“The Council is no new thing. It is Tradition itself, but with more interior truth, authenticity, and charity." ~Pope Paul VI from The Pope Speaks: Dialogues with Paul VI by Jean Guitton, NY: Meredith Press (1968)
Thus far, we have seen that Turretinfan’s argument that given the emphasis on grace, “a consistent, conservative Roman Catholic would be hard pressed to argue that even Catholicism itself is salvific” firmly rebutted by the plain language of the passages of Lumen Gentium that we have reviewed to date. One does not find salvation through Catholicism merely because one adheres to its teachings, but rather, because Christ resides in the Church as its head and God uses the Church as the primary means by which He distributes grace to the people of God through the Holy Spirit. Nothing we have seen thus far can be skewed in favor of Turretinfan’s ill-founded assertions to alter that conclusion.
We will now see how God’s plan of salvation includes Muslims and other non-Catholics such as Turretinfan himself, for that matter, as it is explained in the Second Chapter of Lumen Gentium.
CHAPTER II: ON THE PEOPLE OF GOD
9. At all times and in every race God has given welcome to whosoever fears Him and does what is right. (cf. Acts. 10:35) God, however, does not make men holy and save them merely as individuals, without bond or link between one another. Rather has it pleased Him to bring men together as one people, a people which acknowledges Him in truth and serves Him in holiness. He therefore chose the race of Israel as a people unto Himself. With it He set up a covenant. Step by step He taught and prepared this people, making known in its history both Himself and the decree of His will and making it holy unto Himself. All these things, however, were done by way of preparation and as a figure of that new and perfect covenant, which was to be ratified in Christ, and of that fuller revelation which was to be given through the Word of God Himself made flesh. "Behold the days shall come saith the Lord, and I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel, and with the house of Judah . . . I will give my law in their bowels, and I will write it in their heart, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people . . . For all of them shall know Me, from the least of them even to the greatest, saith the Lord. (Jer. 31:31-34) Christ instituted this new covenant, the new testament, that is to say, in His Blood, (cf. 1 Cor. 11:25) calling together a people made up of Jew and gentile, making them one, not according to the flesh but in the Spirit. This was to be the new People of God. For those who believe in Christ, who are reborn not from a perishable but from an imperishable seed through the word of the living God, (cf. 1 Pet 1:23) not from the flesh but from water and the Holy Spirit, (cf. Jn. 3:56) are finally established as "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people . . . who in times past were not a people, but are now the people of God". (1 Pet. 2:9-10)
[. . .]
13. All men are called to belong to the new people of God. Wherefore this people, while remaining one and only one, is to be spread throughout the whole world and must exist in all ages, so that the decree of God's will may be fulfilled. In the beginning God made human nature one and decreed that all His children, scattered as they were, would finally be gathered together as one. (Jn. 11:52) It was for this purpose that God sent His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, (Heb. 1:2) that be might be teacher, king and priest of all, the head of the new and universal people of the sons of God. For this too God sent the Spirit of His Son as Lord and Life- giver. He it is who brings together the whole Church and each and every one of those who believe, and who is the well-spring of their unity in the teaching of the apostles and in fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayers. (Cf. Acts 2:42)
It follows that though there are many nations there is but one people of God, which takes its citizens from every race, making them citizens of a kingdom which is of a heavenly rather than of an earthly nature. [...] Since the kingdom of Christ is not of this world (Jn. 18:36) the Church or people of God in establishing that kingdom takes nothing away from the temporal welfare of any people. On the contrary it fosters and takes to itself, insofar as they are good, the ability, riches and customs in which the genius of each people expresses itself. Taking them to itself it purifies, strengthens, elevates and ennobles them. The Church in this is mindful that she must bring together the nations for that king to whom they were given as an inheritance, (cf. Ps. 2:8) and to whose city they bring gifts and offerings. (Cf. Ps. 71 (72):10; Is. 60: 4-7; Apoc. 21: 24). This characteristic of universality which adorns the people of God is a gift from the Lord Himself. By reason of it, the Catholic Church strives constantly and with due effect to bring all humanity and all its possessions back to its source In Christ, with Him as its head and united in His Spirit. (10*) [Endnote Ten]
[. . .]
All men are called to be part of this catholic unity of the people of God which in promoting universal peace presages it. And there belong to or are related to it in various ways, the Catholic faithful, all who believe in Christ, and indeed the whole of mankind, for all men are called by the grace of God to salvation.
