The Plight of the Faithful in the End Times

The Plight of the Faithful in the End Times

+St. Bernadette Soubirous+

I have said I do not believe that catacomb Catholics have cornered the market in this era regarding their salvation, and that is simply a truth of faith. No one can be assured of their salvation, and if those teaching this falsehood would do their spiritual reading and learn their faith, they would know this. Even the great saints were terrified at times that they would lose their souls and redoubled their efforts to love God and serve Him. We all are expected to be those saints, symbolized by the “T” in betrayedcatholics, of a figure with a halo.

Nor do I believe that the bar has been lowered for us today because we have no pope, no Church, no priests, no Catholic schools, no Catholic life. Having said that, I do believe that if catacomb Catholics do their very best to serve Our Lord on this earth and to study their faith, to observe all the laws and teachings of the Church known to them, to perform their daily duties, to fulfill their obligations to defend the faith when the situation so requires, then I believe that will suffice. Whatever mistakes they might make in these times when not everything can be known to them and there is no one to consult regarding difficult moral questions and certain matters regarding faith, will be forgiven.

St. Augustine and St. Hippolytus have opined that the greatest saints shall live in the times of Antichrist (Huchede’s History of Antichrist, p. 28). Fr. Arminjon and St. Therese of Liseux, who read Fr. Arminjon’s works, believed this as well. We have no way to judge who among us may be saints, or what the saints believed would constitute “great saints.” Huchede seems to believe this means illustrious doctors of the Church to defend the faith, but this is an interpretation. St. Augustine merely mentions these saints will be great because they will have to deal with the devil unchained, when the saints then could scarcely deal with him chained. St. Hippolytus said they will be more illustrious than their fathers and will be victorious over the son of perdition. Little St. Therese, as reported in the book Her Last Conversations, “repeated with an air of conviction” this statement of Fr. Bourb’s: “The saints of the latter days will surpass those of the first days just as the cedars surpass the other trees” (1977, p. 101; translated by John Clarke from conversations recorded by the saint’s fellow nuns, sisters, relatives and friends. This conversation was from the “Yellow Notebook” kept by her superior, Mother Agnes.)

St. Therese and Fr. Bourb were no doubt echoing what they had read in St. Louis Marie de Montfort’s True Devotion to Mary: “Almighty God and his holy Mother are to raise up great saints who will surpass in holiness most other saints as much as the cedars of Lebanon tower above little shrubs. …These great souls filled with grace and zeal will be chosen to oppose the enemies of God. By word and example, they will draw all men to a true devotion to her and though this will make many enemies, it will also bring about many victories and much glory to God alone” (#47-48). And while St. de Montfort seems to see these saints working among priests and ecclesiastics (and they did for a time, during the 200 years after his writings, prior to Vatican 2), he does not come as close to predicting their circumstances as does Henry Cardinal Manning, Cardinal Pie or the historian Hilaire Belloc. These three men predicted a time where the faithful would be scattered and alone, totally bereft of the many aids and comforts of the Church and barely able to preserve their faith. Cardinal Manning wrote in his Temporal Power of the Vicar of Jesus Christ:

“The event may come to pass that as our Divine Lord, after His three years of public ministry were ended, delivered Himself of His own free will into the hands of men, and thereby permitted them to do that which before was impossible, so in His inscrutable wisdom He may deliver over His Vicar upon earth, as He delivered Himself, and that the providential support of the temporal power of the Holy See may be withdrawn when its work is done…when the whole number of those whom He hath chosen to eternal life is filled up. It may be that when that is done, and when the times of Antichrist are come, that He will give over His Vicar upon earth, and His Mystical Body at large, [for a time]…The Church would, as in the beginning, again be made up of members voluntarily uniting themselves together throughout the whole world, having indeed a legal recognition here and there, but wandering up and down the earth, without any contact with the nations of the world as such… the Church would descend again, if I may say so, into the Catacombs, and would be hidden from society…”

Louis Edward Cardinal Pie of Portiers, France, close friend of Cardinal Manning’s and favored by Pope St. Pius X, spoke of the time of Antichrist as follows: “The Church, though of course still a visible society, will be increasingly reduced to individual and domestic proportions…. And finally the Church on earth will undergo a true defeat: ‘…and it was given unto him to make war with the saints and to overcome them’ (Apocalypse 13:7). Now, in this extremity, what will be the remaining duty of all true Christians, of all men of faith and courage? The answer is this: spurred on to ever greater vigour by the apparent hopelessness of their predicament, they will redouble their ardour in prayer, their energy in works, and their courage in combat so that their every word and work cries out together:” (and here he recites the first part of the Our Father). “When The Lord taught His Apostles the Our Father, He made it clear that none of His followers could accomplish the first act of religion, which is prayer, without putting himself in relation with all that can advance or retard, favor or hinder, the reign of God on earth and he must do this in proportion to his intellectual attainments and to the extent of the horizon open before him” (from Cardinal Pie’s Kingship of Christ).

