one baptism. It is wicked to go on inquiring beyond this.[16]

In this allocution the statement that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church is presented definitely as a matter of divine faith, as one of those truths which God has revealed to the world through Jesus Christ and which Our Lord teaches infallibly within the company of His disciples. Hence any attempt at explanation of this teaching which involves exceptions to or a denial of this absolute truth must be rejected as contrary to the divine teaching itself. Thus the statements which follow upon this basic pronouncement in the Singulari quadam definitely must not be interpreted as involving anything like a weakening of the dogma itself.

The second statement in the foregoing paragraph, the one to the effect that invincible ignorance of the true religion will not be accounted as an offense by God, was requisite for a proper explanation of the dogma in the time of Pope Pius IX, and it remains no less necessary in our own day. Acting upon a distinctively Protestant notion of God’s kingdom on earth, some of the enemies of the Catholic Church had misinterpreted the dogma of the Church’s necessity to mean that men would be considered blameworthy for invincible ignorance of the true Church. Such, of course, is not the true and traditional meaning of this dogma. Unfortunately, however, a certain number of Catholics had been uncritical enough to image that a straightforward explanation of this dogma would involve the blasphemous doctrine that men are blameworthy precisely by reason of their invincible ignorance. Pope Pius IX demanded that the Bishops of the Catholic Church exert themselves to drive this deadly misconception from the minds of their subjects. He attacked it, consequently, in his own Allocution.

The fact of the matter is, of course that the possibility and existence of a genuine invincible ignorance about the true Church of God has nothing whatsoever to do with the Church’s real necessity of means for eternal salvation. If the Church were requisite merely in terms of the necessity of precept, then the existence of a really inculpable ignorance with reference to it would automatically excuse all of those held in the ties of that ignorance. But it so happens that the Church is necessary for salvation with the necessity of means. Hence, those who have hitherto remained in ignorance of the true Church through no fault of their own still need this society in order to attain to the Beatific Vision.

In order to understand this portion of the Singulari quadam it is absolutely essential to keep in mind the truth which forms the essential background to all of the Catholic teaching about the necessity of the Church for salvation, the divinely revealed doctrine that the salvation of mankind is something intrinsically supernatural and something of which the family of Adam is rightly deprived because of original sin. For this twofold reason, then, eternal salvation must not be considered as something naturally due to man. Salvation, as the term itself indicates, implies a transfer from an undesirable status to a condition of blessedness. Concretely, the salvation of any human being involves a transfer from the fallen family of Adam to that company which is known as the Body of Jesus Christ.

The man who is not thus brought or transferred into the Body of Jesus Christ, but who remains merely a member of the fallen Family of Adam, will not attain to the Beatific Vision. Even though such a man has had no means of knowing the existence of the true Church of Jesus Christ, and consequently is in no way to blame for not entering this society or not even desiring to enter it, he will remain deprived of the Beatific Vision if he departs from this life in such a condition. The mortal sins which he many have committed in this life, together with original sin itself, would suffice to constitute him as unworthy of heaven. The fact that he had not been incorporated into the one supernatural society within which the divine fellowship is to be found in this world render him ineligible for the essentially supernatural beatitude of the Church triumphant.

As the Singulari Quadam reminds us quite forcibly, it remains true that no one can judge accurately about the extent and the location of the truly invincible ignorance with reference to the true Church of Christ in this world. Thus, to state the matter concretely, it is quite impossible for us to say whether or not some individual Protestant, living in a region where the Catholic Church flourishes, is invincibly ignorant of that Church by reason of his upbringing and his prejudices. As a matter of fact, such a judgment does not fall within our competence as preachers of Catholic truth. Actually we are and we remain the ambassadors of Christ, charged with the entirety of that message, which Jesus Christ teaches within our communion. The truth that the Catholic Church is actually requisite for eternal salvation forms an integral part of that message. The truth about the culpability or the lack of it in any outsider’s ignorance of the true Church is definitely not a part of the teaching with which we are entrusted. Consequently, as Pope Pius IX warns us, we are only abusing our commission when we attempt to form a judgment on such matters.

Actually the truth which God has in fact revealed on the subject of the Church’s necessity for salvation clearly implies the tremendous need for genuine apostolic activity on the part of all Catholics and especially on the part of the priests. It is the will of God that no man should be lost or deprived of eternal salvation. Yet, in the providence of God, no many will be saved outside of the Body of Christ which is the Catholic Church. It is within our power to bring the Church and its divine message to the peoples of the earth. Hence, if we should be lax in our apostolic endeavors, we must be considered as recreant in our love for and gratitude to Christ.

As a matter of fact the lax or “liberal” interpretation of the dogma concerning the Church’s necessity for salvation is essentially a screen for a tepid or non-existent missionary spirit. If the way of salvation were really open to men in all religions or in all religious societies, then there would certainly be no valid reason for pouring out the best blood of the Catholic Church in the never-ending effort to plant the company of Christ among the peoples of the world. The missionary labors of the Catholic Church are expended, not to bring about a mere improvement in the condition of people who would have been in a position to be saved in any event, but actually to carry the message and the means of salvation to those who sit in darkness. The work of converting men to the Church of Christ aims not at bringing an easier way of salvation but at bringing the very hope of salvation to the beneficiaries of Catholic preaching.

Those in whom God has implanted a sincere desire and prayer for the means of salvation will receive them: but they will receive them from the Church itself. Hence it is the duty of all those who have been favored by God with membership in the Church to do whatever is in their power to forward the apostolic work of Christ. Such is the teaching of the Singulari quadam.

For the rest, as the cause of charity demands, let us pour out continual prayers to God that all nations everywhere may be converted to Christ. And let us do all in our power to bring about the common salvation of men, for the hand of the Lord is not shortened and the gifts of heavenly grace will never be lacking to those who sincerely wish and pray to be comforted in this light. Truths of this kind must be most deeply implanted in the minds of the faithful so that they may not be corrupted by the false doctrines which tend to encourage the indifference to religion which we see slowly being spread abroad and strengthened to the ruin of souls.[17]

Any doctrine which, even under the pretense of explaining the axiom “extra ecclesiam nulla sallas,” actually presents the Catholic Church as an agency not really requisite for salvation is rightly designated by the Singulari quadam as fostering or inculcating religious indifferentism. For it is by no means characteristic of this indifferentism to say that one religion is as good as another. What is essential to it is the mistaken notion that man can achieve his ultimate end outside of and apart from the true Church of Jesus Christ.

Joseph Clifford Fenton
The Catholic University of America,
Washington D. C.

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Re: Why do so many Catholics drop the ball when it comes to EENS? - by lamentabili sane - 08-08-2009, 10:25 PM

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