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 The Church and the Non-Catholic (Fenton) 
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New post The Church and the Non-Catholic (Fenton)
The Church and the Non-Catholic
Monsignor JC Fenton
The American Ecclesiastical Review, Vol. CXIII, No. 1, July, 1945.

In these days it is very important that we should have an accurate basic understanding of the Church’s doctrine about the religious situation of men and women outside its own communion. American Catholics must, in the immediate future, take a preponderantly large share in the work of the foreign missions. As Fr. Keller’s brilliant article in the May issue of The American Ecclesiastical Review has shown us, we owe our own beloved country a debt which we can only repay by increasing the scope and the intensity of our home missionary activity.1 It will be absolutely impossible for us to put forth our best efforts in this work unless we have correct information about the spiritual status of the non-Catholic and about his need for the Church and its teachings.

Unfortunately some of our contemporary Catholic literature tends to describe the religious situation of the non-Catholic in a one- sided and misleading fashion. In their insistence on the truth that it is possible for a man who has not been a member of the true Church of Jesus Christ in this world to obtain the beatific vision, some rather influential Catholic publicists have lost sight of the no less important and pertinent fact that a non-Catholic, by the very fact that he is not a part of our Lord’s Church, occupies a religiously unfavorable and disadvantageous position. Such an oversimplification can have seriously bad effects. It tends to blind men to the paramount fact that all men need the Catholic Church. It fails to take cognizance of the truth that God calls all men to live as members of the true Church.

Two able and prominent Catholic writers who seem to lose sight of the spiritually unsatisfactory situation of those outside the Church offer at least a systematic approach to the problem. Both Fr. Otto Karrer and Mr. Edward Ingram Watkin base their teachings on a statement of the absolute supremacy of Christianity and Catholicism. Both teach, however, that a distinction must be drawn between two elements which Fr. Karrer calls “the ideal of Christianity” and “its historical reality,” 2 and which Mr. Watkin designates as “Catholicism” in itself and Catholicism “as actually practised and understood.” 3 The absolute perfection belongs only to the ideal, while the historical reality of Christianity, the existent Catholic Church, is treated as something which never quite measures up to this ideal.

In the light of this basic distinction, the two authors consider various dangers and imperfections attendant upon the positions of Catholics and non-Catholics, usually contriving to make the Catholic position appear more perilous. Both account for the connection of non-Catholics with the Church by postulating an invisible Church into which non-Catholics of good will, or in the state of grace, are supposed to be integrated. Since this invisible Church is presented as something far more important than the visible society over which the Bishop of Rome presides, and since it is supposed to include all non-Catholics in good faith, these two writers at least leave room for the implication that non-membership in the visible Church of Jesus Christ is seriously disadvantageous only to those who are outside of it in bad faith.

Most of the statements entering into their systematic evaluation of the religious position of the non-Catholic are patient of some correct interpretation. The effect of the whole, however, is unfortunate. Their teaching seems apt to leave the wholly erroneous impression that the religious situation of the Catholic is pretty much the same as that of his non-Catholic fellow.

The popularity of these writers makes it important for us to see at least the salient points in their explanation of the religious status of the non-Catholic. We shall find their explanations, tendentious as they are in themselves, valuable aids in the study of the correct Catholic teaching.

The fundamental thesis of both Fr. Karrer and Mr. Watkin is to be found in the former’s explanation of the absolute character of the Christian religion.

Quote:
When, therefore, we term Christianity the absolute religion in contradistinction to other religions relatively true and elevated we mean: in principle ‘there is no higher self-revelation of God on earth than that which He made through His Son, Jesus Christ, and no higher vocation for humanity than to be God’s children in Christ and members of the Body of Christ, His community.’ 4


He emphasizes, but in a somewhat erratic way, the fact that Christians as a group fail to live up to the exalted requirements of our Lord’s teaching and of His Church.

Quote:
We Christians are always half pagans and pagans quarter Christians.
This, humanly speaking, is the supreme tragedy of the Christian religion: the perpetual contrast between ideal and historical fact.5


Unfortunately, however, Fr. Karrer claims to see, not merely a contrast between the conduct of individual Catholics and the ideal of Christianity, but a kind of incompleteness in the Church itself.