The above selections plainly set forth what God’s plan of salvation is: That all of mankind are called to be people of God and for that purpose, Christ was incarnated in order to bring all men to God through His Church. By definition, each of us as well as Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and even Turretinfan, are called to be a part of the people of God. Please note that God’s calling men to Himself through the Church is not “graciously rewarding” anyone as Turretinfan mis-characterizes. Grace is a gift, not a reward, not a prize, not earned. Turretinfan’s covert insistence that Catholicism ascribes to Pelagianism or semi-Pelagianism is insulting and frankly unbecoming of someone who demands that his arguments be given serious consideration.
The fathers of the Second Vatican Council go on to write:
14. This Sacred Council wishes to turn its attention firstly to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism ( cf. Mk, 16:16; Jn 3:5) and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. WHOSOEVER, THEREFORE, KNOWING THAT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH WAS MADE NECESSARY BY CHRIST, WOULD REFUSE TO ENTER OR TO REMAIN IN IT, COULD NOT BE SAVED.[ALL EMPHASES ARE MINE]
In other words, the Catholic Church still teaches extra ecclesiam nulla salus. [Endnote Eleven] While Second Vatican Council used pastoral and ecumenical language in its writings, there can be no question that "No salvation outside of the Church" was NOT abandoned by the Council. It merely has been restated in more polite terms than folks like the Turretinfan might be accustomed to seeing. This passage demolishes Turretinfan’s assertion that a “consistent, conservative Roman Catholic would be hard-pressed to argue that even Catholicism itself is salvific” based on its “best and plainest sense”. Given that a consistent, conservative Roman Catholic would necessarily follow the teachings of the Church, he or she would be hard-pressed to deny that Catholicism itself is salvific based on the language used above.
The Council fathers next address the situation between the Catholic Church and other Christians:
15. The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter. (14*) [Endnote Twelve] . . . Likewise we can say that in some real way they are joined with us in the Holy Spirit, for to them too He gives His gifts and graces whereby He is operative among them with His sanctifying power. Some indeed He has strengthened to the extent of the shedding of their blood. In all of Christ's disciples the Spirit arouses the desire to be peacefully united, in the manner determined by Christ, as one flock under one shepherd, and He prompts them to pursue this end. (17*) [Endnote Thirteen] Mother Church never ceases to pray, hope and work that this may come about. She exhorts her children to purification and renewal so that the sign of Christ may shine more brightly over the face of the earth. [Emphasis Mine]
This passage is obviously speaking of Protestants and the Orthodox. Please note that the text in its “best and plainest sense” does not indicate that the Catholic Church is now teaching that it is sufficient for Protestants to remain Protestants in order to obtain salvation. Rather, the text indicates that due to Protestantism’s links to the Catholic Church, the Holy Spirit is operative among Protestants and may even give some of them sanctifying grace. Further, the Council fathers go on to say that the grace which the Holy Spirit is giving Protestants is prompting them to seek to become united with the Catholic Church, which we have already seen Christ made necessary for one’s salvation. Thus, if Protestants need to be in the Church to be saved, it is highly unlikely that the Church would teach that God’s plan for non-Christians is any different.
At this point, we are now ready to examine Lumen Gentium 16 and see whether Turretinfan’s contentions stand up to scrutiny based upon on what we have considered thus far as well as reading the entire text within such a framework. We will also look at bit closer at the documents referenced in the footnotes here to see if they help to provide context as well.
16. Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God. (18*)
Footnote 18 references Saint Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica , Book III, question. 8, Article 3, Reply to Objection # 1 which is in response to the following Objection:
As this above sentence indicates, this passage is talking about people to whom the Gospel has not been preached. They have not yet received it. We Christians are still obliged to preach it to them. Despite that fact, the Church acknowledges that there still may be links between them and us.Article 3. Whether Christ is the Head of all men?
Objection 1. It would seem that Christ is not the Head of all men. For the head has no relation except to the members of its body. Now the unbaptized are nowise members of the Church which is the body of Christ, as it is written (Ephesians 1:23). Therefore Christ is not the Head of all men.
On the contrary, It is written (1 Timothy 4:10): "Who is the Saviour of all men, especially of the faithful," and (1 John 2:2): "He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world." Now to save men and to be a propitiation for their sins belongs to Christ as Head. Therefore Christ is the Head of all men.
