September 7, 2009
vol 20, no. 250

Nascent Feeney

Reply to A Reply to a Liberal

    Initially, though the denials of Baptism of Blood and Desire were only hinted at, with the St. Benedict's Center's very first attempts at defining their position publicly, they revealed how their arguments were not only not on firm ground, but exhibited the kind of pessimistic thinking upon which those denials were based. This is fully evidenced in their treatise they entitled, "Reply to a Liberal." It's time to turn the tables and provide a traditional reply to a Feeneyite Reply to a Liberal in exposing the ignorance of those who hold mere ignorance itself to be sufficient cause for damnation

      "This claim of course is what really lies at the heart of what Fr. Feeney and his St. Benedict's Center's take on 'no salvation outside the Church' really means. This is what all Catholics of true piety, Ancient Fathers, Doctors, Popes, Councils, Theologians, Catechisms, and all other saints and mystics, all find so abominable about the St. Benedict Center teaching, or would if they had encountered it. It is also precisely what is so seductive about their error/heresy. The very thought of actually embracing such a hideous iniquity cannot fail to clench the heart with that 'burning in the bosom' one gets as the result of taking such a maliciously criminal step."

    Part 1 of this series discussed scholastic dishonesty in a general manner to show how quotes from the authoritative sources can be made to sound as if they have stated unreasonable propositions which they themselves obviously wouldn't. Parts 2 through 12 of this series addressed Peter Dimond's treatise, "Outside the Catholic Church There is Absolutely No Salvation," thus exposing the flagrant scholastic dishonesty which is required in order to deny the Catholic doctrines of Baptism of Blood, and of Desire (hereinafter called BOB and BOD), both explicit and implicit. But of course Peter Dimond's work is only the latest (and admittedly one of the most thorough) attempts at propping up what is at its base a patently false doctrine. With Part 13, this series entered a new round in which the work of those other than the Dimonds will be addressed. Part 13 itself addressed the seminal volume, Bread of Life written by Fr. Leonard Feeney himself. While that volume is generally taken to be the first official declaration of his position (it was first fully matured there), it is not the first appearance of his error/heresy in the public forum in modern times.

    That distinction belongs to Fakhri Maluf (later known as "Brother Francis") who wrote a piece titled "Sentimental Theology." As the relevant details of that article in "From the Housetops" were already adequately addressed in Installment 11a, they are not being further looked at here. The errors of Fr. Feeney and his St. Benedict's Center were only most barely hinted at, but they were there, as I showed. This was soon followed up with "Liberal Theology and Salvation" by Raymond Karam (which I still have not seen and therefore cannot address in detail), which was responded to by Fr. Philip Donnelly. Raymond Karam then responded to Fr. Donnelly's response with his "Reply to a Liberal" and this is widely available today.

    Back in Installment 11a I demonstrated that Reply to a Liberal most certainly does contain enough for the Holy Office to object to. It was not the "No Salvation Outside the Church" doctrine itself as customarily taught that was opposed by Abp. Cushing or by the Holy Office or by His Holiness Pope Pius XII, but rather the unique and patently erroneous take on it as published in then current issues of From the Housetops (other articles of less note contained therein also hinted of their unique spin on the doctrine, but we won't be looking at any of those). But what about the supposed evidences put forth within Reply to a Liberal itself in support of its unique teachings? That is the object of this installment. So let us begin stepping through Reply to a Liberal.

    Reply to a Liberal is organized into three main parts, preceded by an introduction, and followed by a short conclusion. In the Introduction, we are treated to a full copy of Fr. Donnelly's piece, "Some Observations on the Question of Salvation Outside the Church," which is criticized most ruthlessly. Well, it was the very first response to the error/heresy posed by the St. Benedict's Center and Fr. Feeney, and expecting it to contain the thoroughness of response as demonstrated (for example) within this series, is like expecting the paramedic who first arrives on the scene to be fully trained and equipped to perform every possible needed surgical operation right there on the spot. Fr. Donnelly therefore has the distinction of having been the "first responder" to the spiritual (instead of medical) crisis generated by the St. Benedict's Center. As such, of course it is not going to be of the quality of any of the later responses that would come to be made over the years, but it did serve to initiate a long chain of theological responses to the teachings of the St. Benedict's Center.

    The Introduction to Reply to a Liberal contains in full the article by Fr. Donnelly. Looking at his short article, it is obvious that Fr. Donnelly, when preparing his response, simply consulted a couple standard seminary texts that were current in the Jesuit Seminary in Weston. From what I can see of Fr. Donnelly's piece, his texts addressed the question in about as much depth and detail as the Henry Davis, S.J. text, Moral and Pastoral Theology - In Four Volumes as I provided in full in Installment 12a. In short, Caperan and Fr. Riccardo Lombardi barely scratch the surface of this Church teaching. Apparently, he couldn't find anything else, especially in English (a pity he did not have on hand Msgr. Pohle's work, The Sacraments - A Dogmatic Treatise, which explains the doctrine in the most excruciating detail as has ever been done in English with the Church's official voice). So he made do with what he had. And what he had wasn't so bad.

