Extra Ecclesiam, Ecclesia

“All the way to heaven is heaven.”  ~ Catherine of Siena

“You got any change, man?”

I’d only made it a few blocks from the Denver Sheraton, and I’d already heard that request three times. “Sorry, I’m tapped out,” I mumbled.

“That’s OK,” he replied with a smile as bright as his big orange Broncos sweater. Something in his tone made me think it really was OK, so I hazarded my own request. “Can you tell me how far up the Cathedral is?”

“Sure,” he said. “Just a couple blocks more, and then one block over. Can’t miss it.”

I was in Denver for a conference—downtown, near Capitol Hill. The conference was well worth the trip, but the schedule was pretty packed every day, sunup to sundown. In fact, I had to duck out early from one of the Sunday morning sessions and hoof it double time to the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception so I could get to Mass.

The Basilica was up a ways on Colfax at Logan, and if my trek was any indication, the neighborhood hadn’t changed much in the quarter century since I lived in Colorado. Gritty, a bit raw, the Basilica’s immediate vicinity retains a rough edge despite loads of redevelopment and rezoning. You see it in the mix of storefronts along Colfax—bars and sandwich joints mingling with upscale dining and boutiques—and you see it in the immense variety of folks on the street from all walks of life. The whole scene reminded me of 1980s NYC and Chicago; it was a homecoming in more ways than one.

I reached the Cathedral just in time for Mass and approached the west transept entrance on Logan to avoid the crowd at the main entrance on Colfax. Immediately across the street was the Fork & Spoon, and I couldn’t help pausing to admire their mural on the wall opposite the church. It was a tribute to Jack Kerouac, featuring the beat author’s profile along with a quote from a Buddhist-inspired letter he wrote his first wife, Edie Parker. “Practice kindness all day to everybody,” the quotation read, “and you will realize you’re already in heaven now.”

Was it an intentional challenge to the Cathedral across the street and its habitués? The mural’s placement could be interpreted as a rebuke, or perhaps a wake-up call to the hoodwinked faithful. Alternatively, it could be argued that Kerouac’s Catholic upbringing led him to unconsciously represent the very teaching of the Church herself. About seven years after Kerouac wrote his letter, the Council Fathers had this to say in Lumen Gentium:

Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.

If that’s the case, though, why go to Mass at all? And why endure the rigors of the Church’s moral requirements when you can just be nice and achieve the same result—hand out a few coins on the street, for example, and call it a day, à la Kerouac?

Why indeed.

I entered the Cathedral anyway.

People were filing in, finding their places in the pews. It was a typical cathedralish cross section of the population: Families, individuals here and there, regulars and visitors, random groupings of people that defied easy classification. I grabbed a seat on the aisle right in front of a transept pillar—it was close by and adequately inconspicuous for a visitor. On my right was a group of folks that were apparently related—a father, it seemed, with his grand, white, Amish-like beard, along with his clan. In front, a couple with a toddler in tow, and a young woman, stylishly attired and sitting by herself. Mass was just about to get under way….

*Whoosh!* A rolled-up newspaper flapped in front of my face. I turned in the direction of the flap, and there was a woman with multiple layers of clothing and shopping bags, clearly annoyed, waving her paper at me as she walked by. I think she was indicating that I had usurped her usual pew for Sunday Mass, but by the time I figured that out, she’d already taken a seat a couple rows ahead of me.

Stealing somebody’s regular pew is a major breach of Mass attendance protocol, but what could I do? Figuring I’d only make matters worse if I tried to rectify the situation, I stayed put. It was a good call for nothing else came of it, and I think she even acknowledged me at the sign of peace. In a way, by overlooking the unintended affront, she in effect became my host, and I, her guest, the recipient of her sacrificial hospitality—almost like an estranged family member whom she welcomed home.

The Gospel that day reflected a similar theme. It was Jesus’ parable about the wedding feast where all the seats ended up being filled by outsiders and hoi polloi:

Then he said to his servants, ‘The feast is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy to come. Go out, therefore, into the main roads and invite to the feast whomever you find.’

Among other things, that image of a wedding feast and invitations assumes that God’s kingdom has boundaries and limits—it’s a party, to be sure, but not a free-for-all. Extra ecclesiam nulla salus goes the ancient patristic dictum—“outside the church there is no salvation.” This is still the teaching of the Church, although the Catechism frames it in a new way:

Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body.