And this from Belloc: “The Church will not disappear, for the Church is not of mortal stuff; it is the only institution among men not subject to the universal law of mortality. Therefore we say, not that the Church may be wiped out, but that it may be reduced to a small band almost forgotten amid the vast numbers of its opponents and their contempt of the defeated thing. One of the most intelligent of French Catholics, a converted Jew, has written a work to prove (or suggest) that the first of these two possible issues will be our fate. He envisages the last years of the Church on this earth as lived apart. He sees a Church of the future reduced to very few in numbers and left on one side in the general current of the new Paganism. He sees a Church of the future within which there will be intensity of devotion, indeed, but that devotion practised by one small body, isolated and forgotten in the midst of its fellowmen.”

It seems that men will not number many in this group, and certainly the clergy will be absent, just as they were at the time of the Crucifixion.

“At some distance, two women covered with veils, one of whom leaned upon the other in an attitude which betrayed the most heartrending grief, timidly beheld the proceedings of the Roman soldiers: they were Mary and Magdalen, for Magdalen too was there; and in the distance were perceived the other women from Galilee, who had left all to devote themselves to Jesus, and who had not forsaken him in the hour of punishment and ignominy. “Honor to them!” says Abelard, “for when the disciples and apostles fled like cowards to the mountains, these weak but courageous creatures accompanied Christ even to the foot of the cross and did not leave him till he was laid in the sepulchre!” (The Pictorial Catholic Library, 1886, Murphy and McCarthy).

And so here we are, today, in exactly the situation these two cardinals and an historian predicted we would be, re-enacting Christ’s Passion as played out in His Church. We live in a world where temptations and near occasions of sin have been multiplied 1,000 times and more, and where no one even remembers what the Catholic Church once was and taught — and this includes Traditionalists. Most of us know that we received valid Baptism, but if we were unfortunate enough to have received the other Sacraments after the close of 1958, we have no real certainty we received them validly. We try our best to carry on without these Sacraments, save marriage and Baptism; without spiritual direction, without any real hope of anything changing, except for the worst. And yet we hang on for dear life to faith and hope and do our best to practice charity in a world filled with hate and every imaginable vice. Many of us, whether in the city or the country, live as virtual hermits to avoid contamination by the world. Scarred and dazed by our experiences with the Novus Ordo and Traditionalists, assaulted as fanatics, heretics and apostates by those same Pharisees who also tormented Jesus, abandoned by Trad and Novus Ordo “friends” and family members, we believe we have something in common with St. Paul in the Sexagesima Sunday Gospel. Carrying the banner of final perseverance before us, we beg Our Lord to forgive us for the many sins we have committed in trying to arrive at the safe harbor of the catacombs, and to help us sin no more.

Can we expect a reprieve of any kind in these dreadful times? Should we? St. Paul wrote this about the Christians living during the times preceding the Second Coming: “The testimony of Christ was confirmed in you… Nothing is wanting to you in any grace, waiting for the manifestation of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Who also will confirm you to the end without crime, in the day of Our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Cor. I, 6-8). And this, less encouraging, from the following source:  “It is supposed that the just who are alive when Christ comes again, and who stand in need of cleansing, will be purified in some extraordinary way — e. g. by the troubles of the last days, by vehement contrition, etc.; but all this is mere conjecture” (The Pictorial Catholic Library, 1886, Murphy and McCarthy). That great preacher of the end times, St. Vincent Ferrar, teaches the following regarding the punishment of those still alive on earth when Our Lord comes again, and grants it greater weight than just a conjecture:

“Saint Thomas Aquinas speaks beautifully of this when he says that this last fire, inasmuch as it precedes the Judgment, will act as an instrument of God’s justice. It will also act like natural fire, inasmuch as, in its natural power, it will burn both wicked and good and reduce every human body to ashes. Inasmuch as it acts as an instrument of God’s justice, it will act in different ways with regard to different people. For the wicked will suffer intensely through the action of the fire, but the good in whom nothing is found which must be purged away will feel no pain from the fire, just as the three children felt nothing in the fiery furnace, although the bodies of these others will not be preserved as were those of the three children. And this will come to pass by the divine power, that without pain or suffering their bodies will be resolved into ashes.

