|LETTER OF THE HOLY OFFICEFrom the Headquarters of the Holy |
Office, Aug. 8, 1949.
This Supreme Sacred Congregation has followed very attentively
the rise and the course of the grave controversy stirred up by
certain associates of "St. Benedict Center" and "Boston College"
in regard to the interpretation of that axiom: "Outside the Church
there is no salvation."
After having examined all the documents that are necessary or useful
in this matter, among them information from your Chancery, as
well as appeals and reports in which the associates of "St. Benedict
Center" explain their opinions and complaints, and also many
other documents pertinent to the controversy, officially collected,
the same Sacred Congregation is convinced that the
unfortunate controversy arose from the fact that the axiom, "outside
the Church there is no salvation," was not correctly understood
and weighed, and that the same controversy was rendered more
bitter by serious disturbance of discipline arising from the fact that
some of the associates of the institutions mentioned above
refused reverence and obedience to legitimate authorities.
Accordingly, the Most Eminent and Most Reverend Cardinals
of this Supreme Congregation, in a plenary session held on
Wednesday, July 27, 1949, decreed, and the august Pontiff in an
audience on the following Thursday, July 28, 1949, deigned to
give his approval, that the following explanations pertinent to the
doctrine, and also that invitations and exhortations relevant to
discipline be given:
We are bound by divine and Catholic faith to believe all those
things which are contained in the word of God, whether it be
Scripture or Tradition, and are proposed by the Church to be
believed as divinely revealed, not only through solemn
judgment but also through the ordinary and universal teaching
Now, among those things which the Church has always
preached and will never cease to preach is contained
also that infallible statement by which we are taught that there
is no salvation outside the Church.
However, this dogma must be understood in that sense in
which the Church herself understands it. For, it was not
to private judgments that Our Savior gave for explanation those
things that are contained in the deposit of faith, but to the
teaching authority of the Church.
Now, in the first place, the Church teaches that in this matter
there is question of a most strict command of Jesus Christ.
For He explicitly enjoined on His apostles to teach all
nations to observe all things whatsoever He Himself had
commanded (Matt. 28: 19-20).
Now, among the commandments of Christ, that one holds
not the least place by which we are commanded to be
incorporated by baptism into the Mystical Body of Christ,
which is the Church, and to remain united to Christ and
to His Vicar, through whom He Himself in a visible manner
governs the Church on earth.
Therefore, no one will be saved who, knowing the Church
to have been divinely established by Christ, nevertheless
refuses to submit to the Church or withholds obedience
from the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth.
Not only did the Savior command that all nations should
enter the Church, but He also decreed the Church to be
a means of salvation without which no one can enter the
kingdom of eternal glory.
In His infinite mercy God has willed that the effects,
necessary for one to be saved, of those helps to salvation
which are directed toward man's final end, not by intrinsic
necessity, but only by divine institution, can also be
obtained in certain circumstances when those helps are
used only in desire and longing. This we see clearly
stated in the Sacred Council of Trent, both in
reference to the sacrament of regeneration and in
reference to the sacrament of penance (
The same in its own degree must be asserted of the Church,
in as far as she is the general help to salvation. Therefore,
that one may obtain eternal salvation, it is not always
required that he be incorporated into the Church actually
as a member, but it is necessary that at least he be
united to her by desire and longing.
However, this desire need not always be explicit,
as it is in catechumens; but when a person is involved
in invincible ignorance God accepts also an implicit desire,
so called because it is included in that good disposition
of soul whereby a person wishes his will to be conformed
to the will of God.
These things are clearly taught in that dogmatic letter which
was issued by the Sovereign Pontiff, Pope Pius XII, on
June 29, 1943,
Discussing the members of which the Mystical Body is
-composed here on earth, the same august Pontiff says:
"Actually only those are to be included as members of
the Church who have been baptized and profess the true
faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as
to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or
been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults
Toward the end of this same encyclical letter, when
most affectionately inviting to unity those who do
not belong to the body of the Catholic Church, he
mentions those who "are related to the Mystical Body
of the Redeemer by a certain unconscious yearning
and desire," and these he by no means excludes
from eternal salvation, but on the other hand states
that they are in a condition "in which they cannot
be sure of their salvation" since "they still remain
deprived of those many heavenly gifts and helps
which can only be enjoyed in the Catholic Church"
(AAS, 1. c., p. 243). With these wise words he reproves
both those who exclude from eternal salvation all united
to the Church only by implicit desire, and those who
falsely assert that men can be saved equally well in every
religion (cf. Pope Pius IX, Allocution,
But it must not be thought that any kind of desire of
entering the Church suffices that one may be saved.
It is necessary that the desire by which one is related
to the Church be animated by perfect charity. Nor can
an implicit desire produce its effect, unless a person has
supernatural faith: "For he who comes to God must believe
that God exists and is a rewarder of those who seek Him"
(Heb. 11:6). The Council of Trent declares (Session VI, chap.
8): "Faith is the beginning of man's salvation, the foundation
and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to
please God and attain to the fellowship of His children" (Denzinger,
From what has been said it is evident that those things
which are proposed in the periodical
From these declarations which pertain to doctrine, certain
conclusions follow which regard discipline and conduct, and
which cannot be unknown to those who vigorously defend
the necessity by which all are bound' of belonging to the true
Church and of submitting to the authority of the Roman
Pontiff and of the Bishops "whom the Holy Ghost has
placed . . . to rule the Church" (Acts 20:28).
Hence, one cannot understand how the St.
Benedict Center can consistently claim to be a
Catholic school and wish to be accounted such, and
yet not conform to the prescriptions of canons 1381
and 1382 of the Code of Canon Law, and continue to
exist as a source of discord and rebellion against
ecclesiastical authority and as a source of the disturbance
of many consciences.
Furthermore, it is beyond understanding how a member
of a religious Institute, namely Father Feeney, presents
himself as a "Defender of the Faith," and at the same time does
not hesitate to attack the catechetical instruction proposed
by lawful authorities, and has not even feared to incur
grave sanctions threatened by the sacred canons because
of his serious violations of his duties as a religious, a priest,
and an ordinary member of the Church.
Finally, it is in no wise to be tolerated that certain Catholics
shall claim for themselves the right to publish a periodical,
for the purpose of spreading theological doctrines, without
the permission of competent Church authority, called
Therefore, let them who in grave peril are ranged
against the Church seriously bear in mind that
after "Rome has spoken" they cannot be excused
even by reasons of good faith. Certainly, their
bond and duty of obedience toward the Church is
much graver than that of those who as yet are related
to the Church "only by an unconscious desire." Let
them realize that they are children of the Church, lovingly
nourished by her with the milk of doctrine and the sacraments,
and hence, having heard the clear voice of their Mother,
they cannot be excused from culpable ignorance, and t
herefore to them apply without any restriction that principle:
submission to the Catholic Church and to the Sovereign
Pontiff is required as necessary for salvation.
In sending this letter, I declare my profound esteem, and remain,
Your Excellency's most devoted,
F. Cardinal Marchetti-Selvaggiani.
A. Ottaviani, Assessor.
(Private); Holy Office, 8 Aug., 1949.
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Tuesday, June 26, 2018
Letter of the Holy Office 1949 read with the Feeneyite-Cushingite model
Posted by Catholic Mission at 11:01 AM