Prayer Society Intention for March, Month of St. Joseph

“Oh blessed Joseph… most watchful guardian of the Holy Family, protect the chosen people of Jesus Christ; keep far from us, most loving father, all blighted error and corruption. Mercifully assist us from heaven, most mighty defender, in this our conflict with the powers of darkness.” (Raccolta)

+St. Thomas Aquinas, Confessor+

“It is charity I want, not learning. I have a great dread of learning, and a boundless love for charity. God grant that learning be not a source of division amongst us! God grant that charity may edify and unite us all in Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom alone be all honour and glory forever.” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Letters 242.)


It is the purpose of this blog to try and clarify the many misconceptions yet surrounding invincible ignorance and the true meaning of the term “implicit desire.”

The popes speak of individuals who are invincibly ignorant as non-members of the Church. We know those guilty of heresy and schism and or communicatio in sacris, whether Novus Ordo, LibTrads or members of some other non-Catholic sect, are at least material heretics. In other words they are to be considered outside the Church for reasons of external acts of heresy or schism until a true bishop or pope determines otherwise (Canon 2200). This is explained HERE. We judge them only in the external and not the internal forum. Despite their status however we cannot as Pope Pius IX teaches in Singulari quadam and his other encyclicals make any decision on whether they are formally guilty or excused for various reasons. That is to be determined by the Church. It is enough that, sadly, they have lost Church membership and cannot be considered members of the Mystical Body. Their actual guilt before the eyes of God is something He alone can judge.

Many have become confused about the Church’s actual teaching on these matters for two reasons: 1) The Feeney heresy and its fanatical supporters who falsely claim that popes the Holy Office’s teachings in Suprema haec sacra, the Holy Office being headed by Pope Pius XII himself, deny the dogma of no salvation outside the Church and 2) the Novus Ordo sect teachings, which openly declare that a person can be saved with some vague, ineffective act of the will, which was never the intention of the Church. Not only that, but the Novus Ordo teaches that man has an inherent right to choose his own religion and the Catholic Church has no inherent right to teach She is the one, true Church, outside of which no one can be saved. All this in the name of “freedom of religion,” thanks to the efforts of the Jesuit heretic John Courtney Murray and his supporters. These are the men who worked for two decades to engineer what later became Vatican 2 as explained at length in The Phantom Church in Rome.

We cite and obey Can. 2200 not to condemn others; this they do themselves by their own external acts. We simply obey this law in order to protect ourselves and the Church from any least tendency to heresy and from all the teachings of heretics and schismatics. This the Vatican Council ordered us to do in DZ 1820, where it taught: “But since it is not sufficient to shun heretical iniquity unless these errors also are shunned which come more or less close to it,we remind all of the duty of observing also the constitutions and decrees by which base opinions of this sort which are not enumerated explicitly here have been prescribed and prohibited by this Holy See.” This same teaching can be found in Can. 1324, which precedes the actual canon defining heresy, apostasy and schism. We believe, without making the actual judgment, that only by God’s mercy alone and the operation of grace in the individual soul that those outside the Church could be saved, but we do not presume such is the case. Pope Pius XII himself taught in Mystici Corporis that it is a difficult thing to be saved without being in the Church, narrowing the field to a chosen number of souls.

In our times, given the terrible confusion that prevails, the deliberate suppression of the truth and the lack of hierarchy to condemn the many sects that seem to pop up overnight, we do have reason to hope. I think that God, in His infinite mercy, will have pity on souls who really do try their best to know and understand the truth, to lead a Godly life, yet fall short. We cannot forget that the Jews considered themselves superior to the Gentiles and saved by their birthright alone. Yet in the end it was the Gentiles primarily who converted to Christianity. The name Catholic will not save us; only obedience to all that Christ taught, as relayed to us by His Vicars will guarantee our salvation. Those still trapped in non-Catholic sects are hampered mostly by their prejudices and lack of knowledge about how these sects actually came to be.

We can warn them that resisting the known truth, when they find it, is a sin against the Holy Ghost. But God alone can give them the grace to accept it and it is a pure gift from the Holy Ghost to understand it. As explained in our last blog, knowing is one thing; it is understanding and putting into practice what we know and understand that is most important. We must constantly pray for the gifts to know the truth, to understand it and to act accordingly. It takes a great deal more effort today to discern the truth without the Pope to guide us. That is why we must limit our inquiries to papal teachings and the teaching of ecumenical councils, also the precepts of Canon Law, most of which come to us from the ecumenical councils (particularly Trent) and the teachings of the popes themselves.

