Invincible or Inculpable Ignorance Neither Saves nor Damns a Person
Fr. Michael Müller, C.Ss.R.
"But, suppose", some one will say, "a person, in his inculpable ignorance, believes that he is on the right road to Heaven, though he is not a Catholic; he tries his best to live up to the dictates of his conscience. Now, should he die in that state of belief, he would, it seems, be condemned without his fault. We can understand that God is not bound to give Heaven to anybody, but, as He is just, He certainly cannot condemn anybody without his fault."
Whatever question may be made still in regard to the great truth, in question is sufficiently answered in the explanation already given of this great truth. For the sake of greater clearness, however, we will answer a few more questions. In the answers to these questions we shall be obliged to repeat what has already been said.
Now, as to the question just proposed, we answer with St. Thomas and St. Augustine: "There are many things which a man is obliged to do, but which he cannot do without the help of divine grace: as, for instance, to love God and his neighbor, and to believe the articles of faith; but he can do all this with the help of grace; and 'to whomsoever God gives His grace He gives it out of Divine Mercy: and to whomsoever He does not give it, He refuses it out of divine justice, in punishment of sin committed, or at least in punishment of original sin," as St. Augustine says. (Lib. de correptione et gratia, c. 5 et 6; Sum. 22. q. ii art. v.) "And the ignorance of these things of salvation, the knowledge of which men did not care to have, is, without doubt, a sin for them; but for those who were not able to acquire such knowledge, the want of it is a punishment for their sins", says St. Augustine; hence both are justly condemned, and neither the one nor the other has a just excuse for being lost." (Epist. ad Sixtum, Edit. Maur. 194, cap. vi., n. 27.)
Moreover, a person who wants to go east, but, by an innocent mistake, gets on a train going west, will, as soon as he finds out his mistake, get off at the next station, and take a train that goes east. In like manner, a person who walked on a road that he, in his inculpable ignorance, believed was the true road to Heaven, must leave that road, as soon as he finds out his mistake, and inquire for the true road to Heaven. God, in His infinite mercy, will not fail to make him find out, in due time, the true road to Heaven, if he corresponds to His grace. Hence we asked the following question in our Familiar Explanation:
"What are we to think of the salvation of those who are out of the pale of the Church without any fault of theirs, and who never had any opportunity to know better?"
To this question we give the following answer:
"Their inculpable (invincible) ignorance will not save them; but if they fear God and live up to their conscience, God, in His infinite mercy, will furnish them with the necessary means of salvation, even so as to send, if needed, an angel to instruct them in the Catholic Faith, rather than let them perish through inculpable ignorance." (St. Thomas Aquinas)
Do you believe as a Catholic what is presented here?
Is this being taught in your local parish Church?
When visitors come to our Chapel they often assume that we are just another "Latin Mass community." Those who attend various local parishes like to stop in for a dose of Catholic which is lacking in most parishes. Visitors sometimes remark how nice, how refreshing it is to see souls who dress well for Holy Mass and act as though they are in the house of God, which is what a true Catholic church or chapel is, which it must be. How wonderful that we begin the Holy Mass in prayerful silence and with the holy Sign of the Cross...not with a big old "are you ready to begin" which is meant, I suppose, to hush the crowd of immodestly dressed flock for what they would call a Mass of sorts, or in the summer, of shorts.
Sometimes these "Latin Mass lovers" never return. You see, retaining our Holy Mass in the ancient rite of the Church is not so much because it is beautiful (which it is) or because it truly lifts the soul out of this world for awhile and brings them to "heaven on earth" -which it does. And of course, it goes without saying that the Holy Mass in the rite codified by the Council of Trent is valid and licit. No one needs an indult or motu (permission) from anyone to offer this Mass, since it was His Holiness Pope St. Pius V who guaranteed that any priest may offer this "in perpetuity." Perpetuity means forever. But our reasons are not for ascetic purpose or even because we are stubborn and resist change. Read on...
The members of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Chapel hold fast to the Mass and the faith for the simple reason that the Church is necessary for salvation. The doctrine "outside the Church no salvation" is no longer believed by the vast majority of those who call themselves as Catholic. This is the great and universal heresy of the day! This doctrine is represented and taught in the True Mass, which is the primary reason that the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was replaced with a protestant parody service. You see, the True Mass represents the belief (lex orandi, lex credendi) of the Catholic Church. The True Mass was a primary obstacle in the way of ecumenism. A Church that no longer believes that she is the only and true vehicle of salvation in the world is a church that would have to necessarily remove from her prayer life the Mass that represents that teaching.
