Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Vol. 24, no. 268



The Encyclical
Quanto Conficiamur Moerore

    Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, after citing the allocution Singulari Quadam by Pope Pius IX, returns in his work The Catholic Church and Salvation by offering another papal decree by the same Pontiff, this time Quanto Conficiamur Moerore which reinforces the necessary means of salvation that always include the dogma that outside the Church there is no salvation. He addresses who is not outside and that would include those who might be invincibly ignorant of the true religion and faithfully obey the natural laws and have not committed a mortal sin, though they may not even know the term, they can receive actual grace through the workings of divine light and can be saved, through the baptism of desire. As to who, that is left to God. Conversely one cannot be saved if he knows and refuses to convert to Catholicism and dies in mortal sin.

        "But whether, as seems most probable, the individuals referred to in this section of the encyclical are in the state of grace, or they are being moved by actual grace in the direction of justification, it is important to note that the Quanto Conficiamur Moerore teaches that they 'can, through the working of the divine light and grace, attain eternal life.' Obviously there is no hint here that these people are in a position to attain eternal life or salvation other than 'within' the Catholic Church. There is, however, a definite implication that they can be saved even though they remain invincibly ignorant of the true religion."


    My goal in these installments is to help those of good will to have a sound and deeper understanding of the Catholic Church and salvation. The motivation for me to do this was the increasing number of Feeneyites I have been encountering in my correspondence. I have no doubt that most of those I communicate with are good willed and this is why I am motivated to try to clarify the issue by sharing the writings of the greatest theologian of the pre-Vatican 2 twentieth-century era. I am firmly convinced that those of good will who labor in their study of truth will find it. Seek and you shall find. If your motives are pure and your pre-conceived notions are not overwhelming, you have a decent prayer life and are clear of mortal sin, the possibility of finding and embracing the fullness of truth increases.

    It really does come down to the heart. We are the ones who harden our hearts and entrench ourselves in error and this is usually because of pride. A pride that thinks we know better than everyone else. This is the same pride that probably envelopes those who have called themselves "popes" since 1958. The false claimants appear to believe that they know more than the all the Popes from Peter through Pius XII combined. It is very important for us all, especially now when there is no visible head to guide us, not to put too much weight on our own opinions.

    The works of Monsignor Joseph Clifford Fenton, specifically here from The Catholic Church and Salvation, are not opinions. As we have seen, he has read every ecclesiastical work on the issue of salvation in its own language, and has put it all together for us. The truth of the salvation issue and the Catholic Church is there for all of us to see. If you look at installation two of this series you will see all the writings Father Fenton has studied and you will be able to check them yourselves if you have the means and they are still available.

    The good willed who labor to know and do God's will shall be blessed. They are not complacent but strive to know and embrace the Truth and all that it entails. They will be on a path that leads to the knowledge that there is no salvation outside the Catholic truth. Step by step, those of good will head toward that conclusion. And with each step they take God gives them the grace to take the next step. If they meet an untimely physical demise before their earthly journey to the fullness of truth ends God will look into their heart and reward their good will and efforts. To put it bluntly but hopefully effectively, he will not damn them to eternity because water was not poured on their heads.

    I will stress once again that this does not undermine the necessity (by necessity of precept) of sacramental Baptism for salvation. Those who are aware of this necessity or should be aware of it and remain in culpable ignorance or put it off due to their own negligence will be damned.

    With that, and for the sake of brevity, let us jump right in for in this chapter we will learn, among other things, how "the person who is invincibly ignorant of the true religion, and who sedulously [perseveringly - J. G.] obeys the natural law, lives an honest and upright life, and is prepared to obey God, can be saved through the workings of divine light and grace. Such a person has already chosen God as his ultimate End. He has done this in an act of charity. He is in the state of grace, and not in the state of original or mortal sin. In this act of charity there is involved an implicit desire of entering and remaining within God's true supernatural kingdom. Such a person has had his sins remitted 'with' the true Church of Jesus Christ."

    The teaching of this encyclical is parallel with that of the allocution Singulari Quadam. In both of these documents Pope Pius IX insisted upon the fact that it is a dogma of the faith that no man can be saved outside the Catholic Church. Indeed, the language of the encyclical on this point is even more forceful and explicit than that of the allocution. Likewise in both of these documents there is a very clear implication of the truth that a man can be "within" the true Church in such a way as to be saved without being a member of this society and, indeed, without having a explicit knowledge of it at all. Moreover both the Quanto Conficiamur Moerore and the Singulari Quadam insist upon the missionary nature of the Church and bring this truth into play in their explanations of the dogma. The encyclical, however, brings out some aspects of the teaching not touched upon directly in the allocution which was delivered almost nine years previously. The following two paragraphs of the Quanto Conficiamur Moerore have to do with the dogma of the Church's necessity for salvation.

