The Flying Buttress: What Inquisitors' Minds Want to Know

An archive for issues of The Flying Buttress newswire, whose purpose is to comment satirically on dissent within and relating to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati. Disclaimer: These publications are works of satirical fiction. Any similarity to persons living or dead is purely coincidental, but it all depends on what you mean by the word "is." May the Lord bless you and keep you!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Flying Buttress, 12/18/05

+Dissecting dissent in the Cincinnati Archdiocese+

Book Review (Part II): “Vatican II: The Crisis and the Promise”

+In response to our last issue, Part I of this book review, only one reader sent in a comment: "Sungenis and Lefebvre certainly are dissenters; one denies the authority of the pope while the other has been excommunicated." We again invite your comments on this and future issues.

+Schreck treats two underlying and related themes of the Council at length: salvation for non-Christians, and ecumenism. With this issue we will attempt to analyze the puzzle of salvation for non-Christians. Our presumption is that Schreck has been faithful to the letter and spirit of the Conciliar documents.

Q: Is possession of truth linked to salvation?

A: So eager were the Council Fathers to reach out and embrace the world that they established what appears to be a hierarchical world-inclusive scheme of truth: an inner court, consisting of the Church, which alone possesses the fullness of truth, and at least two outer courts for those who possess lesser or incomplete degrees of truth. These outer courts apparently were posited to acknowledge and respect the legitimacy of (a) non-Catholic Christians, who possess Christ in some incomplete way, and (b) non-Christians, who may still lead lives of peace and goodwill though not knowing or embracing Christ and His Gospel.

This threefold truth hierarchy is reflected in a threefold scheme for the People of God: at the top, the Catholic People of God. Under them, non-Catholic People of God. And at the bottom, non-Christian potential People of God.

In other words, non-Christians, though not the "People of God," are still related to them and form an outer court of the Church. They are therefore included, somehow, in God’s plan of salvation.

Presumably this generous gesture was created to convince the world that a kinder, gentler version of "the Church is the one true church of Jesus Christ" was now in effect. But here’s the rub: there is an implicit cause and effect link suggested between degrees of truth and degrees of salvation. This link, however, is neither made explicit nor defined – in fact, it is denied! Questions like these arise: Is non-Catholic salvation the same as Catholic salvation? If so, how can one possess incomplete truth yet still be saved? By the same token, is non-Christian salvation the same as salvation through Christ? If not, is it a lesser variety? If lesser, how? Are there different grades of salvation? Are there different stages of salvation? In short, what if any is the connection between truth and salvation? If our Church claims to be in sole possession of the fullness of truth, then surely there must be some connection – otherwise, why make this claim?

None of these questions are addressed by Schreck. In his defense, judging from certain statements in the Catechism, they are not addressed by God either, whose infinite mercy is apparently not bound by considerations of complete or incomplete possession of truth. We can possess truth ‘til the cows come home, but God, so we are to believe, sweeps away all distinctions among truths and simply reads the heart.

Q: Is this scheme of salvation something new?

A: We have to wonder: if the objective truth of the pre-Conciliar Church ("the Catholic Church is the one true Church") was too hard-edged for the world, how is this kinder, gentler, "inclusive" truth any less so? As noted above, Catholics still occupy the inner court, the apex of the pyramid, the top of the spiritual manna chain – and are still in privileged possession of the means to salvation through Christ.

Q: Are there any contradictions or problems inherent in this salvation scheme?

A: We answer this question with the table below:


On the other hand...or maybe...n the other hand…or maybe…

"…only the Catholic Church possesses the fullness of the Church of Christ…" Schreck, p.89

"In the conflict between different religions, the most that Modernists can maintain is that the Catholic has more truth because it is more vivid, and that it deserves with more reason the name of Christian because it corresponds more fully with the origins of Christianity." Pope St. Pius X, Pascendi Dominici gregis (On the Doctrine of the Modernists), §14

"Non-Christians can be saved only if…1. through no fault of their own they do not know the Gospel of Christ. 2. they sincerely seek God. 3. they strive by God’s grace to live a good life and do God’s will as they know it through the dictates of conscience." Schreck, p. 227

"Faith is necessary for salvation. The Lord himself affirms: "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mk 16:16). CCC § 183

"Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation." CCC § 161

"The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day." CCC § 841

"This is the stone which was rejected by you the builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other. For there is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved." Acts 4: 11-12

"…for all people – Jews and Gentiles alike - salvation can only come from Jesus Christ." Pope John Paul II, "Redemptoris Missio,"5; quoted by Schreck, p. 229.

"The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are ``reborn of water and the Spirit.'' God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments." CCC § 1257

"Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity." CCC § 1260

Here is an attempted resolution to this mysteriously inexact scheme, from the Augustinian Club of Columbia University: "Salvation is a matter of how we respond to the truth we are given in life. Only for those who have encountered the fullness of truth in Christ is a formal proclamation of belief in Christ necessary."

But if the truth we encounter is incomplete? What are the ramifications for a response to incomplete truth? The post-Conciliar Church seems to say, "It doesn’t matter." That is, when it’s not saying, "It matters."

NEXT ISSUE: Vatican II and ecumenism.

Odds and Ends

The Problem With Safe Environment Programs (More Information and a Petition)

The USCCB's Apparently Gay Movie Reviewer (Their review of "Brokeback Mountain")

Worshipping the Lord in the Beauty of Holiness (Re-enchanting the sacred liturgy)

Visit the The Flying Buttress archive


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