Extra Ecclesia Nulla Salus?


Check out these links I found on the web! Basically the point is that Catholics who hold Fr Feeney’s interpretation of EXTRA ECCLESIA NULLA SALUS are still Catholics in good standing with the Church.

Here is an article by Peter Vere, a Canon Lawyer on the matter. Vere has written for Envoy Magazine, appears in the book Suprised By Truth #3, and has written for This Rock magazine. He has also written great apologetic material againsts the Lefebvre schism.

Here he responds to a question on the matter from the Saint Benedict Center in New Hampshire. Now it must be noted that the group in New Hampshire is not approved by the Church. Vere simply answers the question if a Catholic in good standing may hold the same interpretation of “extra ecclesia…” as Feeney. He does not go into the Canonical standing of the group in New Hampshire, but merely the status of the individual Catholic faithful who holds this view.


Another point is that although the Saint Benedict Center in New Hampshire is not Canonically approved by the Church, the Saint Benedict Center in
Still River, MA in fact is. It is approved in the Diocese of Worcester.

They have religious communities of nuns and monks:



(Note that this last website says “Saint Benedict Center in Still River is not associated or affiliated with St. Benedict Center in Richmond, New Hampshire.” The New Hampshire one is the one that is not approved, the Still River one is.)

As you can see in this link, they are listed in the Directory page of religious orders in the Diocese of Worcester (Benedictines of Still River)

So, what does this mean? Not only can a Catholic hold a stricter interpretation of EXTRA ECCLESIA NULLA SALUS and still be in good standing with the Church, but there is actually a religious order officially approved in the Diocese of Worcester that holds this view. I have seen many debates about this issue on these forums and by Catholic Answers apologists such as Jimmy Akin, but I have never heard anyone bring up these two facts.

It comes down to either “Feeneyites” are not heretics (as Catholic Answers seems to infer) and Feeney’s view is in fact a legitimate theological opinion that is allowed within Catholic orthodoxy (as Peter Vere clearly proves)


Peter Vere is wrong which means the Diocese of Worcester (with the knowledge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, mind you!) is officially allowing a heretical group to exist in their diocese!

While I do not necessarily subscribe to Feeney’s view, because I haven’t studied it enough, and therefore don’t wish to get into debates about Feeney’s doctrine itself, this is a very interesting find.


Here we go…


On the other hand Fr. Feeney was excommunicated and in an ironic twist was himself extra ecclesia. Yet he promoted that view and didn’t just hold it. So does this mean and individual can believe like him as long as he is quiet, kind of like a Catholic version of, “Don’t ask. Don’t tell?”


After reading the pdf file (I hate pdf) I think I wasn’t far from the truth. I do not accept the logis of Peter Vere, though, in that his first reasoning is strange. Yes Fr. Feeny was reconciled, but only upon denouncing his previous postition. This is hardly evidence of the legitimacy of his position. Second, while the the sisters in question were not required to renounce their position, they were required to read and sign that they understood the current church teaching.

So I guess the actual answer is that indivuduals may hold a stricter view, but such should nor be promulgated as the Church’s teaching and should be done with a degree of humility and understanding of what the Church teaches. Under the circumstances, it is totally understandable why the Church the pastoral thing to do is to keep dialogue open on the subject for these groups.


Actually Vere states that there is NO EVIDENCE he renounced his previous position:

“There is no question Fr. Feeney died in full communion with the Catholic Church. Pope Paul VI lifted Father’s excommunication while Father was still alive, and there is no evidence that Father recanted his understanding of EENS, BOB, or BOD.”

In fact, I have read that Feeney only had to make a profession of faith to be reinstated. He chose the
Athanasian Creed


which begins “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.” and ENDS
with “This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.”

The Church does not allow SSPX members who return to the unity of the Church to continue believing that Vatican II wasn’t an ecumenical council, so why would they allow the Feeney followers who are canonically in union with the Church to continue believing Feeney’s views? And if the Church allowed someone to believe something, why would they not allow them to promote it?
If for some reason they didn’t want them to promote it, they should put out a document saying so.

Until the CDF or the Pope clarifies the theological issue, it is up for debate. There is no index of forbidden books anymore, nor an imprimatur requirement for the publishing of books or websites, so that can make the matter quite confusing.

