Salvation According to the Council of Trent

I have a question concerning salvation. You see, according to the Council of Trent. Especially Canon IV where it states “If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation,…let him be anathema.” I understand that the Catholic Church itself cannot condemn anyone to hell, that is the decision of the Lord only. But the referenced passage states that if a Catholic says that the seven sacraments are not necessary for salvation then let him be anathema (or excommunicated). In following that passage, is it an excommunicateable offense to say that salvation exists outside of the seven sacraments of the Catholic Church? Either way, could you explain to me how one can have salvation outside the sacraments of the Catholic Church with respect to the infallible Canon IV of the Council of Trent.

Here are what you would be excluded from communion for:

  1. From your first quote if you were to say: “You don’t need some or all the Sacraments for salvation” - Anathema (we exclude you from teaching our people)

  2. From your second quote if you were to say: “Salvation is found from going directly to God without the sacraments, so you don’t need the Church for salvation” - Anathema (we exclude you from teaching our people)

They don’t contradict each other but clarify each other.
Martin Luther said both items, and was excommunicated.

  1. “You need only Baptism and the (modified) Eucharist, but the other five are not sacraments and you sin if you depend on Penance, Matrimony, Orders, etc. for Grace and Salvation.”
  2. “The Catholic Church is not the dispenser of salvation with its seven sacraments nor does the Catholic Church teach the Word of God. But Salvation is found in the Word Alone and your faith in that Word”.

A person’s innocent ignorance of that truth and other truths, might be their escape clause. It’s the old addage, one can’t be held responsible for what they don’t know. Disagreement with truth otoh, doesn’t necessarily mean one is innocently ignorant of the truth. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) says

1791[FONT=Calibri] ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man “takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin.” In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits.[/FONT]

Well here’s the thing: You can’t. The Council of Trent is correct and very clear.

A person can be baptized by desire, meaning that they want to be part of God’s church, but they can’t get the chance for whatever reason. They still, however, are receiving the Sacrament of Baptism.

Now, I think someone could be saved without ever hearing the word “Catholic” if they believe in a God and promise that if they ever do find out what God is like, to join his Church.

Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, Constitution 1, 1215, ex cathedra: “There is indeed one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which nobody at all is saved, in which Jesus Christ is both priest and sacrifice.”[ccxciii]

Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, “Cantate Domino,” 1441, ex cathedra: “The Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that all those who are outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life and will go into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless they are joined to the Church before the end of their lives; that the unity of this ecclesiastical body is of such importance that only for those who abide in it do the Church’s sacraments contribute to salvation and do fasts, almsgiving and other works of piety and practices of the Christian militia produce eternal rewards; and that nobody can be saved, no matter how much he has given away in alms and even if he has shed blood in the name of Christ, unless he has persevered in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.”[ccxcvii]

There are a few issues.

CANON IV.-If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation, but superfluous; and that, without them, or without the desire thereof, men obtain of God, through faith alone, the grace of justification;-though all (the sacraments) are not indeed necessary for every individual; let him be anathema.

Not all seven of the sacraments are necessary for salvation, which is why the council says they are not all necessary for every individual. Take for example, marriage, which is a sacrament. Marriage is not necessary for salvation, and, in fact, St. Paul says that we do better if we do not marry! To give another example, confession is necessary only conditionally, i.e. if we sin after baptism. Nevertheless, baptism is absolutely necessary for salvation. It is in baptism that we are incorporated into Christ and made heirs to eternal life. We participate in Christ’s merits through the sacrament or, as Trent says, through the desire of the sacrament. Yet, the teaching of baptism of desire is not a statement that all who want to be saved are saved simply because they want to be or because they think they are. Such an opinion is anathematized elsewhere. Nor does baptism of desire do away with the precept to receive the sacrament (as the example of Cornelius illustrates).

Another point is that baptism is a sacrament of the Church, but it is also administered outside the Church. Anyone can validly (though not licitly) baptize if they baptize with the proper form. Although whether that baptism will suffice for salvation is another matter.

Finally, excommunication is a canonical penalty. It is where you are cut off from the Church and the sacraments by the law of the Church. This is not the same thing as being cut off spiritually from the Church by sin. The two may coincide, but they do not always. For example, masturbation is a mortal sin, but it is not something that someone is excommunicated for.

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