This is a question I have come to consider. It’s possible I’m just too tired to get the answer straight in my head right now, but in any event I’d like to hear some commentary from some folks who understand the theology of it and the official teaching of the Church.
Assume that Jane is baptized as an infant. After this, some strange circumstances put her in a position where she can never learn a thing about Christ. Perhaps she’s stuck alone on a desert island, maybe she ends up being taken in by African tribespeople. In any event, before she learns to speak she is in this situation. Due to her baptism, her soul is infused with sanctfying grace. Is it possible that she may ever lose this grace? Without knowledge, it is impossible for her to commit a mortal sin (although some things, like murder, would likely qualify as a mortal sin due to various reasons, but this is another discussion so I wish to exclude the idea as much as possible).
I ask this to contrast with the idea of your standard baptized infant growing up. I am considering how and when faith, hope, and charity become necessary for this individual’s salvation. In other words, if a baptized child never develops faith, does he or she still possess sanctifying grace? Or at some point does the lack of faith become a mortal sin?
I am not the best qualified one on these boards to answer your question. I’m sure someone will pop up with some great references. However, until then, this is how I understand baptism. If continued understanding of the Lord after baptism is not possible then the Lord is not going to hold this against them. Think of all those children in China! I really don’t think God will punish them for an error that is in no fault of their own. However, as a person becomes educated it is their responsiblity to grow closer to the Lord. Failure to do so is a sin. Also, if the parents are educated in Christian worship, they are obligated to pass on this knowledge to their children. Failure to do so is a sin.
Sanctifying Grace is lost only through mortal sin, so if she never commits one how could she lose it? It is one of those things that are not subject to moths, rot, or corrosion so time alone would not have any effect.
[quote=rwoehmke]Sanctifying Grace is lost only through mortal sin, so if she never commits one how could she lose it? It is one of those things that are not subject to moths, rot, or corrosion so time alone would not have any effect.
Exactly. So then imagine a baptized infant who grows up with no catechesis whatsoever. This person may go through their entire life with no faith. I am currently unable to wrap my mind around a person achieving salvation without faith. Even if inexplicit faith existed (such as the faith Moses had) I could understand.
[quote=Lazerlike42] Without knowledge, it is impossible for her to commit a mortal sin (although some things, like murder, would likely qualify as a mortal sin due to various reasons, but this is another discussion so I wish to exclude the idea as much as possible).
The precepts of salvation are “written on the hearts of me”, or as it says in Hebrews 8
“I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts.”
The fundemental guide on what is good and what is evil are part of us, even without Catechesis.
This is called “Natural Law”
So, God already provides the necessary instruction for this person to achieve salvation.
It would be up to them to live it. And it would be VERY difficult.
For example, the human tendency is toward sin. Once a mortal sin is commited (against a precept of the Natural Law) there is no direct way to achive absolution.
There is no Eucharist to sustain our souls, to provide Effective Grace in the avoidance of sin.
So, yes, this person CAN achieve salvation, but it would be a heroic effort.
it is possible for anyone, whether or not they have heard the Gospel message, or been baptized, to commit a mortal sin against natural law, because natural law is just that, part of our human nature. All societies know instinctively it is wrong to kill an innocent person, although the definition of who is innocent or who is a person may differ according to time and culture. All humans are born with a recognition for and desire for goodness, even though their definition of good may be colored by culture as they grow. Such a person of course would not sin by disobeying laws they have no way of knowing.
[quote=Matt16_18]It is NOT impossible for Jane to commit mortal sin. No one that has reached the age of reason is invincibly ignorant of the natural law.
**Catechism of the Catholic Church
1956** The natural law, present in the heart of each man and established by reason, is universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all men. …
I realize this, and it is the reason I wrote
(although some things, like murder, would likely qualify as a mortal sin due to various reasons, but this is another discussion so I wish to exclude the idea as much as possible).
I am essentially attempting to establish a case in which an individual is baptized, but neither develops faith nor commits mortal sin. Given that the person never commits mortal sin, he or she ought to maintain that sancifying grace. However, faith is regarded as a neccesity of salvation. Where is the nexus between the two points?
Explicit faith is not necessary for salvation. How can a person that is not explicitly instructed in Catholic dogma be expected to know Catholic dogma?
An invincibly ignorant pagan could be saved without being formally initiated into the visible Church and receiving her explicit catechesis. He would have to obey the natural law and cooperate with the grace that God gives him. The same applies to “Jane” - she would have to cooperate with the movement of grace in her life and live a moral life as best she knows. **Catechism of the Catholic Church
847** …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 gracewithout God’s 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
Letter of the Holy Office to the Archbishop of Boston: DS 3866-3872. From the Letter of the Holy Office to the Archbishop of Boston: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, Singulari quadam, in Denzinger, n. 1641 ff.; also Pope Pius IX in the encyclical letter, Quanto conficiamur moerore, in Denzinger, n. 1677). DS 3866-3872 references in the encyclical letter of Pope Pius IX, Quanto conficiamur moerore which says this: It is known to us and to you that those who are in invincible ignorance ** of our most holy religion, but who observe carefully the natural law, and the precepts graven by God upon the hearts of all men, and who being disposed to obey God lead an honest and upright life, may, aided by the light of divine grace, attain to eternal life; for God who sees clearly, searches and knows the heart, the disposition, the thoughts and intentions of each, in His supreme mercy and goodness by no means permits that anyone suffer eternal punishment, who has not of his own free will fallen into sin.