    Fr. Donnelly's first point was from the Council of Trent which infallibly taught that justification, the transition from death to life, can be had by the laver of regeneration (water baptism) or by the desire thereof, explicitly granting the Church teachings of BOB and BOD. Either Liberal Theology and Salvation failed to mention Fr. Feeney's distinct claim that dying justified is no guarantee of salvation, or else that point failed to register when Fr. Donnelly read it. Without such a claim with which to slip and slide out of the plain meaning of Trent, Trent itself should have been enough to silence the St. Benedict's Center forever. As we have seen in previous installments (11a and 13), Reply to a Liberal and Bread of Life would go on to postulate this claim in some detail. He also mentions a few papal declarations that have already been explored here in far more detail in Installment 6.

    The Reply piece (which is what I shall call Reply to a Liberal from this point on) complains that "Those who read my article in the last issue must have noticed the long line of authorities quoted in support of the often-defined dogma that no person can attain eternal salvation unless, before he dies, he becomes a member of the Roman Catholic Church. The priest who attempts to refute my article never refers to the authorities I quoted. He ignores them." Well, as Fr. Feeney's followers themselves would frequently go on to point out, it doesn't matter what some particular Father or Doctor states, since any of them could be wrong about some isolated point, but rather, it matters what the Church teaches. Fr. Donnelly goes straight to the heart of the matter by providing what the Church teaches, from a couple of Her official seminary texts, from the Council of Trent, and from the declarations of the Pope. That the quotes of the Fathers and Doctors might be false or misrepresentations of their actual teaching either did not occur to Fr. Donnelly, or else mention of that unsightly fact did not seem to be warranted, so he passed over it in silence.

    After Fr. Donnelly prepared his response, an editor added the point that, as was just then reported in a newspaper, the current pope Pius XII had just given a speech which contained some points germane to this issue, and the teaching of the Pope is given, as quoted in the newspaper. The Reply piece gets downright nasty in its attack on this editorial addition: "Is this the way a Catholic is expected to know the revealed and defined truths of his Faith? Since when does a teacher of Dogmatic Theology have to depend on the good pleasure and honesty of newspapers in order to know what is the Catholic Faith and what he is supposed to teach? And what about the generations of Catholics who lived before the September 6th, 1948 issue of The New York Times? Was it impossible for them to have known the unadulterated Catholic truth? Does Father Donnelly prepare his course in Dogmatic Theology dependently on how a newspaper quotes or misquotes some radio address of the Pope? Or is it that the techniques of our advanced and progressive century require the introduction of a course on Journalism as an indispensable part even of the theological training of our priests? We writers in From the Housetops, who are full of a "spirit of smug Protestant righteousness," according to Father Donnelly, may be greatly misinformed, but no news from Rome has reached us as yet announcing a papal definition of the infallibility of newspapers!"

    Even by then, the attitude of those at the St. Benedict's Center was plainly quite ugly, as the below-the-belt sarcasm of the above quote amply demonstrates. "Infallibility of newspapers," indeed! Do you notice also the suggestion being made that the Pope was then saying something new? As if the September 6th, 1948 issue of The New York Times were revealing some hitherto unknown truth of the Church, without which all the generations of Catholics living before it could not have the unadulterated Catholic truth. They might as well have called His Holiness Pope Pius a heretic to his face! So much for the Introduction.

    The first part dives straight into not a response to Fr. Donnelly, but rather to an obscure French writer by the name of Fr. Jean-Vincent Bainvel, a Jesuit who had written a book titled "Is There Salvation Outside the Catholic Church?" Before leaving the first paragraph, Bainvel is accused of scholastic dishonesty in supposedly misquoting Pope Pius IX, and then again of misquoting St. Augustine. Of course at this point the accusation is merely vaguely made with no specific citations, though later on one supposed misquotation of Pope Pius IX is presented, but of any others nothing is ever said.

    Fr. Bainvel's work only most barely mentions BOB and explicit BOD, but is principally concerned with the mystery of Implicit BOD. He turns aside from some simplistic explanations put forth by some lesser speculative theologians, exposing their weaknesses, thus clearing the way for him to put forth his own theory. The ideas put down were those of membership in the soul of the Church as though that were some distinct organization from the visible Church, and membership in the visible Church being itself merely commanded by way of precept only. It is of course a matter for theologians to argue as to whether his solution bears any real superiority to those he refuted.

    Is Fr. Bainvel, as evidenced in his book, Is There Salvation Outside the Catholic Church, a liberal as Raymond Karam claims in his Reply piece? From what I have seen of those in the St. Benedict's Center, anyone who allows for anyone at all that is not actually water-baptized and in good standing with the visible Church to be anything but damned is a "liberal." However, one does find a few subtle liberalisms within Bainvel's work. For example, he uses the phrase "Separated brethren" to refer to baptized non-Catholics (i. e., Protestants), which anticipates the use of the same phrase in the documents of Vatican II.