When visiting souls are confronted with this teaching, they often remark that "the Church has done away with that teaching" or "I never heard that before." Well no kidding! They don't teach this, among other doctrines in the local Catholic churches. The problem is that so many poor souls attach great significance to buildings, property and real estate. They fail to comprehend that if what goes on in those buidlings is not Catholic, if what is being taught is not Catholic, if what is being prayed in those buildings is not Catholic, then how can it truly be called Catholic? These folks travel to find diocesan-sponsored services where the clergy who preside at them agree with them. These of course are clergy who do not believe that the Catholic Church is the One True Church, outside of which salvation cannot be found. These clergy are simply conservative modernist heretics, as opposed to the-way-out-in-left-field variety. In fact, ask a parish priest or an Indult/Motu priest if they believe this doctrine as presented here, in the words of popes and saints. You'll quickly notice a great sense of anger as they try to explain away, in complete frustration, what the Church has always taught. As you press them on particular and simple points, watch them attempt to explain that "they really did not mean what you think."
"Not everyone who says to me 'Lord, Lord' shall enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father...he shall enter the kingdom of Heaven."
Our Lord Jesus Christ
What is presented here are some simple helps: these should help a sincere non-Catholic, as well as those fallen away from the Church, to understand what the Roman Catholic Church teaches about salvation. If you do not hear this taught at your local parish church, then we advise you to leave and find out who has remained attached to that which "can no longer be led astray by any lying novelty." (St. Vincent Lerins)
Can those outside the Church be called holy without having recourse to the Church?
"Neither sanctity nor salvation can be found outside the Holy, Catholic,
Apostolic, Roman Church."
Pope Pius IX (Racolta 626)
How can those outside the Catholic Church be saved?
"Let those who wish to be saved come to this pillar, to this foundation of Truth which is the Church. We will never spare Ourselves from any pains whatsoever...to bring back those in error to this one and only way of Truth and Salvation. Moreover, let all those who oppose Us remember that heaven and earth will pass away, but that not one of Christ's words can pass away, nor can anything be changed in doctrine which the Catholic Church has received from Jesus Christ to preserve, to protect, and to preach."
Pope Pius IX (Ubi Primum)
Many of course deny outright the teaching on salvation. This is done through a perverse understanding of ecumenism that is now practiced in accord with the "spirit of Vatican II." It is also denied by others who promote a "watered down" understanding of this de fide teaching.
What is our obligation as regards instructing those who come to Mass, those who have never heard of this doctrine or who deny it altogether?
"You must indeed see to it that the faithful have fixed firmly in their minds this dogma of our most holy religion, namely: the absolute necessity of the Catholic Faith for attaining salvation."
Pope Pius IX (Nostis Et Nobiscum)
Another practice which denies this infallible teaching are the various "prayer services" and ecumenical gathering with non-Catholics. While we do not, nor should we find fault with those sincere souls outside the Church searching for unity (which can only be found in the Roman Catholic Church)...we believe as the Church teaches that we may not pray in common with non-Catholics, especially when such services would seem to give credibility to those who are not in union with Our Lord and His Church. Here is what Pope Pius IX taught:
"That Christians and ecclesiastics should pray for Christian unity under direction of heretics, and, what is worse, according to an intention which is radically impregnated and vitiated by heresy, is absolutely impossible to tolerate."
So much for "prayer services" for Christian unity that modern Churchmen, including the pope, engage in. What message does this send to those who are outside the Catholic Church?
As we will continue to make clear this teaching on salvation, we also need to address an error that some Catholic "traditionalists" teach whereby they advocate "salvation through sincere ignorance." Some advocate being a member of the "soul" of the Church (through ignorance of course). Such thinking directly goes against the teaching of Pope Leo XIII and others:
"Those who conjure up and picture themselves a hidden and invisible Church are in grievous and pernicious error."
Pope Leo XIII (Satis Cognitum)
Is it not possible that the doctrine on salvation is now seen in a different light? After all, we live in the 20th century!
"If anyone shall assert it to be possible that sometimes, according to the progress of science, a sense is to be given to doctrines propounded by the Church different from that which the Church has understood:
let him be anathema."
Vatican Council I (April 24, 1870)
But is it not enough that one simply be a "good person" and such goodness is enough for salvation, even for those outside the Church?
"Acts which spring from natural goodness have only the appearance of virtue; they cannot last of themselves, nor can they merit salvation."
Pope St. Pius X (Editae Saepe)
Many outside the Church would seem to honor and respect Christ. I've heard of many bishops and priests of the New Church who say that this is enough, that their personal believe in Christ, even if not completely correct, is enough to save them?