Quote:
Neither the Church of yesterday nor the Church of today nor the Church of tomorrow can be the all-comprehending whole. And neither the Roman and Latin nor the Uniate form of Catholicism is by itself the Catholic Church. That Church is and can only be the Church of all the millennia and all the nations, viewed as a whole. The Christian ideal in itself and its complete embodiment in time and space is the ideal comprehensiveness, the perfect harmony of the external and the interior, of law and liberty, of juridical order and love, of dogma and mysticism, of liturgy and interior devotion, of the individual and society. Who dare claim that this is equally true of the Church at any given point in her historical pilgrimage, in her empirical reality of yesterday or today? The empirical Church has always fallen short of this ideal. She is always on the way, still ‘far from the Lord,’ ‘in sighing and groaning.’ And she has always need to prove herself, that is, to compare herself with that which is always greater than herself, namely her own idea.

Though Christianity is absolute, the strength of Christendom does not consist in a satisfied self-assurance whether of individual Christians or of the Church at large, in the boast ‘we are the children of Abraham,’ or ‘we possess the true Christianity.’ Such an attitude expresses nothing but human weakness. For the question remains whether Christianity possesses us and, if so, to what extent. 6


If Fr. Karrer’s sentiments are acceptable, then obviously the religious situation of the non-Catholic is much like that of the Catholic. He seems to believe that the existent Church, now in the it year 1945, is not completely Catholic, that it fails to measure up to the standard or the ideal of Catholicism, and that its “satisfied self-assurance” that “we possess the true Christianity” is only an expression of human weakness. The same statements could be made about any non-Catholic communion. They do not, however, express the truth about the Catholic Church.

In the first place the term “Catholic” properly designates the religious society over which the Bishop of Rome presides as the Vicar of Jesus Christ. By right and in fact it lives throughout the world. It is the Catholic Church today, and it has been known properly as the Catholic Church since St. Ignatius of Antioch first used the title in the early part of the second century.7 If Fr. Karrer denies this title to the Church of today merely on the grounds that it should be applied only to a society in which all the members are contemporaries, then he has thought up an entirely novel meaning for the term. If the term “Catholic” is supposed to indicate the universality of truth within the Church of Christ, then we have a recurrence of a Lutheran doctrine confuted by Thomas Stapleton.8 In any event, the society which is properly called Catholic is the Church of Jesus Christ, as it exists now, and as it will exist until the end of time.

Furthermore it is at best misleading to say that the Church in her empirical reality does not measure up to the ideal and that it is still far off from our Lord. Our Lord pictured the Church militant of the New Testament as a true society, directed by the Apostolic college, and presided over by the Prince of that college: a society containing both good and bad members. It was presented as a society subject to the hatred of the world, and, at the same time, an organization within which He was to be present. He described His Church as an infallible and indefectible organization, necessary for the salvation of men. The Roman Catholic Church today fulfills that ideal to the letter.

Finally, when Catholics claim that “we possess the true Christianity” (meaning that we are the members of the one, true, and only Church established by Jesus Christ), this claim is by no means to be attributed to “human weakness.” It is a simple statement of fact, and to deny it would be a lie. Fr. Karrer’s use of “Christianity” and “Christendom,” while apparently clear at first glance, is, in reality, clouded with ambiguity. It can safely be said, however, that he does tend to emphasize the importance of living up to our Lord’s teaching mainly through a wholly unwarranted opposition to the de facto possession of membership in the Catholic Church— an opposition which is distinctly derogatory to that possession of membership. Mr. Watkin, the man who translated Religions of Mankind into English, incorporated Fr. Karrer’s teaching into his own book, The Catholic Centre.9

Quote:
No religion can claim to be universal, the one true religion, unless it is Catholic, embracing the entire positive content of other religions, explaining their significance and harmonizing their respective insights in a more comprehensive vision.