“But the good in whom there is some stain to be purged away will feel the pain of this fire, more or less according to the merits of each. But they will be swiftly purged for three reasons. The first reason is that in them little evil is found, for they have been already in great measure purged by the preceding tribulations and persecutions. The second is that the living will voluntarily endure the pain; and suffering willingly endured in this life remits much more quickly than suffering inflicted after death. This is seen in the case of the martyrs, for if, when they came to die, anything worthy of purgation was found, it was cut away by the pruning knife of their sufferings. And the sufferings of the martyrs were short in comparison with the pains of purgatory. The third reason is that the heat of the fire gains in intensity what it loses through the shortness of the time. But in so far as the fire is active after the judgment its power only extends over the damned, since all the bodies of the just will be impassible” (Angel of the Judgment: A Life of Vincent Ferrer, by S.M.C., Ave Maria Press. Chapter 11, pgs. 102-117)

But what of those who will die before this conflagration? Is it not possible that the end-times tribulations and persecutions also will help to at least shorten their time in the purgatorial fires? We can only hope. Many believe there will be a chastisement that will cleanse the earth of the greater majority of evil persons and allow the Church to function again for a brief time before the persecutions are renewed. Numerous saints and holy people have predicted it. Others believe only in a spiritual chastisement, up to the end.  God tells us no one knows the day nor the hour. Nor do we know exactly what will precede it, in what order or how — only what we read in Holy Scripture. We must pray and keep watch over our souls, that we remain in the state of sanctifying grace, for truly our end could arrive at any moment. We have been so desensitized to sin we often do not even realize that what we do on a daily basis is offensive to God. A general confession — an examination of conscience over the period of our entire life — will often show us the truth of this statement. And a constant watch over our actions each day, concluding in a nightly examination, will help us to become more aware of our particular sins so we may beg God to help us eliminate them. Constant vigilance over our souls and a daily increase in our love for God is the only hope we have of obtaining His mercy and meriting any lightening of our penalty for sin

Do we have what it takes to become the “great saints” foreseen in these times? If we beg God for the graces we need to keep the faith at home, then God will hear our prayers. In these times when everything is so broken that it seems impossible to fix, we must turn our gaze inward and keep it simple. Like St. Therese of the Child Jesus and her little way, we will trust in God on waking each day and ask Him to supernaturalize each of our everyday tasks, to demonstrate our love for Him. This is how St. Therese built her stairway to heaven, and we can ascend that stairway as well. “Jesus does not demand great actions from us,” she said, “but simply surrender and love.” By refusing to attend Traditionalist masses and receive their sacraments, we are surrendering our own will to that of God’s and offering ourselves as a sacrifice instead. Our Lady has led us to this spiritual desert and Her Son’s Church has provided the manna of the Act of Perfect Contrition and Spiritual Communion; also the “eighth” Sacrament, Our Lady’s Rosary. We are not alone; we have not been abandoned. Jesus and His Blessed Mother are enough for us.

 

 

 

 

 

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“TrueCatholics” site promotes Feeneyite heresy

“TrueCatholics” site promotes Feeneyite heresy

+ Seven Holy Founders of the Servites +

I recently have received inquiries from readers about the “stay-at-home Catholics” site truecatholics.org. I also have been harassed over the past few months by two individuals, one of them a Feeneyite, disputing various topics covered on betrayedcatholics. These attacks may or may not be related, but often they precede the appearance of wannabe sites or publications claiming to be Catholic.

Before beginning, it will be useful to point out the teaching of Pope St. Pius X in Pascendi Dominici Gregis: “They put their designs for Her [the Church’s] ruin into operation not from without, but from within… The more intimate their knowledge of Her, the more certain the injury.” This can describe Traditionalists of all shades, including the Feeneyites, and some Feeneyites style themselves as “stay-at-home Catholics.” They present with all the external trappings of the Church and nearly all Her teachings, save the one drop of heretical poison here and there that sends souls to hell. They are convinced, of course, that their heresies are actually true teachings of Christ’s Church on earth, as are all heretics. This is especially true of the Feeneyites, who never cease to fiercely defend their errors.

Any stay-at-home minded Catholic pulling up the trueCatholics site would immediately presume they have found like-minded faithful, based on the appearance of its content. All has been designed to attract those searching for answers, with several media options avaialble. An “easy way” to understand what has happened to the Church is offered in short articles that use the “just listen to me” method to present truths of faith. But like so many sites, bite a little deeper into the apple and the worm surfaces. During a brief search of the trueCatholics site, the following heretical statements were discovered:

“Water baptism only forgives sins — There is no forgiveness of sins and hence no possibility of salvation without a correct and proper Baptism of Water and a correct and proper Profession of Faith” (https://truecatholics.org/catholicism/baptism-is-necessary-for-salvation/).

“There is no such thing as Invincible ignorance — Ignorance has never been a means of salvation. (Fr. Goffine, 1687) Today, there are many wicked heresies like invincible ignorance, which have fooled people into believing ideas condemned by Christ and His Catholic Church. They cause unthinking, deceived people to fall into heresy and fall outside the pale of the Church. No heretic shall be worthy of eternal life.” Pope Eugene IV, ex Cathedra, Cantate domino, 1441.

“Heretics won’t go to heaven — It is true. Heretics cannot go to heaven. This is Church dogma. Council of Florence, Pope Eugene IV, ex Cathedra, Cantate domino, 1441: “The Most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews, and heretics, and schismatics, can ever be partakers of eternal life, but that they are to go into the eternal fire “which was prepared for the devil, and his angels,” (Mt. 25:41) unless before death they are joined with Her…”

Only stay-at-home Catholics will save their souls — Only true Catholics who stay at home on Sunday (i.e. don’t attend any “masses”) are in the true Catholic Church” (https://truecatholics.org/catholicism/stay-at-home-catholic-overview/).

