+Sts. Adrian and Eubulus+
Integral truth is ever the sole objective of what is written on this site. And by that I mean presenting the truths of faith as taught in divine revelation, confirmed as taught in divine revelation by the popes and councils, further confirmed by the testimony of the Fathers, Doctors and Scholastic theologians, and understood always in that sense in which it has been defined by the Church. As Pope Pius XII taught in the infallible encyclical Humani generis, “Together with the sources of positive theology, God has given to His Church a living Teaching Authority to elucidate and explain what is contained in the Deposit of Faith only obscurely and implicitly. This Deposit of Faith our Divine Redeemer has given for authentic interpretation not to each of the faithful, not even to theologians, but only to the Teaching Authority of the Church.” This is why the teachings of the Roman Pontiffs and Ecumenical Councils are the primary sources on this site, and only those theologians in strict conformity to these teachings are quoted. With this in mind, we move on to the subject at hand.
The charge has been made by certain parties that false accusations of Feeneyism have been leveled at the website truecatholics and a disservice done to those operating it and to the faithful. One would need to be schizophrenic to accept at one and the same time what the truecatholics site advances as their beliefs and what the Catholic Church teaches regarding baptism of desire and invincible ignorance. Truecatholics claims to accept Pius XII as the last true pope. But one cannot accept one as a true pope and at the same time deny or question what that pope (and his predecessors) have taught. And this according to the Vatican Council as pointed out in the blogpost for Feb. 28. If we intend to adhere to Canon Law — and we must, especially in this case — we are bound to follow the dictates of Canon 1325 regarding heresy. This canon reads: “The faithful are bound to profess their faith publicly whenever silence, subterfuge or their manner of acting would otherwise entail an implicit denial of their faith, contempt for religion, an insult to God or scandal to their neighbor.”
In this case we are dealing with an implicit denial of faith and scandal to the neighbor. The word implicit means implied, not directly denied. If I were to appear to accept or even just ignore the public statements below or fail to publicly denounce them, when I have been asked to address them, this would amount to silence and imply that I believe them to be correct. The statements themselves, which directly contradict papal teaching, hold that those not adhering to what they say are outside the Church. These false doctrines being promoted on truecatholics are the same ones held by many Feenyites, in varying degrees; in reality it is only a modified form of Feeneyism. For while those running this site do not come out and embrace Feeney himself, or openly pronounce Pope Pius IX and Pope Pius XII heretics, they do so by implication. They offer as proofs incomplete and out-of-context quotes from the popes, doctors of the Church, theologians and some saints and clergy, just as the Feeneyites do and on the same topics — Feeney doctrines without connection to Feeney. But this is not how Catholics are expected to determine matters of faith, as seen above.
We also have been accused of creating division by drawing attention to these issues, but we cannot fulfill our duty to profess the faith and limit as far as possible any scandal to our neighbors if we do not present the truth on this matter. The following is only a partial list of some of the errors found at the truecatholics site.
“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/)
Benns comment: 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” (DZ 1031). 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 1033).
“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. (https://truecatholics.org/?s=Invincible+ignorance).
Benns Comment (From Suprema haec sacra, approved by Pope Pius XII): “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)” (emph. in bold throughout this document is the editor’s unless otherwise noted).
The Holy Office itself classifies this papal teaching on invincible ignorance as part of a dogmatic letter, meaning the entire letter addresses dogmatic issues. This is not even to mention what Pope Pius IX teaches on invincible ignorance in Singulari quadam: “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.”
And from Pope Pius IX’s Quanto conficiamur moerore: “It is known to Us and to you that 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. But it is a perfectly well known Catholic dogma that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church, and that those who are contumacious against the authority of that same Church, and who are pertinaciously separated from the unity of that Church and from Peter’s successor, the Roman Pontiff, to whom the custody of the vineyard has been entrusted by the Saviour, cannot obtain eternal salvation.” In other words, no slack is given to those accept the Church as instituted by Christ yet who deliberately ignore the clear teachings and infallible pronouncements of the Holy See.
