Q and A on salvation theology

I’m opening this weekend’s question and answer session to questions on salvation theology. In particular, I’d like to talk about Pope Francis’ apparent view that non-Christians can be saved without converting to Christianity, and non-believers can be saved without converting to belief in God. I’ll also accept more general questions on the path of salvation.

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8 Responses to Q and A on salvation theology

  1. Cursillista says:

    In the words of several of our Holy Fathers.

    [1] “There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved.” (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215.)

    [2] “We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” (Pope Boniface VIII, the Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302.)

    [2] “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 have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.” (Pope Eugene IV, the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441.)

    • Ron Conte says:

      Is it only some liberal Catholics who are cafeteria Catholics, picking and choosing which teachings they will accept? The quotes above must be understood in the context of other teachings on salvation by the Magisterium, including those of Vatican II and Pope John Paul II and Pope Pius IX.

      [1] Pope John Paul II, in “All Salvation Comes through Christ“, General Audience, 31 May 1995, taught that a person can be a member of the Church implicitly, a mystical or non-formal member. And this teaching agrees with the teaching that one can enter the Church by a baptism of desire or blood, not solely a baptism of water. The Magisterium, in refuting the heresy of Feeneyism, has also taught that this baptism of desire may be implicit.

      [2] If the Pope teaches that non-Christians and non-believers can be saved without converting, it would be self-contradictory to cite subjection to the Roman Pontiff as a basis for rejecting his teaching. That point aside, this subjection to the Pope is necessary in the sense that all seven Sacraments are necessary to salvation, they are essential to the plan of God for salvation. But reception of each and every Sacrament is not necessary for each individual. Just as some can be saved by loving Christ implicitly, some can be saved who do not submit to the Roman Pontiff. (See my commentary on Unam Sanctam.)

      [3] “pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics” — non-Christians and non-believers commit an objective mortal sin if they possess sufficient accurate knowledge of Christianity, and yet reject the Faith. However, if their sin is not an actual mortal sin, because they do not realize that Christianity is the true religion, they can possibly be saved. They are saved by an implicit baptism of desire, and so they are joined to the Church before death, just as Pope Eugene IV and the Council of Florence taught is required.

      The Magisterium is the authoritative interpreter of Tradition and Scripture AND its own past teachings. But some conservative Catholics have decided that they are the authoritative interpreters, not the Magisterium.

      Pope Pius IX also taught that unity with the Church is necessary for salvation. But he also taught: “There are, of course, those who are struggling with invincible ignorance about our most holy religion. Sincerely observing the natural law and its precepts inscribed by God on all hearts and ready to obey God, they live honest lives and are able to attain eternal life by the efficacious virtue of divine light and grace.” Pope Pius IX, Quanto Conficiamur Moerore, n. 7.

    • Cursillista says:

      Consider this quote below in the light of salvation of the pagan or atheist. Note especially “only those who refuse God deliberately are condemned.” That being the pagan and the atheist. Most would agree that the Christian and monotheist can work out their salvation, but the atheist? Can you guess the source of this quote? No fare using a google search either.

      “Tell this priest, tell everyone, that it is you who are divided on earth. The Muslims and the Orthodox, for the same reason as Catholics, are equal before my Son and me. You are all my children. Certainly, all religions are not equal, but all men are equal before God, as St. Paul says. It does not suffice to belong to the Catholic Church to be saved, but it is necessary to respect the commandments of God in following one’s conscience.

      “Those who are not Catholics, are no less creatures made in the image of God, and destined to rejoin someday, the House of the Father. Salvation is available to everyone, without exception. Only those who refuse God deliberately are condemned. To him who has been given little, little will be asked for. To whomever has been given much (to Catholics), very much will be required. It is God alone, in His infinite justice, Who determines the degree of responsibility and pronounces judgment.”