The Catholic religion is catholic in this sense. But its actual expression and presentation at any given time and place, or by particular individuals and groups, is not. Owing to human limitations, culpable and inculpable, this perfectly catholic realisation and presentation of Catholicism is, as we have already seen, impossible.10


Fr. Karrer and Mr. Watkin take care to indicate certain spiritual dangers attendant upon the positions of the Catholic and of the non- Catholic. For some reason or other their descriptions succeed in making the Catholic position appear in an unfavorable light. Fr. Karrer points to two opposite dangers, the one of indifferentism and the other of what might be called, for want of any better name, a spiritual isolationism. Strangely enough, while he finds a threat of indifferentism facing the non-Catholic, he insists that the Catholic is in greater danger of falling into the opposite error.

Outside the Church the attraction is all too powerful of the historicism, relativism and undenominationalism which regards the Church as an earthly growth and Christianity as the confluence of tributaries from the most diverse sources. This indeed is the danger which threatens all who do not believe that Christ is ‘the only begotten of the Father,’ ‘the Word made flesh.’ But for those who accept the Catholic faith the danger of the opposite extreme is incomparably greater, the danger ‘that from fear of a false syncretism we should be blind and deaf to genuine manifestations of the life of Christ produced outside the frontiers of the Church.’ 11

This is paradox with a vengeance. The danger that one who denies the divinity of Christ may not be aware of the divinity and of the unique character of the true Church is compared with the danger that a Catholic will neglect the manifestations of divine life outside the Church. The Catholic is found to be in incomparably greater danger.

Writing of this sort is so emotional as to verge on nonsense. The man who denies our Lord’s divinity has already destroyed the rational basis for any belief in the true divinity of the Catholic Church. One only abuses the meaning of words by saying that he is in danger of denying it. Furthermore, Fr. Karrer was not at all aware of the tendencies of the times when he made that comparison. Surrounded as he is by those who constantly preach the acceptability of all creeds, the Catholic is surely in greater danger today from the threat of indifferentism than from any possibility of failure to see the excellent traits of those outside his own communion.

Mr. Watkin is even more emphatic than Fr. Karrer in the matter of comparison. As a champion of a “healthy Catholic anticlericalism,” 12 he manages to find an attitude of undue subservience to the clergy among the religious evils to which Catholics are exposed. He holds that “an extreme and one-sided emphasis on the individual as opposed to society was represented in religion by Protestantism,” 13 but finds to his sorrow that “at the other extreme there are Catholics who seem to regard the substance of religion as blind obedience to the clergy, and the refusal to criticise any action they may take.” 14 Furthermore “Protestantism has emphasised the Bible and depreciated the Sacraments. Popular Catholicism, by reaction, has neglected the Bible while maintaining the rightful position of the Sacraments.” 15 Mr. Watkin, however, finds comfort in his confidence that “Protestants and Catholics are, in this respect, tending to reunite in the Catholic centre.” 16

Unfortunately Mr. Watkin’s teaching on the religious position of the non-Catholic seems colored by his belief that membership in the Catholic Church is something which can be chosen over or preferred to the life of habitual grace. In the light of this contention, it is easy to see how he considers membership in the true Church as something which can be too highly esteemed. According to Mr. Watkin, “to value external membership of the Church, sometimes even position in its hierarchy, above inner union with God established by sanctifying grace” is to be classified as “a very common form of ecclesiastical materialism.”17

This concept of the Church and the life of charity as two entities which can be considered as in some measure independent of each other enters also into Mr. Watkin’s explanation of prayers for the conversion of non-Catholics.

Quote:
Since religious truth is of inestimable price, and since the Church affords more means for attaining holiness than any other religious body, we do well to pray that non-Catholics may be brought into the Church. But unless we are at the same time assured that it is far more important that they and we should love and serve God, we are ecclesiastical materialists. 18


Now Mr. Watkin, in creating his straw image of a Catholic guilty of the heinous crime of “ecclesiastical materialism” confuses rather than clarifies the issue. A Catholic is obliged to love and serve God and he is obliged to belong to the Catholic Church (as he does). A non-Catholic is obliged to love and serve God and he is obliged to belong to the Catholic Church (as he does not). Both are necessary. We pray that non-Catholics may do both. Any choice between the two is impossible. We may as well say that a man could “value” air above liquid, when both are necessary for maintaining life on this earth. Surely this is clear enough. We do not think that Catholics misunderstand it. (We once heard a child asked teasingly by an adult, “Tell me, do you love your mother or father best?” The child answered, “I love them both best”—thereby refusing to be classed either as a paternal or a maternal materialist.)