    Be all that as it may, the accusation is made that Bainvel has engaged in scholastic dishonesty. Of course we must know by now that even if that were true, such an accusation would merely be the pot calling the kettle black. But is it? Only one quote actually get's "exposed" within the Reply piece, namely that of Pope Pius IX, when he writes "it must likewise be held as certain that those who are affected by ignorance of the true religion, if it is invincible ignorance, are not subject to any guilt in this matter before the eyes of the Lord." Bainvel quotes this statement thus: "It must be equally held as certain, that ignorance of the true faith, if it be invincible, excuses one from all fault in the eyes of the Saviour."

    The Reply piece rakes Bainvel over the coals for having quoted the Pope as stating that invincible ignorance "excuses one from all fault," where, if this translation had been more careful, it would have rendered the phrase "Excuses one from any fault in this matter." One must admit that a careless reading of what could be called a careless translation could make it out that ignorance of the Faith automatically excuses ALL sin, and not merely the failure to practice a Faith of which one has heard no detail. But does Bainvel advance such a claim?

    Clearly Bainvel does not believe that ignorance of the Faith excuses one from ALL guilt of any kind, for he makes it clear that the soul in question must have a specific will towards God, even the God of Whom he knows nothing. How many such souls, physically separated from the Church, might actually have this intention? "Certainly no one is saved who dies in enmity with God; no one is saved who dies in unrepentant personal sin; no one is saved without faith." So often language about how "the heathens are saved" by some means fails to mention, taking as assumed, that it is not claiming that all heathens are automatically saved, but that of all the heathens, whatever few who actually are saved would be saved by the means mentioned.

    So why bring in Bainvel at all? Fr. Donnelly never mentions him. And Bainvel does not appear to be any major theologian of note. From what I can see, it seems that the one reason to mention Bainvel is for this one "misquote" of Pope Pius IX that can be demonstrated to great effect within the Reply piece, and making him into the ultimate whipping boy to bring in from time to time when the argument does not seem to be going very well. He had to be brought in because Caperan and Fr. Riccardo Lombardi don't have any such misquotes.

    Having introduced Bainvel, the Reply piece goes on to state that "Liberal theologians give the impression that the dogma that 'Outside the Church there is no Salvation' is still a question under debate." No, it is only the St. Benedict's Center who suddenly come along and attempt to turn a long settled issue (last argued during the time of Peter Abélard) into a "question under debate." Speculative theologians (including Bainvel) might well have argued over the "mechanics" or "how" of implicit BOD, but not a one of them ever questioned the fact of it. The Reply piece states that:

Father Bainvel, S. J., is guilty of the same inconsistency. He says that it is against the teaching of the Church to say that a person can be saved by good faith alone, or by belonging to the soul of the Church, or by belonging to the invisible Church.

    But of course, as I just stated, Bainvel rejects these speculative explanations for implicit BOD merely in favor of his own explanation. He is not in any way rejecting implicit BOD itself in any way. "Now, I ask Father Bainvel, what is the use of asserting a dogma of the Faith if a BUT is going to undo it?" Given that Fr. Bainvel himself had already passed away in 1937, it seems rather moot to inquire of him. However, dogmas of the Faith are always full of such "buts." Taking of human life is the mortal sin of murder, BUT doing so in cases of immediate self-defense, or at the command of a nation's army in a just war, is not a sin. The seeking of sexual pleasure is always a sin, BUT a husband and wife married to each other may do what is necessary to beget children, and may even derive pleasure from the process. The Father is God, and so is the Son and the Holy Ghost, BUT the Father is not the Son and neither of Them is the Holy Ghost.

    So by the same token, the only thing a person can do to be saved is to join the Church, which is done by water baptism, BUT the mercy of God can (and does) extend to those who seek to serve Him and have through no fault of their own failed to arrive at water baptism. At this point is the above mentioned "misquote" of Pope Pius IX given, followed by yet another supposed "misquote":

Father Donnelly renders the above passage of Pius IX in this way: "Who would dare claim to be able to assign limits to such ignorance when he reflects on the diversity he sees among peoples, etc. . . . " What the Holy Father is warning us not to do is exactly what Father Donnelly is doing, namely, he is intimating that anyone can easily judge that there are many more people who are invincibly ignorant than we would think there are, by reflecting on the diversity that can be seen among peoples, regions, temperaments, etc. Pope Pius IX is warning us, on the contrary, not to judge of the invincible ignorance of people according to such superficial and sociological norms as diversity of peoples and customs.

