"Those who are summoned into that Church within which alone salvation is to be found are called, first of all, by divine grace itself. If they correspond with that grace, and sincerely will (even though only implicitly) entrance into the Church, and if they express that will or intention in the infallibly effective act of Christian prayer, God will grant them both entrance into the Church and the salvation which they desire."
In the end there is only one thing that can prevent a man from the obtainment of the Beatific Vision and that is sin (either Original and or Mortal). In this installment's intro, while keeping in mind that invincible ignorance, by itself, does not allow a non-member of the Catholic Church to obtain the Beatific Vision, I would like to call to mind that invincible ignorance is not a sin. A person is not damned for the sole reason of being invincibly ignorant that the Catholic Church is necessary for salvation. Anyone who claims all men are definitely damned for invincible ignorance alone and publicly teach the same should check with traditional clergy and seek out orthodox books they can find on the subject.
We are studying the best book available on the topic in this series, that of course being Monsignor Joseph Clifford Fenton's magnificent The Catholic Church and Salvation. That is one of the benchmarks to offset those who preach such errors for they risk their own salvation by doing so as do those who buy into their heretical claptrap.
However, if they do this in inculpable ignorance and end up obtaining the Beatific Vision despite their public error and inculpable ignorance they will be pleasantly surprised that they were wrong to conclude that all non-members of the Catholic Church, even if they are invincibly ignorant of the Church's necessity for salvation, will be damned. They will be thankful that God did not use the same measuring stick on them that they used when judging others in regards to invincible ignorance.
It is also helpful to understand that it is a waste of time for one to try to guess whether one is culpably ignorant of the Church's necessity for salvation or not, simply because it is impossible for us in this life to know who is, or is not, culpably ignorant of the Church's necessity for salvation. It is also impossible for us to know who has an effective desire to join the Church or not. Trying to prove to others that so and so is or is not going to be saved based on his purported culpable ignorance is a huge waste of time and detrimental to our own spiritual well-being.
If you want to do something useful, perhaps instead of claiming all non-members of the Church have absolutely no possibility of salvation, and speculating whether one is culpably ignorant or not on the Church's necessity for salvation, offer all your prayers, actions and sufferings for the salvation of all in perfect imitation of Christ. It is not for us, in this life, to figure out who is saved and who is damned. We have been put here to save our souls and to pray and work for the salvation of others. We waste so much time on the frivolous such as petty debates on forums and proving to others how right we are and how wrong everyone else is.
I gave up TV in April of 2008 so I could be more attached to God through detachment from worldly things. Additionally I did not want TV in a house where children who God put in my hands to lead to salvation were growing up. Parents will have to answer to God for allowing the souls of their children to be warped by TV. The only harmless TV that I am aware of is one that is in the dumpster. If the show doesn't get you the commercials will. That being said, I still remember a Simpsons' episode where Homer says "Everyone is stupid but me." In the show he was about the stupidest man on the planet. Is it really necessary for us to prove to the world how stupid we are by constantly entering into petty debates on blogs or forums and showing others how much we disapprove of others in a very public way by anonymously "thumbing them down" or giving them a "dislike" without giving an explanation for our disapproval? How Catholic is that? Going on a forum and preaching with absolute assurance that no one can possibly be saved unless they are baptized with water is akin to saying "Everyone is stupid but me." The statement itself manifests your own lack of intelligence.
It is far more profitable to work on your holiness than to gain all the knowledge in the world and use it to your detriment by preaching error which you are convinced is true. Publicly disparaging others isn't the brightest way to advance in spirituality either. Information is a very dangerous thing when not properly understood, especially when it pertains to salvation issues. It is even more dangerous when erroneous understandings of truth are preached publicly as is constantly done on blogs and forums. There are far better places to seek and find Truth than on forums where erroneous opinions are a dime a dozen.
