"He then goes on to explain the function of the 'body' and the 'soul' that he has described as existing within the living body that is the true Church. He tells us that 'some are of the soul and of the body of the Church, and hence joined both inwardly and outwardly to Christ, the Head.' In other words, in this second chapter of the De ecclesia militante, 'soul' and 'body' are metaphorical names applied to two distinct sets of forces or factors that function as bonds of unity within the Church militant of the New Testament. A person who is what St. Robert calls 'de corpore ecclesiae' is one united to Our Lord in His Mystical Body by the profession of the true faith, access to the sacraments, and subjection to legitimate ecclesiastical authority. The individual who is 'de anima ecclesiae' is joined to Our Lord in His Church by all 'the internal gifts of the Holy Ghost,' or at least by genuine divine faith."
In this installment we jump from the introduction to the last chapter in Monsignor Clifford Fenton's book "The Catholic Church and Salvation" in order that some objections to the infallible teaching that it is possible for non-members of the Catholic Church to be saved within that Church, and that errors taught by Catholic writers in the century leading up to the death of Pope Pius XII can be addressed.
The primary objection this chapter answers is the misapplication of the terms "body" and "soul" when referring to the Catholic Church and her members. You'll note I touched on the renowned priest's explanation of this a few weeks ago in Father Fenton's "The Use of the Terms Body and Soul with Reference to the Catholic Church". It is indeed true that manuals with the imprimatur and or nihil obstat have indeed taught truth - that non-members can be saved - in an erroneous ways - by being a "member" in a broader sense of the classic definition of member and or by being member of a "broader" than the traditional infallible definition of the "Catholic Church".
There are additional errors that will be combatted in this book. Each of these errors has contributed to the Feeneyites belief that their interpretation of the "No Salvation Outside the Church" Dogma is the correct one. They correctly see the errors (specifically terms used in an erroneous way) in these manuals, and some of these errors did indeed slip into approved catechisms, and they therefore conclude that the infallible teaching that non-members can be saved is itself false. It is very easy to teach truth in an erroneous way. This is the case for the unschooled, but even the schooled have had difficulty with it. As we will see, the reason there was such difficulty with the proper understanding of this teaching was an unfortunate misunderstanding of what Saint Robert Bellarmine himself had taught. It initially was a very slight misunderstanding that gradually got twisted to the point where Catholic theologians were teaching the exact opposite of what Bellarmine taught. This is so ironic that it would be laughable, and Satan laughed very much at it I'm sure, were it not for the gravity of the subject. Add to that, those of bad will who willingly tried to undermine the Church's teaching with their insidious errors and the result is the aftermath that exploded upon us after Vatican "2".
In addition to the erroneous use of "body" and "soul" of the Church when describing the "Catholic Church" and her "members" there are several other errors that were more or less common in the century before the death of Pius XII and they are as follows:
(1) The denial of the doctrine itself. [Outside the Church there is no Salvation]
(2) The teaching that the dogma of the necessity of the Church for salvation admits of exceptions.
(3) The teaching that the Catholic Church is the "ordinary means" of salvation but some can be saved extraordinarily "outside" the Church.
(4) Several others to include, the idea that those who have gifts of grace, but are not members according to the infallible definition of the Church
really are members in some way; the visible Church itself is necessary for salvation only by necessity of precept; salvation within the true Church is only the "ideal" but that salvation can be obtained elsewhere and otherwise in special circumstances. [The above numbered errors are paraphrases from Father Fenton which we will delve into in future installments.]
(5) Lastly the error that the Mystical Body of Christ is composed of two Churches, one inward and one outward. This error especially relates to the improper use and or misunderstanding of the terms "body" and "soul" as they relate to the Church.
"Body and soul" is used to describe the inner and outward bond of ecclesiastical unity analogically; the inward bond of unity is not literally the "soul" of the Church and the outward bond of unity is not literally the "body" of the Church. Saint Robert Bellarmine described the Church itself as a "body" and the bad members of this Church as being "as it were, the body" of the Church. This will be clarified latter in this article.
The Catholic Church is One, she has both inward and outward bonds of unity. These bonds of unity (inward and outward) within the Mystical Body of Christ are not two distinct Churches. The Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope and Charity along with the other Gifts of the Holy Ghost and sanctifying grace itself are the inward bonds of unity within the Church. Partaking of the Sacraments, professing the Faith and submitting to legitimate ecclesiastical authority are the outward bonds of unity. Those who possess the latter (the outward bonds of unity) are the members of the Church though they may not be in a state of sanctifying grace [they may not have an essential inner bond of unity for salvation] and will be damned if they die in a state of unrepentant mortal sin. The former may not be members of the Church [do not have one or more of the outward bonds of unity] but can die in a state of sanctifying grace and be saved within the Church.
The key to understanding what the Mystical Body of Christ is is the fact that it is a visible body composed of members who partake of the Sacraments, profess the faith and submit to legitimate ecclesiastical authority. These are the only members of the Mystical Body of Christ on earth which is one and the same as the Roman Catholic Church. That being said, there are non-members united to this Church by [an] inward or invisible bond(s) of ecclesiastical unity which means, at the very least, they have the Divine Supernatural virtue of Faith though they can also have any of the other virtues and Gifts of the Holy Ghost. The people, who in addition to having the virtue of Faith also have perfect charity and possibly other virtues of the Holy Ghost are those who can be saved within the Church though they are not actual members until the moment of death. Only God can see their inner bond of unity within the One visible Roman Catholic Church despite their not actually being members of that Church. And it is He Who Judges them as being "within" that Church.
