Defenders of salvation for the “invincibly ignorant” might be disquieted to hear that two other popes, Pope Benedict XIV and Pope St. Pius X, explicitly reiterated the Church’s dogma that there are certain mysteries of faith about which no one who wishes to be saved can be ignorant. These mysteries are the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation, as it was defined by the Athanasian Creed.
Pope Benedict XIV, Cum Religiosi (# 4), June 26, 1754:
“See to it that every minister performs carefully the measures laid down by the holy Council of Trent… that confessors should perform this part of their duty whenever anyone stands at their tribunal who does not know what he must by necessity of means know to be saved…”
Pope St. Pius X, Acerbo Nimis (# 2), April 15, 1905:
“And so Our Predecessor, Benedict XIV, had just cause to write: ‘We declare that a great number of those who are condemned to eternal punishment suffer that everlasting calamity because of ignorance of those mysteries of faith which must be known and believed in order to be numbered among the elect.’”
Every person above the age of reason must have a positive knowledge of these mysteries of Faith to be saved. There are no exceptions. And this truth of the Catholic Faith is why scores of popes and saints have taught that every single member of that mass of humanity who lives in ignorance of Christ is under the Devil’s dominion and will not be saved, unless he is incorporated into Christ’s marvelous light by faith and baptism.
Pope Gregory XVI, Probe Nostis (#6), Sept. 18, 1840: “We are thankful for the success of apostolic missions in America, the Indies, and other faithless lands…They search out those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death to summon them to the light and life of the Catholic religion… At length they snatch them from the devil’s rule, by the bath of regeneration and promote them to the freedom of God’s adopted sons.”
In his Bull Sublimus Dei, Pope Paul III addresses the question of the Indians in the “recently discovered” New World. Speaking in the context of those above the age of reason, Pope Paul III declares that they are capable of receiving the Faith, and he reiterates the teaching of tradition that not one of them can be saved without faith in Jesus Christ.
Pope Paul III, Sublimus Dei, May 29, 1537: “The sublime God so loved the human race that He created man in such wise that he might participate, not only in the good that other creatures enjoy, but endowed him with capacity to attain to the inaccessible and invisible Supreme Good and behold it face to face; and since man, according to the testimony of the sacred scriptures, has been created to enjoy eternal life and happiness, which none may obtain save through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, it is necessary that he should possess the nature and faculties enabling him to receive that faith; and that whoever is thus endowed should be capable of receiving that same faith. Nor is it credible that any one should possess so little understanding as to desire the faith and yet be destitute of the most necessary faculty to enable him to receive it. Hence Christ, who is the Truth itself, that has never failed and can never fail, said to the preachers of the faith whom He chose for that office 'Go ye and teach all nations.' He said all, without exception, for all are capable of receiving the doctrines of the faith…By virtue of Our apostolic authority We define and declare by these present letters… that the said Indians and other peoples should be converted to the faith of Jesus Christ by preaching the word of God and by the example of good and holy living.”
This shows us, once again, that it is contrary to the Catholic Faith to assert that souls ignorant of the essential mysteries of the Catholic Faith can be saved.
That great “Apostle of the Rocky Mountains,” Fr. Pierre De Smet, who was the extraordinary missionary to the American Indians in the 19th century, was also convinced – with all the great Catholic missionaries before him – that all the Indians whom he did not reach would be eternally lost. (See also the section later on St. Isaac Jogues and St. Francis Xavier)
Fr. De Smet, S.J., Jan. 26, 1838: “New priests are to be added to the Potawatomi Mission, and my Superior, Father Verhaegen gives me hope that I will be sent. How happy I would be could I spend myself for the salvation of so many souls, who are lost because they have never known truth!”
Fr. De Smet, S.J., Dec. 8, 1841: “My heart aches at the thought of so many souls left to perish for lack of priests to instruct them.”
Fr. De Smet, S.J., Oct. 9, 1844: “What emotion at the sight of this vast country, where, for lack of missionaries, thousands of men are born, grow to manhood, and die in the darkness of infidelity! But now through our efforts, the greater number, if not all, shall know the truth.”
This truth on salvation is why St. Louis De Montfort says the following in his masterpiece True Devotion to Mary (which we strongly recommend for everyone):
St. Louis De Montfort, True Devotion to Mary # 61: "There has been no name given under heaven, except the name of Jesus, by which we can be saved.... Every one of the faithful who is not united to Him as a branch to the stock of the vine, shall fall, shall wither and shall be fit only to be cast into the fire. Outside of Him there exists nothing but error, falsehood, iniquity, futility, death and damnation."
