+St. Gabriel of Our Lady of Sorrows+
A blessed Lent to all, and may we use this time wisely to better compassionate Our Lord’s sufferings during His Passion and comfort Him during this time of wholesale evil and irreligion.
Feeneyites, having seen that they are losing ground, are working feverishly to repair the inroads made into their position over the years by this author, other stay-at-home Catholics and indirectly by certain sedevacantists. Those operating Feeneyite-related websites and blogs and sites such as “truecatholics” have redoubled their efforts to erase what is left of the Catholic Church while pretending to champion its teachings. They are nothing more than a faction of the Modernist movement, which always attacks authority and its source yet wishes to retain many of the other Catholic teachings and practices; that is, at least those which work to their benefit and can be accommodated to their perverted understanding of the faith.
Several non-Catholic Traditionalist-style sects, most of whom express Feeneyite sympathies, attempt to base their entire premise on the claim that those believing there can be baptism of desire reject the dogma of “outside the Church no salvation,” and those so rejecting therefore are heretics. They include in their anathema Benedict XV, Pope Pius XI and Pope Pius XII, or at least in their website copy insinuate past popes have fallen into error. They ignore the fact that Pope Pius XII, in approving the issuance by the Holy See of the instruction Suprema haec sacra, specifically confirms this dogma as follows:
“The unfortunate controversy [which occasioned the action of the Holy Office] 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 [St. Benedict Center and Boston College] refused reverence and obedience to legitimate authorities. Now, among those things which the Church has always preached and will never cease to preach there is also contained in that infallible statement by which we are taught that there is no salvation outside the Church. However, this dogma must be understood in the sense in which the Church itself understands it. For Our Saviour gave the things that are contained in the deposit of faith to be explained by the ecclesiastical magisterium and not by private judgments… 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.
“In His intimate mercy God has willed that the effects, necessary for one to be saved, of those helps to salvation which are directed towards man’s final end, not by intrinsic necessity, but only by divine institution, can also be obtained in certain circumstances when these helps are used only in intention or desire… This we see clearly stated in the Sacred Council of Trent, both with reference to the sacrament of regeneration and with reference to the sacrament of penance. In its own way, the same thing must be said about the Church, insofar as the Church itself is a general help to salvation.
“Therefore, in order 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 required that at least he be united to it by intention and desire. 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 intention (votum) which is so called because it is included in that good disposition of the 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.” For in this letter the Sovereign Pontiff clearly distinguishes between those who are really (in re) incorporated into the Church as members and those who are joined to it only in intention (in voto).”
The Feeneyites direct all their ire toward this document which addresses the errors of their founder. They rail at it and condemn it as a non-infallible document which has no authority whatsoever to bind them. Likewise they rail at the excommunication of Feeney two years later for his failure to heed this letter to his superior, Abp. Cushing of Boston, and desist from his false teachings which unquestionably have to do with dogmatic definitions. While they call the excommunication a “disciplinary matter,” Pope Pius IX, clearly teaches that such disciplinary matters fall within the range of infallible definitions and decisions in his Quartus Supra. While it is true Suprema haec sacra is not of itself infallible, the author of the letter makes it clear that the actual dogma Feeney contradicted is contained in Mystici Corporis, which IS dogmatic. So not being able to overcome this major hurdle, Feeneyites, like their founder, declared Pope Pius XII a heretic in order to wipe out his encyclical on the Mystical Body.
Fenton wrote in his The Catholic Church and Salvation: “The Holy Office letter is the first authoritative document to bring out in full explicitness the teaching that the Church is necessary for salvation both with the necessity of precept and with the necessity of means. A thing is said to be necessary for salvation with the necessity of precept when it has been commanded in such a way that, if a person disobeys this order, he is guilty of mortal sin. A means necessary for salvation, on the other hand, is something which a man must have if he is to attain eternal salvation. This paragraph brings out two truths about the Church as a necessary means to the attainment of eternal salvation. First, there is the fact that the Church is a means necessary for salvation only by divine institution and not by intrinsic necessity. Second is the fact that the means necessary for salvation by divine institution can produce their effects, as the document says, ‘in certain cases’ when there is only a will or desire to possess these things.” The Council of Trent’s teaching on the efficacy of grace in the case of baptism of desire explains these two separate elements.
