Conflicting Interpretations of Lumen Gentium 16

Art for Conflicting Interpretations of Lumen Gentium 16 by Echeverria

Fr. Gerald O’Collins, S.J., has recently claimed that Ralph Martin “egregiously misrepresents Vatican II’s teaching {in LG 16}.”1 How so? What exactly does LG 16 state, according to O’Collins? Here’s the crux of O’Collins’ charge against what he calls Martin’s “chilling thesis”:

Martin simply moves beyond what Vatican II states here {LG 16}, when he claims an impossibility, and maintains that very often people who have never heard the gospel cannot be saved. If they live deprived of the conditions under which they can be saved, that means that they will not be saved, and will finish up damned for all eternity. If they cannot be saved, they will not, in fact, be saved. This is a frightening thesis, tantamount to the extreme Augustinian view that God creates a massa damnata: the majority of the human race are simply predestined to hell.2

To discuss O’Collins’ interpretation, and Martin’s criticism, of the received interpretation of LG 16, we should have the text in question before us. I follow Martin’s identification of each paragraph of LG 16 as a, b, and c.

(a) Those who have not yet received the gospel are related in various ways to the people of God. There is, first, that people to which the covenants and promises were made, and from which Christ was born according to the flesh (cf. Rom 9:4-5): in view of the divine choice, they are a people most dear for the sake of the fathers, for the gifts of God are without repentance (cf. Rom 11:29-36). But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst whom are the Moslems: these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us, they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day. Nor is God remote from those who, in shadows and images, seek the unknown God, since he gives to all men life and breath and all things (cf. Acts 17:25-28), and as Savior wills that all men be saved (cf. 1 Tim 2:4).

(b) Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ, or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those, too, may achieve eternal salvation. Nor shall Divine Providence deny the assistance necessary for salvation to those who, without any fault of theirs, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God, and who, not without his grace, strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is considered by the Church to be a preparation for the Gospel, and given by him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life.

(c) But very often {at saepius} men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings, have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and served the world rather than the Creator. Or else, living and dying in this world without God, they are exposed to ultimate despair. Wherefore, to promote the glory of God, and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, “Preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:16), the Church fosters the missions with care and attention.3

The concluding paragraph of LG 13 is the context for understanding this text. It states:

All men are called to belong to the new People of God … This characteristic of universality, which adorns the People of God, is a gift from the Lord himself. By reason of it, the Catholic Church strives energetically and constantly to bring all humanity, with all its riches, back to Christ its Head, in the unity of his Spirit … All men are called to be part of this catholic unity of the People of God, a unity which is harbinger of the universal peace it promotes. And there belong to it ,or are related to it, in various ways, the Catholic faithful as well as all who believe in Christ, and, indeed, the whole of mankind. For all men are called to salvation by the grace of God (emphasis added).

The main presupposition here is that faith, baptism, and the Church are necessary for salvation. This is explicitly stated in LG 14. This is followed in LG 15 by the distinction between (1) those that fully belong to the Church, (2) those that are united in some sense with her in a real way, and (3) those that are related to her in various ways. Now, in general, we can say that the text of LG 16a deals with the closeness of those who do not belong to the Church, but who are in varying degrees related or oriented to her. For example, there exists a salvation historical continuity between Judaism and Christianity, having a “common spiritual patrimony,”4 as the Council put it, or there is agreement between Christianity and Islam’s monotheistic faith, and the theology of creation it entails, and so forth. Furthermore, 16b addresses the question regarding the conditions on how salvation might be possible for those who have not heard the Gospel, the unevangelized, through no fault of their own; and 16c addresses the matter of why “very often” those conditions are not met.