        And here, Our Beloved Sons and Venerable Brethren, We must mention and reprove a most serious error into which some Catholics have fallen, imagining that men living in errors and apart (alienos) from the true faith and from the Catholic unity can attain to eternal life. This, of course, is completely opposed to Catholic doctrine. It is known to Us and to you that those who labor in invincible ignorance of our most holy religion, and who, carefully observing the natural law and its precepts which God has inscribed in the hearts of all, and who, being ready to obey God, live an honest and upright life, can, through the working of the divine light and grace, attain eternal life, since God, Who clearly sees, inspects, and knows the minds, the intentions, the thoughts, and the habits of all, will, by reason of His goodness and kindness, never allow anyone who has not the guilt of willful sin to be punished by eternal sufferings. But it is a perfectly well known Catholic dogma that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church, and that those who are contumacious against the authority of that same Church, and who are pertinaciously separated from the unity of that Church and from Peter's successor, the Roman Pontiff, to whom the custody of the vineyard has been entrusted by the Savior, cannot obtain eternal salvation.

        God forbid, however, that the children of the Catholic Church should in any way ever be the enemies of those who are in no way joined to us in the same bonds of faith and of charity. But let them [the Catholics] rather strive always to take care of these people when they [those outside the Church] are poor or sick or afflicted by any other ills. Primarily, let them strive to take these people out of the darkness of error in which they unfortunately live, and bring them back to the Catholic truth and to the loving Mother Church that never ceases to hold out its maternal hands affectionately to them, and to call them back to its embrace so that, established and strengthened in faith, hope, and charity, and bringing forth fruit in every good work, they may attain eternal salvation. [Denz., 1677 f.]

    There are three most important lessons contained in this section of the Quanto Conficiamur Moerore, the Holy Father's insistence upon the real necessity of the Church for salvation, his implied indication of a distinction between the necessity of means and the necessity of precept, and his teaching about the possibility of salvation for a man who is invincibly ignorant of the true religion but who faithfully observes the natural law. All of these lessons must be studied carefully by a man who seeks to know the genuine doctrine of the Catholic Church on the necessity of the Church for the attainment of eternal salvation. The teaching of the Quanto Conficiamur Moerore has a special importance because this encyclical has been misinterpreted more than once by men who offered inadequate or inaccurate explanations of the dogma that there is no salvation outside the Church.

    First of all it must be noted that the statement of the dogma that there is no salvation outside the Church is more forceful and explicit in this encyclical than in any other document, except perhaps the Cantate Domino itself. Pope Pius IX condemned as a most serious error (gravissimum errorem) the notion that "men living in errors and apart from the true faith and from Catholic unity can attain to eternal life." He denounced this false teaching as something most completely opposed to Catholic doctrine.

    Furthermore he brought out with special clarity the practical import of this teaching. He reminded the Bishops of Italy, and through them the entire Christian world, that the members of the Catholic Church have definite obligations of charity toward non-Catholics. Not only are Catholics forbidden to be enemies of those outside the fold, but they are also bound to exercise the corporal and spiritual works of mercy for the benefit of non-Catholics. Pope Pius IX stressed the importance of the corporal works of mercy. He asserted that Catholics are obligated to be zealous in taking care of non-members of the Church "when they are poor or sick or afflicted with any other ills." But he also insisted upon the fact that their most important duty in the line of charity was an effort to free these people from their errors and to lead them back to the true Church so that therein "they may attain eternal salvation."

    In other words, according to the Quanto Conficiamur Moerore, the Catholics are obliged in conscience to be realistic in their prayers and works of charity for the benefit of their non-Catholic associates. Pope Pius IX did not want his people to forget that charity for one's neighbor is essentially a part of charity toward God. It is not a work of merely secularistic humanitarianism. The love for one's neighbor which is truly a part of divine charity is essentially a desire to give this neighbor, insofar as it lies within our power, what he needs or will find helpful for the attainment of the Beatific Vision. The basic desire of charity for one's neighbor is the will of intention that this neighbor should have the life of sanctifying grace, and, if he already possesses this supernatural life, that he should grow and persevere in it. It is thus in line with the motive of the Incarnation, the motive that guided Our Lord Himself. He expressed that motive when He declared: "I am come that they may have life and have it more abundantly." [John, 10: 10.]