I answer that, This is the difference between the natural body of man and the Church's mystical body, that the members of the natural body are all together, and the members of the mystical are not all together neither as regards their natural being, since the body of the Church is made up of the men who have been from the beginning of the world until its end nor as regards their supernatural being, since, of those who are at any one time, some there are who are without grace, yet will afterwards obtain it, and some have it already. We must therefore consider the members of the mystical body not only as they are in act, but as they are in potentiality. Nevertheless, some are in potentiality who will never be reduced to act, and some are reduced at some time to act; and this according to the triple class, of which the first is by faith, the second by the charity of this life, the third by the fruition of the life to come. Hence we must say that if we take the whole time of the world in general, Christ is the Head of all men, but diversely. For, first and principally, He is the Head of such as are united to Him by glory; secondly, of those who are actually united to Him by charity; thirdly, of those who are actually united to Him by faith; fourthly, of those who are united to Him merely in potentiality, which is not yet reduced to act, yet will be reduced to act according to Divine predestination; fifthly, of those who are united to Him in potentiality, which will never be reduced to act; such are those men existing in the world, who are not predestined, who, however, on their departure from this world, wholly cease to be members of Christ, as being no longer in potentiality to be united to Christ.
Reply to Objection 1. Those who are unbaptized, though not actually in the Church, are in the Church potentially. And this potentiality is rooted in two things first and principally, in the power of Christ, which is sufficient for the salvation of the whole human race; secondly, in free will.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica. III, q. 8, a. 3, ad 1 which may read here..
(Last Accessed September 26, 2008) (Emphasis Mine)
It is important to capture the theme of paragraph 16. It is not talking about how non-Christians can be saved, but how they are related to the Catholic Church through which the path of salvation does go. This truth is emphasized by St. Thomas Aquinas in the passage from Summa Theologica. Non-Christians are related to the Church by virtue of the fact that they “potentially” could become members of the Church, meaning that the Gospel must be preached to them. There is no indication that their own particular religions are salvific in any way, shape or form. Let us see who potentially could become members of the Church then:
In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh. (Rom. 9:4-5) On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues. ( Rom. 11: 28-29).
Reviewing the Scripture citations given, it is plain that this sentence references people of the Jewish faith. Obviously, by virtue of God’s covenant with the Jewish people, the prophets, the gift of the Law Old Testament, and the fact that Christ Himself was born among the Jewish people as their Messiah, there is a special relationship between the Jewish and Christian faiths. However, there is nothing here that suggests that Judaism is salvific. It is interesting to see that Jews are considered separately from others who believe in a God. That is because we Catholics know that the Jews worship at least one person of the Holy Trinity as we do.
As we have seen, the Second Vatican Council has clearly defined God’s plan of salvation:But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator.
1) There is one God. ( 1 Tim. 2:5)
2) God desires all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
(1 Tim. 2:4)
3) Men are saved through Jesus Christ only. He is the one mediator between God and man. (1 Tim. 2:5). Or to put it another way, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me.” (Jn. 14:6)
4) Since the Church is the mystical Body of Christ, Christ calls for men to come to the Father through His Church, that is become united with the Catholic Church.
If men acknowledge a spiritual Creator, even if that Creator is not necessarily the same God we worship, they are that much closer to finding salvation by the prompting of the Holy Spirit. The next sentence gives us an example of such men.
In the first place amongst these there are the Mohamedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind.
Lumen Gentium 14-16 indicates the degrees of closeness men are to the truth. First, we have Catholics who have access to the fullness of truth, then Orthodox and Protestants who are linked by virtue of their baptism and the operation of the Holy Spirit in their lives, after them the Jews, and then everyone else which includes the Muslims. The Muslims are recognized first because they explicitly claim to have “the faith of Abraham”. In other words, they claim to worship the same God which Jews and Christians worship. [Endnote Fourteen] Additionally, this sentence highlights truths that Muslims share in common with Christians and Jews. Note that there is nothing here indicating that the Catholic Church recognizes Islam as salvific, a true religion, or even that their claim that they hold the faith of Abraham is accurate. Note, too, that there is nothing in this sentence that remotely suggests, let alone indicates, that the Catholic Church teaches that zealously following Islam does not lead to eternal destruction or that God graciously rewards one who in the name of Islam engages in filial parricide because their daughter converted to Christianity as the anonymous Turretinfan has expounded to his coterie.
Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things, (Acts 17:25-28) and as Saviour wills that all men be saved. (1 Tim. 2:4)
This sentence references a second example of people that God is not distant due to their desire to find Him. Acts 17:25-28 is referring to St. Paul’s famous sermon to the Athenians who had an altar to the “Unknown God” which even the pagan Greeks worshiped. [Endnote Fifteen] This category basically includes anyone else who believes in a god.