Turning now to O’Collins, he claims that LG 16 gives a “positive account of four groups who have, nor or have not, yet accepted the Gospel, and been baptized: (a) Jews, (b) Muslims, (c) followers of other faiths and philosophies, and (d) those who, through no fault of their own, have not yet reached an explicit knowledge of God.” He continues, LG 16 “speaks positively of the Jews and Muslims as included in ‘God’s project of salvation.’” Then {it} looks at the followers of other faiths and philosophies who, “through no fault of their own, knew neither the Gospel, nor the Church.” If, “under the influence of grace,” they try to do God’s will as they know it through their conscience, “they can attain eternal salvation.” As regards the fourth group, those who through no fault of their own, have not yet reached even “an explicit knowledge of God,” but “with the help of divine grace” strive to lead an upright life, “divine providence’ does “not deny them the helps necessary for salvation.”5O’Collins concludes his exposition of LG 16:

After expounding in this positive way the possibility of salvation for various non-Christian groups (who together remain the majority of human beings), [LG 16] insists on the need to evangelize the world. In doing so, it invokes St. Paul’s teaching in Romans (about the universal prevalence of sin) and echoes what he wrote about those who grieve because they lack Christian hope (1 Thess 4:13), Christians should do their very best to bring all these “others” the goodness, which can help them to serve the Creator, and die in the hope of sharing in Christ’s resurrection.6

Pared down for my purpose here, I want to make several points regarding O’Collins’ interpretation:

(1) The concluding sentence of LG 13 asserts that “all men are called to salvation by the grace of God.”7 So, yes, O’Collins is right that “God has freely called all men and women to the supernatural destiny of eternal life,”8 as he says elsewhere, or as he also puts it regarding Jews and Muslims, that they, too, are included in God’s project of salvation. But the grace referred to here is God’s prevenient grace through Jesus Christ, mediated by the Holy Spirit, a preparatory grace, one that not only enables, but also convicts, calls, and illumines man—but not without man’s free response, and hence, the possibility of his rejection or resistance of that grace.9 The predisposing grace to which LG 13 is referring comes from Christ and the Spirit, and is such that it is offered to all men for salvation. But that doesn’t say anything about this offer’s saving efficacy and finality. “God calls men to be participants in his grace; by what means, and with what effect, is not here stated.”10 Pace O’Collins, this grace does not bypass the matter of whether it is consciously accepted or rejected, because man must freely assent to, and cooperate with, that grace in order to be justified in faith and sanctified in charity.11 So, yes, O’Collins is right that all men are included in “God’s project of salvation.” The New Testament makes it quite clear that God’s will and desire is that all men should be saved, and come to a knowledge of the truth (2 Pet 3.9). Therefore, in this connection, we can understand that God draws all men to himself by the work of the Spirit through prevenient grace that is mediated by the Holy Spirit. Thus, in the words of Gaudium et spes §22: “For since Christ died for all, and since all men are, in fact, called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God alone, in the paschal mystery.” Doesn’t this statement best fit a position appropriately dubbed opaque exclusivism?12 Exclusivist because the saving work of Christ is ontologically and causally necessary for the salvation of human beings. But opaque, since the realization of the possibility of salvation of the invincibly ignorant, to which the prevenient grace of God is mediated by the Holy Spirit, is left to God alone.

(2) O’Collins fails to recognize the general significance of invincible ignorance. In other words, rather than seeing that invincible ignorance is repeated twice in LG 16 because it applies to both theists and non-theists, that is, Jews and Moslems, as well as religious seekers in general, O’Collins puts the invincibly ignorant person in a separate category of its own, distinguishing this category from Jews, Moslems, other believers in God, and even the irreligious. In LG 16, however, theists—Jews and Moslems—are referred to as those “who through no fault of their own do not know the gospel of Christ or his Church,” and non-theists are “those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God.” In sum, invincible ignorance pertains, therefore, to those in (a), (b), and (c) who have a lack in their theism, namely, being without Christ and the Church, and those who have a greater lack in their non-theism, namely, those without God. O’Collins misses out on this important application of invincible ignorance under certain conditions because he assumes that the incomplete and inadequate knowledge Jews and Moslems have as theists, and others as religious seekers, is such that their knowledge of God is not only in some sense revelatory of God’s general revelation, but also possesses “saving efficacy.”13