Msgr. Fenton comments on Singulari quadam in his The Catholic Church and Salvation: “The dogma that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church is in no way opposed to the truth that God is all-merciful and all-just… Invincible ignorance, of the true Church or of anything else, is not considered by God as a sin. The dogma that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church in no way implies that invincible ignorance is sinful… It is not within the field cither of our competence or of our rights lo search out the way in which God’s mercy and His justice operate in any given case of a person ignorant of the true Church or of the true religion. We shall see how these divine attributes have operated in the light of the Beatific Vision itself… God is never outdone in generosity. The person who tries to come to Him will never be forsaken. As a matter of fact, the movement toward God, like all good things, originates from God Himself.”
“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…”
Benns Comment: In the absence of anyone to abjure their heresy and absolve them, heretics can be joined to the Church by desire if they repent before death.
“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/).
Benns Comment: Those who are invincibly ignorant do not have to be actual Church members to be saved, and this does NOT contradict outside the Church no salvation, as our last blog piece explained. As written, the last statement above by truecatholics is at least ambiguous and misleading. And I have news for those teaching in this manner: The only way that anyone can be considered to be in the true Catholic Church after having attended NO and Traditional “masses” is by a desire to do penance and return to the Church in which they were baptized. Those who have excommunicated themselves by such attendance are outside the Church, as schismatics, and are no longer members. This according to Canon Law and the penalties for communicatio in sacris. So welcome to the club of those aspiring to be saved without membership in the Church!
Public adherence to a non-Catholic sect is all that is required under Can. 2314 to ipso facto incur infamy of law, and unless or until we see a true pope again, there is no way to reverse it. Rev. Adolphe Tanquerey, whose theological texts were used worldwide to train priests and theologians, points out that, “All theologians teach that publicly known heretics, those who belong to a heterodox sect through public profession, or those who refuse the infallible teaching of the authority of the Church, are excluded from the body of the Church, even if their heresy is only material heresy,” (Manual of Dogmatic Theology, Vol. II). This means that although there is often no sin involved, the excommunication still binds.
For many different reasons it could be argued that the full rigor of the law would not be applied to the laity in this case who were participating in false worship which they thought at the time was the true liturgy of the Church. Therefore a dismissal of the penalty by the Roman Pontiff would not be strictly required, especially when a true pope is not available. But it most likely would apply to those posing as clergy who provided the services, for they were self-appointed leaders and as such were bound to a greater degree of knowledge. Even so, the material heresy would remain in lay persons. This, however, could be resolved by following Canon 18 regarding doubts about certain laws and their application. This canon refers those in doubt to parallel passages of the code and the mind of the lawgiver. One Canon that would apply to this situation prescribes a three-year probationary period for religious who have been dismissed. Here we are not talking religious or those in major orders, but the laity. It seems a rule can be deduced from this canon that would fit the situation of stay-at-home Catholics, but this is a topic for another time.
Is baptism of desire really only fidei sententiae proxima?
Theologians use the term Fidei sententiae proxima to identify doctrines as truths of revelation which have not been finally promulgated by the Church. The identification of baptism of desire as Fidei sententiae proxima has led some to believe that the teaching on this doctrine is not binding on Catholics because it wasn’t “infallibly decreed.” They cite as their source for this belief Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, (which I never use as a source; the reason for this will be treated below.) They say it can be held as an opinion, which some future Pontiff might reverse. Yet Pius XII’s teaching on the subject is found in Mystici corporis Christi, which Suprema haec sacra (see above) identifies as a “dogmatic letter.” But those wishing to dismiss baptism of desire as a permitted opinion only do not reference that encyclical and they dismiss Suprema haec sacra as not binding on them in way of assent. Their difficulties could be resolved by reading Pope Pius XII’s infallible encyclical Humani generis, but this is not something they see the need to do either. The best way to explain why baptism of desire is not just an opinion to be tolerated is found in Msgr. Joseph C. Fenton’s The Catholic Church and Salvation below.
