The Catholic Dogma
Necessary to be Read.
St. Paul, in his epistle to St. Timothy, exclaims: "O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding the profane novelties of words, and oppositions of knowledge falsely so called." (l. Tim. vi. 20.)
"Who is at present this Timothy?" asks Vincent of Lerins, and he answers: It is the Body of the Pastors of the Church, and therefore every Pastor must apply these words of St. Paul to himself: O Timothy, O Pastor, O Doctor, O Priest, " Keep that which is committed to thy trust," pure and undefiled, "earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints; " (Jude, v. 3); never depart from the sacred words of God, "once put into thy mouth." (Isai. lix. 21.) "You, therefore," says Bishop Hay, "must never know what it is to temporize in religion, in order to please men, nor to adulterate even one iota of the Gospel of Christ to humor them. You must declare the sacred truths revealed by Jesus Christ in their original simplicity, without seeking to adorn them with the persuasive words of human wisdom, much less disguise them in a garb not their own. Truth, plain and unadorned, is the only weapon you must employ against your adversaries, regardless of their censure or their approbation. ‘This is the truth,’ you must say, ‘revealed by God; this you must embrace, or you can have no part with him.’ If the world looks upon what you say as foolishness, you must not be surprised, for you know that ‘the sensual man perceiveth not the things that are of the spirit of God; for it is foolishness to him, and he cannot understand’ (I. Cor. ii. 14.) ; ‘but that the foolishness of God is wiser than men;’ and pitying this blindness you must earnestly pray to God to enlighten them, ‘with modesty admonishing them . . . if, peradventure, God may give them repentance to know the truth.’ (II. Tim. ii. 25.)
"If there ever was a time when it was especially necessary for every Pastor of the Church to watch over the purity of faith and morals which the Church has entrusted to him, it is the present age and country, in which so many condescensions and compliances are admitted and received at the expense of the purity of Catholic faith and morals, and the narrow way that leads to life is converted, in the opinion of men, to the broad road that leads to destruction.
"This remark applies especially to that latitudinarian principle so common now-a-days, that a man may be saved in any religion, provided he lives a good moral life, according to the light he has; for, by this, the faith of Christ is evacuated, and the Gospel rendered of no avail; a Jew, a Turk, a Heathen, are all comprehended in this scheme, and if they live a good moral life have as good a right to salvation as a Christian!
"To be a member of the Church of Christ is no longer necessary, since, if we lead a good moral life, we are in the state of salvation, whether we belong to her or not! What a wide field does this give to the passions of men! What liberty to all the whims of the human mind! It is therefore of the utmost consequence to state and to show plainly the revealed Catholic truth that ‘there is no salvation out of the Catholic Church.'"
It must be remembered that every Catholic dogma is a revealed truth that has always been held by the Fathers of the Church from the beginning and must, therefore, be interpreted, not according to modern opinions and latitudinarian principles, but according to the faith of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church; and therefore Vincent of Lerins says: "A true Catholic is he who loves the truth revealed by God, who loves the Church, the Body of Christ, who esteems religion, the Catholic faith, higher than any human authority, talents, eloquence, and philosophy; all this he holds in contempt, and remains firm and unshaken in the faith which, he knows, has always from the beginning been held by the Catholic Church; and if he notices that any one, no, matter who he may be, interprets a dogma in a manner different from that of the Fathers of the Church, he understands that God permits such an interpretation to be made, not for the good of religion, but as a temptation, according to the words of St. Paul: ‘For there must be also heresies; that they also, who are reproved, may be made manifest among you.’ (I Cor. xi. 19) ‘And indeed, no sooner are novel opinions proclaimed, than it becomes manifest what kind of a Catholic a man is:’ (Commonit.) Hence, as St. Augustine says, ‘a theologian who is humble, will never teach anything as true Catholic doctrine, unless he is perfectly certain of the truth which he asserts, and proves it from Holy Scripture and the Tradition of the Church.’ Those who have learned theology well,’ says St. Basil, will not allow one iota of Catholic dogmas to be betrayed. They will, if necessary, willingly undergo any kind of death in their defence.’
