Immutable Dogmas?

Have you ever discussed an issue with a self-proclaimed defender of the Roman Catholic religion and had him declare that you either do not understand a Catholic teaching or that you are misrepresenting a Catholic teaching? Happens to me all the time. Often, the champions of the Whore on the Tiber will call upon the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), usually not troubling themselves to identify the paragraph from which they drew their words.

I encountered such a situation not too long ago. A Bible-believing Christian had mentioned that, according to Catholicism, salvation is only through the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic responded with one of the classic arguments favored by RCC apologists: “You don't understand.” According to this champion of the Romish cause, the believer was misrepresents the teaching of the RCC out of ignorance. In support of his arguments, the papist posted a handful of out-of-context short citations from the CCC, without identifying the paragraphs from which they were taken:

"it means that all salvation comes through Christ, the Head through the Church that is his body."

"the One Christ is the mediator and the way salvation; he is present in his body which is the Church."

"This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church."

He added that, should the believer be aware of the Catholic claim that the RCC was created by God through Christ as necessary for salvation and then reject it, he would be in trouble.

This paper deals with the Catholic dogma expressed in Latin as Extra ecclesiam nulla salus “Outside the Church, there is no salvation.”

I believe the Bible-believer was accurate when she paraphrased the words of Cyprian of Carthage, written in the 3rd century. Why Cyprian? Well, Catholics like to call up the words of the early Church Fathers, as though they were Holy Writ. Also, Cyprian was listed as a source in the first paragraph from the CCC that the Catholic drew from. I quote that paragraph in its entirety here in order that readers might read the words he provided in context (The words he quoted are in blue):

846. "How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers?[Cf. Cyprian, Ep. 73.21: PL 3, 1169; De unit.: PL 4, 509-536.] Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body.

Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.[LG 14; cf. Mk 16:16 ; Jn 3:5 .] "--Catechism of the Catholic Church 2nd Ed., © 1994/1997 United States Catholic Conference, Inc

Cyprian iterated this infamous teaching in several of his letters, though the Interdicasterial Committee for the Catechism of the Catholic Church selected his letter to Jubaianus, Concerning the Baptism of Heretics. The citation in paragraph 846 identifies this letter as Epistle 73 in Migne's Patrologia Latina, Volume 3. Unfortunately, I do not have access to the Migne collection and had to call upon Schaff's Early Church Fathers collection, which is in my own library. In this collection, Cyprian's letter to Jubaianus is listed as Epistle 72. In paragraph 21 of this letter, Cyprian wrote:

21. Can the power of baptism be greater or of more avail than confession, than suffering, when one confesses Christ before men and is baptized in his own blood? And yet even this baptism does not benefit a heretic, although he has confessed Christ, and been put to death outside the Church, unless the patrons and advocates of heretics declare that the heretics who are slain in a false confession of Christ are martyrs, and assign to them the glory and the crown of martyrdom contrary to the testimony of the apostle, who says that it will profit them nothing although they were burnt and slain. But if not even the baptism of a public confession and blood can profit a heretic to salvation, because there is no salvation out of the Church, how much less shall it be of advantage to him, if in a hiding-place and a cave of robbers, stained with the contagion of adulterous water, he has not only not put off his old sins, but rather heaped up still newer and greater ones! Wherefore baptism cannot be common to us and to heretics, to whom neither God the Father, nor Christ the Son, nor the Holy Ghost, nor the faith, nor the Church itself, is common. And therefore it behooves those to be baptized who come from heresy to the Church, that so they who are prepared, in the lawful, and true, and only baptism of the holy Church, by divine regeneration, for the kingdom of God, may be born of both sacraments, because it is written, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”--A. Roberts and J Donaldson , Edd., Cyprian, Epistle 72, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 5, B o o k s F o r T h e A g e s, AGES Software  Albany, OR USA, pp. 793-94) [Emphasis not in original]

Cyprian here argues that dying for a false confession of Christ cannot save anyone, but even if it could profit such a one “to salvation, it still would do him no good, “because there is no salvation out of the Church.” After reading these words of Bishop Cyprian, perhaps it would be useful to define just what a heretic is, according to the RCC understanding:

”…Limiting our consideration to the objective aspect (the subjective aspect belongs to moral theology), we define heresy: “A teaching which is directly contradictory to a truth revealed by God and proposed to the faithful as such by the Church.” In this definition two essential characteristics of heresy are brought out: (a)opposition to a revealed truth; (2) opposition to the definition of the Church magisterium. If a truth is contained in the deposit of revelation, but has not been proposed to the faithful by the Church, it is called a truth of divine faith; if the revealed truth is also defined and proposed for belief by the ordinary or extraordinary magisterium of the Church, it is called a truth of divine-Catholic faith. Heresy, in the full sense of the word is opposed to a truth of divine-Catholic faith. If the denial concerns a revealed truth which is clear and commonly admitted as such, but has not been defined by the Church, the one who denies such a truth is called proximus haeresi (very close to heresy)…--Parente, Piolanti & Garofalo, Dictionary of Dogmatic Theology, Bruce Publishing Company (1951). P. 123 w/Imprimi potest, Nihil obstat & Imprimitur

Interesting, don't you think? One is “close to heresy” should he deny a truth revealed by God, but is a full-blown heretic should he deny a truth revealed by God and rubber-stamped by the RCC. Some might say that this was evidence that the RCC considers itself above God Almighty.

