Bishop Fellay Discusses Ecumensim

In the below video, Bishop Fellay of the Society of Saint Pius X discusses ecumenism, the trouble he sees with ecumenism, and how the language of the Catholic Faith concerning non-Catholic religions has changed since Vatican II. I posted this once before, going on a year ago.

This helps to understand some of the differences the SSPX has with Rome today. Bishop Fellay points out a couple of different times that the only path to heaven – the only plane that will fly – is the Catholic Faith. It is hard to find that stated today within the Church. And yet, it is still the official teaching of the Catholic Faith.

It is one of those things that “cannot change”. And yet it is one of those things where if you ask a direct question, it can be hard to get a straight answer today.

What about “Baptism of Desire”? Going off Bishop Fellay’s analogy, I would say it is when the non-Christian, doing the absolute best he can to follow God and being “invincibly ignorant”, gets on the Catholic plane 🙂

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6 Responses to Bishop Fellay Discusses Ecumensim

  1. James says:

    I can see why people have trouble with the doctrine of “Catholic or damned.” I have trouble with it. It necessitates, for instance — just to pick one of many possible examples — that, at this very moment, C.S. Lewis is WITHOUT QUESTION burning in hell.

    In the abstract, the vast majority of the world has heard of Catholicism. Only a fraction of the human population is Catholic. Ergo, the majority of humanity is automatically damned for eternity simply by having heard of Catholicism and not converted, regardless of any other actions they take in their lives.

    I find this difficult to reconcile with the concept of a just and forgiving God.

    • I disagree with you on a point.

      The teaching that “Outside the Church there is no salvation” is traditional Catholic teaching. This is stated as a general principle.

      However we, as humans, can never judge the soul of an individual. We do not know if CS Lewis was “invincibly ignorant” or not. Yes, he was a highly educated Christian and should have realized that the Catholic Church is the Church Jesus started and holds the fullness of Christ’s Truth/etc.

      But did he make that realization and reject it? That would be rejecting Jesus’ Truth. Or did he honestly not realize it? And why? Was it his fault, or not? We just don’t know Nor do we know the state of his heart, his conscience at the moment of his death. A solemn Act of Faith, or sorrow, at the time of death, if sincere, is accepted by God. It is more than “Someone mentioned the Church to you, now join or be damned.”

      To be damned due to not being Catholic is not a matter of “He heard of the Catholic Church yet didn’t convert.” Did the individual have a chance to realize the truth of the faith? Only God knows for sure.

      It is rather a matter of “I suspected that the Catholic Church was the true Church, but to convert would require me to give up my favorite sins, so I chose not to look into it.”

      Again, though, it is never for us to judge individuals.

      But I do think it is important to tell people the teaching. OTHERWISE, we leave the impression that the faith you belong to does not matter, and it becomes just a matter of taste. Something like, “Well, music in a Baptist Church is so much more lively. I love the drums!”

      The Catholic Church is the biggest religion in the United States. The 2nd biggest, if it qualified as a religion, is “Fallen Away Catholics”. I think the Church (or rather the individuals within the Church) not having the courage to teach unpopular truths is a big part of that.

      Pope Benedict XVI discusses this in the book “Light of the World”, when, quoting Saint Augustine (I believe) he stated, “There are many people who appear inside the Church who are really outside. And there are many people who appear outside the Church who are really inside.”

    • Okay, I wanted to get the quote right, so — from “Light of the World”, which was an interview with Pope Benedict XVI :

      Communion with the Pope is something of a different sort, as is membership in the Church, of course. Among those 1.2 billion Catholics are many who inwardly are not there. Saint Augustine said even in his day: There are many outside who seem to be inside, and there are many inside who seem to be outside. In a matter like faith – like membership in the Catholic Church – inside and outside are mysteriously intertwined with each other.

      Hence the reason that I state the principle is true, and needs to be stated. But that we cannot, as humans, ever know the state of a man’s soul.