Mr. Watkin’s disdain of “ecclesiastical materialism” drives him finally to consider the possibility that Catholics may blaspheme our Lord and denounce Him as a Protestant.

Quote:
If we bore in mind that the Samaritans, schismatics, occupied, roughly speaking, the same position in relation to the Jews, as Protestants in relation to Catholics, the good Samaritan and the grateful Samaritan leper would possess a more topical significance for us, and would be an evangelical protest against ecclesiastical materialism. “Thou art a Samaritan” (a Protestant) “and hast a devil.” Is the cry so inconceivable on Catholic lips? 19


The answer to Mr. Watkin’s last query must be that this cry certainly is inconceivable on Catholic lips. The “cry” is nothing but the calculated insult against our Lord on the part of the Jews. It was a part of the process by which they repudiated our Lord and, as a nation, forfeited the status of God’s kingdom on earth. The Catholic Church is the indefectible and final status of that kingdom in this world. It will not turn away from God. It follows, then, that the Catholic who follows the direction of his Church will never repudiate our Lord.

A great deal of the confusion in Mr. Watkin’s writing, and in that of Fr. Karrer as well, seems to stem from an attempt to draw too exact a parallel between the condition of the Jewish religious commonwealth as the kingdom of God in the old dispensation and the status of the Catholic Church under the new law. Both societies have been entitled to the designation of God’s kingdom. The reasons for this appellation are not the same. The Jewish religious society prior to its repudiation of our Lord was the kingdom of God because it was the one supreme social entity within which the corporate and authorized worship of the true God was conducted. The Jewish nation was the group out of which the divine Redeemer was to come to men. It never had, however, strictly a universal mission. It was perfectly possible to be in the state of grace and to be saved in the time of the old dispensation without having any connection whatsoever with the Israelitic community. In the time of the new law, however, no man can be saved, and consequently no one can enjoy the life of sanctifying grace, without in some way being within the fold of the Catholic Church.2°

Behind much of the confusion about the religious status of the non-Catholic lies some questionable teaching on the “soul of the Church” or on an “invisible Church.” Mr Watkin speaks of “the invisible Church which the visible exists to embody, the communion of all souls in a state of grace.”2 Fr. Karrer is under the impression that certain “doctrinal pronouncements” of the Church teach the existence of this invisible society.

Quote:
Throughout the entire body of doctrinal pronouncements there run two distinct and seemingly conflicting series of utterances. The one proclaims the exclusive possession by the visible Church of truth and saving power. The other tells us of an invisible Church spread over the earth with power to save its members inasmuch as all who are in good faith and not responsible for their errors may belong spiritually to the Church, and so reach heaven.22


Fr. Karrer appeals to two statements of Pope Pius IX in support of his contention about the existence of an invisible Church. One of these statements is contained in the allocution Singulari quadam, delivered on Dec. 9, 1854. The other is taken from the encyclical Quanto conficiamur moerore, issued on Aug. 10, 1863. Neither text makes the slightest reference to an invisible Church. Both, however, offer the basic Catholic teaching on the spiritual status of non-Catholics, and on their need for the true Church of Jesus Christ. The most pertinent section of the Singulari quadam gives the following doctrine.

Quote:
We must hold as of faith that no one can be saved outside of the Apostolic Roman Church, that this is the only ark of salvation, that the man who does not enter it is going to perish in the deluge. Likewise, however, we must hold it as certain that those who are in ignorance of the true religion, if that ignorance be invincible, are not charged with any guilt on this account in the eyes of the Lord. Now who will arrogate to himself the power to indicate the limits of such ignorance, in view of the nature and the variety of peoples, places, talents, and other factors? For when the time comes when, freed from these bodily chains, we see God as He is, we shall understand immediately how closely and beautifully the divine mercy and justice are joined together. But, as long as we live on earth, weighted down with this mortal mass that dulls the soul, let us hold most firmly from Catholic teaching that there is one God, one faith, one baptism. It is wrong to go beyond this in our inquiry.

