Necessity for Heaven | The Daily Guardian


By: Lance Patrick C. Enad

“Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus- outside the Church there is no salvation (St. Cyprian)” would have been the unanimous response of ‘good catholics’ prior to the Second Vatican Council; when the words of St. Cyprian were interpreted literally and without any reservations. At that time, there would have been a hostile view to those who were not members of the Church since it was viewed that they were awaiting eternal damnation should they not come to the fold of the Church. This view would have been strongly insisted upon in those days as we can see in the bull ‘In Unam Sanctam’ of Boniface VIII which states that “we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff” (1302) and in the practice of singing the Te Deum in an event of a victory against heretics.

In the advent of the Second Vatican Council, there was a move to have more peaceful relations with those who were not members of the Church. Themes such as “healing of the wounds of division” or “peaceful coexistence” were celebrated in inter-faith ecumenical gatherings or worships. Those who are not members of the Church were no longer called ‘heretics,’ ‘schismatics,’ or ‘pagans’ but were now called ‘our separated brethren’ or ‘people of different faiths.’

Furthermore, The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that those who “through no fault of their own” have not known the name of Christ may attain salvation.

This seems to be confusing. Inasmuch as we cannot reject St. Cyprian’s “Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus” for it is a stand that has been upheld by the church for centuries and has been promulgated by numerous official documents, we cannot also reject the Second Vatican Council’s call to ecumenism or the Catechism’s stand on the salvation of those who do not know Christ. It seems that the Church’s new statement contradict the age-old stand that has been handed to us from the Fathers of the Church. It appears that the move for ecumenism is a manifestation that a concession is made by the Church. It seems that she is tolerating, if not consenting, to the errors of the heretics or pagans. Assuming that the speculations on the Church’s concession are true, it is noteworthy to examine the whole purpose of the Church’s missionary activity vis-a-vis the move for ecumenism. It seems that the move for ecumenism invalidates the Church’s missionary activity for, after all, those who through no fault of their own can attain salvation through extraordinary means flowing from God’s great mercy.

However, such is not the case. By no means is the Church making a concession or is compromising her doctrine for the sake of “healing the wounds of sin and division” or of “peaceful coexistence.” Reginald Lagrange O.P. reminds us that “The Church is intolerant in principle because she believes; she is tolerant in practice because she loves.” The move for ecumenism is, by all means, not a compromise of doctrine or a concession; it is a manifestation of the Holy Mother Church’s great, genuine, and overflowing love for mankind which is an echo of the will of her spouse who desires that for “all men to be saved.”

In Ecumenism, the Church is not trying to ignore doctrinal point of argument but is simply reducing the tensions between her children and those who have unfortunately been deceived by falsehood.

Moreover, the Church upholds her timeless doctrine on salvation. She upholds “Extra ecclesiam nulla salus” but interprets not in a literal way. Lumen Gentium tells us that “Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation…Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.” This affirmation of the Church’s necessity for salvation is aimed at those who, aware of the Church’s necessity, still refuse obstinately to be in the Church and not on those who, through no fault of their own, have not heard the name of Christ. This means that while the Church is necessary for salvation, those who have not heard Our Lord’s name may be saved through extraordinary means of Salvation.

Although those who have not heard Our Lord’s name may be saved through extraordinary means of salvation, it is still necessary to bring souls into the Church. The Church could be likened to the Ark of Noah. It could be said that in the great flood, one could survive by swimming, by holding on to a log, or by being in the ark. Those who are not in the ark have either perished, are swimming, or are in a log. Those who are not fortunate to be in the ark are in danger of exhaustion and can perish due to the unpredictability of the waters or of the human body. Those in the ark are safe, sound, and secure because of the ark and of God who is surely protecting them.

The Church then is the surest way to salvation. Ecumenism is an act of Charity aimed at drawing others towards the Church. Ecumenism does not invalidate the need to go to missions on places wherein the name of Jesus is not heard nor does it invalidate the need to be part of the Church for eternal salvation.

The Church remains to be the safest, soundest, and securest. All the Church’s actions, ecumenical or not, is oriented towards the Glory of God and the Salvation of Souls.

Lance Patrick Enad y Caballero is a grade XII Seminarian from Pope John XXIII Seminary of the Archdiocese of Cebu. He will turn eighteen on the fourteenth of November.

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