Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus Part III

Under one aspect, the church consists of the regenerated race, as we have said, of all who have by the election of grace been born again, begotten anew by the Holy Ghost in Christ Jesus.  Out of the church, in this sense, no can pretend that there is any salvation.  But the church, under another aspect, is the body of Christ, and is the medium through which the Incarnation reaches and practically instructs, regenerates, elevates, sustains, guides, and directs the soul in the palingenesiac order, or in reference to the end for which man is created and exists.  In a word, the church is the medium by which the soul is elevated above the natural order, introduced into the teleological order, united to Christ, and therefore to God, its final cause.  Without the church, in this sense, the Incarnation, it seems to us, would be to the soul, to mankind, as if it were not.  There would be no dialectic reason for it in the Creator’s plan.  Indeed, in all Protestant sects, the Incarnation is either denied outright or serves no purpose.  The Word could not have died to redeem us, or to make satisfaction for us, if he had not assumed human nature to be as really and as truly his nature as is the divine nature itself; for God could not die in his divine nature, since in the divine nature he is immortal.  He could die only in his human nature, hypostatically united to the divine person of the Word.  But even as incarnate, he could make satisfaction for us only as our head, and therefore, in actu, only for those who are actually members, or who become so by regeneration.  He is potentially the head of every man, and therefore is said to have died for all men, but he is actually the head only of those who are joined to him as his members.  The atonement is sufficient for all, but to receive its benefits, it must be applied, and it is applied, only to those who are born of him; for they only participate in it through their head as members.  Those who are separated from him do not suffer in his sufferings, or satisfy in his satisfaction; for they are not members of which he is the head, and his merits neither are nor can be theirs while they are separated from him, or until they are joined to him by the new birth, and made one with him.  They have no connection with him as their head; he is not their progenitor; has not begotten them; and they are simply natural men, children of Adam, in the order of generation, initial or inchoate existences, infinitely below the plane of their destiny.

If, as every Catholic must hold, or deny all office or significance to the church in the economy of salvation, the church is the medium by which men come to Christ, and by the Holy Ghost, who dwells and operates in her, are united to Christ as their head, and participate, through the union of the head and the members, in his sufferings, his work of atonement, and his merits, as living members participate in whatever is suffered or done by their living head, how then can we conceive the possibility of salvation out of the church?  To admit it would deny her catholicity; would, it seems to us, deny the living connection of the church with the Incarnation, and in fact the Incarnation itself, and the whole teleological or palingenesiac order which it founds, or the God-Man creates.  We do not pretend that the doctrines of the church are demonstrable by natural reason from principles evident by the light of nature, for they are known only by divine or supernatural revelation, and are held only by faith; but we do contend that the Creator’s works are strictly dialectic; that his plan or design in creation and redemption, though known only as revealed, is logically coherent in all its parts and that the several parts are mutually related as parts of one complete and uniform whole.  To admit salvation to be possible to any not joined to Christ in his body, the church, breaks, as it seems to us, the logic or dialectic consistency of the divine plan or design as revealed to us in the written and unwritten word of God, and reduces Catholicity to the level of sects, all of which are founded on compromise, and are incoherent, made up of heterogeneous elements, like the feet of the image in Nabuchodonosor’s dream.  Hence the theologians, who by their explanations open wide the door of salvation, labor with all their might to prove that those who apparently die outside the church, and whose salvation, they tell us, is not to be despaired of, do not really die out of her communion, but, in fact, in it, and as Catholics.  That is, men may be in the communion of the church while apparently out of it, and adhering to sects hostile to it, being excused through invincible ignorance.

Yet, if there is any truth in what we have said of the teleological character of the Christian order, and that it is and can be entered only by the new birth, or “new creation,” as St. Paul calls it, this invincible ignorance, even if really invincible, which it rarely is, though it excuses from the sin of heresy or infidelity, does not of itself leave the soul in a salvable state, for it confers no positive virtue, elevates not the soul to the teleological or supernatural order, nor places it on the plane of its destiny, Else, why are not unbaptized infants dying in infancy saved?  Why can they never see God in the beatific vision?  They are incapable of actual sin, and are assuredly invincibly ignorant.  The reason is that the teleological or supernatural order, though it presupposes the initial or natural order, is not developed or evolved from it.  We are not placed from our birth from Adam on the plane of our beatitude, but to reach it must be born again, created anew in Christ Jesus; a new and a higher life must be begotten in us, the life which flows out from the Incarnation, a life of which the Word made flesh is the author and fountain.  Salvation, or what is the same thing, heaven, beatitude, is not reached by any possible natural progress, for it does not lie in the plane of nature, or the natural order, that is, the order of generation, as the rationalists pretend.  They recognize no teleological order, no end or final cause of man’s existence, and their heaven is no higher than the Christian’s hell.