(3) O’Collins pays no systematic theological attention to the doctrinal teaching, correctly identified by Martin and Gavin D’Costa, as integral to Vatican II’s teaching regarding the Church and non-Christian religions. That is, says D’Costa, “sin and Satan have a strong grip over people who have not accepted Christ manifested in the objective reality of the non-Christian religions and cultures. Objectively, as a whole, they are in error, despite the many truths to be found in them. The only response to sin is to preach Christ, who redeems the sins of the world. This teaching does not take back what has been said about the positive elements that act as a preparation for Christ, but contextualizes these elements within the dramatic framework of the history of salvation.”14 In this light, we can surely understand why Martin holds that the “main teaching in LG 16” is that “‘very often’ the possibility of people being saved without hearing the gospel is not realized.”15 His thesis is: “If one ignores, or glosses over, LG 16c, one cannot possibly give a balanced judgment about the teaching of the Council on the status of non-Christians.”16

The core claim of Martin regarding the received interpretation of LG 16 is, as Gavin D’Costa summarizes it, “that most council commentaries, with very few exceptions, ignore the last section [16c].”17 The late Edward Oakes, S.J., too, agrees with Martin. He says, “I think Martin is right when he claims that LG 16c has been slighted in subsequent debate on the possible salvation of non-Christians.”18 For example, Aloys Grillmeier’s commentary on LG 16 concentrates on 16a and 16b, but does not even mention 16c.19 There are others, for example, who do mention it, but, says Martin, “it is often in passing, without analysis or extended commentary.”20 The same holds for Walter Kasper,21 Henri de Lubac,22 Paul Knitter,23 Karl Rahner,24 Richard McBrien,25 Karol Wojtyla,26 and Jacques Dupuis.27 Martin argues that the positive affirmations—salvation optimism—about non-Christians are nuanced when considered in light of LG 16c. It says that “rather often” (D’Costa preferred translation), or “very often,” as Martin uses the Latin translation of at saepius by Flannery, men are deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasoning, and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie and served the world rather than the Creator (Rom 1:25). Martin’s chief claim, and D’Costa agrees, is that “this clear teaching of the effects of sin on the world have been ignored or minimized.”

D’Costa adds:

They ignore the restatement of the traditional teaching about the effect of Original Sin. They ignore the first chapter of Romans, which is pessimistic. They ignore the footnote referring to Aquinas {Summa Theologiae, 3, q. 8, a. 3, ad1} which indicates that this salvation {for those who are unbaptized} is only a ‘possibility,’ not a reality. {This possibility is rooted in ‘power of Christ, which is sufficient for the salvation of the whole human race.’} {That is why} LG 16 ends with the necessity of missionary work, and paragraph 17 develops that theme as an introduction to the decree on missionary activity, Ad Gentes.” Again, against this background we can understand why Martin speaks of the “Council’s main teaching.”28

Here we find the chief difference between Martin’s interpretation, and the received interpretation of LG 16, which O’Collins endorses, namely, a salvation optimism in which one moves “from the possibility {emphasis added} of some being saved without hearing the gospel, to the probability, or even certainty, that all, or almost all, will be saved without hearing the gospel.”29 One must add here that this statement of LG 16c, and indeed the concluding paragraph of LG 16, is rightly taken by Martin, and also D’Costa, as the “natural bridge {that} is now built between Lumen Gentium 16 and 17, the latter which teaches the necessity of mission.”30 I argued in my article review of O’Collins work, on Vatican II and the religions that he is unable to advance a credible theological argument, for the necessity of the Church’s evangelizing mission, despite his protests to the contrary.31

