I have written on the issue of the meaning of No Salvation Outside the Church, called "The Case Against Father Feeney And For Baptism Of Blood And Desire." My purpose in that piece was to show that the Magisterium of the Catholic Church’s teaching on the issue has not departed from the truths of what the Church has always held. My purpose was not to examine the three “de fide” (what Catholic must accept) dogmatic statements on the issue, but to say that the way that the magisterium interprets those decrees are reconcilable with the past decrees. I also showed how the statements of Vatican II which elaborates on the issue is not only consistent with these original decrees, though it has a different emphasis, but it is also binding. Nevertheless, I did not examine the original decrees themselves. The Church teaching in the Catechism reaffirms the age long teaching that there is no Salvation Outside the Church. It does say, however, that those people who are invincibly ignorant of the Catholic Church, have the possibility of being saved, even if they do not physically join the Catholic Church. I showed in my piece, that this was a legitimate doctrinal development that did not contradict what the Church has always taught. However, many claim that the Popes for the last 100 years or so have watered down the dogma proclaimed by Pope Innocent III in the Lateran Council of AD 1215, Unam Sanctam, the Papal Bull of Pope Boniface VIII, 1302, and the (Pope Eugene IV, the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441.) Since then I have been challenged by people who argue that I was ‘too scared’ to state the three de fide decrees by the Popes, as it would supposedly show that no non-Roman Catholic can be saved.
Before I get to the texts themselves, we must look at a couple of assumptions that Feeneyites hold, when they, outside the legitimate magisterial authority, declare what these decrees say. They affirm that these decrees hold that only Baptized Roman Catholics can be saved. These are assumptions that they must hold, but seem hard for them to admit. I am sure that there are other assumptions, but the following are apparent ones that come to my mind.
1) The most important Feeneyite assumption is that those being mentioned as being excluded from salvation includes those who have never heard the message of salvation as proclaimed by Christ’s Church. There is thus no way out, unless one physically becomes a member of Christ’s Church. The question of whether people are culpable is irrelevant, because the decrees leave no room for any ifs, ands or buts. That is the main assumption behind the Feeneyite line. Thus, we would expect in the decrees, such statements to be made. They will quote Romans 1 which says they have no excuse. Of course, they ignore Romans 2:14-15, which shows that those who obey what is written on their heart, would achieve salvation. We would thus expect, in the three de fide decrees, statements from the Popes, that there would be a de fide definition declaring that those who love Christ, but die before having the chance to be baptized, are condemned to hell. We would also expect, that the Popes and Councils would be explicit, or at least implicitly mention, in these very decrees, that those who never heard the message would also be condemned, and would fall within the mention of those who can not achieve salvation. However, when we examine these decrees, we will see that neither of these assumptions are true.
2) The next assumption is that most Church Fathers were wrong on the issue. In my piece, I gave lots of quotes from Church Fathers and Popes who though they declared almost to a man, their belief in ‘No Salvation Outside the Church (Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus, hereafter termed EENS), also left room for those who by by desire for baptism could still attain salvation. Even those most often quoted by Feeneyites in support of their position, would often at least grant exceptions for those who died if they died a baptism of blood before being baptized. The earliest Christian apologists, such as Justin Martyr and St. Ireneaus, who also declared EENS, also declared that if people responded to whatever grace that God had given them, if even not baptized members of the Catholic Church, could be saved. The Feeneyites will often quote a Pope who showed that Church Fathers can err, and in fact quote a Pope who argued that St. Augustine erred on an issue, and he did not have authority over the Pope. Yes, it is true that the Church Fathers have erred on issues and are not infallible; nevertheless, with such an array of Church Fathers speaking out against the Feeneyite position, it is strange that there is never any mention of any of the Fathers who favored the broader view of salvation, as being wrong on the issue. If St. Augustine was so wrong on what later would be a de fide definition, why did not the Pope say he was wrong on this issue? After all, St. Augustine, also did argue that those who loved Christ, and died before receiving baptism (all the while still confirming the necessity of baptism) could still be saved. Why such a silence from the Councils and Popes if all these Church Fathers were wrong on such an important issue?
