Sep 3, 2007

Outside the Church, There is No Salvation

Erick asks that I publish a post on the Catholic teaching, "Outside the Church, there is no salvation" [Latin: 'Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus' (EENS)]. My original post, What Catholics do NOT Believe, recommended an EWTN website that republished seven points written in 1884, including:
7. Catholics do not believe that Protestants who are baptized, who lead a good life, love God and their neighbor, and are blamelessly ignorant of the just claims of the Catholic Religion to be the one true Religion (which is called being in good faith), are excluded from Heaven, provided they believe that there is one God in three Divine Persons; *that God will duly reward the good and punish the wicked; that Jesus Christ is the Son of God made man, who redeemed us, and in whom we must trust for our salvation; and provided they thoroughly repent of having ever, by their sins, offended God.
I'm a little confused on why there is a question on whether baptized Protestants are excluded from heaven, especially when there is a clear statement that they repent of having offended God. Moreover, baptism can be administered by anyone without regard to age, sex, religion, etc., so long as the matter (flowing water), intention (to do what Jesus and His Church intends), and form ("I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit") are correct.

Erick continues his comment:
So most importantly, I'd like to hear from educated parties as to what the position of the SSPX is on EENS. Why? Well, because the long-awaited Motu Proprio on the Tridentine Latin Mass has finally been published, and many folks throughout the world are expecting to see a proclamation of some kind regarding the canonical status of the SSPX folks within the Catholic Church. I believe that the SSPX's views on EENS will be key to any further discussions and/or publications from the Holy Father regarding the SSPX.

So, I've been reading many SSPX publications lately, given this prospect of new discussions between Rome and the SSPX. And within the SSPX's publications, I have read what appear to be extreme views on EENS; to the effect that only Catholics within the Holy Roman Catholic Church may be saved. Now, I am well-versed on the concept of EENS and its history within the Catholic Church, and I would like to use your forum to clear up for me whether or not the SSPX holds to an extreme position on EENS. I particularly welcome comments from SSPX folks themselves on this issue, should you agree to start a post on my suggested topic here.
I don't know what Erick has read, but the SSPX clearly refutes Fr. Leonard Feeney's challenge to the traditional Catholic understanding of three types of Baptism. [Fr. Feeney and his condemned teaching on baptism is described here.] An even more thorough presentation by the SSPX can be found in The Three Baptisms. The SSPX believes and teaches that Baptism can be instituted through water, desire, and blood. Archbishop Lefebvre would turn over in his grave if his SSPX did not accept the three means of Baptism.

The Three Baptisms published by the SSPX specifically notes that a person can be baptized by desire:
Saint Augustine, who held it because he once heard a sermon of Saint Ambrose, "On the Death of Valentinian" in which the saint states that the unbaptized 20-year-old emperor, who was murdered in the Alps while on his way to be baptized by Ambrose, had saved his soul because of his ardent desire for baptism and his supernatural virtue. In that sermon written by Saint Ambrose, he writes:

"But I hear that you mourn, because he did not receive the sacrament of baptism ... Does he not have the grace that he desired; does he not have what he asked for? Certainly what he asked for, he received. And hence it says ‘But the just man, if he be prevented with death, shall be in rest’’ [Wis. 4:7] (PL 16, 1374).

Very few have challenged St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Alphonsus Ligouri, and St. Robert Bellarmine on baptism of desire. The current problem that Erick is referring to likely involves modernist interpretations of "baptism of desire" that allow the flimsiest understanding of a person's desire to be baptized.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states the traditional meaning of baptism of desire:
For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament. (1259)
Things get hazy when "desire" can be considered as implicit, rather than explicit. I am concerned when "implicit" desire is used to say that a cannibal, who "following his conscience" in "invincible ignorance" kills, roasts, and eats his enemies, can attain heaven. Sorry, but I am not persuaded.

Yes, I know that St. Thomas Aquinas states that the desire for Baptism can be either explicit or implicit, but he defines "implicit" as "contained" in something else (and I don't think he meant "contained" in a false religion!).
"Properly speaking, that is called IMPLICIT in which many things are CONTAINED AS IN ONE, and that is called explicit in which each of the things is considered in itself.” (Of Truth 14, 11)
I read Gary Potter's fairly objective book, After the Boston Heresy Case, in the late 1990s. The book is helpful in showing the confusion and errors associated with a modern understanding of an "implicit" desire to be baptized.