"They will propose each dogma, especially the all-important dogma, "out of the Church there is No salvation," in the words of the Church and explain it as she understands it; they are most careful not to weaken in the least the meaning of this great dogma, by the way of proposing or explaining it. Why does not St. Paul say: if any one preach to you a Gospel contrary to that instead of beside that which. we have preached to you? ‘It is,’ says St. John Chrysostom, ‘to show us that one is accursed who even indirectly weakens the least truth of the Gospel.’ (Cornelius a Lapide in Epist. ad Gal. I. 8)"
"As there is," says Pius IX., "but one God the Father, one Christ his Son, one Holy Ghost, so there is also only one divinely revealed truth, only one divine faith - the beginning of man's salvation and the foundation of all justification, by which (faith) the just man lives, and without which it is impossible to please God and to be admitted to the Communion of his children; and there is but one true, holy, Catholic, Roman Church and divine teaching Authority, (cathedra) founded upon Peter by the living voice of the Lord, out of which (Church) there is neither the TRUE FAITH nor ETERNAL SALVATION, since no one, can have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his Mother." (Encycl. Letter, March 17, 1856.)
"The Holy Ghost," says St. Augustine, "is to the Body of Christ, which is the Church, what the human soul is to the human body. It is by the soul that each member of the body lives and acts. In like manner, it is by the Holy Ghost that the just man lives and acts. As the soul does not follow a member which is cut off from the body, so, in like manner, does the Holy Ghost not follow a member which has been justly cut off from the Body of Christ. He, therefore, who wishes to obtain life everlasting, must remain vivified by the Holy Ghost; and in order to remain vivified by the Holy Ghost we must keep charity, love the truth, and desire unity." (Serm. 267.) "Therefore no one can find life everlasting except in the Catholic Church." (Serm. ad Caesarenses) "Where unity is wanting, there can be no divine charity. Hence it is that divine charity can be kept only in the Catholic Church." (Contr. lit. Petil., lib. ii., cap. 77.) Now, as no one can obtain salvation without having the spirit of Christ, or divine charity, and as this spirit or divine virtue, which is called the soul of the Church, is kept only in the unity of the Church, it is evident that out of the Church there is positively no salvation.
It must be remembered that every dogma is exclusive, and admits of no interpretation contrary to that which it has received from the beginning. To every dogma, therefore, may be added what Pius IX. added to the definition of the Immaculate Conception of the Ever Blessed Virgin Mary, namely: "Wherefore, if any persons - which God forbid - shall presume.to think in their hearts otherwise than we have defined, let them know that they are condemned by their own judgment, that they have suffered shipwreck in faith, and have fallen away from the unity of the Church."
"Let those, therefore," says Vincent of Lerins, "who have not learned theology well, learn it better; let them try to understand of each dogma as much as they are able, and let them believe what they are not able to understand; let them remember the words of St. Paul: ‘If any one shall teach you anything besides that which you have received, let him be anathema.’ (Ephes. i. 9.) Dediscant bene quod didicerant non bene; et ex toto Ecclesiae dogmate quod intellectu capi potest capiant, quod non potest credant. O Timothee, depositum custodi, devitans prophanas vocum novitates. Si quis vobis annuntiaverit..praeterquam quod accepistis, anathema sit. (Commonit.) "It is according to this Catholic and apostolic spirit that we have endeavored to explain our religion, and especially the great dogma "Out of the Catholic Church there is positively no salvation." But our explanation, it seems, is too Catholic for some individuals, because we have not admitted into it any modern opinions and latitudinarian principles. Believing, therefore, that "they would do a service to God" and to their fellowmen, especially to their separated brethren, they have, through the Buffalo Catholic Union and Times, made known that we have misrepresented Catholic belief concerning the dogma "Out of the Church there is no salvation."