If a non-Catholic asks you if you believe there is salvation outside the Catholic Church you can tell him in all charity that God teaches through the Church He founded on the rock which is Peter and his authentic successors that there is no salvation outside the Church. Show them the Bible verse that teaches that there is only one Lord Jesus Christ, one Faith and one Baptism (Ephesians 4:5) that can only be encountered within the Church founded by that One Lord in thirty-three A.D. Let them know if they are truly sincere in seeking to know and do God's will that they will try their best to enter that Church founded in thirty-three A.D. and built upon the rock of Peter or they will have to render an account to God for failing to do His will.
Since many non-Catholics seem to believe that the Bible fell from the sky as opposed to being given to us by the Catholic Church and that it is the only thing we need to believe and that any sincere or "saved" person can understand it properly, show them Matthew 16, Matthew 18: 17, Luke 10:16 and the rest of the Bible for proof that there is no salvation outside of the Church, and the Church spoken of in the Bible is obviously not one founded in 1517 or later. Explain to them that it is the Catholic Church that gave us the Bible. The Catholic Church transcribed it, preserved it and decided which books belong and which books do not. And the Catholic Church is the sole authority which infallibly interprets it. This is why the Catholic Church has not contradicted herself in faith and morals for 2000 years and why those who split from that Church keep splitting with each other and contradicting each other on essential beliefs.
Lastly, when considering the fact that it is indeed true that no one at all is saved outside the Church and that there is absolutely no exception to this Dogma, we also need to understand that this Dogma does not go against God's justice or mercy and that He cannot be outdone in generosity. This means that one who attaches himself to the Church through sincere prayer to know and do God's will and who effectively cooperates with the graces God will send him will not die outside the Church even if he dies as a non-member of the Church. Again God does not damn the innocent or save those who die guilty of unrepentant mortal sin. It is useless to waste our time trying to figure out who fits in which category.
With that said, let us continue with the teaching of Monsignor Clifford Fenton:
Two declarations of Pope Pius IX on the subject of the Catholic Church's necessity for the attainment of eternal salvation are of primary importance in the study of this section of the sacred theology. The first is found in his allocution Singulari Quadam, delivered on December 9, 1854, the day after the solemn definition of the dogma of Our Lady's Immaculate Conception, to the Cardinals, Archbishops, and Bishops who had gathered in Rome to be witnesses of that definition. The second is contained in his encyclical Quanto Conficiamur Moerore, addressed to the Bishops of Italy on August 10, 1863.
Both of these statements are tremendously profound and rich in theological implication. Moreover they are much more difficult to explain than any other pronouncements of the teaching Church on this subject. As a matter of fact, they have all too frequently been misinterpreted by Catholic writers who have examined them superficially or who have, in some instances, even accepted translations which were something less than fully adequate. In both of these documents it is imperative to consider the context in which Pope Pius IX placed his statement and explanation of the dogma.
The pertinent section of the Singulari Quadam includes the following paragraphs:
Not without sorrow have we seen that another error, and one not less ruinous [than the error of crass rationalism dealt with in the previous section of the allocution], has taken possession of certain portions of the Catholic world, and has entered into the souls of many Catholics who think that they can well hope for the eternal salvation of all those who have in no way entered into the true Church of Christ. For that reason they are accustomed to inquire time and time again as to what is going to be the fate and the condition after death of those who have never yielded themselves to the Catholic faith and, convinced by completely inadequate arguments (vanissimisque adductis rationibus), they await a response that will favor this evil teaching. Far be it from Us, Venerable Brethren, to presume to establish limits to the divine mercy, which is infinite. Far be it from Us to wish to scrutinize the hidden counsels and judgments of God, which are "a great deep," and which human thought can never pen[e]trate. In accordance with Our apostolic duty, We wish to stir up your episcopal solicitude and vigilance to drive out of men's minds, to the extent to which you are able to use all your energies, that opinion, equally impious and deadly, that the way of eternal salvation can be found in any religion (quavis in religion reperiri posse aeternae salutis viam). With all the skill and learning at your command, you should prove to the people entrusted to your care that this dogma of the Catholic faith is in no way opposed to the divine mercy and justice.
