The Catholic Dogma by Fr. Mueller:
"Unquestionably, all must enter into the Church," some will say; "but not necessarily into the visible Church. We must distinguish between the Body or exterior communion of the Church, and the soul, or interior communion. The dogma of faith simply says: out of the Church there is no salvation, and you have no right to add the word visible or exterior."
"We add the word exterior or visible," says Dr. O. A. Brownson, "to distinguish the Church out of which there is no salvation from the invisible Church contended for by Protestants, and which no Catholic does or can admit. Without it, the dogma of faith contains no meaning. Unquestionably, as our Lord in his humanity had two parts, his body and his soul, so we may regard the Church, his Spouse, as having two parts, the one exterior and visible, the other interior and invisible, or visible only by the exterior, as the soul of man is visible by his face; but to contend that the two parts are separable, or that the interior exists disconnected from the exterior and is sufficient independently of it, is to assert, in so many words, the prevailing doctrine of Protestants, and so far as relates to the indispensable conditions of salvation, to yield them, at least in their understanding, the whole question. In the present state of controversy with Protestants, we cannot save the integrity of the faith, unless we add the epithet, visible or external. But it is not true that by so doing we add to the dogma of faith. The sense of the epithet is necessarily contained in the simple word Church itself, and the only necessity there is of adding it at all is in the fact that heretics have mutilated the meaning of the word Church, so that to them it no longer has its full and proper meaning. Whenever the word Church is used generally, without any specific qualification, expressed or necessarily implied, it means, by its own force, the visible as well as the invisible Church, the Body no less than the Soul; for the Body, the visible or external communion, is not a mere accident, but is essential to the Church.. The Church, by her very definition, is the congregation of men called by God through the evangelical doctrine, and professing the true Christian faith under their infallible Pastor and Head - the Pope. This definition takes in nothing not essential to the very idea of the Church. The Church, then, is always essentially visible as well as invisible, exterior as well as interior; and to exclude from our conception of it the conception of visibility would be as objectionable as to exclude the conception of body from the conception of man. Man is essentially body and soul; and whosoever speaks of him - as living man - must, by all the laws of language, logic and morals, be understood to speak of him in that sense in which he includes both. So, in speaking of the Church, if the analogy is admissible at all. Consequently, when faith teaches us that out of the Church there is no salvation, and adds herself no qualification, we are bound to understand the Church in her integrity, as Body no less than as Soul, visible no less than invisible, external no less than internal. Indeed, if either were to be included rather than the other, it would be the Body; for the Body, the congregation or society, is what the word primarily and properly designates; and it designates the soul only for the reason that the living Body necessarily connotes the soul by which it is a living Body, not a corpse. We have then, the right, nay, are bound by the force of the word itself, to understand by the Church, out of which there is no salvation, the visible or external as well as the invisible or internal communion.
"What Bellarmine, Billuart, Perrone, and others say of persons pertaining to the soul and yet not to the Body of the Church makes nothing against this conclusion. They, indeed, teach that there is a class of persons that may be saved, who cannot be said to be actually and properly in the Church. Bellarmine and Billuart instance catechumens and excommunicated persons, in case they have faith, hope, and charity; Perrone, so far as we have seen, instances catechumens only; and it is evident from the whole scope of their reasoning that all they say on this point must be restricted to catechumens, and such as are substantially in the same category with them; for they instance no others, and we are bound to construe every exception to the rule strictly, so as to make it as little of an exception as possible. If, then, our conclusion holds true, notwithstanding the apparent exception in the case of catechumens and those substantially in the same category, nothing these authors say can prevent it from holding true universally.
"Catechumens are persons who have not yet received the visible sacrament of baptism in re (in reality), and therefore are not actually and properly in the Church, since it is only by baptism that we are made members of Christ and incorporated into his Body. 'With regard to these there is no difficulty,' says Bellarmine, 'because they are of the Faithful, and if they die in that state may be saved; and yet no one can be saved out of the Church, as no one was saved out of the ark, according to the decision of the fourth Council of Lateran, C. 1: "Una est fidelium Universalis Ecclesia, extra quam nullus omnino salvatur." Still, it is no less certain that catechumens are in the Church, not actually and properly, but only potentially, as a man conceived, but not yet formed and born, is called man only potentially. For we read (Acts, ii. 41.) "they therefore that received his word were baptized; and there were added to them that day about three thousand souls." Thus the Council of Florence, in its instructions for the Armenians, teaches that men are made members of Christ and of the Body of the Church when they are baptized; and so all the Fathers teach . . . Catechumens are not actually and properly in the Church. How can you say they are saved, if they are out of the Church?"