    There is nothing in the papal quote, as given to support the claim that the Pope is warning against such reflection, as indeed by this reference it is clear that he himself has just been engaging in it. One cannot speak of the results of making a "reflection" without having made the reflection itself. Now it is true that the Pope does state later in the same paragraph that "to seek to penetrate further is not permitted," but that isn't given here in the Reply piece, and furthermore what he did warn against was not such reflection as he had obviously just performed, but rather against attempts to set limits as to "how far from God can a soul be and yet still be saved," or "how good is good enough," or to presume upon the salvation of any individual who has not at least an explicit BOD or BOB or outright membership in the Church through water baptism. So Fr. Donnelly has in no way misquoted the Pope. Neither did he misquote the Pope in the following:

The second mistranslated passage is the following: Father Donnelly claims that Pope Pius IX says: "For God, who sees distinctly, who searches into and knows the mind, spirit, habits and thoughts of all men, would never of His supreme goodness and mercy permit anyone to be punished eternally unless he had incurred the guilt of voluntary sin."

    Of course, what Pope Pius IX stated and intended to state is precisely what Fr. Donnelly claims he wrote, and was said with the fullest weight of his Papal authority and teaching office. To teach the contrary would be to accuse God of great injustice. Interestingly here, the Reply piece can propose no alternate reading of the papal passage, for what it says is what the Pope really said. Yet it has an issue with that teaching. Obviously, those at the St. Benedict's Center really DO believe that God actually would punish eternally those who had incurred no guilt of voluntary sin.

    This claim of course is what really lies at the heart of what Fr. Feeney and his St. Benedict's Center's take on "no salvation outside the Church" really means. This is what all Catholics of true piety, Ancient Fathers, Doctors, Popes, Councils, Theologians, Catechisms, and all other saints and mystics, all find so abominable about the St. Benedict Center teaching, or would if they had encountered it. It is also precisely what is so seductive about their error/heresy. The very thought of actually embracing such a hideous iniquity cannot fail to clench the heart with that "burning in the bosom" one gets as the result of taking such a maliciously criminal step.

    Where saints who speak of the fewness of the saved mourn this fact with the heaviest of hearts, those of the St. Benedict's center embrace this fact with almost sadistic glee. In other words, damnation is not about punishment for having done wrong (for even the innocent are damned, in their way of thinking), but about how everyone except "WE," the elect, the chosen, the few, shall all fry, even for no reason, whilst WE shall repose equally eternally in idle comfort on a cloud. Perhaps if WE get bored some day WE can go and watch them burning for OUR amusement.

    Now, the Reply piece does go on to speak about Limbo, but does so mutilating the Catholic teaching about it into something unrecognizable. For Limbo is not about punishment, but about the natural and logical result of a being which is bereft of the Supernatural gift, and yet also guilty of no sin. It is the perfect "neutral" state of neither punishment nor reward, but of simple comfort. Now there is no clearer sign of the Supernatural life than for one to find the thought of an eternity without sight of God intolerable, and to whom any additional pain of sense could only add most trivially to his suffering.

    But to the souls actually in Limbo this loss is felt as nothing. To them it is no more missed that it would be for a dog, well-fed and utterly safe and lying in the sun, to miss not knowing all the wonderful things we humans are privileged to know about. By all evidences, Limbo really is "a dog's life," and a most comfortable one at that. To have had any gift of the Supernatural God, one could never be happy in that state, but can be happy only in the sight of God. To have the gift of Faith is to end up with either the supernatural joy of Heaven or the supreme sorrow in Hell. And to have that supernatural Faith but not merit Heaven is indeed to be actually punished, but that is always for actual, voluntary fault.

    The Reply piece then goes on to fault Fr. Donnelly for not having used any but the recent theologians Caperan and Fr. Riccardo Lombardi. This of course is what we call insinuation, namely the suggestion, without actually ever quite stating, that perhaps if Fr. Donnelly had turned to older sources, such as Ancient Fathers or Medieval Popes, he might have come to a different conclusion. The cleverness of insinuation however is that, since it never actually quite stated that one would get different answers from what was known to Caperan and Fr. Riccardo Lombardi, you can't exactly call it wrong when the ancient sources fail to differ from the more recent theologians as such insinuations would suggest.

    Part two opens with a quote from Fr. Donnelly: "The first point to be made is that the formula "extra ecclesiam nulla salus" must not be understood in the sense that salvation is impossible for any one who does not believe explicitly in the Catholic Church, and does not accept all the revealed truths proposed by her for belief." While it would be more precise for him to have said, "who has not believed…has not accepted" since there must be always made the distinction between those who have consciously rejected something versus those who have accidently omitted something. However, the one limitation with that rendering is that it would put their omission wholly in the past where in fact there could still be those who are continuing to make this omission through no fault of their own, hence his use of "does not." Clearly, Fr. Donnelly intended this distinction when he went on to say:

He likewise teaches in the same place that only those who are "contumaciter" and "pertinaciter" divided from the Church cannot be saved outside the Catholic Church, and that those who contumaciously resist her authority and definitions and "who obstinately remain separated from the unity of that Church and from Peter's successor, the Roman Pontiff - to whom the custody of the vine was entrusted by our Savior - cannot obtain eternal salvation." (Denz. 1677.)