This is why the 1917 Code is determined to be negatively infallible and the popes have always referred to these laws as the Sacred Cannons. And when the teachings of the Church seem different, difficult or questionable to us then we resort to this explanation of a select few theologians of the past 150 years, especially among them such greats as Henry Cardinal Manning, Rev. E. Sylvester Barry, Louis Cardinal Billot, Msgr. Van Noort, Rev. Adolphe Tanquerey, Rev. Jean Marie Herve and others, including Msgr. Joseph C. Fenton and Rev. Francis J. Connell. These were the theologians most loyal to the magisterium. We invest more trust in them because already in the 1800s, as Pope Gregory XVI noted, evil forces were aligning to topple the papacy and the remaining monarchies.

Invincible ignorance as explained by Fr. Michael Muller

It is not for a lack of searching for the truth on these matters that those truly seeking it have been led astray; it is the misinformation or incomplete explanation of the faith provided them by false guides. Many became derailed in this search when they encountered varying opinions among trustworthy theologians writing before 1950. In that year, by issuing Humani generis, Pope Pius XII laid to rest all these concerns when he directed theologians and all the faithful to the binding decisions recorded in the Acta Apostolica Sedis. But still there were those in Pius XII’s time who chose to ignore his teachings, just as there are those today who dismiss or omit these decisions, choosing to believe as they please and not as the Church teaches. Even renowned catechists taught, in the early 1900s, that we must not consider all those outside the Church as lost. Fr. Michael Muller, C.S.S.R., wrote as follows on that topic: “

The Catholic Dogma, pp. 217-218, 1888:

Inculpable or invincible ignorance has never been and will never be a means of salvation. To be saved, it is necessary to be justified, or to be in the state of grace. In order to obtain sanctifying grace, it is necessary to have the proper dispositions for justification; that is, true divine faith in at least the necessary truths of salvation, confident hope in the divine Savior, sincere sorrow for sin, together with the firm purpose of doing all that God has commanded, etc. Now, these supernatural acts of faith, hope, charity, contrition, etc., which prepare the soul for receiving sanctifying grace, can never be supplied by invincible ignorance; and if invincible ignorance cannot supply the preparation for receiving sanctifying grace, much less can it bestow sanctifying grace itself. ‘Invincible ignorance,’ says St. Thomas, ‘is a punishment for sin.’ (De, Infid. Q. x., art. 1). “It is, then, a curse, but not a blessing or a means of salvation… Hence Pius IX said ‘that, were a man to be invincibly ignorant of the true religion, such invincible ignorance would not be sinful before God; that, if such a person should observe the precepts of the Natural Law and do the will of God to the best of his knowledge, God, in his infinite mercy, may enlighten him so as to obtain eternal life; for, the Lord who knows the heart and the thoughts of man will, in his infinite goodness, not suffer anyone to be lost forever without his own fault.’ Almighty God, who is just condemns no one without his fault, puts, therefore, such souls as are in invincible ignorance of the truths of salvation, in the way of salvation, either by natural or supernatural means.”

Fr. Michael Müller also wrote a catechism titled Familiar Explanation of Christian Doctrine. He writes:

Q. What are we to think of the salvation of those who are out of the pale of the Church without any fault of theirs, and who never had any opportunity of knowing better?

A. Their inculpable ignorance will not save them; but if they fear God and live up to their conscience, God, in His infinite mercy, will furnish them with the necessary means of salvation, even so as to send, if needed, an angel to instruct them in the Catholic faith, rather than let them perish through inculpable ignorance.

Q. Is it then right for us to say that one who was not received into the Church before his death, is damned?

A. No.

Q. Why not?

A. Because we cannot know for certain what takes place between God and the soul at the awful moment of death.

Q. What do you mean by this?

A. I mean that God, in His infinite mercy, may enlighten, at the hour of death, one who is not yet a Catholic, so that he may see the truth of the Catholic faith, be truly sorry for his sins, and sincerely desire to die a good Catholic.

Q. What do we say of those who receive such an extraordinary grace, and die in this manner?

A. We say of them that they die united, at least, to the soul of the Catholic Church, and are saved.

Q. What, then, awaits all those who are out of the Catholic Church, and die without having received such an extraordinary grace at the hour of death?

