II. Every man is a
friend and son of God
The Covenant with Noah
Once the unity of the human race was divided by
sin, God sought first of all to save humanity by passing by each one of its
parts. The covenant with Noah after the flood expresses the
principle of the divine economy towards the "nations," that is to say,
towards the men regrouped according to their countries, each according to his
language, and according to their clans (§ 56).
We learn then that "God sought to save man by
passing by each of its parts," which leaves us supposing that God has
accorded to each part of humanity a religion which continues this covenant with
Noah. The sign of the covenant with Noah having been the rainbow, one is not
astonished that this symbol was widely used by the Conciliar Church in order to
express its ecumenism, for example at the time of the inter-religious meeting at
Brussels in September, 1992. Up to Vatican II, Catholics rather believed that
which St. Paul said, that the pagans before the Incarnation had to observe the
natural law in order to be saved. The only true past covenant between God and
men with a view to constituting a religion for a part of mankind was the
covenant of Sinai. And since the Incarnation, Jews and pagans must embrace the
Christian religion in order to be saved.
The covenant with Noah is in vigor for as long as
the time of the nations endures, until the universal
proclamation of the Gospel. The Bible venerates several great figures from the "nations," such as "Abel the just," the king-priest Melchisedech,
figure of Christ, or the just "Noah, Daniel, and Job"
(Ezek. 14:14). Thus, the Scriptures express what heights of sanctity
those can attain who live according to the covenant of Noah in the expectation
that Christ "gather into unity all the scattered children of God"
Not only does the Catechism leave one to understand that
the pagan religions are the consequences of the covenant of Noah, but it lets one
now clearly think that this covenant has not been suppressed since it remains
valid until the universal proclamation of the Gospel and until "Christ
gathers together in unity all the scattered children of God," which isn’t
realized as long as ecumenism hasn’t yet come to an end. Thus, it seems that
even today "those who live according to the covenant of Noah can attain
great] height of sanctity."
The Old Covenant
If pagans can claim to be friends
of God thanks to the covenant with Noah, it is even clearer for the Jews, since
Covenant has never been revoked":
Christ has died for all
The Old Testament is an inadmisible part of Sacred
Scripture. Its books are divinely inspired and preserve a permanent value46
for the Old Covenant has never been revoked (§ 121). The
relation of the Church with the Jewish people, the People of God in the New
Covenant, discovers, in scrutinizing its own mystery, its bond with the Jewish
People, "to whom God has first spoken." Unlike the other non-Christian religions, the Jewish faith has already
responded to the revelation of God in the Old Covenant. It is to the Jewish
People that "belong the adoption of sons, the glory, the covenants, the law,
the cult, the promises and the patriarchs, and he who was born according to
the flesh, the Christ" (Rom. 9:4-5), for the "gifts and the call of God
are without repentance" (§ 839).
It is true that Christ has
offered His life for all men and that His death, offered with love, is capable
of saving all sinners. However, it is necessary to apply to each one this
This application is made by
Baptism, Penance, and the other sacraments which take their power from the
passion of Christ.50 It is also by Faith that the passion of Christ
is applied to us in order that we harvest the fruits of it.
Consequently, even if Christ
has offered His life for all, all shall not be saved, for all do not profit from
His death by the Faith and the Sacraments. The Catechism is, at best, ambiguous
on this question:
This love is without exclusion. Jesus has recalled
this at the end of the parable of the lost sheep: "So your Father who is in
heaven does not will that even one of his sheep be lost" (Matt.18:14). He affirms ‘to give His life in ransom for the multitude’ (Matt.
20:28); this last term is not restrictive. It opposes the mass of
humanity to the unique person of the Redeemer who delivers Himself up to save
it. The Church, following the apostles, teaches
that Christ has died for all men without exception. "There is not, neither
has there been, nor shall there be, any man for whom Christ has not suffered"
This translation of the Latin pro multis is faulty
when one specifies that this term "is not restrictive." This
term is beautiful and quite restrictive.
It is the "love even to the
13:1) which confers its value of redemption and of reparation, of expiation
and of satisfaction to the sacrifice of Christ. He has known and loved all of us
in offering up his life.
"The love of Christ
presses us, to the thought that if one also died for all, then all have died" (II Cor.
5:14). No man, be he the most holy, was in the position to take upon
himself the sins of all men and offering himself in sacrifice for all. The
existence of the divine person of the Son in Christ, which goes beyond and at
the same time embraces all human persons, and which constitutes him Head of all
humanity, renders possible his redemptive sacrifice for all (§ 616).
