The Church teaches that those who through no fault of their own never came to know of Christ can attain salvation by seeking God according to the dictates of their concience etc. but I was wondering quite simply how this works in a certain situation. What if the culture one is born into is so fundamentally corrupt and perverse that following it’s values (in which one’s concience has been formed) is contrary to all things Godly. for example a viking raider pillaging and plundering monasteries and killing the innocent. He has been taught since early childhood that nothing is more glorious than winning plunder in battle and this is what the culture he knows values. or someone in an ancient Celtic tribe offering human sacrifices to what they percieve to be Gods. or someone steeped in nazi ideology during their most formative years. essentially what happens to someone who objectively commits great evil, yet is following the dictates of their concience to the best of their ability? Can the viking raider, pagan high priest of ancient antiquity, or whatever else achieve salvation? This is just something I have often thought about and wondered if anyone could clear this up a bit.
Here is the paragraph you alluded to from the CCC:
847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:
Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.337
An important element is the phrase, “moved by grace.” No one earns his salvation. Basically you are saying (unintentionally) that people can earn their salvation through their conscience. This is not so. It is the grace of God that saves us–through our cooperating with that grace.
We cannot judge individuals from other culture/times in history, especially ones about which we know very little. How much any of them cooperated with God’s grace, as they received it, we cannot say, either. We cannot even say if people like Hitler is in hell or not because his soul is not ours to judge but God alone.
Better to concentrate on the next paragraph in the CCC:
848 "Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men."338
We are to do what we are able to do where God puts us to win souls for Christ in our own times. Invinsible ignorance is not meant to give the wicked a free pass to heaven, but rather to point out the mercy of God to all men for Christ redeemed all men and desires that all be saved.
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of those who by their wickedness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made. So they are without excuse; 21 for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools; 23 and they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being or birds or four-footed animals or reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. 29 They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters,f] insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.
iow God in creating us, stacked the deck in His favor. Man is made to the image and likeness of God. While we don’t see all that God implants in our nature as Paul says, those qualities God plants, and are active in such a way, that ultimately we are without excuse if we ignore or override them. Keep in mind the CCC says ignorance isn’t always innocent. [FONT=Arial]1791[/FONT]
Anyone raised in a corrupt culture might also recognize the call to higher things - the nations that were once pagan all saw an immense response to the gospel as they recognize that their ancestors had been doing evil. We all descend from a great many people who did not so respond to the opportunity for God’s grace. Many are those in our generations who have simply preferred to call evils good in order to avoid the dads of the gospel in disown in the self.
… those too may achieve eternal salvation.
Notice how the church says “may” - not “will.” We don’t understand how this works. We have no idea if many people have found salvation this way, or few, or none (just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it’s been done).
This is why the Church never forgets her commission to Baptize the world. Baptism offers assurances - it is 100% effective.
My only addition here is, the following qualifications
All the following warnings Paul gave in his letters, were written to the baptized. They were written to people already “in” the Church . Therefore, Paul is warning, one has to be responsible and obedient to their baptism, and persevere in the faith till the end of this life, or there is no salvation for THEM in the next, even though they are baptized.
Also a few examples from the CCC as well, (all emphasis mine)
“As for a man who is factious ( [FONT=Verdana]αἱρετικὸν[/FONT] heretic ), after admonishing him once or twice, have nothing more to do with him, 11 knowing that such a person is perverted and sinful; he is self-condemned.”
One could ask what does baptism have to do with one in heresy?
[FONT=Arial]2089"*[FONT=Arial]Heresy *is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same;[/FONT]
AND then there are these warnings from Paul. To be in the Church in the first place one has to be baptized
[/FONT]Romans 16:17-20 , [/FONT]Galatians 5:19-21 , διχοστασίας dichostasia[FONT=Arial]* =* division / dissension / factions /sedition the same Greek word in both Rom 16:17. And Gal 5:19… If one continues in that sin they “will not inherit heaven*”*
AND there is also (anyone is capable of committing mortal sin baptized or not)
**1861 **Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.
837* "*Fully incorporated into the society of the Church are those who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept all the means of salvation given to the Church together with her entire organization, and who - by the bonds constituted by the profession of faith, the sacraments, ecclesiastical government, and communion - are joined in the visible structure of the Church of Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. Even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not however persevere in charity is not saved. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but ‘in body’ not 'in heart’
In general, as Jesus says regarding love, as in of Him, i.e. charity towards Him and in extension neighbor, and in extension His body the Catholic Church
How many people THINK they obey what Jesus commands but actually don’t?
The previous passages point towards warnings and consequences against grave offenses to charity, either to God or His body the Church, and remaining in that state. The baptized aren’t exempt from these warnings and consequences.
That’s all I would add.
Even in a corrupt culture, “in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him.” (CCC 848).
Also, the natural law is written in the hearts of all men. We can’t judge in particular cases whether a person is culpable or not for their violations of the natural law (like killing and stealing, etc.), but in general there is less opportunity for excuse to violate the primary points of this law.
Here’s how St. Robert Bellarmine explained how this happens, arguing against the heretics who said God does not provide for the salvation of all men and corrupt, unevangelized cultures were proof of that. God’s grace is what helps us to turn away from corruption to charity, justice and faith:
Or, as St. Alphonsus Liguori puts it:
[quote=St. Alphonsus Liguori, Prayer the Great Means of Salvation]God in His goodness grants to every one the grace of prayer, by which he is able to obtain all other graces which he needs in order to keep the Commandments and to be saved.
Here’s a thought. Ignorance is invincible when no matter the effort one puts into trying to attain knowledge of a subject they remain ignorant of that subject. So it seems to me the question is,
What in our faith is that hard to attain knowledge of, and who fits that discription of being invincibly ignorant as a result of all that effort?
All the information about the world’s religions is out there online. Anyone in a Western society should have access to it. I believe humans are naturally curious. Even if brought up in a house without religion, I believe they will look into religion when they get older. They will want to find the truth. I think the Catholic Church has really good arguments for all its teachings, but some people need proof in their lives to believe.
Remember “doubting Thomas”. If a saint required proof to believe, I can easily see regular people needing proof to believe. Not everyone is blessed like St. Paul was with a powerful conversion experience. To some, God whispers very quietly. In their noisy modern life, they never hear God and never even know to quiet their life to hear God. I think God will have mercy on those people. They put forth the effort. Maybe they didn’t end up believing, but they put the time in. When they die, God will show them the truth in a way they can believe. They won’t be rewarded in heaven as much as all of us that have believed without seeing, but they do have a chance.
All of us Catholics play a part in this as well. We must be a good example in our words and actions. We must gently urge through love our friends and family towards the faith.