The problem with the received interpretation of LG 16 isn’t its claim that “Christ is ontologically and causally exclusive to salvation, but not necessarily epistemologically.”32 This is the position, arguably, of Vatican II’s LG 16, which I call accessibilism, to contrast it with a broad inclusivism, which is O’Collins’ position.33 The difference between these two interpretations, accessibilism and broad inclusivism, is well put by William Lane Craig: “Genuine inclusivists believe that salvation is not merely accessible to, but is actually accessed by, persons who never hear the gospel. Inclusivism may be broad or narrow, ranging all the way from universalism to narrow particularism.”34 Terrance L. Tiessen helpfully defines “accessibilism:”

Accessiblism asserts that Jesus Christ is exclusively God’s means of salvation, but that there is biblical reason to be hopeful about the possibility of salvation for those who do not hear the gospel. It grants that non-Christians can be saved, but does not regard the religions as God’s designed instruments in their salvation.35

Thus, supporting accessibilism, as the Church does, neither undermines the singular uniqueness of Jesus Christ, namely, that salvation is “proper to him alone, exclusive, universal and absolute,”36 nor diminishes the necessity of the Church’s missionary mandate. These two reasons distinguish accessibilism from a broad inclusivism.

In LG 16, the council addresses the important question regarding the possible fate of the unevangelized who, through no fault of their own—the invincibly ignorant—have failed to respond to the Gospel. Can the inculpably ignorant be saved by Christ apart from the knowledge of Christ? If so, then the knowledge of Christ is not epistemologically necessary to access the saving benefits of Christ’s saving work. But the council did not answer that question in LG 16 without considering the necessary conditions that must be met for the possibility of non-Christians being saved, apart from explicitly acknowledging and responding to Christ and his saving works. The constraints of this article prohibit me from considering those conditions here.37 Suffice it to say that although these conditions “must be fulfilled in order to avoid culpability,” they are, however, as Francis Sullivan correctly notes, not a “cause of salvation.”38 In other words, invincible ignorance of the gospel is a condition of, but not a cause of salvation. For the full and sufficient cause of salvation is Jesus Christ.

(4) In view of the above reasons, I judge that O’Collins completely misrepresents Martin’s position on LG 16. For one thing, Martin explicitly denies O’Collins charge that he holds that it is impossible for men to be saved who have never heard the gospel. Martin says, “The truth is, of course, that God has appointed one way to be saved: faith in the gratuitous gift of salvation offered to us in the person of his Son. And indeed, this one way to salvation, under certain conditions, can be found even apart from explicit faith in Jesus.”39 Again, he says, “As we have seen so far in our study of LG 16, we know it is possible that those who have never heard of him {Jesus} can be saved.”40 I think that Martin is countering the salvation optimism of theologians, such as O’Collins, not by rejecting the possibility that those who have never heard the gospel may be saved, but rather by calling “for a balance, which he finds in the text of LG 16.” He explains: “It is a balance that avoids the extremes of presuming everyone who has not heard the gospel is lost, or the other extreme, that of presuming that everyone who has not heard the gospel is saved and therefore there is no need for evangelization.”41 As Martin states early in his book, “The Church definitely teaches that it is possible for non-Christians to be saved without hearing the gospel of coming to explicit faith in Christ.” Still, “There is a certain tension between the call to evangelize and the acknowledgment that conversion to Christ and the Church is not absolutely necessary in order to be saved.”42 What, then, asks Martin, is the Council’s teaching regarding one important question: “What are the necessary conditions for, and actual limitations on, the possibility of non-Christians being saved without coming to explicit faith in Christ, and membership in the Catholic Church?”43 It would not be an exaggeration to say that Martin spends almost ninety pages considering the development of the final conciliar text, its most significant commentaries, the received interpretation of LG 16, the doctrinal development of its major claim, and its biblical foundations in Romans 1-2, and Mark 16, in light of recent biblical scholarship. All of this dialectical argument is overlooked by O’Collins. In particular, Martin gives a detailed exposition of the necessary conditions under which the invincibly ignorant may be saved.