Back to the issue of Extra ecclesiam nulla salus. The opinion of Cyprian, though cited in support of the RCC doctrine discussed in paragraph 846 of the CCC, does not make this doctrine an official position of the RCC. In order for that to be so, it is necessary that it be defined by proper RCC authority, usually the extraordinary Magisterium – the bishops in ecumenical council or the pope speaking ex cathedra. Has that been done?

Well, one of the documents of Vatican II, promulgated by Paul VI on November 21, 1964, was Lumen Gentium {LG}. Paragraph 14 of LG was cited at the end of the second paragraph of the CCC's paragraph 846. Here's how it reads:

14. This holy Council first of all turns its attention to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself on scripture and tradition, it teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mk. 16:16; Jn. 3:5), and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it, or to remain in it. [Emphasis not in original]

Well, the bishops of the RCC, convened in ecumenical council called by a reigning pope appear to be giving their blessing to the words first penned by Cyprian of Carthage some 1800 or so years ago. Notice, however, that while Cyprian wrote that there is no salvation outside the Church, LG stated the doctrine in a slightly different manner – that the Church is necessary for salvation.

Not to worry for, as some conservative Catholic theologians have stated, Vatican II produced no new dogmatic definitions or condemnations. That this is so, we have from the very words of Paul VI, uttered during a General Audience on January 12, 1966:

In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided any extraordinary statements of dogmas endowed with the note of infallibility, but it still provided its teaching with the authority of the Ordinary Magisterium…

In other words, though Vatican II produced no dogmas that must be assented to de fide by the Catholic faithful, its teachings still must be believed. How's that for doublespeak?

Surely there must have been some “official” statement of this dogma, which has been around for so long, though it does have the infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium behind it, having been taught by the RCC for some 1800 years. As it happens, the Fourth Lateran Council, which was the 12th Ecumenical Council, stated this position. This council was called to address issues concerning the Albigensians, Waldensians, Joachim, etc. In Chapter 1 of the document produced by that council, we read:

One indeed is the universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved, in which the priest himself is the sacrifice, Jesus Christ, whose body and blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the species of bread and wine; the bread (changed) into His body by the divine power of transubstantiation, and the wine into the blood, so that to accomplish the mystery of unity we ourselves receive from His (nature) what He Himself received from ours. And surely no one can accomplish this sacrament except a priest who has been rightly ordained according to the keys of the Church which Jesus Christ Himself conceded to the Apostles and to their successors. But the sacrament of baptism (which at the invocation of God and the indivisible Trinity, namely, of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, is solemnized in water) rightly conferred by anyone in the form of the Church is useful unto salvation for little ones and for adults. And if, after the reception of baptism, anyone shall have lapsed into sin, through true penance he can always be restored. Moreover, not only virgins and the continent but also married persons pleasing to God through right faith and good work merit to arrive at a blessed eternity.--Denzinger 430 [Emphasis not in original]

Hmmmm. An Ecumenical Council repeats the “constant teaching” of the Ordinary Magisterium concerning the RCC, “outside which no one at all is saved.” Seems to me that is a clear teaching of a dogmatic position.

Did you also notice that, in the Eucharistic sacrifice, it is the priest himself who is the sacrifice?

And did you also notice that “through right faith and good work it is possible for virgins, the continent and married folks pleasing to God might merit to arrive at a blessed eternity? Sure seems to me like that is talking about a works-related salvation. Of course, it could just be that I don't understand.

Perhaps there is some other, more clearly definitive, statement of this teaching that Extra ecclesiam nulla salus.