But regardless of this explanation and despite numerous proofs that the Church did teach this doctrine throughout the centuries — something they deny and have consistently refused to recognize — Feeneyites insist there are few instances of the Church’s continual teaching on baptism of desire. They follow the course of all heretics and ignore the teachings of popes and councils, as demonstrated below.
The Popes and the Councils
An examination of the Index for the Sources of Catholic Dogma show no less than five listings on the teaching that those desiring Church membership can be saved without being actual Church members. DZ 388 is Innocent II’s Letter to the Bishop of Cremona, a determination that a priest who died without Baptism was freed from original sin and saved his soul because he persevered in the faith 388 (DZ 388, circa the 1140s). In Debitum pastoralis officii, from Pope Innocent III, (August 28, 1206), we find: “You have, to be sure, intimated that 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 of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.’ We respond that, since there should be a distinction between the one baptizing and the one baptized, as is clearly gathered from the words of the Lord, when He says to the Apostles: “Go baptize all nations in the name etc.” (Matthew 28:19), the Jew mentioned must be baptized again by another, that it may be shown that he who is baptized is one person, and he who baptizes is 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,” (DZ 413).
Then is listed Boniface VIII’s Unam Sanctam: “The Church, because of the unity of the spouse, the faith, the Sacraments and the charity of the Church… is that seamless tunic of the Lord (John 19:23) which was not cut but came forth by chance” (DZ 468). So it is not just the Sacraments, but also the charity of the Church, with Christ as the head of His Mystical Body, by which souls are saved; Christ alone knows who is included in this Body. The Council of Constance in 1415, also previous Bulls of Pope Martin V, in addressing the errors of John Hus, condemned the notion that the “foreknown, although at one time he is in grace is never a part of the Holy Church;” only the predestined are actual Church members (DZ 629, 631). This means that the Church condemns the teaching that grace outside Church membership is not sufficient to procure salvation. The Systematic Index notes: “The predestined are not always necessarily members of the Church.” The teachings of the Council of Trent (DZ 796, 847) also are listed in the Index. Several other condemned teachings on the workings of grace are mentioned as well, but it would be too difficult to adequately explain them in this short post.
Decades later, Pope St. Pius V condemned the following errors of Michael du Bay: “Perfect and sincere charity, which is from ‘a pure heart and a good conscience and a faith not feigned’ [I Tim. 1:5], can be in catechumens as well as in penitents without the remission of sins.” And also: “A catechumen lives justly and rightly and holily, and observes the commandments of God, and fulfills the law through charity, which is only received in the laver of Baptism before the remission of sins has been observed.” (DZ 1031, 1033). In his dogmatic Bull Unigenitus, Clement XI in 1713 condemned the proposition by the Jansenist Quesnel which falsely stated that: ‘outside the Church, no grace is granted,’ (DZ 1379).
In 1690, Alexander VIII had already condemned the Jansenistic proposition of Arnauld that “Pagans, Jews, heretics, and other people of the sort, receive no influx [of grace] whatsoever from Jesus Christ,” (DZ 1295). One other papal condemnation of note is the misinterpretation of the composition of the Mystical Body of Christ by the Hussites which would limit Church membership to the faithful only. This teaching was condemned as heretical in 1794 by Pope Pius VI in Auctorem Fidei (DZ 1515). All of the above can scarcely be dismissed as “ a few instances” of this dogma on baptism of desire, nor can the later teachings of the Church’s two outstanding Doctors below be brushed off as inconsequential by the Feeneyites.
