Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus

Miss Barnhardt has held forth on the question of salvation, and while it is interesting as always, it really isn’t one of her more successful ventures,  as a logical case. (This probably won’t be any better.) Indeed, after starting with the headline “There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church”, she ends up with a doctrinally-correct example of somebody who IS saved outside of the Catholic Church.

The problem is in equivocation of terms: what is the Church?

There is One, and it is the Church of Jesus Christ. Not the Church of Ann Barnhardt, Jeffrey Quick, or Pope Francis.  Not even the Church of St. Peter, though since Jesus put him in charge, it has a unique claim over all others. And who is in the Church of  Jesus? Whoever Jesus says is there. Who is that? We don’t know. We have a pretty good idea what is needed, through the Magisterium. And we do know that “Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man…you have no life in you” (John 6:53), which should give pause to followers of any denomination that does not accept the Real Presence, which is most of them. But we can’t say that any earthly church is coterminous with the Church of Jesus. There are “Catholics” (like Ann’s catechist who believes that reincarnation is possible) who are probably not part of the Church. And Native Americans who never got to hear the Gospel (OK, Mormons, I’ll throw you a bone and say they lived after 421 AD.) who are part of that Church. We could compare this to the Bokononist theology of Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. The Church is a karass, a group assembled by God to do His Will. The churches are false karasses, or granfalloons: groups which think they exist to do God’s will, but don’t really.

Now, there’s a thing called “mere Christianity”, the core beliefs, the stuff in the Nicene Creed. Is that enough to get you into Heaven? I’d like to think so. But how much false-doctrine BS is God willing to put up with? I don’t know, and am not anxious to personally find out. It’s a doctrine that if you’ve been part of the one true earthly church of Christ, with the fullness of truth, and go off to a sect of lesser truth, your chances of salvation go down radically. (Lumen gentium, 14) But my saintly Lutheran grandmother? I can’t imagine her NOT being saved, if justice exists.  I don’t know why one would NOT be part of the Church founded on the rock of Peter, and I certainly wouldn’t take my chances anywhere else. But if an invincibly ignorant person can get in via the Natural Law, the chances of a heretic Christian have to be better. They’ll be set straight soon enough.

The Catholic Church doesn’t even teach Extra (Catholicam) Ecclesiam Nulla Salus in the strict sense. They call it “Feeneyism” after Fr. Leonard Feeney, who spent the first part of his career as a poet (he wrote the texts of most of Theodore Chanler’s art songs) and the last as head of a schismatic community. In between, he got into trouble by converting too many (for the parents/donors)  Episcopalian Harvard students to Catholicism and telling them to drop out of school, and compounded it by disobedience (always a bad move for a priest).I suspect that the main problem with Feeneyism is lese majeste; it’s in effect telling the King of Kings who is in His Church.

Note: one of the two Feeneyite communities is on the SPLC “hate group” list because they want to convert Jews, which is apparently anti-Semitic. Any time the Stupid Preposterous Lie Center disses somebody, they rise in my estimation. But Feeney made statements which at least nibble at the edges of anti-Semitism. Also, Fr. Feeney’s most vocal opponent was a Harvard student named Robert Kennedy, for what that’s worth.


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