Rigorism has no place in Christ’s Church
Dear Fr Most has been accused of making up a myth about Fr Feeney, merely because he referred to a statement of Pius XII!
We have seen that Pope St Clement I, wrote in about 95 A.D. to the Church in Corinth: "Those who repented for their sins, appeased God in praying and received salvation, even though they were aliens to God." Catholic Apologetics Today, 1986, Fr William G Most, p 145]. Thus the will of Christ was understood from the very beginning of Christ’s Church, by the fourth pope, as St Paul taught.
Now a look at more evidence of the understanding within the Church.
From: PetersNet -- Author:John Pacheco
Title: Salvation Outside the Church
Publisher: Apologists of St. Francis De Sales
[Petersnet was the former name for Dr. Jeff Mirus’ website on which he had a forum. Dr Mirus is an historian whose Catholic Culture site is a faithful Catholic resource].
Those who hold to the strict interpretation cite these and other sources for their views, but they cite them selectively - neither offering the historical context of the definition, nor elaborating on the object to whom the teaching was directed. In fact, even the citings that are provided by the rigorists cannot be held as conclusive proof for their interpretation simply because many of the Fathers they cite did not, in fact, hold to the rigorist view. For instance, St. Ambrose (De obit Val. 51) and St. Augustine (De bapt. IV 22,29) both held that catechumens who die before baptism can receive salvation on the basis of their faith and their desire for baptism. St. Thomas Aquinas also concedes the possibility of salvation occurring extra-sacramentally (S. Th. III 68,2).
Similarly, two Popes who are cited in support of the rigorist position did not hold this view at all. Pius IX did not understood the article in the strict sense. His belief in the article was directed at modern religious indifferentism rather than to a universal, exclusive position: "By Faith it is to be firmly held that outside the Apostolic Roman Church none can achieve salvation. This is the only ark of salvation. He who does not enter into it will perish in the flood. Nevertheless, equally certainly it is to be held that those who suffer from invincible ignorance of the true religion, are not for this reason guilty in the eyes of the Lord. Now, then, who could presume in himself an ability to set the boundaries of such ignorance, taking into consideration the natural differences of peoples, land, native talents, and so many other factors" (Singulari Quidem, 1863 A.D.). Hence, Pius IX distinguished between those who have knowledge of the Church and Her divine foundation, and those who have no such knowledge due to a number of mitigating circumstances.
Pius XII, who affirmed the doctrine in his Encyclicals Mystici Corporis *(1943) and *Humani Generis (*1950), also qualified its meaning in attempting to silence Father Leonard Feeney, S.J., an American Jesuit at Boston College and the ‘father’ of the rigorist movement (whose proponents, whether rightly or wrongly, are now referred to as the ‘Feeneyites’). Father Feeney was expelled from his order and then excommunicated in the 1940’s for holding and pushing the rigorist view as official Catholic teaching. (He was later reconciled to the Church.) "In the aftermath of the controversy, the Archbishop of Boston, Richard Cushing, received a letter of clarification from the Holy Office. This letter, dated August 8, 1949, is important for its explanation of the necessity of the Church: she is necessary for salvation by divine command, not by intrinsic necessity. The Church, as Christ’s mystical body, is the sole ark of salvation, but direct membership in her through the sacraments is only the ordinary means of salvation." (*Catholic Encyclopedia, p.862, Reverend Peter Stravinskas, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., Huntington, Indiana, 1991)
Thus, just as without Christ there is no salvation, so without the Church there is no salvation. [Catechism of the Catholic Church # 846 - # 848]. The Catholic Church, regardless of whether or not a person knows of its divine origin and founding, is the body through which ALL salvation comes to anyone whom God deems worthy to receive it.