The institutional, big “C” Church is of divine origin, but it has boundaries and edges because it’s run and inhabited by finite humans. It’s like the Basilica itself, which has walls and doors; the liturgy as well, with a beginning, a middle, and an end; there are rules and standards and expectations for those who wish to be a part of these things.

The small “c” church catholic, however, is a mystical body, with boundaries known to God alone. Its membership, unlike the visible Church, isn’t always clear cut. The normal way people attach to that body is through the Sacraments and practicing the Faith, but apparently there are other ways as well—and that’s only God’s business.

In other words, outside the visible Church there’s likely a good deal of invisible church (or at least potential church), but we just don’t always have the eyes to see it—yet. In any case, since we can’t know who’s in the invisible church, those of us inside the visible one have a duty to welcome in everybody, no matter what. Lumen Gentium continues along these lines:

Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, “Preach the Gospel to every creature,” the Church fosters the missions with care and attention.

All Christians have a hand in this to be sure, although as laity our preaching can take many forms. Primarily, we preach through our acts of charity and service, through caring for our families and neighbors, through working hard to improve our little corners of the world—living our lives, that is, in a way that always invites rather than excludes. The more we do that, the more we literally extend heaven to those around us, deepening our own interior affinity for heaven in the process.

The irony, of course, is that many of those folks on the outside are already doing this very thing.

The recessional hymn concluded, and following a brief prayer of thanksgiving, I genuflected and exited my pew with a glance at my watch—just enough time to get back for the start of the next conference presentation. There was a light rain outside, and I made sure to slow down and hold onto the handrail as I descended the slippery stone staircase from the west transept door.

Right behind me was an elderly couple, and the woman was attempting the navigate the stairs with a cane. She was doing alright with her husband’s help, but I stuck around just in case—and I wasn’t the only one. An usher and another man stood at the top of the stairs watching the couple take each step. Once the woman made it to the sidewalk, the two men nodded to me as if we three had all been part of a covert stair-descent safety team, and then they re-entered the church.

Nothing particularly virtuous about our watching out for that woman—pretty much any decent soul would’ve done the same. And that’s the point—we’re all in this together, insiders and outsiders alike.

Jack was surely onto something.

Editor’s note: This essay first appeared October 19, 2014 on the author’s blog “God-Haunted Lunatic” and is reprinted with permission. The image above titled “The Good Samaritan” was painted by Vincent van Gogh in 1890.

Richard Becker

By

Richard Becker is a husband, father of seven, nursing instructor, and religious educator. He blogs regularly at God-Haunted Lunatic.

  • OneTimothyThreeFifteen

    Unfortunately, here in England, those ‘New Evangelicals’ who believe in Extra ecclesiam nulla salus, rather than seeing, ‘Extra Ecclesiam, Ecclesiam’ as here, see themselves as an ‘Ecclesiola in Ecclesia’, like the Protestant Pietists of old.

    They act like a group of elitist super-apostles, who’s job it is to fix everybody else ‘in the pews’. They are a coterie rather than the Church which eschews any authority which doesn’t agree with its own viewpoint, putting their catechists into the position of Bishop (‘as so many of our Bishops are nasty Modernists, teaching error’), as it were.

    This ‘New Evangelism’ is infected with Vorisism, and the reason I’m so sensitive is that, as an ex-Evangelical, it’s a sense of deja vu. Whenever this happened, it didn’t build up, it split congregations. All the smiles of these Evangelical ‘true Christians’ tasted of vinegar. They didn’t woo, they just preyed on the vulnerable or those of a highly emotional bent.

    • St JD George

      I think all Richard was trying to say is that we are all in this together, meaning we are created in the likeness and image of God and his 2nd greatest commandment as we heard again last Sunday was to love one another. The problem in this world is that people mistake love for only kindness and warm fuzzy feelings and forget that true love comes from having a relationship with Jesus Christ. Sometimes that requires reminding others of their sinful behavior and to go and sin no more, as we reflect on our own short comings with compassion. Otherwise, we are nothing more than an enabler.

      • Vinny

        Give to Caesar what is his and to God what is His. WE are God’s so we need to act like it.