Moreover, as the cause of charity demands, let us pray continually that all nations everywhere may be converted and that we may to the best of our ability be of service to the common salvation of men. For the hand of the Lord is not shortened and the gifts of divine grace are never lacking to those who sincerely wish and pray to enjoy this light.23


The same lesson is brought out in the Quanto conficiamur moerore.

Quote:
It is proper to mention and to reprove a most serious error into which some Catholics have unfortunately fallen, thinking that men living in errors and foreign (alienos) from the true faith and from Catholic unity can also attain to eternal life. This is very much opposed to Catholic doctrine. It is known to us and to you that those who are in invincible ignorance about our most holy religion, and who, carefully keeping the natural law and its precepts which God has inscribed in the hearts of all, and being ready to obey God, live an honest and upright life, can, through the working of 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 supreme goodness and kindness, never allow anyone to be punished by eternal sufferings who has not the guilt of wilful sin. But there is also the very well-known Catholic dogma that no one can be saved outside of the Catholic Church, and that those who are contumacious against the authority and the definitions of that same Church, and who are pertinaciously separated from the unity of the Church and from the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter to whom the custody of the vineyard has been entrusted by the Saviour, cannot obtain salvation.24


The following truths, pertinent to the question about the religious position of the non-Catholic, stand out in these two documents:

(1) There is no trace whatsoever of any teaching about an “invisible Church.” The one Church mentioned, that which is necessary for eternal salvation, is the Apostolic Roman Church, the Catholic Church.

(2) It is put down as a dogma of faith that the Catholic Church is necessary for salvation in such a way that outside of it no one at all will attain to eternal life. This necessity is absolute. The opening words of the Singulari quadam leave no doubt about the matter.

(3) Non-members of the Catholic Church fall into two classes. Some of them are separated from the Church by their own fault. Among these people there are some who know they ought to enter the true Church and others who are culpably ignorant of it. The second class of non-members includes all those who are inculpably ignorant of Catholic truth.

(4) Those who are deliberately and voluntarily in the status of non-members of the Catholic Church, knowing it to be the true Church, and those whose ignorance of the Church is seriously culpable are not in a position to attain to eternal life. It is well to note that not only offenses against faith, but also those against the unity of the Church by deliberate schism are adjudged as serious enough to shut a man out of heaven. Not only a repudiation of the faith, but also separation from the Church, must be considered as evil.

(5) No person invincibly ignorant of the true Church will be punished for that ignorance. This is an absolutely certain doctrine, but it is registered as “certain” rather than as a dogma of faith.

(6) The person who is invincibly ignorant of the true religion and of the true Church is in a position to be saved. He will be punished only for sins of which he is himself guilty. Since he is not subjectively guilty of any offence against the faith or against charity, there is nothing on this score to prevent his salvation. However, it is important to note that a man is not associated with the Church in the way which is requisite for salvation by the mere fact of being invincibly ignorant of Catholic truth.

(7) Those who are in invincible ignorance of the true Church, but who perseveringly correspond to God’s grace, will be saved. Their salvation, however, postulates union with the Catholic Church through desire—in voto. The teaching of the Quanto conficiamur moerore on the possibility of attaining eternal life through the working of divine grace refers back to the doctrine of the Council of Trent on the way by which a man is prepared for justification. Justification is the process by which a man receives that habitual grace which is the source of supernatural life. The preparation for justification is then the disposition for salvation. The essential steps are the same for all men, Catholics as well as non- Catholics. In order, therefore, to see what Pope Pius meant when he stated that those invincibly ignorant of the Church could attain to eternal life through the workings of divine grace, we should examine the teaching of Trent on this point.