To find the true teachings of the popes on the above subjects, go to https://www.betrayedcatholics.com/the-saved-and-the-lost-some-points-to-consider/ Baptism of blood and desire are treated in an article available from the Archives and two articles listed under recent articles on the Articles page. The fact that this teaching is not readily apparent and openly stated at the outset on trueCatholics shows that the creators of the site hope to lure in younger Catholics not familiar with some of these longstanding issues with Feeneyites. This way they can redirect them from sites that are truly written for stay-at-home — Catacomb — Catholics while pretending to be in agreement with them, constituting one, big happy family.

After all, many of the quotes and the premises used on betrayedcatholics can be found embedded in the writings on the trueCatholics site in order to make it appear they are on the same page with us. While quotes cannot be copyrighted, they can be considered ingredients of intellectual property when used to construct demonstrations according to the Scholastic method of presentation required by the Church. This is especially true when the books these quotes are taken from cannot be found available for sale or download on the Internet. I have a 4,000-volume library in my home and many of these books are out of print or considered rare. I doubt there are many copies floating around. These erudite Catholics also “borrowed” a declaration from my website which has appeared here since 2003. It also can be found in the opening pages of my first self-published work Will the Catholic Church Survive…? written 30 years ago. Here is the declaration as found on their site:

Anyone can rewrite something they would like to use or ask for permission to use it; that is what professional journalists do. But that aside, what kind of Catholic does not give credit to those who went before him or her in the field of Catholic truth, especially when they are so bold as to accommodate the hard-won fruits of their literary labor?! The trueCatholics site does not once mention betrayedCatholics, and that is not only dishonest, it is also not Catholic. When any scholar or theologian creates a work based on another work, those works are always listed in either footnotes or the bibliography. Not to use the Scholastic method to present truths of faith is to ignore the Church’s orders to do so and to set oneself up as sole authority in matters of faith.

In his comments about these teachings regarding salvation, Msgr. Joseph C. Fenton tells us in his work The Catholic Church and Salvation that Pope Pius XII’s decree against the Feeneyites, Suprema haec sacra “is an authoritative, though obviously not an infallible, document. That is to say, the teachings contained in the Suprema haec sacra are not to be accepted as infallibly true on the authority of this particular document. Nevertheless, the fact remains that much of its teaching — Indeed, what we may call the substance of its teaching — is material which has appeared in previous documents emanating from the Sovereign Pontiff himself and from Oecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church… [However] the Cardinals of the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office decreed that these explanations be given, and the Holy Father approved their decision. We are dealing, then, with an authoritative document. It would be wrong for any teacher of Catholic doctrine to ignore or to contradict the teachings contained in this Holy Office letter” (see https://www.betrayedcatholics.com/the-sincere-internal-assent-catholics-owe-papal-pronouncements/). So why are trueCatholics teaching otherwise?

Here there is no denial by Pope Pius XII, but only confirmation, of “outside the Church no salvation.” Fenton writes: “That there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church is a doctrine ‘which the Church has always preached and will never cease to preach’ …as an ‘infallible statement.’ This states clearly that it is a dogma — in other words, one of the teachings which the Church finds in Scripture or in divine apostolic tradition, and which, by either solemn judgment or in its ordinary and universal teaching activity, it presents to the people as something they must believe as a part of divine public revelation… [But] it is to be noted that this conclusion is the practical expression of the meaning of the Church’s necessity of precept. It very definitely is not, either in itself or in its context in in the Suprema haec sacra, an expression of the complete and ultimate meaning of the dogma of the necessity of the Church for 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 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 Suprema haec sacra shows that the text of the Mystici Corporis, particularly those sections of the encyclical mentioned in the Holy Office letter, reproves two mutually opposed errors. The first error condemned in the Mystici Corporis is that according to which a man who has merely an implicit desire of entering the Catholic Church is in a situation in which it is impossible for him to attain to his eternal salvation. The second error proscribed is that which holds that men can be saved equally in every religion. Those who taught either error after the publication of Mystici Corporis were guilty of ignoring or defying the authority of the Sovereign Pontiff, teaching in his ordinary doctrinal activity or magisterium” (end of Msgr. Fenton quotes). Therefore, this is the case with the Feeneyites, who cannot accept the fact that certain individuals, (known only to God Himself, Pope Pius IX teaches), can be saved according to the necessity of means. And this, Pope Pius IX also teaches, can happen by way of invincible ignorance. So regardless of whether Suprema haec sacra is infallible, the Feeneyites are denying the teachings of the ordinary magisterium and defying the authority of the popes, just as their founder Leonard Feeney did. And it must be remembered that Feeney was excommunicated from the Church for his defiance.