The pre-eminent Doctors
According to St. Alphonsus Liguori: “So then, he that in reality has not received Baptism cannot reach heaven? To this I reply, that he also can be saved if he has conceived an ardent desire to be baptized, and believes in Jesus Christ, as happened to many, who, unable to receive Baptism, supplied its place by their desires. “Baptism by fire… is the perfect conversion to God through contrition, or the love of God above all things, with the explicit desire, or implicit desire, for the true river of baptism. As the Council of Trent says (Sess. 14, Chap. 4), it takes the place of the latter with regard to the remission of the guilt but does not imprint a character nor take away all the debt of punishment. It is called fire because it is made under the impulse of the Holy Ghost, who is given this name… Thus it is of faith (de fide) that men are saved even by the baptism of fire, according to c. Apostolicam, de pres. non bapt. and the Council of Trent, Sess. 6, Chap. 4, where it is said that no one can be saved without the laver of regeneration or the desire for it.”
And from St. Thomas Aquinas, writing in the13th century (1200s): “Secondly, the sacrament of Baptism may be wanting to anyone in reality but not in desire: for instance, when a man wishes to be baptized, but by some ill chance he is forestalled by death before receiving Baptism. And such a man can obtain salvation without being actually baptized, on account of his desire for Baptism, which desire is the outcome of ‘faith that worketh by charity,’ whereby God, Whose power is not tied to visible sacraments, sanctifies man inwardly. Hence Ambrose says of Valentinian, who died while yet a catechumen: ‘I lost him whom I was to regenerate: but he did not lose the grace he prayed for,’” (“Summa Theologica,” Pt. 1, Obj. 1, art. 5, objection 2).
The Catholic Encyclopedia
All of these teachings are reflected in the 1911 Catholic Encyclopedia article on predestination: “We may now briefly summarize the whole Catholic doctrine, which is in harmony with our reason as well as our moral sentiments. According to the doctrinal decisions of general and particular synods, God infallibly foresees and immutably preordains from eternity all future events (cf. Denzinger, n. 1784), all fatalistic necessity, however, being barred and human liberty remaining intact (Denz., n. 607). Consequently man is free whether he accepts grace and does good or whether he rejects it and does evil (Denz., n. 797). Just as it is God’s true and sincere will that all men, no one excepted, shall obtain eternal happiness, so, too, Christ has died for all (Denz., n. 794), not only for the predestined (Denz., n. 1096), or for the faithful (Denz., n. 1294), though it is true that in reality not all avail themselves of the benefits of redemption (Denz., n. 795).
“Though God preordained both eternal happiness and the good works of the elect, (Denz., n. 322), yet, on the other hand, He predestined no one positively to hell, much less to sin (Denz., nn. 200, 816). Consequently, just as no one is saved against his will (Denz., n. 1363), so the reprobate perish solely on account of their wickedness (Denz., nn. 318, 321). God foresaw the everlasting pains of the impious from all eternity, and preordained this punishment on account of their sins (Denz., n. 322), though He does not fail therefore to hold out the grace of conversion to sinners (Denz., n. 807), or pass over those who are not predestined (Denz., n. 827). As long as the reprobate live on earth, they may be accounted true Christians and members of the Church, just as on the other hand the predestined may be outside the pale of Christianity and of the Church (Denz., nn. 628, 631). Without special revelation no one can know with certainty that he belongs to the number of the elect (Denz., nn. 805 sq., 825 sq.).
“…In reality only those reach heaven who die in the state of justification or sanctifying grace, all these and only these are numbered among the predestined, strictly so called. From this it follows that we must reckon among them also all children who die in baptismal grace, as well as those adults who, after a life stained with sin, are converted on their death-beds. The same is true of the numerous predestined who, though outside the pale of the true Church of Christ, yet depart from this life in the state of grace as catechumens, Protestants in good faith, schismatics, Jews, Mahommedans, and pagans. Those fortunate Catholics who at the close of a long life are still clothed in their baptismal innocence, or who after many relapses into mortal sin persevere till the end, are not indeed predestined more firmly, but are more signally favoured than the last-named categories of persons.”
So for Feeneyites to claim that this understanding of the “outside the Church no salvation” dogma was an innovation is nothing more than sophistry and an attempt to remain loyal to a man who was the first to accuse Pope Pius XII of heresy — their founder, Leonard Feeney.
