Michael Voris versus Feeneyism

This past weekend, I had a dispute on Twitter with Christine Niles of ChurchMilitant.com over some assertions I made, first about Feeneyism then about schism. This post is about Feeneyism, and the next one will be about schism.

Feeneyism

I made a comment that saying that ChurchMilitant.com taught and promoted Feeneyism. This was based on two articles. One was by Christine Niles saying, at the time, that there was no implicit baptism of desire, only explicit baptism of desire. In response to my tweet, Ms. Niles changed the article text and notified me of the change. Here’s the updated article text:

“In other words, there must be a desire for baptism, either explicit or implicit, prevented because of circumstances that make it impossible.” [The Download – What the Hell?]

The article does not mention baptism of blood, but one of her tweets acknowledged it. Now the phrase “prevented because of circumstances that make it impossible” is not in any magisterial teaching. The Church has never limited the implicit baptism of desire with such a severe and unnecessary restriction. That provision makes the baptism of desire, explicit or implicit, so narrow as to make Christine Niles’ teaching on salvation still a heresy. For she takes an infallible teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium on salvation and distorts it so severely that hardly anyone could be saved by the distorted version of the teaching. Thus, she deprives the dogma of most of its force, changing dogma into heresy.

Feeneyism rejects the baptism of desire, especially implicit baptism of desire, and baptism of blood, holding instead that anyone who desires baptism, or is willing to be martyred for Christ, would be given a baptism with water, miraculously if needed. That rejection of the baptisms of desire and blood is Feeneyism. Since Voris, Niles, and Church Militant do not reject all baptisms of desire and blood, they do not teach Feeneyism.

Even so, the position on salvation proposed by Michael Voris, Christine Niles, and Church Militant is heresy; it’s just not the heresy of Feeneyism. The above restriction of implicit baptism of desire to only those persons in a circumstance that makes baptism with water impossible is not found in any magisterial document, and is not compatible with the teaching of Vatican II and Pope Saint John Paul II.

Second Vatican Council: “Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life.” [Lumen Gentium 16]

By following one’s conscience, one can arrive at an implicit baptism of desire. And this applies even to those persons who “have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God”, in other words atheists, agnostics, and religions that are not monotheistic.

Pope Pius XII: “An act of love is sufficient for the adult to obtain sanctifying grace and to supply the lack of baptism.” [Address to Midwives, 21a]

A person, for example a Jew or Muslim, who loves God, in an act of full cooperation with grace, enters the state of grace, receiving an implicit baptism of desire. Similarly, an atheist or believer in a religion that is not monotheistic, can receive the same implicit baptism of desire by an act of love of neighbor, a selfless act of love in full cooperation with grace.

But what if the person knows about Christianity and the Church, and rejects them? Even so, if their outward rejection of the Faith and the Church is not an actual mortal sin, they can receive a baptism of desire. For they know and love Christ implicitly, by the goods of this life which are of Christ: love, mercy, justice, truth, etc.

And the same is true for persons who reject the idea of God with a sincere but mistaken conscience (without the full culpability of actual mortal sin). They can nevertheless enter the state of grace by an implicit baptism of desire. For everyone who truly loves his neighbor, also loves God, at least implicitly.

Pope John Paul II: “The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all.” [Redemptoris Missio 10]

“However, as I wrote in the Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, the gift of salvation cannot be limited ‘to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all.’ ” [All Salvation Comes through Christ, General Audience, May 31, 1995.]

[1 John]
{4:7} Most beloved, let us love one another. For love is of God. And everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.
{4:8} Whoever does not love, does not know God. For God is love.

Dogma or Heresy

The other cause for my assertion about Feeneyism and Church Militant teaching was this news article:

NH Vicar Changes Dogma Into Heresy
January 17, 2019

The article praises the Feeneyites at the Saint Benedict Center of Richmond NH.

“the members of the Saint Benedict Center, a community of devout lay women and men devoted to spreading the Church’s official teaching on the need for all souls to join the Church in order to be saved.”

As a matter of fact, they are not spreading the official teaching of the Church. They are literally a group founded by Fr. Leonard Feeney, and they continue to teach his errors. When the local diocese, through its vicar, at the instruction of the CDF (!!!), corrected the Center for claiming that their teachings are Catholic, ChurchMilitant.com came to the defense of the Feeneyites, claiming that the Vicar was changing dogma (No Salvation Outside the Church) into heresy. In reality, the opposite was true. The CDF and diocese were correcting heresy.

Christine Niles’ explanation (on Twitter) of the news article was that they were simply defending the right of the Center to due process. Well, that doesn’t match the words found in the actual article. And it doesn’t justify calling the position of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and the diocese “heresy” and the teaching of the Feeneyites “dogma”.

