Pope Emeritus Benedict breaks silence: speaks of ‘deep crisis’ facing Church post-Vatican II

[Ratzinger is wondering aloud about No salvation outside the Church: do we need it to survive, as we once believed it to be saved? Your Emeritusness, is it true or not true?]

by Maike Hickson

March 16, 2016 (LifeSiteNews.com) — On March 16, speaking publicly on a rare occasion, Pope Benedict XVI gave an interview to Avvenire, the daily newspaper of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, in which he spoke of a “two-sided deep crisis” the Church is facing in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. The report has already hit Germany courtesy of Vaticanist Guiseppe Nardi, of the German Catholic news website Katholisches.info.

Pope Benedict reminds us of the formerly indispensable Catholic conviction of the possibility of the loss of eternal salvation, or that people go to hell:

The missionaries of the 16th century were convinced that the unbaptized person is lost forever. After the [Second Vatican] Council, this conviction was definitely abandoned. The result was a two-sided, deep crisis. Without this attentiveness to the salvation, the Faith loses its foundation.

He also speaks of a “profound evolution of Dogma” with respect to the Dogma that there is no salvation outside the Church. This purported change of dogma has led, in the pope’s eyes, to a loss of the missionary zeal in the Church – “any motivation for a future missionary commitment was removed.”

Pope Benedict asks the piercing question that arose after this palpable change of attitude of the Church: “Why should you try to convince the people to accept the Christian faith when they can be saved even without it?”

As to the other consequences of this new attitude in the Church, Catholics themselves, in Benedict’s eyes, are less attached to their Faith: If there are those who can save their souls with other means, “why should the Christian be bound to the necessity of the Christian Faith and its morality?” asked the pope. And he concludes: “But if Faith and Salvation are not any more interdependent, even Faith becomes less motivating.”

Pope Benedict also refutes both the idea of the “anonymous Christian” as developed by Karl Rahner, as well as the indifferentist idea that all religions are equally valuable and helpful to attain eternal life.

“Even less acceptable is the solution proposed by the pluralistic theories of religion, for which all religions, each in its own way, would be ways of salvation and, in this sense, must be considered equivalent in their effects,” he said. In this context, he also touches upon the exploratory ideas of the now-deceased Jesuit Cardinal, Henri de Lubac, about Christ’s putatively “vicarious substitutions” which have to be now again “further reflected upon.”

With regard to man’s relation to technology and to love, Pope Benedict reminds us of the importance of human affection, saying that man still yearns in his heart “that the Good Samaritan come to his aid.”

He continues: “In the harshness of the world of technology – in which feelings do not count anymore – the hope for a saving love grows, a love which would be given freely and generously.”

Benedict also reminds his audience that: “The Church is not self-made, it was created by God and is continuously formed by Him. This finds expression in the Sacraments, above all in that of Baptism: I enter into the Church not by a bureaucratic act, but with the help of this Sacrament.” Benedict also insists that, always, “we need Grace and forgiveness.”

Get AQ Email Updates

6 comments on “Pope Emeritus Benedict breaks silence: speaks of ‘deep crisis’ facing Church post-Vatican II

  1. The comments over at Life Site News are getting hot. Chris Ferrara has chimed in, making clear that Ratzinger is in no way endorsing the true dogma, but rather affirming the evolution of dogma. Deacon Augustine, thanks for affirming the dogma over there, quoting Pope Eugene, and defending Fr. Feeney. (I don’t do disqus or any comment hosts, or I’d join you.)

    Ratzinger is the quintessential evolutionist.

  2. What an informative piece by James Larson. No wonder the eyes of the Pope Emeritus in the picture on LifeSite have a tortured look. What must be going on in his heart and in his mind? One can’t help feeling sorry for him and thinking where did things go wrong. Praying for him.

  3. [Hat-tip to gpmtrad:”The fog only worsens”]

    Benedict Breaks His Silence… with another Leaky Lifeboat

    Still searching for his hermeneutic– pray for Pope Benedict

    Written by Christopher A. Ferrara

    Avvenire, the newspaper of the Italian bishops’ conference, has just publisheda previously unpublished interview of Benedict XVI in October of last year by the liberal Jesuit theologian (forgive the redundancy) Jacques Servais, a leading exponent of the Nouvelle Théologie once suppressed by Rome. Servais is an avid promoter of Hans Urs (“Dare We Hope that All Men Be Saved?”) von Balthasar, who dropped dead days before John Paul II could accomplish the indignity of making him a cardinal.

