October 31, 2009

"Yet it is Catholic bread that they eat..."

From The Spirit of Catholicism, by Karl Adam. 1924.
..."It must be regarded as true," declared Pope Pius IX in an allocution of the 9th December, 1854, "that he who does not know the true religion is guiltless in the sight of God so far as his ignorance is invincible. Who would presume to fix the limits of such ignorance, amid the infinite variety and difference of peoples, countries and mentalities, and amid so many other circumstances. When we are free of the limitations of the body and see God as He is, then we shall see how closely and beautifully God's mercy and justice are conjoined."

Wherefore the Church's claim to be the Church of salvation by no means excludes a loving and sympathetic appreciation of the subjective conditions and circumstances under which heresy has arisen. Nor is her condemnation of a heresy always at the same time a condemnation of the individual heretic. As an instance of the generosity of the Catholic attitude, take the words of the celebrated Redemptorist, St. Clement Maria Hofbauer, regarding the origins of the Reformation: "The revolt from the Church began," he wrote, "because the Because the German people could not and cannot but be devout." Hofbauer was a convinced Catholic, who condemned all heresy as a moral and religious crime, as a violation of the unity of the Body of Christ. He was fully aware also that the causes of the Reformation were by no means exclusively religious.

But that knowledge did not prevent him from appreciating those religious forces which contributed in no small degree to its success. The fact that Hofbauer has been canonized suggests that the Church did not disapprove of his utterance, but regarded it as confirmation of her constant belief in the possibility of invincible error and perfect good faith of the heretic. Unless we understand that we shell not grasp the meaning of her proposition, that there is no salvation outside the Church. True there is only one Church of Christ. She alone is the Body of Christ and without her there is no salvation. Objectively and practically considered she is the ordinary way of salvation, the single and exclusive channel by which the truth and grace of Christ enter our world of space and time. But those also who know her not receive these gifts through her; yes even those who misjudge and fight against her, provided they are in good faith, and are simply and loyally seeking the truth without self-righteous obstinacy. Though it be not the Catholic Church which hands them the bread of truth and grace, yet it is Catholic bread that they eat...

One of the interesting parts for me about becoming Catholic is reading parts of history that the Protestant world tends to disregard. One of them is the many anti-Catholic persecutions and pogroms in 18th and 19th Century Europe. Hofbauer, an Austrian, had tremendous difficulties to overcome because the emperor had closed the seminaries and over 1,000 monasteries and convents! I hadn't even heard of that. He became a priest in Italy, and went to Poland as a missionary.

I also read recently about the first Archbishop of San Francisco, and one of the great Dominicans, Archbishop Joseph Sadoc Alemany. (We live near Alemany Ave, in SF, and belong to a Dominican parish.) He was born at Vich in Spain, in 1814, but had to flee to become a priest in Italy because of religious persecutions and proscriptions in Spain.

Posted by John Weidner at October 31, 2009 4:24 PM
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