Quote:
“They are disposed to justice itself when, stirred up and aided by divine grace, receiving faith from hearing (ex auditu), they are freely moved towards God, believing as true those things which are divinely revealed and promised, and this primarily, that the man who is averted from God (impium) is justified by God through His grace in the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; and [they are disposed] when, understanding themselves to be sinners, they are lifted up into hope by turning from the fear of the divine justice with which they are profitably (utiliter) impressed to the consideration of God’s mercy, confident that God will be kind to them for the sake of Christ; and they begin to love Him as the source of all justice; and consequently they are moved to turn against sin with a kind of hatred and detestation, that is, with the sort of penance which ought to precede baptism; and finally [they are disposed] when they propose to receive baptism, to start a new life, and to keep the divine commandments.”25


The faith which the man who is being disposed for justification must possess consists in the acceptance of the divine message which God “at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets,” and which He “last of all in these days hath spoken to us by His Son.”26 The Vatican Council teaches us that this message, the divine, public, and intrinsically supernatural revelation, is absolutely necessary.27 The Council of Trent explains that the person being prepared for the reception of the life of grace should believe that the unjust man is justified by God through His grace which is in Christ Jesus. It is absolutely certain that a man must have supernatural faith about the existence of God and about the fact that He rewards good and punishes evil. Furthermore it is probable that, in order to be saved, an adult must have some explicit faith in the Trinity and the Incarnation. In any event the message which he must receive on the word of God is that which is presented infallibly and authoritatively only by the Catholic Church. Per accidens, however, he may receive the essential elements of the faith from some other source.

The man being disposed for justification must propose to receive baptism, which is the rite of initiation into the Catholic Church. In the event that he is invincibly ignorant of the sacrament of baptism, an implicit desire of this sacrament will suffice. At the very least, the man being justified must intend sincerely to fulfill every grave obligation which God imposes upon him. Since it is the will of God that all men be baptized, and live in the unity of the Catholic Church, the act of the will which constitutes baptism of desire and which is the end of the process of preparation for justification implies an intention to dwell within the unity of the Catholic Church. The process of disposition for justification brings a man to salvific contact with the Church of Christ.

(8) By drawing a line beyond which theological inquiry is not to pass, Pope Pius IX brought out one of the most important truths in all the sacred science. As priests we are commissioned to preach and as theologians to investigate the content of Catholic dogma. This dogma contains all and only the truths which God deigned to reveal through His divine Son. The exact way in which He deals with those who are invincibly ignorant of Catholic teaching does not form a part of this revealed message. As a result we have no way of knowing the intimate designs of His mercy to them.

We do know the process of disposition for justification. We are aware of the necessity of the Church. Most important of all, we know and we believe in the infinite justice and mercy of God. We are perfectly certain that He will never be unjust to any of His creatures and that He will never be lacking in mercy and kindness to those who call upon Him. As Pius IX put it, “the gifts of divine grace will never be lacking to those who sincerely wish and pray for this light.”

Much of the objectively unsatisfactory material written on the religious situation of the non-Catholic seems to have been produced for the laudable but quite unnecessary purpose of proving that God will be just and merciful to men in every conceivable sort of case. We do not prove the justice of God through the thesis on the necessity of the Catholic Church. We only show that the infinitely just and merciful God has declared the Church to be necessary.

Again those who speak of the “generosity” of the Church on the interpretation of the extra Ecclesiam nulla salus can occasion serious misunderstandings on the part of those who are guided by their words. Actually the Catholic Church is neither “generous” nor otherwise in its presentation of this teaching. It did not make itself necessary. It has no power whatsoever to render itself less so nor to dispense men from the obligation of living in its communion. All that it does, and all that it claims to do, is to set forth, accurately and unequivocally, the teaching which comes to it from the God of mercy.

(9) Our present Holy Father’s brilliant encyclical Mystici corporis sums up with meticulous accuracy the teaching on the religious status of non-Catholics contained in the pronouncements of Pope Pius IX. The Holy Father speaks to “those who do not belong to the visible structure of the Catholic Church,” and he includes in this number “those who have not yet been enlightened by the truth of the Gospel and have not entered the secure sheepfold of the Church, or who by reason of a lamentable separation of faith and unity are set apart” from him.