    Hence, when true Catholic charity takes care of a man who is sick or afflicted in any other way, it does not look upon this man as one whose destiny is limited to this world and to this life. On the contrary, it takes explicit cognizance that the person it works to benefit is one for whom Our Lord died on the Cross, one whom God wills to have with Him forever in the glory of the Beatific Vision. In the encyclical Quanto Conficiamur Moerore, Pope Pius IX reminded the Catholics of the entire world that this explicit cognizance should be eminently practical. The work of the Catholic charity is definitely not complete unless every effort has been expended to free men from the errors that keep them from the eternal possession of God which is their only ultimate end. And, since, by God's own institution, the true Church of Jesus Christ is really requisite for the attainment of man's eternal and supernatural salvation, the work of Catholic charity is lamentably incomplete unless every reasonable effort has been made to persuade non-Catholics to enter this society.

    The Quanto Conficiamur Moerore is supremely realistic in that it recognizes religious error as an evil, and as a definite and serious misfortune for the people who are affected by it. Its objectivity and plain speaking must have been as startling to the moderns of nearly a century ago as it is to some of the men of our own day. Some of the men of the nineteenth century and of the twentieth have been prone to lose sight of the fact that actually a man's life is vitiated by a mistake about his eternal destiny or about the means God has established for the attainment of that destiny. Thus there could be nothing more catastrophic in human life than the acceptance of the errors of atheism or agnosticism, or errors about Our Divine Redeemer, His Church, His religion, and His sacraments. It is strange that some individuals who would be first to acknowledge the calamitous nature of an error in aviation engineering, which would result in the loss of a plane, are not willing to acknowledge the inherent evil of error about Christ and His Church, which would result in man's eternal failure.

    Pope Pius IX incorporated into this section of the encyclical Quanto Conficiamur Moerore a fundamental teaching about the missionary nature or activity of the Catholic Church. Besides bringing out the fact that the Church expects its own children to perform their obligation of charity to those outside the fold by striving to bring these people into the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, the encyclical explains that the Church invites non-Catholics to enter it "so that, established and strengthened in faith, hope, and charity, and bringing forth fruit in every good work, they may attain eternal salvation." The ultimate and fundamental reason why the Catholic Church has always sought and must always seek converts is that these converts may attain the Beatific Vision. The Church is essentially and necessarily a missionary society only because God Himself has established this society as a means necessary for the attainment of eternal salvation.

    Furthermore, the Quanto Conficiamur Moerore is realistic enough to take cognizance of the fact that faith itself comes from and through the Church. We must not lose sight of the fact that the formula for the administration of baptism, in the Rituale Romanum, contains this dialog:

    "What do you ask of the Church of God?"

    "Faith."

    "What does faith offer you?"

    "Everlasting life."

    Divine faith is definitely something which men are expected to seek and to find in the true Church of Jesus Christ. Essentially the true Church is and has been since the time of our first parents the congregation of the faithful, the congregatio fidelium. A man reasonably and prudently asks the Church for faith since the Church is the society authorized and empowered by Our Lord Himself to teach His message, the doctrine we accept with the assent of Christian faith. And the Church is far more than merely the society authorized by Our Lord to teach in His name. It is actually His Mystical Body, the congregation within which He acts as the Sovereign Teacher, in such a way that the members of the hierarchy, the ecclesia docens, are His instruments or ambassadors in the presentation of His Father's message.

    Thus the teaching of the Quanto Conficiamur Moerore is quite accurate in describing the Church as the social unit within which people are established and strengthened in the faith itself. The Epistle to the Hebrews describes Our Lord as "the author and finisher of faith." [Heb., 12: 12.] The Catholic Church is His Mystical Body. In seeking faith from the Church, we seek it from Him.

    Faith, hope and charity, together with all the other qualities that enable us to live the supernatural life, come to us from Our Lord. He is actually the Head of His Mystical Body, and invites those who do not as yet belong to it to join it so that they may be established and strengthened in these virtues by Our Lord, the Head of the Church. There is no other source from which these benefits can come.

    Furthermore, faith, hope, charity, and the rest actually constitute what the older theologians used to call the spiritual or inner bond of unity within the Catholic Church. If a man actually believes in God by holding as certain, on the authority of God revealing, the content of that message Our Lord preached and continues to preach in the midst of the society of His disciples, and if, in the light of that faith, and moved by God's grace, a man hopes for God as his own eternal Good and loves Him with the supernatural friendship of charity, he is by that very fact joined to Our Lord and to His disciples within the supernatural kingdom of God.

    There have, unfortunately, been some rather serious misinterpretations of the second and third lessons contained in that portion of the encyclical Quanto Conficiamur Moerore that deals with the necessity of the Catholic Church for the attainment of eternal salvation. The second lesson is to be found in the teaching of Pope Pius IX on the distinction between the Church's necessity of means and its necessity of precept. This lesson is brought out in a rather long and complicated sentence in the text. The encyclical tells us that "it is a perfectly well known Catholic dogma that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church, and that those who are contumacious against the authority of that same Church, and who are contumaciously separated from the unity of that Church and from Peter's successor, the Roman Pontiff, to whom the custody of the vineyard has been entrusted by the Savior, cannot obtain eternal salvation."