On November 18, 1302, Boniface VIII promulgated the bull Unum Sanctam. In this document, the pope declared:

With Faith urging us we are forced to believe and to hold the one, holy, Catholic Church and that, apostolic. And we firmly believe and simply confess this (Church) outside which there is no salvation nor remission of sin…--Denzinger 468

That seems pretty clear, and it is yet another iteration of what apparently had been a constant teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium for more than a millennium. I recognize, however, that when dealing with RCC apologists, it usually is necessary to provide explicit proof, even when drawing from the RCC's own documents, that such and so is a teaching of that cult. Vatican I provided some quite explicit requirements for a statement to meet if it were to be accepted as a dogmatic definition. Not being a canon lawyer, I am not able to point to case law concerning whether it is legitimate to apply a dogmatic definition concerning what is necessary for a dogmatic statement arrived at in the 19th century to a dogmatic statement uttered in the 14th century. Not that it really seems to matter in this case, since Boniface was gracious enough to use the “proper” terminology:

Furthermore, we declare, say, define and proclaim to every human creature that they by necessity for salvation are entirely subject to the Roman Pontiff. (Denzinger 469)

So it would appear, that unless Boniface was just kidding, those who are not entirely submitted to the reigning pope can not be saved. This clear dogmatic definition by Boniface stands in opposition to more recent, non-dogmatic utterances of those one might consider to be Modernists, or liberals, among them such authoritative figures as John Paul II and Paul VI. In paragraph 16 of Lumen Gentium one can read these words:

16. Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways.[18] There is, first, that people to which the covenants and promises were made, and from which Christ was born according to the flesh (cf. Rom. 9:4-5): in view of the divine choice, they are a people most dear for the sake of the fathers, for the gifts of God are without repentance (cf. Rom. 11:29-29). But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Moslems: these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day. Nor is God remote from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, since he gives to all men life and breath and all things (cf. Acts 17:25-28), and since the Savior wills all men to be saved (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4). Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience--those too many achieve eternal salvation.[19] Nor shall divine providence deny the assistance necessary for salvation to those who, without any fault of theirs, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God, and who, not without grace, strive to lead a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is considered by the Church to be a preparation for the Gospel[20] and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life. But very often, deceived by the Evil One, men have become vain in their reasonings, have exchanged the truth of God for a lie and served the world rather than the Creator (cf. Rom. 1:21 and 25). Or else, living and dying in this world without God, they are exposed to ultimate despair. Hence to procure the glory of God and the salvation of all these, the Church, mindful of the Lord's command, "preach the Gospel to every creature" (Mk. 16:16) takes zealous care to foster the missions. [Emphasis not in original]

This brings us to back to one of the out-of-context citations from the CCC that the Romish apologist used to refute the Bible-believing Christian's statement:

"the One Christ is the mediator and the way salvation; he is present in his body which is the Church."

In looking at this, we return to paragraph 846 of the CCC, from which it was quoted:

846. "How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers?[Cf. Cyprian, Ep. 73.21: PL 3, 1169; De unit.: PL 4, 509-536.] Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the ChurchHe himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.[LG 14; cf. Mk 16:16 ; Jn 3:5 .]"--CCC, Op. cit. [Emphasis not in original]

Don't you find it interesting that, in his effort to prove the Christian was wrong when she mentioned that Catholicism teaches that salvation is only through the RCC, he posted a sentence from paragraph 846 of the CCC that declares Christ to be the way of salvation and present in the Church, while neglecting to cite the passages immediately preceding and following his carefully selected words? And what do those “overlooked” bits say?

the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation

And also:

[Christ] himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it. [Emphasis not in original]

Well, doggone! No wonder the papist didn't want to post the words that surrounded his selection, for they do appear to support what his true Christian antagonist had written. Now, isn't that just special?

Time to look at another of the Catholic's assertions drawn from the CCC:

This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church.

That sentence is drawn from paragraph 847 of the CCC, which reads in full as follows:

847. This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.[LG 16; cf. DS 3866-3872.]” [Emphasis not in original]

I think it significant to bear in mind that the source referred to for this paragraph is Lumen Gentium, a document of Vatican II, the council that Paul VI said produced no dogmatic definitions. Therefore, while really nice to read, nothing in this paragraph or, indeed, in all of Lumen Gentium, can rightfully be considered to cancel Boniface VIII's original dogmatic definition, and it certainly does not explain or amplify Boniface's intent, which seemed crystal clear.

The apologist closed that portion of his argument dealing with the necessity of the RCC for salvation by citing the support material for paragraph 846 of the CCC which, in turn, refers to paragraph 14 of Lumen Gentium which, as I have shown, does not have the force of a dogmatic definition.

"the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ" , and then "refuse either to enter it or to remain in it"

I don't believe it necessary to deal any further with these two statements, having already covered their content above. Instead, I shall offer additional support for the dogmatic position of Extra ecclesiam nulla salus, which is clearly in opposition to the non-dogmatic teaching in paragraphs 844-847 of the CCC, in paragraphs 14 and 16 of Lumen Gentium and in other teachings uttered by the reigning pope and his bishops..