With that let us go into the clarification of the most commonly taught error regarding the Dogma "No Salvation Outside the Church" which is the improper use of the words "body" and "soul" with reference to both the Catholic Church and membership in that Church:
This book would not be complete without at least a quick indication of the historical accidents which have brought about inadequate and even inaccurate teachings about the Church's necessity for salvation in some sections of the popular Catholic literature of our day. It is quite evident to anyone who is well acquainted with popular Catholic writing during the past century that this dogma has been misunderstood and misinterpreted more extensively and more profoundly during this period than any other portion of Catholic teaching. Even today, after the appearance of the Mystici Corporis Christi, the Suprema haec sacra, and the Humani generis, we still sometimes encounter objectionable interpretations of this doctrine.
Most of the faulty explanations of this dogma stem from a lamentably inadequate notion of the Church itself. During the past century there have been a good many Catholic writers who could never seem to realize the complete truth of the doctrine that the visible Roman Catholic Church is actually the same thing as the Mystical body of Christ and the supernatural kingdom of God on earth. The lesson taught in the Mystici Corporis Christi and reiterated in the Humani generis was badly needed in the world of Catholic letters.
Now, it is quite apparent to any student of the history of sacred theology that there is no other section of the Catholic doctrine in which such widespread and profound misunderstanding occurred. There has been no such fairly widespread misinterpretation of revealed truth within, for instance, the confines of the treatises on the Blessed Trinity and the Incarnation. The fact that such a condition was possible on this particular subject, within the theological treatise on God's Church, certainly requires explanation. And the reason for this condition is quite manifest in the history or the treatise de ecclesia.
In the first place, it must be remembered that the theological treatise on the Church was one of the last sections of dogmatic theology to take scientific form. Scholastic theology has been studied intensively since the twelfth century. For all intents and purposes, the treatises which have been investigated and written up most perfectly were those contained in Peter the Lombard's Libri sententiarum and later in St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa theologica.
In the old scholastic arrangement of ecclesiastical studies there was at least as much about the Church in Gratian's Decretum as there was in the Four Books of Sentences or in the Summa theologica. And, under these old conditions, the nearest thing to a scholastic treatise on the Church was to be found incorporated into some occasional writing, like Moneta of Cremona's controversial work against the Waldensians and the Cathari or the Commentary on the Apostles' Creed by St. Thomas. The De regimini christiano by James of Viterbo came out at the very beginning of the fourteenth century. It was a complete book, but it was essentially and primarily polemical in purpose.
It was not until the middle of the fifteenth century that the first well-developed treatise on the Church in scholastic literature appeared. This was the famous Summa de ecclesia, written by the Dominican Cardinal John de Turrecremata. It too had a controversial objective, but it attained its purpose by means of a thorough scholastic study of what God has revealed about the nature and the characteristics of His kingdom on earth.
The Summa de ecclesia has always been a rare book. It was last published in Venice in 1561. It was never commented and explained in the way the Four Books of Sentences and the Summa theologica have been. If it had been used as a source book for a genuine study and development of the scholastic treatise on the Church, the history of this treatise would certainly have been different.
Actually the Summa de ecclesia was never used as it might have been and should have been because of the historical accident of the Reformation. Toward the end of the fifteenth century, the theologians of the Catholic Church became engaged in the most serious controversy that has ever centered around the treatise de ecclesia. The Protestant writers defended the thesis that the true and genuine supernatural kingdom of God on earth was not an organized society at all, but merely the sum-total of all the good men and women in this world. They classified their own religious organizations, those of the Lutherans, the Calvinists and the like, as merely voluntary societies which could be helpful to people who were already within the ecclesia through membership in what they called the "invisible Church."
The Catholic writers who first opposed the Protestant polemicists successfully defended the revealed truth that God, in His wisdom and mercy, has actually constituted the one and only true ecclesia of the New Testament as an organized society, the religious unit which is described in the Acts of the Apostles and which exists now as the Roman Catholic Church. But these first Catholic champions of the truth in the controversy against the Protestant authors were primarily polemicists themselves. Their works were not, and did not claim to be, anything like complete or adequate treatises on the true Church. They merely set out to unmask the errors defended by their opponents. They did not explain those points on which there was no controversy whatsoever. Perhaps the best examples of this procedure are to be found in Michael Vehe's Assertio sacrorum quorundam axiomatum, John Eck's Enchiridion locorum communium, and especially in Peter Soto's Assertio catholicae fidei circa articulos confessionis nomine illustrissimi Ducis Wirtenbergensis oblatae per legatos eius Concilio Tridentino.
It is a matter of fact that the Protestant writers were perfectly convinced that there is no salvation attainable outside the true Church of God on earth. Hence there was no need for the Catholic theologians to dispute them on this particular point. And, since the writings of these Catholic theologians were directed at that time primarily and essentially to the Refutation of the Protestant position, the dogma on the necessity of the Church for the attainment of salvation was not treated at all extensively in these writings.
The next generation of Catholic theologians who wrote about the Church included some of the most brilliant men God has ever given to the study of sacred theology. Among them were such figures as Thomas Stapleton, John Wiggers, Melchior Cano, Francis Suarez, St. Robert Bellarmine, Gregory of Valencia, Dominic Banez, Adam Tanner, and Francis Sylvius. Some writers of the first generation of Counter-Reformation theologians had recently begun to organize the content of this Catholic controversial teaching. The Louvain teachers John Driedo and James Latomus were pre-eminent in this group. The men of the second generation developed and explained what these earlier writers had set forth.
Some of these second generation writers, like Stapleton, organized their teachings into monographs. Others, like Cano, St. Robert and Sylvius, incorporated them into more or less extensive summaries of Catholic controversy. Wiggers and Banez and others, however, inserted this controversial theology de ecclesia into their scholastic commentaries on St. Thomas' Summa theologica. This tactic was destined to have immense repercussions in the history of the scholastic treatise de ecclesia.
