Salvation of the invincibly ignorant (Catholic replies, please)


#1

The only way a person can go to Hell is by committing actual mortal sin. The Church also teaches that if somebody is invincibly ignorant and lives up to whatever Grace God has given them, they can be saved. Now here’s the problem: how can they not be saved? In other words, if some tribesman living in Africa somewhere has never heard any teachings of Christ, and thinks through invincible ignorance that there is nothing wrong with some grave sin, he might do it. Now according to the Church, only mortal sin can damn a person. The sin can’t be mortal for this tribesman because he doesn’t have full knowledge. So how can this person not be saved?


#2

Check Romand chapter 2:

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.

God gives grace to all, calls them to Him, makes Himself known to all. Perhaps not by name, but in their hearts, and makes Himself clear in Creation. Their sin, would simply stated I suppose, be quantified as going against their consciences. The judgment is based on deeds. Heaven tho those who do good, and Punishment to those who do bad.

Expressions of religion differ by culture, and knowledge of all aspects God can vary by access; but morality is universal, and absolute. Right is right; wrong is wrong.

Yeah?


#3

[quote=verismo]Check Romand chapter 2:

God gives grace to all, calls them to Him, makes Himself known to all. Perhaps not by name, but in their hearts, and makes Himself clear in Creation. Their sin, would simply stated I suppose, be quantified as going against their consciences. The judgment is based on deeds. Heaven tho those who do good, and Punishment to those who do bad.

Expressions of religion differ by culture, and knowledge of all aspects God can vary by access; but morality is universal, and absolute. Right is right; wrong is wrong.

Yeah?
[/quote]

I agree, and that is why the Catechism says that nobody will be presumed ignorant of the moral law (or something like that).

That being said, there are some pretty bad mortal sins that aren’t that cut and dry that they go against conscience.

I guess I could use the example of fornication. In today’s society, SO many people pretty much grow up learning that there’s nothing wrong with it. A lot of people feel the same about masturbation, and I know that many people tell me that their conscience doesn’t make them feel like that’s wrong. These people are very good and honest people, so I am quite sure they aren’t just being hard hearted.

So they are commiting some pretty bad sins, but they think they’re fine. According to the definition of mortal sin, they aren’t committing mortal sin.

So let’s give an example. A person is baptized when they’re a baby, so they’re free of original sin. The thing is, they were baptized out of more of a “it’s the thing to do” sortof thing, and so they weren’t taught faith as they grew up. They grew up in secular culture.

Then they went about masturbating and having sex all over. They never commited another mortal sin in their life other than these things.

Are they saved? If not, why not?


#4

[quote=Lazerlike42]The only way a person can go to Hell is by committing actual mortal sin. The Church also teaches that if somebody is invincibly ignorant and lives up to whatever Grace God has given them, they can be saved. Now here’s the problem: how can they not be saved? In other words, if some tribesman living in Africa somewhere has never heard any teachings of Christ, and thinks through invincible ignorance that there is nothing wrong with some grave sin, he might do it. Now according to the Church, only mortal sin can damn a person. The sin can’t be mortal for this tribesman because he doesn’t have full knowledge. So how can this person not be saved?
[/quote]

Well most things that are sinful we know to be such. The law is written on our hearts. We have to be told what to do to be good, we never have to be told what to do to be evil.


#5

From your two posts you are drawing on two groups, the unbaptised and the baptised by sacrement only - no education or followup in their nurturing stages of development.

Both groups commit the same mortal sin - who goes to heaven and who goes to hell?

I guess the answer lies in how grace works in enabling the person in both cases to aquire full knowlege and full consent regarding their grave matter. We will never know this on an individual basis.

However, the unbaptised would I presume be saved according to Romans 2:14-15. From the Church’s perspective, they lack through no fault of their own, the distinctions in the law. They understand that adultry and murder are wrong but fail to make the connection that fornication or mastibation is a subset of the Culture of Death.

The uneducated baptised may more or less fit in this situation depending upon how sanctifying grace works at baptism, enabling God to call the person to closer union with Him yet for a multitude or reasons under or out of their control, they don’t hear Him.

I was also always under the assumption that the unbaptised receive baptismal grace through the Church’s baptism of desire for all humanity. Therefore there is no conflict in only baptised people being potentially saved, pending judgement.

