08 August 2008

Extra ecclesiam nulla salus

{This originally appeared as "Church Covenants" in Tabletalk 27.5 (May 2003): 48}

On a Lord's Day not too long ago, my wife and I stood in front of our fellow congregants to be received as members of the church we had been attending for more than two years. The pastor, smiling, yet with all seriousness, asked us the following five questions (and I paraphrase):
  1. Do you acknowledge yourselves to be sinners, justly deserving God's displeasure, without hope save in his sovereign mercy?
  2. Do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and do you rest upon him alone for salvation?
  3. Do you now promise, relying upon the Spirit's grace, to endeavor to live as becomes the followers of Christ?
  4. Do you promise to support the church in its worship and work to the best of your ability?
  5. Do you submit yourselves tot the government and discipline of the church and promise to study its purity and peace?
Publicly answering each of these questions served as our entrance into a solemn covenant with Christ and his church.

The only problem with this idyllic scene is that I failed this covenant miserably in the short time since I made the commitment. Sure, the first three questions are Sunday school no-brainers, but they are ironically no more important than the last two, for in them the first three questions are realized or lived out. That is, a life of grace that hopes in God's sovereign mercy, made available by Christ alone, and perpetuated by good works in the Spirit, manifests itself in a life that supports the church's worship and work, and that submits to the government and discipline of the church, and therefore promises to study its purity and peace.

Most important, whether other churches verbalize these five questions or not, this oath transcends denominational lines, thereby drawing our focus back to God's prescribed means for promulgating the gospel—the church. If the church is to remain true to her calling, membership in any local congregation must mean entering into covenant with God, simply because a congregant ought to be, by definition, a bond servant of Jesus in the family of God.

Since the church is the radiant bride of Christ, how much more should she expect the commitment of saints who are more concerned with worshiping the Almighty in Spirit and in truth than attempting to convince the world that church-goers are everyday, ordinary people?


Catholic Mission said...

Friday, October 7, 2011
Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy, University Pontifical Regina Apostolorum, Rome in his office today morning said he was familiar with the text of the dogma Cantate Domino and he would endorse it in public.

Fr. Rafael Pascual said he and other Legionaries of Christ priests took an oath in Church to be faithful to the Magisterium of the Church and he showed me on his computer the text of this oath.

He took exception to a report (1) I e-mailed him which indicated that the Legionaries of Christ priests have not affirmed the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus.

Fr. Pascual who is the Director of the Master of Science and Faith Institute knew that the dogma on extra ecclesiam nulla salus, Cantate Domino (2) was in accord with Vatican Council II (LG 14,AG 7) (3), Dominus Iesus 20 (4) and other Magisterial text.

Catholic Mission said...

The Church also affirms it may be mentioned that non Catholics can be saved in invincible ignorance and the baptism of desire. However the Church Fathers, popes and Councils always new that these cases were implicit and so did not contradict the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus. They are only known to God and we would not meet any such case in person. Also no Magisterial text claims that they are explicitly known to us. -Lionel Andrades




Pope Eugene IV, Cantate Domino (1441): "The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the "eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41), unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church."-, Wikipedia, extra ecclesiam nulla salus


Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it 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(124) and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church.-Lumen Gentium 14

Therefore, all must be converted to Him, made known by the Church's preaching, and all must be incorporated into Him by baptism and into the Church which is His body. For Christ Himself "by stressing in express language the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mark 16:16; John 3:5), at the same time confirmed the necessity of the Church, into which men enter by baptism, as by a door.-Ad Gentes 7


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”. This doctrine must not be set against the universal salvific will of God (cf. 1 Tim 2:4); “it is necessary to keep these two truths together, namely, the real possibility of salvation in Christ for all mankind and the necessity of the Church for this salvation”.- Dominus Iesus 20

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