In Pt. I, p. 1 of his work, Msgr. Fenton lists the documents he will examine in the course of his demonstration of the salvation dogma as follows: A profession of the Catholic faith issued by the Fourth Lateran Council, the twelfth in the series of Oecumenical Councils, in 1215, during the pontificate of Pope Innocent III; the Bull Unam sanctam; the decree for the Jacobites, the Bull Cantate Domino; Pope Pius IX’s Singulars quadam and Quanto conficiamur moerore; Pope Pius XII’s Mystici Corporis Christi, Suprema haec sacra and Humani generis.
He then comments: “As authoritative statements of the teaching Church, all of these pronouncements of the Holy See and of Oecumenical Councils must be accepted with true internal consent by all Catholics. What they teach on the subject or this dogma is what all Catholics arc bound in conscience to hold. It is definitely not enough for Catholics to receive these declarations with what has been called ” respectful silence.” It is not sufficient that they merely refrain from overt statements rejecting what has been taught in these authoritative documents of the ecclesia docens. Every Catholic is strictly bound in conscience to make what the Church has taught in this way his own view, his own conviction, on this subject. And, as a result, it is objectively wrong for any Catholic to hold an explanation of the Church’s necessity for salvation which is in any way incompatible with what the Church has taught authoritatively about this dogma… The first three of these pronouncements are contained in documents of the Church’s solemn teaching activity. THE OTHER FIVE BELONG TO THE ORDINARY MAGISTERIUM OF THE HOLY SEE. THE HOLY OFFICE LETTER SUPREMA HAEC SACRA IS AN ACT OF A ROMAN CONGREGATION. THUS, ACCORDING TO THE RULE SET FORTH IN CANON 7 OF THE CODEX IURIS CANONICI, IT MUST LIKEWISE BE CONSIDERED AND DESCRIBED AS AN ACT OF THE HOLY SEE.
“In Tuas Libentur, Pope Pius IX taught: “…It is not enough… to receive and to venerate the… dogmas of the Church, but it is also necessary that they [German theologians attending a convention the Pope was addressing] subject themselves to the doctrinal decisions of the Pontifical Congregations and to those points of doctrine that are considered by the common and constant agreement of Catholics as theological truths and conclusions which are so certain that opinions opposed to these points of doctrine still merit some other theological censure, even though they may not be designated as heretical” (end of Msgr. Fenton quotes. See also the Vatican Council, DZ 1820, Canon 1324.)
Furthermore, Humani generis, released two years prior to Suprema haec sacra, teaches infallibly that the pope has the power to permanently end theological discussions and disputes, and in Suprema haec sacra, also Feeney’s later excommunication, there can be no doubt that this is exactly what Pope Pius XII and the Holy Office intended to do. From Humani generis: “If the Supreme Pontiffs in their official documents propose to pass judgment on a matter up to that time under dispute, it is obvious that that matter, according to the mind and the will of the same Pontiffs, cannot be any longer considered a question open to discussion among theologians.”
As stated in the last blog, there was much misunderstanding and misrepresentation regarding the teaching on baptism of desire and outside the Church no salvation as it developed over time. Pope Pius XII knew this and cut through the confusion to give a clear explanation of how this teaching of the Church was to be understood. Rome, therefore, has spoken and the discussion has ended. And this teaching by Pope Pius XII is only a reiteration of what was taught by Pope St. Gelasius in 493 A.D. (DZ 161). To assist readers in further dispelling this confusion, there is one other topic that must be addressed.
Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma
In an effort to sort out the many perplexing theological issues of the day, Catholics have often turned to this condensed work as a ready and reliable reference. However its reliability, especially regarding church membership, has been questioned by at least one theologian, a professor of theology at the Oblate College in Washington, D.C. (1955), In a January 1956 book review for the American Ecclesiastical Review, John J. King, O.M.I. points to the dangers in compressing Sacred Theology into one “digest.” He admits that Ott succeeded in accomplishing brevity in his work but credits him with “something less than success” in achieving clarity… This lack of uniform clarity makes this a somewhat dangerous book to use.”
He commends the “obvious scholarship” Ott brings to his work but says nowhere does “his exposition of dogma suffer so much from the process of compression as in the treatment of the axiom [‘outside the Church no salvation’].” He challenges Ott’s statement that, “In view of the necessity of membership in the Church for salvation, it is understandable that the possibility of salvation for those outside the Church is mentioned only hesitantly.” (p. 310, 311). “At the very least, this wording is confusing,” Rev. King comments. “It is, in fact, a distortion of the Catholic teaching. For the statements of the magisterium insist upon the absolute necessity of the Church, and not the necessity of membership of the Church” (emph. King’s). This statement is key to rightly understanding the proper context of the teaching on baptism of desire. Ott’s statement, he continues, “throws doubt upon the essential point if the dogma; for outside the Church no one at all is saved… It is one thing to be outside the Church and quite another to be without membership in the Church. One who is outside the Church cannot obtain salvation. One who is not a member of the Church can, in certain circumstances, attain salvation.”
He also challenges Ott’s use of “membership in the Church by desire,” calling it out of harmony with Mystici Corporis Christi. He cites Ott’s “confusing terminology,” noting that it is too close to that concept of an invisible or “other’ Church condemned in the encyclical. But he does note that Ott’s work was released before the publication of Suprema haec sacra. In his conclusion, Rev. King states that although the book is intended for use by students and seminarians, it is clearly inadequate for this purpose and “could readily confuse and mislead seminarians.” He also notes there are few quotes from the magisterium, Scripture or Tradition. His final paragraph reads: “Dr. Ott’s book may be useful on occasion as a quick reference; provided that the inquirer does not expect to receive a complete treatment of any given point; and provided also that he later seeks clarification and amplification of a more detailed source.” So certainly, if this would be confusing to seminarians, it would not be suitable as a reference for the laity. And it accounts for much of the confusion on this topic and many others.
Traditionalists wish to receive simple and brief answers to their doctrinal questions, but scholastic theologians would not have toiled for years and written voluminous explanations of dogma if such explanations were easily had and could be readily reduced to a simple formula. Here papal documents are our surest bet, especially those which are most recent, for generally speaking they are succinct, not unduly lengthy and to the point. And as Pope St. Pius X teaches us in the Oath against Modernism, concerning the external arguments of revelation, or divine facts, “These same arguments have been especially accommodated to the intelligence of all ages and men, even of these times.” Pope Pius IX, commenting on the plea of certain individuals to more fully explain the Vatican Council decrees, wrote: “I will not do it. It is clear in itself and has no need of other comments and explanations. Whosoever reads that Decree with a dispassionate mind has its true sense easily and obviously before him” (Discourse given by Pius IX on July 20,1871; quoted by Henry Cardinal Manning).
In conclusion, the teachings of truecatholics are contrary to the teachings of the Catholic Church whether they accept Leonard Feeney as their leader or not. They attempt to revisit a matter settled by Pope Pius XII long ago and pretend one can still hold an opinion diametrically opposed to what the pope taught. This misunderstanding of how the continual magisterium actually functions and how we are to believe what the popes have taught are divisive and are dangerous to the faith of Catholics. And we would be considered as heretics ourselves if we did not point this out to the faithful.
Thank you for this. I was intrigued by the TrueCatholics website, but the more I read, the more I was leery of them. You’ve explained the Church’s beliefs on baptism well. I do believe outside the Church there is no salvation…. it encompasses so much, as you have so well explained. Again, thank you. May we all persevere in the Faith til the end!