If this is somehow a “dangerous” doctrine then CDF should step up to the plate and clarify things, or at least not approve this group.

I still think Peter Vere’s explanation is quite valid.


…and the fact is this approved group DOES in fact promote that understanding on their website, and by their very existence.


I misread it. I told you I hated PDF. So we do not know if he did or did not renounce his position prior to his excommunication being lifted and his death.

I still think Peter Vere’s explanation is quite valid.

I do not. Fr. Feeney was excommunicated. That is a fact, the elephant in the the room in this article. The abscence of the evidence in the lifting of this ex-communication is not unusual, considering the seal of confession. I think Vere is totally misinterpreting pastoral charity and drawing dangerous conclusions from it. The proper conclusion is that the Catholic Church is charitable and seeks the salvation of all, even dissenters in its ranks. So if by “good standing” you mean not ex-communicated, I believe you are correct.


I am a little confused as to how they interpet the dogma. Are they claiming water Baptism is absolutely necessary? And if so, does that mean they can personally and definitively know whether specific individual souls are damned?

And once Baptized, are they claiming one must have explicit knowledge of every dogma of the faith to be saved? Obviously little children may not–are they damned? Or what if a person with a Catholic Baptismal certificate dies before learning, in his diligent study of the faith, that Christ has two wills, for example? Is perfect knowledge necessary for salvation?

And are they claiming this is how the dogma has always been understood?

In the end, none of us knows for sure who is saved (other than canonized saints)–if they want to guess that only card-carrying Catholics have ever been saved, I guess their guess is as good as anyone else’s who dares to guess at the fate of the souls of others (which in and of itself is not an excommunicatable offense).


We were supposed to get a card???


The Holy Office letter concerning Fr. Feeney’s disobedience gives the Church’s proper understanding of the Dogma extra eclesiam nulla salus.

[quote=excerpt from]Letter from Cardinal Ottaviani to the Cardinal-Archbishop of Boston regarding Fr. Feeney

Given on August 8, 1949 explaining the true sense of the Catholic doctrine that there is no salvation outside the Church.

Accordingly, the Most Eminent and Most Reverend Cardinals of this Supreme Congregation, in a plenary session held on Wednesday, July 27, 1949, decreed, and the august Pontiff in an audience on the following Thursday, July 28, 1949, deigned to give his approval, that the following explanations pertinent to the doctrine, and also that invitations and exhortations relevant to discipline be given:

We are bound by divine and Catholic faith to believe all those things which are contained in the word of God, whether it be Scripture or Tradition, and are proposed by the Church to be believed as divinely revealed, not only through solemn judgment but also through the ordinary and universal teaching office (, n. 1792).

Now, among those things which the Church has always preached and will never cease to preach is contained also that infallible statement by which we are taught that there is no salvation outside the Church.

Read further to see the following:

The same in its own degree must be asserted of the Church, in as far as she is the general help to salvation. Therefore, that one may obtain eternal salvation, it is not always required that he be incorporated into the Church actually as a member, but it is necessary that at least he be united to her by desire and longing.

However, this desire need not always be explicit, as it is in catechumens; but when a person is involved in invincible ignorance God accepts also an implicit desire, so called because it is included in that good disposition of soul whereby a person wishes his will to be conformed to the will of God.

These things are clearly taught in that dogmatic letter which was issued by the Sovereign Pontiff, Pope Pius XII, on June 29, 1943, (AAS, Vol. 35, an. 1943, p. 193 ff.). For in this letter the Sovereign Pontiff clearly distinguishes between those who are actually incorporated into the Church as members, and those who are united to the Church only by desire.

Discussing the members of which the Mystical Body is-composed here on earth, the same august Pontiff says: “Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed.”

Toward the end of this same encyclical letter, when most affectionately inviting to unity those who do not belong to the body of the Catholic Church, he mentions those who “are related to the Mystical Body of the Redeemer by a certain unconscious yearning and desire,” and these he by no means excludes from eternal salvation, but on the other hand states that they are in a condition “in which they cannot be sure of their salvation” since “they still remain deprived of those many heavenly gifts and helps which can only be enjoyed in the Catholic Church” (AAS, 1. c., p. 243). With these wise words he reproves both those who exclude from eternal salvation all united to the Church only by implicit desire, and those who falsely assert that men can be saved equally well in every religion (cf. Pope Pius IX, Allocution, , in , n. 1641 ff.; also Pope Pius IX in the encyclical letter, , in , n. 1677).