As has been stated elsewhere, no one is certain of their eternal salvation, and this applies to stay-at-home Catholics. We most fervently wish to be numbered among the elect and are doing everything in our power to see that is the case. But we definitely do believe others can be saved by explicit or implicit desire, because to believe otherwise would be a denial of papal teaching and authority. This was explained in The Saved and the Lost blog post.

One more point needs to be made here. Any group or individual ignoring other existing stay-at-home Catholics then using their premises for one’s own purposes should send up a red flag. It should tell those reading the material on such sites that the only reason the site’s authors would have for ignoring fellow Catholics is if they did not agree with them on some important Catholic doctrine. It is Traditionalists who seek to burrow in and disguise their true intentions only to lead others away from already existing groups. These are the tactics of Protestant sects, not Catholics. As Fr. Demaris tells us in They Have Taken Away My Lord… “It is by faith that the faithful are united… Truth wins, no matter how small the number of those attached to our Lord.” If we have not the faith, whole and entire, we have nothing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Plight of the Faithful in the End Times

The Saved and the Lost — Some Points to Consider

+St. Agatha+

It is the common opinion of scholastic theologians that the majority of mankind, (and some even say the majority of Catholics), will be lost. This is the opinion of St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Alphonsus Liguori and many others, among them the Early Fathers and Doctors of the Church. Msgr. Joseph C. Fenton tells us that “The common teaching is …a proper theological conclusion which by reason of the authority of a moral unanimity of scholastic theologians, can be received as true Catholic doctrine. It would be at least rash to deny it.” Revs. John A. McHugh O.P and Charles Callan, O.P., in their Moral Theology, a Complete Course, elaborate on the common opinion as follows:

“If the opinion has the support of only one theologian, it may be followed without further investigation if he has received special mention from the Church as an authority and a safe guide. Thus the Holy See has expressly declared that the doctrine of St. Alphonsus may be safely followed by confessors and the approbation given to St. Thomas Aquinas as universal Doctor makes his word more convincing than a contrary argument based on one’s own reasoning” (#669). In this case, both St. Alphonsus and St. Thomas Aquinas teach the following regarding the subject of the saved and the lost:

“Since their eternal happiness, consisting in the vision of God, exceeds the common state of nature, and especially in so far as this is deprived of grace through the corruption of original sin, those who are saved are in the minority. In this especially, however, appears the mercy of God, that He has chosen some for that salvation, from which very many in accordance with the common course and tendency of nature fall short.” —  St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church

“Everyone desires to be saved but the greater part is lost… The Elect are much fewer than the damned, for the reprobate are much more numerous than the Elect.” — St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori, Doctor of the Church

But McHugh and Callan also state: “Of course, this does not mean that these or any other private doctors are infallible in their judgments, or that one should not depart from their teaching in a point where the Church has decided against them or where there is a manifest reason for doing so; it simply means that they are so conspicuous among moralists that one who is in doubt may safely follow them unless the contrary is known to him” (#669).

We know that in those things directly affecting our eternal salvation, the validity of the Sacraments and the good of a third party, the law of charity forbids us to take any risks, as McHugh and Callan teach from the doctrines of the Church. While the common opinion of theologians on the number of the saved and lost does not affect us directly where our eternal salvation is concerned, a lax attitude regarding this truth could easily cause some to delay conversion or omit repentance, and this must be avoided at all costs. For this reason, especially in the perilous times we find ourselves, it is safer to take all the precautions we can, such as St. Alphonsus provides in his Preparation for Death, to increase our love for God, do penance, reform our lives and renew our efforts to avoid all sin. This is the least we owe Our Lord for the Sacrifice He offered for us on the Cross.

While some theologians writing after the turn of the 20th century believed this common opinion had shifted in the opposite direction — meaning that the majority would be saved, not lost — we know why this trend began and where it was heading. It was an invention of the Modernists which culminated in the heresies of ecumenism and religious liberty. In the beginning it did have its valid points, as some, perhaps, may not yet have been in the Modernist employ. But it is not only the Modernists who have misrepresented this teaching. On the one side we have those who present the most rigorous version of this opinion without the necessary examination of the statements made by those supporting it. On the other side are ranged the advocates of the mildest opinion, primarily Modernists or those imbued with Modernist tendencies. The lax state of the Church at the time they were making these rosy predictions in no way justified such optimism. If anything, there was a definite trend to discredit or abandon religion altogether, certainly not to convert to the Catholic faith. Historically the Church was the weakest it had ever been, and from the 1920s on was increasingly surrounded by Her enemies.

