Can Someone please explain Invincible Ignorance to me?


#1

Hello friends

My name is Christopher and so far I have had an enjoyable time on this message board.

It has come to my attention that the Roman Catholic Church teaches something called “invincible ignorance”. I would like to understand this more fully, as my present understanding leaves me a bit confused. Could someone please explain this position to me?

thank you

love

Christopher


Invincible Ignorance and Salvation Outside the Church in Scripture
#2

When someone is ignorant through no fault of their own. This is Invincible Ignorance. For example, a person who commits a sinful act without knowing that the act is sinful may not be fully culpable.


#3

Invincible Ignorance is something that there is lots of discussion about. The best way i can explain it to you is with a scripture you will recognize.
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Luke 12:47 And that servant who knew the will of his lord, and prepared not himself, and did not according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he that knew not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more.

Now, basically, we will both probably agree that there is such a thing as objective truth, and if so, then the concept is this.

We are held accountable for what we know. So those who make the effort to know and understand the Catholic faith and then reject it will have to account for that at judgement. If they knew and understood what they read and heard and then rejected or opposed it then they will find themselves judged accordingly. It’s basically the same thing that most n-Cs believe about those who hear the Gospel and willfully reject it. Those people are judged for that.

So far as Americans are concerned I suspect there will be very few that can really claim invincible ignorance. I think a great many a-Cs try to use it as a way to make it appear that they have nothing to account for in their opposition to our most holy faith. I don’t even bother with them. God knows their hearts and it is His place to judge and deal with them.

My function is to insure that I give the best answers I can to those who ask me a reason of that hope which is in me. (1st Peter 3:15)

I hope that makes some sense.
The peace of the Lord be always with you.[/FONT][/size]


#4

Moral theology divides ignorance into a number of categories. The two that will consider here are invincible and vincible. Ignorance is invincible if a person could not remove it by applying reasonable diligence in determining the answer. Ignorance is vincible if a person could remove it by applying reasonable diligence. Reasonable diligence, in turn, is that diligence that a conscientious person would display in seeking the correct answer to a question given (a) the gravity of the question and (b) his particular resources.

The gravity of a question is determined by how great a need the person has to know the answer. The answers to fundamental questions (how to save one’s soul, how to preserve one’s life) have grave weight. The answers to minor questions (the solution to a crossword puzzle) have light weight.

The particular resources a person has include (a) the ease with which he can obtain the information necessary to determine the answer and (b) the ease with which he can make an accurate evaluation of the evidence once it is in his possession. The graver the question and the greater the resources available, the more diligence is needed to qualify as reasonable. The lighter the question and the fewer the resources available, the less diligence is needed to qualify as reasonable.

Just as it is possible to show less than reasonable diligence, it is also possible to show more than reasonable diligence. Diligence can be supererogatory (and praiseworthy) if one shows more diligence than would be expected from an ordinary, conscientious person. Diligence can be excessive or scrupulous (and blameworthy) if someone spends so much time seeking the answer to a particular question that he fails to attend to other matters he should attend to, or if he refuses to come to a conclusion and continues seeking even when he has enough evidence.

Depending on its type and degree, ignorance may remove, diminish, leave unaffected, or even increase one’s culpability for a materially sinful act (cf. CCC 1735, 1746, 1859). Conversely, it may have the same effects on one’s imputability for a materially righteous act. Here we will deal only with the effects of ignorance on one’s culpability for sin,

**Invincible ignorance removes one’s culpability for a materially sinful act, whether one of omission or commission (CCC 1793). **Vincible ignorance may variously affect one’s culpability for a sinful act, depending on the kind of vincibility. If some, but insufficient, diligence was shown toward finding the answer, the ignorance is termed merely vincible. If little or no diligence was shown, the ignorance is termed crass or supine. If one deliberately fostered the ignorance then it is termed affected or *studied. *

If vincible ignorance is merely vincible, crass, or supine, it diminishes culpability for the sinful act relative to the degree of diligence that was shown. If a vincibly ignorant person showed almost reasonable diligence, most of his imputability for the sin could be removed. If he was crassly ignorant, having shown little or no diligence compared to what was reasonable, little or none of his imputability would be removed.

Affected or studied ignorance can increase culpability for a sin, especially if it displays hardness of heart, whereby one would commit the sin irrespective of any law that might exist concerning it. Such an attitude shows contempt for moral law and so increases culpability (cf. CCC 1859).