    Some careless writers and teachers have tried to make people imagine that the second portion of this sentence is an expression of the entire meaning conveyed in the first section of that same sentence. Writers of this sort incidentally, have even misinterpreted the Holy Office letter of 1949, the Suprema Haec Sacra, where the terminology is even clearer than that employed in the Quanto Conficiamur Moerore. In both instances there has been an attempt to give the impression that these authoritative documents were representing the Catholic Church as necessary for the attainment of eternal salvation by the necessity of precept only. In both instances the attempts were manifestly wrong. Here, however, we shall consider only the text of the encyclical written by Pope Pius IX. We shall study the Suprema Haec Sacra in a later chapter.

    The immediate text in the Quanto Conficiamur Moerore indicates quite clearly that the Sovereign Pontiff was dealing with two distinct kinds of necessity. The context proves this point beyond any possibility of doubt. The sentence quoted two paragraphs above tells us of the well known dogma that no one can be saved outside the Church and states that people contumaciously separated from the Church and its visible head cannot be saved. The text itself thus indicates quite obviously that the Church is, according to its own doctrine, necessary in two distinct ways. First of all, it is represented as something necessary for all men. No one will attain to eternal salvation unless he is in some way "within" this society at the moment of his death. Again, it is shown as necessary in still another manner. People who obstinately stay separated from it and from its visible head, the Roman Pontiff, cannot obtain eternal salvation.

    Now it is immediately evident that the first statement would not be true at all if the Catholic Church were necessary for salvation merely with the necessity of precept. A thing is said to be necessary for salvation with the necessity of precept when God has issued a command which cannot be disobeyed except at the cost of the loss of friendship with Him. A thing which is merely the object of God's command and no more would be something necessary with the necessity of precept alone. The only persons who could be excluded from salvation on this count would be the men and women who knowingly and deliberately disobeyed the command given by God. Persons invincibly ignorant of that command would not be and could not be deprived of eternal salvation because they had not obeyed the command.

    Thus, if the Church were necessary for salvation merely with the necessity of precept, or, to put the same thing in another way, if the Church were necessary for the attainment of eternal salvation only in the sense that individuals contumaciously separated from it could not be saved, it would definitely not be true to say that no man could be saved outside the Catholic Church. Yet this is precisely what the encyclical Quanto Conficiamur Moerore, together with many other authoritative documents of the ecclesia docens, does assert. The language of the encyclical is most explicit: "neminem scilicet extra catholicam Ecclesiam posse salvari."

    The only possible way a man could logically hold that the statement "no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church" means nothing more than "people who are contumaciously separated from the Church cannot be saved," is to postulate that the only people outside the Church are those obstinately and willfully separated from it. Such a teaching would, of course, constitute a denial of any invincible ignorance of the Church on the part of non-Catholics. In interpretation of this sort would run counter to the very context of the document it set out to explain. Yet this fanciful teaching is necessarily and clearly implied in any attempt to persuade people that the Catholic dogma of the Church's necessity for salvation means only that persons who willfully remain separated from the Church and from the Roman Pontiff cannot obtain eternal salvation.

    The context of the Quanto Conficiamur Moerore make it even more evident that we cannot explain the dogma of the Church's necessity for salvation as meaning merely that the Church is necessary with the necessity of precept. The primary point brought out in this section of the Quanto Conficiamur Moerore is the vigorous repudiation by Pope Pius IX of the erroneous teaching "that men living in errors and apart from the true faith and from the Catholic unity can attain to eternal life." Here the Sovereign Pontiff referred to all the people of this class. He did not restrict his statement to those who are willfully or contumaciously dwelling and remaining apart from the Church and its teaching. It is only by doing manifest violence to the text of his encyclical that his statement could be interpreted as applying only to those who are willfully separated from the faith and from Catholic unity.

    By clear implication, though obviously not with the explicitness of the Suprema Haec Sacra, the encyclical Quanto Conficiamur Moerore brings out the fact that the dogma of the Catholic Church's necessity for the attainment of eternal salvation means that the Church is necessary in two ways. First, it is necessary with the necessity of precept since God Himself has commanded all men to dwell within this society. Then, it is also necessary with the necessity of means since it has been constituted by God Himself as a factor apart from which men will not and cannot obtain the Beatific Vision.