Of course, at that time no real place had been found in the actual organization of the Summa theologica for a tractatus de ecclesia. Wiggers, Banez, Gregory of Valencia, and Tanner, however, attempted to make a place by inserting this treatise as a kind of appendix after the matter treated by St. Thomas in the first question of his Secunda secundae. In every case, however, the material thus incorporated into a commentary on the Summa, a work of the highest order in the field of speculative scholastic theology, was the same essentially controversial material which polemicists like St. Robert Bellarmine and Francis Sylvius had included in their Controversiae. It was, in other words, the development of the teaching which had been contained in the works of the
original Counter-reformation theologians who had, for all intents and purposes, limited themselves to the point of Catholic doctrine which had been directly opposed by the Protestant heresiarchs. No one of these writings has anything like an adequate treatment of the dogma that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church.
The tradition which had been epitomized and perfected in Turrecremata's Summa de ecclesia had given special attention to this dogma. After all, the necessity for the attainment of salvation is one of the basic characteristics of God's supernatural kingdom on earth. Turrecremata gave adequate attention to it, just as he gave adequate attention to the task of explaining the characteristics of the true Church by describing the titles applied to this social unit and to its members in Scripture and in divine apostolic tradition.
In the works of the great Counter-Reformation theologians, however, the dogma is mentioned primarily with reference to the teaching that neither catechumens nor excommunicated persons are members of the true Church. Theologians like Stapleton and St. Robert, who were the first to use the terminology which was to become classical, take cognizance of the dogma when they consider objections to their own teaching. St. Robert taught rightly that a catechumen is not a member of the Church. He likewise upheld the Catholic truth that a catechumen can be saved if he should die before he has the opportunity to receive the sacrament of baptism. Looking at the dogma that no one can be saved outside the Church as an objection urged against his own teaching, St. Robert, following the example of Thomas Stapleton, asserts that the dogma means that a man cannot be saved if he is not within the Church either in reality as a member, or in voto as one who desires or intends to become a member. [Cf. St. Robert, De ecclesia militante, c. 3; Stapleton, Principiorum fidei doctrinalium demonstration methodica (Paris, 1579), p. 314.]
Such, following the example of Stapleton and of St. Robert, was the procedure of all the classical ecclesiologists of the Counter-Reformation period. And, despite the fact that neither Stapleton nor St. Robert produced textbooks of scholastic theology, their approach to the dogma of the Church's necessity for salvation and their very terminology entered into the fabric of these sixteenth- and seventeenth-century texts of scholastic theology. These commentaries developed, through "Courses" like those produced by John of St. Thomas, the Salmanticences, Tournely and Billuart, into the nineteenth- and twentieth-century manuals of dogmatic theology. The tractatus de ecclesia in these modern manuals was basically the kind of thing which had been inserted into the commentaries of Wiggers, Banez, and Tanner. And, in these modern manuals, the treatment of the dogma that there is no one saved outside the Church is of the sort to be found in the works of St. Robert and of Sylvius, and not of the type found in Turrecremata's Summa de ecclesia.
That in itself has been highly unfortunate for the well-being of the scholastic theology about the Church. The teaching that a man could be in the Church only in intention or desire and not as a member and still attain eternal salvation "within" this society is, of course, tremendously important. It is a part of Catholic doctrine about the nature of God's ecclesia. But the learning of this section of Catholic truth in no way makes up for neglect of the equally important doctrine that the Church is essentially, as actually instituted by God Himself, the vehicle and, as it were, the terminus of the process of salvation. Because the modern manuals took the tradition of Stapleton and of St. Robert to the exclusion of that of Turrecremata, they were doctrinally impoverished by an inadequate explanation of the dogma.
The modern writers whose aberrations were reproved in the Singulari quadam and more recently in the Humani generis had available to them in their contemporary manuals of sacred theology a highly inadequate exposition of the dogma. All of the attention was focused, in these manuals, on bringing out the fact that membership in the Church was not necessary with the necessity of means for the attainment of eternal life. There was almost nothing in them to show how the Church itself, by its very institution, belongs in the scheme of salvation.
This impoverishment of the tractatus de ecclesia as a result of the historical accident of the controversy against the Protestants was not by any means the only, or even the most serious, blow dealt to the explanation of the dogma of the necessity of the Church in the literature of scholastic theology. One of the most tragic, yet in some ways comical, stories recounted in the history of theology has to do with a highly important misunderstanding of the teaching set forth by St. Robert himself in the most important of his writings, the book De ecclesia militante. This misunderstanding had most unfortunate consequences in the teaching about the necessity of the Church for the attainment of salvation.
St. Robert's De ecclesia militante is essentially devoted to the defense of one thesis: the truth that God's true and only ecclesia of the New Testament is an organized and visible social unit. This thesis is presented in the second chapter of the book, and all the rest of the work is devoted to a detailed and classically effective demonstration of this truth. It will be impossible to understand how St. Robert's teaching was misinterpreted without a knowledge of what he actually said in that second chapter.
The first part of this chapter "On the Definition of the Church" is devoted to the description and the refutation of the various theories evolved by heretics to explain the composition of the true Church militant of the New Testament. St. Robert deals with five of these theories, and then sets forth his own teaching, which is true Catholic doctrine. This is the pertinent section of the second chapter.
But it is our teaching that there is only one ecclesia, and not two, and that this one and true Church is the assembly of men bound together by the profession of the same Christian faith and the communion of the same sacraments, under the rule of the legitimate pastors, and especially that of the Roman Pontiff, the one Vicar of Christ on earth. From this definition it is easy to infer which men belong to the Church and which do not belong to it. There are three parts of this definition; the profession of the true faith, the communion of the sacraments, and the subjection to the Roman Pontiff, the legitimate pastor.
By reason of the first part all infidels, both those who have never been in the Church, such as Jews, Turks, and pagans; and those who have been in it and have left it, as heretics and apostates, are excluded. By reason of the second part catechumens and excommunicated persons are excluded, because the former are not yet admitted to the communion of the sacraments, while the latter have been sent away from it. By reason of the third part there are excluded the schismatics who have the faith and the sacraments, but who are not subject to the legitimate pastor and who thus profess the faith and receive the sacraments outside [of the Church]. All others are included [within the Church in the light of the definition] even though they be reprobates, sinful and impious men.