    The interview is being spun as a devastating admission by the Pope Emeritus that the Church has gone badly astray on the question of the salvation of non-Catholics. If only it were so. We have here, on the contrary, a correct diagnosis followed by the usual post-Vatican II prescription: more of the same confusion that has plagued the Church since the Council’s volcanic ash cloud descended upon her.

    Being a proponent of universal salvation à la von Balthasar, Servais posed a blatantly loaded question, clearly designed to elicit Benedict’s confirmation that the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus is now a dead letter. All translations are mine:

    In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius of Loyola, does not employ the Old Testament images of vendetta, contrary to Paul (as is evinced in the Second Letter to the Thessalonians); nonetheless he invites contemplation of how men, until the Incarnation, “descended into Hell” and consideration of the example of “innumerable others who ended up there for sins much less than what I have committed.” It is in this spirit that Saint Francis Xavier lived his own pastoral activity, convinced of the duty to attempt to save from the terrible destiny of eternal perdition as many “infidels” as possible. Can it be said that on this point, in recent decades, there has been a sort of “development of dogma” of which the Catechism should take account?

    Notice, first of all, the snide dismissal of both the Old Testament and Saint Paul regarding God’s judgment and the threat of eternal punishment. Servais is the classic Modernist, who thinks nothing of divine revelation as opposed to his own theological sensibilities, informed by the hottest new developments in “post-conciliar thought.”

    Contrary to the way this interview is being spun by optimistic commentators, Benedict takes the bait, admitting the (de facto) death of the dogma and the crisis this has caused, but avoiding any suggestion that what is needed is simply a recovery of the Church’s traditional teaching on the necessity of faith and baptism for salvation (cases of invincible ignorance being a matter of theological speculation as to which the Church can say nothing with any certainty):

    There is no doubt that on this point we are faced with a profound evolution of dogma. While the Fathers and the medieval theologians could still be of the view that in substance all of the human race had become Catholic and that paganism now existed only at the margins, the discovery of the New World at the beginning of the modern era changed that perspective in a radical manner.

    The Pope Emeritus here blithely accepts the very essence of Modernism, condemned as such by Saint Pius X inPascendi: that the dogmas of the faith can “evolve” according to changing religious sentiments (here a “changed perspective”). That dogma can “evolve” is a sophism which, Pius X warned, “ruins and destroys all religion.” Benedict’s uncritical reference to “a profound evolution of dogma” in itself qualifies the interview as a disaster.

    That aside, it is absurd to suggest that the mere discovery of the New World and vast numbers of infidels in need of conversion would change the dogma on the necessity of conversion for salvation. On the contrary, it would all the more impel missionary activity. Indeed, Benedict admits “it is true that the great missionaries of the 16th century were still convinced [!] that he who is not baptized is lost forever, and this explains their missionary task…”

    And then comes this stupefying declaration in the same sentence: “in the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council, this conviction was definitively abandoned.” Read it again in order to convince yourself that this is what the Pope Emeritus actually said. [For the skeptical, herewith the original Italian: “nella Chiesa cattolica dopo il Concilio Vaticano II tale convinzione è stata definitivamente abbandonata.”]

    So, the posited change in “perspective” has nothing to do with the discovery of the New World, after all, or the intervening centuries since then, but rather with the seemingly endless lava flow from that ecclesial Vesuvius of ambiguity known as the Second Vatican Council. Why are we not surprised?

    It should be noted that the two Popes who reigned immediately before 1962 evinced no “radical” change in “perspective” regarding the necessity of converting the infidels—that’s the right, the infidels—for their salvation. Two examples suffice:

    In Evangellii Praecones (1951), Ven. Pius XII preached the urgency of missionary work in the aftermath of World II with Communism on the rise. He expressed concern for “the countless peoples who are to be called to the one fold and to the one haven of salvation by the preaching of these missionaries…” and he praised the Society of the Holy Childhood, whose members “pray earnestly for the salvation of the infidel…”

    In Rerum Ecclesiae (1926), Pius XI referred no fewer than fourteen times to the urgent work of converting “the heathen,” declaring that “[t]he Orders and Religious Congregations may well be proud of the missions given them among the heathen and of the conquests made up to the present hour for the Kingdom of Christ…. Do not be ashamed, Venerable Brothers, to make yourselves even beggars for Christ and the salvation of souls.”

