Among other things, I had said:
<< "It’s safer to be outside the church. The less you know the better. Ignorance is your best defense. By contrast, the most dangerous place in the world, spiritually speaking, is inside the Catholic church!">>
To which Jason said:
<< Please, don't misrepresent Catholic teaching. If you disagree with it, then disagree. But present it accurately.
"If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation."
--"Dominus Iesus", 2000 Declaration of the Holy See, #22
By way of comment:
1.What theological weight does Jason assign to “Dominus Iesus”? For example, the Declaration makes the following claim:
<< 20. Above all else, it must be firmly believed that “the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5), and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door”. 77 >>
Notice that it appeals to the long ending of Mark to prove that Jesus “explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism.” Yet is there any contemporary Catholic Bible scholar who would deny that the long ending of Mark is spurious? So the claim is demonstrably false.
2.Do you have to be a Christian to be saved? The Declaration says no:
<< 12. Furthermore, the salvific action of Jesus Christ, with and through his Spirit, extends beyond the visible boundaries of the Church to all humanity. Speaking of the paschal mystery, in which Christ even now associates the believer to himself in a living manner in the Spirit and gives him the hope of resurrection, the Council states: “All this holds true not only for Christians but also for all men of good will in whose hearts grace is active invisibly. For since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery”.37 >>
<< The Church is the “universal sacrament of salvation”,79 since, united always in a mysterious way to the Saviour Jesus Christ, her Head, and subordinated to him, she has, in God's plan, an indispensable relationship with the salvation of every human being.80 For those who are not formally and visibly members of the Church, “salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church, but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit”;81 it has a relationship with the Church, which “according to the plan of the Father, has her origin in the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit”.82
(82) Second Vatican Council, Decree Ad gentes, 2. The famous formula extra Ecclesiam nullus omnino salvatur is to be interpreted in this sense (cf. Fourth Lateran Council, Cap. 1. De fide catholica: DS 802). Cf. also the Letter of the Holy Office to the Archbishop of Boston: DS 3866-3872. >>
How can this be squared with the exclusive ecclesiocentrism of Florence and Lateran IV? I’m aware of two strategies:
i) There is the strategy, deployed here, according to which “the Church is the universal sacrament of salvation.” This is explicated to mean that “for those who are not formally and visibly members of the Church, “salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church, but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation.”
So even though you’re not a “formal and visible” member of the church, yet it is still possible for you to be in the pipeline of grace by dint of a “mysterious relationship to the church.”
ii) The other strategy is to say that Florence and Lateran IV are not directed against “pagans and Jews” generally, but only those whose belief is culpable because they’ve been exposed to the Catholic faith, yet rejected it.
This is set off from a much larger class of pagans and Jews who may be invincibly ignorant, and thus, be blameless for their lack of faith in Christ since their unbelief is a historical accident, through no fault of their own.
According to this strategy, the pagan or Jew is in a state of diminished responsibility.
I’ll come back to this momentarily, but let’s consider the passage quoted by Jason:
<< 22. If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation. >>
i) What is the precise force of this statement? What is meant, for example, by the caveat that they are “objectively” in a gravely deficient situation? This is presumably in implicit contrast to their “subjective” situation.
So, “subjectively speaking,” are they still in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation?
ii) What is meant by “deficient”? Compare their situation with the following:
<< 17. “Therefore, these separated Churches and communities as such, though we believe they suffer from defects, have by no means been deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church”.66 >>
What is the difference between “defective” and “deficient”? Does this mean that Evangelicals are in the boat as pagans and Jews? Or does the difference turn on the presence or absence of the adjective “gravely?”
iii) If, at the end of the day, Jews and pagans can still be saved, then in what respect is their spiritual situation “gravely deficient”?
If they can be saved, the distinction is not qualitative. So is it merely quantitative? Is the point that fewer Jews and pagans are saved in proportion to Roman Catholics or other Christians who enjoy valid sacraments?
But if pagans can be saved by faith in natural revelation, then in what sense does that place them in a disadvantageous position? Ditto: the Jews, who have the benefit of special revelation.
Finally, there is the part of the paragraph which Jason did not quote:
<< 22. However, “all the children of the Church should nevertheless remember that their exalted condition results, not from their own merits, but from the grace of Christ. If they fail to respond in thought, word, and deed to that grace, not only shall they not be saved, but they shall be more severely judged”.93 >>
Pay close attention to the contrast. On the one hand you have Jews and pagans who are in a condition of diminished responsibility due to their invincible ignorance of the Catholic faith.
On the other hand, you have Catholics who are in a condition of heightened responsibility due to their “exalted condition” in relation to the church.
And this, in turn, leaves them liable to an aggravated state of guilt to which the invincibly ignorant pagan or Jew is immune.
Hence, a Catholic is at greater risk of damnation than a pagan—especially when you compare the ratio of lapsed Catholics to ignorant Hindus and Buddhists and Mohammedans—to name a few.
So have I misrepresented Catholic teaching? Or have I presented Catholic teaching all the more accurately by following it through to its logical conclusions?