    The third and most difficult lesson of the encyclical Quanto Conficiamur Moerore on the subject of the Church's necessity for salvation is to be found in its teaching on the possibility of salvation for persons invincibly ignorant of the true religion. What the encyclical has to say on this point is contained in a single long and highly complicated sentence:

        It is known to Us and to you that those who labor in invincible ignorance of our most holy religion, and who, carefully observing the natural law and its precepts which God has inscribed in the hearts of all, and who, being ready to obey God, live an honest and upright life, can, through the working of the divine light and grace, attain eternal life, since God, who clearly sees, inspects and knows the minds, the intentions, the thoughts and the habits of all, will, by reason of His supreme goodness and kindness, never allow anyone who has not the guilt of willful sin to be punished by eternal sufferings.

    This sentence is tremendously rich in theological implication. It can never be adequately understood other than against the background and in the context of the Catholic theology of grace and of sin. Unfortunately this sentence has sometimes been explained in an inadequate manner.

    In order to have an adequate and accurate analysis of this teaching we must see clearly, first of all, what precise class of people Pope Pius IX refers to in this sentence. They are people who are described as carefully or diligently (sedulo) obeying the natural law. They are prepared to obey God. They lead an honest and upright life. And they are invincibly ignorant of the true Catholic religion.

    Now it is perfectly obvious that this description does not apply to all the individuals who are invincibly ignorant of the Catholic Church and of the Catholic faith. Invincible ignorance is by no means a sacrament, communicating goodness of life to those who are afflicted with it. The fact that a man is invincibly ignorant of the true religion does not in any way guarantee that he will observe the natural law zealously, that he will be ready to obey God, or that he will actually lead an upright life.

    The invincibly ignorant people described by Pope Pius IX in the encyclical Quanto Conficiamur Moerore, however, have attained their spiritual position by co-operating with divine grace. It must be clearly understood, of course, that people in the state of sin, people who are not co-operating with God's grace, can perform works that are good. The Quanto Conficiamur Moerore, however, speaks of persons who are carefully or zealously observing the natural law and who are leading honest and upright lives. Such individuals are not turned away from God by sin.

    Actually the persons of the kind described here in the Quanto Conficiamur Moerore are most probably in the state of sanctifying grace, and hence they are individuals who have true faith, hope, and charity. It is, of course, a dogma of the Church that not all the works or acts of people in the state of sin are actually sins against God. Apart from any supernatural aid of divine grace a sinner is capable of performing some naturally good works and of avoiding individual mortal and venial sins. But in order to avoid mortal sin for a long time a man needs the aid of supernatural divine grace.

    [Cf. The Salmanticenses, Cursus theologicus (Paris and Brussels, 1878), IX, tract. XIV, disp. 2, dub. 5, 223 ff.: Biluart, Cursus theologiae (Paris, 1904), III, Tractatus de gratia, diss. III, art. 5, 6, 343 ff. Billuart teaches that "fallen man cannot obey the entire natural law quoad substantiam without gratis sanans" (344), and that "fallen man in the state of mortal sin cannot, without a special and superadded grace of God, avoid for a long time (diu) all mortal sins against the natural law and overcome all temptations [against the natural law]" (348).

    The Thomistic theologians point to the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologica, Ia-IIae, q. 109, a. 4 and 8. They appeal especially to one statement of the magisterium, that of the sixteenth Council of Carthage, can. 3: "Likewise it has pleased [the Council] that whoever shall have said that the grace of God by which a man is justified through Jesus Christ Our Lord is good only for the remission of sins that have already been committed, but not as a help to prevent sins being committed, should be anathema" (Denz., 103).]

    In order to observe all the precepts of the natural law over any considerable period of time, men must most probably be strengthened by sanctifying grace itself. They certainly could not do this without some supernatural help of divine grace.

    This is precisely the condition described in the encyclical of Pope Pius IX. The pertinent passage of the Quanto Conficiamur Moerore refers only to those persons invincibly ignorant of the true Catholic religion who, at the same time, are diligently observing the natural law, are prepared to obey God, and are leading honest and upright lives. Such individuals are obviously not merely avoiding some mortal sins and doing some good deeds. Rather they are continuing over a long period of time to obey the precepts of the natural law and to avoid serious offense against God. Otherwise it would not be correct to say that they were leading honest and upright lives.

    But whether, as seems most probable, the individuals referred to in this section of the encyclical are in the state of grace, or they are being moved by actual grace in the direction of justification, it is important to note that the Quanto Conficiamur Moerore teaches that they "can, through the working of the divine light and grace, attain eternal life." Obviously there is no hint here that these people are in a position to attain eternal life or salvation other than "within" the Catholic Church. There is, however, a definite implication that they can be saved even though they remain invincibly ignorant of the true religion.