But it must not be thought that any kind of desire of entering the Church suffices that one may be saved. It is necessary that the desire by which one is related to the Church be animated by perfect charity. Nor can an implicit desire produce its effect, unless a person has supernatural faith: “For he who comes to God must believe that God exists and is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Heb. 11:6). The Council of Trent declares (Session VI, chap. 8): “Faith is the beginning of man’s salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God and attain to the fellowship of His children” (, n. 801).


There is no such SSPX member that I have ever heard of that rejects that Vatican II was an Ecumenical Council.


Excerpted from:


In response to a query made by Cardinal Ottaviani, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the Holy Office), Archbishop Lefebvre, then Superior General of the Holy Ghost Fathers, made these comments about the immediate and disastrous effects of the Second Vatican Council.

20 December 1966

…Groups of religious imbued with these false ideas, however, succeeded in infiltrating them into Catholic Action and into the seminaries, thanks to a certain indulgence on the part of the bishops and the tolerance of certain Roman authorities. Soon it would be among such priests that the bishops would be chosen. This was the point at which the Council found itself while preparing, by preliminary commissions, to proclaim the truth in the face of such errors in order to banish them from the midst of the Church for a long time to come. This would have been the end of Protestantism and the beginning of a new and fruitful era for the Church.

Now this preparation was odiously rejected in order to make way for the gravest tragedy the Church has ever suffered. We have lived to see the marriage of the Catholic Church with Liberal ideas. It would be to deny the evidence, to be willfully blind, not to state courageously that the Council has allowed those who profess the errors and tendencies condemned by the Popes named above, legitimately to believe that their doctrines were approved and sanctioned.

Whereas the Council was preparing itself to be a shining light in today’s world (if those pre-conciliar documents in which we find a solemn profession of safe doctrine with regard to today’s problems, had been accepted), we can and we must unfortunately state that:

In a more or less general way, when the Council has introduced innovations, it has unsettled the certainty of truths taught by the authentic Magisterium of the Church as unquestionably belonging to the treasure of Tradition.

The transmission of the jurisdiction of the bishops, the two sources of Revelation, the inspiration of Scripture, the necessity of grace for justification, the necessity of Catholic baptism, the life of grace among heretics, schismatics and pagans, the ends of marriage, religious liberty, the last ends, etc. On all these fundamental points the traditional doctrine was clear and unanimously taught in Catholic universities. Now, numerous texts of the Council on these truths will henceforward permit doubt to be cast upon them.

Doubts on the necessity of grace in order to be saved cause baptism to be held in low esteem, so that for the future it is to be put off until later, and occasion the neglect of the sacrament of Penance. Moreover, this is particularly an attitude of the clergy and not the faithful. It is the same with regard to the Real Presence: it is the clergy who act as though they no longer believe by hiding away the Blessed Sacrament, by suppressing all marks of respect towards the Sacred Species and all ceremonies in Its honour.

Doubts on the necessity of the Church, the sole source of salvation, on the Catholic Church as the only true religion, emanating from the declarations on ecumenism and religious liberty are destroying the authority of the Church’s Magisterium. In fact, Rome is no longer the unique and necessary Magistra Veritatis.

Thus, driven to this by the facts, we are forced to conclude that the Council has encouraged, in an inconceivable manner, the spreading of Liberal errors. Faith, morals and ecclesiastical discipline are shaken to their foundations, fulfilling the predictions of all the Popes.

The destruction of the Church is advancing at a rapid pace. By giving an exaggerated authority to the episcopal conferences, the Sovereign Pontiff has rendered himself powerless. What painful lessons in one single year! Yet the Successor of Peter and he alone can save the Church.

Let the Holy Father surround himself with strong defenders of the faith: let him appoint them to the important dioceses. Let him by documents of outstanding importance proclaim the truth, search out error without fear of contradictions, without fear of schisms, without fear of calling in question the pastoral dispositions of the Council.