Now that we see how that Muslims are merely listed as a group of people “who acknowledge the Creator,” we will redact the reference to them and the other examples from the paragraph to assist with understanding the passage and see what the Council fathers state about how God's plan of salvation applies to them:
.But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. [...] Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.(19*) Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel. (20*) She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life.
Before we can discuss the meaning of these sentences, we must first review what Footnotes #19 and #20 reference.
Footnote #19 states: “Cfr. Epist. S.S.C.S. Officii ad Archiep. Boston.: Denz. 3869-72” or “Letter of the Holy Office to the Archbishop of Boston: Denzinger 3869-72.” This letter relates to an incident involving Father Feeny who taught a form of extra ecclesiam nulla salus that was rejected by the Church. When he refused to recant, he was excommunicated.
The pertinent text of the letter is as follows:
Pius XII – Letter of the Holy Office to the Archbishop of Boston, August 8, 1949
Given on August 8, 1949 explaining the true sense of the Catholic doctrine that there is no salvation outside the Church.
This important Letter of the Holy Office is introduced by a letter of the Most Reverend Archbishop of Boston.
The Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office has examined again the problem of Father Leonard Feeney and St. Benedict Center. Having studied carefully the publications issued by the Center, and having considered all the circumstances of this case, the Sacred Congregation has ordered me to publish, in its entirety, the letter which the same Congregation sent me on the 8th of August, 1949. The Supreme Pontiff, His Holiness, Pope Pius XII, has given full approval to this decision. In due obedience, therefore, we publish, in its entirety, the Latin text of the letter as received from the Holy Office with an English translation of the same approved by the Holy See.
Given at Boston, Mass., the 4th day of September, 1952.
Walter J. Furlong, Chancellor
Richard J. Cushing, Archbishop of Boston.
LETTER OF THE HOLY OFFICE
From the Headquarters of the Holy Office, Aug. 8, 1949.
This Supreme Sacred Congregation has followed very attentively the rise and the course of the grave controversy stirred up by certain associates of “St. Benedict Center” and “Boston College” in regard to the interpretation of that axiom: “Outside the Church there is no salvation.”
After having examined all the documents that are necessary or useful in this matter, among them information from your Chancery, as well as appeals and reports in which the associates of “St. Benedict Center” explain their opinions and complaints, and also many other documents pertinent to the controversy, officially collected, the same Sacred Congregation is convinced that the unfortunate controversy arose from the fact that the axiom, “outside the Church there is no salvation,” was not correctly understood and weighed, and that the same controversy was rendered more bitter by serious disturbance of discipline arising from the fact that some of the associates of the institutions mentioned above refused reverence and obedience to legitimate authorities.
Accordingly, the Most Eminent and Most Reverend Cardinals of this Supreme Congregation, in a plenary session held on Wednesday, July 27, 1949, decreed, and the August Pontiff in an audience on the following Thursday, July 28, 1949, deigned to give his approval, that the following explanations pertinent to the doctrine, and also that invitations and exhortations relevant to discipline be given:
We are bound by divine and Catholic faith to believe all those things which are contained in the word of God, whether it be Scripture or Tradition, and are proposed by the Church to be believed as divinely revealed, not only through solemn judgment but also through the ordinary and universal teaching office (
, n. 1792).
Now, among those things which the Church has always preached and will never cease to preach is contained also that infallible statement by which we are taught that there is no salvation outside the Church.
However, this dogma must be understood in that sense in which the Church herself understands it. For, it was not to private judgments that Our Savior gave for explanation those things that are contained in the deposit of faith, but to the teaching authority of the Church.Now, in the first place, the Church teaches that in this matter there is question of a most strict command of Jesus Christ. For He explicitly enjoined on His apostles to teach all nations to observe all things whatsoever He Himself had commanded (Matt. 28: 19-20).
Now, among the commandments of Christ, that one holds not the least place by which we are commanded to be incorporated by baptism into the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church, and to remain united to Christ and to His Vicar, through whom He Himself in a visible manner governs the Church on earth.
Therefore, no one will be saved who, knowing the Church to have been divinely established by Christ, nevertheless refuses to submit to the Church or withholds obedience from the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth.
Not only did the Savior command that all nations should enter the Church, but He also decreed the Church to be a means of salvation without which no one can enter the kingdom of eternal glory.