  1. That non-Christians be not culpable for their ignorance of the gospel.
  2. That non-Christians seek God with a sincere heart.
  3. That non-Christians try to live their life in conformity with what they know of God’s will {through general revelation}. This is commonly spoken of as following the natural law, or the light of conscience. It is important to note, as the Council does, in order to avoid a Pelagian interpretation, that this is possible only because people are “moved by grace.”
  4. That non-Christians welcome or receive whatever “good or truth” they live amidst—referring possibly to elements of their non-Christian religions or cultures, which may refract to some degree the light that enlightens every man (John 1:9). These positive elements are intended to be “preparation for the gospel.” One could understand this to mean either a preparation for the actual hearing of the gospel, or preparation for, perhaps, some communication of God by interior illumination.44

These very specific conditions as such are ignored by O’Collins. By contrast, Martin examines them very closely because they spell out the necessary conditions under which the possibility, not the probability, that those who have never heard of Jesus Christ may be saved.45 The Second Vatican Council addresses the important question regarding the fate of the unevangelized, namely, those who through no fault of their own—the invincibly ignorant—have failed to respond to the Gospel. Can the inculpably ignorant be saved by Christ apart from the knowledge of Christ? If so, then, the knowledge of Christ is not epistemically necessary to access the saving benefits of Christ’s saving work, albeit that Christ’s atoning work is “ontologically and causally exclusive to salvation.”46 But the council did not answer that question without stipulating the necessary conditions that must be met for the possibility of non-Christians being saved apart from explicitly acknowledging and responding to Christ and his saving works. Now, even with this consideration in view we do not yet have the full picture.

We shall only have the full picture of what Vatican II teaches when we bring into focus the reason why these conditions are “very often” not met, and they are very often not met, despite the fact that that God has provided sufficient grace—his prevenient grace mediated by the Holy Spirit—to all men for salvation because of sin and Satan’s effects on the lives of human beings. Undoubtedly, this is the most important aspect of Martin’s interpretation of LG 16. It helps us to understand that there is no reason to be optimistic, according to LG 16c, about the salvation of the invincibly ignorant. Indeed, says Martin, we need to consider “the pervasive scriptural testimony … to the deeply ingrained tendency of a fallen race to resist interior illumination and/or the explicit preaching of the gospel, because they prefer, as Scripture says, the darkness to the light.”47 In other words, “The Council clearly acknowledges the possibility that those who have never heard the gospel may, under certain conditions, be saved. But it immediately goes on to state that ‘very often’ (at saepius) these conditions are not met, and that the salvation of non-Christians who do not meet these conditions, is significantly tied to the gospel being effectively preached to them.”48 LG 16c cites Romans 1:21, 25 in biblical support of its claim that, although God has made known to all men his existence, his eternal power and divine nature, in and through the things he has made, confronting all men with the light of general revelation, they stifle and nullify, obliterate, even if not totally, its testimony by their active contrary will. This contrary will is, according to Romans, “the natural condition of the human heart after the Fall,” namely, “self-seeking, rebellious, and prone to deception, idolatry, and immorality.”49

Now, unlike O’Collins, other scholars took seriously Martin’s challenge of the received interpretation, for example, Gavin D’Costa, the late Edward Oakes, S.J., Stephan B. Bevans, S.V.D., and Roger P. Schroeder, S.V.D. Still, that doesn’t mean that they didn’t raise some criticisms of Martin’s interpretation. Oakes, for one, alleges that Martin’s interpretation of LG 16c wrongly takes its “reliance on Rom. 1:21, 25 as demonstrating that the majority of the unevangelized will go to hell.”50 But Martin disagrees with this interpretation of his book, which was also made by the then Father Robert Barron.51 Pace Oakes and Barron, his rejoinder is clear:

I am not speculating or offering any opinion in the book about the relative numbers of the saved and lost. I am not claiming to know that there are more people in hell than heaven, or vice versa. I am not claiming hell is ‘densely populated’ although it very well may be. I think Fr. Barron’s column gives the impression by the way comments are juxtaposed that I am arguing for a position on how many are, or will be, in hell. I’m not. All I am claiming, with Vatican II, is that “very often” people find themselves in a perilous situation regarding salvation, and we can’t presume they will be saved without coming to explicit faith, repentance, and baptism.52