    Then, only a few years later, there was a sudden “definitive abandonment” of the very conviction these two great Popes expressed. Proving entirely the case I made in my recent debate with Mark Shea, Pope Benedict admits that the “definitive abandonment” of the missionary conviction in favor of the mysteriously emergent new “perspective” has produced:

    a profound double crisis. On the one hand, this seems to remove all motivation to a future missionary commitment. Why should one ever try to convince people to accept the Christian faith when they can save themselves without it? But even for Christians a question emerged: the obligatoriness of the faith and of its form of life became uncertain and problematic.

    If there are those who can be saved in other ways, it is no longer evident, in the end, why the Christian himself should be bound by the exigencies of the Christian faith and its morality. But if faith and salvation are no longer interdependent, the faith also becomes unmotivated. In recent times there have been formulated different attempts to reconcile the universal necessity of Christian faith with the possibility of saving oneself without it.

    Notice that Benedict does not view the “definitive abandonment” of the Church’s missionary conviction—that is, her divine commission! —as a grave error of the past fifty years that must be corrected immediately. Out of the question! One must never admit that the Church (humanly speaking) took a wrong turn at the Council. Rather, Benedict accepts the “abandonment” as an irremediable given, leaving the Church only with “attempts” to reconcile the necessity of faith for salvation with the non-necessity of faith for salvation—that is, to reconcile X with not-X, a familiar problem in post-conciliar thinking.

    Benedict first considers Rahner’s “anonymous Christian” theory, which he views as “fascinating” but rejects because it “reduces Christianity itself to a… presentation of that which the human being is in itself and thus neglects the drama of the change and renewal which is central to Christianity.” Neglects the drama? How about neglecting infallibly defined dogmas concerning the necessity of baptism, sanctifying grace, faith, justification and membership in the Church for salvation?

    Benedict next pronounces “even less acceptable the solution proposed by pluralistic theories of religion, according to which all religions, each in its own way, would be ways of salvation and in this sense their effects would have to be considered equivalent. The critique of religion of the type exercised by the Old Testament, by the New Testament and by the primitive Church is essentially more realistic in its examination of the various religions. A reception so simplistic is not proportional to the greatness of the question.”

    What is this? Literary criticism or a defense of divine revelation? But revelation seems no longer to be in view as the first Pope Emeritus in Church history attempts to negotiate the post-conciliar fog bank.

    So, neither Rahner’s theory that everyone is essentially a Christian by virtue of being human nor various theories of religious pluralism can solve the “problem” posed by the “new perspective.” One would think that the Church, then, should reject the “new perspective” and simply reaffirm the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus, leaving the unknown fate of the invincibly ignorant unbeliever to the inscrutable mercy of God, just as Blessed Pius IX insisted when he forbade all further speculation in this regard. [Cf. Allocution Singulari Quadam (1854)].

    But no, the “new perspective” must be served. And so Benedict finally suggests that perhaps none other than Henri de Lubac can save the Church from the dilemma of having no way to explain how the “new perspective” can be reconciled with the traditional teaching of the Church on her own necessity for salvation. This would involve what Benedict calls “the concept of vicarious substitution,” according to which the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church, would somehow save souls outside the Church by the very fact of her existence.

    But that is just another formula for universal salvation without faith or baptism, which would do nothing to solve the “double crisis” Benedict admits has arisen because the missionary conviction has been “definitively abandoned” on account of the “new perspective.” Indeed, Benedict admits “it is true that the problem is not entirely resolved” by Lubac’s notion.