Certainly we must hold it as of faith that no one can be saved outside the apostolic Roman Church, that this is the only Ark of salvation, and that the one who does not enter it is going to perish in the deluge. But, nevertheless, we must likewise hold it as certain that those who labor in ignorance of the true religion, if that [ignorance] be invincible, will never be charged with any guilt on this account before the eyes of the Lord. Now, who is there who would arrogate to himself the power to indicate the extent of such [invincible] ignorance according to the nature and the variety of peoples, regions, talents, and so many other things? For really when, loosed from these bodily bonds, we see God as He is, we shall certainly understand with what intimate and beautiful a connection the divine mercy and justice are joined together. But, while we live on earth, weighed down by this mortal body that darkens the mind, let us hold most firmly, from Catholic doctrine, that there is one God, one faith, one baptism. It is wrong to push our inquiries further than this.
For the rest, as the cause of charity demands, let us pour forth continual prayers to God that all nations everywhere may be converted to Christ. And let us do all in our power to bring about the common salvation of men, for the hand of the Lord is not shortened and the gifts of heavenly grace will never be lacking to those who sincerely wish and pray to be comforted in this light. Truths of this kind must be deeply implanted in the minds of the faithful so that they may not be corrupted by the false doctrines that tend to encourage the religious indifference (doctrinis eo spectantibus, ut religionis foveant indifferentiam) which we see being spread abroad and strengthened to the ruination of souls. [Denz., 1646-48]
The teaching of the Singulari Quadam is of special importance since the allocution was the first "modern" statement by the Roman Pontiff on the dogma that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church. The intellectual background against which Pope Pius IX taught over one hundred years ago is much the same, fundamentally, as that which exists in our own time. Hence it is imperative, for a proper understanding of this portion of Catholic teaching, to analyze this statement so as to see exactly what is brought out in this allocution.
The basic thesis of the Singulari Quadam is the assertion that the teaching "no one can be saved outside the apostolic Roman Church" is a dogma of the faith. It is something to which the assent of faith itself must be given. As such, it is of course completely infallible. It is something which can never be corrected or modified. It must be received as an absolutely true proposition.
It is interesting, incidentally, to note that Pope Pius IX was faced with a situation quite similar to that which Pope Pius XII described when he wrote his encyclical Humani Generis, in August, 1950. The attack on the dogma of the Church's necessity for salvation a hundred years ago was not conducted by men who presumed to deny or to suppress the statement that there is no salvation outside the Church. Their tactic was much more subtle and dangerous: they tried to empty this statement of all real meaning. They tried to make Catholics believe that there was some hope of salvation for people who had never entered the Church in any way. The Singular Quadam characterizes this contention as a ruinous error.
Pope Pius XII dealt with a similar situation when he condemned the efforts of those teachers who were trying to reduce the teaching that the Church is necessary for the attainment of eternal salvation "to an empty formula." [In the encyclical Humani Generis.] Pius IX worked in this direction when he condemned the teaching that there is some hope for the salvation of men who have in no way entered the true Church of Jesus Christ.
Those who taught inaccurately about the necessity of the Church for salvation a century ago used still another tactic. They tried to make it appear that there was something unjust about this basic Catholic teaching. They claimed, directly or by implication, that there was some contradiction between this dogma and the assertions of the faith which teach us that God is all-just and all-merciful. The allocution Singulari Quadam deals with this maneuver also. Pope Pius IX made it perfectly clear that it is the duty of the hierarchy to prove to the people entrusted to their care that there is no opposition whatsoever between the teaching on the necessity of the Church for the attainment of eternal salvation and the dogmas of the divine justice and mercy. He presented this teaching, then, as an integral part of true Catholic doctrine.