In His infinite mercy God has willed that the effects, necessary for one to be saved, of those helps to salvation which are directed toward man’s final end, not by intrinsic necessity, but only by divine institution, can also be obtained in certain circumstances when those helps are used only in desire and longing. This we see clearly stated in the Sacred Council of Trent, both in reference to the sacrament of regeneration and in reference to the sacrament of penance (
, nn. 797, 807).
The same in its own degree must be asserted of the Church, in as far as she is the general help to salvation. Therefore, that one may obtain eternal salvation, it is not always required that he be incorporated into the Church actually as a member, but it is necessary that at least he be united to her by desire and longing.
However, this desire need not always be explicit, as it is in catechumens; but when a person is involved in invincible ignorance God accepts also an implicit desire, so called because it is included in that good disposition of soul whereby a person wishes his will to be conformed to the will of God.
These things are clearly taught in that dogmatic letter which was issued by the Sovereign Pontiff, Pope Pius XII, on June 29, 1943, <On the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ> (AAS, Vol. 35, an. 1943, p. 193 ff.). For in this letter the Sovereign Pontiff clearly distinguishes between those who are actually incorporated into the Church as members, and those who are united to the Church only by desire.
Discussing the members of which the Mystical Body is-composed here on earth, the same August Pontiff says: “Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed.”
Toward the end of this same encyclical letter, when most affectionately inviting to unity those who do not belong to the body of the Catholic Church, he mentions those who “are related to the Mystical Body of the Redeemer by a certain unconscious yearning and desire,” and these he by no means excludes from eternal salvation, but on the other hand states that they are in a condition “in which they cannot be sure of their salvation” since “they still remain deprived of those many heavenly gifts and helps which can only be enjoyed in the Catholic Church” (AAS, 1. c., p. 243). With these wise words he reproves both those who exclude from eternal salvation all united to the Church only by implicit desire, and those who falsely assert that men can be saved equally well in every religion (cf. Pope Pius IX, Allocution,
, in , n. 1641 ff.; also Pope Pius IX in the encyclical letter, <Quanto conficiamur moerore>, in , n. 1677).
But it must not be thought that any kind of desire of entering the Church suffices that one may be saved. It is necessary that the desire by which one is related to the Church be animated by perfect charity. Nor can an implicit desire produce its effect, unless a person has supernatural faith: “For he who comes to God must believe that God exists and is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). The Council of Trent declares (Session VI, chap. 8): “Faith is the beginning of man’s salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God and attain to the fellowship of His children” (
, n. 801).
[. . .]
Therefore, let them who in grave peril are ranged against the Church seriously bear in mind that after “Rome has spoken” they cannot be excused even by reasons of good faith. Certainly, their bond and duty of obedience toward the Church is much graver than that of those who as yet are related to the Church “only by an unconscious desire.” Let them realize that they are children of the Church, lovingly nourished by her with the milk of doctrine and the sacraments, and hence, having heard the clear voice of their Mother, they cannot be excused from culpable ignorance, and therefore to them apply without any restriction that principle: submission to the Catholic Church and to the Sovereign Pontiff is required as necessary for salvation.
In sending this letter, I declare my profound esteem, and remain,
Your Excellency’s most devoted,
F. Cardinal Marchetti-Selvaggiani.
A. Ottaviani, Assessor.
Holy Office, 8 Aug., 1949.
The entire text of this letter may be found here.(Emphasis Mine).
Footnote 20 references, “Cfr. Eusebius Caes., Praeparatio Evangelica, 1:1 : PG 2128 AB.” Eusebius of Caesaria’s Praeparatio Evangelica Book 1, Chapter 1 reads:
By the present treatise, which includes in its design the Demonstration of the Gospel, I purpose to show the nature of Christianity to those who know not what it means; and here with prayers I dedicate this work to thee, Theodotus, most excellent of Bishops, a man beloved of God and holy, in the hope of so gaining from thee the help of thy devout intercessions on my behalf, whereby thou mayest give me great assistance in my proposed argument on the teaching of the Gospel. But first of all, it is well to define clearly what this word 'Gospel' means to express. It is this then that brings 'good tidings' to all men of the advent of the highest and greatest blessings, which having been long since foretold have recently shone forth on all mankind—a Gospel which makes not provision for undiscerning wealth, nor for this petty and much-suffering life, nor for anything belonging to the body and corruption, but for the blessings which are dear and congenial to souls possessing an intelligent nature, and on which the interests of their bodies also depend, and follow them like a shadow.
