A reader wonders about…

A reader wonders about… May 29, 2012

Extra Ecclesia Nulla Salus (“outside the Church, no salvation”):

Do you know where I can find a good explanation for Pope Eugenius IV’s CANTATE DOMINO in light of what the Catechism teaches about “no salvation outside the Church”. Out of curiosity, I looked at Jerry Matatic’s website ( yes, I am aware that he is outside the Church) and he has quoted from this document claiming it as EX CATHEDRA. It seems to me that the Pope here makes it clear that Jews, Protestants and all others formally outside the Church are lost. But I know that is not the position we hold. Can you help?

I’d recommend this piece by Fr. Peter Stravinskas.

For a follow up, here’s my take on related matters.

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  • I would encourage readers to follow the link Mark provides to Fr. Stravinskas’ article. It shows how a doctrine of the Church can be “unpacked”, or developed. Since the Church’s teaching is not her own, but comes to her from God, it is inevitable that the Church never fully understands any of her own doctrines, but when unpacking one can discover its riches.

    For example, when “Outside the Church” began to be examined and elucidated, the Church finds itself again balancing between two opposites. “Judged unacceptable were both a facile condemnation of those outside the Church through no fault of their own and a facile religious indifferentism,” Fr. Stravinkas writes.

    In other words, the truth is always more difficult than we would like it to be. The Church is too liberal for conservatives and too conservative for liberals. The truth is like that, too.

  • ivan_the_mad

    Well, I certainly know a lot more about extra ecclesiam nulla salus after I read those two articles. Thank you for posting them. It’s like there exists some kind of crazy continuity over the centuries …

    Sadly, I think you’ve forfeited your invitations to any SSPX Christmas parties going forward …

    • Dave Pawlak

      Actually, the SSPX has defended the true meaning of EENS. It’s the Feeneyite groups who casue trouble on this, and they’re all but impossible to reason with.

      • Dale Price

        Dave beat me to it. Yeah, the offering of Fr. Fenton’s book demonstrates that. One infamous sede group I will not dignify with a public reference hateshateshates Fenton’s book with a passion.

      • ivan_the_mad

        Dave, this runs counter to my discussions with members of SSPX (I’ve had quite a few, my wife’s family is more than half SSPX). Can you direct me to an “official pronouncement” or something of the sort by SSPX that shows it aligns with Rome’s teachings on the matter? I would be very interested in using it to attempt to correct what is more of a Feenyite understanding on their part.

  • Dale Price

    “The Catholic Church and Salvation” by Fr. Joseph Fenton is an excellent work examining all such conciliar and papal proclamations. Written in 1958 and then published by Catholic University Press, it is a fascinating overview of the subject and carefully refutes both indifferentism and Feeneyism.

    The SSPX sells it from its Angelus Press, so that might be of help in dealing with fringies. You can get cheaper copies used, which is where mine is from.

  • As to the Church charting a course between two opposites, see Msgr. Pope’s most recent post, where he notes, “Of course there are often tensions in holding all the truths. For example, how do we reconcile God’s sovereignty and power with our freedom and capacity to to say no? Or how do we resolve God’s mercy and love with the existence of hell? The orthodox approach is to hold both, and leave the tensions largely unresolved, or at least seek a balance that respects both. The heretical approach is to chose one, and discard or minimize the other in order to be free of the tension.” And where he observes, in the combox, “Heresy is a problem everywhere that the synthesis of the full faith is cast aside in favor of personalistic and or trendy notions that lack the tension and balance of the full and orthodox faith.”

    Thus the majority of heretics around us choose the side of religious indifferentism, while a minority opt for rigorous exclusionism.

    The full article is here … http://blog.adw.org/2012/05/how-modern-heresies-have-isolated-and-left-us-unfulfilled/

    • Ted Seeber

      And what the modern heresies miss is that Hell isn’t punishment, but mercy.

      • Not that I disagree, but try to defend that position given popular images of hell.

  • Dan

    The SSPX fails to see how nuanced Feeney’s position was with their book: “Is Feeneyism Catholic?”
    Their founder infamously turned away some muslims seeking baptism saying it would imperil them and his own community and that they “already had demonstrated a baptism of desire.” That is a story often repeated
    by the infamous Dimond Bros. I will NOT provide their web address.
    That said, I would avoid seeking assistance from money embezzling sodomites to make the Church’s case on this issue.

    • Ted Seeber

      How do you see Fr. Feeney’s position as being nuanced at all? I see his position as as absolute as Thor’s hammer- and just as heretical.

      • Christopher Sarsfield

        Mr. Seeber,

        Have you really read Fr. Feeney’s position? or have you only read what other people say his position was? Fr. Feeney was a real optimist on the number of the saved. However, he insisted that all the saved would die Catholic ie, they would die baptized, without rejecting the authority of the pope, and without knowingly rejecting any dogma of the faith. Fr. Feeney thought Fr. Fenton put things to harshly in his book, but Fr. Fenton could get away with it because everyone knew Fr. Fenton did not believe that there was no salvation outside the Catholic Church. Fr. Feeney could put things very gently and acknowledge every natural virtue in a non-Catholic, because everyone knew Fr. Feeney believed that there was no salvation outside the Catholic Church.

        Finally, you are absolutely wrong with the claim of heresy. The CDF acknowledges that the Feeneyite position is Catholic. Most of the Feeneyite groups have been regularized in their dioceses and they all believe and TEACH what Fr. Feeney did. This is one of those things many conservative catholics refuse to discuss openly. Many conservatives that would be considered experts on this topic refuse to speak on it because they feel morally obligated to admit the orthodoxy of the feeneyite position. Groups such as CUFF and Catholic Answers will all admit the orthodoxy of the feeneyite position if you ask them, but don’t expect them to run articles about it.

  • WesleyD

    Regarding Cantate Domino, the answer is very simple. For a pope or an ecumenical council to teach infallibly, there are certain requirements. One of them is that they address their teaching to the universal Church. In other words, if the Pope gives a sermon during a Mass in Yankee Stadium he cannot make an ex cathedra pronouncement during that sermon.

    You can find the complete text of Cantate Domino in the Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, ed. Tanner and Alberigo, volume 1. After a short introduction (pp. 567-570) you will find the body of the document (pp. 570-582), which is a letter from Pope Eugenius to Andrew, the abbot of a Coptic monastery in Egypt. At the end of the document (p. 582) the pope concludes by saying that this is the letter that he sent to Andrew, as representative of the Monophysite churches (Coptic and Jacobite).

    Therefore, it can’t contain any infallible declarations, since it wasn’t addressed to the universal Church. In fact, it wasn’t addressed to any Catholics at all.