As a part of their tactic the opponents of the true Catholic teaching tried to make it appear that a genuine acceptance of the dogma that there is no salvation outside the Church implied the teaching that God would punish men for being invincibly ignorant of the true Church. Pope Pius IX set out to meet this contention also in the Singulari quadam. He stated simply that it is certain Catholic truth that God will blame no man for invincible ignorance of the Catholic Church, any more than He will blame anyone for invincible ignorance of anything else.
Incidentally, on this point, there have been Catholic writers who have been led astray by an incomplete translation of this portion of the Singulari Quadam. The allocution says that people who are invincibly ignorant of the true religion "will never be charged with any guilt on this account before the eyes of the Lord." The Latin text reads ". . . qui verae religionis ignorantiam laborent, si ea sit invincibilis, nulla ipsos obstringi huiusce rei culpa ante oculos Domini." Some persons have attempted a translation of this passage which takes no account of the words "huiusce rei." Such translations tend to present invincible ignorance of the true religion as a sort of sacrament, since they make it appear that the Sovereign Pontiff taught that persons invincibly ignorant of the true religion are simply not blameworthy in the eyes of the Lord.
The fact of the matter is (and this is the gist of the teaching of Pope Pius IX here and in the encyclical Quanto conficiamur moerore) that non-appurtenance [not being attached or joined - J. G.] to the Catholic Church is by no means the only reason why men are deprived of the Beatific Vision. Ultimately, the only factor that will exclude a man from the eternal and supernatural enjoyment of God in heaven is sin, either original or mortal. An infant who dies without having been baptized will not have the Beatific Vision because original sin has rendered him incapable of it. Any man who dies after having attained the use of reason and who is eternally excluded from the Beatific Vision is being punished for actual mortal sin which he has committed. Such a man may be further prevented from enjoying the Beatific Vision because of the original sin which has not been deleted by baptism.
If we are to understand this teaching, we must not allow ourselves to fail to realize that there is absolutely no middle ground between the state of supernatural sanctifying grace and the state of sin or aversion from God. Any man who loves God with a love of friendship or benevolence, sincerely desiring and intending to do His will and preferring to suffer anything rather than to offend Him has divine supernatural charity and is in the state of grace. If he dies in that state, he will inevitably attain to the Beatific Vision. And, incidentally, if he has the love of charity for God, he is "within" the true Church of Jesus Christ, at least by sincere (although perhaps merely implicit) intention and desire.
If, on the other hand, a man has not a love of charity for God, he is in the state of sin. If an adult for whom Our Lord died on the Cross has not this love of charity for God, it can only be because he has chosen some object of affection incompatible with the love of charity. If he passes from this life in that condition, voluntarily averted from God, he will not gain the glory of Heaven. This is true whether the man dies as a member or as a non-member of the true Catholic Church.
Thus it is perfectly possible for a man to die "outside" the true Church and to be excluded from the Beatific Vision forever without having his ignorance of the true Church or of the true religion counted as a moral fault. That is precisely what Pope Pius IX said in the Singulari Quadam. He said it, as the context shows, as part of his explanation of the fact that the Catholic dogma of the Church's necessity for the attainment of eternal salvation in no way involves a contradiction of the doctrines about God's sovereign mercy and justice.
In this section of the Singulari Quadam Pope Pius IX goes on to urge the Bishops of the Catholic Church to use all of their energies to drive from the minds of men the deadly error that the way of salvation can be found in any religion. To a certain extent this is a mere restatement of the erroneous opinion according to which we may well hope for the salvation of men who have never entered in any way into the Catholic Church, the first misinterpretation of Catholic teaching reproved in this section of the allocution. Yet, in another way, the error that the way of salvation can be found in any religion has its own peculiar and individual malignity. It is based on the false implication that the false religions, those other than the Catholic, are in some measure a partial approach to the fullness of truth which is to be found in Catholicism. According to this doctrinal aberration, the Catholic religion would be distinct from others, not as the true is distinguished from the false, but only as the plenitude is distinct from incomplete participations of itself. It is this notion, the idea that all other religions contain enough of the essence of that completeness, of truth which is to be found in Catholicism, to make them vehicles of eternal salvation, which is thus reproved in the Singulari Quadam.