A. Eternal damnation.

The reference by Fr. Muller above to “the soul of the Church,” however, is a term that can no longer be used since the issuance of Mystici Corporis and  Suprema haec sacra. This is yet another example of why catechisms alone are not sufficient to know what the Church teaches. Msgr. Joseph C. Fenton explains why this term should no longer be used below:

“The most important and the most widely employed of all the inadequate explanations of the Church’s necessity for salvation was the one that centered around a distinction between the ” body” and the ” soul ” of the Catholic Church. The individual who tried to explain the dogma in this fashion generally designated the visible Church itself as the ” body ” of the Church and applied the term ” soul of the Church ” either to grace and the supernatural virtues or to some fancied ” invisible Church.” Prior to the appearance of the encyclical Mystici Corporis there were several books and articles claiming that, while the “soul” of the Church was in some way not separated from the “body,” it was actually more extensive than this “body.” Explanations of the Church’s necessity drawn up in terms of this distinction were at best inadequate and confusing and all too frequently infected with serious error. When the expression “soul of the Church” was applied to sanctifying grace and the organism of supernatural virtues that accompany it, the explanation was confusing in that it stressed the fact that a man must be in the state of grace, and that he must have faith and charity if he is to attain to eternal salvation, but it tended to obscure the truth that a man must in some manner be ” within ” the true and visible Catholic Church at the moment of his death if he is ever to reach the Beatific Vision. When, on the other hand, some imaginary ” invisible Church,” some assembly of all the good people in the world, was designated as the ” soul of the Church,” these explanations lapsed into doctrinal inaccuracy” (The Catholic Church and Salvation, pgs. 126-127, nos. 3 and 4).

Meaning of implicit desire

Where people also become confused is the term “implicit desire,” which Msgr. Fenton explains in his book as follows:

“The Catholic Church and its theologians had likewise taught that a sincere desire to enter and to remain within the Church could be effective for the attainment of eternal salvation even when that desire was merely implicit, that is, not based on a clear and distinct notion of the Church itselfIt is absolutely imperative to remember that being “within” the Church is not exactly the same thing as being a member of this social unit. A man is a member of the Church when he is baptized, and when he has neither publicly renounced his baptismal profession of the true faith nor withdrawn from the fellowship of the Church, and when he has not been expelled from the company of the disciples by having received the fullness of excommunication. But a man is “within” the Church to the extent that he can be saved ” within ” it when he is a member or even when he sincerely, albeit perhaps only implicitly, desires to enter it. The condition requisite for profiting from the reception of the sacraments or from the performance of acts which should be salutary is being “within” the Church.

“Now, while it is possible to have a desire to be within the Church, and, indeed even to be a member of the Church, without having the love of charity for God, it is quite impossible to have charity without being within the true Church, at least by an implicit desire to dwell in it. The love of charity is, by its very nature, a sovereign affection. It is definable in terms of intention rather than of mere velleity; and it necessarily embodies an intention, rather than a mere velleity, to do what Our Lord actually wills we should do. And Our Lord wills that all men should enter and remain within the one society of Mis disciples, His Kingdom and His Mystical Body in this world” (pgs. 25, 39). And Msgr. Fenton continues:

“(8b) The Suprema haec sacra 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 or 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 or receiving the sacraments of baptism or of penance or of entering the Church as a member. 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 or 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 or these means be genuinely impossible, then the man can attain to eternal life by a will or desire to employ them.

“Here, of course, we must distinguish sedulously between the order of intention and the order of mere velleity. What is required here is an effective desire, an effective act of the will, as distinct from a mere complacency or approval. A non-member of the Church can be saved if he genuinely wants or desires to enter the Church. With that genuine and active desire or intention, he will really become a member of the Church if this is at all possible. If it is not possible, then the force of his intention or desire will bring him ” within ” the Church in such a way that he can attain eternal salvation in this company. An inherently ineffective act of the will, a mere velleity, will definitely not sufficefor the attainment of eternal salvation” (p. 111).

Where error crept in

How many poor people today, seeing the disarray in the church in Rome and in general among the entire “Christian” denominations, really want to be a member of Christ’s true Church — or believe they are such a member and truly love and serve Him —  but either don’t know where to turn or truly doubt that the church they think is Catholic today could be the true Church? And they are right in doubting this! Does anyone really think that God, in His infinite mercy, would visit this punishment on the Church and the world in general then throw them to the wolves?!

