OBJECTION- In his book The Catholic Church and Salvation, Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton points out that, while only the baptized are actual members of the Church, one can be “within” or “inside” the Church without being a member. Thus, the unbaptized can be saved without being members of the Catholic Church because they can still be “inside.”
Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis (# 22), June 29, 1943: “Actually only those are to be numbered among the members of the Church who have received the laver of regeneration and profess the true faith.”
Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, The Catholic Church and Salvation, 1958, p. 10: “Furthermore, they [the Fathers of the Fourth Lateran Council] knew that there is no such thing as real membership in the Church militant of the New Testament, the true and only ecclesia fidelium [Church of the faithful], apart from the reception of the sacrament of baptism.”
FENTON’S “CLEVER” EXPLANATION
►Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, The Catholic Church and Salvation, 1958, pp. 9-10: “It is not, and it has never been, the teaching of the Catholic Church that only actual members of the Church can attain eternal salvation. According to the teaching of the Church’s own magisterium, salvation can be attained and, as a matter of fact, has been attained by persons who, at the moment of their death, were not members of this Church. The Church has thus never confused the notion of being ‘outside the Church’ with that of being a non-member of this society.”
ANSWER- As the objection says, Msgr. Fenton admits that one cannot be a “member” of the Catholic Church without having received the Sacrament of Baptism, but he “cleverly” asserts that being “inside/within” the Church (which everyone must to be saved) is not the same thing as being a “member.”
The Catholic Church has never taught what Fenton says about non-members being inside the Catholic Church. This is precisely why he can quote nothing from the Traditional Catholic Magisterium to back it up. He also asserts the blatant falsehood that the Church’s Magisterium has declared that salvation can be and has been attained by persons who were not members of the Church. This is simply not true.
Pope Pius XII crushes Fenton’s argument and his entire book by teaching that the Church is the members!
FENTON CONTRADICTED BY POPE PIUS XII
Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi (#30), June 29, 1943: “…it was on the tree of the Cross, finally, that He entered into possession of His Church, that is, of all the members of His Mystical Body; for they would not have been united to this Mystical Body through the waters of Baptism except by the salutary virtue of the Cross, by which they had already been under the complete sway of Christ.”
Notice that Pope Pius XII equates the Church with “all the members of His Mystical Body”! Therefore, only the members are in the Church! Since the Church is THE MEMBERS, and there is no salvation outside the Church, there is no salvation outside being a member. Msgr. Fenton is simply wrong.
To further prove the point, let’s look at the Council of Trent’s Decree on Justification, Chap. 7.
FENTON CONTRADICTED BY THE COUNCIL OF TRENT
Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Sess. 6, Chap. 7 on Justification: “Hence man through Jesus Christ, into whom he is ingrafted, receives in the said justification together with the remission of sins all these gifts infused at the same time: faith, hope and charity. For faith, unless hope and charity be added to it, neither unites one perfectly with Christ, nor makes him a living member of his body.”
The justified man is ingrafted into Christ. The concept of being “ingrafted” is again that of membership: all the justified are ingrafted into Christ as members. This is proven by the council’s declaration that becoming a living member of the Church doesn’t happen “unless” (”nisi“) hope and charity are added to faith. That means that if and when hope and charity are added to faith, one is made a living member of the Church. Well, hope and charity are added to faith in every justified person.
A person simultaneously receives faith, hope and charity infused into his soul at the moment of justification, as Trent says above. Therefore, every person who is justified, since they all have faith, hope and charity, is made a living member (“vivum membrum”) of the Church. This totally contradicts the teaching of Msgr. Fenton and Suprema haec sacra, which is that one can be justified by baptism of desire (and thus have faith, hope and charity) without being a “member” of Christ’s Body. Msgr. Fenton is simply wrong.
FENTON CONTRADICTED BY VATICAN I
Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council I, Sess. 4, Chap. 2: “For this reason ‘it has always been necessary because of mightier preeminence for every Church to come to the Church of Rome, that is those who are the faithful everywhere’, so that in this See, from which the laws of ‘venerable communion’ emanate over all, they as MEMBERS associated in one head, coalesce into one bodily structure.”
Vatican I infallibly defines that from the See of Rome communion emanates over “all.” “All” what? “All” in the Church, of course. Vatican I: “all… as members associated in one head” form one bodily structure. All in the Church are “members”! In the face of this infallible teaching from Vatican I, the baptism of desire advocate who is advancing the Fenton argument is forced to argue that communion doesn’t emanate from the See of Peter over “all” in the Church, but only over those in the Church who are members! – not over the “others” supposedly inside the Church without being members! This is so ridiculous and patently absurd that it doesn’t require further comment except to say: Msgr. Fenton is proven wrong again.
Other texts and points could be brought up to further disprove Fenton, as I have done in a lengthy article on our website. (That particular article also shows that Fenton’s own definition of “member” as “part” serves to refute his claim that one can be inside something without being a “part” of it.) The fact is that Fenton’s argument is thoroughly false and contrary to the teaching of these Magisterial Decrees. This also proves that the teaching of Suprema haec sacra (the 1949 Letter against Fr. Feeney, which is adhered to by the SSPX, SSPV and CMRI) which Fenton defends (and which is covered in depth later in this book) is contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Church, for it teaches the same thing on membership in the Church as Fenton.
“Cardinal” Marchetti-Selvaggini, Suprema haec sacra, “Protocol 122/49,” Aug. 8, 1949: “Therefore, that one may obtain eternal salvation, it is not always required that he be incorporated into the Church actually as a member, but it is necessary that at least he be united to her by desire and longing.”
 The Papal Encyclicals, Vol. 4 (1939-1958), p. 41.
 Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, The Catholic Church and Salvation, Westminister, Maryland: The Newman Press, 1958, p. 10.
 Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, The Catholic Church and Salvation, pp. 9-10.
 The Papal Encyclicals, Vol. 4 (1939-1958), p. 43.
 Denzinger 800.
 Denzinger 1824.
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