        • St JD George

          Indeed, we are held to a high standard, and our detractors are very happy to exploit every misstep.

    • St JD George

      I love the Catholic church, despite all the warts and missteps that the people who follow have made. I’m mindful that it is not the only way to follow Christ. Still, when I drive around and see the multitude of ambiguous names like Green Tree Spiritual Center I wonder what do they preach? It seems to me that the reformation mostly unleashed the hounds with elements of humanism, at least in the sense that the schisms all want to cling to what they believe are their own set of truths.

    • R. K. Ich

      A little historical perspective is in order, to be sure. The Protestant Reformers and the 16th century Roman Catholic Church all agreed in principle on Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus. Calvin is especially clear on this point in his Institutes.

      Only within the last 50 or so years has it become super impolite (“unpastoral”) to suggest those outside the communion might not be saved at all. It’s a remarkable megashift brought upon churches as a whole (Protestant and Catholic) that now entertains all kinds of theories which make it really hard to be considered outside of grace. (I attribute it to the loss of belief in the primacy of the Sacred Scriptures, and subsequent desconstructionism. A good friend of mine and his wife now going through RCIA, who are evangelicals–they are positively puzzled by the relative biblical illiteracy and hyper-elevation of textual criticism).

      My family and I are in the process of exploring union with Rome. We’ve not shaken one iota the conviction that those outside the church are imperiled and need the saving message of the Cross. I am a traditional Anglican/Protestant in that regard. I fear I’d be one of those annoying converts who feel compelled to share Christ with Muslims, Jews, and Hereticks of all stripes, for fear they are doomed otherwise. Nothing in the new Catechism or post Vatican II can make me think otherwise: the New Testament and testimony of the Fathers and Doctors are far too numerous to undo the conviction.

      However, I do share your distaste for the fruit inspectors within the church who are trying to tease out who the real elect are. That’s quite a different problem that ought to be addressed. However, my hat tip to the SSPXers and serious traditionalists who take seriously their own theology. I would never consider communion with Rome based on the fluff I’ve been reading these last two decades on the “spirit of Vatican 2” (whatever that wax nose means to whichever group). My serious considerations of Rome comes out of Trent and really the first 1800 years of Rome’s decrees.

      Congratulations on your conversion to Catholicism, by the way!

      • Thanks for your thoughtful response, R.K. I think we might agree on more than you think.

        For example, I have no problem (nor does the Church) in suggesting that those outside of full Catholic communion might not be saved at all. Of course, there’s no hesitation in suggesting the same status for all of us who are in full communion as well.

        The key there is the word “might,” and that’s what compels us to share the Gospel with our friends, coworkers, and neighbors – and those far off around the world as well. Here’s a relevant passage from Lumen Gentium:

        ‘But often men,
        deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have
        exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the
        Creator. Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God,
        are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure
        the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, “Preach
        the Gospel to every creature”, the Church fosters the missions with
        care and attention’ (LG 17).

        Everyone can be saved – most through the ordinary means of salvation (i.e., the Church, the Sacraments, the Faith), but some through extraordinary means known to God alone (LG 16). Still, out of charity and justice, those of us fortunate enough to be Catholic ought to do everything possible to persuasively proclaim the fullness of the Faith to those in our circle of influence. We’ve been blessed with all that Christ intended us to have with regards to “working out our own salvation.” It is incumbent upon us to demonstrate our gratitude to him by spreading the Word.

        • R. K. Ich

          Thank you for those words. I’ve long known there’s a spectrum of attitudes within the Roman communion about this. Yours is more sane and closer to what I’ve traditionally understood Scripture and the Fathers had been saying.

          I agree that, because God is not bound by the Church and the Sacraments, anyone might be saved; but the normal means of conversion comes, as St. Paul said, by hearing the word of faith, and that is not heard unless preachers are sent (Rom. 10). So all the speculation about who might make it outside the normal means of salvation is really a non-starter for us. We are compelled to preach because (1) the Great Commission is not an option; (2) it glorifies the Triune God; and (3) men’s souls really depend on this proximate cause of salvation, namely the ministry of the Church.

          If people get offended by the exclusive claims of Christ and His Church, I really, really, reeeeallly don’t care at all. Jesus arguably was crucified for his exclusiveness as touching the source of men’s salvation. At the end of the day it really isn’t our business where God *might* be at work outside the normal means of grace. He hasn’t given that to us to know. But what we *do* know is where and how and from Whom men might have their sins forgiven. That’s the sole domain of our concern.