    The "divine light" to which the encyclical refers is, of course, the illumination of true supernatural faith. No one is going to attain the Beatific Vision unless he has passed from this life with faith, accepting as true, on the authority of God Himself, the supernatural teaching that God has revealed.

    The "grace" spoken of in the document is ultimately sanctifying or justifying grace, the quality by which men are rendered connaturally able to act on the divine level, and to live as adopted sons of God and as brothers of Jesus Christ. The man who possesses this quality has always, along with it, the full panoply of the supernatural or infused virtues and the gifts of the Holy Ghost. The supreme virtue in all of this supernatural organism is that of charity. No one is going to attain to the Beatific Vision unless he leaves this life in possession of sanctifying grace, charity, and the virtues of which charity is at once the crown and the bond of perfection. Actual graces tend to move a sinner toward the possession of sanctifying grace in the Church.

    Now, that faith which is absolutely requisite for the attainment of eternal life is definitely not a mere willingness to believe. It is the actual acceptance, as perfectly true, of the supernatural message which God has revealed. Specifically, it is the acceptance of the message which God has revealed through Our Lord Jesus Christ, the teaching which theology designates as divine public revelation.

    The divine public revelation is composed of a certain number of truths or statements. It is quite manifest that genuine and supernatural divine faith can exist and does exist in individuals who have no clear and distinct awareness of some of these truths, but who simply accept them as they are contained or implied in other doctrines. But, in order that faith may exist, there certainly must be some minimum of teachings which are grasped distinctly by the believer and within which the rest of the revealed message is implied or implicit. Catholic theology holds that it is possible to have genuine divine faith when two, or, according to some writers, four, of these revealed truths are believed distinctly or explicitly. There can be real divine faith when a man believes explicitly, on the authority of God revealing, the existence of God as the Head of the supernatural order, the fact that God rewards good and punishes evil, and the doctrines of the Blessed Trinity and of the Incarnation.

    It is definitely not a teaching of the Catholic theologians that there can be no true act of divine and supernatural faith apart from an explicit awareness of the Catholic religion as the true religion and of the Catholic Church as the true kingdom of God. On the contrary, it is the common teaching of the theologians that true supernatural faith can exist even where there is only an implicit belief in the Catholic Church and in the Catholic religion. This, in the last analysis, is the fact brought out in the Quanto Conficiamur Moerore, when that document tells us that a person invincibly ignorant of the true religion can attain eternal life through the workings of the divine light and of grace.

    Any act of genuine supernatural divine faith, however comparatively poor it may be in explicit content, can be the intellectual basis for an act of divine charity. True supernatural charity is an act of the love of benevolence and friendship for God known supernaturally, in the light of the Beatific Vision in the next world, or in the light of divine faith in this life. Any man who believes in God with true supernatural divine faith can, with the help of God's grace, love Him as He is known in this way. And this supernatural love for God, if it is a love of benevolence and friendship, is the act of divine charity.

    Sanctifying grace always accompanies the love of charity. The man who dies in the state of sanctifying grace will inevitably attain to the Beatific Vision. Hence, since it is possible for a man to have genuine supernatural faith and charity and the life of sanctifying grace, without having a distinct and explicit knowledge of the true Church and with the true religion, it is possible for this man to be saved with only an implicit knowledge and desire of the Church.

    The Quanto Conficiamur Moerore explained that God will "never allow anyone who has not the guilt of willful sin to be punished by eternal sufferings (minime patiatur, quempiam aeternis puniri suppliciis, qui voluntariae reatum non habeat)." In this way the Sovereign Pontiff once again focused attention on the fact there is no such thing as neutrality toward God, the Head of the supernatural order. Every individual in the world is either in the state of grace, the condition of supernatural friendship with God, or in the state of sin, the state of aversion from Him. Infants who die unbaptized pass from this life in the state of sin, but they have no personal or actual offenses against God. They are not being punished, properly speaking, when they are not admitted to the Beatific Vision. They are simply being deprived of something which does not belong to them, something which their first earthly father, Adam, abdicated for them or renounced for them when he committed his sin of disobedience against of God.

    On the other hand, those who live to attain the use of reason are likewise either in the state of grace or in the state of sin. In the case of these individuals, however, it is the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas and of his commentators that if they do not possess the life of sanctifying grace, they are in the state of mortal sin. We find this teaching, which must be understood if we are going to have any really theological grasp of the dogma of the Catholic Church's necessity for the attainment of eternal salvation, in the article of the Summa Theologica in which St. Thomas considers and answers the question about the possibility of a man's being in a condition in which he would be in the state of original sin and guilty of venial, but not mortal, sin. The translation of the body of the article runs as follows:

