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the Pope, the way to God, and the Catholic Church

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  • Fisher, Matt
    Pat Wynne wrote: This was later reaffirmed by the First Vatican Council in 1869-70, and seems pretty close (at least to this Lutheran s ears) to saying that
    Message 1 of 4 , Jul 12, 2005
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      Pat Wynne wrote:

      "This was later reaffirmed by the First Vatican Council in 1869-70, and seems pretty close (at least to this Lutheran's ears) to saying that the Pope is "the only way to God". However, I gather from what Carl has told me in conversations on this topic that the modern Catholic Church no longer holds to this teaching. When was it specifically changed, I wonder? At Vatican Two?"

      As a non-Roman Catholic Christian teaching at a Roman Catholic college, my understanding from colleagues in the Religious Studies department is that the traditional teaching of Catholicism is "outside of the Church, no salvation" (English translation of a Latin phrase, I don't remember the source of the Latin). The catch is this...what does "Church" refer to? Historically it was the Catholic Church as we typically understand it. And since acknowledgement of the Pope's teaching and spiritual authority is an integral part of the Catholic faith, such an acknowledgement was viewed as part of salvation.

      That perspective has been significantly downplayed in the years since Vatican II, in large part because of the document "Nostra Aetate." In that document, issued by Paul VI in 1965, the Catholic Church stated:

      "other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing 'ways,' comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites. The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ 'the way, the truth, and the life' (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.(4)"

      From this point on, my understanding is that there was a tendency within the Catholic Church to view the "Church" in "outside of the Church no salvation" in the broadest possible terms (the Church as God knows it in the infinite wisdom of the Divine, not as we humans know it). In August 2000, then Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) in his position as head of the Catholic Church's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued the declaration "Dominus Iesus: On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church" that placed greater emphasis on the traditional view of "outside of the Church, no salvation." While the response from outside the Catholic Church to the declaration was not generally positive, several individuals noted that the Cardinal was, in fact, articulating a view that was historically a part of Catholicism and had never been formally renounced. So while the modern Catholic Church may not have emphasized the traditional view in recent years, my understanding is that the teaching itself has never been formally renounced by the Catholic Church.

      Matt Fisher






      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Carl F. Hostetter
      My own understanding, based on extensive reading, is that the Church s position is that it is the only _assured_ way to salvation, but that it of course
      Message 2 of 4 , Jul 12, 2005
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        My own understanding, based on extensive reading, is that the
        Church's position is that it is the only _assured_ way to salvation,
        but that it of course recognizes God's freedom to save anyone He
        chooses, whether through the Church or not. Indeed, to my knowledge,
        the Church has never ("officially", i.e., through the Magesterium)
        taught that _any_ specific person or groups of people are _known_ to
        be damned. (On the other hand, it also can't say for certain that
        those outside the Church _aren't_ damned, or really that anyone even
        within the Church other than the Saints are not damned.) We have the
        assurances given to us by Christ and through him by the Holy Spirit
        and Tradition. But these assurances in no way limit God's freedom to
        work His will as He sees fit for the salvation of anyone.

        In other words, the Church's specific statements on salvation have to
        be considered within a complete context that recognizes God's
        ultimate freedom, not individually. So here, as always, context is
        crucial.

        See <http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2003/0302fea3.asp>:

        "This grace was given in the past without means of baptism—and in
        certain instances it is still given without baptism when people have
        either no knowledge of baptism or no access to it. Acts 10:45–47
        demonstrates unambiguously God giving Cornelius the Holy Spirit (that
        sanctifying grace necessary for salvation) before Cornelius received
        baptism. This was after Christ and the apostles had already preached
        the necessity of faith in Christ and baptism for salvation.

        "Was God then contradicting himself, or was he demonstrating that he
        is God and saves whom he wills? Regardless of God’s reasons for
        making an exception in Cornelius’s case, we still have here a
        biblical example of God going outside the sacrament of baptism to
        give the grace of the Holy Spirit.

        "As was stated recently in Dominus Iesus, those outside the Church
        have a salvific link to the Church, through which all salvation
        comes. What that link is exactly hasn’t been revealed to us. But we
        do know that it exists: Scripture and Tradition attest to its
        existence."

        And <http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/1991/9111chap.asp>:

        "In his recent encyclical Redemptoris Missio, Pope John Paul II
        reiterates this message:

        "Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely
        available to all. But it is clear that today, as in the past, many
        people do not have an opportunity to come to know or accept the
        gospel revelation or to enter the Church. . . . For such people,
        salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while
        having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them
        formally part of the Church, but enlightens them in a way which is
        accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace
        comes from Christ; it is the result of his sacrifice and is
        communicated by the Holy Spirit. It enables each person to attain
        salvation through his or her free cooperation" (no. 10)."