Now the chief of these blessings must be religion, not that which is falsely so called and full of error, but that which makes a true claim to the title; and this consists in the looking up to Him, who in very truth is both acknowledged to be, and is, the One and Only God; and in the kindling of the life after God, wherein friendship also with Him is engendered; and this is followed by that thrice-blessed end of God's true favour, which coming from on high is dependent upon that better world, and is thereto directed, and terminates again therein.
What then can be more blessed than this excellent and all-happy friendship with God? Is not He both the dispenser and provider to all men of life and light and truth and all things good? Does He not contain in Himself the cause of the being and the life of all things? To one then who has secured friendship with Him what more can be wanting? What can he lack, who has made the Creator of all true blessings his friend? Or who can be superior to him who claims in the place of a father and a guardian the great President and absolute Monarch of the universe?
Nay, it is not possible to mention anything in which he who draws near in disposition to God the absolute Monarch, and through his intelligent piety has been deemed worthy of His all-blessed friendship, can fail to be happy alike in soul and body and all outward things.
It is then this good and saving friendship of men with God that the Word of God sent down from above, like a ray of infinite light, from the God of all goodness proclaims as good tidings to all men; and urges them to come not from this or that place but from every part out of all nations to the God of the universe, and to hasten and accept the gift with all eagerness of soul, Greeks and Barbarians together, men, women, and children, both rich and poor, wise and simple, not deeming even slaves unworthy of His call.
For indeed their Father, having constituted them all of one essence and nature, rightly admitted them all to share in His one equal bounty, bestowing the knowledge of Himself and friendship with Him upon all who were willing to hearken, and who readily welcomed His grace.
This friendship with His Father Christ's word came to preach to the whole world: for, as the divine oracles teach, 'God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them,' and 'He came,' they say, 'and preached peace to them that were far off, and peace to them that were nigh.'
These things the sons of the Hebrews were long ago inspired to prophesy to the whole world, one crying, 'All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn unto the LORD, and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before Him: for the kingdom is the LORD'S, and He is the ruler over the nations'; and again, 'Tell it out among the heathen that the LORD is king, for He hath also stablished the world, which shall not be moved'; and another saith, 'The LORD will appear among them, and will utterly destroy all the gods of the nations of the earth, and men shall worship Him, every one from his place.
These promises, having been long ago laid up in divine oracles, have now shone forth upon our own age through the teaching of our Saviour Jesus Christ; so that the knowledge of God among all nations, which was both proclaimed of old and looked for by those who were not ignorant of these matters, is duly preached to us by the Word, who has lately come from heaven, and shows that the actual fulfilment corresponds with the voices of the men of old.
But why should we hasten on to anticipate in our eagerness the due order of intermediate arguments, when we ought to take up the subject from the beginning, and clear away all the objections? For some have supposed that Christianity has no reason to support it, but that those who desire the name confirm their opinion by an unreasoning faith and an assent without examination; and they assert that no one is able by clear demonstration to furnish evidence of the truth of the things promised, but that they require their converts to adhere to faith only, and therefore they are called 'the Faithful,' because of their uncritical and untested faith. With good reason therefore, in setting myself down to this treatise on the Demonstration of the Gospel, I think that I ought, as a preparation for the whole subject, to give brief explanations beforehand concerning the questions which may reasonably be put to us both by Greeks and by those of the Circumcision, and by every one who searches with exact inquiry into the opinions held among us.
For in this way I think my argument will proceed in due order to the more perfect teaching of the Demonstration of the Gospel, and to the understanding of our deeper doctrines, if my preparatory treatise should help as a guide, by occupying the place of elementary instruction and introduction, and suiting itself to our recent converts from among the heathen. But to those who have passed beyond this, and are already in a state prepared for the reception of the higher truths, the subsequent part will convey the exact knowledge of the most stringent proofs of God's mysterious dispensation in regard to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Let us then begin the Preparation by bringing forward the arguments which will probably be used against us both by Greeks and by those of the Circumcision, and by every one who searches with exact inquiry into the opinions held among us.
Eusebius of Caesarea: Praeparatio Evangelica (Preparation for the Gospel). Tr. E.H. Gifford (1903) which may be found here.
As we have seen from Chapter 14 of Lumen Gentium, no one is saved who, knowing the Church to have been divinely established by Christ, nevertheless refuses to submit to the Church or withholds obedience from the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth. Thus if a non-Christian, Muslims included, knows that the Church was divinely established by Christ and refuses to enter it, they can not obtain salvation.
