Well, it seems someone mentioned me in a letter to the latest Catholic Telegraph:
How sad that Father Martin Fox missed the whole point of Mr. Daley's well-written column (Letters, March 4). In its concern for ecumenical dialogue as well as relationships with non-Christian religions, the Second Vatican Council made bold steps toward eradicating centuries of hostility. The documents from this Council clearly indicate a broad interpretation of the formulary of St. Cyprian: extra ecclesiam nulla salus (outside the church there is no salvation).
In his opening remarks, Mr. Daley cited this phrase with the explanation that a very narrow interpretation had dominated Catholic thinking for many centuries. Such thinking hindered any kind of dialogue with other Christians, much less non-Christians.
However, a broader understanding of this phrase was enunciated in a letter from the Holy Office to the Archbishop of Boston in 1949, which became the foundation for further exploration in the Second Vatican Council. That "open door" led to fruitful discussions and relationships with other denominations and religions.
While there is not sufficient space here for a more detailed discussion, Mr. Daley's use of the the phrase was most appropriate. And he was right on the mark by noting that the Catholic Church has taken a leading role in promoting interreligious dialogue. This, too, is one of the things that keeps me Catholic.
Father Raymond C. Kellerman
Holy Trinity Parish, Norwood
OK; here's the letter I wrote:
Michael Daley, a religion teacher at St. Xavier High School, began his article in the Feb. 25 edition of the Telegraph with the phrase Extra ecclesiam nulla salus — outside the church there is no salvation.
In the column that followed, it did not seem to me that he explained what this means to us as we continue to teach this as a doctrine of our church — which we do. Yet without further explanation, it certainly gives rise to confusion.
So what do we mean when we say that? “Outside the church” refers to the Body of Christ understood in its fullest sense. We don’t know how many will be saved ultimately. We hope for vast numbers, but we don’t assume it will be everyone. But whoever is ultimately saved will be members of the Catholic Church in eternity, whether or not they are full members in this life.
In this sense, no one who is saved will be “outside” —salvation means they are “inside.” This is our hope for those who never hear about Jesus in this life, as well as those who, while not receiving actual baptism, may share a “baptism of desire” or “of blood.”
Likewise, reason tells us that if someone rejects Christianity — or the Catholic Church in particular — because of misinformation, then Christ knows the difference between that, and someone who rejects the truth, yet knowing it to be true.
Here is what Vatican II said: “This Sacred Council...teaches that the church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His body, which is the church, is the one mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved” (Lumen Gentium 14).
Whoever is saved, can only be saved through the merits of Christ, and will be united with Him. No one can be united to the head, yet not part of the body: so those who will be saved will indeed be, not “outside,” but “inside” the church.
The question remains, does it matter whether we are full members of the church in this life? Certainly. Baptism matters. The sacraments are powerful helps to salvation, as is the teaching office (i.e., magisterium) of the church. More help is more help. God acts in the lives of those not full members of the Catholic Church, and He knows their hearts.
Having the fullness of the Catholic faith isn’t a golden ticket for Catholics; it makes us more accountable. But it would be dangerous to think, “Oh it doesn’t matter, I’ll get to heaven somehow.”
Seeking Christ in His church is a wiser course.
Father Martin Fox, pastor
St. Mary and St. Boniface parishes
(If you want to see the original article, go here.)
OK, well, let me offer these comments:
> I didn't miss the point of the original article; I didn't address it all. I simply observed that the author didn't really address the meaning of the "extra ecclesiam" doctrine. I think that's a statement of simple fact.
> I am certainly aware of what the Second Vatican Council had to say, as I quoted it.
> It could be that Father Kellerman thinks I was finding fault with Mr. Daley's column. Well, re-read my letter and please show me where I criticized Mr. Daley's essay? I suppose the very fact that I wrote the letter seems an implied criticism--i.e, that Mr. Daley ought to have explained the doctrine. Well, OK, maybe he should have, or else handled it differently. But columns need to be brief, so adding such explanations are hard to do and I don't blame Mr. Daley for not explaining it. And if my letter didn't need to be brief, I might have said as much when I wrote the Telegraph.
> In any case, the question of Church teaching on salvation "outside" the Church does often gives rise to misunderstanding. Or so I have found; perhaps Father Kellerman has had a different experience. I offered some clarity, which as far as I can tell, Father Kellerman finds no fault with.
> I'm sorry to hear Father Kellerman is sad. I hope he cheers up!