    Of course this distinction is not pointed out in the Reply piece (apart from where Fr. Donnelly's paper is given in full), and the intention is that the reader is to believe that Fr. Donnelly is treating such ignorance as automatically salvific. If a person knows that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the actual Creator, and that He and His Church teach the dogma of the Trinity, but reject it nevertheless, I don't see how such an action could be anything but culpable and such a person doing that cannot have an implicit BOD. But a person might not have even heard of the dogma of the Trinity, or else not heard of it ever being presented in any convincing or persuasive sense.

    Picture for example (and I speak from experience) the devout Jehovah's Witness who has had it drilled in his head all the zillions of Scriptural reasons why the teaching of the Holy Trinity could not possibly be true. And furthermore it really doesn't help that one really does have to be Sherlock Holmes in order to find the Trinity in Scripture since the teaching, so centrally important, is rather ironically only most glancingly hinted at. If only Scripture could have been more clear about it Arius would never have gotten his claims off the ground. From this standpoint things would have to seem thus: That some yoyo out yonder, centuries after the coming of Christ, invents this idea of a Divine Trinity whole cloth out of nothing, with no possible intent but to make the concept of God hopelessly confusing and repulsive, and somehow this idea takes the whole world (and church) by a storm, with only the rarest voices (e. g. Arius, or Michael Servetus who was burned slowly to death by Calvin) to point out the obvious absurdity of it all.

    Now of course, Charles Russell and those before him of like mind most certainly are to be blamed for maliciously denouncing and concocting polemic arguments against the known, proven, and in their era, universally accepted dogma of the Trinity. But those born and raised in this society know nothing of this malice. They faithfully pass on the tradition as given to them, not knowing that those before them failed to do the same, thus rendering that which they convey worthless. Now for myself, I really could not feel that I had the life of God in me during my sojourn with the Jehovah's Witnesses since their peculiar doctrines were of particular appeal to the atheist in me (for I had come from that background and at that time still largely saw things in that perspective), and that "atheist" only died upon my departure from their company.

    But can I be certain that every other individual Jehovah's Witness was in exactly the same spiritual state as myself? For some, already acquainted with a Trinitarian faith, having been brought up in some other sect and then having merely been intellectually persuaded (deceived) out of it, did seem to possess some ineffable quality which I did not, something that in hindsight I would have to recognize as a kind of piety or reverence. Perhaps it would be in something very small, in a mother reminding her daughters to bow their heads when praying, or the way someone might cringe at the hearing of an irreverent joke. Who is to say that there couldn't be among them some few who really did have a love for God and a desire to serve God (implicit BOD), and it is only propaganda and deception, for which they themselves are not to blame and of which they are simply the victims, that keeps them from coming to the Church?

    The Reply piece presents a quote from St. Thomas Aquinas as thus:

St. Thomas Aquinas, the official teacher of Catholic Doctrine, on the authority of the Apostle (Heb. XI, 6): "Without faith it is impossible to please God," says that faith in truths revealed by God is absolutely necessary for salvation. Moreover, implicit faith is not enough, nor is it possible to have implicit faith in some truth if one does not hold explicitly other truths. "Therefore, as regards the primary points or articles of faith, man must believe them explicitly, just as he must have faith."

    Now, according to St. Thomas, what are the primary points or articles of Faith which must be believed explicitly by a man who wishes to be saved? They are (besides the belief that God is, that He is a rewarder and a punisher): (a) explicit faith in the mystery of the Incarnation, and all the points which are related to it which are found in the Creed; and (b) explicit faith in the Trinity, and in all the points related to it which are found in the Creed. Saint Thomas speaks as follows:

    After the Incarnation, all men, if they wish to be saved, are "bound to explicit faith in the mysteries of Christ, chiefly as regards those which are observed throughout the Church and publicly proclaimed, such as the articles that refer to the Incarnation." And, after the Incarnation, all men, in order to be saved, "are bound to explicit faith in the mystery of the Trinity."

    Question 2 of the second part of the second part of the Summa consists of 10 articles, of which 3 and 5 through 8 have bearing on this issue. Article 3 discusses whether it is necessary for salvation to believe in anything above natural reason; Article 5 discusses whether it is necessary for salvation to believe certain things explicitly; Article 6 (passed over in silence within the Reply piece) discusses whether all are equally bound to explicit faith; Article 7 discusses whether explicit faith in Christ is always necessary for salvation; and Article 8 discusses whether it is necessary for salvation to believe in the Trinity explicitly. Now, one would think, from the summary of St. Thomas Aquinas given in the Reply piece, that no one could ever be saved under any circumstance unless they know about and believe explicitly in the Mysteries of the Incarnation and of the Trinity. But St. Thomas makes no such conclusion. Within Article 7 St. Thomas writes (within his "I answer that..." portion) "After grace had been revealed, both learned and simple folk are bound to explicit faith in the mysteries of Christ, chiefly as regards those which are observed throughout the Church, and publicly proclaimed, such as the articles which refer to the Incarnation."