One of the most interesting factors in this section of the allocution is the fact that Pope Pius IX forbids his people to inquire into the presence or the lack or the extent of invincible ignorance in individual cases. He actually goes so far as to insist that it is wrong to go beyond the teaching that there is one God, one faith, and one baptism. In issuing this order and in making the assertion, Pope Pius IX was actually taking cognizance of one of the basic conditions of the Christian doctrinal ministry.
The primary and central object of the Church's doctrinal ministry is to be found in the body of truth revealed by God through Our Lord Jesus Christ, and delivered to the Church by His Apostles as doctrine to be accepted with the assent of divine faith. The secondary object of that ministry embraces all and only those truths which the Church must be able to teach inerrantly in order to teach its primary object adequately as a living and infallible teaching body. The decision as to just what would constitute invincible, as distinct from vincible or culpable, ignorance of the Catholic Church in any individual case does not fall within the confines of either object. And, as a matter of fact, this decision is something which man in this life is quite incapable of forming rightly.
It is definitely the business of the teacher of Catholic truth to bring out the fact that God is all-merciful and all-just in Himself and in His dealings with all His creatures. Every man who comes into this world is the recipient of God's justice and of His mercy. In the light of the Beatific Vision we shall see how God's mercy and His justice have been exercised in the case of each individual who is saved, and of each individual who is lost, or deprived of the supernatural enjoyment of God, forever. It is wrong to seek to find out how this is so in this life, since the evidence we would need for such an inquiry is definitely not available to us, and, in striving to bring statements about an unknowable subject into the fabric of Catholic teaching, we would only succeed in confusing and adulterating the body of truth which God has deigned to give to His Church.
In the Singulari Quadam Pope Pius IX reminded the members of the apostolic hierarchy that, on this subject, it should be their concern to limit their teaching and to limit the inquiries of the Christians subject to their care to the body of revealed truths themselves. They are to see to it that their people know that, according to the teaching of God Himself, there is but one Lord in whom and by whom and through whom salvation is achieved. They are to instruct their people so that the flock may be aware of the fact that there is only one faith, only one body of revealed truth which constitutes God's public and supernatural message for the salvation of men. And they are to preach and teach in such a way that their people will realize that there is only one baptism, only one sacrament of regeneration which is the entrance into the one true Church, the supernatural kingdom of God, the Mystical Body of Christ, in which alone there is salvific contact with the Triune God. This is part of the divine message which they are commissioned and commanded to teach. The invincibility of the ignorance of some individual who is not a member of the Church is definitely not contained in the divine message which has been confided to the apostolic collegium.
The Singulari Quadam contains still another immediately important contribution to Catholic teaching about the possibility of salvation within the Church on the part of individuals who die before they can actually attain membership in this society. It is contained in these two sentences:
For the rest, as the cause of charity demands, let us pour forth continual prayers to God that all nations everywhere may be converted to Christ. And let us do all in our power to bring about the common salvation of men, for the hand of the Lord is not shortened and the gifts of heavenly grace will never be lacking to those who sincerely wish and pray to be comforted in this light.
These two sentences contain what might be called the chart or the plan of the apostolic work for the salvation of men. Pope Pius IX called upon his brother Bishops of the Catholic Church to unite in praying "that all nations everywhere may be converted to Christ" and in employing their energies talents to the utmost "to bring about the common salvation of men." Thus the Sovereign Pontiff reminded his hearers and the entire Church of God that, in the plan of Our Lord's Own teaching, salvation is described as coming to men though the efforts of His followers, and particularly through the labors of His apostolic college. Such, of course, is the significance of Our Lord's final instruction to His apostles before His ascension into Heaven, as recorded in the Gospel to St. Mark.