Another objection has been raised to Martin’s interpretation of LG 16. Well-known Catholic missiologists of the Catholic Theological Union, Stephan B. Bevans and Roger P. Schroeder, in their joint article review of Martin’s book, describe his book as “one of the most significant books on mission to appear in 2012.” They add, “Ralph Martin’s book is a powerful one, and a timely reminder in many ways of human sinfulness, and the healing power of the Gospel. It is clearly, passionately, and honestly written. It is a book that deserves to be read by missiologists and mission practitioners” (95). These commendations are a far cry from the harsh charge of O’Collins that Martin “egregiously misrepresents Vatican II’s teaching.”53 Still, they raise the question whether “Martin has exaggerated somewhat the influence that Romans 1 has on LG 16c.”54 They raise this question because the Council fathers only refer in a note to Rom 1: 21, 25, rather than the entire passage, namely, Rom 1:18-32. Is that significant? Are they suggesting that referring to the entire passage means that greater weight is attached to man’s sinful condition, and its inhibiting influence on responding to God’s grace? If that is what they are suggesting, it does not seem right.

Elsewhere in Gaudium et Spes 13, the Council Fathers refer in a note to Rom 1:21-25; they also speak here of man as being “held in the bondage of sin” (John 8:34). “For sin has diminished man, blocking his path to fulfillment.” Furthermore, these ecclesiologists also claim that since LG 16c only cites Mark 16:15, “Preach the gospel to every creature,” and not the subsequent verse 16: “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned,” Martin’s reading of LG 16c, in light Mark 16:16, may have influenced him to give “a too negative reading of a passage {16c} that serves as a transition to paragraph 17, on the church’s missionary work.” But their objection is not persuasive. In fact, it is undercut since AG 5 cites both verses, Mark 16: 15-16, and that is precisely in the context explaining the Church’s Great Commission (Mt 28:19f). In sum, as D’Costa urges, “That ‘rather often’ {of LG 16c} suggests a salvation pessimism that was accepted by the Fathers and is not part of a neo-Augustinian plot after council. Martin argues that we are not interpreting the council rightly without this severe warning kept in view.”55

Enough has been said for now in refuting O’Collins’ charge against Martin’s interpretation of LG 16.