    The first phrase gives it away right there, "After grace had been revealed..." Grace was revealed to the Jews with the coming of Christ, and to others with the coming of the missionaries, and perhaps in some rare cases with some direct revelation. And again notice the point about these things being observed and publicly proclaimed throughout the Church. For 1,450 years after Pentecost, the Americas could only have had some few individuals with some direct revelation. There was there no institutional Church to observe, enforce, impose, or proclaim such revealed truths to anyone there. In other words, Grace was not revealed to Native Americans as a society until many centuries long after it was revealed to (most of) the rest of the world. Now it may well be a valid question as to whether grace could be received even where it has not been revealed, but that is well beyond the scope of this series to explore. And again in Article 8, the Trinity is necessarily implied only by the belief in Christ and His Mysteries. Finally, Article 6 does seem worth presenting in full, for it shows that St. Thomas most certainly did make allowances for those of lesser knowledge (capacity to learn, as well as access to the Gospel):

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica II-II, Q. 2: Article 6. Whether all are equally bound to have explicit faith?

Objection 1. It would seem that all are equally bound to have explicit faith. For all are bound to those things which are necessary for salvation, as is evidenced by the precepts of charity. Now it is necessary for salvation that certain things should be believed explicitly. Therefore all are equally bound to have explicit faith.

Objection 2. Further, no one should be put to test in matters that he is not bound to believe. But simple reasons are sometimes tested in reference to the slightest articles of faith. Therefore all are bound to believe everything explicitly.

Objection 3. Further, if the simple are bound to have, not explicit but only implicit faith, their faith must needs be implied in the faith of the learned. But this seems unsafe, since it is possible for the learned to err. Therefore it seems that the simple should also have explicit faith; so that all are, therefore, equally bound to have explicit faith.

On the contrary, It is written (Job 1:14): "The oxen were ploughing, and the asses feeding beside them," because, as Gregory expounds this passage (Moral. ii, 17), the simple, who are signified by the asses, ought, in matters of faith, to stay by the learned, who are denoted by the oxen.

I answer that, The unfolding of matters of faith is the result of Divine revelation: for matters of faith surpass natural reason. Now Divine revelation reaches those of lower degree through those who are over them, in a certain order; to men, for instance, through the angels, and to the lower angels through the higher, as Dionysius explains (Coel. Hier. iv, vii). On like manner therefore the unfolding of faith must needs reach men of lower degree through those of higher degree. Consequently, just as the higher angels, who enlighten those who are below them, have a fuller knowledge of Divine things than the lower angels, as Dionysius states (Coel. Hier. xii), so too, men of higher degree, whose business it is to teach others, are under obligation to have fuller knowledge of matters of faith, and to believe them more explicitly.

Reply to Objection 1. The unfolding of the articles of faith is not equally necessary for the salvation of all, since those of higher degree, whose duty it is to teach others, are bound to believe explicitly more things than others are.

Reply to Objection 2. Simple persons should not be put to the test about subtle questions of faith, unless they be suspected of having been corrupted by heretics, who are wont to corrupt the faith of simple people in such questions. If, however, it is found that they are free from obstinacy in their heterodox sentiments, and that it is due to their simplicity, it is no fault of theirs.

Reply to Objection 3. The simple have no faith implied in that of the learned, except in so far as the latter adhere to the Divine teaching. Hence the Apostle says (1 Corinthians 4:16): "Be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ." Hence it is not human knowledge, but the Divine truth that is the rule of faith: and if any of the learned stray from this rule, he does not harm the faith of the simple ones, who think that the learned believe aright; unless the simple hold obstinately to their individual errors, against the faith of the universal Church, which cannot err, since Our Lord said (Luke 22:32): "I have prayed for thee," Peter, "that thy faith fail not."

    Even before introducing this St. Thomas quote, the Scriptural passage in St. Mark is quoted and brought in. Now this passage in St. Mark reads, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned." (Mk. 16:16) Looking at this passage closely, there is an axis of belief versus disbelief, and another axis of being baptized versus being unbaptized. This makes for four categories of these two separate criteria. It is simpler to explain if we diagram this out:

    As can be seen, the scriptural passage addresses only three of the four categories, the three simple ones of which simple absolutes can be declared. Those who believe and are baptized (one category) are simply saved. Those who do not believe (whether baptized or not, two categories) are damned. But of those who believe but are not baptized, this passage has nothing to say. The Saint Benedict's Center "resolves" this by declaring arbitrarily that all within the Believing and Unbaptized category are also damned under all circumstances. But neither Scripture nor the Church has ever propounded such an absurdity.

    Obviously, the Believing and Unbaptized category is a complex case, for there could be a host of reasons why the person is not baptized, some culpable and some not, and culpability is an interior aspect, one the exterior and visible Church cannot judge nor make declarations regarding individual cases, apart from those whose guilt is self-confessed, or else whose faith is exteriorly proven through martyrdom. But clearly the Church has always accepted that those who believe, but who die unbaptized though no fault of their own (and God would of course know who that is), would be saved.

