Dear Mr. Sungenis,B. Douglass: Laurence,
I have an apologetics question. Aside from teaching Confirmation, I do a bit of Apologetics lessons for them. While I was trying to shed some light on what the church teaches on Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus some people asked about how non-Christians are saved, if at all. I explained to them that Salvation outside of the Catholic faith is dependent upon the presence of invincible ignorance on the individual's part, lacking a formal rejection of the Catholic faith. Furthermore, for those who are saved outside of the Catholic faith, their rewards are proportional to the truth which they possess, abiding by their conscience.
I used the following passage illustrating a similarity about how Paul described that Gentiles were following the Law written on their hearts, the Natural Law. Also, elsewhere there is a similar teaching using circumcision as a reference to one's identification.
Romans 2:11-16 DRB For there is no respect of persons with God. For whosoever have sinned without the law shall perish without the law: and whosoever have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law. For not the hearers of the law are just before God: but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature those things that are of the law; these, having not the law, are a law to themselves. Who shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to them: and their thoughts between themselves accusing or also defending one another, In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.
Is it appropriate to be using the above passage as a defense for the potential Salvation of those who have never heard the Gospel? If not, what are the best passages to reflect upon?
Thank you, Sir.
Laurence A. Gonzaga
That is exacltly the right passage to use. Blessed Pope Pius IX follows the thought of this passage very closely in Quanto Conficiamur Moerore 7: "There are, of course, those who are struggling with invincible ignorance about our most holy religion. Sincerely observing the natural law and its precepts inscribed by God on all hearts and ready to obey God, they live honest lives and are able to attain eternal life by the efficacious virtue of divine light and grace. Because God knows, searches and clearly understands the minds, hearts, thoughts, and nature of all, his supreme kindness and clemency do not permit anyone at all who is not guilty of deliberate sin to suffer eternal punishments."
Your statement about rewards is a bit unclear. Like anyone else, those saved in invincible ignorance will be rewarded in proportion as they have performed meritorious works by cooperating with actual grace, in a state of sanctifying grace.