          The real rub comes in how this works itself out among the average layman. Depending on which flavor is prominent in any given church or diocese, I’ve seen blatant virtual universalism afoot propagated from the clergy downward, and frankly it’s rotten. Your brand of EENS doesn’t worry me so much, and I pray it becomes the majority belief.

          • On this Rock…

            Might I suggest that you look into Catholicism.org and what they have to say about the doctrine of Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus? Basically, it means what it says…The statement that God is not bound is a mere truism. God is not bound by anything unless He chooses to be bound, as He does by the new covenant sacraments – by the Church He founded to pass on the faith through all time. That He will find extraordinary (read miraculous) means (as in the case of Cornelius and his household or with an angel as in Acts 8:26-40 or in the numerous examples of the great missionary saints like St Francis Xavier) to ensure that the just will be baptised into the one true faith is beyond question but the necessity of belonging to His Church is absolute. Some more stories from the life of St. Columba, the Apostle of Scotland, written by his disciple St. Adaman:

            “One day while labouring in his evangelical work in the principal island of the Hebrides, the one which lies nearest to the mainland, he cried out all at once, ‘My sons, today you will see an ancient Pictish chief, who has kept faithfully all his life the precepts of the natural law, arrive in this island; he comes to be baptized and to die.’ Immediately after, a boat was seen to approach the shore with a feeble old man seated in the prow, who was recognized as the chief of one of the neighboring tribes. Two of his companions brought him before the missionary, to whose words, as repeated by the interpreter, he listened attentively. When the discourse was ended the old man asked to be baptized, and immediately breathed his last breath, and was buried in the very spot where he had just been brought to shore.”

            “At a later date, in one of his last missions, when, himself an old man, he traveled alongthe banks of Loch Ness, always in the district north of the mountain range of the Dorsum Britanniae, he said to his disciples who accompanied him, ‘Let us make haste and meet the angels who have come down from heaven, and who await for us beside a Pict who has done well according to the natural law during his whole life to extreme old age; we must baptize him before he dies.’ Then hastening his steps outstripping his disciples, as much as was possible at his great age, he reached a retired valley, now called Glen Urquart, where he found the old man who awaited him. Here was no longer any need of an interpreter, which makes it probable that Columba in his old age had learned the Pictish dialect. The old Pict heard him preach, was baptized, and with joyful serenity gave up to God the soul who was awaited by those angels whom Columba saw.” 13

            Here are the de fide definitions….the other authorities are just too numerous and show the constant teaching of the Church….

            Pope Innocent III and Lateran Council IV [1] (A.D. 1215): “One indeed is the universal Church of the faithful
            outside which no one at all is saved…”

            Pope Boniface VIII in his Papal Bull Unam Sanctam [2] (A.D. 1302): “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 Eugene IV and the Council of Florence [3] (A.D. 1438 – 1445): “[The most Holy Roman Church] 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.”
            The problem with positive formulations is that they are right in what they say but lend themselves to incorrect interpretation which is why Thomistic language has (until Vatican II) always been the language of the Church…it does not admit of exceptions. For instance, if one says ‘All men have immortal souls’ this is indeed true but does not preclude the possibility of animals having them too. If, however, one says ‘Only men have immortal souls’ this is clear and precise in conveying that animals don’t.

            • R. K. Ich

              I’m an old school reader. I have hundreds of books in my library, and scores of them attest to all you’ve written. Thank you for your post.

              • On this Rock…

                The privilege is mine – thank you. May God bless and keep you and bring you and your family safely into His One True Fold…

      • DE-173

        I keep telling you R.K., get in the boat and grab an oar.

        • R. K. Ich

          Well, if it means anything — we’re attending St. Agnes Catholic Church in St. Paul, MN now. They have a wonderful orchestral Mass all year except for summer (that means Vivaldi, Palestrina, Mozart, Bach, etc. are played regularly). Latin Masses in both OF and EF. My wife is being wonderfully received by a host of pious and loving catholic moms. And our boys will be enrolled at the school (one of the top 50 Catholic schools in the country!) And what I love especially, NO MOVABLE ALTARS/TABLES! Everything is fixed, and celebrated ad orientem, as every good Anglo-Catholic knows it ought to be.

