The Most Reverend Kevin John Patrick McDonald, BA, STL, STD, former Archbishop of Southwark in a report on Nostra Aetate (1) draws support from Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and other traditionalists. They all use a false premise in the interpretation of Nostra Aetate 2, they assume the deceased saved with 'a ray of that Truth' and who are not Catholics are visible to us on earth. Then they conclude that these cases are exceptions to the traditional interpretation of the dogma on exclusive salvation in the Catholic Church.
The Emeritus Bishop of Southwark, England states,'For those who are unhappy with the direction the Church took at Vatican II, this text and the Decree on Ecumenism are the texts that cause the most serious difficulty: they are more problematic than the liturgical changes that Vatican II brought in its wake. That was certainly the view of Archbishop Lefebvre. For him and his followers - and, indeed, for some who remain within the Catholic Church - these texts fatally undermined the Church's doctrinal self-understanding...'
For the Southwark Bishop Nostra Aetate 2 ( a ray of that Truth) and Unitatis Redintigratio 3 ( imperfect communion with the Church) refer to those non Catholics who are saved and who are personally known to us. They are dead and in Heaven and are visible in some forum on earth. If they were no personally known and seen on earth how could they be exceptions to the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus ? So for the Archbishop they are explicit exceptions and Vatican Council II is a break with the dogma on salvation and the teaching on other religions and ecumenism.
Even for Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre those saved in other religions were known exceptions to the dogma on exclusive salvation. They were relevant. So he mentioned it. Here is Archbishop Lefebvre::
Consider a Hindu in Tibet who has no knowledge of the Catholic Church. He lives according to his conscience and to the laws which God has put into his heart. He can be in the state of grace, and if he dies in this state of grace, he will go to heaven.” (The Angelus, “A Talk Heard Round the World,” April, 2006, p. 5.)
The Hindu in Tibet mentioned by Archbishop Lefebvre is known only to God. He cannot be known to us. Since he is not visible to us in 2014 he cannot be an excèption to the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus. Archbishop Lefebvre would assume that he is an exception and relevant to the dogma.Otherwise why mention it?
Similarly for Archbishop McDonald those saved with 'a ray of that Truth' are explicit exceptions to the traditional doctrine on exclusive salvation.
Here is Archbishop Lefebvre again:
Evidently,certain distinctions must be made. Souls can be saved in a religion other than the Catholic religion (Protestantism, Islam, Buddhism,etc.), but not by this religion. There may be souls who, not knowing Our Lord, have by the grace of the good Lord, good interior dispositions,who submit to God...But some of these persons make an act of love which implicitly is equivalent to baptism of desire. ("Against the Heresies",p.216)
Sure they can be saved and these cases would not be known to us. Is the founder of the SSPX implying that these cases are relevant to the literal interpretation of Fr.Leonard Feeney on extra ecclesiam nulla salus.
On the University of Bristol website the Catholic liberal professor of theology infers like the Archbishops that Nostra Aetate contradicts the traditional understanding of the Catholic Church on other religions and salvation.
Here is Nostra Aetate and it does not mention any exception to extra ecclesiam nulla salus.
NOSTRA AETATE 2
2. From ancient times down to the present, there is found among various peoples a certain perception of that hidden power which hovers over the course of things and over the events of human history; at times some indeed have come to the recognition of a Supreme Being, or even of a Father. This perception and recognition penetrates their lives with a profound religious sense.
Religions, however, that are bound up with an advanced culture have struggled to answer the same questions by means of more refined concepts and a more developed language. Thus in Hinduism, men contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry. They seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust. Again, Buddhism, in its various forms, realizes the radical insufficiency of this changeable world; it teaches a way by which men, in a devout and confident spirit, may be able either to acquire the state of perfect liberation, or attain, by their own efforts or through higher help, supreme illumination. Likewise, other religions found everywhere try to counter the restlessness of the human heart, each in its own manner, by proposing "ways," comprising teachings, rules of life, and sacred rites. The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men. Indeed, she proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself.(4)
The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.
Vocations to a religious life in England have to accept this irrational interpretation of Nostra Aetate.
According to the Vocation Director in the Archdiocese of Southwark,Fr.Stephen Langridge ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) young vocations to a religious life must accept that they can see the dead on earth. They must assume that those saved in invincible ignorance or the baptism of desire are known exceptions to the literal interpretation of the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus.
But why? He knows that we cannot see the dead. Why must young people in the archdiocese accept this irrationality ?
He said it is so since the Church said Fr.Leonard Feeney was wrong for not accepting the baptism of desire etc as being an exception to his literal interpretation of the dogma on salvation. Duh!
Nostra Aetate is a very short document but its implications and repercussions have been enormous. It has to be seen in the context of the overall renewal of Vatican II since it focuses and symbolises the spirit and the direction of that renewal. It was and remains a controversial text. For those who are unhappy with the direction the Church took at Vatican II, this text and the Decree on Ecumenism are the texts that cause the most serious difficulty: they are more problematic than the liturgical changes that Vatican II brought in its wake. That was certainly the view of Archbishop Lefebvre. For him and his followers - and, indeed, for some who remain within the Catholic Church - these texts fatally undermined the Church's doctrinal self-understanding and have seriously damaged the Church's self-confidence. Yet Nostra Aetate is integral to the whole direction of conciliar teaching. Most Reverend Kevin John Patrick McDonald, BA, STL, STD, former Archbishop of Southwark
May 5, 2014