Catholic Culture Podcasts
Catholic Culture Podcasts

The Father William Most Collection

Leonard Feeney on "No Salvation outside the Church"

[Published electronically for use in classes taught by Fr. Most and for private theological study.]

(For further data, see the appendix to W. Most, Our Father's Plan)

Teachings of Brownson and Feeney (From the book: They Fought the Good Fight, by Thomas M. Sennott, Catholic Treasures, Monrovia, CA, 1987. This book is just a reprint of writings by these two, who are basically in agreement. Sennott is a strong follower of Feeney)

1. Baptism of water absolutely needed They Fought the Good Fight , p. 330 ("Reply to a Liberal", by Raymond Karam, published in From the Housetops, Spring, 1949-- according to page 274 of They Fought the Good Fight: "Father Feeney supervised and gave his final approval to 'Reply to a Liberal' by Raymond Karam.'": "The only remedy against original sin is baptism, and all those whom God predestined to salvation, He draws them to this remedy. All the children who die unbaptized and all the adults who die ignorant of baptism, or who, having been drawn to it by God's Providence, refuse it, are not predestinate, but will perish eternally".

The article, "The Waters of Salvation" by Feeney himself, from 1952 seems to soften this, saying on p. 390: "Unbaptized infants who die go to Limbo. Notice, they do not go to Hell. Also notice, they do not go to Heaven. Unbaptized adults who die go to Hell. Notice they do not go either to Limbo or to Heaven." But what he means by Limbo is not what one might think. On p. 306: "What is due in justice to original sin is punishment and not reward, but it is the punishment of loss, the loss of the beatific Vision (poena damni)." Now the poena damni is the worst feature of hell! In context he was speaking of unbaptized infants. And as we saw above, in the article by Karam, personally approved by Feeney, we saw he said that they "perish eternally". Just before this, on pp. 305-06 he had commented on the statement of Pius IX (DS 2866) that God does not "permit anyone to be punished eternally unless he had incurred the guilt of voluntary sin." Feeney comments: "If God cannot punish eternally (italics his) a human being who has not incurred the guilt voluntary sin, how then, for example, can He punish eternally babies who die unbaptized?" He even called the statement Pius IX heresy, Pelagianism!

Ibid. p. 380, Feeney himself says of Baptism of desire: "That is heresy!" And on p. 384: "Q. If you got into the state of justification with the aid of 'Baptism of Desire' and then failed to receive Baptism of Water, could you be saved? A. Never." OUR COMMENT: The truth is that we need a distinction: If a man failed by his own fault, to be baptized with water, after reaching justification by baptism of desire, he would sin thereby and not be saved. If he was not baptized with water with no fault of his own, he would be saved.

P. 393: "... let us suppose an act of perfect love has occurred in a man's soul. Can this man be said to be freed from original sin by this perfect act of love of God? He cannot, in the true and full sense. There has not been imprinted on his soul... this character which Baptism imprints." (COMMENT: The Council of Trent, in DS 1528 taught: "... justification [which an act of perfect love would give] is not only the remission of sins, but also sanctification... so that he is "a heir according to the hope of eternal life." [citing Titus 3. 7]

FURTHER COMMENTS: 1. This view of Feeney is in accord with the heading on p. 571 in a different book, of the same spirit, entitled Jesus Christ Catholic, 1983 edition (probably not by Feeney): "The Heresy of 'Baptism of Desire', Its Origin and the Refutation of this Denial of God's Word, Given Us by His Church." Cf. ibid. p. 531, heading: "Sacraments Impart No Life outside the Catholic Church." - This repeats the sad error with which Cyprian contradicted Pope Stephen, when Cyprian insisted that Baptism given by heretics is invalid. Cyprian even (Epistle 73) insisted that if a heretic shed his blood for Christ, he would still go to hell!

2. Formal external full adherence to Catholic Church indispensable for salvation. Brownson, pp. 121 ff. of They Fought the Good Fight says that "Ask and you shall receive" applies to prayer for light - all who ask for light will be converted - or else it is their own fault. He cites Augustine for the same view.

Brownson, on p. 122 cites Luke 12. 47 in which Jesus says that the servant who did not know his master's orders would receive few stripes, to prove that people may go to hell for ignorant failure to accept the Church. --

Brownson, on p. 122 holds that merely negative infidels, those who have never heard of the Gospel, are not guilty of the sin of infidelity, but are damned for other sins which without faith cannot be remitted."