St. Bellarmine’s teaching perverted
What really happened — and this they fail to tell those they seduce — is that the original teaching of this dogma by St. Robert Bellarmine was so misconstrued and misrepresented by later theologians that it caused all the confusion regarding the right understanding of outside the Church no salvation. These wrongheaded theologians actually reversed the teaching of St. Robert as it was intended to be understood. This perversion of Bellarmine’s teachings is explained at length by Msgr. Joseph C. Fenton in his work The Catholic Church and Salvation, pgs. 165-188. Fenton comments: “Less than a century after his death, the terminology peculiar to St. Robert’s De ecclesia militante was being used to advance the thesis contradictory to his own teaching.” This work is available for free download on the Internet and anyone truly serious about resolving their doubts on this subject are urged to read it. What St. Bellarmine wrote is clear, and he does extend salvation to catechumens and excommunicates. It was his use of the term “soul of the Church” that was later so misappropriated and lent itself to the “invisible Church” heresy condemned in Mystici Corporis. St. Bellarmine explains his position below.
“But it is our teaching that there is only one ecclesia, and not two, and that this one and true Church is the assembly of men bound together by the profession of the same Christian faith and the communion of the same sacraments, under the rule of the legitimate pastors, and especially that of the Roman Pontiff, the one Vicar of Christ on earth. From this definition it is easy to infer which men belong to the Church and which do not belong to it. There are three parts of this definition; the profession of the true faith; the communion of the sacraments, and subjection to the Roman Pontiff, the legitimate pastor.
“By reason of the first part all infidels, both those who have never been in the Church, such as Jews, Turks, and pagans; and those who have been in it and have left it, as heretics and apostates, are excluded. By reason of the second part, catechumens and excommunicated persons are excluded, because the former are not yet admitted to the communion of the sacraments, while the latter have been sent away from it. By reason of the third part there are excluded the schismatics who have the faith and the sacraments, but who are not subject to the legitimate pastor and who thus profess the faith and receive the sacraments outside [of the Church]. All others are included [within the Church in the light of the definition] even though they be reprobates, sinful and impious men…
“The Church is a living body, in which there is a soul and a body. And the internal gifts of the Holy Ghost, faith, hope, charity, and the rest are the soul. The external profession of the faith and the communication of the sacraments are the body. Hence it is that some are of the soul and of the body of the Church, and hence joined both inwardly and outwardly to Christ the Head, and such people are most perfectly within the Church. They are, as it were, living members in the body…. Again, some are of the soul AND NOT OF THE BODY, as catechumens and excommunicated persons if they have faith and charity, as they can have them. And, finally, some are of the body and not of the soul, as those who have no internal virtue, but who still…profess the faith and communicate in the sacraments under the rule of the pastors” (De ecclesia militante, Ch. 2, 3).
Msgr. Fenton comments: “St. Robert obviously was fond of employing the ‘body’ and ‘soul’ dichotomy to explain and illustrate various distinctions within the Church… In the second chapter of the De ecclesia militante, ‘soul’ and ‘body’ are metaphorical names applied to two distinct sets of forces or factors that function as bonds of unity within the Church militant of the New Testament… The individual who is ‘de anima ecclesiae’ (soul of the church) is joined to Our Lord in His Church by all ‘the internal gifts of the Holy Ghost,’ or at least by genuine divine faith.” He explains that in a series of successive teachings, later theologians failed to note St. Bellarmine’s soul of the Church was intended to represent the Holy Ghost, and those constituting this soul as being in the state of grace. Later theologians separated the Church into two separate parts, visible and invisible, something St. Robert denies. They treated those associated with the Church’s soul as “invisible members” of the Church when they were not members at all and were not included as Church members by St. Robert.