Now there is this difference between our teaching and all the others [the "definitions" offered by the various heretics, and discussed in the first section of this second chapter of the De ecclesia militante], that all the others require internal virtues to constitute a man "within" the Church, and hence make the true Church invisible. But, despite the fact that we believe that all the virtues, faith, hope, charity, and the rest, are to be found within the Church, we do not think that any internal virtue is required to bring it about that a man can be said absolutely to be a part of the true Church of which the Scriptures speak, but [that what is required for this] is only the outward profession of the faith and the communion of the sacraments, which are perceptible by the senses. For the Church is as visible and palpable an assembly of men as the assembly of the Roman people or the Kingdom of France or the Republic of the Venetians.
We must note what Augustine says in his Breviculus collationis, where he is dealing with the conference of the third day, that the Church is a living body, in which there is a soul and a body. And the internal gifts of the Holy Ghost, faith, hope, charity, and the rest are the soul. The external profession of the faith and the communication of the sacraments are the body. Hence it is that some are of the soul and of the body of the Church, and hence joined both inwardly and outwardly to Christ the Head, and such people are most perfectly within the Church. They are, as it were, living members in the body, although some of them share in this life to a greater extent, and others to a lesser extent, while still others have only the beginning of life and, as it were, sensation without movement, like the people who have only faith without charity.
Again, some are of the soul and not of the body, as catechumens and excommunicated persons if they have faith and charity, as they can have them.
And, finally, some are of the body and not of the soul, as those who have no internal virtue, but who still by reason of some temporal hope or fear, profess the faith and communicate in the sacraments under the rule of the pastors. And such individuals are like hairs or fingernails or evil liquids in a human body.
Consequently, our definition takes in only this last way of being in the Church, because this is required as a minimum in order that a man may be said to be a part of the visible Church. [De ecclesia militante, c. 2.]
In the passage just quoted, St. Robert Bellarmine sets out to explain and to define the thesis he is going to defend and explain throughout the rest of the book De ecclesia militante. The outstanding talent of this great Doctor of the Church is precisely his power of forceful and clear exposition. In the section we have just cited, that talent was exercised as perfectly as it is in any section of his works.
St. Robert contends that the one and only supernatural kingdom of God on earth, the ecclesia spoken of in the Scriptures, has been constituted by God as a society composed of members or parts whose appurtenance [going with and belonging - J.G.] to this company is manifest to all men. He asserts that the factors by which a man is constituted as a member or a part of this company are the profession of the true Christian faith, access to the sacraments, and subjection to the Roman Pontiff. The group which is God's one and only ecclesia in this world is actually the company of men who have these factors of unity.
He acknowledges the presence within the Church of faith, hope, charity, and the other supernatural virtues. Furthermore he realizes that these infused virtues themselves constitute another bond of unity with Our Lord and among His disciples. Nevertheless he insists that this spiritual or inward bond of unity is not the factor which constitutes a man as a part or a member of the Church militant of the New Testament.
Yet despite the perfection of St. Robert's teaching and the clarity of his exposition, this section of the second chapter of his De ecclesia militante was destined to be the source of serious and highly unfortunate misunderstanding by subsequent theologians. The weak part of this, perhaps the most important single passage in the writings of any post-Tridentine theologian, was St. Robert's use of the terms "soul" and "body" with reference to the Church.
In the first place, St. Robert's reference to St. Augustine's Breviculus collationis is lamentably inexact. There is no such statement as "the Church is a living body, in which there is a soul and a body" to be found in any part of the Breviculus collationis. In a subsequent chapter of the De ecclesia militante, St. Robert again attributes this soul-body dichotomy to this particular book by St. Augustine, and there he indicates the sentence to which he obviously refers here as well as in the later chapter. In the ninth chapter of the De ecclesia militante we find the following passage.
Because of these sources [a citation from one of St. Augustine's works and references to other statements made by him] not only Brenz and Calvin, but even some Catholics imagine that there are two Churches, but this is only imagination. For neither the Scriptures nor Augustine ever indicate two Churches, but they always speak of only one. Now, in the Breviculus collationis, in the account of the conference of the third day, when the Donatists were urging against the Catholics the calumny that the Catholics taught that there are two Churches, one containing only the good, and another containing good people along with evil individuals; the Catholics retorted that they had never dreamed that there were two Churches, but that they had only distinguished two parts or periods of the Church. There are parts, because good people belong to the Church in one way, and bad people in another. For the good people are the interior part and, as it were, the soul of the Church. The bad people are the outward part and, as it were, the body [of the Church]. And they gave the example of the inward and the outward man, who are not two men, but two parts of the same man.
Distinguishing the periods of the Church, they say that the Church exists in one way now, and that it will exist in a different way after the resurrection. For now it has both good and evil [members]. Then it will have only the good. And they gave as an example Christ, who, although always the same, was mortal and subject to suffering prior to His resurrection but, after it, is immortal and not subject to suffering. [Ibid., c. 9.]
With this passage from the ninth chapter of the De ecclesia militante before us, it is quite easy to find the passage of the Breviculus collationis to which St. Robert appealed to justify his use of the expression "body of the Church" and "soul of the Church." Here is the actual teaching of the Breviculus collationis.
They [the Catholics] did not say that this Church which now has evil members interspersed within it is distinct from the kingdom of God, where there will be no evil members; but [they said] that the Church exists in one way now, and is going to exist in another way in the future. Now it has evil men mingled within it. Then it will not have them. Likewise now it is mortal, in that it is made up of mortal men. Then it will be immortal in that no one within it will die even a bodily death. In the same way there are not two Christ's just because He first died and afterwards was immortal. And they also spoke of the outward and the inward man, who, although they are different, still cannot be said to be two men. There is even less reason to say that there are two Churches, since these very same good persons who now suffer the evil men mingled among them and die as people who are going to rise again are the ones who then will have no evil members mingled with them and will be completely immortal. [St. Augustine, Breviculus collationis cum Donatistis, coll. 3, c. 10, n. 20. MPL, XLIII, 635.]