This truth on salvation is why Pope Gregory the Great responded in the following manner after seeing some youths from unevangelized Britain in a slave market:
(+6th century): “The Britain Gregory knew had nothing to do with Christ. One day… Gregory had seen in a slave market a group of handsome flaxen-haired youths from the north, and inquired who they might be. ‘Angles,’ he was told, from Britain. ‘Not Angles, but angels,’ replied Gregory, exclaiming how sad it was ‘that beings with such bright faces should be slaves of the prince of darkness’ when they ‘should be co-heirs with the angels of heaven.’ And he resolved: ‘They shall be saved from God’s ire, and called to the mercy of Christ.’”
Pope Gregory the Great clearly held that the Angles were not in a position to be saved, even though they were ignorant of the Gospel. They were, as he said, enslaved to the prince of darkness since they were outside the supernatural kingdom of Christ (the Catholic Church) and under the dominion of the Devil by reason of original sin. Hence, he resolved to send St. Augustine of Canterbury to evangelize them and save them.
This truth on salvation is why St. Francis De Sales stated the following in The Catholic Controversy:
St. Francis De Sales, The Catholic Controversy (+1672): "Yes, truly; for outside the Church there is no salvation, out of this Ark every one is lost."
St. Francis De Sales, The Catholic Controversy (+1672): "…[that] men can be saved outside the true Church, which is impossible."
St. Francis De Sales, The Catholic Controversy (+1672): “Who should ever detract from the glory of so many religious of all orders, and of so many secular priests, who leaving their country, have exposed themselves to the mercy of wind and tide, to get to the nations of the New World, in order to lead them to the true faith, and to enlighten them with the light of the Gospel… amongst the Cannibals, Canarians… Brazilians, Malays, Japanese, and other foreign nations, and made themselves prisoners there, banishing themselves from their own earthly country in order that these poor people might not be banished from the heavenly paradise."
This truth on salvation is why Pope Leo XIII says that Christopher Columbus’s discovery of America led to the salvation of hundreds of thousands of mortals who would otherwise have been lost for dying in a state of ignorance of the true faith.
Pope Leo XIII, Quarto Abeunte Saeculo #1 (+1902): “By his (Christopher Columbus’) toil another world emerged from the unsearched bosom of the ocean: hundreds of thousands of mortals have, from a state of blindness been raised to the common level of the human race, reclaimed from savagery to gentleness and humanity; and, greatest of all, by the acquisition of those blessings of which Jesus Christ is the author, they have been recalled from destruction to eternal life.”
This truth on salvation is why Pope Pelagius I, representing the mind and Tradition of the entire early Catholic Church, declared that those who “did not know the way of the Lord” were lost.
Pope Pelagius I, Fide Pelagii to Childebert, April, 557: “For I confess that all men from Adam… will then rise again and stand before the judgment seat of Christ, that every one may receive the proper things of the body, according as he has done, whether it be good or bad [Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10]… the wicked, however, remaining by choice of their own with vessels of wrath fit for destruction [Rom. 9:22], who either did not know the way of the Lord, or knowing it left it when seized by various transgressions, He will give over by a very just judgment to the punishment of eternal and inextinguishable fire, that they may burn without end.”
 The Papal Encyclicals, Vol. 1 (1740-1878), p. 46.
 The Papal Encyclicals, Vol. 3 (1903-1939), p. 30.
 The Papal Encyclicals, Vol. 1 (1740-1878), p. 260.
 Fr. E. Laveille, S.J., The Life of Fr. De Smet, p. 80.
 Fr. E. Laveille, S.J., The Life of Fr. De Smet, pp. 139-140.
 Fr. E. Laveille, S.J., The Life of Fr. De Smet, pp. 139-140.
 St. Louis De Montfort, True Devotion to Mary, Bay Shore, NY: The Montfort Fathers, 1946, # 61.
 Warren H. Carroll, A History of Christendom, Christendom Press, Vol. 2 (The Building of Christendom), p. 197.
 St. Francis De Sales, The Catholic Controversy, p. 59.
 St. Francis De Sales, The Catholic Controversy, p. 74.
 St. Francis De Sales, The Catholic Controversy, p. 200.
 The Papal Encyclicals, Vol. 2 (1878-1903), p. 285.
 Denzinger 228a.
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