Luke


#6

There is a papal statement which says that many people will go to hell because of ignorance. However, it does not use the term invincible ignorance:
Pope St. Pius X, Acerbo Nimis (# 2), April 15, 1905:

“And so Our Predecessor, Benedict XIV, had just cause to write: ‘We declare that a great number of those who are condemned to eternal punishment suffer that everlasting calamity because of ignorance of those mysteries of faith which must be known and believed in order to be numbered among the elect.’”


#7

Interesting point. So, there is a distinction between invisible ignorance and ignorance.

My question is:

Is invisible ignorance a consequence of no fault of the person?

Whereas:
Ignorance may just be a result of the choice of the person - i.e. "My conscience is niggling at me for some reason about this or that, but, no, I will not bother checking out the truth on this now because as they say “Ignorance is bliss”.

So, if I am correct, does this mean that the ignorant may go to hell if they are ignorant through their own making?

Luke


#8

Invincible ignorance is the no fault kind of ignorance, it’s a very total ignorance. For example, if I’ve been raised in a closed room with no human contact, and one day I escape into the world only to stumble into a supermarket, and I casually take food off the shelf and begin eating it without paying for it, I’m quite likely invincibly ignorant of the morals of theft. It may be written in my heart that one isn’t to take what belongs to someone else, but I have absolutely no idea what that entails.

General ignorance would be me personally going to, say, Cambodia and pulling the same stunt described above, namely walking into the store and taking what I wanted. Now technically I’m ignorant of the laws of the land, and I could theoretically plead ignorance, but such a plea would ring hollow because I do come from an environment in which ownership is quite readily defined, and I have ample personal interaction with people to back up those lessons.

It’s important to remember, however, that the Church doesn’t define exactly who is and who isn’t invincibly ignorant. It can set up a general rule, a theological principle, but it doesn’t presume to speak on any individual cases. In other words, we can say what invincible ignorance is, but we can’t definatively state who has it and who doesn’t. Basically, it’s a theological cushion, not a loop-hole.

:blessyou:


#9

[quote=Lazerlike42]The only way a person can go to Hell is by committing actual mortal sin. The Church also teaches that if somebody is invincibly ignorant and lives up to whatever Grace God has given them, they can be saved. Now here’s the problem: how can they not be saved? In other words, if some tribesman living in Africa somewhere has never heard any teachings of Christ, and thinks through invincible ignorance that there is nothing wrong with some grave sin, he might do it. Now according to the Church, only mortal sin can damn a person. The sin can’t be mortal for this tribesman because he doesn’t have full knowledge. So how can this person not be saved?
[/quote]

I prefer not to address the issue of possibility like it has generally been in history. The Church has allowed for salvation of non-Catholics and even non-Christians but has refrained from speaking on the issue untill recently. I think it is more wise to refrain from speaking on this issue because you are getting into areas of unknown. You begin to make leaps of logic that could turn out wrong.

I will give you the short answer. If the man has love in his heart, then he can be saved, if there is no love in him then there is no salvation. Salvation boils down to this one issue, love.


#10

[quote=LukeQ]Interesting point. So, there is a distinction between invisible ignorance and ignorance.

My question is:

Is invisible ignorance a consequence of no fault of the person?

Whereas:
Ignorance may just be a result of the choice of the person - i.e. "My conscience is niggling at me for some reason about this or that, but, no, I will not bother checking out the truth on this now because as they say “Ignorance is bliss”.

So, if I am correct, does this mean that the ignorant may go to hell if they are ignorant through their own making?

Luke
[/quote]

Yes, that is the essence of the distinction. Ignorance can be just as you say, of the will of the person. You can choose to remain in ingorance even though you may get a prick of conscience.


#11

I understand completely that you can make yourself ignorat to something. I have always called it “hardening your heart” to something.

I just wonder. St. Paul wrote that those who sin without the law will die without the law. In other words, it doesn’t matter that they didn’t have the law.

I think of some Amazon tribe that has never, ever been beyond their clearing and who practice homosexuality and human sacrifice. Their conscience never tells them not to, and tells them rather that it’s a good thing they’re doing.