In this passage the word "soul" does not occur at all. The word "body" is found once, but with a meaning completely different from any it might have when employed in the expression "body of the Church." In this section of the Breviculus collationis the word is used in a clause explaining that the Church triumphant is called immortal "quod in ea nullus esset vel corpore moriturus." St. Augustine has used the word in explaining the Catholic teaching that the Church triumphant is truly immortal because none of its members will be subject to the spiritual death of sin or even to bodily death.
It would, of course, be grossly inaccurate to say that St. Robert misquoted the Breviculus collationis. He was a man of his own time and, in line with the customs of the period in which he lived, he referred to older writings in a way that would be considered quite unacceptable according to the stricter standards of modern scholarship. The teaching he attributed to this section of the Breviculus collationis is actually to be found in that document, at least in an implicit manner. But St. Robert couched that teaching in his own terminology and, without quoting his document verbatim, wrote as though his own terminology as well as the truths expressed in that terminology were to be found in the original source.
St. Robert obviously was fond of employing the "body" and "soul" dichotomy to explain and illustrate various distinctions within the Church. In the two passages quoted from the De ecclesia militante in this book, we find the term "body" used with reference to the Church in three ways, and the word "soul" in two. He speaks of the Church itself as "a living body." Despite the fact that this terminology is not found in the Breviculus collationis, as St. Robert's manner of speaking would imply that it was, it is a standard expression used to describe the Church of God. Basically, of course, it is the name of the Church employed in the epistles of St. Paul. The Church is such that it can accurately be designated under the metaphor of a living body, the body of Christ.
In the very same sentence in which he speaks of the Church as "a living body," St. Robert states that "there is a soul and a body" within the Church. This "body" in the Church is described as consisting in "the external profession of the faith and the communication of the sacraments." The "soul" within the Church, according to the De ecclesia militante, is constituted by "the internal gifts of the Holy Ghost, faith, hope, charity, and the rest."
He then goes on to explain the function of the "body" and the "soul" that he has described as existing within the living body that is the true Church. He tells us that "some are of the soul and of the body of the Church, and hence joined both inwardly and outwardly to Christ, the Head." In other words, in this second chapter of the De ecclesia militante, "soul" and "body" are metaphorical names applied to two distinct sets of forces or factors that function as bonds of unity within the Church militant of the New Testament. A person who is what St. Robert calls "de corpore ecclesiae" is one united to Our Lord in His Mystical Body by the profession of the true faith, access to the sacraments, and subjection to legitimate ecclesiastical authority. The individual who is "de anima ecclesiae" is joined to Our Lord in His Church by all "the internal gifts of the Holy Ghost," or at least by genuine divine faith.
St. Robert was not by any means the first of the Counter-Reformation theologians to incorporate an explanation of these two factors or bonds of unity within the Church into his defense of the Catholic position. Some teaching along this line had always been a necessary part of the defense of Catholic truth against opponents who claimed that the true supernatural kingdom of God of the New Testament was not an organized society at all, but was merely the entire group of men and women in the state of grace. St. Augustine had faced a similar problem in his controversy against the Donatists, and his writings were freely used by the Catholic writers who defended the Church against the Protestant polemicists.
Two of the earlier Counter-Reformation theologians, John Driedo and James Latomus, both professors at Louvain, prepared the way for St. Robert by their work in describing these two bonds of unity within the true Church. Driedo spoke of them in this passage from his famous work, De ecclesiasticis scripturis et dogmatibus.
Augustine teaches in the seventh book [On Baptism] against the Donatists that there are two ways of being in the House of God or in the Church. One way is to be in it as a member in the body of justice, that is, as one sharing in the spiritual life or joined with the other members in the spirit of charity. The other way to be in the House of God, or in the Church, is to be attached to the other members as the chaff is to the grain. [Driedo, De eccelsiasticis scripturis et dogmatibus (Louvain, 1530), IV, c. 2, p. 517.]
Driedo goes on to explain that people must be considered to be in the Church or, as we would say today, to be members of the Church if four conditions are fulfilled. The members are those who are "visibly attached to the Church by the sacrament of faith," living peaceably with the Christian people, not having been expelled from the Church, and not having left it. His teaching on this point is exactly what St. Robert was to give in his De ecclesia militante half a century later.
The outward or visible bond of unity within the Church, the reality to which St. Robert attached the name "body of the Church," is described by Driedo as a joining "according to a kind of visible form of the Christian faith." What St. Robert called "the soul of the Church" appears in the De ecclesiasticis scripturis et dogmatibus as "the unity of the spirit and the bond (vinculum) of charity." Catholics in the state of mortal sin remain joined to the Church in a bodily way (corporaliter), although they are inwardly separated from it.
James Latomus refers to these two bonds of union within the Church as the bodily communication and the spiritual communication.
All ecclesiastical communication is either bodily or spiritual. The spiritual communication belongs to those who are in the house as composing the house itself. This is the communication of those who possess charity and who are united to the one God and among themselves. Likewise this spiritual communication pertains to those who are in the house, but who are not parts of the house itself. These are still spiritually joined to the parts of the house; and, on the other hand, the parts of the house are joined to them in Catholic peace. Although this Catholic peace is the effect of charity, its extension is far greater than that of charity, and it is found in some persons in whom charity does not exist. I mean charity of a pure heart, through which the Holy Ghost dwells in a man's heart. Through this union the bad Catholic shares even spiritually in many gifts which the heretic and the schismatic do not share. The bad Catholic is deprived of these gifts when he is justly excommunicated and delivered over to Satan.
Likewise the bodily communication is divided. There is a certain bodily communication according to place, and in a common life, and in the active and passive communication of the visible sacraments. There is another bodily communication of superior and subject. [Latomus, in his Ad Oecolampadium responsio, in the Opera (Louvain, 1550), 131.]