And He said to them: Go ye into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature.
He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned. [Mark, 16: 15 f.]
Behind the errors which Pope Pius IX was fighting in his allocution was the vague notion that salvation was in some way independent of the efforts of the Catholic Church and of its hierarchy. The religious indifference which was spreading throughout the world a century ago and which was directly or indirectly affecting some of the Catholic people themselves tried to make it appear that in some way or another salvation was due to men by the very fact that they were human beings, descendants of Adam and Eve. To counter the vicious influence of this indifference, Pope Pius IX recalled to the minds of the Bishops of the Church the fact that salvation was something meant to come to men through the power of these Bishops' own work and prayers. In that way it was completely in line with the teaching of St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans:
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.
How then shall they call on Him in Whom they have not believed? Or how shall they believe Him of Whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?
And how shall they preach unless they be sent, as it is written: How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, of them that bring glad tidings of good things? [Rom., 10: 13-15.]
The people who are sent to preach the gospel of salvation are precisely the members of the teaching Church, the Bishops of the Catholic Church, the apostolic college instituted and commissioned by Our Lord Himself. These men, together with the people they call upon to help them in their work, are the ones through whom the message of salvation and the possibility of salvation must come, according to the divine teaching itself, to the children of men.
The exhortation in the Singulari Quadam recalls the response of St. Paul to his responsibility in the way of bringing salvation to those for whom Our Lord died. The Apostle of the Gentiles was willing to do and to suffer so much because he realized that he was acting as God's instrument in bringing salvation to men. He saw himself as in some way the cause of the salvation of men who benefitted from his apostolic labors. He took cognizance of the fact that he was working to gain for Christ and to save those for whom he worked. He brings this out in a magnificent passage in the First Epistle to the Corinthians.
For whereas I was free as to all, I made myself the servant of all, that I might gain the more.
And I became to the Jews a Jew, that I might gain the Jews.
To them that are under the law, as if I were under the law (whereas myself was not under the law), that I might gain them that were under the law. To them that were without the law, as if I were without the law (whereas I was not without the law of God, but as in the law of Christ), that I might gain them that were without the law.
To the weak I became weak, that I might gain the weak. I became all things to all men, that I might save all.
And I do all things for the gospel's sake, that I may be made partaker thereof. [I Cor., 9: 19-23.]
Perhaps the most eloquent statement of the fact that salvation comes from Our Lord's message is to be found in St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans. It is in preaching this message, and in praying that men may accept it with the assent of divine faith and live in conformity to its teachings, that the Bishops of the Catholic Church are, according to the teaching of the Singulari Quadam, to work for the common salvation of men. St. Paul wrote:
To the Greeks and to the barbarians, to the wise and to the unwise, I am a debtor.
So (as much as is in me) I am ready to preach the gospel to you also that are at Rome.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel. For it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth: to the Jew first and to the Greek.
For the justice of God is revealed therein, from faith unto faith, as it is written: The just man liveth by faith. [Rom., 1: 14-17]
The act of divine faith is entirely requisite in order that a man may be converted to Our Lord, in whom alone salvation is to be found. It was of "Our Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth" that St. Peter said: "Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved." [Acts, 4: 12.]
Pope Pius IX put forward this prayer and work incumbent upon the Bishops of the Catholic Church as something which was to be done out of charity. It is, indeed, essentially the work of this virtue. Charity is the supernatural love of friendship for God, a love which necessarily carries with it the love our neighbor based upon this affection for God. The love of friendship for God necessarily involves a sincere will to do His will. Now, it is the will of God that all men be saved. In the First Epistle to Timothy we read of God our Saviour that He "will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." [I Tim., 2: 4.]