    • Ron Conte says:

      Pope John Paul II taught:

      “For those, however, who have not received the Gospel proclamation, as I wrote in the Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, salvation is accessible in mysterious ways, inasmuch as divine grace is granted to them by virtue of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice, without external membership in the Church, but nonetheless always in relation to her (cf. RM 10). It is a mysterious relationship. It is mysterious for those who receive the grace, because they do not know the Church and sometimes even outwardly reject her. It is also mysterious in itself, because it is linked to the saving mystery of grace, which includes an essential reference to the Church the Savior founded.” (All Salvation Comes Through Christ)

      So the pagan and the atheist might outwardly reject Christ and His Church, and yet still be saved by implicitly accepting Christ through the love of neighbor. As I explain at length in my book, the path to salvation becomes ever more difficult and ever more dimly lit, the further one gets from the Catholic Faith. For atheists and pagans, the path is most difficult. But as Jesus said:

      [Matthew]
      {19:23} Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Amen, I say to you, that the wealthy shall enter with difficulty into the kingdom of heaven.
      {19:24} And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for the wealthy to enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
      {19:25} And upon hearing this, the disciples wondered greatly, saying: “Then who will be able to be saved?”
      {19:26} But Jesus, gazing at them, said to them: “With men, this is impossible. But with God, all things are possible.”

      Yes, it is true “Only those who refuse God deliberately are condemned.” — in other words, God condemns to Hell only those persons who die unrepentant from actual mortal sin. Final impenitence is the only unforgivable eternal sin. But the assumption that all pagans and atheists are guilty of actual mortal sin is not warranted.

      An atheist might not be guilty of actual mortal sin for his rejection of belief in God. But he might still end up in Hell for some other sin. I think that some atheists obtain heaven, by way of purgatory, but most atheists end up in Hell. Yet of all the atheists who do end up in Hell, I suspect that most are there not for their choice of atheism, but for sins in other areas of life. They are like the goats in the parable of the Returning King (Mt 25), who did not love Christ implicitly by loving their neighbor.

      Concerning my sharp correction of both liberal and conservative Catholics, I see grave doctrinal errors among both groups. Sometimes the correct theological answer to a question is liberal, sometimes moderate, sometimes conservative. My theology is not liberal or moderate or conservative. I’m just seeking truth.

  2. frank says:

    Ron-
    How does John 14.6 coexist with the statements Pope Francis said?

    • Ron Conte says:

      {14:6} Jesus said to him: “I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father, except through me.

      The parable of the returning King (Mt 25) answers your question. Some persons enter Heaven because they did works of mercy toward their neighbor in cooperation with grace. But Jesus points out that many of them did not realize that in loving their neighbor they were loving Him. They implicitly accepted and loved Christ.

      Of course, one can also implicitly reject Christ. In the same parable, the other group rejected Christ by rejecting the love of neighbor. Both groups did not realize they were accepting or rejecting Christ by the choices of their lives.

      The ancient Israelites were able to be saved by Christ without explicitly knowing Him. But they explicitly know Christ before Heaven, since they meet Him in the limbo of the Fathers prior to entering Heaven. I speculate that it may be the case that persons in this life who are saved by knowing and loving Christ only implicitly usually, or even always, only enter Heaven after explicitly knowing Him in Purgatory (or the limbo of Purgatory).

      On the other hand, a baptized infant knows and loves Christ, in some sense, by being in a state of grace, yet not explicitly (i.e. not in conscious thought, but only in graces of the soul). And a baptized infant who dies at that age will go to Heaven directly.

  3. George says:

    In the Bible Romans 10:6-7 I think it says to not say who is going to heaven and who to the abyss. Is this because we cannot be entirely sure of anybody 100% and can only hope in Jesus, and the teachings of the Church and Pope.

    • Ron Conte says:

      {10:6} But the justice that is of faith speaks in this way: Do not say in your heart: “Who shall ascend into heaven?” (that is, to bring Christ down);
      {10:7} “Or who shall descend into the abyss?” (that is, to call back Christ from the dead).
      {10:8} But what does Scripture say? “The word is near, in your mouth and in your heart.” This is the word of faith, which we are preaching.

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