One Jesuit advocate of the mildest opinion describes it as a swinging pendulum, at first resting in favor of the stricter view and then later swinging to the opposite side, in favor of the milder opinion. As all devices of this nature, when it comes to rest, it stops halfway between the two unless dialed back altogether by the Holy See. And here is the rub. According to one author supporting the milder opinion, Rev. Nicholas Walsh S.J., “Whether there be few or many that are saved [is] an open question… There is no authoritative decision of the Church or unanimous opinion of her Fathers or theologians: [it is therefore] an open question about which we may speculate as a ‘doubtful law’ (St. Augustine)” (The Saved and the Lost). And Walsh’s work was written in 1908. I do not believe, as indicated above, that we need speculate very far at all in the other direction seeing the development of mankind over the past seven decades. But certain things must be clarified regarding the presentation of the stricter view, and how this view was modified to some extent by the Roman Pontiffs up to 1958.

It is easy to see how infidels, pagans, Jews, apostates, heretics and schismatics, who have comprised the majority of mankind since the Reformation and all but occupy the entire field now, were not able to save their souls unless they converted and did penance. St. Alphonsus and St. Jerome tell us deathbed conversions are rare, so this would need to have been evident before their actual death. Somehow at the moment of their death, it is hoped that at least some of these individuals and lapsed Catholics professed sorrow for their sins and asked forgiveness. Can we confidently believe the majority of Catholics are saved? That may have been true in the past, and here we speak only of those Catholics who showed every sign of fulfilling their religious duties and obeying the 10 Commandments and laws of the Church.

But it became doubtful beginning sometime in the 20th century, when churches began emptying in Europe and even some locations in the U.S. With the advent of Vatican 2, many did abandon the false church, but many also remained. And among those who left, few ever realized Traditionalists and the Orthodox/Uniates were not Catholic either. Even if they suspected it, they remained in their churches simply because it fell within their comfort zone, they wanted to avoid ridicule from friends and family and/or they failed to investigate proofs that would have convinced them they could not remain in these groups. This is called affected ignorance, and it cannot pass for invincible ignorance if a modest amount of effort made could uncover the truth.

So could it be said that most Catholics living today might be saved? The question is — how many can truthfully even call themselves Catholic with any real claim to the name as regards Church membership? Not very many, as proofs presented in recent blog posts have shown. None of us can be certain of our salvation, but at least those trying their best to observe the laws and teachings of the Church, regardless of what it may cost them, can hope God accepts their sacrifice in union with His Passion and that of His Church. So what modifications, per those mentioned above by McHugh and Callan, might we make to the presentation of this doctrine today? Has the Church decided anything new, or is there a manifest reason for believing differently where the presentation of this teaching is concerned?

To begin with, the Doctors, Fathers and theologians cited in support of the stricter opinion do not all quite say what those quoting them claim. They tell us the elect are much fewer than the damned, those who are saved are in the minority and in comparison to the reprobate, those who are saved are much fewer. They speak of the majority of men, the greater part of men, a great number of Christians who are damned, the elect as a minority, and then some speak of the saved as “the fewest of the few.” Those adhering to the strictest view, that only a very few are saved, are not generally numbered among the Doctors, Fathers and theologians, with one or two exceptions according to the quotes available on this subject (see these quotes at http://catholicismhastheanswer.com/quotes-on-the-fewness-of-the-saved/)

That a minority of the faithful are saved and only a few are saved, which is deduced from various commentaries on Scripture texts, is scarcely the same thing, yet are mentioned in the same breath. This even though not all Scripture commentators agree on the stricter interpretation of the texts used to support this opinion. Preachers of the past wishing to frighten those hardened in their sins and those actually wishing to intimidate and subjugate their followers employ “few are saved” texts when dealing with this subject to good effect. Some Traditionalist sects have employed it to justify a demand for severe penance and voluntary humiliation. Many souls have forever been turned away from the true faith by the practices of these sects.

The fact that this is still an open question never officially decided by the popes limits Catholics to the allowance of the less strict opinion if the error of tutiorism is to be avoided. This is one of the errors belonging to the Jansenist heresy condemned by the Church. One may insist others must observe the safer teaching advanced in the common opinion but cannot insist anyone observe the safest teaching, i.e., that only a few are saved. McHugh and Callan write: “[Tutiorism] errs when it teaches we are… obliged always to follow the safer or safest course… There are cases when we are obliged (because some law requires it) to follow a safer course“ and this would include “something essential for the salvation of ourselves or others” (#678a). It does not seem that the question of whether few or many are saved is essential to our salvation, although it indirectly pertains to it. That the majority of mankind will be saved is contrary to the common opinion of theologians and is the less safe opinion, and we cannot embrace it when great doctors such as St. Thomas and St. Alphonsus, among other Fathers and Doctors, teach it.

But we are not obliged to adhere to what some would hold as the safest opinion, that only a few will be saved. This is not the common opinion of Fathers, Doctors and theologians but only the opinion of a few, some of them not theologians, or only mystics or holy seers whose visions and revelations we are not obliged to believe at all. And it is usually based on the texts of Scripture characterizing the few grapes left on the vine, the few grains of wheat sifted from the chaff, and other bible texts, which not all commentators interpret strictly or apply in the same way. No one can teach or believe what those advocating the common opinion didn’t actually say.