    But note again that I use here "disbelieving" and not "unbelieving," for the latter could be the result of circumstance (which may in some cases be inculpable), where the former is by definition culpable. Again, as Pope Pius IX clarified, God does not punish those not guilty of (unforgiven) personal sin. Hence, while one could say that all disbelieving are damned, the same cannot be said of all unbelieving, but only some, namely those whose unbelief is actually disbelief. But of those whose unbelief is not having heard what to believe, or even not having had credibly presented with what to believe, they still have a chance, though many of these could still be damned for some other reasons.

    The central question of the opening portion of the second part of the Reply piece is the question of whether explicit belief in the Catholic Church and acceptance of all the revealed truths proposed by her is necessary for salvation. The view of the Church (and of Fr. Donnelly) is plain that for anyone to seek salvation, he must have this explicit belief or his seeking is in vain, however that for those who don't know even of the need to be saved, let alone the means of salvation, it is for God to decide upon whom He shall extend His mercy, and it is not for peons of the St. Benedict's Center to circumscribe the acts or mercy of God, as if they would actually say to God, "How dare You allow this person into Heaven! Why, he didn't even know about Your Church, let alone believe in it!"

    The Reply piece goes on to cite many passages from Fathers, Doctors, and Popes, and in all cases this crucial twofold distinction between "what we must believe and do to be saved" and "who God may choose to be merciful to" is at all points carefully blurred so as to confuse the reader and glean from these quotations meanings that their authors never intended. Let us look at a smattering of some of the various sorts of this deception:

St. Alphonsus Ligouri says that the motive for believing any truths of the Faith is that God, the Infallible Truth, has revealed them, and that the Church proposes them to our belief. Behold, then, how we should make an act of faith: "My God, because You, Who are the Infallible Truth, have revealed to the Church the truths of the Faith, I believe all that the Church proposes to my belief."

    St. Thomas says, commenting on the Apostles' Creed: No man can obtain the happiness of Heaven - which is the true knowledge of God - unless he know Him first by faith: "Blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed" (Jn. 20, 29).

    The Council of Trent, which Fr. Donnelly thinks is in his favor, teaches unmistakably: Indeed, since the Apostle said that man is justified by faith and freely (Rom. 3, 22-24), these words must be understood in that sense, which the perpetual consensus of the Catholic Church held and expressed, namely, that we are thus said to be justified by faith, since 'faith is the beginning of human salvation,' the foundation and root of every justification, 'without which it is impossible to please God ' (Heb. 11,6) and to come to the fellowship of His children. (Sess. VI, Chap. 8.)

    St. Robert Bellarmine, S. J., Doctor of the Universal Church, says at the very beginning of his Doctrina Christiana: We begin the exposition of the dogmas of the Faith of Christ, whose knowledge is necessary for every one who earnestly desires the salvation of his soul.

    Pope Pius IX, whose utterances have been so pitilessly mutilated and mistranslated by the liberals of our day, says in his Allocution Singulari Quadam: It is necessary that you inculcate this salutary teaching in the souls of those who exaggerate the power of human reason to such a point that they dare, by its power, to investigate and explain the mysteries themselves, than which nothing is more foolish, nothing more insane. Strive to call them back from such a perversity of mind, explaining indeed that nothing was granted to men by God's Providence more excellent than the authority of the divine faith, that this faith is to us like a torch in the darkness, that it is the leader that we follow to Life, that it is absolutely necessary for salvation, since "without faith it is impossible to please God," and "he that believeth not shall be condemned." (Mk. 16,16)

    Moreover, concerning explicit faith in the Incarnation and the Most Holy Trinity, Pope Innocent XI, in his condemnation of certain errors on moral questions, "Errores varii de rebus moralibus ," includes the following heretical proposition: (It is error to believe that) 64. A man is capable (capax) of absolution, however much he may labor in ignorance of the mysteries of the faith, and even though through negligence, be it even culpable, he does not know the Mystery of the Most Holy Trinity and of the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Concerning explicit faith in the Catholic Church and in her supremacy, the Council of Constance condemned the 41st proposition of John Wycliff in which this heretic said that it was not necessary for salvation to believe in the supremacy of the Roman Church.

    One should be able to see from these sampled quotes that, even as given in the Reply piece, they most certainly do not support the claims that Raymond Karam is making from them. Let us briefly walk through the above examples in detail.

    The St. Alphonsus Ligouri quote really has no bearing on the question at all, but appears to have been brought in for sheer bulk and "number of quotes." There is nothing in it to even suggest any of Karam's ideas, and nothing to deny or refute.

    The St. Thomas Aquinas and Council of Trent quotes speak of the necessity of "faith" which really is trust in God and obedience to Him, not to be confused with "the Faith," by which one refers to the doctrinal and moral content of what a Catholic is expected to have faith and believe in. As will be discussed a little later on, no one can know the whole of the Faith, of all there is to know, and likewise there can be no meaningful boundary one can arbitrarily draw at some point as a bare minimum for all men under all possible circumstances. "Faith," as mentioned here is about having faith and not being conversant in all the details of the Faith.