In the field of ecclesiology it is St. Robert Bellarmine's special glory that he clarified and perfected the teachings of Latomus and of Driedo on this particular section of the treatise on the Church, and used this teaching as the key to his classical definition of the Church in terms of its membership. What turned out to be quite unfortunate for the understanding of St. Robert's teaching by subsequent theologians was his application of the terms "body" and "soul" to the two bonds of union within the Church which had been recognized and described by his predecessors.
It is one of the ironical twists of history that St. Robert, pre-eminent among the writers of the Catholic Church for the clarity of his expression, should have offered the occasion for such serious misunderstanding. There can be no doubt whatsoever about the magnitude of his accomplishment in the line of clarity in his exposition of the two bonds of ecclesiastical unity. In effect, Latomus and Driedo had taught in what would be regarded today as a highly esoteric [understood by only a few - J.G.] fashion. Their theses were couched in the words and phrases of St. Augustine, and a man would have to be fairly well aware of what St. Augustine had written, particularly in his controversial writings against the Donatists and in his In epistulam Ioannis ad Parthos in order to understand the full import of what either Latomus or Driedo had written. St. Robert, on the contrary, wrote effectively and clearly so that anyone capable of reading Latin would have no difficulty in grasping what he had to say.
It would have been easier for him and much more profitable for subsequent theologians if he had simply named the two bonds of unity in the Church for what they actually are. His brilliant younger contemporary, Francis Sylvius of Douai, did exactly that. Sylvius spoke of a twofold colligation within the Church militant of the New Testament. He stated that: "One is internal, of minds, through faith and through the common affection which is called in the Second Epistle of St. Peter the 'love of the brotherhood (amor fraternitatis).'" And explained that "the other bond of union is external, consisting in the administration and the reception of the sacraments and in other matters pertaining to the worship of God and to the administration of the Church." [Sylvius, Controversiarum Liber Tertius, in his Opera Omnia (Antwerp, 1698), V, 237.]
Obviously Sylvius, like many of his contemporaries, did not agree with St. Robert in his concept of membership in the Church. The Douai theologian was mistaken on this point, but he was much more felicitous [well-suited - J.G.] than St. Robert had been in designating the factors which unite men with Our Lord and to each other in God's supernatural kingdom on earth.
The brilliant and distinguished Louvain theologian John Wiggers actually used and properly explained St. Robert's own terminology.
And so the Church exists with, as it were, a twofold form, one internal and the other, in a way, external. For it has some characteristics that correspond to the soul and its perfections and ornaments, and still others that have an analogy with the external form of the body, as with its figures and facial properties and movements.
Properly, faith corresponds to the soul of the Church. To the ornaments of the soul there correspond charity and the other virtues that accompany it and that belong to the dowry and the perfection of the Church. To the body there correspond the external profession of faith, the works of brotherly love, the communion of the sacraments, and perhaps other characteristics. [Wiggers, Commentaria de virtutibus theologicis (Louvain, 1689), p. 97.]
In the course of the history of theology, however, St. Robert's expressions "soul" and body" of the Church were not destined to receive the kind of treatment accorded them by Wiggers. They were doomed to serve as instruments for the reversal of St. Robert's teaching by theologians who, when they employed this part of St. Robert's terminology, seemed to imagine that they were actually repeating or at least developing his teaching. The first slight step in this direction is observable in the immensely popular seminary manual, the Breviarium theologicum published in the seventeenth century by the Cambrai theologian, John Polman. In this manual the "body" and "soul" of the Church appear, not as parts of an explanation of a thesis, but as realities requiring definition in their own right.
According to Clement of Alexandria and Augustine, the Church is like an animated human body. Faith, hope, charity, and the gifts of the Holy Ghost constitute its soul. The body is the external profession of faith, the communion of the sacraments, and the acknowledgment of the Roman Pontiff as the head. Of the soul alone are catechumens who intend to be baptized and who have faith, hope and charity. Occult heretics are of the body alone. Baptized persons in the state of grace are of the body and the soul. [Polman, Breviarium theologicum (Paris, 1682), p. 206.]
St. Robert had made it perfectly plain to anyone who took the trouble to read the De ecclesia militante in its entirety that he did not claim that the interior bond of unity within the Church was actually the soul of the Church. He applied the metaphorical title of "soul" of the Church to God the Holy Ghost, and he spoke of Catholics in the state of grace as constituting "as it were, the soul" of this society. In the same way, he spoke of the Church itself as a "body" and described bad Catholics as being "as it were, the body" of the Church. It was a misfortune for the history of theology that Polman's seminary manual led men to imagine that the inward bond of unity was the soul, and the outward bond was the body, of the Catholic Church.
The misuse of St. Robert's terminology went a step farther at the beginning of the eighteenth century in the well-written manual Elementa theologica written by the Sorbonne professor, Charles du Plessis d'Argentre. This book employs St. Robert's terminology in such a way as to undermine the basic thesis of the De ecclesia militante. Thus, in speaking of excommunicated persons, D'Argentre asserts that if they "profess the Catholic faith, they will be in some measure (aliquatenus) members of the Church by reason of its soul, that is, by faith, and perhaps by charity (if the excommunication is unjust)." He insists, however, that these individuals "are not of the body of the Church." [D'Argentre, Elementa theologica (Paris, 1702), p. 167.]
St. Robert Bellarmine had constituted as the one basic thesis of his book De ecclesia militante the truth that, by God's own institution, the visible or outward bond of ecclesiastical unity, the thing he designated as the "body" of the Church, is the one and only element requisite for membership in the Church militant of the New Testament. He devoted all the resources of his talent and erudition to demonstrate the fact that the society composed of men united by this outward bond of unity is Our Lord's Mystical Body on earth. Less than a century after his death, the terminology peculiar to St. Robert's De ecclesia militante was being used to advance the thesis contradictory to his own teaching.