Most affectionately we invite all of them individually that, yielding of their own accord and freely to the inner impulses of divine grace, they should take care to remove themselves from that status in which they cannot be secure about their own eternal salvation, seeing that even though they may be disposed towards the Mystical Body of the Redeemer by a kind of desire and longing (desiderio ac voto) which they do not understand, they still lack so many and such great heavenly favors and helps which they may enjoy only in the Catholic Church. May they all therefore enter the Catholic unity and, joined with us in the one structure of the Body of Jesus Christ, may they come together to the Head in the society of the most glorious love. With never ceasing prayers to the Spirit of love and truth, with hands upraised and outstretched, we await their coming, not to a stranger’s house, but to the house which is their own and their Father’s.28

According to the Mystici corporis, then, every non-Catholic, by the very fact that he is a non-member of the Church, is in a position in which he cannot be secure or at ease about his own salvation. He is in a situation in which his salvation depends upon an intention to enter a society of which he is invincibly ignorant. He can have this intention. The Holy Father leaves no doubt about this point. He can be saved without having become a member of the true Church. But if there is such a thing as insecurity in the work of salvation, it must surely be found in the life of a man whose spiritual well-being is dependent upon the invincibility of his ignorance of a part of the divine message.

His situation is unfavorable, not only because it involves ignorance, even though this ignorance be inculpable, but also by reason of the fact that he is deprived of the spiritual aids which are available only within the Church. Furthermore, and this is the most important point of all, the non-Catholic is not where he belongs. The Catholic Church is his home in this world. God calls him to it. It is his Father’s house. He is in a disadvantageous position by the very fact that he dwells outside of it.

It is to relieve this spiritual indigence that the Catholic Church, at the command of God Himself, invites all men to enter its society. It is to relieve this spiritual indigence, which exists in all men outside the Church, from the most erudite of Episcopalian scholars to the most primitive of the pagans, that it expends its efforts in the missionary field. It is only when this indigence is known and appreciated that Catholics can be expected to co-operate in the missionary work as God wills that they should.

The Catholic University of America,
Washington, D.C.

JOSEPH CLIFFORD FENTON


1. Cf. AER, CXII, 5 (May, 1945), 321 ff.
2. Religions of Mankind (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1945), p. 221.
3. The Catholic Centre (London: Sheed and Ward, 1943), p. 2.
4. Karrer, op. cit., p. 193.
5. Ibid., p. 182.
6. Ibid., p. 222.
7. Cf. Ad Smyrnaeos, 8:1.
8. Cf. Principiorum fidei doctrinalium relectio scholastica et compendiaria (Antwerp, 1596), Contr. I, qu. 4, art. 3, p. 105.
9 The English translation of Religions of Mankind first appeared in 1936. The Catholic Centre was not published until three years later.
10 Watkin, op. cit., p. 66. There is a similar passage on p. 2.
11. Karrer, op. cit., p. 272.
12. Watkin, op. cit., p. 148.
13. Ibid., p. 11.
14. Ibid., p. 12.
15. Ibid., p. 21.
16. Ibid.
17. Ibid., p. 142.
18. Ibid., pp. 142 f.
19. Ibid., p. 144.
20 Cf. “The Twofold Origin of the Church Militant” (AER, CXI, 4 [Oct., 1944], 291 ff.).
21 Watkin, op. cit., pp. 141 f.
22 Karrer op. cit., pp. 253 f.
23. DB 1647 f.
24. DB 1677.
25 Conc. Trid., Sess. VI, cap. 6, DB 798.
26. Heb., 1:1-2.
27 Cone. Vat., Sess. III, cap. 2, DB 1786.
28. AAS, XXXV, 7 (July, 1943), 243.


Tue Apr 08, 2008 1:15 pm
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New post Re: The Church and the Non-Catholic
Dear Reader,

Please note that the last section of this excellent anti-Modernist article comprises a marvellously clear exposition of the doctrine, extra ecclesiam nulla salus.

Please also note the date at which Mons. Fenton was whacking the opponents of this dogma - July, 1945. Fr. Feeney got busy on this issue in circa 1947. A timeline is here: viewtopic.php?p=3256#p3256

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Tue Apr 08, 2008 3:08 pm
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