Objectively, then, a person is doing the work of charity when he works and prays to bring his fellow men to accept divine public revelation, to enter and to remain in the true supernatural kingdom of God on earth, and to prepare for the possession and enjoyment of the Beatific Vision. The obligation to do this work is all the more incumbent upon the men whom Our Lord has made responsible for the spiritual well-being of their fellows, the members of the apostolic college. The Bishops of the Catholic Church, under the leadership of the Bishop of Rome, the successor of St. Peter, constitute this apostolic college. Justice as well as charity demands that these men work and pray for the accomplishment of this end as powerfully as they can. This is the obligation of which Pope Pius IX spoke in Singulari Quadam.
Essential to this task is an effort to bring men to enter and to remain within the true Church. The Holy Father had already recalled the fact that it is a dogma of divine faith that no one will attain salvation outside the Catholic Church. It would be worse than idle to imagine that one could work for the salvation of men without trying to influence them to enter and to stay within the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ.
Thus, in the final paragraph of the section of the Singulari Quadam that deals with the necessity of the Catholic Church, the Holy Father recalls the intimate connection between this dogma and the missionary nature of the Church itself. The Catholic Church, by reason of that charity which forms the crowning part of what the old theologians designated as the inward or spiritual bond of unity within it, has no choice but to work with all the force at its command to influence men to come and to dwell within it, so that within it they may attain the eternal joys of the Beatific Vision. They Holy Church works necessarily and always for the glory of God, to be achieved in the salvation of those souls for whom Our Lord died on the Cross. By God's institution, and definitely not by reason of any move on the part of the Church as such, eternal salvation is available only to those who die in some manner "within" the Catholic Church. Hence, in the working to achieve its ultimate objective, the Church necessarily and always seeks the means requisite for the attainment of that objective.
Within this same paragraph is one of the most profound observations on the subject of the Church's necessity for salvation to be found in any pontifical document. After insisting on the duty of the Bishops of the Catholic Church to do all in their power to bring about the common salvation of men, the Sovereign Pontiff reminded his hearers that "the hand of the Lord is not shortened, and the gifts of heavenly grace will never be wanting to those who sincerely wish and pray to be comforted in this light." Thus he taught that the work of salvation and the work of conversion to the Catholic Church are definitely labors of divine grace. The apostolic worker for Our Lord need not fancy that the effects of this work will depend ultimately merely, or even principally, upon his own powers and initiative.
Those who are summoned into that Church within which alone salvation is to be found are called, first of all, by divine grace itself. If they correspond with that grace, and sincerely will (even though only implicitly) entrance into the Church, and if they express that will or intention in the infallibly effective act of Christian prayer, God will grant them both entrance into the Church and the salvation which they desire.
It must be understood that the influence of the actual grace which God in His mercy bestows upon men is always in the direction of the attainment of the Beatific Vision. The man who has not the virtue of divine faith and who is in the state of sin is led by the force of grace to make an act of faith, to fear God, to hope for Him as his own good to be enjoyed forever, to begin to love Him, and thus to turn against sin by that penance which comes before baptism, to resolve to amend his life, and to be baptized, and thus to enter the true Church. Once a man is within the Church and in the state of sanctifying grace, the force of divine grace urges him on to an ever-increasing perfection, which involves an ever-increasing intensity of charity. If a man continues to correspond with these graces, he will ultimately attain to his eternal salvation.
Should he sin after the reception of baptism, the direction of the force of grace is toward the reception of absolution in the sacrament of penance, and, of course to the contrition, confession, and satisfaction which belong to the sacrament. In every case the impulse of actual grace leads a man to salvation and to the means requisite for the attainment of salvation which the man upon whom the grace is working has not as yet employed or possessed. For a man who is entirely and essentially "outside" the Church, the force of divine grace will influence him toward entrance into this society.
Correspondence to divine grace, which has brought a man to believe in God and to hope in Him, will lead him to pray to God for the gift of salvation and for the means necessary to salvation which the man does not yet enjoy. Now, prayer which is offered for one's own salvation and for the gifts which are requisite for the attainment of that salvation is infallibly efficacious when it is sincere, pious, and persevering. Thus, even when a man dies before he is actually able to become a member of the Church through the reception of baptism or through canonical reconciliation with the Church, his sincere, persevering, and pious prayer for salvation and for entrance into this society will be answered by God. Contrary to the insinuations and the statements of the indifferentists against which the Singulari Quadam was directed, God is not being outdone in generosity by any of His creatures. Those who correspond with the graces He offers them will receive the answer to their prayers.