    I answer saying that it is impossible that venial sin should be in anyone together with original sin but without mortal sin. The reason is that, before anyone arrives at the age of discretion, the defect of age that prevents the use of reason excuses him from mortal sin. Hence, for a much greater reason, it excuses him from venial sin if he should perform some act which would be ex genere suo a venial sin. But when he shall have begun to have the use of reason, he is not entirely excused from the guilt of venial and mortal sin. But the first thing which then occurs to a man to think of is to consider about himself. And if he should order himself to the proper end, through grace he obtains the remission of original sin. But if, on the other hand, he does not set himself toward the proper end, according to the capacity for discretion he has at that age, he will sin mortally, not doing what he is able to do (non faciens quod in se est). And from that time on, venial sin will not be in him without mortal sin until after the whole has been forgiven in him by grace. [Ia-IIae, q. 89, a. 6.]

    Back of this teaching of the Summa Theologica is the realistic and dynamic appreciation of the order of salvation which, unfortunately, has been somewhat obscured for some individual teachers by a defective type of casuistry. The teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas takes cognizance of the fact that the adult human being in the state of grace is not merely one endowed by God with a certain supernatural quality, but is actually a person who, by the force of that quality and the various supernatural and actual graces he has received from God, is really working for the attainment of God's supernatural glory. The person who has the use of reason and who is in possession of the state of grace is one who lives a life motivated by the act of supernatural charity.

    On the other hand, the individual whose life is motivated by a purpose other than that of divine charity is working for some purpose other than the one God wills to have. This man is working against God's orders. He is badly disposed toward God. He is in a condition of aversion from God, his only final and supernatural End. He is in the condition or state of mortal sin.

    Hence, any man who has the use of reason and who dies in a state of aversion from God is turned away from God through his own fault. If he does not attain the Beatific Vision, it is because of a free choice he has made to work for some ultimate purpose distinct from and opposed to the one which God Himself has set for him. He is in a position in which he is justly subject to punishment by God Himself.

    So it is that the Quanto Conficiamur Moerore teaches us that God punishes with everlasting torments only those men who have passed from this life in a state of aversion from Him which they have freely chosen by a sinful act. On the other hand, the decision to work for the end of divine and supernatural charity is an act of love for the Triune God. As such it is the terminus of the process of conversion. It is the act which necessarily carries with it hatred and detestation of sin which offends God, and thus the act in which sin itself is remitted.

    In its insistence upon the dogma of the Church's necessity for salvation, the Quanto Conficiamur Moerore points clearly to the truth that, in every person who is effectively moved God's grace to make this act of supernatural charity, this decision must, by God's Own institution, involve at least a sincere and genuine desire to enter His Church. In the actual designs of the Triune God, the desire to love Him and to please Him as He is known supernaturally in the light of true divine faith is such that it must include the intention, either explicit or implicit, of entering and remaining within His supernatural kingdom. Where the intention of charity does not exist in a man who has the use of reason, that man is in a condition of voluntary aversion from the living God. And where there is not at least an intention of entering into and remaining within God's true supernatural kingdom, there can be no true charity.

    On this point the teachers of sacred theology frequently encounter reactions and criticisms stemming, in the last analysis, from an anthropomorphic concept of God. Some people profess to see in this portion of Catholic doctrine factors in some way opposed to the truths of the divine justice and mercy. The context of the Singulari Quadam and the Quanto Conficiamur Moerore make it quite clear that such attitudes existed in the days of Pope Pius IX.

    People who adopt such attitudes come to imagine that, according to this section of Catholic doctrine, God is represented as being in a way less generous than His creatures. They claim to believe that, in making the Church necessary, both with the necessity of precept and the necessity of means, for the attainment of man's eternal salvation, God has placed some men in an impossible situation. They claim that the Catholic teaching on this point represents the man who has never heard the Gospel preached as utterly incapable of making the decision to love God with the love of charity, and that thus it depicts such an individual as shut off from eternal salvation through no fault of his own.

    Basically, such attitudes are founded on anthropomorphism, the intellectual fault according to which God is represented in the guise of man. The people who adopt these attitudes forget that the movement toward conversion and salvation must begin with God Himself rather than with His creatures. God is the Ipsum intelligere subsistens, the ultimate Source of all being and activity in the natural and the supernatural orders. If a man moves toward conversion and salvation, it is because God has moved him, and moved him with infallible efficacy to make a genuinely free decision. If God moves one of His creatures toward the eternal possession of Himself in the Beatific Vision, this act of God's will will not and cannot be frustrated.

    Or, to consider the same truth from another angle, the man who freely chooses to love God with the affection of charity, to serve God and to work to please Him in all things, makes this decision precisely because he is being moved to it by God's grace. God is the First Cause and the First Mover in this free decision just as He is with reference to every other act in all the created universe. The omnipotent, all-just, and all-merciful God will not and cannot allow a person who freely desires to love Him with the supernatural love of charity to lack what he needs for the accomplishment of this desire precisely because the desire itself is the work of His grace.