In assuming an human nature, Jesus Christ has not assumed
all our persons. He has assumed the human nature of His own divine person, but
not that of each of our persons. He died for all, but He only applies the salvific virtue of His blood for the souls who come to Him with humility, faith
Limbo is denied in practice, and
that agrees completely with what we are going to see. Since it is not necessary
any more that the virtue of the passion of Christ be applied to us by faith and
the sacraments, there is no more reason to close the door of heaven to the
little children who have died without Baptism:
Concerning the infants who have died without
Baptism, the Church can only confide them to the mercy of God, as she does in
the rite of funeral for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God which desires
that all men be saved, and the tenderness of Jesus towards
the children who made Him say, "Suffer the little children to come to me,
and hinder them not" (Mk. 10:4), permits us to hope that there
was a path of salvation for the children who died without Baptism. All the
more pressing is the call of the Church to not hinder the little children to
come to Christ by the gift of Holy Baptism (§ 1261).
This negation of Limbo is very grave. The Catholic
doctrine on Limbo is not defined, but it is certain. Let us recall it briefly.
The punishment for original sin is the privation of the vision of God. Those who die with original sin go to Limbo where they will remain for all
eternity. In Limbo, they enjoy a natural happiness, without hatred
of God or pain of sense. These three affirmations are not defined,
but they are taught as certain.
The death of the Christian
Reflection upon death has always
been for Christians the occasion for a salutary fear. The Christian draws from
it the lesson that he must above all avoid every mortal sin (for there is no
greater misfortune than to die in the state of mortal sin), that one must make
an effort to avoid venial sin, and also to seek to do penance so as to avoid
purgatory. But for the Catechism, there is nothing to fear from death. Only look at what the rite of
Christian burial says. First of all, it describes thus the meaning of death:
The Christian meaning of death is revealed in the
light of the paschal mystery of the death and resurrection of Christ, in whom
reposes our only hope. The Christian who dies in Christ Jesus "quits the
body to go to remain next to the Lord" (§1681). The
day of death inaugurates for the Christian, at the end of his sacramental
life, the fulfillment of his new birth begun at Baptism, the definitive
to the "image of the Son" conferred by the unction of the Holy Ghost and
the participation in the banquet of the kingdom which was anticipated in the
Eucharist, even if some last purifications are still necessary in order to put
on the nuptial robe" (§ 1682). The Church, which as a
mother, has borne the Christian sacramentally in her bosom during his earthly
pilgrimage, accompanies him at the close of his journeying in order to deliver
him "into the hands of the Father." She offers to the Father, in Christ,
the child of her grace, and she deposits in the earth, in hope, the seed of
the body which shall rise again into glory. This offering
is celebrated fully by the Eucharistic Sacrifice; the blessings which precede
and follow are sacramentals (§ 1683).
One sees by this how little the Catechism is pastoral. For
if there is an occasion to make Christians reflect, it is certainly the occasion
of the death of a loved one. One must do it with charity, of course, but one
must not confuse charity with an anesthesia of consciences. Even on the occasion
of a suicide, the Catechism seeks to the greatest degree to reassure
One must not despair of the
eternal salvation of those persons who have taken their own lives. God can
provide them, by ways which He alone knows, with the occasion of a salutary
repentance. The Church prays for the persons who have taken their own lives (§
We are far from the "pre-conciliar" pastoral
which refused a Christian burial to suicides, when they hadn’t given any signs
of contrition. Moreover, it is this attitude which corresponds to true charity.
By this refusal, the Church showed the gravity of suicide and greatly
contributed to diminish the temptation for Christians to commit it, aiding them
thus to save their souls.
After having reflected on the meaning of death, the
Catechism gives several indications on the celebration of funerals. We retain
It is by the Eucharist thus celebrated in common
that the community of the faithful, especially the family of the deceased,
learns to live in communion with he who has "fallen asleep in the Lord,"
in communicating with the Body of Christ of which he is a living member and by
praying afterwards for him and with him (§ 1689).
The Catechism encourages then all the assistants to
communicate at the Mass of Christian burial, without saying anything about the
dispositions required to do so. When one knows that at the occasion of funerals
there are many people coming who ordinarily do not set foot in the church, one
measures the number of sacrileges that the Catechism encourages.