Tuesday, September 5th, 2000 - In which I mail my annulment application, converse with my Seminary mentor, and hear about Dominus Iesus

Today I mailed my application for annulment. I was simply waiting the last couple of weeks for confirmation from my witnesses. Pastor T. (who was the celebrant at my first marriage) was the last to give his consent, which he did so by contacting me by phone a few nights ago. It was a good conversation--long and detailed. It reminded me how much he had been a good influence and guide in my life. He fully understood the issues I was raising, but, naturally, did not agree with the conclusion to which I had come. He said that he thought it was “a bit crass” to convert. I am not sure quite what he meant by this.

I had a long conversation with my Seminary mentor by phone yesterday. He raised for me the issue of “anonymous Christians”, and the Lumen Gentium statement about salvation being possible outside the church (Karl Rahner theology, etc.). He said that he found this to be the single greatest obstacle to the Catholic Church because making such a statement as the Vat II council did was going beyond the tradition, and was even heretical. I said that I needed to reflect more on this. Interestingly, today I received an email from G. about a new CDF/Ratzinger statement regarding the relationship between the Catholic Church and other denominations and faiths. I look forward to seeing this. [Coincidentally--if there are such things as coincidences in matters divine--this document turned out to be Dominus Iesus, which pretty well answered all my concerns and the objections of my mentor on this score. - David 2007]

For myself, I know that our own church has never made any definitive statement about the fate of those who, “through no fault of their own”, have not heard the gospel. We have recognised the universality of sin, and therefore that all people deserve eternal damnation, yet we have shied away from saying that those who die without any knowledge of the good news in Jesus Christ will automatically be condemned for eternity. We have “left it up to the infinite wisdom of God”, or some such thing. Now, I wonder if this refusal to make a positive statement about the damnation of those who “through no fault of their own” have not heard the Gospel is somehow the negative mirror image of the Catholic Church's positive statement that God may indeed save some who are in this situation. Given the latter, two other things must be stated: since Christ alone is the way to the Father, even these must come to the Father through Christ (“anonymously”?); and secondly, that there must be some criteria upon which God judges, and it is hard to see any other criteria than moral rectitude. My own suspicion is that this statement in Lumen Gentium is somewhat “philosophical”, that is, it acknowledges the theoretical possiblity of salvation by works (as in fact does Lutheran theology) without claiming that anyone has indeed been saved this way. The Catholic Church has never, for instance, canonised a non-Christian! [Nb. My interpretation of the Lumen Gentium statement here is wrong on at least one count: in the situation described, salvation is still by grace, and not by works - David 2007

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