    The St. Robert Bellarmine quote is clearly directed towards what a person is to do to be saved, and just as clearly not directed towards what mercies God may display towards those limited in their circumstances in some serious way.

    Pope Pius IX is instructing the shepherds of the flock of God (bishops) to teach the Faith to the members of the flock, and of course for actual members of the flock, none of these BOB or BOD exigencies need even apply. One can say to the ignorant outsider "I pray that God will be merciful to you," but one cannot say to members of the flock "You have a right to the ignorance of the man for whom I prayed that God would be merciful to," for the members of the flock have no such right (and even for that man to whom it extends, it is not a "right" but a "mercy").

    As for the Pope Innocent XI quote, the phrase "even though through negligence, be it even culpable" gives it away as to what was actually heretical about the condemned proposition. Negligence is a serious matter, and culpability is inexcusable and damnable.

    The heretic John Wycliff was in heresy here not for claiming that a person could be saved though being ignorant of the Church's claims, but for teaching that Christians are free to deny the Church's claims.

    And yet, these sorts of quotes are presented as supposed "evidence" to the effect that all members of the ignorant multitudes of human history are all necessarily damned, as if all the great saints quoted seemed to have nothing better to do than sit around and carve up further and further categories of souls that cannot be saved.

    One more small selection of quotes has to do with the question of ignorance of the Faith:

In connection with the question of the necessity of the Catholic Faith for salvation, let me point out the fact that Fr. Donnelly and the other liberals quote texts without seeing that they can be easily turned against them. Thus, the Encyclical Quanto conficiamur by Pius IX is universally quoted by the liberals to support their doctrine that a man totally ignorant of the Catholic Faith can be saved. But what does Pius IX say?
It is known to Us and to you that those who labor under invincible ignorance of our holy religion, and who, zealously observing the natural law and its precepts engraven by God in the hearts of all, and who, prepared to obey God, lead an honest and upright life, are able, by the powerful workings of God's light and grace, to attain eternal life.

    This means that God, in His mercy, will find a way of enabling the man who is invincibly ignorant of the Church and who follows the natural law to achieve his salvation. But Pius IX nowhere says that this can be done without the Catholic Faith. On the contrary, he explicitly says, a few lines later, that it is a Catholic dogma that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church.

    Thus, God will find the way to enable that man to save his soul, and this way will be the Catholic Faith and the Catholic Church.

    What is more, in the very sentence which the liberals quote to support their false doctrine, Pius IX says that God will enable that man to attain eternal life, not by keeping him in his ignorance of the Faith, but by the workings of His light and grace. God must give sanctifying grace to a person before that person can be saved, and He never gives sanctifying grace apart from or even before the Catholic Faith. It is by enlightening the intellect that God gives us His Faith. Thus, to say that God gives His light to a person is the same as to say that He gives His Faith to that person. Thus, we speak of the "light of Faith."

    After a vacuous claim that Fr. Donnelly has misquoted the Pope (Pius IX), followed by the relevant quote of the Pope himself, the Reply piece purports to give us the secret meaning of "what the Pope really meant," though he didn't say it. The phrase "by the powerful workings of God's light and grace" is admittedly ambiguous, but this ambiguity is meant by the Pope to denote some range of possibilities as to how the soul in such a condition could attain eternal life. Obviously for them to become informed (and accept the information presented) as to the true nature and teachings of the Church would be one way. But had that been all that the Pope meant, then he would have worded it so. By using a broader and more vague and general phrase, the Pope is allowing for other means of grace to the soul in question, for example a simple and ready docility to the will of God, or adherence to what limited amount of Divine knowledge as the soul may actually encounter given its circumstance.

    For there can be no "bare minimum threshold" that a soul need know in order to be saved, no matter how much the Reply piece may attempt to make the knowledge of Christ and of the Trinity to be such. And even the most brilliant scholars and theologians cannot know everything there is to know about the Gospel since there is ever more to be discovered and explored, depth without end. Again, I raise the point that "to whom much is given, much is expected," so correspondingly to whom little is given little is expected. That little may be little indeed, in at least some cases, but in all cases "something" is expected however small it may be, some "Godward" direction or choice, or even (in the case of infants) something they themselves did not will or do, but what was done for them on their behalf, and if not rendered or else if given over to sin, only then can the soul be rightly spoken of as being "lost."

    The fact that the Pope goes on to reiterate the dogma that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church in no way diminishes this wide generality on his part. As the Pope just got through explaining, this broad capacity for God's light and grace to work is itself part of what the "no salvation outside the Church" dogma actually means, as always understood and taught by the Church in Her official capacity.

Griff L. Ruby

        For the next part, see Part 14 b of Nascent Feeney.

Griff's book is available from Books for $26.95 or can be read on-line at We at The Daily Catholic strongly urge you to share it with all you can for that could be the gentle shove that moves your friends back to where the True Faith resides forever, rooted in the Truths and Traditions of Holy Mother Church as Christ intended and promised.

Griff Ruby's STRAIGHT STUFF Tuesday, September 7, 2009, Volume 20, no. 250