Furthermore, as we have seen above, in order for one to obtain eternal salvation, it is not always required that a person be incorporated into the Church actually as a member, but it is necessary that at least he be united to her by desire and longing. The operative word in the above passage we are considering from Lumen Gentium is “seek.” Historically, there have many martyrs who suffered a “baptism by blood” or were catechumens who died prior to receiving the sacrament of baptism. All such persons were saved because they sought out Christ.
For purposes of our discussion, in the case of a Muslim, if a person turns from Islam but is prevented from formally joining the Church, they can be saved by their desire. Turretinfan’s example of the little girl who was tortured and murdered by her father when he found Christian information on her computer would be an example of that. I would suggest that her salvation was due to her seeking Christ and abandoning her Moslem faith and not due to any faithful adherence to Islam.
This sentence also suggests by its ecumenical language that God may also accept an implicit desire; so called, because it is included in that good disposition of soul whereby a person wishes his will to be conformed to the will of God. Implicit desire of entering the Church that is sufficient that one may be saved must be animated by perfect charity AND unless that person has supernatural faith in order for such implicit desire to produce its salvific effect. “For he who comes to God must believe that God exists and is a rewarder of those who SEEK Him” (Heb. 11:6). In other words, this desire to seek God must be the result of grace given to that person by the Holy Spirit.
I would add this section also refers to the concept of “invincible ignorance” [Endnote Sixteen] which in summary is the belief that if a person dies without ever being exposed to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and is truly ignorant of that message, it might be possible for that person to be yet saved by believing in God and in doing God’s will as best they are able not because they are member of another religion, but because they might be considered united to the Church, albeit imperfectly. In truth, this is how an aborted unborn child, or a child who dies before reaching the age of reason, or a person who suffers severe cognitive disabilities and can not understand the Gospel message can be saved. The Church is merely acknowledging that there are other possible situations where such ignorance might be something other than culpable.
However, if one considers the passage in light of Footnote # 20, it appears that the most important aspect of the above sentences is that whatever truth or good that may be found in other religions, the Church notes that such truths and good prepares that non-Christian to receive the Gospel. The parable of the sower (Mt. 13: 1-23) comes to mind. In his explanation of the meaning of the parable, Jesus compares the “sown seed” to the “word of the Kingdom” or Gospel. Here, one could say that the Council fathers are suggesting that the truth and good in another religions may serve to prepare the “soil” of one’s heart to receive that Gospel message.
To this extent then, the Catholic Church does teach the notion of “inclusivism.” Inclusivisim is the notion that a person can be saved when he accepts some of the truths that make up the fullness of faith found in the Catholic Church. A person can not be saved because of their adherence to their particular religion, but they might be saved if they accept and believe in truths that are found in the Catholic Church. This is as opposed to the notion of “pluralism” which is the heresy that other religions are viewed as valid paths to salvation.
However, the very next two sentences explain the danger of accepting only some truth and the fullness of truth that is only found in the Church that Christ founded:
But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator. (Rom. 1:21, 25) Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair.
As we have seen, Lumen Gentium teaches that the Church and her sacraments are the means by which the Holy Spirit distributes sanctifying grace which aid men throughout their lives. By not being a member in the Catholic Church, a person is deprived of the daily opportunities to receive God’s grace and gifts.
Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, "Preach the Gospel to every creature", (Mk. 16:15-16) the Church fosters the missions with care and attention.
This conclusory sentence references Mk. 16:15-16 which states:
“And [Jesus] said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he does not believe will be condemned.”
There can be no doubt then, that men are saved by accepting the Gospel as it is preached to them and receive the sacrament of baptism thereby becoming a part of the mystical Body of Jesus, the Church. The question of whether a Muslim or any non-Christian who never was given the opportunity to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached can be saved would be a moot question if we Christians earnestly carried out this commandment from Our Lord.
