OBJECTION- It’s possible to belong to the “Soul” of the Church without belonging to her Body. In this way those who die as members of non-Catholic religions can be joined to the Church and saved, as the Baltimore Catechism (1921) explains:
Q. 512 How are such persons said to belong to the Church?
A. Such persons are said to belong to the “Soul of the Church”; that is, they are really members of the Church without knowing it. Those who share in its sacraments are said to belong to the body or visible part of the Church.
ANSWER- The Soul of the Church heresy is crushed by an examination of Catholic teaching. The Soul of the Church heresy is that which teaches that one can be saved in another religion or without the Catholic Faith by being united to the Soul of the Church, but not the Body. (This heresy is rampant and is held by multitudes of “traditionalists” and “traditional” priests.) The purveyors of this heresy are forced to admit that belonging to the Body of the Church only comes with the Sacrament of Baptism.
The “Soul of the Church Heresy” will now be soundly refuted by a study of various magisterial pronouncements.
First, this heresy stems from a misunderstanding of the true meaning of the term “Soul of the Church.” The Soul of the Church is the Holy Ghost. It is not an invisible extension of the mystical body which includes the unbaptized.
Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, June 29, 1943: “… Leo XIII, of immortal memory in the Encyclical, “Divinum illud,” [expressed it] in these words: ‘Let it suffice to state this, that, as Christ is the Head of the Church, the Holy Spirit is her soul.’”
Second, the Church is essentially (i.e., in its essence) a Mystical Body.
Pope Leo X, Fifth Lateran Council, Session 11, Dec. 19, 1516: “… the mystical body, the Church (corpore mystico)…”
Pope St. Pius X, Editae saepe (# 8), May 26, 1910: “… the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ…”
Pope Leo XII, Quod Hoc Ineunte (# 1), May 24, 1824: “… His mystical Body.”
Therefore, to teach that one can be saved without belonging to the Body is to teach that one can be saved without belonging to the Church, since the Church is a Body. And this is without question HERETICAL.
A man can be either inside the Church or outside the Church. He can be either inside or outside the Body. There isn’t a third realm in which the Church exists – an invisible Soul of the Church. Those who say that one can be saved by belonging to the Soul of the Church, while not belonging to her Body, deny the undivided unity of the Church’s Body and Soul, which is parallel to denying the undivided unity of Christ’s Divine and Human natures.
Pope Leo XIII, Satis Cognitum (# 3), June 29, 1896: “For this reason the Church is so often called in Holy Writ a body, and even the body of Christ… From this it follows that those who arbitrarily conjure up and picture to themselves a hidden and invisible Church are in grievous and pernicious error... It is assuredly impossible that the Church of Jesus Christ can be the one or the other, as that man should be a body alone or a soul alone. The connection and union of both elements is as absolutely necessary to the true Church as the intimate union of the soul and body is to human nature. The Church is not something dead: it is the body of Christ endowed with supernatural life.”
Third, the most powerful proof against the “Soul of the Church” heresy logically follows from the first two already discussed. The third proof is that the infallible magisterium of the Catholic Church has defined that belonging to the Body of the Church is necessary for salvation!
Pope Eugene IV, in his famous Bull Cantate Domino, defined that the unity of the ecclesiastical body (ecclesiastici corporis) is so strong that no one can be saved outside of it, even if he sheds his blood in the name of Christ. This destroys the idea that one can be saved by belonging to the Soul of the Church without belonging to its Body.
Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, “Cantate Domino,” 1441, ex cathedra: “The Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews, heretics and schismatics can become participants in eternal life, but they will depart ‘into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels’ [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life they have been added to the flock; and that the unity of this ecclesiastical body (ecclesiastici corporis) is so strong that only for those who abide in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fasts, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of a Christian soldier produce eternal rewards. No one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has persevered within the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.”
This definition of Pope Eugene IV demolishes the “Soul of the Church Heresy.” Pope Pius XI destroys it as well.
Pope Pius XI, Mortalium Animos (# 10), Jan. 6, 1928: “For since the mystical body of Christ, in the same manner as His physical body, is one, compacted and fitly joined together, it were foolish and out of place to say that the mystical body is made up of members which are disunited and scattered abroad: whosoever therefore is not united with the body is no member of it, neither is he in communion with Christ its head.”
So much for the “Soul of the Church Heresy.”
Pope Leo X, Fifth Lateran Council, Session 11, Dec. 19, 1516, ex cathedra:
“For, regulars and seculars, prelates and subjects, exempt and non-exempt, belong to the one universal Church, outside of which no one at all is saved, and they all have one Lord and one faith. That is why it is fitting that, belonging to the one same body, they also have the one same will…”
Pope Clement XIV, Cum Summi (# 3), Dec. 12, 1769: “One is the body of the Church, whose head is Christ, and all cohere in it.”
 Denzinger 2288.
 Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, Vol. 1, p. 639.
 The Papal Encyclicals, Vol. 3 (1903-1939), p. 117.
 The Papal Encyclicals, Vol. 1 (1740-1878), p. 205.
 The Papal Encyclicals, Vol. 2 (1878-1903), p. 388.
 Pope Pius XI, Mortalium Animos (# 10), Jan. 6, 1928.
 Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi (# 64), June 29, 1943.
 Denzinger 714; Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, Vol. 1, p. 578.
 The Papal Encyclicals, Vol. 3 (1903-1939), p. 317.
 Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, Vol. 1, p. 646.
 The Papal Encyclicals, Vol. 1 (1740-1878), p. 160.
Sign up for our free e-mail list to see future vaticancatholic.com videos and articles.