Let the Holy Father deign: to encourage the bishops to correct faith and morals, each individually in his respective diocese as it behoves every good pastor to uphold the courageous bishops, to urge them to reform their seminaries and to restore them to the study of St. Thomas; to encourage Superiors General to maintain in novitiates and communities the fundamental principles of all Christian asceticism, and above all, obedience; to encourage the development of Catholic schools, a press informed by sound doctrine, associations of Christian families; and finally, to rebuke the instigators of errors and reduce them to silence. The Wednesday allocutions cannot replace encyclicals, decrees and letters to the bishops.

Doubtless I am reckless in expressing myself in this manner! But it is with ardent love that I compose these lines, love of God’s glory, love of Jesus, love of Mary, of the Church, of the Successor of Peter, Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ.

May the Holy Ghost, to Whom our Congregation is dedicated, deign to come to the assistance of the Pastor of the Universal Church. May Your Eminence deign to accept the assurance of my most respectful devotion in Our Lord.

Marcel Lefebvre,

Titular Archbishop of Synnada in Phrygia,
Superior General of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost.


So where in the above quote does the good Archbishop say that Vatican II was not an Ecumenical Council?


There’s a conversation killer for you…

Also, regarding anything Cardinal Ottaviani said… can you seriously trust him? I mean, he’s written some pretty “out there” stuff, that never went down real good with the other fellas in the Vatican; “The Ottaviani Intervention” springs to mind…


The problem that most people have about this dogma of the Faith is that there are a number of things that need to be considered.

  1. God doesn’t condemn anyone without mortal sin.

  2. There is only one Church that saves and that is the Catholic Church.

These doctrines must be reconciled in a proper way.



Hear hear Paul.

Those saved within the visible confines of the Catholic Church are saved BECAUSE of their religion, and the graces that the One, True, Catholic, Apostolic Church channels to us.

Those saved outside the visible confines are saved IN SPITE OF their religion/faith/error/disbelief.

Because in fairness, if you don’t need the Church to get saved, then what the dickens are we doing here? We should be in the pub!


Are you just saying that nobody has ever denied that Vatican II was a council called by Pope John XXIII and closed by Paul VI? Yes, of course it as an ecumenical council, but that not really what is at issue here.



So basically what you’re saying is that the view of the Saint Benedict Center in M.A. is not heretical.

Otherwise the Church would be allowing heresy for “pastoral” reasons. Would that make any sense?

And the center in Still Water DOES promulgate the view as the Church’s teaching. They have a website that is viewable by the whole world and they are APPROVED in the local Catholic diocese.

Also, it must be noted they have a book that they distribute (see www.abbey.org) where Fr Feeney is painted to be, not necessarily a saint, but at least a holy priest. If Feeney’s doctrine were so dangerous, would the local diocese allow this?

I don’t see any books by priests of the FSSP or Institute of Christ the King (some of whom were formerly SSPX) publishing books making Archbishop Lefebvre out to be a hero. But this APPROVED group publishes and distributes their book about Fr Feeney.


You ask questions that I obviously have no way of knowing the answers to. I also do not know why so many pro-aboriton politicians are tolerated by other dioceses. I would be remiss if I jumped to the conclusion that the Catholic Church can support a pro-abortion position, though. No, I prefer not to assume. I will leave that to you fellows that wish to make something of this. I do good just trying to learn what the Catholic Church teaches without worrying how far one can push the limits without excommunication.


Trent "If anyone shall say that true and natural water is not of necessity in Baptism, and therefore shall turn those words of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, “unless one be born again of water and the Holy Spirit” (John 3:5), into some metaphor, let him be anathema."

Council of Florence, Nov. 22, 1439 ex cathedra::
Holy baptism holds the first place among all the sacraments, for it is the gate of the spiritual life; through it we become members of Christ and of the body of the church. Since death came into the world through one person, unless we are born again of water and the spirit, we cannot, as Truth says, enter the kingdom of heaven. The matter of this sacrament is true and natural water, either hot or cold. The form is: I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

That’s all I need to know right there. Baptism by water is it.

Now, does God make exceptions ? That’s not for me to ponder. But as far as I can tell, it’s not heresy to hold Fr. Feeney’s position.

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