"Those who acknowledge Christ must acknowledge Him completely and entirely. The Head of the Body is the only begotten Son of God; the Body is His Church. All who dissent from Scriptures concerning Christ are not in the Church; all who agree with Scriptures concerning the Head but who do not communicate in the unity of the Church are not in the Church. They can in no way be counted among the children of God unless they take Jesus Christ as their Brother and, at the same time, the Church for their Mother. Consequently, all who wish to reach salvation outside the Church are mistaken as to the way and are engaged in a futile effort...by God's commandment, salvation is to be found nowhere by in the Church."
Pope Leo XIII (Annum Ingessi Sumus)
Despite the clear teaching of the Roman Catholic Church (both yesterday and today) many remain confused as regards this teaching on salvation. Some poor misguided souls feel it is best to leave non-Catholics in ignorance. Others, like the modernist "feel good" missionaries never speak of converting souls to the One True Church, but simply speak of feeding the poor and "good works." But what must a Catholic believe, what is the obligation of every good Catholic?
"Where is the road which leads to Jesus Christ? It is before our eyes: It is the Church. It is our duty to recall everyone, great and small, the absolute necessity we are under to have recourse to this Church in order to work out our eternal salvation."
Pope St. Pius X (Supremi Apostolatus)
Is this doctrine, is this message being taught in your local parish Church? If the answer is no, then it is time to see where the Church is teaching these days, where the Catholic faithful are praying these days. You have an obligation as a Catholic to believe and pray in union with the Church of the centuries. If you are a sincere non-Catholic, we invite you to discover and learn about the Church that Our Lord Jesus Christ founded.
Is Ignorance Bliss?
Fr. Brown, Chaplain of the Sodality of Our Lady
In speaking with someone yesterday as regards fidelity to Catholic dogma in this age of confusion, the question came up as regards "invincible ignorance." As many are well aware, this phrase (only used and adopted in this past century) seems to make the dogma on salvation appear as though an exception can be found as regards one (who these souls are we never know of course) that is deemed "invincibly ignorant" is thereby excused from belief in what Our Lord taught, as well as membership in His Church. The fact is, ignorance is not bliss, and certainly is not rewarded!
This unfortunate phrase (which we will delve into latter) does not mean at all that those who might be "ignorant" of divine truth and the Church, are somehow given a free pass. The reality is the magesterium of the Church teaches us the opposite. Is ignorance really bliss as some have been teaching recently?
"This faith has illuminated with the light of divine knowledge all peoples,
all races, all nations, howsoever barbarous they might be."
-Ven. Pope Pius IX
My God! How blind man is, if he does not open his heart to the light of faith!"
-St. Bernadette Soubirous
Before we continue to show the absurd position of those who teach "salvation through ignorance" it is important that we recognize what the Church teaches, and then invite our readers to inquire further: it appears obvious that the liberal phrase "invincible ignorance" which is used incorrectly to water down a doctrine of the Church, is a theological error held not only by the "New Church" -which for all practical purposes in their liturgy and teaching, denies the dogma of salvation, but those called as "traditionalists" (the "I love the Latin Mass" crowd) also water down this doctrine, and actually wind up denying it by their various and sundry "qualifications" which in effect, make the doctrine absolutely meaningless.
We can turn to Holy Scripture and see what St. Paul teaches: in Timothy 2:4 we find him saying that God "will have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth." It seems clear that it is the "will" of God that all men should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. Further, in Hebrews 11:6 we find "without faith it is impossible to please God." This faith which we must have which pleases God, is of course the holy Catholic faith. No other "faith" is pleasing to God. This means that to "get to heaven" one must have divine and supernatural faith! God of course gives us "free will" so that we might be able to respond (cooperate) with grace. God "wills" our eternal salvation, but God does not force us in this matter: we have to cooperate with grace. We find this asserted and recognized by the great St. Augustine who says that "He who created us without consent, will not save us without it."
"Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice."
-St. John 18:37
"Whether you go among Indians, or into Spain, or to the very ends of the earth, there is not one without the hearing of the Gospel,
unless it be of his own neglect."
-St. John Chrysostom
Saint Thomas Aquinas the angelic doctor of the Church tells us in the Summa Theologica (Part 2-2, question 2, article 7 & 8) that "after the Incarnation all men if they wish to be saved...are bound to explicit faith in the mysteries of Christ." Again he states that "after the Incarnation all men in order to be saved are bound to explicit faith in the mystery of the Trinity."
What do we understand by these terms? The word "explicit" means "clear, definite, not hidden; usually referring to faith or truth." It means the ability to give reasonable explanation, including knowledge of the details. (Nevins: Maryknoll Dictionary/1965). As regards "faith" we can use the same source: "A gift of God, a share in his Divine vision by which the person exercising it has the virtue or strength to believe what God reveals because of God's authority in revealing truth." (same source as above).
to be continued...