      Kudos to Kindle, for making finding the text easy 🙂

  2. James says:

    Thanks for the thoughtful answer. Before I proceed, I think I should clarify a few points about my own position. I’m certainly no ecumenical modernist. Accepting as a premise that Christ founded the Catholic Church for the salvation of souls, it’s obviously logical that Catholicism is, in the abstract, a necessary ingredient for that purpose. Which is to say that becoming a faithful Catholic is your best bet for obtaining the sanctifying grace needed to enter Heaven (or at least Purgatory). But, not surprisingly, we seem to be in agreement that the position of “anyone who doesn’t profess to be a Catholic is damned” is very extreme. The way I look at it, getting your soul in a Heaven-bound state outside the Catholic Church is harder, a crapshoot; so being Catholic is the safer bet. But it’s still possible to be in God’s good graces even if you’re not Catholic (and quite obviously the opposite also holds).

    Which doesn’t mean that I think Catholics should go out of their way to sanction other religions, as they obviously shouldn’t. That’s going to the opposite extreme.

    We seem to be in approximate agreement so far. I still have some misgivings about a specific point, though. It seems to me that some amount of verbal gymnastics is going on here. On the one hand, we have a very stark and hard-line statement: “No salvation outside the Church.” On the other hand, seeing that this position in its most extreme form is unreasonable, we have provided an out. That out is so huge that even a highly educated Christian with a friend (Tolkien) actively trying to get him to convert to Catholicism could, in theory, claim “invincible ignorance.” That pretty much means absolutely anyone has the potential to claim this out, so we have revealed that the statement “no salvation outside the Church” (and similar statements) is downright misleading when taken at face value. That quote from Benedict (I really like that quote, by the way) further exacerbates the issue. If “inside” and “outside” are functionally invertible, then we have virtually admitted that you don’t have to be Catholic to get to Heaven, a seeming contradiction.

    Am I just being a semantic nitpicker? I don’t think so. There are a lot of people who take “no salvation outside the Church” very literally, who would rail at that Benedict quote you provided and say that’s evidence that he’s a modernist sell-out. I’ve seen them raging in comboxes over this very issue. So while it’s 100% true that there is way too much permissiveness in the Church, the opposite extreme also exists.

    My point, I guess, is this: Sometimes a terse phrase can conceal critical nuances. “No salvation outside the Church” may well be one of those cases. Until your explanation above, it has certainly thrown me for a loop whenever I’ve seen it. It is important to restore in our catechesis a sense of the supremacy of Catholicism — of that, we are in complete agreement. But since there are so many subtleties to the doctrine; since, indeed, according to the Holy Father, “there are many outside who seem to be inside” and vice-versa, I think it is likewise of great importance to clarify for people that the doctrine is considerably softer than the harsh-sounding phrase “No salvation outside the Church” (and similar) would seem to imply. Otherwise, people could be led astray on what is a very important matter. Perhaps we need some better phrases to convey the true meaning of this doctrine?

    • As you state, I think we are pretty close to being in agreement. Where I think we may disagree is in the phrase “the Church”, and what it means to be inside and outside the Catholic Church. In a spiritual reality, I think someone can be in the Church, while it does not appear so in the physical reality. But I will defer to greater theological minds than mine, such as Augustine and Benedict XVI.

      Since we are talking about C.S. Lewis, I thought I would end with a quote from the last Narnia book, The Last Battle. Toward the end, a young soldier who had followed the evil god Tash met Aslan. He later got to describe to the main characters his experience, which I will write below (this part is in the first person):

      Then I fell at his feet [AC: Aslan’s feet] and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honor) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him. Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc [AC: ruler] of the world and live and not to have seen him. But the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my forehead with his tongue and said, Son, thou art welcome. But I said, Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me. Then by reasons of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one? The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted.

      I thought it was an appropriate passage for this discussion 🙂

  3. James says:

    You can see where it’s easy to get confused. Normally it’s pretty clear whether something is part of the Church or not. It doesn’t usually require such nuanced interpretation.

    In any case, I’m glad to know that highly authoritative voices in the Church have promoted a somewhat relaxed understanding of the doctrine. A strict interpretation makes for a rather bitter pill to swallow.

    I like the excerpt from Narnia.

    Thanks again for the responses.

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