          If anything, we’re being loved into the Communion in ways beyond words.

          I don’t know how much longer this English catholic can take it. RCIA is looming round the corner for almost for sure.

          Thanks, DE-173, for you any prayers you might have offered on our behalf. You have my email address (and I think my phone number too). Feel free to call me up and check on my progress.

  • AcceptingReality

    I don’t know, I think that just maybe there’s more to heaven than being nice. Seriously, do you think a nice gesture produced by a euphoric feeling from attending Mass is the essence of heaven? How about contrition, mercy and transformation?

    • Daniel P

      The article wasn’t about being nice. It was about kindness. Kindness is a virtue. Niceness isn’t.

      • Michael Paterson-Seymour

        The great Dominican, Père Henri-Dominique Lacordaire OP remarked, “It is not genius, nor glory, nor love that reflects the greatness of the human soul; it is kindness.”

        • James Stagg

          Agreed! To which I add this advice from St. Basil:

          “A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.”

  • s;vbkr0boc,klos;

    “The look of kindness is that of one receiving a favor rather than conferring it.”
    – Father Faber, “On Kindness” from his treasure of a book “Spiritual Conferences”

  • Tamsin

    Very nice meditation on boundaries, visible and invisible. Thanks.

    • Thanks.

    • Steve D.

      “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.”
      Eugene IV, Council of Florence, 1441

      • quisutDeusmpc

        Letter of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI To the Bishops of the Catholic Church Concerning the Remission of the Excommunication of the Four Bishops Consecrated by Archbishop Lefebvre

        …The fact that the Society of Saint Pius X does not possess a canonical status in the Church is not, in the end, based on disciplinary but on doctrinal reasons. As long as the Society does not have a canonical status in the Church, its ministers do not exercise legitimate ministries in the Church. There needs to be a distinction, then, between the disciplinary level, which deals with individuals as such, and the doctrinal level, at which ministry and institution are involved. In order to make this clear once again: until the doctrinal questions are clarified, the Society has no canonical status in the Church, and its ministers – even though they have been freed of the ecclesiastical penalty – do not legitimately exercise any ministry in the Church….

        • Steve D.

          I’m not a member of the SSPX, nice strawman.

          • quisutDeusmpc

            Then we are left with the probable options of sedevacantist or Feeneyite.

            • quisutDeusmpc

              By the way, it would help to provide the historical context for quotes. For example Pope Martin V called the ecumenical Council of Florence (actually convoked as the Council of Basel in February of 1431) in response to two crises facing the Church: the Hussite wars (Jan Hus was a Czech priest and one of the precursors to the Protestant Reformation, following in the footsteps of John Wycliffe in England of the 1380’s. Following his condemnation for heresy and schism at the Council of Constance, his followers rose up in war and defeated five consecutive Crusades) and the rise of the Ottoman Empire (the empire of the Muslim Seljuk Turks which toppled the Byzantine Empire at the Fall of Constantinople in 1453). In addition to those external threats beginning in the 1300’s, the idea arose that supreme authority in the Church resided in an ecumenical council, known as ‘conciliarism’. The movement arose because of the confusion that flowed out of the rival claimants to the chair of St. Peter in the ‘Great Western Schism’. Seen in that historical light (over a century of rival claimants to the throne, self appointed ‘reformers’ / splinter groups (John Wycliffe/the Lollards, Jan Hus/Hussites) and the seeming rebirth of Islam, it is no wonder that a call would be made for unity. Nevertheless, the Church has always affirmed, from the time of Christ, the ‘baptism of blood’ and the ‘baptism of desire’. In addition, in the sacred Scriptures themselves, both in our Lord’s discourse at Matthew 19, and St. Paul’s discourse at Romans 2, even those outside the ‘household of faith’ but with good will attempt to ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself’ are accepted by God.

            • Steve D.

              Another lie, you give yourself away.

              • quisutDeusmpc

                Lie? what lie, first of all. And what is “another” lie?

  • publiusnj

    The title more properly would be “Extra Ecclesiam, Ecclesia.” Because it is the subject of the understood verb “est,” the second “ecclesiam” should be in the nominative case (“ecclesia”) not the accusative which is proper as the object of the preposition “extra.”