St. Alphonsus and others say the few saved is in contrast to the many lost, not that they are to be considered by themselves as such. They do not set a number to those in the minority. Severely limiting that number would invite to the table another Jansenist heresy, that of the “petite eglise” or little church, which insinuated by its rigoristic penitential practices that scarcely anyone who did not follow their lead would be found in heaven. As Rev. Ronald Knox wrote: “Its adherents forgot, after all, to believe in grace” (Enthusiasm, pgs. 212-213, 1950).

Then there are the teachings of Pope Pius IX and Pope Pius XII that grant some leeway to those invincibly ignorant and those not able to resort to the ordinary means of salvation. The popes and those theologians commenting on their teachings specifically forbid the faithful to exclude the grant of grace to those outside the Church by a merciful act from God. Msgr. J.C. Fenton wrote in his work The Catholic Church and Salvation, 1958:

“When the Unam sanctam teaches us that there can be no remission of sins outside the Catholic Church, it is telling us, actually, that it is impossible to obtain the life of sanctifying grace or to live that life outside this supernatural kingdom of God. It is bringing out the divinely revealed truth that, by God’s own institution, the life of sanctifying grace is to be possessed and derived from Our Lord by those who are united with Him, abiding in Him, in His Mystical Body, which is the Catholic Church.

In the light of Catholic doctrine, however, it is both certain and obvious that actual graces are really offered to and received by men who are definitely ‘outside the Church,’ in the sense in which this expression is employed in the ecclesiastical documents which state the dogma or the Church’s necessity for the attainment of eternal salvation. As a matter of fact, the proposition that “no grace is granted outside the Church (extra ecclesia nullar conceited gratia) is one of the theses condemned explicitly by Pope Clement XI in his dogmatic constitution Unigenitus, issued September 8, 1713, and directed against the teachings of Pasquier Quesnel (DZ 1379).” So in making his statement, Fenton explains, Pope Boniface VIII in Unam Sanctam only refers to the ordinary means of salvation. What Pope Pius IX and Pope Pius XII taught regards the extraordinary and not the ordinary means of salvation. This is what those holding the Feeneyite heresy argue in endless circles about, claiming that what Pope Pius XII taught contradicted the necessity of Church membership for salvation, when it simply qualified the true nature of that membership.

Pope Pius IX, however, had already cleared up any confusion in his encyclicals on the topic.

“Far be it from Us, Venerable Brethren, to presume to establish limits to the divine mercy, which is infinite. Far be it from Us to wish to scrutinize the hidden counsels and judgments of God, which are “a great deep,” and which human thought can never penetrate. Certainly we must hold it as of faith that no one can be saved outside the apostolic Roman Church, that this is the only Ark of salvation, and that the one who does not enter it is going to perish in the deluge. But, nevertheless, we must likewise hold it as certain that those who labor in ignorance of the true religion, if that [ignorance] be invincible, will never be charged with any guilt on this account before the eyes of the Lord. Now, who is there who would arrogate to himself the power to indicate the extent of such [invincible] ignorance according to the nature and the variety of peoples, regions, talents, and so many other things? For really when, loosed from these bodily bonds, we see God as He is, we shall certainly understand with what intimate and beautiful a connection the divine mercy and justice are joined together. But, while we live on earth, weighed down by this mortal body that darkens the mind, let us hold most firmly, from Catholic doctrine, that there is one God, one faith, one baptism. It is wrong to push our inquiries further than this… For the rest, as the cause of charity demands, let us pour forth continual prayers to God that all nations everywhere may be converted to Christ. And let us do all in our power to bring about the common salvation of men, for the hand of the Lord is not shortened and the gifts of heavenly grace will never be lacking to those who sincerely wish and pray to be comforted in this light” (Singulari Quadam).

And in this same pope’s Quanto conficiamur moerore we find the following:

“…Those who labor in invincible ignorance of our most holy religion, and who, carefully observing the natural law and its precepts which God has inscribed in the hearts of all, and who, being ready to obey God, live an honest and upright life, can, through the working of the divine light and grace, attain eternal life, since God, who clearly sees, inspects, and knows the minds, the intentions, the thoughts, and the habits of all, will, by reason of His goodness and kindness never allow anyone who has not the guilt of willful sin to be punished by eternal sufferings.”

Then Pope Pius XII, in his Mystici Corporis Christi, elaborated further on this teaching.

“As you know very well. Venerable Brethren, from the beginning of Our Pontificate, We have entrusted even those who do not belong to the visible structure (compagem) of the Catholic Church to the heavenly protection and direction, solemnly asserting that, following the example of the Good Shepherd, We wanted nothing more than that they should have life and have it more abundantly. [We] most affectionately invite each and every one of them [those who are not members of the Church] to co-operate generously and willingly with the inward impulses of divine grace and to take care to extricate themselves from that condition in which they cannot be secure about their own eternal salvation. For even though they may be directed towards the Redeemer’s Mystical Body by a sort of unconscious desire and intention (ctiamsi inscio quodam desiderio ac voto ad mysticum Redemptoris Corpus ordinentur), they still lack so many and such great heavenly helps and aids that can be enjoyed only in the Catholic Church.”

