Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus Part I

{From Brownson’s Quarterly Review for April, 1874}

Our Holy Father Pius IX, gloriously reigning though despoiled by liberal Catholics and a prisoner in the Vatican, has told France and other countries that their calamities are due to so-called liberal Catholics.  We are not wholly free from their influence in this country, either in politics, or in theology.  We have Catholics, or men that call themselves Catholics, who, without knowing it, defend in politics,  pure secularism, only another name for political atheism, and- not always the same individuals indeed- who defend in theology what, to our understanding, is a most destructive latitudinarianism.  It is seldom we meet a Catholic, man or woman, priest or layman, who will permit us to say that “out of the church no one can be saved,” without requiring us to qualify the assertion, or so to explain it as to make it meaningless to plain people who are ignorant of the subtleties, nice distinctions, and refinements of theologians.

How many of our Catholics, though holding Protestantism to be an error against faith and antagonistic to the church, hold that the mass of Protestants are out of the way of salvation, and can never see God in the beatific vision, unless before they die they become Catholics, united to Christ in the church, which is his body?  If we assert the contrary, are we not met with theological distinctions, logical refinements, subtle explanations and qualifications, which place us altogether in the wrong?  We are told, and told truly, that all validly baptized infants, by whomsoever baptized, dying in infancy or before arriving at the use of reason, are saved, enter the kingdom of heaven; next, we are told, not so truly, that all persons remaining in false or heretical sects, not knowing that they are false or heretical and invincibly ignorant of the true church, may be saved; and finally, that those who are prevented from seeking for and accepting the true church by the bitter prejudices against her, instilled into the minds by parents and teachers, are to be reputed invincibly ignorant.

The church teaches, as we have learned her doctrine, that the infant validly baptized, by whomsoever the baptism is administered, receives in the sacrament the infused habit of faith and sanctity, and that this habit (habitus) suffices for salvation till the child comes to the use of reason; hence all baptized infants dying in infancy are saved.  But when arrived at the use of reason, the child needs something beyond this infused habit, and is bound to elicit the act of faith.  The habit is not actual faith, and is only a supernatural facility, infused by grace, of eliciting the actual virtue of faith.  The habit of sanctity is lost by mortal sin, but the habit of faith, we are told, can be lost only by a positive act of infidelity.  This is not strictly true; for the habit may be lost by the omission to elicit the act of faith, which neither is nor can be elicited out of the Catholic Church; for out of her the credible object, which is Deus revelans et ecclesia proponens, is wanting.  Consequently, outside the church there can be no salvation for anyone, even though baptized, who has come to the use of reason.  The habit given in baptism, then, ceases to suffice, and the obligation to elicit the act begins.