  1. Gerald O’Collins, S.J., The Second Vatican Council, Message and Meaning (Collegeville, Minnesota: Liturgical Press, 2014), 206-210, and at 207; emphasis in the text. O’Collins’ review of Martin’s book appeared in the journal Pacifica 27, 1 (2014): 111-113. Ralph Martin, Will Many be Saved? What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2012). I made some brief critical remarks on the Pacifica review in my article review of O’Collins’ work, The Second Vatican Council on Other Religions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013). This article review, “Vatican II and the Religions: A Review Essay,” appeared in Nova et Vetera, English Edition, Vol. 13, No. 3 (2015): 837-873, and at 856n71. In a forthcoming issue of Nova et Vetera, Fr. O’Collins replies to my review and I, in turn, to his response.
  2. O’Collins, Second Vatican Council, Message and Meaning, 209.
  3. There are similar passages in Vatican II’s Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, December 7, 1965, no. 22, Ad Gentes, Decree on the Mission Activity of the Church, no. 9, and Nostra Aetate, nos. 2-4.
  4. Nostra Aetate, nos. 4, 5.
  5. O’Collins, Second Vatican Council, Message and Meaning, 208-209.
  6. Ibid., 209.
  7. On this, see Nostra Aetate, §1: “For all peoples comprise a single community, and have a single origin, since God made the whole race of men dwell over the entire face of the earth (cf. Acts 17:26). One also is their final goal: God. His providence, His manifestations of goodness, and His saving designs extend to all men (cf. Wis 8:1; Acts 14:17; Rom 2:6-7; 1 Tim 2:4) against the day when the elect will be united in that Holy City ablaze with the splendor of God, where the nations will walk in His light (cf. Rev 21:23f).
  8. Gerald O’Collins, S.J., Rethinking Fundamental Theology: Toward a New Fundamental Theology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 15.
  9. Council of Trent, Decree on Justification: Denzinger §1525, and §1553. Catechism of the Catholic Church, §2001.
  10. Mikka Ruokanen, The Catholic Doctrine of Non-Christian Religions According to theSecond Vatican Council (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1992), 85.
  11. Catechism of the Catholic Church, §2001.
  12. Paul Helm, “Are They Few That be Saved?” in Universalism and the Doctrine of Hell, edited by Nigel M. des Cameron (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1992), 257-281, at 277.
  13. Gerald O’Collins, S.J., The Second Vatican Council on Other Religions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 73–75.
  14. Vatican II: Catholic Doctrines on Jews and Muslims (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), 61.
  15. Martin, Will Many be Saved?, 198.
  16. Ibid., 55.
  17. Gavin D’Costa, “Who gets in, and who is kept out,” Review of Stephen Bullivant, The Salvation of Atheists and Catholic Dogmatic Theology, and Ralph Martin, Will Many be Saved,? in The Tablet, January 31, 2013.
  18. Edward Oakes, S.J., “Saved From What? On Preaching Hell in the New Evangelization,” Pro Ecclesia Vol. XXII, No. 4, 378-394, and at 386.
  19. Commentary on the Documents of Vatican II, Volume I, General Editor, Herbert Vorgrimler, Translated by Lalit Adolphus, et al. (New York: Herder and Herder, 1967), Chapter II, 182-184. Ilaria Morali also ignores the last section, 16c, in her essay, “Salvation, Religions, and Dialogue in the Roman Magisterium,” in Catholic Engagement with World Religions, A Comprehensive Study, Edited by K.J. Beker & Ilaria Morality, et al. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2010), 126.
  20. Martin, Will Many Be Saved?, 16. Martin lists others in this same category (229n27).
  21. Walter Kasper, “The Unicity and Universality of Jesus Christ,” October 17, 2000, no. 4.
  22. Henri de Lubac, “Lumen Gentium and the Fathers,” in Vatican II: An Interfaith Appraisal, edited by John H. Miller (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1966), 153-175.
  23. Paul Knitter, No Other Name? A Critical Survey of Christian Attitudes Toward the World Religions (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1985).
  24. Karl Rahner, “Observations on the Problem of the ‘Anonymous Christian’,” Theological Investigations, Vol. XIV, Translated by David Bourke (New York: Seabury, 1976), 280-294.
  25. Richard McBrien, “The Church (Lumen Gentium),” in Modern Catholicism: Vatican II and After, edited Adrian Hastings (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991).
  26. Sources of Renewal, The Implementation of the Second Vatican Council, Translated by F.S. Falla (London: Fount Paperbacks, 1980; original Polish edition, 1972), 122-133.
  27. Toward a Christian Theology of Religious Pluralism (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1997).
  28. Ibid., 198.
  29. Martin, Will Many be Saved?, 17.