But, fine, since the false teachings of Church Militant on salvation are not exactly the same as the false teachings of Feeneysim, Church Militant does not teach Feeneyism. They just teach a different set of grave errors on salvation.

Michael Voris

Mr. Voris denies the teachings of Vatican II and Pope Saint John Paul II on salvation. Voris makes multiple false and heretical claims about religion, such as that Jews and Muslims have no supernatural faith [video: Muslims and Jews].

In the video titled “Muslims and Jews”, Voris asserts a heresy by distorting the teaching of the First Vatican Council. The Council taught that we can know that God exists by reason alone. Yes, but then Voris draws the false conclusion that Jews and Muslims, who believe in one God but not in the Trinity, do not have supernatural faith. He asserts that this error — never taught by the Church — is a dogma. Asserting and teaching a grave error on faith, while falsely claiming it is a dogma, is heresy.

The truth that some things can be known about God by reason alone does not exclude those truths from being objects of supernatural faith. Similarly, the whole moral law can be known by reason alone. This is also a teaching of Vatican I. Yet our supernatural faith includes all the moral teachings of the Church and Divine Revelation, such as the Ten Commandments. And the fact that things which are knowable by reason can also be the object of supernatural faith is taught in the commentary Ad Tuendam Fidem by then-Cardinal Ratzinger, commenting on the Profession of Faith of Pope Saint John Paul II.

So Michael Voris has badly misunderstood Church teaching on these points.

Moreover, the teaching of the Church that an act of love can provide for an implicit or explicit baptism of desire is not a recent teaching. Here’s the Catechism of Pope Saint Pius X:

“17 Q. Can the absence of Baptism be supplied in any other way?
“A. The absence of Baptism can be supplied by martyrdom, which is called Baptism of Blood, or by an act of perfect love of God, or of contrition, along with the desire, at least implicit, of Baptism, and this is called Baptism of Desire.”

Not only an act of love of God, but also an act of perfect contrition, can bring a person who is a non-Christian into the state of grace. Therefore, ALL Muslims and Jews who love God — true selfless love of God in full cooperation with grace (which is what “perfect love” means) — enter the state of grace and have love, faith, and hope.

Consider what Saint James says about faith and works. Your works cannot save you. But your faith is shown by your good works.

{2:18} Now someone may say: “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without works! But I will show you my faith by means of works.

The same is true for love. By their love of neighbor, many Jews and Muslims, many other believers and even non-believers, are exercising the infused virtues of love, faith, and hope, thereby showing you their love by means of works of mercy.

Feeneyism

The position of Michael Voris, Christine Niles, and ChurchMilitant.com is not literally exactly Feeneyism. However, Feeneyism uses the claim that water baptism is necessary for salvation to exclude non-Christians from eternal life. Michael Voris instead uses a false claim that one must believe in the Trinity in order to arrive at a similarly broad conclusion. Did Fr. Feeney think that Jews and Muslims could be saved without converting? No. And neither does Michael Voris and Christine Niles. They do not teach Feeneyism. They do teach something just as bad.

Judaism and Islam

In his video titled “On Being Saved“, Michael Voris claims “There are no Muslims in Heaven.” I think he really believes that. For he offers no possible path of salvation for Muslims in his theology, other than conversion to Christianity.

In his video titled “The Vortex – The Jews”, he claims that after the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in the first century AD, the Jewish faith became a “man-made religion”.

In the video titled “Islam Is Not a Religion“, he claims that, well, Islam is not a religion.

These types of claims by Michael Voris are not Catholic doctrine and are incompatible with clear teachings of the Church on other religions. The Church considers Judaism to be based, as Jesus taught, on the two great Commandments, which sum up the law and the prophets: love God and neighbor. So the destruction of the Temple did not change the Jewish faith into a man-made religion: that is anti-Jewish nonsense.

The Church has said that Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are the “three great monotheistic religions”. Both Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have made public statements about Judaism and Islam that show these believers can be in the state of grace — for many of them truly love God and neighbor — and that their respective faiths are true religions. See my post Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?.

More Reading:
* Salvation is not Restricted to Christians
* Q&A on Salvation for Atheists
* Salvation for Jews
* Salvation for Muslims

Questions for Michael Voris

Can Jews and Muslims be saved, if they do not convert to Christianity?

Can atheists be saved, if they do not convert to belief in God?

Can non-Christians be saved, if they have sufficient accurate knowledge of Christianity, are able to receive the formal Sacrament of baptism of water, but decline to do so?

Michael Voris will not answer these questions, because he knows that his position is unacceptable to the vast majority of Catholics and is contrary to Catholic teaching, especially the teaching of Vatican II and Pope Saint John Paul II.

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian
* My books of theology
* My translation of the Bible
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