Fenton comments: “In the Mystici Corporis Christi Pope Pius XII asserts true Catholic doctrine by teaching that a non-member of the Church who is within the Church only in the sense that he has an unconscious or implicit desire of entering it as a member can possess the supernatural life of sanctifying grace.

“The Suprema haec sacra [written in 1950 to refute the Feeneyite heresy] then brings out the fact that, in the merciful designs of God’s providence, such realities as the Church itself and the sacraments of baptism and penance can, under certain circumstances, bring about the effects which they are meant to produce as means necessary for the attainment of eternal salvation when a man possesses them only in the sense that he desires or intends or wills to have or to use them. Obviously the text cannot be understood unless we realize what the “certain circumstances” mentioned in the text really are. Basic among these circumstances is the genuine impossibility of receiving the sacraments of baptism or of penance or of entering the Church as a member [or readmitted to it in the absence of any means to abjure heresy – Ed.]. It is quite clear that if it is possible for a man to be baptized, to go to confession and to receive sacramental absolution, or really to become a member of the true Church, the man for whom this is possible will not attain to eternal salvation unless he actually avails himself of these means. But, on the other hand, should the actual employment of these means be genuinely impossible, then the man can attain to eternal life by a will or desire to employ them.  

“The Suprema haec sacra states explicitly that it is possible for a man to be saved if he has only an implicit desire of entering the Catholic Church. Thus it teaches that a man can attain the Beatific Vision without having had any definite and explicit knowledge of the Catholic Church during the course of his lifetime in this world… The Mystici Corporis reproved both the error of those who teach the impossibility of salvation for those who have only an implicit desire of entering the Church, and the false doctrine of those who claim that men may find salvation equally in every religion. No desire to enter the Church can be effective for salvation unless it is enlightened by supernatural faith and animated or motivated by perfect charity” (The Catholic Church and Salvation, 1958). Yet Pope Pius XII made no determination whatsoever of the number of those saved in this manner, although he indicated that they still lacked many helps to assure their eternal salvation.

So it is not just those who are invincibly ignorant that this teaching was meant for; it is almost as though Pope Pius XII was anticipating the very situation in which we find ourselves today. For his teaching provides a way to restore Church membership lost by attending Traditionalist, Novus Ordo or Protestant services when no hierarchy is available to abjure the those wishing to return to the Church. If certain individuals who possess only an implicit desire can expect to be saved, and the Church condemns those who teach otherwise, does She not also censor those who would deny this grace to Catholics actively seeking it in an explicit manner? Stay-at-home Catholics are validly baptized. They make use of all the “many and great heavenly helps” Pope Pius XII mentions in an explicit manner to aid them in achieving forgiveness for their sins and to merit the fruits of their Spiritual Communions. What right, then have Traditionalists to ridicule them and condemn their efforts as unCatholic, to even number them among the lost? And how do these teachings of Pope Pius IX and Pope Pius XII regarding God’s mercy change the face of the teachings on the salvation of the fewer number of men, even Catholics? Pope Pius IX addresses this issue in Singulari Quadam:

“When, loosed from these bodily bonds, we see God as He is, we shall certainly understand with what intimate and beautiful a connection the divine mercy and justice are joined together. But, while we live on earth, weighed down by this mortal body that darkens the mind, let us hold most firmly, from Catholic doctrine, that there is one God, one faith, one baptism. It is wrong to push our inquiries further than this…”

I could be mistaken, but in a backhanded way, Pope Pius IX seems to have answered the question of who is saved and who is lost. He taught that we have no business questioning the workings of God’s mercy and we should not do so. In other words, opinions on this subject do not really matter today because God alone knows to whom He will extend His Divine Mercy and who deserves the rod of His justice. It is not for men to speculate who, or how many, are the objects of that mercy either today or in the past. We should rejoice in the fact that what Pope Pius XII taught has made it possible to appeal to God’s mercy in these dreadful times, and it should compel us to do all in our power to make ourselves worthy of it.

Certainly we cannot blithely decree with the Protestants and the Novus Ordo sect that all men may merrily avail themselves of that mercy indiscriminately, for this is not what Popes Pius IX and Pius XII taught. God dispenses His mercy and grace as He pleases, not to all but in accordance with His will. Nor should we be affrighted by those who would have us believe heaven is almost impossible to attain, for this is not what the Church teaches either. Who will merit heaven is a great secret obviously meant to be revealed only to those who are fortunate enough to behold the Beatific Vision. Rather than concern ourselves with these controversies, we would do well to spend our time instead doing all in our power to save our own souls and pray unceasingly that those we love, and indeed all who are of good will, save theirs as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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