The Council of Trent definitions on baptism of desire and all other subsequent papal condemnations of errors that would deny its existence were handed down after St. Bellarmine had published his theological works, or sometime after his death. They were made in light of his teaching that such individuals could be saved outside the Church, not within it. None of those theologians following him who distorted this teaching could ever claim to enjoy his stature or consideration by the Pontiffs in their official teachings. Many of St. Bellarmine’s theological conclusions, however, have often been confirmed by papal teaching. What Msgr. Fenton notes about the issuance of Pope Pius XII’s teaching on the true constitution of the Church and baptism of desire sums all this up nicely:
“The greatest favor accorded to sacred theology by the encyclical letter Mystici Corporis Christi was the banishment from theology, once and for all, of this teaching about an ‘invisible Church.’ Since the appearance of the Mystici Corporis Christi, and especially since the publication of the Humani generis and the Suprema haec sacra, the elements that have militated against an accurate explanation of this dogma have lost their force. These documents of the Holy See have manifested the truth of the Church’s necessity for salvation for what it really is, the statement of the dignity of the Catholic Church as the one supernatural kingdom of the living God.”
“The worst doctrinal tendencies of our time found their expression in the heresy of Modernism, and it was a basic tenet of the Modernists that the declarations of the ecclesiastical magisterium are to be accepted only when they are interpreted to mean something different from what the Church originally and constantly taught that they mean. The ecclesiastical magisterium, in teaching and guarding this dogma, insists that there is no salvation outside of the Catholic Church and at the same time likewise insists that people who die without ever becoming members of the Catholic Church can obtain the Beatific Vision.
“Furthermore the Suprema haec sacra has shown us that no one can be ‘within’ the Church even by implicit desire or intention in such a way as to attain the life of grace in it, unless he has true supernatural faith and unless he loves God and his neighbor with the genuine and supernatural affection of divine charity… [Therefore] the non-member of the Church who dies believing God’s message with the assent of faith, loving God with the affection of charity, and sincerely willing and praying to enter God’s ecclesia, will live forever in the social unit within which he willed and prayed to live and for which he was fighting at the moment of his death.”
This concept should not be difficult to understand. One can make a Perfect Act of Contrition when one is not able to go to Confession. This perfect act will remit any mortal sins as long as the intention to confess when able exists. It is the same with Spiritual Communion, (which the saints say sometimes is more efficacious), because one actually longs to receive Our Lord in the Eucharist and for some reason is prevented from doing so. Likewise, one can desire Church membership, explicitly or implicitly in certain cases, and that desire will suffice to unite the soul in some salvific way to the Church without actual membership.
This can occur when there is no way of being able to determine which is the true Church, as is so easily the case today, or it can happen because one truly believes him or herself to be within the true Church and cannot be convinced otherwise (invincible ignorance). Such ignorance, however, is not to be confused with affected ignorance, which is the failure to investigate matters pertaining especially to one’s own salvation, often out of fear it will cause inconvenience, involve hard work or occasion some disruption in the emotions. Pope Pius IX most certainly did not mention affected ignorance, so prevalent among Traditionalists, as an excusing factor for not belonging to the Mystical Body.
So are Benedict XV, Pius XI and Pius XII true popes?
Even if they were in good faith, the Feeneyites could not defend their contention that the popes had denied the dogma of no salvation outside the Church, as the Church Herself understands this teaching, since clearly Pope Pius XII confirmed this dogma in Suprema haec sacra above. Nor, given the wealth of the Church’s teachings on grace, could they deny that those outside the Church, in certain circumstances, can be saved as just explained by Msgr. Fenton. Both teachings are true, and it must be understood that absolutely every baptized person who has the ability to determine which is the true Church of Christ on earth is obligated to belong to that Church and abide by the teachings of Her continual magisterium until death or they will not save their souls. This is the true meaning of “Outside the Church, no salvation.”
Among those teachings are the following: “The judgment of the Apostolic See, whose authority is not surpassed, is to be disclaimed by no one, nor is anyone permitted to pass judgment on its judgment” (the Vatican Council, DZ 1830). And here the Council refers to DZ 330: “The first seat shall not be judged by anyone” (Pope St. Nicholas I). Pope St. Leo IX also says: “By passing a preceding judgment on the great See, concerning which it is not permitted any man to pass judgment, you have received anathema from all the Fathers of all the venerable councils” (DZ 352). And from Pope Boniface VIII: “We declare, say, define and proclaim to every human creature that they by necessity for salvation are entirely subject to the Roman Pontiff” (Unam Sanctam, DZ 469). And especially in the absence of a true pontiff, we are bound by the decrees of all those pontiffs who went before. No one can question the pronouncements of the popes and remain Catholic, but of course Feeneyites were not Catholic to begin with.
