Salvation Outside the Church

by John Pacheco


It has been three decades now since the winds of the Second Vatican Council have swept the Catholic world. It requires no brilliant mind to discern that the smoke of Satan has indeed entered the Church as Pope Paul VI had observed a short time after the Council's conclusion. The nefarious 'Spirit of Vatican II', which became an euphemism for the Modernists to usurp the authority of the Magisterium and gut the truth, has settled down rather nicely these past thirty years. This pernicious Modernism, which Pius X called the "synthesis of all heresies" (Pascendi Dominici Gregis, 1907 A.D.), has indeed inflicted disaster on the Church in our sorry century.

Throughout Christianity, there have been a multitude of heresies attacking the deposit of Apostolic faith. In some instances, the attempt to put down one heresy resulted in the development of another heresy whose beliefs were in the opposite direction to its precursor. This was the case with Nestorianism, Monophysitism, and Monothelitism.

Nestorius impugned the divinity of Christ by attacking the belief that Mary was the 'Mother of God' ('Theotokos'). He preferred the title 'Mother of Christ' ('Christotokos'), which attacked not only the divinity of Christ Himself but the nature of the Trinity as well by splitting Christ into two persons. In order to preserve the singular personhood and divinity of Christ, and as a corollary, the belief in the Trinity, the Council of Ephesus (431 A.D.) formally defined the belief that Mary was indeed 'Theotokos' ('God-bearer') who gave birth to one Person not just to one Nature.

Monophysitism originated as a reaction to Nestorianism. This heresy was led by Eutyches, an Archabbot of a monastery in Constantinople. In his anti-Nestorian zeal, he advocated not only that Christ was one person (the orthodox position), but that He had only one nature as well - a fusion of the divine and human, thereby rejecting the Church's belief of two natures in Christ - the human and the divine. Eutyches maintained that Christ's human nature was so absorbed in His Divinity that His humanity represented a mere drop in the ocean of His divinity. Hence, there was only one real nature in Christ, and it was the divine one. The orthodox position of Christ's two natures in one Divine Person was expounded and defined at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D. While the controversy finally did whither away, it took another century before doing so, and even today some Eastern Churches still hold to this view, including the Coptic Church in Egypt, the Jacobites in Syria, the Armenians and Abyssinians.

As a counter reaction to Monophysistism, Monothelitism proposed to conciliate the Monophysites to the Church's position, but in so doing, created yet another heresy. In the expectation of ending the schism with the Egyptians and the Syrians, the Patriarch of Constantinople, Sergius, proposed to declare that Christ had two natures but only one will. The Council of Constantinople in 680 A.D. rejected this view as a heresy since the number of wills in Christ is a function of and is directed toward the two natures in Christ. Hence, as there is a fully human nature in Christ so too there is a fully human will in Christ, which, although distinct from the divine will, is not opposed to it.

If one takes this analysis of these three heresies, and applies them to post-reformation Christianity, one can see a similar pattern of the development of more contemporary heresies. Indeed, a parallel can be established between Nestorianism, Monophysistism, and Monothelitism in the earlier centuries of Church history on the one part and Protestantism, Rationalism-Modernism, and 'Feeneyitism' on the other part.

On the one hand, Protestantism sought to diminish and destroy the Church's position as an authoritative body in matters of faith and morals, as well as distorting the consequences of the fall of Adam - instead of human nature being wounded, the Reformers held it was totally corrupted and depraved. On the other hand, the Modernist attack, whose underpinnings existed before the nineteenth century, found its impetus in that age of Rationalistic thought. Although Modernist theology differed little with the Reformers' in their opposition to the Church's authority (except perhaps that it was more subtle), they were, and continue to be, at complete ends of the spectrum in regards to their view of man's fallen state. Modernists, for the most part, are nothing more than latter-day Pelagians in disguise who trumpet man's conscience as a god unto itself.

It is from this perspective that the question of "extra ecclesiam nulla salus" - "outside the Church, there is no salvation" must be considered. There is the possibility that a man may be saved OUTSIDE THE FORMAL MEMBERSHIP of the Catholic Church. It is my contention that, in order to quash both the Modernist and Protestant errors, certain ultra-Traditionalist Catholics, or 'Feeneyites', have accepted another heresy, namely, the rigorist view of the subjective necessity of the Church for salvation. In the hopes of putting down religious indifferentism and the attacks on the Church's divine foundation, the followers of Father Feeney are adopting the polarized extreme on this question. Unconsciously, they are falling into the same trap that the Monophysites fell into with the question on Christ's natures. That is why, for instance, the successor of Pope Pius X, Pope Benedict XV, had to reign in a group called 'intergralists' whose excesses in combating Modernism were likewise too extreme.

There are two main arguments or discussions to support this. They are:

The Definition and the Understanding
Arguments against the Rigorist Position

Some closing thoughts

It is a difficult path to walk: on the one part, insisting on the Church's divine institution and the "extrinsic" necessity of belonging to her versus rejecting the absolute intrinsic and formal necessity of belonging to the Church on the other part. It is clear, however, that both the indifferentist position and the rigorist position pose serious problems from a moral and theological perspective. The former finds its foundation in protestantism and modernism while the latter attempts to quash the former with theological extremism. Neither of them witness to the truth.


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