3. Explicit faith in Holy Trinity required. They Fought the Good Fight, p. 391 citing Sacred Office, May 10, 1703 and DS 2380-81. But there the Holy Office merely says that the mysteries of Trinity and Incarnation must be explained to a dying adult, "who is not incapable" of understanding. If he is incapable, it is not required.

Comments of Fathers and Magisterium on need of Baptism with water

Tertullian, On Baptism 18. 4: "For no less cause should the unmarried also be deferred [Baptism], in whom there is an aptness to temptation, --in virgins on account of their ripeness as also in the widowed on account of their freedom-- until either they are married or are better strengthened for continence. Anyone who understands the seriousness of Baptism will fear its reception more than its deferral. Sound faith is secure of salvation." (Jurgens 310a). COMMENT: So there is baptism of desire.

St. Ambrose, De Abraham (387 AD: RJ. 1324): "'Nisi quis renatus fuerit... ." Utique nullum excipit, non infantem, non aliqua praeventum immunitatem, nescio an habeant regni honorem."

Jurgens version: "Unless a man be born again... No one is excepted, not the infant, not the one prevented by some necessity. They may, however, have an undisclosed exemption from punishments; but I do not know whether they have the honor of the kingdom." Note by Jurgens: "The present sentence makes it clear he means that the Scriptural utterance expresses no exception; he does not know whether or not some logical exception, e.g. state of infancy or actual impossibility or non-culpable ignorance, may have been presumed and left unexpressed."

De obitu Valentiniani 51 (392 AD): Sed audio vos dolere, quod non acceperit sacramentum baptismatis. Dicite mihi, quid aliud in nobis est, nisi voluntas, nisi petitio? Atqui etiam dudum hoc voti habuit, ut, cum in Italiam venisset, initiaretur, et proxime baptizari se a me velle significavit, et ideo prae ceteris causis me accersendum putavit. Non habet ergo gratiam quam desideravit? Non habet quam poposcit? Certe, quia poposcit, accepit. Et unde illud est: "Iustus quacumque morte preventus fuerit, anima eius in requie erit ... . [53] quod si suo abluuntur [martyres] sanguine, et hunc sua pietas abluit et voluntas."

(mv) "But I hear that you grieve since he did not receive the sacrament of Baptism. Tell me, what else is in your power but the desire , the petition? But even for a long time he [Valentinian] had this desire, that when he came into Italy, he should be baptized, and recently he made known that he wanted to be baptized by me, and so he thought I should be summoned for this reason, before other reasons. Surely because he asked, he received, and hence there is the Scripture: "The just man be whatsoever death he may be overtaken, his soul shall be at rest... . If [martyrs] are washed in their own blood, his devotedness and intention washed him."

COMMENT: Feeney (in Sennott, p. 386) says: "Any simple and loving Catholic would understand Saint Ambrose to have meant by this comfort that he hoped Emperor Valentianian had been baptized by somebody, even though he (Saint Ambrose) did not know who it was, and even though there was no official record of it."

REPLY: It is straining badly to suppose someone must have baptized Valentinian - he was murdered - not likely to have been any time. But most importantly, St. Ambrose says "His devotedness and intention washed him." He does not even hint that someone used water, it was his devotedness and intention that "washed him".

St. Gregory of Nazianzen: Oration on the Holy Lights: "... if you were able to judge a man who intends to commit murder solely by his intention, and without any act of murder, then you could likewise reckon as baptized one who desired baptism without having received baptism."

COMMENT: Text is given above as quoted by Feeney (Sennott, p. 384, note). Feeney ignores the context. In the full text (RJ 1012) St. Gregory speaks of three classes of persons who are not baptized: (1) "Some are utterly animal or bestial, according to whether they are foolish or wicked." These will be punished, he says. (2) "Others know and honor the gift, but delay, some out of carelessness, some because of insatiable desire." These will be punished. If they desired Baptism, but failed to get it by their own fault, their desire will not help them. (3) "The third group will be neither glorified nor punished by the Just Judge: for though unsealed [not baptized] they are not wicked. They are not so much wrong-doers as persons who have suffered a loss." Unbaptized infants come in this third category. He speaks of the Just Judge, because a Just Judge would not punish those who are not wicked, i.e., unbaptized infants.

St. Augustine De baptismo (Jurgens 1630): "Baptismi sane vicem aliquando implere passionem, de latrone illo, cui non baptizato dictum est; Hodie mecum eris in paradiso, non leve documentum idem beatus Cyprianus assumit [Cyprian, Epist 73. 22]. Quod etiam atque etiam considerans invenio non tantum passionem pro nomine Christ id quod ex baptismo deeerat posse supplere, sed etiam fidem conversionemque cordis, si forte ad celebrandum mysterium baptismi in angustiis temporum sucurri non potest."