3) Another assumption is that since these de fide definitions, Popes and Councils have not done their job for 700 years in condemning heresy among Saints!!! The great doctor of the Church, for example is St. Thomas Aquinas. As pointed out in my prior essay, he affirmed unhesitatingly at the same time that he affirmed the necessity of baptism, that those who desired baptism, but died before they could get baptized, would achieve salvation. If his writing on such a pivotal issue did not square up with the first de fide definition, then Popes have tolerated heresy among its ranks for 700 years. Is that likely? His writings have been promulgated with great gusto in the magisterium, and yet there is no record of his condemnation!!! How could St. Thomas be canonized if he taught such a deceiving heresy? The Catholic Church does not canonize heretics. At the least the Pope would have said “You know, he got most things right, but he made a heretical statement on salvation. But despite that, he was Ok, so we canonize him because of his other writings. ” However, not one mention of him being wrong on this issue. You would figure that among the anathemas sits written in the past centuries, at least one of them would have been on those who held to that one could achieve salvation without water baptism, or on other Saints (such as St. Frances De Sales) who argued that one who did not hear the message of the gospel could achieve salvation through Christ, though he was invincibly ignorant. The Father Feeney assumption is that the magisterium, right after the decrees of the Council of Trent, promulgated an errant Catechism (that said one would achieve salvation with a desire for baptism as mentioned in my prior piece). The magisterium has promulgated three Catechisms that teach heresy (Council of Trent, Pius X, and the recent Catechisms). Thus, the Feeneyite assumption is that the Popes and Councils have promulgated heretical teachings of Saints who taught after the de fide definition of EENS. That is unlikely to say the least.
4) We have an assumption that the pope who promulgated the first de fide definition, just a few years earlier, wrote heresy, as we will see later. I have been called a heretic by several Feeneyites. If so, I join the ranks of Popes who taught likewise. According to them, the Popes have been in heresy for almost 140 years or so. From the writings of Pope Pius IX, St. Pope Pius X, Pope Pius XII, Paul VI, John Paul II, etc. all have taught heresy, because they taught that those who are invincibly ignorant, have the possibility of achieving salvation. None of the Popes mentioned downplayed the importance of people joining the Catholic Church. Here one has access to the salvific sacraments. They have left room for the possibility of salvation for those who though not directly joining the Roman Catholic Church, still could be linked to the Church, if they truly desire, and respond to whatever grace God has given them. We supposedly thus have heresy in the ranks of the popes. Not once or twice, but repeatedly. Of course, that does a hatchet job of Matthew 16:18 (which says the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church) Now, to the texts themselves:
[The 12th Ecumenical Council of the Church]
The first part of this decree is about what Catholics believe. In this first decree there is absolutely no mention of those who have never heard the message of the gospel. The fact that non-Catholics who have never heard the gospel are condemned is important and foundational to the Feeneyite view!!! Thus, what we see is that those who hold to the rigorist view, as adding their own words to what Pope Innocent III wrote. He does not say, for those who have never heard the message, they can not be saved. The actual presumption in his writing is that the people who are reading this know who the Pope is, and that he is the head of Christendom. Those who are outside of the Catholic Church of their own volition are no doubt condemned. That is consistent with what the Catholic Church teaches today.
In this decree we also see the mention of baptism and the Eucharist. It is in fact a de fide definition that one does not need to eat the Eucharist for salvation (baptized babies who die before the age of reasons achieve salvation even if they do not partake of the Eucharist).
In relation to baptism only seven years prior to this decree, this same Pope Innocent III wrote in 1208 AD:
“A certain Jew, when at the point of death, since he lived only among Jews, immersed himself in water, while saying I baptize myself in the name of the Father, and the Son, and in the Holy Spirit.. We respond that since there should be a distinction between the one baptizing and the one baptized, as clearly gathered from the words of the Lord when said "Go baptize all nations in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit." The Jew must be baptized again by another. If however such a one had died immediately he would have rushed to his heavenly home without delay because of the faith of the sacrament although not because of the sacrament of faith. Denzinger section 413.”
We see that the Pope shows that one who is so desperate for baptism he tries to baptize himself, but is unable to have someone baptize him before he dies, would rush to his heavenly home before he is baptized!!! For a Feeneyite, It is amazing that a Pope who only seven years later affirms the first de fide decree, also saw that the desire for baptism would achieve salvation. However, it is not amazing, because the definition by no means intended to exclude those like he mentioned only seven years prior. And of course, the first de fide definition did not mention that Pope Innocent III was wrong only seven years earlier. If the Feeneyite
position was true, the Pope, and the Council would have had an obligation to say that the Pope’s prior statement was wrong. The one who did not get actually baptized (though he desired it) should have been declared to have been in hell. Of course this decree makes no such declaration, because the one with that type of desire would be saved, even if not water baptized.