Rather than provide any more commentary, I will allow the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council to close out this portion of our examination of Lumen Gentium:
17. As the Son was sent by the Father, (Jn. 20:21) so He too sent the Apostles, saying: "Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And behold I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world". (Mt. 21:18-20) The Church has received this solemn mandate of Christ to proclaim the saving truth from the apostles and must carry it out to the very ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8) Wherefore she makes the words of the Apostle her own: "Woe to me, if I do not preach the Gospel", (1 Cor. 9:16) and continues unceasingly to send heralds of the Gospel until such time as the infant churches are fully established and can themselves continue the work of evangelizing. For the Church is compelled by the Holy Spirit to do her part that God's plan may be fully realized, whereby He has constituted Christ as the source of salvation for the whole world. By the proclamation of the Gospel she prepares her hearers to receive and profess the faith. She gives them the dispositions necessary for baptism, snatches them from the slavery of error and of idols and incorporates them in Christ so that through charity they may grow up into full maturity in Christ. Through her work, whatever good is in the minds and hearts of men, whatever good lies latent in the religious practices and cultures of diverse peoples, is not only saved from destruction but is also cleansed, raised up and perfected unto the glory of God, the confusion of the devil and the happiness of man. The obligation of spreading the faith is imposed on every disciple of Christ, according to his state.(21*) [Endnote Seventeen] Although, however, all the faithful can baptize, the priest alone can complete the building up of the Body in the eucharistic sacrifice. Thus are fulfilled the words of God, spoken through His prophet: "From the rising of the sun until the going down thereof my name is great among the gentiles, and in every place a clean oblation is sacrificed and offered up in my name". (Mal. 1: 11) (22*) [Endnote Eighteen] In this way the Church both prays and labors in order that the entire world may become the People of God, the Body of the Lord and the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and that in Christ, the Head of all, all honor and glory may be rendered to the Creator and Father of the Universe.
Turretinfan’s errors are thus refuted.
Next, we will examine the other documents of Vatican II, some post-conciliar expressions of the Church’s magisterium, and even some Protestant views on the doctrine of Inclusivism, to see if the interpretation of Lumen Gentium I have advanced here and in the last several posts is corroborated.
Thank you, kind reader, for your patience thus far.
Endnote Ten: In the original text, Footnote #10 in this Chapter states: Cfr. S. Irenaeus, Adv.Haer. III, 16, 6; III, 22, 1-3: PG 7, 925 C-926 Aet 955 C - 958 A; Harvey 2, 87 s. et 120-123; Sagnard, Ed. Sources Chret., pp. 290-292 et 372 ss.
Endnote Eleven: This is not a paper on the doctrine of Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus nor is it my intention to defend the doctrine at this time. Rather the purpose of this paper is to refute the eristic claims of Turretinfan in regards to Lumen Gentium and the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.
Endnote Twelve: In the original text, Footnote #14 in this Chapter states: Cfr. Leo XIII, Epist. Apost. Praeclara gratulationis, 20 iun. 1894; AAS 26 (1893-94) p. 707.
Endnote Thirteen: In the original text, Footnote #17 in this Chapter states: Cfr. Inst. S.S.C.S. Officii 20 dec. 1949: AAS 42 (1950) p.142. The abbreviation translates to “Instruction of the Holy Office”.
Endnote Fourteen: One book that I read [Hollis, Christopher. The Achievements of Vatican II. New York: Hawthorn Books. (1967) pg. 75] as a part of my research for this paper suggests that the reason that Muslims were listed specifically was because the Council wanted to show that the Jews were not receiving special favor.
Endnote Fifteen: I, myself, saw a modern-day example of this in the home of a friend who was of the Hindu faith. In his home, he had an altar set up to Jesus next to the other Gods he worshiped. When I asked him about this, he told me how some Hindus believe that Jesus came to India to study and preach and even had become a monk at some point. He was very proud of the fact that he and his family “worshiped” the Christian God as we do. I would note that some years later did some reading up on this and found that while what my friend said was somewhat true, the Hindu groups that do worship Jesus do not believe that He died on the cross for our sins or that He rose from the dead.
Endnote Sixteen: Please note that this treatment of the doctrine of “invincible ignorance” is cursory at best. I would first suggest that the reader view CCC 846-848. For a more in depth study of this doctrine at this time I heartily suggest that the reader view the article titled How Catholics View Protestants, written by my friend, David Armstrong, on his blog, Biblical Evidence for Catholicism. Also, I would urge all to read Avery Cardinal Dulles’ article in the February 2008 issue of First Things Magazine, Who Can Be Saved?
Endnote Seventeen: In the original text, Footnote #21 states: Cfr. Benedictus XV, Epist. Apost. Maximum illud: AAS 11 (1919) p. 440, praesertim p. 451 ss. Pius XI, Litt. Encycl. Rerum Ecclesiae: AAS 18 (1926) p. 68-69. Pius XII, Litt. Encycl. Fidei Donum, 21 apr. 1957: AAS 49 (1957) pp. 236-237.
Endnote Eighteen: In the original text, Footnote #22 states: Cfr. Didache, 14: ed. Funk I, p. 32. S. Iustinus, Dial. 41: PG 6, 564. S. Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. IV 17, 5; PG 7, 1023; Harvey, 2, p. 199 s. Conc. Trid., Sess. 22, cap. 1; Denz. 939 (1742).