(mv)."The same blessed Cyprian sees no small proof that suffering can sometimes take the place of baptism, from the [case of] the thief to whom, though he was not baptized, it was over and over I find that not only suffering for the name of Christ can supply what was lacking of baptism, but also faith and conversion of heart, if it happens that because of circumstances of time, recourse cannot be had to celebration of the mystery of baptism."

St. Thomas Aquinas, ST III. 68. 2. c.: "Alio modo potest sacramentum baptismi alicui deesse: re, sed non voto: sicut cum aliquis baptizari desiderat, sed aliquo casu praevenitur morte antequam baptismum suscipiat. Talis autem sine baptismo actuali salutem consequi potest, propter desiderium per dilectionem operante, per quam Deus interius hominem sanctificat, cuius potentia sacramentis visibilibus non alligatur. Unde Ambrosius dicit, de Valentiniano, qui catechumenus mortuus fuit: 'Quem regeneraturus eram, amisi: verumtamen ille gratiam quam poposcit, non amisit. '" COMMENT: On the required desiderium, cf. below the quotes from DS 3866 and 3871.

Pius IX, Quanto conficiamur moerore, in a passage in which he attacks Indifferentism and also speaks of "Extra Ecclesiam", said (DS 2866): "God... in His supreme goodness and punishments who does not have the guilt of voluntary fault."

COMMENT: Karam, in the article supervised and approved by Feeney, attacks this statement of Pius IX (p. 305-06, italics his): "To say that God would never permit anyone to be punished eternally unless he had incurred the guilt of voluntary sin is nothing short of Pelagianism... . If God cannot punish eternally a human being who has not incurred the guilt of voluntary sin, how then, for example, can He punish eternally babies who die unbaptized?"-- Karam does hold for the damnation of unbaptized babies (p. 330). He seems to say (p. 305) that the text of Pius IX was "misquoted" by Fr. Philip Donnelly S. J. He does not make clear at all in what way there is any misquotation. Actually, there is none, and he is quite right, Pius IX does rule out the damnation of infants, and also of adults who die unbaptized, if only the adults keep the moral law as they know it so as not to incur voluntary sin. And, as we said, he does this precisely in a passage in which he speaks against Indifferentism, and in which he speaks of no salvation outside the Church. Clearly, the Pope's interpretation of "extra Ecclesiam" is far different from that of Karam and Feeney. Actually, Pius IX, in the continuation of the passage just cited, says that they cannot be saved "who are contumacious against the authority of the same Church [and] definitions and who are obstinately [pertinaciter] separated from the unity of this Church". If their failure to enter formally is not contumacious or obstinate, but merely a matter of good faith or lack of opportunity, then they can be saved.

Holy Office to Archbishop of Boston, condemning the teachings of Feeney (DS 3866): "Non enim privatis iudiciis explicanda dedit Salvator noster ea, quae in fidei deposito continentur, sed ecclesiastico magisterio."-"Our Savior did not hand over the things contained in the deposit of faith to private judgment to be explained, but to the magisterium of the Church."

COMMENT: A note on p. 230 of Sennott says this response was not published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis. This is true, but it still was a decision of the Holy Office, whose translation was approved by Pope Pius XII. The part just cited is clear from basic theology. This is a case parallel to the rejection of Luther's private judgment in interpreting Scripture. It is similarly wrong to use private judgment to interpret texts of the Magisterium, such as "Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus". L. Feeney was guilty of that private interpretation. Hence in the continuation of this passage, in DS 3871, the Holy Office appealed to the interpretation of Pius XII, in his Encyclical on the Mystical Body: "Quae clare docentur in [Pii XII Litt. encycl. ]... De mystico Iesu Christi Corpore. In Ecclesiae tamquam membra incorporantur, atque eos quo voto tantummodo Ecclesiae adhaerent. Circa finem autem earundem Litterarum encyclicarum, amantissimo animo eos ad unitatem invitans, qui ad Ecclesiae catholicae compogem non pertinent, illos commemorat "qui inscio quodam desiderio ac voto ad Mysticum Redemptoris Corpus ordinentur," quos minime a salute aeterna excludit, ex altera tamen parte in tali statu versari asserit, 'quo de sempiterna cuiusque propria salute secure esse non poosunt... quandoquidem tot tantisque caelestibus muneribusadiumentis carent, quibus in catholica solummodo Ecclesia frui licet. '"--"These things are clearly taught [in the Encyclical on the Mystical Body], in it the Supreme Pontiff clearly distinguishes between those who actually are incorporated into the Church as members, and those who adhere to the Church only by way of votum (will)... Towards the end of the same Encyclical, in a most loving attitude he invites those to unity who do no belong to the body of the Catholic Church but 'who are ordered to the Mystical body of the Redeemer by a certain desire and will of which they are not conscious [inscio desiderio ac voto]'. These he does not at all exclude from eternal salvation, but on the other hand asserts that they are in such a state that they cannot be secure of their own eternal salvation... since they lack so many and such great heavenly gifts and helps, which can be enjoyed only within the Catholic Church." The citations from Mystici Corporis are to be found in DS 3802 and 3821. Hence, even if the letter to Boston was not published in the Acta, the Encyclical is binding, and hence the teaching of the letter to Boston is binding, since it is supported by that Encyclical - and also, the same Pope approved the Letter of the Holy Office.

