Friday, July 13, 2007
Post for the Feeneyites
Every once in a while, a Feeneyite (click on "Feeneyite" there to learn more. If you don't like the link, you can actually help fix it, there) shows up. They are a curious flavor of Catholic (setting aside the question of schism that may arise in some cases); they seem like fine folks -- and I am sure they are -- but let their favorite bug-a-boo come up, the meaning of the true statement, "no salvation outside the Church," and many of them become utterly intolerable.
I am speaking, of course, of how I've encountered them online.
One recently showed up to comment on the "Apologize here" post a few days ago, and behaved so rudely that I showed him the door. He is welcome to come back, if he behaves courteously; but I don't have time for that nonsense, and besides, it's just very poor manners to behave that way when you are a guest at someone else's "place," even if it is a cyber "place."
Feeneyites love to wrangle over this question of salvation "outside" the Church. This is a subject that quickly becomes a sink-hole. I hesitate to post this, because I really don't want to go down into it.
So, fair warning -- I'm going to "set it and (mostly) forget it."
Here is a very quick expression of Catholic understanding on this subject: It is true that all who are ultimately saved will be members of the Church. It is normally true that to be saved, one must be a member of the Church here on earth. However, while God certainly works through the Church, and it is true that we, his creatures, are bound to observe his commandments and ways; it does not thereby follow that God himself is bound by the same things! I.e., God himself can and does give grace and work in people's lives, "outside" the Church.
I put quotes around "outside" because you may well say, and really should say, that this work of God is only "outside" the Church from our point of view. All this saving work is the saving work of Christ, no matter what, and since the Church is united with him, you can't really separate the grace of Christ, acting in mysterious ways in the lives of non-Catholics and even non-Christians, from the Body of Christ, the Church.
So, here on earth, our vision is limited, and we see divisions, and we even see people who somehow manifest grace in their lives yet do not become part of the Church. (The Council of Trent, for example, asserted that no one can live a life of sustained virtue without the help of grace. So, what do you make of very virtuous people who otherwise reject Christianity or even any belief in God? I'm not saying they will be saved; but I am saying, there is some grace at work in their lives.)
We can speculate all we want about how people can be saved outside the Church, outside of Christ -- "outside" being only from our viewpoint -- because in fact, if they are saved, they will be saved in, with and through Christ; and therefore, in, with and through the Church. In heaven, there is only one Bride of Christ.
Somewhere, between here and there, God does these things. I would further argue that we dare not presume on God's grace, by saying -- "so it doesn't matter?" -- but we also must not be fundamentalistic about this; we have to acknowledge there is some mystery about the matter.
Now, as I say, that was only a "quick and dirty" explanation, and folks will want to pick it apart.
This is juicy red meat for Feeneyites; perhaps I am being unfair to tempt them this way, but if they behave well, I don't mind if they comment and disagree, as long as they behave.
That said, I will say this: the teaching of the Church is more or less what I've expressed. Anyone can consult the latest Catechism on the subject and see that what I'm saying is consistent with it.
(Hint: denouncing popes or magisterial documents since a particular date is behaving badly. We do not dispute the validity of the popes here since, I dunno, the "Great Western Schism." And we do not dispute the authority of their teachings, their Catechisms. We do not dispute the authority of Vatican II. There are other places for that. So -- you may not like what Vatican II, or the current Catechism, says on a subject; but they are sufficient evidence, on their face, of what the Church teaches, or at least allows as a Catholic understanding of a subject; and if you take a more cramped view, you accept a heavy burden of proof by your own choice.)
Well, this may be a mistake, but have at it. And don't expect me to get in the sink hole, that just doesn't appeal to me.