    Onto substance! Is there “church” outside what I have always thought of (along with Lenny Bruce) as “the Church”? If our current pope continues in his openness to the possibility of welcoming Kasper’s favorites, Divorced and Remarried communicants who remain obstinately and without repentance in their “second marriages,” I think the “Extra Ecclesiam Ecclesia” may be getting far larger.

    That is an alarming possibility for this former ultramontane, but the Pope seems intent on going down this very disreputable course which expressly contravenes Section 1650 of the CCC. The CCC, of course, was sponsored by the Saint-Pope who made Francis bishop, archbishop and cardinal. Saint John Paul’s CCC notes: “If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God’s law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists.” The Law Kasper’s proposal objectively contravenes is a law which Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Ever Living God expressly dictated despite a laxer Jewish practice on divorce (Mark 10:2-12).

    • R. K. Ich

      My Latin radar alert system also went off there! Glad you mentioned something.

    • Re: the Latin – Mea culpa! Thanks for the correction.

      Re: the substance – I appreciate your concerns about what would seem to be a revolution in Church doctrine if the recalcitrant divorced and remarried are allowed to communicate, but I’m with Jimmy Akin in discounting its likelihood: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/jimmy-akin/is-pope-francis-going-to-let-the-divorced-and-remarried-receive-communion

      I converted to Catholicism (instead of Orthodoxy) because I was convinced that the Pope was Peter and that Jesus left Peter in charge. I’m still convinced, and I’m willing to let the dust settle on all these synod-related matters before getting too worked up about anything.

      Anyway, it’s certainly true that the whole controversy is a good reminder that we need to be praying for the Holy Father and our bishops on a regular basis – like daily I’m thinking.

      • publiusnj

        I converted to Catholicism during the course of the 1946 World Series (the 6th Game was going on when my godmother carried me to Church for my baptism). I have always been ultramontane and one of the best proofs of the Truth of the Catholic Church to me,as a person who came to adulthood during the 1960s when Liberalized Divorce was being adopted throughout the USA, was the Church’s position on Divorce-Remarriage. Unlike the Protestants or the Eastern Orthodox, the Holy Catholic Church lived up to Christ’s Teaching by clearly labeling remarriage as objectively in contravention of God’s law (See CCC 1650; Mark 10:2-12).

        I read the article by Jimmy Akin. I am not persuaded because he does not address either the Pope’s supportive words for Kasper’s proposal or his suggestion that we look at the Eastern Orthodox practice or the interim relatio released by the editorial committee whose liberal biases resulted from the fact that the Pope had only appointed liberals.

        I agree that the Pope and the Synod and the Church need our prayers, but they also need to hear from us about the alarm many of us feel when we hear a Pope who is sounding rather un-Catholic. I hasten to add that I feel very uncomfortable saying anything “critical about” the Pope because I am very ultramontane and some of my favorite life moments have been when I have been at papal events: in 1979 (the youth Rally at Madison Square Garden with one of my children); 1988 (a window Angelus); 1995 or so (Mass in Giants Stadium); 2000 (Easter Sunday Morning Mass in St. Peter’s Square); 2008 (Mass at Yankee Stadium); 2010 (another window Angelus). Nevertheless, I think we need to speak up to give comfort to the bishops who are opposing the propsals contained in the interim relatio that failed to pass.

    • Thomas Banks

      There is a great deal of worry about the Holy Father’s intentions respecting the issue of Holy Communion being opened to the divorced. Things like this lead me to believe that such concerns, honest though they no doubt are, will prove to have been unfounded: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/what-is-being-proposed-is-not-marriage-pope-calls-for-defense-of-family-12766/

      • publiusnj

        I read the article but it reminds me a bit of Bill Clinton’s reaction when he got push-back on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. He agreed to sign the Defense of Marriage Act (although he disagreed with it in some respects), but, since then, he has come out in favor of Gay Marriage although DOMA made it very clear that states could hold onto Opposite Sex Marriage only schemata. In other words, it is very easy to sound one way while pushing for the other way. IOW, the Pope can sound very pro-family without rejecting Kasper’s proposal, but Kasper’s Proposal is very cleqarly in total contravention of the long-standing Tradition of the Church.