If, then, the Greeks or others say that they were not committed to the care of Peter and his successors, they necessarily confess that they are not of the sheep of Christ; for the Lord says, in John, that there is one fold, one shepherd, and one only.
This authority, moreover, even though it is given to man and exercised through man, is not human but rather divine, being given by divine lips to Peter and founded on a rock for him and his successors through Christ Himself whom He has confessed; the Lord Himself saying to Peter: "Whatsoever thou shalt bind," etc. Whoever, therefore, resists this power thus ordained by God, resists the ordination of God, unless he makes believe, like the Manichean, that there are two beginnings. This we consider false and heretical, since by the testimony of Moses, not "in the beginnings," but "in the beginning" God created the heavens and the earth.
Indeed we declare, say, pronounce, and define that it is altogether necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.
We notice that this is after St. Thomas’ writings and would have been the perfect Council to correct him. Of course they did not correct him, because this decree was not inconsistent with what he taught.
Notice that in this writing, that Pope Boniface mentions the Greeks, ( a mention of what we now know as the Greek Orthodox Church.) He writes that they specifically rejected papal authority, when they said “If, then, the Greeks or others say that they were not committed to the care of Peter and his successors, they necessarily confess that they are not of the sheep of Christ; for the Lord says, in John, that there is one fold, one shepherd, and one only.” It says the Greeks and others, specifically refused to submit to papal authority. Thus, very much implied, is that they have heard the message of the gospel, and rejected the fact that Peter and his successors had authority over all of the Church. The Greeks (and others, are put in the same category of those who knowingly rejected the Pope’s authority) thus knowingly rejected this authority. They refuse to be one in the one sheepfold intended. Thus there is no excuse for this. Therefore, for these people who have heard the message and rejected the Pope’s authority, the only way that they can be saved is by accepting this papal authority. Thus, in keeping with this, when they have heard the message, the only way that they can be saved is by coming into the Church that Christ established and submit to this papal authority. That is the background for the de fide definition. That is in tune with the Pope John Paul’s teaching that when one has heard the message of the gospel and the authority of the Pope over the Church, one must be submissive to this authority to achieve salvation.
There is no mention in this decree of those who have not heard the message of papal authority. Pope Boniface does not say, “if they have not heard the message of the gospel and papal authority one can not be saved.”
Another question is “how could one submit to the Pope to achieve salvation?” It is indeed possible that one can be submissive to God (and his vicar, the Pope) without knowing of the necessity of this submission. An analogy may show this point. For example, during the Colonial times, Great Britain owned vast amounts of empires in Asia and Africa. All the people who lived in those areas were indeed truly under the authority of Great Britain; however, if one went into the bushes of Asia or Africa, there were probably people who did not know about the authority of Great Britain, and did not know that they had to submit to it. In a sense, they were submissive to Great Britain without knowing of the need to. If once they learned of the necessity of being submissive to the colonial rule of Great Britain, they would then become submissive when they knew they had to. However, if they learned of this authority and rejected this authority, they cut themselves off. In the same way, the Pope truly has authority over all the earth; nevertheless, there are some who do not know or have seriously studied that indeed he has this authority. However, they submit to whatever grace that Christ has given them, and they can achieve salvation; nevertheless, if they have truly heard the message of the full gospel (which includes papal authority), and they refuse to submit to this authority (like the Greeks or other) in Pope Boniface’s decree, the people very well cut themselves off from salvation, just as mentioned by Pope Boniface. No one who has truly heard this message and knowingly rejects this truth for whatever reason, can be saved.