The Right Reverend George Hay, Bishop of Edinburgh,, Scotland, who, when yet a Protestant, took the vow to do all he could to extirpate Popery, wrote a treatise entitled "An Inquiry whether Salvation can be had without true faith and out of the Communion of the Church of Christ." In this treatise, the pious and very learned Prelate of the Church proves most clearly that "out of the true Church no one can be saved," and adds "that it is only of late that that loose way of thinking and speaking about the necessity of true faith, and of being in communion with the Church of Christ, has appeared among the members of the Church, and that this is one of the strongest grounds of its condemnation. It is a novelty, it is a new doctrine; it was unheard of from the beginning; nay, it is directly opposed to the uniform doctrine of all the great lights of the Church in all former ages. It is, therefore; a matter of surprise that anybody should call this point in question; that indeed this can only be accounted for from the general spirit of dissipation and disregard for all religion, which so universally prevails now-a-days; for the first authors of the so-called reformation, and some of their most candid followers, seeing the strong proofs from Scripture for this point, and not finding the smallest foundation in the Sacred Writings to support the contrary, have solemnly acknowledged it, however much it made against themselves; for the Protestant Church of Scotland, in her Confession of Faith, agreed upon by the divines of Westminister, approved by the General Assembly in the year 1646, and ratified by Act of Parliament in 1649, in the chapter on the Church speaks thus, "The visible Church, which is also Catholic or universal under the gospel (not confined to one nation, as before, under the law), consists of all those throughout the world that profess the true religion, and of their children, and is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, the house and family of God, out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation." (Confession of Faith chap. xxv.)
"But their predecessors in the preceding century, when the Presbyterian religion first began in Scotland, speak no less clearly on the same subject; for in their Confession of Faith, authorized by Parliament in the year 1560, ‘ as a doctrine grounded upon the infallible word of God,’ they speak thus, Article xvi.: ‘As we believe in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, so we do most constantly believe, that from the beginning there hath been, and now is, and to the end of the world shall be one Kirk - that is to say, one company and multitude of men, chosen by God, who rightly worship and embrace him by true faith in Jesus Christ;. . . which Kirk is Catholic - that is, universal; because it containeth the elect of all ages, etc.: out of which Kirk there is neither life nor eternal felicity: and therefore we utterly abhor the blasphemy of them that affirm that men who live according to equity and justice shall be saved, what religion so-ever they have professed.’ This confession of the original Kirk of Scotland was reprinted and published in Glasgow in the year 1771, from which this passage is taken. Calvin himself confesses the same truth, in these words, speaking of the visible Church: ‘Out of its bosom,’ says he, ‘no remission of sins, no salvation is to be hoped for, according to Isaiah, Joel, and Ezekiel; . . . so that it is always highly pernicious to depart from the Church;’ and this he affirms in his Institutions themselves, B. iv., c: 1, § 4.
We shall add one testimony more, which is particularly strong;.it is of Dr. Pearson, a Bishop of the Church of England, in his exposition of the Creed, edit. 1669, where he says, ‘The necessity of believing the Catholic Church appeared, first, in this, that Christ hath appointed it as the only way to eternal life. We read at the first, Acts ii. 47, "That the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved:" and what was then daily done hath been done since continually. Christ never appointed two ways to heaven; nor did he build a Church to save some, and make another institution for other men's salvation (Acts iv. 10): "There is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved, but the name of Jesus;" and that name is not otherwise given under heaven than in the Church. As none were saved from the deluge but such as were within the ark of Noe, framed for their reception by the command of God; as none of the first-born of Egypt lived but such as were within those habitations whose door-posts were sprinkled with blood, by the appointment of God, for their preservation; as none of the inhabitants of Jericho could escape the fire or sword, but such as were within the house of Rahab, for whose protection a covenant was made; - so NONE shall ever escape the eternal wrath of God who belong not to the Church of God.’ Behold how far the force of truth prevailed among the most eminent members of the Reformation before latitudinarian principles had crept in among them!