I think of a person I know who is homosexual and truly and deeply believes there is nothing wrong with it and I can’t see his conscience telling him anything about it.

I think of some very, incredibly “strict” tribe, living in a society not like ours but in one where breaking the norms is not tolerated, out in South America that is so “strict” that every memeber does 100% of what they are taught and believe is right their entire life, and I wonder how it’s possible that they could not be saved.


#12

[quote=Lazerlike42]I understand completely that you can make yourself ignorat to something. I have always called it “hardening your heart” to something.

I just wonder. St. Paul wrote that those who sin without the law will die without the law. In other words, it doesn’t matter that they didn’t have the law.

I think of some Amazon tribe that has never, ever been beyond their clearing and who practice homosexuality and human sacrifice. Their conscience never tells them not to, and tells them rather that it’s a good thing they’re doing.

I think of a person I know who is homosexual and truly and deeply believes there is nothing wrong with it and I can’t see his conscience telling him anything about it.

I think of some very, incredibly “strict” tribe, living in a society not like ours but in one where breaking the norms is not tolerated, out in South America that is so “strict” that every memeber does 100% of what they are taught and believe is right their entire life, and I wonder how it’s possible that they could not be saved.
[/quote]

The point of the doctrine of invincible ignorance is not to say who will be saved, that is only known to God. This is getting into an area of complete speculation. I have had thoughts about it considering say an terrorist who is moslem and kills himself in the world trade center. He did what he thought was Alahs will but little did he know of the truth. He did nothing but what he was taught to do, will he go to heaven or hell? I have thought about this and I have come to the conclusion it is all in vain to think about it. You can not know. It is better to refrain answering in these extreme instances.

The Church has never gone this far into discussion on the salvation of non-Christians. They simply say that it is possible due to the fact that you are judged based on your knowledge.

I am guessing that your quote from Paul is from Romans 2. Paul is writing against the Judaizers in Romans, who were trying to say that Christians were still subject to the law. He says that those who die in the law will be judged by the law.


#13

Here is an article written by Fr Muller in about 1875 on this issue.

In summary, Invincible ignorance neither saves OR condemns. It is morally neutral.

Father Michael Muller was one of the most widely read theologians of the 19th Century. He ranks as one of the greatest defenders of the dogma “Outside the Church there is no salvation” in modern times. Father Muller always submitted his works to two Redemptorist theologians and to his religious superiors before publication, thus we are sure of the doctrinal soundness of his teachings. This article, first published in 1875, is one of the finest treatments of the doctrinal truth that Our Lord founded one true Catholic Church, outside of which there is no salvation. Father Muller’s firm writings are desperately needed in our time when this doctrine is denied by those who are the most influential members of our Holy Church. We publish Father Muller’s excellent little Catechism as an antidote to the prevalent religious indifferentism — an indifferentism that is the direct result of what Blessed Pius IX denounced as “Liberal Catholicism”.

Inculpable ignorance of the true religion excuses a heathen from the sin of infidelity, and a Protestant from the sin of heresy. But such ignorance has never been the means of salvation. From the fact that a person who lives up to the dictates of his conscience, and who cannot sin against the true religion on account of being ignorant of it, many have drawn the false conclusion that such a person is saved, or, in other words, is in the state of sanctifying grace, thus making ignorance a means of salvation or justification.

preparation of the soul cannot be brought by inculpable ignorance. And if such ignorance cannot even dispose the soul for receiving the grace of justification, it can much less give this grace to the soul. Inculpable ignorance has never been a means of grace or salvation, not even for the inculpably ignorant people that live up to their conscience. But of this class of ignorant persons we say, with Saint Thomas Aquinas, that God in His mercy will lead these souls to the knowledge of the necessary truths of salvation, even send them an angel, if necessary, to instruct them, rather than let them perish without their fault. If they accept this grace, they will be saved as Catholics.
Other Questions

  1. But is it not a very uncharitable doctrine to say that no one can be saved out of the Church?

On the contrary, it is a very great act of charity to assert most emphatically, that out of the Catholic Church there is no salvation possible; for Jesus Christ and His Apostles have taught this doctrine in very plain language. He who sincerely seeks the truth is glad to hear it, and embrace it, in order to be saved.