The Council of Florence, an ecumenical council called by Eugenius IV, issued the Bull Cantata Domino on February 4, 1442. Within that bull was A Decree in Behalf of the Jacobites, which contained this dogmatic definition:

It firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only Pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart “into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels” [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.—[Denzinger 714] [Emphasis not in original]

Here is another clearly dogmatic iteration of the dogma of Extra ecclesiam nulla salus that stands in opposition to the non-dogmatic ecumenical swill gushing forth from the Vatican's propaganda mills.

In closing my arguments in support of the stand that Extra ecclesiam nulla salus long has been and still is a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church to which the Catholic faithful are to assent de fide, I call upon to condemnations contained in Section III of the Syllabus of Errors of Pius IX, which is subtitled: Indifferentism, Latitudinarianism. The pope condemned what he considered errors; among them:

16. In the worship of any religion whatever, men can find the way to eternal salvation, and can attain eternal salvation.

17. We must have at least good hope concerning the eternal salvation of all those who in no wise are in the true Church of Christ.--[Denzinger 1716 and 1717]

So, where are we? Rome's champion opposed the Christian's statement by drawing on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which is not presented as a compendium of dogmatic statements to which all Catholics are required to assent in faith. It is a norm for teaching the Catholic faith.

3. Doctrinal Value of the Text

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved June 25th last and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church's faith and of catholic-doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition, and the Church's Magisterium. I declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for the ecclesial communion…--John Paul II, Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, in the CCC, Op. cit., p. 5

So, what have we got? We have several dogmatic definitions of a constant teaching of the Ordinary Magisterium for many centuries that clearly establish the dogma of Extra ecclesium nulla salus – “Outside the Church none are saved.” In opposition to these dogmatic definitions and condemnations, the apologist presented non-dogmatic teachings from the CCC, which in turn were derived from the non-dogmatic document Lumen Gentium which itself was a product of Vatican II, an ecumenical council that Paul VI declared did not produce any dogmatic statements. Who ya gonna believe?

When I present arguments similar to these to determined Romish apologists, it is not unusual for them to respond that the modern teachings are not repudiations of the ancient dogma but, rather, they are “clarifications” of what the original defining authority really intended to say, or something to that effect. Is that how it is?

On the one hand, the cult that pretends to be always the same has come up with a modern interpretation of Extra ecclesiam nulla salus that it claims has always been the cult's understanding. This tolerant understanding is clearly detailed in a letter from the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, sent on August 8, 1949, to the Archbishop of Boston. It concerns the rebellious priest Leonard Feeney, and provides an explicit, though hardly dogmatic, explanation of the RCC's understanding and application of Extra ecclesiam nulla salus Those interested, can read it for themselves

So the modernists in the RCC have “explained” how Extra ecclesiam nulla salus can be a valid dogma and yet teach that even pagans who never heard of the RCC can be saved. And this seems to violate another dogma of the RCC, defined at Vatican I and expressed by a conservative Catholic theologian:

Dogmas must be understood by the very words declared by the Church. Dogmas are neither mere symbols or expressions of meanings whose formulas can change; nor are they mere interpretations of Christian truth, but, as divine truths revealed by God Himself which admit of no “progress” or evolution, they are the objects of divine and Catholic faith. Dogmas are immutable whose meaning can never change. (Adam S. Miller, The Final Word, Tower of David Publications (1997), p. 8)

Support for this dogmatic statement is found in Chapter 3 of On the Catholic Faith, a dogmatic constitution of the First Vatican Council, where one might read:

The true progress of knowledge, both natural and revealed. For, the doctrine of faith which God revealed has not been handed down as a philosophic invention to the human mind to be perfected, but has been entrusted as a divine deposit to the Spouse of Christ, to be faithfully guarded and infallibly interpreted. Hence, also, that understanding of its sacred dogmas must be perpetually retained, which Mother Church has once declared; and there must never be recession from that meaning under the specious name of a deeper understanding (can. 3). “Therefore…let the understanding, the knowledge, and wisdom of individuals as of all, of one man as of the whole Church, grow and progress strongly with the passage of the ages and the centuries; but let it be solely in its own genus, namely in the same dogma, with the same sense and the same understanding.”-- [Denzinger 1800]

Those interested in exploring this more deeply are invited to read Pius X's The Errors of Modernists, paragraphs 22, 26, 54 and 64 [Denzinger 2022, 2026, 2054 and 2064]; also Pascendi: The False Doctrine of the Modernists (Denzinger 2079-81)

So, having gone through all that, who is it that seems to have misinterpreted Catholic teaching? Why, I would say that it is the Catholic apologist in this instance. This is so, I suspect, because he read only the sweet words of the CCC and did not trouble himself to examine the references contained within the paragraphs. Tsk. Tsk.

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