D'Argentre seems to have had the dubious distinction of having been the first to use the term "soul of the Church" in the Bellarminian sense to explain the Church's necessity for salvation. Like most of the books of its period, the Elementa theologica treats of the dogma of the necessity of the Church in the section devoted to catechumens and their relation to the Church. D'Argentre holds that "catechumens are certainly not of the body of the Church, but still there is nothing to prevent their being of the Church by reason of its soul (quoad ejus animam). With the desire of baptism this suffices for salvation." [Ibid., p. 166.]
D'Argentre used St. Robert's own terminology, but made this "soul" of the Church something quite distinct from the internal bond of unity within the Church described by St. Robert. He says that the Church militant "must be considered as like a living body, which consists of Christ as the Head, the faithful as members, and faith, hope and charity as the soul, acting as a principle of spiritual life for the faithful." [Ibid., p. 161.] His use of this "soul" of the Church as a factor which can make an excommunicated person "in some measure a member of the Church" and as a factor in the explanation of the Church's necessity for the attainment of eternal salvation is quite consistent with his own view of the matter. It is, however, completely inconsistent with the teaching of St. Robert.
Honoratus Tournely, and older confrere of D'Argentre on the faculty of the Sorbonne, carried the misuse and the misapplication of St. Robert's terminology far past the limits reached by D'Argentre. Tournely's manual was one of the most popular and influential textbooks employed during the eighteenth century. Through these books the basic misunderstanding of St. Robert's terminology and the consequent undermining of his basic thesis became widespread. Tournely used St. Robert's terminology to set forth theses about the Church which, in the last analysis, were the very doctrines St. Robert wrote the De ecclesia militante to disprove.
The Church can be considered in two ways. First, [it can be considered] according to its interior status, or according to that part which we call the soul of the Church. Thus it is the society of those who are bound together by the bond of true faith in Christ and of sincere charity. In this sense it is entirely invisible. Only the saints and the just belong to it as true and living members. Secondly, it can be considered according to its exterior status, or according to the body, and insofar as it is the society of those who are joined together in the public profession of the same faith, and the communion of the same sacraments and ecclesiastical rulers. In this sense it is certain that the Church is visible and conspicuous. [Tournely, Praelectiones theologicae de ecclesia Christi (Paris, 1739), I. 234.]
Tournely used St. Robert's expressions "soul" and "body" of the Church to inaugurate an explanation of the Church's necessity for salvation which was to become all too common among theologians until the appearance of the Mystici Corporis Christi and the Suprema haec sacra. He taught that "no one can be saved outside the Church, considered both in terms of the soul and of the body." As far as the "body of the Church" was concerned, Tournely treated it as if it were necessary for the attainment of eternal salvation only with the necessity of precept. He held that a man cannot be saved "if, through his own fault, he is not in the body of the Church." If a man is outside of the "body" through no fault of his own, then, according to the thought of Tournely, he can be saved. Such individuals, in Tournely's view, can be in the "body" of the Church by intention or desire. [Ibid., I, 654.]
After Tournely, the process of changing the teaching of St. Robert through the use of his own terminology had not far to go. Heinrich Kilber, who wrote the treatise on the Church for the collection called the Theologia Wirceburgensis, brought these terms into his definitions of the Church, and thus used them to support doctrines utterly at variance with what St. Robert had taught.
The Church of Christ, considered inadequately in function of the soul (inadequate secundum animam considerate), is the assembly of those called to the faith of Christ, conjoined to Christ by supernatural gifts.
The Church of Christ, considered inadequately in function of the body, is the assembly of the baptized, united in the profession of the same Christian faith and in the communion of the same sacraments under the one Vicar of Christ on earth.
The Church of Christ, considered adequately, is the assembly of the baptized faithful whom faith, hope and charity animate inwardly, and the profession of the same Christian faith and the communion of the same sacraments unite outwardly, under one Head in heaven, Christ, and under His Vicar on earth, the Sovereign Pontiff. [Kilber, Principia theologica (in the RR. Patrum Societatis Jesu Theologia Dogmatica, Scholastica et Moralis Praelectionibus Publicis in Alma Universitate Wirceburgensi Accommodata, the Paris edition of 1880), I, 86 f.]
What Kilber called an inadequate definition of the Church in function of its body is the very definition which St. Robert had shown to be the real description of the Church militant of the New Testament. St. Robert had used every resource available to him to prove conclusively that the Church cannot be defined in terms of its members other than through the use of the outward bond of ecclesiastical unity.
By the inept and unrealistic use of St. Robert's own terminology, Tournely had come up with a description of the Church as invisible, the very thing St. Robert had worked to prove that the Church militant of the New Testament is not. Kilber had imagined an "adequate" definition of Our Lord's Church which would apply only to Catholics in the state of grace.
There was only one more step possible in the process of misinterpreting St. Robert's teaching. That step was taken before the end of the eighteenth century. Tired of the complexity involved in trying to teach that "an inadequate definition of the Church in function of its soul," as given by theologians like Kilber, applies to an "invisible Church," Louis Legrand and other writers after him cut the Gordian knot and began to apply the term "soul of the Church" to the internal or invisible society they had imagined. According to Legrand, "the internal Church, which we call the soul of the Church, can be defined as the company of those in the state of grace, and especially of those who are predestined to eternal life, who are endowed with the living faith that works through charity." And, in the words of the same theologian, "the external or visible Church, which is called the body of the Church by Catholics, can be defined as the assembly of men gathered together and united in the profession of the true Christian faith, the correct use of the sacraments, and the administration instituted by Christ." [The passage is from Legrand's De ecclesia, in Migne's Theologiae cursus completes, IV, 25. It must be noted that Legrand was not by any means the first Catholic theologian to describe the just and the predestined as constituting some sort of unit within the Catholic Church. Thus, in the second book of his Doctrinale antiquitatum fidei ecclesiae catholicae (Venice, 1621), I, 160, Thomas Netter of Walden, the fifteenth-century English Carmelite, had described "the glorious Church of the predestined" as being within the visible Church "like a wheel within a wheel." And the sixteenth-century James Latomus, in his De ecclesia et humanae legis obligatione, had written of "the assembly of the good" within the "ecclesia permixta." Cf. his Opera, p. 93. What is remarkable about Legrand's teaching is that he employed St. Robert's own terminology to bring out a doctrine-the existence of an "invisible Church" - which St. Robert had worked to disprove]
These two definitions are contained in the sub-section entitled "On the More General Notion of the True Church." In the following sub-section, "On the More Special Notion of the True Church," Legrand gives a definition of the Church "considered adequately, that is, in terms of its soul and its body together." [Cf. Legrand, loc. cit.] Despite the fact that this "adequate" definition of the Church is slightly more prolix [needlessly verbose - J.G.] than the one Legrand applied to that "which is called the body of the Church by Catholics," the two formulae are objectively identical.