This, then, is the teaching which Pope Pius IX insisted that the Bishops of the Catholic Church should give to their people, in order to keep out of the minds of those people the false doctrines which could ruin their spiritual lives.
The Singulari Quadam brings out the following teachings much more clearly and explicitly than previous ecclesiastical declarations on the necessity of the Church for salavation [sic] had done.
(1) It is a ruinous error to imagine that one can have grounds of hope that people now dead, and who had not entered into the Church in any way during the course of their lives, are saved.
(2) The dogma that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church is in no way opposed to the truth that God is all-merciful and all-just.
(3) The doctrine that no one is saved outside the Catholic Church is a truth revealed by God through Jesus Christ, and a truth which all men must believe with the assent of divine faith. It is a Catholic dogma.
(4) Invincible ignorance, of the true Church or of anything else, is not considered by God as a sin. The dogma that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church in no way implies that invincible ignorance is sinful.
(5) It is an impious and deadly error to hold that salvation may be attained in any religion.
(6) It is not within the field either of our competence or of our rights to search out the way in which God's mercy and His justice operate in any given case of a person ignorant of the true Church or of the true religion. We shall see how these divine attributes have operated in the light of the Beatific Vision itself.
(7) It is the business of the Church to work and to pray that all men will attain salvation in the Church.
(8) God is never outdone in generosity. The person who tries to come to Him will never be forsaken. As a matter of fact, the movement toward God, like all good things, originates from God Himself.
I thought I'd end this installation with a clarification. Some people are under the impression that Baptism of water is necessary with an intrinsic necessity rather than by necessity of precept. Their impression is incorrect. Consider the act of eating fruit from a tree. There is nothing wrong with eating fruit from a tree, correct? Now consider eating a piece of fruit form a tree that God tells you not to eat from. In this instance eating that fruit from that tree becomes an evil act. Not by intrinsic necessity, for until the command from God, eating fruit from that tree would have been fine, but by necessity of precept, it becomes evil because God told you not to.
Now consider Baptism with water and Salvation. Before Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Baptism; Baptism with water was not necessary for salvation. But once He instituted the Sacrament of Baptism sacramental Baptism became necessary for salvation with a necessity of precept. An intrinsic necessity is something that is always necessary without exception such as the necessity of Original Sin being cleansed from a soul before salvation of that soul can be possible. But "necessity of precept" is a general rule that results from a command from God which can have exceptions such as when the precept, through no fault of the individual, is not known, or when known, is impossible to fulfill due to a sudden death or any reason beyond the control of the individual.
So when the Catholic Church teaches that sacramental Baptism is necessary with the necessity of precept she admits of exceptions. A loving mother of billions of souls throughout history knows that some of her children may not be aware of the precept through no fault of their own or may die suddenly after having become aware of the precept. Our loving mother does not ask the impossible nor is she unreasonable. Therefore she takes to her bosom all those who have a supernatural faith, and perfect charity and brings them safely to their eternal destination. Those who will suffer anything rather than offend God have perfect charity and are in a state of sanctifying grace obtainable only inside the Catholic Church. These people who were on the road to being baptized with water, even if they did not realize they would have been given the grace to understand the necessity of Baptism and would have conformed with that necessity had they lived longer, are saved within the Church and cleansed with the baptism of [desire] of the Holy Ghost. This is why holy mother Church teaches that even some with implicit desire to join her can be saved. They have the will to do God's will and had they continued in that state that desire would have eventually become explicit and then that desire for membership would have become a reality. Had they lived longer they would have in fact become members of the Church through Baptism.
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