        "That this isn’t an innovation of Vatican II, contrived to fool
        unsuspecting Protestants or sell-out Tridentine Catholic orthodoxy,
        can be seen from Pius IX’s encyclical, Quanto Conficiamur Moerore
        (1863), which states, "We all know that those who suffer from
        invincible ignorance with regard to our holy religion, if they
        carefully keep the precepts of the natural law which have been
        written by God in the hearts of all men, if they are prepared to obey
        God, and if they lead a virtuous and dutiful life, can, by the power
        of divine light and grace, attain eternal life."

        "So the Church hasn’t reversed itself on the salvation of non-
        Catholics. Those who are not in visible communion with Christ’s
        Church may be invisibly united to it by their desire to do all they
        believe God asks of them and by their reliance on his grace to do so.
        Such people are, to use Ronald Knox’s expression, "unconscious
        Catholics."

        "As C. S. Lewis (admittedly not a Catholic) puts it in Mere
        Christianity, "We . . . know that no man can be saved except through
        Christ; we do not know that only those who know him can be saved
        through him."

        And <<http://www.catholic.com/thisrock/2004/0403sbs.asp>
      • Carl F. Hostetter
        As a P.S., and by a chance meeting as we say in Middle-earth, this very question is the topic of a post by Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin today:
        Message 3 of 4 , Jul 12, 2005
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          As a P.S., and by a "chance meeting" as we say in Middle-earth, this
          very question is the topic of a post by Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin
          today:

          http://www.jimmyakin.org/2005/07/the_catholic_ch.html

          "For those who are not aware of the necessity of being Catholic, God
          works with them where they are and graciously makes it possible for
          them to be saved. Because they are not in the Catholic Church,
          however, their salvation is more risky than finding salvation is when
          one has the full means of grace available in the Catholic Church."
        • Patrick Wynne
          I just want to thank both Carl and Matt for taking the time to write such thoughtful (and through-provoking) responses to my query about the Catholic Church s
          Message 4 of 4 , Jul 12, 2005
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            I just want to thank both Carl and Matt for taking the
            time to write such thoughtful (and through-provoking)
            responses to my query about the Catholic Church's
            view of the Pope's role in salvation. There's much
            here to digest!

            -- Pat


            On Jul 12, 2005, at 8:55 AM, Fisher, Matt wrote:

            > Pat Wynne wrote:
            >
            > "This was later reaffirmed by the First Vatican Council in 1869-70,
            > and seems pretty close (at least to this Lutheran's ears) to saying
            > that the Pope is "the only way to God". However, I gather from what
            > Carl has told me in conversations on this topic that the modern
            > Catholic Church no longer holds to this teaching. When was it
            > specifically changed, I wonder? At Vatican Two?"
            >
            > As a non-Roman Catholic Christian teaching at a Roman Catholic
            > college, my understanding from colleagues in the Religious Studies
            > department is that the traditional teaching of Catholicism is
            > "outside of the Church, no salvation" (English translation of a
            > Latin phrase, I don't remember the source of the Latin). The catch
            > is this...what does "Church" refer to? Historically it was the
            > Catholic Church as we typically understand it. And since
            > acknowledgement of the Pope's teaching and spiritual authority is
            > an integral part of the Catholic faith, such an acknowledgement was
            > viewed as part of salvation.
            >
            > That perspective has been significantly downplayed in the years
            > since Vatican II, in large part because of the document "Nostra
            > Aetate." In that document, issued by Paul VI in 1965, the Catholic
            > Church stated:
            >
            > "other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness
            > of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing 'ways,'
            > comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites. The Catholic
            > Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions.
            > She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of
            > life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many
            > aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often
            > reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she
            > proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ 'the way, the truth, and
            > the life' (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of
            > religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.(4)"
            >
            > From this point on, my understanding is that there was a tendency
            > within the Catholic Church to view the "Church" in "outside of the
            > Church no salvation" in the broadest possible terms (the Church as
            > God knows it in the infinite wisdom of the Divine, not as we humans
            > know it). In August 2000, then Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope
            > Benedict XVI) in his position as head of the Catholic Church's
            > Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued the declaration
            > "Dominus Iesus: On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus
            > Christ and the Church" that placed greater emphasis on the
            > traditional view of "outside of the Church, no salvation." While
            > the response from outside the Catholic Church to the declaration
            > was not generally positive, several individuals noted that the
            > Cardinal was, in fact, articulating a view that was historically a
            > part of Catholicism and had never been formally renounced. So while
            > the modern Catholic Church may not have emphasized the traditional
            > view in recen
            > t years, my understanding is that the teaching itself has never
            > been formally renounced by the Catholic Church.
            >
            > Matt Fisher
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            >
            >
            >
            > The Mythopoeic Society website http://www.mythsoc.org
            > Yahoo! Groups Links
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
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