"It is clear that this difficulty, which Bellarmine states, arises from understanding that to be in the Church means to be in the visible Church, and that, when faith declares, out of the Church no one can be saved, it means out of the visible communion. Otherwise it might be answered, since they are assumed to have faith, hope, and charity, they belong to the soul of the Church, and that is all that faith requires. But, Bellarmine does not so answer, and since he does not, but proceeds to show that they do in a certain sense belong to the body, it is certain that he understands the article of faith as we do, and holds that men are not in the Church unless they, in some sense, belong to the body. "But," Bellarmine continues, "The author of the book 'De Ecclesiasticis Dogmatibus,' replies, that they are not saved. But this appears too severe; certain it is that St. Ambrose, in his oration on the death of Valentinian, expressly affirms that catechumens can be saved, of which number was Valentinian when he departed this life. Another solution is therefore to be sought. Melchior Cano says that catechumens may be saved, because, if not in the Church properly called Christian, they are yet in the Church which comprehends all the faithful, from Abel to the consummation of the world. But this is not satisfactory; for, since the coming of Christ there is no true Church but that which is properly called Christian, and therefore, if catechumens are not members of this, they are members of none. I reply therefore, that the assertion, 'out of the Church no one can be saved,' is to be understood of those who are of the Church neither actually nor in desire, as theologians generally say when treating of baptism." (De. Eccl. Milit. lib. 3, cap. 3)
"I have said," says Billuart, "that catechumens are not actually and properly in the Church, because, when they request admission into the Church, and when they already have faith and charity, they may be said to be in the Church proximately and in desire, as one may be said to be in the house because he is in the vestibule for the purpose of immediately entering. And in this sense must be taken what I have elsewhere said of their pertaining to the Church, that is, that they pertain to her inchoately, as aspirants who voluntarily subject themselves to her laws; and they may be saved, notwithstanding there is no salvation out of the Church; for this is to be understood of one who is in the Church neither actually nor virtually—nec re nec in voto. In the same sense St. Augustine, (Tract. 4 in Joan. n. 13.) is to be understood when he says, 'Futuri erant aliqui in Ecclesia excelsioris gratiae catechumeni,' that is, in will and proximate disposition, 'in voto et proxima dispositione.' (Theolog. de Reg. Fid. Dissert. 3, art. 3.)
"It is evident, both from Bellarmine and Billuart, that no one can be saved unless he belongs to the visible Communion of the Church, either actually or virtually, and also that the salvation of catechumens can be asserted only because they do so belong; that is, because they are in the vestibule, for the purpose of entering, have already entered in their will and proximate disposition. St. Thomas teaches with regard to these, in case they have faith working by charity, that all they lack is the reception of the visible sacrament in reality; but, if they are prevented by death from receiving it in reality before the Church is ready to administer it, that God supplies the defect, accepts the will for the deed, and reputes them to be baptized. If the defect is supplied, and God reputes them to be baptized, they are so in effect, have in effect received the visible sacrament, are truly members of the external communion of the Church, and therefore are saved in it, not out of it. (Summa, 3, q. 68, a. 2, corp. ad 2. et ad 3.
"The case of the catechumens disposes of all who are substantially in the same category. The only persons, not catechumens, who can be in the same category, are persons who have been validly baptized, and stand in the same relation to the sacrament of Reconciliation that catechumens do to the sacrament of Faith. Infants, validly baptized, by whomsoever baptized, are made members of the Body of our Lord, and, if dying before coming to the age of reason go immediately to heaven. But persons having come to the age of reason, baptized in an heretical society, or persons baptized in such society in infancy, and adhering to it after having come to the years of understanding - for there can be no difference between the two classes - whether through ignorance or not, are, as we have seen, out of unity, and therefore out of charity, without which they are nothing. Their faith, if they have any, does not avail them; their sacraments are sacrilegious. The wound of sacrilege is mortal, and the only possible way of being healed is through the sacrament of Reconciliation or Penance. But for these to stand in the same relation to this sacrament that catechumens do to the sacrament of Faith, they must cease to adhere to their heretical societies, must come out from among them, seek and find the Church, recognize her as the Church, believe what she teaches, voluntarily subject themselves to her laws, knock at the door, will to enter, standing waiting to enter as soon as she opens and says, Come in. If they do all this, they are substantially in the same category with catechumens; and if, prevented by death from receiving the visible sacrament in reality, they may be saved, yet not as simply joined to the soul of the Church, but as in effect joined or restored to her external Communion. By their voluntary renunciation of their heretical or schismatic society, by their explicit recognition of the Church, by their actual return to her door, by their dispositions and will to enter, they are effectually, if not in form, members of the Body as well as the soul. Persons excommunicated stand on the same footing as these. They are excluded from the Church, unless they repent. If they repent and receive the visible sacrament of Reconciliation, either in reality or in desire, they may be saved because the Church, in excommunicating them, has willed their amendment, not their exclusion from the people of God; but we have no authority to affirm their salvation on any other condition.