Popes and councils teach that a pope can be judged by his inferiors only in the event he commits some heresy, (and by inferiors is meant the bishops and Cardinals, not the laity,) as happened at the Council of Constance. These teachings were advanced, however, before the definition of infallibility in 1870. At that time, it was determined by the Vatican Council fathers and reported by Henry Cardinal Manning that the pope could only become a heretic as a private person, although such a case had never occurred. The definition of infallibility ruled out the possibility that a pope could ever teach heresy publicly, as pope. The only set of circumstances that would explain what we have experienced since the death of Pope Pius XII is described by one of the popes citing heresy as a reason for judging a pope. That Pope is Paul IV, author of the infallible bull Cum ex Apostolatus Officio, written in 1559. Those wishing to study this further can read the bull itself and the articles explaining the bull on the Articles page and in the Archives. The book The Phantom Church in Rome also explains at great length the process for determining heresy in any given papal claimant, a process that, by infallible papal decree reflected in the Canon Law censures regarding ecclesiastical elections and heresy, can only be conducted by examining the claimant’s statements and actions pre-election.
And finally, since when has anyone ever, in the Church’s history, been taken seriously as the purveyor and teacher of anything when they have denied truths of faith expressed in infallible documents? The Feeneyite sect was condemned and its founder was excommunicated. As demonstrated above, they reject long-held Church teaching that had been badly mutilated and misconstrued by liberal and later Modernist theologians, then. They cannot pretend to act as competent witnesses or accusers; under Canon 2314, they are infamous and as a result they are deprived of the ability to perform valid ecclesiastical acts (teaching, publishing) under Can. 2294 §1. Here we are dealing with people who are attacking the authority of the Church and attempting to interpret privately what the Church reserves to Herself to interpret. They are no different in this respect than those Protestants who held the popes throughout the centuries to be Antichrist. Their accusations are both baseless and worthless.
During an interregnum, nothing can be decided in the absence of the pope. The hierarchy has been gone for decades and according to Church law and the last (infallible) constitution on papal elections (1945), nothing more can be done unless and until we are miraculously provided with a canonically elected Roman Pontiff. Reopen Feeney’s case? Only the Roman Pontiff could decide to do this. Examine alleged papal misconduct/heresy? Only a general council convened by a certainly valid Roman Pontiff could hear the case. Rule on the validity of certain papal elections? This would be a ruling after the fact. It would do well for those attacking these canonically elected popes to remember what happened to the last man who decided he would call out a pope and rouse the faithful to his defense to accuse Christ’s Vicar.
That man, the Dominican monk Savonarola, “spoke with increasing violence against the pope and the Curia… In a series of Lenten sermons he violently lashed the crimes of Rome… [and] was forbidden to preach.. Even then Savonarola refused obedience and again during the Lenten season of 1497 preached with uncontrolled violence against the Church in Rome. On 12 May 1497, he was excommunicated. [On] 19 June he published a letter ‘against the excommunication’ as being fraudulently obtained and sought to show that the judgment against him was null and void.
“Savonarola became more defiant. Notwithstanding his excommunication he celebrated Mass on Christmas Day and distributed Holy Communion. Even at this juncture the pope desired to act with gentleness, if the obstinate monk would submit, but the latter remained defiant and with his adherents set about calling a council in opposition to the pope” (http://newadvent.org/cathen/13490a.htm). Here Leonard Feeney appears to be a veritable clone of the Dominican, although Savonarola seems to have been far holier, at least in his early years. Historically he had his supporters, among them several popes and saints. But his case has never been reviewed or adjusted.
Eventually Savonarola’s followers abandoned him and he was turned over to the secular authorities, who hanged him and two of his fellow monks then burnt their bodies. As Henry Cardinal Manning observed in one of his many works, the powers that be may come after the papacy, but in the end the heavy stone on which Christ founded His Church will be moved and will grind them to powder.