Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus Part II

We may be told that it may not be through one’s own fault that he omits to elicit the act, especially when born and brought up in a community hostile or alien to the church.  Who denies it?  But from that it does not follow either that the habit is not lost by the omission, or that the elicitation of the act is not necessary, in the case of every adult, to salvation.  Invincible ignorance excuses from sin, we admit, in that whereof  one is invincibly ignorant, but it confers no virtue, and is purely negative.  It excuses from sin, if you will, the omission to elicit the act, but it cannot supply the defect caused by the omission.  Something more than to be excused from the sin of infidelity is necessary to salvation.

To us there is something shocking in the supposition that the dogma, Extra ecclesiam nulla salus, is only generally true, and therefore not a catholic dogma.  All Catholic dogmas, if catholic, are not generally, but universally true, and admit no exception or restriction whatever.  If men can come to Christ and be saved without the church or union with Christ in the church, she is not Catholic, and it is false to call her the one holy Catholic Church, as in the creed.  The latitudinarianism which explains away the dogma of exclusive salvation, and which is so widely prevalent, is a denial, in principle, of the catholicity of the church, and of the faith she holds and teaches, and seems to us to grow out of forgetfulness of the relation of the church to the Incarnation, her office in the economy of salvation, the teleological character of the Christian order, the religion of the end, and the disposition of the modern world to mistake liberality for charity.  The church grows, so to speak, out of the Incarnation, of which she is,  as Moehler well says is his Symbolik, in some sort, the visible continuation on earth, and from which she is inseparable.  St. Paul calls the church “the body of Christ.” She lives in Christ, and he in her; his life is her life, and individuals are joined to him and live his life by being joined to her and living his life in her.  To be separated from her is to be separated from him, is to be separated from the incarnate Word himself, the one Mediator of God and men, and from our end, as well as the medium of its attainment.

As we understand the teachings of our holy religion, it is teleological, is final, shows the way and supplies the means by which men are saved from sin, and return to God as their final cause.  Existences proceed, by way of creation- not emanation, generation, or evolution- from God as their first cause, and, in order to attain their end or perfection, must return to him, in the palingenesia, without absorption in him, to God as their final cause.  In this return, on which we enter by regeneration or the new birth in Christ, is our salvation, the complement, the fulfillment, or the perfection of our existence, and consequently our supreme beatitude.  The procession of existences from God, and their return to him as their beatitude, constitute two orders,  or rather two parts of the one divine plan, which is a complete and dialectic whole.  The first part is initial, or the order of natural generation; the second is teleological,  the order of generation, or palingenesia, as St. Paul calls it, after our Lord himself.  These two parts are termed in Holy Scripture, natural and supernatural, and are usually called natural and supernatural by modern theologians.  Of mankind, in the initial order, Adam is the progenitor, and all men descend from him by natural generation, and hence the unity of the human race; of mankind, in the second or teleological order, Christ the incarnate God, or the Word made flesh, is the progenitor; hence, as St. Peter says, his is “the only name given under heaven among men, whereby we must be saved.” He is the father of regenerated humanity, or humanity in the palingenesiac order, as Adam is of generated humanity, or of men in the natural or initial order, and is, therefore, called by St. Paul the second Adam, the Lord from heaven.

One thing is certain, namely, that no one can be saved, enter into the kingdom of God, or attain to beatitude, without being regenerated or born again of the incarnate Word, or if not united to regenerated humanity in Christ.  One can no more be a  Christian without being born of Christ,  begotten anew by the Holy Ghost in Christ Jesus, that one can be a man without being born of Adam by way of natural generation.  Without the Incarnation or union with it, there is never any salvation, for without it, there is no regenerated humanity, no teleological order, no fulfillment of man’s existence.  But the church grows out of the Incarnation, and is inseparable from it.  Under one aspect, she is herself regenerated humanity, or the human race propagated by the election of grace, as humanity, in the initial order is propagated or explicated by natural generation.  Without being united to regenerated humanity, men remain forever in the initial order, below their destiny, inchoate existences, with their nature unfilled, devoured alike by an everlasting want which cannot be supplied, and an everlasting self-reproach for having by their own fault neglected the means of salvation once within their reach.  Hence the never-ending sufferings of those who die unregenerate.  Even infants dying unbaptized, that is, in the initial order, unregenerate, the holy Council of Florence defines, go to hell - in infernos; though they will not suffer for any actual sins of commission or omission, of which they were incapable.  Some tender-hearted theologians think they will not suffer at all, but no rational creature can remain forever below his destiny, with the purpose of his being unfilled, without experiencing a want, and therefore not without a greater or less degree of suffering.