"It is true, indeed, that, though the founders of these Churches, convinced by the repeated and evident testimonies of the Word of God, professed this truth, and inserted it in the public standards of their religion, yet their posterity now disclaim it, and accuse the Catholic Church of being uncharitable for holding it; but this only shows their inconsistency, and proves that they are devoid of all certainty in what they believe; for if it was a divine truth, when these religions were founded, that out of the true Church, and without the Catholic faith, there is no salvation, it must be so still; and if their first founders were mistaken on this point, what security can their followers now have for any other thing they taught? But the Catholic Church, always consistent and uniform in her doctrine, always preserving the words once put in her mouth by her Divine Master, at all times and in all ages has believed and taught the same doctrine as a truth revealed by God, that ‘out of the true Church of Christ, and without his true faith, there is there is no possibility of salvation;’ and the most authentic public testimony of her enemies proves that this is the doctrine of Jesus, and of his holy Gospel, whatever private persons, from selfish and interested motives, may say to the contrary. ‘What a reproach must this be before the judgment-seat of God to those members of the Church of Christ who call in question or seek to invalidate this great and fundamental truth, the very fence and barrier of the true religion; which is so repeatedly declared by God in his Holy Scriptures, professed by the Church of Christ in all ages, attested in the strongest terms by the most eminent lights of Christianity, and candidly acknowledged by the most celebrated writers and divines of the Reformation! Will not every attempt to weaken the importance of this divine truth be considered by the great God as betraying his cause and the interests of his holy faith? and will those who do so be able to plead even their favorite invincible ignorance in their own defence before him?’ (From Sincere Christian, American Edition.)
But let us hear a greater Authority speaking, on this all-important subject.
In his Encyclical Letters, dated Dec. 8, 1849; Dec.. 8, 1864; and Aug. 10, 1863, and in his Allocution on Dec. 9, 1854: Pope Pius IX. says: -
"It is not without sorrow that we have learned another not less pernicious error, which has been spread in several parts of Catholic countries, and has been imbibed by many Catholics, who are of opinion that all those who are not at all members of the true Church of Christ, can be saved: Hence they often discuss the question concerning the future fate and condition of those who die without having professed the Catholic faith, and give the most frivolous reasons in support of their wicked opinion . . . . .
"It is indeed of faith that no one can be saved outside of the Apostolic, Roman Church; that this Church is the one ark of salvation; that he who has not entered it, will perish in the deluge....
"We must mention and condemn again that most pernicious error, which has been imbibed by certain Catholics, who are of the opinion that those people who live in error and have not the true faith, and are separated from Catholic unity, may obtain life everlasting. Now this opinion is most contrary to Catholic faith, as is evident from the plain words of our Lord, (Matt. xviii. 17 ; Mark xvi. 16; Luke x. 16; John iii. 18) as also from the words of St. Paul, (II. Tim. Iii. 11) and of St. Peter (II. Peter. ii. 1). To entertain opinions contrary to this Catholic faith is to be an impious wretch.
"We therefore again reprobate, proscribe, and condemn all and every one of these perverse opinions and doctrines, and it is our absolute will and command that all sons of the Catholic Church shall hold them as reprobated, proscribed, and condemned. It belongs to our Apostolic office to rouse your Episcopal zeal and watchfulness to do all in your power to banish from the minds of the people such impious and pernicious opinions, which lead to indifference of religion, which we behold spreading more and more, to the ruin of souls. Oppose all your energy and zeal to these errors and employ zealous priests to impugn and annihilate them, and to impress very deeply upon the minds and hearts of the faithful the great dogma of our most holy religion, that salvation can be had only in the Catholic faith. Often exhort the clergy and the faithful to give thanks to God for the great gift of the Catholic faith."
Now is it not something very shocking to see such condemned errors and perverse opinions proclaimed as Catholic doctrine in a Catholic newspaper, and in books written and recently published by Catholics?
We have, therefore, deemed it our duty to make a strong, vigorous, and uncompromising presentation of the great and fundamental truth, the very fence and barrier of the true religion, "OUT OF THE CHURCH THERE IS POSITIVELY NO SALVATION," against those soft, weak, timid, liberalizing Catholics who labor to explain away all the points of Catholic faith offensive to non-Catholics, and to make it appear that there is no question of life and death, of heaven and hell, involved in the differences between us and Protestants.
Not to free your neighbor from religious errors, says Pope Leo, when it is in your power to do so, is to show to be in error yourself, and "therefore," says Pope Gregory, "he whose duty it is to correct his neighbor when he is in fault, and yet omits to make the correction, makes himself guilty of the faults of his neighbor." "Indeed," says Pope Innocent III. of those whose duty it is to keep the deposit of faith pure and undefiled, "not to oppose erroneous doctrine is to approve of it, and not to defend at all true doctrine is to suppress it."