Potentially, ignorance can diminish or remove imputability for any kind of sin. However, no one is presumed to be ignorant of the principles of moral law since these are written on the heart of every man (CCC 1860). It is possible for a person to be invincibly ignorant that an act is required by natural law. This may be true if the act involves a point that is not obvious, if the person is not mentally quick enough to discern the application of natural law to the case, or if he has been raised to strongly believe in a system that denies the point of natural law. However, such ignorance must be proven, not presumed.

*** A special case is the application of vincible and invincible ignorance to salvation. Failure to embrace the Christian faith (infidelity), total repudiation of the Christian faith (apostasy), and the post-baptismal obstinate denial or willful doubt of particular teachings of the Catholic faith (heresy) are objectively grave sins against the virtue of faith.*** Like any other grave sins, if they are committed with adequate knowledge and deliberate consent, they become mortal sins and will deprive one of salvation.
**
Also like any other grave sins, their imputability can be removed, diminished, unaffected, or increased by the varying** types of ignorance. **Invincible ignorance removes culpability for the sins against faith, merely vincible ignorance diminishes culpability (sometimes to the point of being venial), crass or supine ignorance will affect culpability for them little or not at all, and hard hearted, affected ignorance will increase culpability for them…

Read the rest at**:

catholicculture.org/library/view.cfm?recnum=1203


#5

Thank you for your responses. I feel that I understand the doctrine a bit further, but I am confused as to how it relates to salvation. I understand that those who know little will be punished little, and those who know much will be punished much. How does this doctrine specifically relate to salvation? In regards to invincible ignorance, can an athiest go to heaven?


#6

It may sound paradoxical, but an atheist can choose to follow God. The do not, of course, follow the “idea” of God, but if they follow beauty, truth, goodness, mercy, justice, love, then they are following the reality of God. They are following God as he reveals himself in every human heart. So the Church teaches that it is possible for an atheist to go to heaven, if they follow God as he has revealed himself to them in their particular circumstances and capabilities. She does not claim to know how easy or hard it is for an atheist to go to heaven. It’s certainly a risky proposition compared to believing and living the Catholic faith, though.


#7

VociMike or anyone,

This question is related to a thread I posted yesterday. What is the scriptural basis for invincible ignorance and salvation outside the Church?


#8

VociMike,

This question is related to a thread I posted yesterday. What is the scriptural basis for this? Do we have any examples?


#9

Ignorance


#10

I would also add to this that if the “atheist” is “following God” there would be an implicit connection to Christ and the Church that only God knows, as the Church teaches there can be “no salvation outside the Church”.


#11

Examples? I don’t know of any examples, but Romans 2 has a pretty clear statement of the concept:

[9] There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,
[10] but glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.
[11] For God shows no partiality.
[12] All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.
[13] For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
[14] When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.
[15] They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them
[16] on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.


#12

This passage shows that, even though they haven’t HEARD the law, they know it, as evidenced by their concept of morality. This passage shows that those that haven’t heard the law (ignorant) will perish. This is the opposite of invincible ignorance.

I don’t mean to get into a debate, I wish to understand why this doctrine is taught. This passage suggests that those that are ignorant will perish.


#13

No, it says, as you note, that they know the law, and it also says that doers of the law will be justified.


#14

:confused: An atheist is someone who willfully rejects what God has revealed to him.
This sounds like ecumenism run amuck.


#15

No, that is not the definition of atheism. Such a rejection, certainly, may apply to some atheists.


#16

I wanted to elaborate on my answer. In Romans 2 we read

[9] There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,
[10] but glory and honor and peace for every one who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.
[11] For God shows no partiality.
[12] All who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law.
[13] For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.
[14] When Gentiles who have not the law do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.
[15] They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them
[16] on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

So we read that those who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law. But we also read that those who do by nature what the law requires, become a law to themselves. Thus these people are not among those who have sinned without the law. And we read that they will be justified if they are doers of the law, and their response to their conscience (the law written on their hearts) may perhaps excuse them.


#17

An atheist rejects the idea of a God, no?


#18

Yes, but that is not the same as rejecting what God has revealed to them (his law written on their hearts), which is what you first wrote.

There is nothing that prohibits an atheist from living what we would otherwise consider to be a Christian life, a life of love and mercy and justice and self-giving and goodness and truth.


#19

Original Sin.


#20

Baptism of Desire


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