There are not over a 100 people in the U.S. that hate the Catholic Church, there are millions however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church, which is, of course, quite a different thing.- Archbishop Fulton Sheen

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus

Responding to a friend's question:
I also have a question about the fact that people can be saved without being catholic as long as they don't know of the Church's Truth. What exactly does this mean? Is it simply people who have never heard of the church or is it people who are uncertain?  

For the "no salvation outside the Church" thing, there's a lot of leeway in the phrase "not knowing." In general, its easiest to say, yeah, if a person's in the depths of a rainforest their whole lives & they've never heard of the Christianity, let alone the Catholic Church, then yeah, the Church accepts its not fair to say they can't be saved. For people who have heard about the Catholic Church, but don't know anything about it is another situation where they "don't know", in my opinion. But for a person who has grown up in Sunday school or in a Catholic school, or has researched the Church themselves & understands the Church's teachings correctly and rejects them, then they're "outside the church" but they can't be under the category of "not knowing". 
It really gets summed up well by Clement of Alexandria: "From whathas been said, I think it is clear that there is one true Church, which is really ancient, into which those who are just according to design are enrolled." From this quote, the definition of what "the Church" is changes a little, for how can there be a "Church" before Jesus came and before the first Christians formed the Catholic Church. 
"Those who follow the Spirit of Christ, who writes the law on their hearts, are Christians, are members of Christ, are members of His Church. They may lack indeed external adherence; they may never have heard of the Church. But yet, in the substantial sense, without formal adherence, they do belong to Christ, to His Church...we insist that even these people who belong without formal adherence have the objective obligation to formally enter the Church. It is only their ignorance that excuses them. Vatican II similarly: "They who without their own fault . . . can attain eternal salvation."
Really, I can't even go into what this means for dissenting Catholics, Christians that came out of the Protestant Rebellion, or people who know that Christianity exists. 1 Samuel 16:7 "Not as man sees does God see, because man sees the appearance but the LORD looks into the heart." If you follow the Catholic faith in your heart while being ignorant of the Catholic Church, you are de facto (if not de jour) a member of the Church. 
 So... what if you've been living the Catholic Faith in your heart all your life, but never heard about the Catholic Church. If you are "without fault and can attain eternal salvation" then should a missionary come to you and tell you about the Catholic Church? The answer is, if you are really that good, then you will gladly join the Catholic Church, because it's what you believe and have followed all your life already.

If the missionary does a good job. It doesn't make sense to follow the Catholic Church if it doesn't make sense to you because it has been poorly (or even wrongly in some cases) explained. This is the reason why Pope (Venerable) John Paul II called for a new evangelization, to re-teach areas that were historically Catholic Christian, but had lost the faith through misunderstanding. Bishop Fulton J. Sheen captured this need in his quote "Not 100 in the United States hate the Roman Catholic Church, but millions hate what they mistakenly think the Roman Catholic Church is."
Why through the Church? Because it is Christ's Church. If you belong to Christ, you are in His Church. If you do not belong to Christ, you reject eternal salvation and so you are not saved. 
Other than an "everyone goes to heaven" mentality, I don't know if any other religion tries to be fair to people who have never heard of their religion.

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