Probability Of Salvation Made (Almost…) Easy
One of the differences a Southern European notices with the Anglo-Saxon attitude is the different approach to hell. In this respect, Anglo-Saxons tend in my experience to belong either to the extreme “hell is probably empty” (heretical) faction, or else to tend towards a Puritanical view of a general carnage which only a few manage to escape.
In Southern Europe we traditionally had a different approach, thinking rather that whilst the matter of salvation is serious, the fear of The Lord, the nearness to the Sacraments and a loving trust in the Blessed Virgin’s help would help, in the end, very many to avoid the worst. This is, I think, the reason why Catholic societies are seen as too rigid and hypocritically harsh from Anglo-Saxon liberals, whilst they are considered scandalous places full of sinners who just don’t care and are left alone by a permissive and corrupted Church from the Protestants and it is, in fact, reported the young JH Newman was utterly scandalised at the immorality he saw in Rome, an environment which was, at least for the working classes (as made immortal by the sonnets of Giuseppe Gioachino Belli) rather different from the environment he was accustomed to.
This is seen also, I dare say, in the matter of, let us call it so, the salvation numbers, often seen with great pessimism in colder climates and generally seen in a more relaxed way by the, well, more relaxed Catholic cultures (this is another thing I always notice in Northern European: they tend to seem always strangely tense at some level…).
I have been wondering for a while whether this different attitude is something merely cultural, or whether it would be shared by prominent theologians of the recent past; obviously from times above suspicion, then what happened after V II is not even worth being googled.
On the excellent Ite ad Thomam blog we find a very interesting excerpt from the great Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, who interestingly enough echoes the perception of Christian societies in which I grew up. In short: it was widely believed the majority of even adult Catholics should manage to scrape through with the help of “their saints in Paradise”; the Proddies were thought to be already in non indifferent trouble; and the Heathens in serious trouble.
It would, therefore, seem if one is a Catholic grown in a Catholic country and accustomed to all the Catholic way of life, one should be fine in the end, obtaining the grace of final repentance.
There are, though, differences to consider: the society in which I grew up (and which was probably already in some state of decomposition compared to Garrigou-Lagrange’s one) basically did not contemplate the idea of not belonging to the Church, and non-baptism was virtually non-existent among those who weren’t, say, Jews. You see that also in the language, where “Christian” is used a synonymous for “person”, and “baptism name” means “first name”. Therefore, their sunny, Italian/French/Spaniard/Portuguese optimism was based on a society completely taken over by a broadly Catholic culture, and formed in a world where truly even atheists would share most of the Church’s values, and would be often either ashamed of not believing, or not desirous of telling they aren’t. Who knows how many “last-minute efforts” were crowned with success in such an environment…
What the very same Garrigou-Lagrange would say of the Italy, or France of today is more difficult to discern: whilst still largely present in those countries, traditional Catholic values progressively lose grip, as they have been transmitted more by parents than by priests for now 50 years; parents who are now dying, and dying clearly without the success a motivated professional clergy would have had. In the meantime, Atheists have become angrier, and even Catholics less Catholic; many churchgoers of today probably understand much less of Christianity than most agnostics of 100 years ago; which made the agnostic more likely to be recovered in his old age than the modern “catholics” more likely to turn to Kabbalah, or New Age wannabe spirituality…
I doubt our theologian would be so optimistic if he visited those countries today. He would probably restrict his optimistic assumption to certain strata of the population, rather than generically talking of “adult Catholics”. Say, how many millions adults Catholics do not care that their children are baptised? What would our great man say of their salvation prospects?
Which question leads us very neatly to the last point of this post: Vatican II with all its opening to the world has aggiornato Catholic Europe so much, that in it nowadays many more are at grave risk of damnation than in pre-V II times. So much so, that Countries once solidly in the hand of Catholicism are now growing a generation of unbaptised, religiously indifferent people to whom Christian values are at the most object for examination, and then approval or rejection according to personal convictions. It will not be long before the chances of salvation of the majority of them will not be bigger than if they had been born in a Protestant Country.
I wouldn’t want to be the member of the clergy, no matter how high his position, who dies having actively contributed to all this.
Posted on January 23, 2013, in Catholicism and tagged Conservative Catholic, conservative catholicism, Predestination, Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Salvation, unbaptised children. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.