It, moreover, anathematizes, execrates, and condemns every heresy that suggests contrary things. And first it condemns Ebion, Cerinthus, Marcion, Paul of Samosata, Photinus, and all similar blasphemers, who, being unable to accept the personal union of humanity with the Word, denied that our Lord Jesus Christ was true God, proclaiming Him pure man who was called divine man by reason of a greater participation in divine grace, which He had received by merit of a more holy life. It anathematizes also Manichaeus with his followers, who, thinking vainly that the Son of God had assumed not a true but an ephemeral body, entirely do away with the truth of the humanity in Christ. And also Valentinus who asserts that the Son of God took nothing from the Virgin Mary, but assumed a heavenly body and passed through the womb of the Virgin just as water flows and runs through an aqueduct. Arius also, who asserted that the body assumed from the Virgin lacked a soul, and would have the Godhead in place of the soul. Also Apollinaris, who, understanding that there was no true humanity if in Christ the soul is denied as giving the body form, posited only a sensitive soul, but held that the Godhead of the Word took the place of a rational soul. It also anathematizes Theodore of Mopsuestia and Nestorius who assert that humanity was united with the Son of God through grace, and hence there are two persons in Christ, just as they confess that there are two natures, since they were unable to understand that the union of humanity with the Word was hypostatic, and so refused to accept the subsistence of God. For according to this blasphemy, the Word was not made flesh, but the Word through grace lived in the flesh; that is, He was made not the Son of God, but rather the Son of God lived in man. It anathematizes also, execrates, and condemns Eutyches the archimandrite; since he believed according to the blasphemy of Nestorius that the truth of the Incarnation is excluded, and therefore it is fitting that humanity was so united to the Word of God that the person of the Godhead and of humanity were one and the same and also, he could not grasp the unity of person as long as a plurality of natures existed, just as he established that there was one person of the Godhead and humanity in Christ, so he asserted that there was one nature, meaning that before the union there was a duality of natures, but in the assumption they passed over into one nature, with the greatest blasphemy and impiety granting either that humanity was turned into Godhead, or Godhead into humanity. It also anathematizes, execrates, and condemns Macarius of Antioch and all who hold similar views; although he had a correct understanding of the duality of natures and the unity of person, yet he erred greatly concerning the operations of Christ when he said that in Christ there was one operation and one will on the part of both natures. All these, together with their heresies, the Holy Roman Church anathematizes, affirming that there are two wills and two operations in Christ.
The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.
We notice, that in the background, the mention of various heresies that have knowingly denied various truths of the Catholic Faith. All of these heresies mentioned had contact with the full gospel and many (such as the Arians, Manichaeans, and Monophystes) were anathematized. All these sects have heard the message, but refused to enter the Church despite that fact. Also, notice at the end, it says, that those who shed their blood for Christ, will not be saved, unless they did it within the bosom of the Catholic Church. This again reiterates that they have heard the gospel of Christ. They indeed can not be saved even if martyred because prior to this they had rejected the gospel.
In the same breath of the message of those who have rejected the true gospel, the Pope makes the statement about the pagans, Jews, etc.. This takes as a starting assumption that they have (like the Arians, Monophystes, Ebionites) heard the message of Christ's gospel. It is not talking about those who have not mentioned the gospel. The ones that these decrees are mentioning are those that have heard the message. If they had heard the message and obstinately stay outside the Church, they can not be saved. Notice that in this decree, just like the first two mentioned, the decree does not say, "Well, if those pagans and Jews, etc. have never heard of the gospel, they can not be saved." In order for the strict EENS view to be correct, it needs to say that. It did not. After hearing the full gospel, they have rejected it, so anybody who stays a pagan, Jew, etc. are indeed condemned to hell (just like the Ebionites, Arians, etc.) They are thus condemned unless they physically become members of the Church. This is fully consistent with what the Church teaches now.
The magisterium's position (as stated in CCC 846-847) has thus not departed from the truths of the first three decrees. Thus, only recently have we have seen a focus on those who have not heard the message of the full gospel, and have not had the chance to knowingly submit to the authority of the Catholic Church. Those who have not heard the full gospel as found in the Holy Catholic Church, have a possibility of salvation. Nevertheless, the Catholic Church is where the sacraments that Christ established on earth are given. Those who are in the actual mystical body of Christ (that is the Catholic Church) can achieve salvation easier than others (though even we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling). One can achieve salvation, but without these grace filling sacraments it is much harder for non-Catholics to do so. That is why Catholics must still evangelize non-Catholics to come into the Church that Christ established.
©1998 An examination of the 3 De Fide Decrees on ‘No Salvation Outside the Church’... Matt1618... This text may be downloaded or printed out for private reading, but it may not be uploaded to another Internet site or published, electronically or otherwise, without express written permission from the author.