COMMENT: We note that those who are joined to the Church only by inscio voto--a will that they do not realize, which is contained in their desire to do the will of God, are less sure of their salvation, but yet can be saved. Vatican II, Lumen gentium 16, speaks of their situation:

Vatican II, Lumen gentium 16: "Qui enim Evangelium Christi Eiusque Ecclesiam sine culpa ignorantes, Deum tamen sincero corde quaerunt, Eiusque voluntatem per conscientiae dictamen agnitam, operibus adimplere, sub gratiae influxe, conantur, aeternam salutem consequi possunt. Nec divina Providentia auxilia ad salutem necessaria denegat his qui sine culpa ad expressam agnitionem Dei nondum pervenerunt et rectam vitam non sine divina gratia assequi nituntur."

(mv): "For they who without their own fault do not know the Gospel of Christ and His Church, but yet seek God with sincere heart, and try, under the influence of grace, to carry out His will in practice, known to them through the dictate of conscience, can attain eternal salvation. Nor does Divine Providence refuse the helps necessary for salvation to those who without their own fault do not reach an express knowledge of God, and who not without divine grace, try to live a right life."

COMMENT: The text speaks of two classes of people (1) those who do believe in God, and seek Him sincerely- and (2) those who do not explicitly admit the existence of God, but who yet, with grace which of course they do not recognize-- try to live a right life. --The Council explicitly says that class 1 can be saved, even without Baptism. As to class 2, it merely says God gives them helps. We note that a man may seem to be an atheist, yet not be actually one, for what he rejects is not the real God, but a false notion of God he has picked up. St. Justin Martyr, in Apology 1. 46 seems to mean some who seem to be atheists can really be Christians- text cited below. (We notice that the Latin has the word possunt, not just may as Flannery translates it incorrectly.

The effort to investigate required of each one is in proportion to how clearly he does or does not see the need of searching. Someone raised in a Protestant family, or even in paganism, may easily fail to overcome the inertia of his situation, what he received from his parents, and may not actually see any need of searching further. --

Further development of this point is given below in the section entitled "Requirement of Formal Adherence to the Church".

The Magisterium several times over tells us the fact that those who do not formally join the Church can be saved. they do not tell us the how this works out. But we can propose a solution. The process involved may be gathered from Romans 2. 14-16 considered along with may Patristic texts, especially St. Justin Martyr, Apology 1. 46. Romans 2. 14-16 says that "The gentiles who do not have the law, do by nature the works of the law. They show the work of the law written on their hearts." According to whether of not they carry this out, and accept the mandate from God, their conscience will accuse or defend them at the judgment (verse 16). Paul is echoing Jeremiah 31. 33, the prophecy of the New Covenant: "I will write my law on their hearts." It is the Spirit of God, or of Christ, who writes that law, i.e., makes known to them what they should do for morality. They may not know that it is the Spirit of Christ, but objectively it is, and so if they accept its dictates, that are accepting Christ, and are following the Logos: hence St. Justin says that many before Christ, who were thought to be atheists, were really Christians, because they followed the Logos: "Christ is the Logos, of whom the whole race of men partake. Those who lived according to Logos are Christians, even if they were considered atheists, such as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus." Now if they were Christians by this means, the also, in St. Paul's terms, could be said to belong to Christ, and hence would be members of Christ- but that means, members of His Church, even without external adherence. --Full development in Wm. Most, Our Father's Plan, appendix, which gives all pertinent Patristic texts and texts of the magisterium.



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