    So there we have it: There is no real explanation for how the necessity of faith for salvation can be reconciled with its non-necessity according to the “new perspective,” which has led to a “definitive abandonment” of the Church’s perennial missionary conviction that souls will be lost unless they are brought into the Church. But under no circumstances can it admitted that the “new perspective” is mistaken, even though it is a novelty unheard of before Vatican II. In fact, as Servais admits, not even the new Catechism has adopted it as Church teaching.

    The Pope Emeritus thus concludes: “It is clear that we must reflect on this entire question.” It is as if the entire teaching of the Magisterium for nearly 2,000 years on the salvation of non-Catholics suddenly disappeared in 1962, leaving us with no one but Henri de Lubac to attempt to fill the theological vacuum.

    Unbelievable. But such is the post-conciliar crisis in the Church. And with Francis on the Chair of Peter, we have not yet seen the worst of it.

    Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us!

  4. Father Feeney saw this long before everyone else in 1953 he and his Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary group protested when then Cardinal Cushing who covered up sex scandals in Boston too was building an Interfaith Chapel on the campus of Brandeis University, a Jewish college. The Modernists first public strike was Father Feeney and the dogma he brought to the forefront. Once that dogma was undermined when Vatican 2 arrived it was one dogma and liturgical practice after another destroyed.

  5. Pope-emeritus: Francis teaches need for God’s mercy

    [Hat-tip to Pew Sitter: “Mercy: Vatican Radio spins (i.e., highlights one line in) Benedict’s strong Catholic statement with which Francis is ‘totally in accord'”]

    Vatican Radio

    Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI has given a very rare public interview to the newspaper of the Italian Bishops’ Conference, Avvenire.

    Conducted by renowned theologian, Fr. Jacques Servais SJ, the interview focuses on two highly controversial issues in the post-Conciliar era: the right understanding of Christ’s unique and universal act of salvation with respect to those who do not profess Christian faith; and the right understanding of the primacy of mission in the life of the Church with respect to dialogue.

    At the core of the two distinct, though related questions, says Pope Benedict, is the need to recover a sense of the Divine mercy – something Pope Francis has understood and placed at the center of his pastoral solicitude.

    “Only where there is mercy does cruelty end,” said the Pope-emeritus in the interview.

    “Pope Francis is totally in accord with this line: his pastoral practice expresses itself precisely through the fact that he continually speaks to us of God’s mercy. It is mercy that moves us towards God, while justice frightens us before him.”

    “In my view,” continued Pope Benedict, “this sets in relief the fact that, beneath the veneer of confidence in himself and [human] justice, contemporary man hides a deep knowledge of his injuries and his unworthiness before God: he is waiting for mercy,” said Pope Benedict.

  6. Benedict’s Avvenire interview: A man of the Council speaks

    March 17, 2016

    By way of a rare interview with the Italian journal Avvenire, the Pope Emeritus, Benedict the Abdicator, has spoken.

    Life Site News seems to have broken the story in the English speaking world in an article entitled: Pope Emeritus Benedict breaks silence: speaks of ‘deep crisis’ facing Church post-Vatican II

    According to the article, Benedict said:

    The missionaries of the 16th century were convinced that the unbaptized person is lost forever. After the [Second Vatican] Council, this conviction was definitely abandoned. The result was a two-sided, deep crisis. Without this attentiveness to the salvation, the Faith loses its foundation.

    The article went on the report:

    He [Benedict] also speaks of a “profound evolution of Dogma” with respect to the Dogma that there is no salvation outside the Church. This purported change of dogma has led, in the pope’s eyes, to a loss of the missionary zeal in the Church – “any motivation for a future missionary commitment was removed.”

    This article has since been widely disseminated, and the starving faithful in their turn are understandably devouring the relatively few Catholic crumbs thus dispensed as if they have just been served a veritable feast.

    In its haste, unfortunately, Life Site News appears to have put forth an unrealistically optimistic spin on what, in total, is a rather troubling text.

    First, let it be said that Benedict does not actually refer to the dogma extra Ecclesiam nulla salus – outside the Church there is no salvation – as reported.

    His interviewer, Fr. Jacques Servais, S.J., juxtaposed the mindset of St. Francis Xavier, whose missionary efforts strove “to save from the terrible fate of eternal damnation as many ‘infidels’ as possible,” with that of modern men of whom Benedict said, “the preoccupation for salvation typical of a time is mostly gone,” asking:

    Can it be said that on this point, in recent decades, there has been a kind of ‘development of dogma’ of which the Catechism must absolutely take into account?