    Man can freely choose to make the love of the Triune God the ultimate motivating force of his own life. If he makes such a choice, he makes it freely by the power of divine grace. On the other hand, he can also freely decide to set up some end other than God as the final objective of his activities, or even an end in the defiance of God. It is only when he dies thus freely turned away from God that he will deserve to be, and will be, punished with everlasting sufferings.

    Finally, if we are to grasp this portion of Catholic doctrine, we must realize what we may call the order or the procedure of sacred theology. We do not and we must not give full rein to our imaginations and try to conjure up situations in which we come to fancy that God has been less than just or merciful to some individual men or classes of men in establishing the Catholic Church as a necessary means for the attainment of eternal salvation. Rather we must fix our attention on the paramount truth that the One who has thus instituted the Church as the social unit outside which no one can be saved is not only just and merciful, but is subsistent Justice and Mercy.

    Thus the teaching of the Quanto Conficiamur Moerore can be summed up in the following statements:

    (1) It is a very serious error to hold that men who live apart from the true faith and Catholic unity can attain eternal life if they die in this condition.

    (2) The person who is invincibly ignorant of the true religion, and who sedulously obeys the natural law, lives an honest and upright life, and is prepared to obey God, can be saved through the workings of divine light and grace.

    (3) Such a person has already chosen God as his ultimate End. He has done this in an act of charity. He is in the state of grace, and not in the state of original or mortal sin. In this act of charity there is involved an implicit desire of entering and remaining within God's true supernatural kingdom. Such a person has had his sins remitted "within" the true Church of Jesus Christ.

    (4) The Church is requisite for the attainment of eternal salvation with both the necessity of means (no one at all can be saved unless he dies either as a member of the Church or with a genuine and sincere desire-either explicit or implicit-of entering the Church and remaining within it), and with the necessity of precept (contumacious refusal to enter the Church or to remain within it is mortally sinful).

    (5) It is the duty of Catholics to help the needy outside the fold, and it is primarily their duty to bring these people to the acceptance of God's revealed truth insofar as they are able to do so.

    One must have a supernatural faith in order for salvation to be possible. To have the supernatural faith necessary for salvation one must, at a minimum, believe that God exists and that He rewards good and punishes evil. It is also commonly taught that one must also believe in the Incarnation and the Holy Trinity. A good-willed person who cooperates with the actual graces sent from God toward the embracing of truth is on the path to salvation. If they truly are of good will, and it is truly necessary to believe in the Incarnation and the Holy Trinity before one obtains the supernatural faith absolutely necessary for salvation they will obtain it. There is a difference between believing in God and being open to Whoever He is and rejecting the Holy Trinity and Incarnation. A good-willed person who is on the path to salvation will accept the truth whatever it is and will not reject the Truth, once presented, for convenience.

    The beatitudes show the efficacious work of the good willed who labor to do God's will to the best of their ability and would rather die than to offend Him.

    Blessed indeed are those who are poor in spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed indeed are the meek for they shall possess the land. Blessed indeed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted. Blessed indeed are they that hunger and thirst after justice for they shall be filled. Blessed indeed are the merciful for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed indeed are the clean of heart for they shall see God. Blessed indeed are the peace-makers for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed indeed are they that suffer persecution for justice sake for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed indeed are those who are reviled and persecuted and spoken evil against untruly for Christ's sake for their reward in Heaven will be very great.

    Those who truly work to do God's will and are not willfully blind and or complacent are blessed and will be blessed even if they die without becoming members of the Catholic Church. They are blessed because they are united to Christ within the Church whether they are members or not. Those who are meek because of their love of God are attached to Christ even if they are not aware of their attachment to Christ.

    Those who mourn because of their love of God are attached to Christ even if they are not aware of their attachment to Christ. Those who hunger and thirst after justice because of their love for God are attached to Christ even if they are not aware of their attachment to Christ. Those who are merciful because of their love of God are attached to Christ even if they are not aware that they are attached to Christ. One cannot be clean of heart if he is not in a state of sanctifying grace, and sanctifying grace can only be obtained within the Church. Non-members in a state of sanctifying grace are within the Church. Those who are peace-makers because of their love of God are attached to Christ even if they are not aware that they are attached to Christ. Jesus is God. Those who are reviled and persecuted and spoken evil against untruly for God's sake are attached to Christ and within the Church even if they are not aware of this fact and their reward in Heaven will indeed be very great.

John Gregory


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        "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



John Gregory's FAITHFUL TO TRADITION
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Vol. 24, no. 268