43.But is it not said in Holy Scripture: “He that feareth God, and worketh justice, is acceptable to Him?”

This is true. But we must remember that he who fears God, will also believe all the truths that God has revealed, as Cornelius did. (Acts, Chapter 10) He believes Jesus Christ when He speaks to us through the pastors of His Church. But he who does not believe all the truths that God has revealed, but instead believes and rejects whatever he chooses, does not fear God, and cannot work justice. “He that believeth not the Son of God” — Jesus Christ — “maketh Him a liar,” says Saint John (1 John 5:10); and will, on this account, be condemned to hell.

and much more…


#14

[quote=jimmy]The point of the doctrine of invincible ignorance is not to say who will be saved, that is only known to God. This is getting into an area of complete speculation. I have had thoughts about it considering say an terrorist who is moslem and kills himself in the world trade center. He did what he thought was Alahs will but little did he know of the truth. He did nothing but what he was taught to do, will he go to heaven or hell? I have thought about this and I have come to the conclusion it is all in vain to think about it. You can not know. It is better to refrain answering in these extreme instances.

The Church has never gone this far into discussion on the salvation of non-Christians. They simply say that it is possible due to the fact that you are judged based on your knowledge.

I am guessing that your quote from Paul is from Romans 2. Paul is writing against the Judaizers in Romans, who were trying to say that Christians were still subject to the law. He says that those who die in the law will be judged by the law.
[/quote]

Sure is a tricky question…In the case of the moslem, however, if he had a chace to learn the truth and refused too than isn’t that a whole different slant?

CCC.26,-30

“The desire for God is written in the human heart…” CCC27

I urge all to get a copy of the Catechism or go to your search engine and tye in ,…Catechism of the Catholic Church.


#15

TNT, your post seems to imply that if a person dies a protestant, they are by definition damned to hell with no hope of salvation, a belief contrary to the teaching of the Church.


#16

[quote=Lazerlike42]TNT, your post seems to imply that if a person dies a protestant, they are by definition damned to hell with no hope of salvation, a belief contrary to the teaching of the Church.
[/quote]

Since all “protestants” are baptised, otherwise they couldn’t be protestants, they receive initial justification and at that point, original sin is voided.
You apparently did not read the theologian’s entire piece.

Though I agree with him, he carries the Nihil Obstat, the words are his, not mine.
Even if Sanctifying Grace inhabits the newly baptised protestant, if he losses it as a catholic can also lose it, where, how is it restoed?


#17

I would say the same way a Catholic can.

If a Catholic is unable to receive the Sacrament of reconcilliation but he has repented and is perfectly contrite, his SG is restored, unless he purposefully chooses not to go to confession recognizing it’s necessity.

Similarly, if a Protestant loses SG, repents, and is perfectly contrite, God will restore their SG too, unless they come to the realization that auricular confession is necessary.

I think if we deny that, we get into the very fundamentalist sort of attitude that says that a sin is a sin and that’s that. If some tribesperson in Africa, or some autistic person commits a sin, they’re damned no matter what.

Beyond that, we know that the Church recognizes a baptism of desire, so if you have some evangelical that doesn’t believe in baptism and never gets it but they truly, deeply have faith, contrition, and repentance, than they too can be saved.

God isn’t so… stringent. He knows our hearts. If some evangelical truly repents and has perfect contrition and says some prayer of confession to God, then yes I believe it’s possible for him to make it.


#18

Invincible ignorance is applicable only to those who have not chosen to become Christian, specifically Catholic. Nobody with a normal, functioning mind is invincibly ignorant of moral precepts.

– Mark L. Chance.


#19

Invincible Ignorance is where there is absolutely no way for a person to learn.
“Invincible” means unable to overcome. Most people are able to overcome ignorance- it is as simple as desiring to know the Truth. Once a person has this desire, they search for it, and God has promised they will find it.
A truly “invincibly ignorant” person is one who cannot learn the truth- Retarded; and one who is temporarily unreasonable- Infants.


#20

What about a Baptist who has just been conditioned his entire life, especially in his very impressionable childhood, to believe that the Catholic Church is either wrong or evil? In that case, I don’t see how his simple desire for the truth will by necessity lead him there. It could, but it’s not guaranteed.


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