    It was in response to this question, asked in light of the idea that the unbaptized were once believed to be eternally damned, that Benedict responded:

    There is no doubt that at this point we are faced with a profound evolution of dogma. While the Fathers and theologians of the Middle Ages could still be of the opinion that the substance of the whole human race had become Catholic, and that by now paganism exists only on the margins, the discovery of the New World at the beginning of the modern era has radically changed perspectives.

    In the second half of the last century, the awareness has been fully affirmed that God cannot let go to perdition all the unbaptized, and that even a purely natural happiness for them doesn’t represent a real answer to the question of human existence.

    [Note: “Evolution” is his word. The interviewer asked about a “development” of dogma.]

    So, what exactly is he saying?

    He appears to be insisting that since the discovery of the New World, the task of converting the nations has been revealed to be far more challenging than churchmen of the Middle Ages may have recognized.

    Over the last fifty or so years, in light of this global perspective, the “awareness has been fully affirmed” (by whom, Benedict does not say) that non-Christians are not necessarily consigned to eternal damnation.

    There’s nothing entirely new here.

    In 1863, Pope Pius IX made a critical distinction in the Encyclical, Quanto Conficiamur:

    It is again necessary to censure a very grave error that is unfortunately entrapping some Catholics who profess that it is possible for men to arrive at eternal salvation, although they live in error, and are alienated from the true Faith and Catholic unity. Such opinion is absolutely opposed to Catholic teaching.

    We know and you know that there are those who are struggling with invincible ignorance about our most holy Religion. Uprightly observing the natural law and its precepts inscribed by God on all hearts and ready to obey God, they live honest lives and are able to attain eternal life by the efficacious virtue of divine light and grace. Because God knows, searches, and clearly understands the minds, hearts, thoughts, and nature of all, His supreme goodness and clemency do not permit those who are not guilty of deliberate sin to suffer eternal punishment.

    Notice, that when speaking of the unbaptized – in particular of that very narrowly defined segment of which it can be said that they “are struggling with invincible ignorance” and “are not guilty of deliberate sin,” the Holy Father does not say they can attain to salvation; rather, he says that God does not consign them to “eternal punishment.”

    What else is there besides salvation and damnation?

    Given that God has not revealed to His Church precisely what happens to the souls of such aforementioned persons who die unbaptized (e.g., the unborn, and infants), theologians have traditionally speculated as to the possibility of there being a “Limbo” (referring to the fringe or hem of Hell); a state wherein such souls may dwell in perfect natural happiness.

    Benedict, however, calls this into question saying that it “doesn’t represent a real answer to the question of human existence.”

    In other words, he seems to be inviting the idea of salvation for the unbaptized. He went on to say:

    If it is true that the great missionaries of the sixteenth century were still convinced that those who are not baptized are forever lost, and this explains their missionary commitment, in the Catholic Church after Vatican II that conviction was finally abandoned.

    While it is true that some (if not most) post-conciliar churchmen have wavered, Holy Mother Church herself has not abandoned this conviction; she continues to hold precisely what Our Blessed Lord has revealed – nothing more, nothing less – and the fact remains that we simply do not know what happens to certain unbaptized souls such as those described by Pius IX.

    That said, we do know what happens to others.

    Pope Pius IX could not have articulated the Church’s conviction more clearly than when he said it is “a very grave error” to profess “that it is possible for men to arrive at eternal salvation, although they live in error, and are alienated from the true Faith and Catholic unity.” (ibid.)

    He then reiterated the faith of the Church referring specifically to the dogma extra Ecclesiam nulla salus saying:

    Also well-known is the Catholic teaching that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church. Eternal salvation cannot be obtained by those who oppose the authority and statements of the same Church and are stubbornly separated from the unity of the Church and also from the successor of Peter, the Roman Pontiff, to whom ‘the custody of the vineyard has been committed by the Savior.’ (ibid.)

    To be very clear, this means that “eternal salvation cannot be obtained” even by those who have been baptized and yet oppose the authority and teachings of the Catholic Church and are separated from unity with her.