  30. D’Costa, Vatican II, 109.
  31. “Vatican II and the Religions,” 271-273
  32. Gavin D’Costa, Christianity and World Religions, Disputed Questions in the Theology of Religions (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), 7.
  33. I describe O’Collins’ brand of inclusivism, namely, “inclusive pluralism” à la Jacques Dupuis, in my article review (“Vatican II and the Religions,” 838-839).
  34. “Politically Incorrect Salvation,” in Christian Apologetics in the Modern World, Editors, T. P. Phillips and D. Ockholm (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity, 1995), 75-97, and at 84.
  35. Terrance L. Tiessen, Who can Be Saved? Reassessing Salvation in Christ and World Religions (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 483, and also 33-34. Tiessen rightly understands that “accessibilism can be traced in Christian thought back to the second century. It is now strongly affirmed in official Roman Catholic documents” (22).
  36. Dominus Iesus, “On the Unicity and Salvific Universality of Jesus Christ and the Church,” Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, August 6, 2000, §15: “Jesus Christ has a significance and a value for the human race and its history which are unique and singular, proper to him alone, exclusive, universal and absolute. Jesus is, in fact, the Word of God made man for the salvation of all.”
  37. Martin devotes all of chapter III, 24-56, to a discussion of these conditions in Will Many be Saved?
  38. Francis Sullivan, Salvation Outside of the Church? Tracing the History of the Catholic Response (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2002), 77.
  39. Martin, Will Many be Saved?, 91, emphasis added.
  40. Ibid., 92.
  41. Ibid., 19. Martin is here describing the view of Gérard Philips, the Belgian Catholic ecclesiologist, and key drafter of Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium, whose view is, arguably, Martin’s own.
  42. Ibid., 5.
  43. Ibid., 7.
  44. Martin, Will Many Be Saved?, 9. Do these conditions set the boundaries of invincible ignorance? No, says Pius IX’s Singulari Quadem (1854). He speaks there of the invincibly ignorant as not being subject to any guilt in this matter of the one true Church. Still, he adds: “Now, who could presume for oneself the ability to set the boundaries of such ignorance, taking into consideration the natural differences of peoples, lands, talents and so many other factors?” Indeed, Pius writes, “Far be it from Us, Venerable Brethren, to presume on the limits of the divine mercy which is infinite; far from Us, to wish to scrutinize the hidden counsel and ‘judgments of God’ which are ‘a great deep’ {Ps 35:7} and cannot be penetrated by human thought” (The Sources of Catholic Dogma, Edited by Roy J. Deferrari {St. Louis/London: B. Herder Book Co., 1957}, 415). See also on invincible ignorance, Pius IX, Encyclical Quanto conficiamur moerore to the Italian Bishops, August 10. 1863: Denzinger §§2865-2867. Herman Bavinck pointedly states: “Even the pope [Pius IX} did not dare to define the limits of this ignorance” (“The Catholicity of Christianity and the Church,” Calvin Theological Journal 27 {1992}: 220-51, and at 234).
  45. Martin, Will Many Be Saved?, 55.
  46. Gavin D’Costa, Christianity and World Religion, Disputed Questions in the Theology of Religions (West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009), 7.
  47. Martin, Will Many Be Saved?, 56.
  48. Ibid., 58.
  49. Ibid., 89.
  50. “Saved From What? On Preaching Hell in the New Evangelization,” Pro Ecclesia Vol. XXII, No. 4, 378-394, and at 387.
  51. “How Many are Saved,” online:
  52. “Comments by Dr. Ralph Martin on Fr. Robert Barron’s Review of Will Many be Saved?”
  53. O’Collins, Second Vatican Council, Message and Meaning, 207.
  54. “Evangelization and the Tenor of Vatican II: A Review Essay,” International Bulletin of Missionary Research, 37.2 (2013): 94–95, and at 95. ). Martin’s book was also positively reviewed by Gavin D’Costa, “Who gets in, and who is kept out,” Review of Stephen Bullivant, The Salvation of Atheists and Catholic Dogmatic Theology, and Ralph Martin, Will Many be Saved,? in The Tablet, February 2, 2013, 20.
  55. D’Costa, “Who gets in, and who is kept out.”
Eduardo Echeverria About Eduardo Echeverria

Eduardo Echeverria is professor of philosophy and systematic theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit. He earned his doctorate in philosophy from the Free University in Amsterdam and his STL from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome. He is the author of many publications, most recently Revelation, History, and Truth: A Hermeneutics of Dogma (2018), and Pope Francis: The Legacy of Vatican II, 2nd edition, revised and expanded (2019).


  1. Surely the final judgement is God’s “.If you did it to one of my brethren you did it to me”