Tag Archives: extra ecclesiam

The Great Joseph Clifford Fenton

Many are the great American theologians that have suffered our forgetfulness. Among these surely ranks the great Joseph C. Fenton.

Fenton wrote on many and sundry topics of dogmatic theology. However, one of his areas of focus was ecclesiology. His work is deep. Indeed, he uses Scripture with great dexterity while engaging in the theological enterprise with the acumen of the scholastics. For instance, he suggests that one ought to contemplate the presence of Christ in the Church by analogy with his presence with that early band of disciples. Very incarnate presence. Also, he wants us to read even the Synoptics with that Eagle’s eye of John, so that we realize that when Christ is speaking to this or that person as narrated in the Synoptics, we recognize that he is at once Illuminating the mind of that person, that he may receive him.

Hence, “he spoke with authority.”

Fenton also engages the very thorny, but absolutely crucial, issue of the Necessity of the Catholic Church for salvation. Here, he has much to teach us. Before future posts, I’d like to cite an important point he makes regarding the watering down of this dogma:

“As a matter of fact the lax or ‘liberal’ interpretation of the dogma concerning the Church’s necessity for salvation is essentially a screen for a tepid or non-existent missionary spirit” (essay on “Theological Proof of the Necessity of the Church for Salvation, Part II).

Precisely here, he notes, is a double problem. As a matter of actual fact, the Church IS necessary. Hence, failure in missionary activity isĀ depriving souls of the grace God wills them to receive. We are in it together, as many say. Part of this means that we must go out, if we have been blessed. Lord, give us strength to spread your word, and your Kingdom, which is the Catholic Church.