    Benedict made no such reference in his Avvenire interview.

    As for the “deep crisis,” here’s what he actually said:

    From this (evolution of dogma) came a deep double crisis. On the one hand this seems to remove any motivation for a future missionary commitment. Why should one try to convince the people to accept the Christian faith when they can be saved even without it? But also for Christians a question emerged … If faith and salvation are not interdependent, faith also becomes unmotivated.

    Essentially, what Benedict is conveying is this:

    If it’s no longer clear whether or not one can be saved in ways other than Christianity, both the Christian missionary and the ordinary Christian layman are left to wonder why bother and why persevere?

    This is the double crisis to which Benedict refers, and yes, he does see it as a problem.

    Now, pay very close attention to what Benedict states about the nature of this problem:

    Lately several attempts have been formulated in order to reconcile the universal necessity of the Christian faith with the possibility of saving oneself without it.

    This, presumably, is what Life Site News had in mind when it reported that Benedict spoke “with respect to the Dogma that there is no salvation outside the Church,” as if he somehow wished to see the dogma taught, believed, and lived once more.

    Not so. He clearly didn’t feel that way prior to fleeing for fear for of the wolves, and there’s no reason to believe that he does now either.

    In this interview, Benedict actually alters the aforementioned dogma; he avoids mentioning the necessity of “the Church,” and much more “the Catholic Church” by name, while substituting in its place “the Christian faith;” something that he describes at the outset as that which is inseparable from “the community” that one enters through Baptism.

    So, which community does he have in mind? The Presbyterians, the Evangelicals, the Lutherans?

    He doesn’t say, and if you think for a moment that the theologian Ratzinger intends to refer to the Catholic Church but simply failed to speak with precision, you’re kidding yourself.

    Remember who we’re talking about here:

    This is the same committed interreligious dialoguer and ecumenist who saw fit to convene Assisi III. He is, in other words, a man of the Council, and as such, he is pleased to twist extra Ecclesiam nulla salus into a generic reference to “the universal necessity of the Christian faith,” even as he calls into question just how necessary it truly is.

    We find the basis for this deviation in the document Unitatis Redintegratio – the Decree on Ecumenism of Vatican II:

    For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using the separated Churches and Communities as such as means of salvation. (cf UR 3)

    At best what we find in this interview is that Benedict is willing to place at least some emphasis on the importance of Baptism, but make no mistake – we also find that he is keen to avoid any specific reference to the necessity of the Catholic Church.

    This becomes ever more clear when one considers his description of “the Church.”

    It is necessary, he says, to “emphasize that the Church becomes a community in communion with the body of Christ.”

    Now, this is far from compelling ecclesiology. The Church – meaning, the Holy Catholic Church – does not “become” a community, nor does she seek “communion” with the Body of Christ, properly speaking.

    The Holy Catholic Church is the Body of Christ mystically present in this world. The Holy Catholic Church is a visible community. Indeed, she is the Church of Christ, and outside of her, there is no salvation.

    As we know, this kind of straightforwardness went out the windows of the Church the day they were opened to the world at Vatican II, and so it should come as no surprise that the former Council peritus and advisor to Cardinal Josef Frings remains imbued in its ways even to this day.

    Nowhere in his Avvenire interview does Benedict actually condemn this “evolution of dogma.”

    On the contrary, he speaks as if it is simply a given that there must be a way of reconciling the perennial faith with contemporary man’s new way of thinking about salvation.

    While he rejects both the notion of the “anonymous Christian” as posed by Karl Rahner, and the presumption that “all religions, each in its own way, would be ways of salvation,” at present, Benedict concludes, “the problem is not completely resolved.”


    He speaks as if Holy Mother Church is somehow unsure about the nature of salvation, how it is attained, and how it is lost.


    Let’s be very clear about this interview, what it tells us and what it does not tell us:

    Benedict believes that a crisis exists alright, but ultimately he sees it as a problem of understanding; not just on the part of certain persons, but on the part of the Church.

    What he does not believe is that the problem lies in a failure to embrace extra Ecclesiam nulla salus – “the Catholic teaching that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church” – and the reason is simple: he is, and has ever been, a man of the Council.

Leave a Reply