Thus, by the end of the eighteenth century the misuse of St. Robert's term "body" and "soul" of the Church had reached its final result. The De ecclesia militante had been written in the first place to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that the one and only supernatural kingdom of God of the New Testament is an organized society, the religious community over which the Roman Pontiff presides as the Vicar of Christ on earth. St. Robert had shown conclusively that there is and there can be no such thing as an "invisible Church" in the dispensation of the New Testament. He had concentrated on the proof that there is only one ecclesia, and that consequently there is no possibility of postulating an "invisible Church" in any way distinct from the one visible Mystical body of Jesus Christ in this world.
Now, hardly more than a century and a half after St. Robert's death, the very contradictories to his basic teaching were being set forth by Catholic writers using his own terminology. The name "soul of the Church," which St. Robert had applied to what his contemporaries called the inward or invisible bond of ecclesiastical unity, was gradually deflected from the purpose it had served in the De ecclesia militante until it finally became a vehicle for the expression of the very teaching St. Robert had set out to disprove. For D'Argentre, the "soul of the Church" in the Bellarminian sense was no longer one of the two bonds of union within the Church but became a factor "acting as a principle of spiritual life for the faithful." For Tournely and Kilber this same "soul of the Church" was made to function as a principle in the definition of an "invisible Church" made up of men and women in the state of grace. For Legrand and the men who followed him, this same "soul of the Church" became itself an "invisible Church." And the reality to which St. Robert had applied his classical definition became, not the one true ecclesia of the New Testament, as it was in the De ecclesia militante and as it is in Catholic doctrine, but only "the body of the Church."
Legrand's misuse of the Bellarminian terminology was copied quite frequently during the course of the nineteenth century. One of those who followed him was Bonal, who wrote in his popular and highly influential manual:
The body of the Church is the collection of men who outwardly profess the doctrine of Christ and partake of the same sacraments under the magisterium and rule of legitimate pastors and particularly of the successors of Peter.
The soul of the Church is the collection of men who interiorly assemble in one spiritual Church through the spiritual and internal bond of faith and of charity. [Bonal, Institutiones theologicae ad usm seminariorum, 16th edition (Toulouse, 1887), I, 400.]
This kind of teaching came down into the twentieth century, and by this time it had acquired a false appearance of theological tradition. Paul Vigue asserted that "the theologians distinguished two Churches, the one visible and the other invisible, the body and the soul of the Church." [Vigue, in the symposium Ecclesia, edited by Agrain and published by Bloud et Gay (Paris, 1933), p. 101.] Otto Karrer claimed that "theology has deduced the doctrine of an invisible Church of good men and women, even outside the communion of the visible Church." [Karrer, Religions of Mankind, translated by E. I. Watkin (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1938), p. 262.] The "theology" responsible for this deduction was, in the last analysis, merely a long and gradual deformation of terms originally and unfortunately employed by St. Robert Bellarmine in his De ecclesia militante. The "theologians" who propagated this teaching were men who misunderstood the original meaning St. Robert had attached to the terms "body" and "soul" of the Church.
There can be no doubt that the progressively more inaccurate teachings about the "body" and the "soul" of the Church were in great measure responsible for poor teaching about the dogma that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church. The individuals who were misled into believing the reality of an "invisible Church," in some way more extensive than the visible Church of Jesus Christ, were prone to imagine that this "invisible Church" was the social unit really necessary for the attainment of eternal salvation.
The greatest favor accorded to sacred theology by the encyclical letter Mystici Corporis Christi was the banishment from theology, once and for all, of this teaching about an "invisible Church." Since the appearance of the Mystici Corporis Christi, and especially since the publication of the Humani generis and the Suprema haec sacra, the elements that have militated against an accurate explanation of this dogma have lost their force. These documents of the Holy See have manifested the truth of the Church's necessity for salvation for what it really is, the statement of the dignity of the Catholic Church as the one supernatural kingdom of the living God.
It should be reassuring to those of good will who believe or believed that non-members of the Church cannot be saved within the Church to know that in this series they will find that the official teaching of the Church is in agreement with them regarding the fact that there is no salvation outside the Church, that there are no exceptions to this teaching, that the Roman Catholic Church and the Mystical Body of Christ are one and the same, there is no broader conglomerate in which one can be saved, that a member of the Church is at a minimum, one who partakes of the Sacraments, professes the faith and submits to legitimate ecclesiastical authority. The key distinction is accepting Church teaching that it is possible for non-members who share the inner bonds of unity with the members of the Church to be saved within the Church. Those of good will shall clearly see that the Church teaches this and hopefully they will understand why such a teaching is true.
For Past articles by John, see Archives of John Gregory's FAITHFUL TO TRADTION features
"Catholics who remain faithful to Tradition, even if they are reduced to but a handful, they are THE TRUE CHURCH" Saint Athanasius, "Apostle of Tradition" AD 373