Summarizing a passage from De Ecclesia Christi by Louis Cardinal Billot, Rome, 1921, Msgr. Charles Journet, in his 1952 work The Church of the Word Incarnate, writes:

“THEOLOGICAL FAITH IS MORE NECESSARY STILL THAN THE SACRAMENTS, SINCE NOTHING CAN REPLACE IT, WHEREAS THOSE WHO POSSESS IT IN CHARITY ALREADY POSSESS THE SACRAMENTS AS BY DESIRE, VOTO. If then the Sacraments can in some sense be had ‘outside’ the Church, to those who receive them in uprightness of heart, it is still more necessary that a sufficient proposal of the faith should be made outside the Church, and that true believers in the true faith should be found even amongst those whose ecclesiastical rulers hold doctrines that are contrary to orthodoxy or erroneous…The way of justification remains open ‘outside’ the Church to men of good will, who are ready at heart to believe all that God has revealed. It can even be opened to them by the message proposed by schismatics and heretics, provided, of course, that this message still contains that minimum of truth without which no adult in any event can be saved — namely the supernatural mystery of the existence and providence of God. So that the sects separated from the legitimate Bride of Christ see, in these circumstances, to become Her servants to aid her to engender new children to grace, not solely by the ministration of the Sacraments but also by proposing a doctrine, tainted with error though it may be.”

WE cannot countenance error; we are members of the Church by our Baptism and Profession of Faith. Those not born into the faith and now genuinely struggling to seek the truth will be saved if they genuinely wish to be members of the Church and love God with their whole heart, soul, mind and strength; we simply are not allowed to presume who they may be. In Traditionalist circles, much sway is given to works such as The Little Number of Those Who Are Saved by St. Leonard of Port Maurice, and certainly works by the saints should be read and respected. But few realize that this is one of the matters on which the Church has never officially rendered an opinion, one of those areas where later decisions of the Holy See such as Mystici Corporis and Suprema haec sacra have a direct bearing. In other words, it is the development of dogma that forces us to view this in a different light, now that the Church has clarified certain points of doctrine.

One Jesuit advocate of the milder opinion, Rev. Nicholas Walsh S.J., in his 1908 work, The Saved and the Lost,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.

According to Rev. Walsh, “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).” Walsh’s work is available for free download HERE.  So the insistence by some that we must consider the majority lost is not accurate in light of Pope Pius XII’s later decisions. For the truth is, as Rev. Walsh states, that: “If the upholders of the severe rigorous opinions ask me in what way God weaves his ‘web of love’ about every soul He has created, even about souls which look to the human eye outcast, I answer at once: ‘It is his secret; I do not know.’ But if they ask me why I believe He does I answer without fear: Because His character as Creator of all men clearly revealed in Scripture and formulated by eminent theologians obliges me to think so.

“I would then be tempted to ask them what reasons they have for thinking and saying plainly, ‘All infidels are damned on account of their infidelity. The great majority of mankind is lost because infidels heretics etc. always made the majority.’ That in a word the Creator as well as Judge will say, ‘Depart from me ye cursed into everlasting fire.’ to the whole mass of unbelievers — as well, as according to some, the majority of Catholics. I can only find two reasons. Some text types are parables of Scripture which do not in any way prove their most dismal views and the external bad aspect of the world which is at best misleading and which certainly cannot limit or interfere with the universal secret action of God by grace in the souls which He has created. ‘We may depend upon it, writes Fr. [Frederick] Faber, that in 1,000 spots which look desert, waste, fire-blackened, God’s mercy is finding pasture for His glory.” While I do not agree with Rev. Walsh that the majority of mankind will be saved, I do not necessarily disagree with him, either. For as he said, God alone knows, and it is not something any of us can determine.


It is my firm belief, both from personal experience and the testimony of theologians, that the Jansenist heresy and its rigorism — a rigorism which extends to teaching that only a limited number will be saved — is responsible for much of the confusion regarding the salvation of those not officially members of the Church, but who are “within it” in a way only God understands. We must adjust our Catholic beliefs according to the documents of the magisterium whenever it overrides the writing of the saints or theologians and their opinions. And this regardless of the strident insistence of those who may presume to claim otherwise and even threaten those not adopting their rigorist stance with eternal damnation.  I cannot repeat often enough that we must flee from all those who will not adhere to papal teaching and refuse to allow them to lead or instruct us. For these are the very hirelings and false shepherds, the wolves in sheepskins, Christ warned us to avoid.

(P.S. And BTW, those who complain about the length of these blogs and the articles referenced here and the time it takes to read them, but who dedicate endless hours to viewing “Catholic” videos, are not being sincere in discerning the truth or obedient to the popes and ecumenical councils.)

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