        So, the Pope needs to tell the Church that Kasper’s proposal is off the table and that he agrees with the long-standing Catholic position on the issue of No Communion for Remarried Divorced persons. Until he does, he needs constant protest from the Faithful, as well as prayer for the Church.

    • Crisiseditor

      Thank you for the correction. On matters of Latin, I defer to Crisis readers who are an educated bunch.

    • LATIN UPDATE: Once again, “publiusnj,” I’m grateful for the correction on “ecclesiam” vs. “ecclesia” in my original title, and I’m glad Crisis adjusted it accordingly.

      However, I had this personal reply from Tom Du Toit, my kids’ Latin teacher, that’s worth considering:

      “Latin often omits any number of words from a sentence, as long as the context can justify it. Your title might have been extra ecclesiam (invenimus) ecclesiam – outside the church (we find) the church. In the latter example, ecclesiam becomes the direct object of invenimus.”

      Obviously, that’s not what I’d intended — my construction was predicated on a gut sense more than formal translation — but I like it all the same, for it serves to highlight an important part of my argument.

      To wit: While the visible Church (capital “C”) is the ordinary means of sanctification, there are nonetheless elements of the universal (small “c”) church “to be found” (invenimus) outside the Church’s formal structure. Church and church, in other words, are not identical (est), but are certainly soteriologically contiguous.

      • publiusnj

        “Invenimus”? That certainly is “inventive.” The distinction you profess to see between “we find church outside the Church” and “church is outside the Church,” though, seems one without difference to me.

  • ColdStanding

    If we do not have eyes to see it, there are two possible reasons a) if we had the “eyes” to see it we would. This would be a case of spiritual blindness. Or b) there isn’t anything to see. This would be a case of not being able to see what isn’t actually there because there isn’t anything to see. Let none be tempted to idle curiosity or speculation unwarranted by our station in life.

    Indeed, allowing the propagation of the idea of salvation outside of the Church is a prospect that should induce a greater degree of horror than the idea of waiting for one’s death bead to convert or confess one’s sins. Deathbed conversions are an extra ordinary grace. At least there is some evidence of deathbed conversions, there is absolutely zero evidence of salvation outside of the Church.

    If you encounter some evidence of good will in someone and that person has the grave misfortune not to be visibly united with the One, Holy, Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, it is incumbent upon you to pray to our Savior, Jesus Christ that the judgement against them be lifted and that they be brought into visible communion.

    We all, to a man, are lukewarm in our faith. Let the searing pain of the Catholic Truth: Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus, put some holy zeal for the salvation of souls in your heart! Let this be a warning to you, least He Who has the authority to damn our souls find us wanting and send us to the left with the goats.

    Pray to God, right now! that you will gain the grace to one day hear “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

  • Mow the lawn, pay taxes, yield to traffic, work hard and then… hell is likely a possibility.

    • GKChesterton

      Ebenezer Scrooge? The Prodigal Son’s brother?

      • Steve D.

        You forgot to accuse him of being a Pharisee as well.

  • M

    This is a beautiful and inspiring piece. Thank you!

  • al dubois

    The article did not mention Father Leonard Feeney, and his saintly followers who proclaimed this truth in the last century.. His prophetic insight into this Dogma now has hundreds of religious and millions of followers especially through the magazine Housetops. . Anyone interested in the Catholic faith should visit anyone of these holy places, attend Mass, and the offices, and visit his grave-site in Still River Massachusetts

    • CMLD3

      Yes indeed Al. I live in England or else I would be there. One day this priest will be canonised.

  • Mike

    As much as I love the Medieval era, I am not at all concerned with  proclamations of Pope Boniface VIII, that he made in response to his feud with Phillip IV, acting like a secular king more concerned with increasing his power then a Shepard of the flock. 

    Yes, the church has changed its teaching. “Baptism of Desire” merely serves as yet another way for the church to get around it’s traditional teaching. 

    Jesus did say “no one comes to the father except through me”. We can debate what that means until the cows come home. Pheraps Boniface was right. I guess we will have to wait and see. If I were a betting man though, I would guess that “traditional” Catholics will be surprised when they find out who is in heaven. 

    • CMLD3

      You must concern yourself with the proclamation, Mike. It is ex cathedra on this dogma and must be believed as being part of divine and Catholic faith.

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