When is one not entitled to use the word “Catholic”? – The Case of RealCatholicTV

It was reported that the Diocese of Detroit took issue with Michael Voris for his using the name “Catholic” for his TV-apostolate. The following is the official statement of the Diocese:

The Church encourages the Christian faithful to promote or sustain a variety of apostolic undertakings but, nevertheless, prohibits any such undertaking from claiming the name Catholicwithout the consent of the competent ecclesiastical authority (see canon 216 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law). For some time, the Archdiocese of Detroit has been in communication with Mr. Michael Voris and his media partner at Real Catholic TV regarding their prominent use of the word “Catholic” in identifying and promoting their public activities disseminated from the enterprise’s production facility in Ferndale, Michigan. The Archdiocese has informed Mr. Voris and Real Catholic TV, RealCatholicTV.com, that it does not regard them as being authorized to use the word “Catholic” to identify or promote their public activities. Questions about this matter may be directed to the Archdiocese of Detroit, Department of Communications. (Issued: Dec. 15, 2011, Contact: Ned McGrath, infodesk@aod.org / (313) 237-5943)

Recently, on 3th. Jan., they issued a second demand:

“The Archdiocese of Detroit has been consistent in its statements to and about Real Catholic TV since the fall of 2008. (Regarding RealCatholicTV.com) Due to continued requests made to the Detroit archdiocese for clarification concerning the use of the title Catholic by Real Catholic TV, and to avoid any confusion among the faithful, it was determined a public statement should make clear what has been told to Real Catholic TV, namely, that it does not have the authorization required under Church law to identify or promote itself as Catholic.”

Their statement of 2008 is:

In 2006, St. Michael’s Media of Ferndale, Michigan, through its chief executive, Michael Voris, and his associates, requested approval of its media enterprise and programming from the Archdiocese of Detroit. The Detroit archdiocese responded to their initial submission and gave them direction as to the additional information and steps that would be need to be taken. At issue was and is compliance with our basic archdiocesan media protocols and those of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). While there have been some discussions, the matter with St. Michael’s Media remains unresolved; it is not an approved apostolate.

In 2008, a Web-based video provider named RealCatholicTV.com was launched, with Michael Voris as the primary host and senior executive producer utilizing new and archive program material produced and provided, primarily, by St. Michael’s Media. RealCatholicTV.com has yet to present itself or receive approval of its media enterprise from the Detroit archdiocese.

Therefore, the catechetical presentations and the interpretations of Catholic teachings or positions presented by St. Michael’s Media and/or RealCatholicTV— be they audio, video, or exclusively Web-based— cannot be approved or endorsed by the archdiocese at this time.

The Canon Lawyer Dr. Peters comments on this case (from his blog):

The first thing to understand about the dispute between the Archdiocese of Detroit and Michael Voris and/or RealCatholicTV is that the dispute turns essentially on canon law. As a canonical dispute, it will not be decided by seeing who musters more or louder supporters in the blogosphere; it will be decided by recognizing what Church law says about such matters and then abiding by that finding.

With this being firmly understood, however, we may still use the dispute to set out some aspects of Church discipline for those wishing to understand such things better. I comment here not as an advisor to the AOD, but as an established observer on public canonical issues, and I reiterate what is noted to the right of every ITLOTL post, namely, that this blog represents my opinions only.

Canon 216 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law contains two sentences, the first of which is not at issue: “Since they participate in the mission of the Church, all the Christian faithful have the right to promote or sustain apostolic action even by their own undertakings, according to their own state and condition.” As far as this part of c. 216 is concerned, Voris/RCTV may disseminate whatever they want, whenever they wish, about whatever they please. Whether Voris/RCTV speak correctly or mistakenly on a given matter, or whether they show appropriate prudence and charity in expressing their positions, is their responsibility. Catholics are free to reach differing opinions about those questions.

But sentence two of Canon 216 is another matter: “Nevertheless, no undertaking is to claim the name ‘Catholic’ without the consent of competent ecclesiastical authority.” The plain text of this canon unquestionably puts the burden on those behind an undertaking to secure consent from the competent ecclesiastical authority before claiming the name “Catholic” for their project(s). Voris/RCTV expressly (indeed, pervasively) use the word “Catholic” to name their undertakings. They repeatedly proclaim that theirs is “Real Catholic TV”, that theirs is a “Catholic Investigative Agency”, and that theirs is “The Catholic Critic”.

The Archdiocese of Detroit demurs, whence the dispute.

Let me suggest an analogy.

Say that I’m a pretty smart lawyer, that my legal advice is usually right, that it secures for folks a better situation than they had before, and that it saves them lots of time and tons of money. All of this would mean zilch if, along the way, I held myself out to be licensed for the practice of law in some state where I was not authorized to practice. The state would not have to prove that I don’t have a law degree (in fact I do) or that my advice was unsound (it might be sound or not, depending on the issue) or that I am profiting by my work (perhaps I don’t). The state would simply have to show that I am claiming to be something I am not, namely, someone authorized to act as an attorney. I would be lucky if I got-off with just a Cease-and-Desist order.

Similarly, the AOD does not have to prove that Voris does not have a degree in theology (in fact he does), and/or that Real Catholic TV, and/or the Catholic Investigative Agency, and/or The Catholic Critic, etc., is wrong about something they said (frankly, much of what they say is sound), and so on; instead, the AOD simply has to show that one or more Voris/RCTV undertakings claim the title “Catholic” without having secured canonical authorization to make that claim.

Some people apparently don’t like how Canon 216 reads; they are free (per c. 212 § 3 no less) to make their complaints to the competent ecclesiastical authority (postage for first class letters to Rome starts at 98 cents). I can even think of some arguments they might offer (just as I can think of some counter-arguments they would need to anticipate) but, in the meantime, Canon 216 means what it plainly says: as long as Voris/RCTV claim for their undertakings the title “Catholic”, Canon 216 is applicable; but drop appropriation of the name “Catholic” for these undertakings, and Canon 216 has nothing more to say.

Surveying the blogosphere, I see a number of secondary or tangential issues (some reasonable, and some ridiculous) being raised in this matter. Most of these, however, seem resolvable by looking at what Canon 216 actually says—and doesn’t say. Perhaps I will address these issues in another post.

For now, I simply encourage Catholics to do here what I have encouraged them to do in many other contexts: pay attention to what canon law actually says when what is at issue is the operation of canon law.

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9 Responses to When is one not entitled to use the word “Catholic”? – The Case of RealCatholicTV

  1. JabbaPapa says:

    I understand the reservations concerning Michael Voris’ activities, and must sadly agree with them.

    I have no such reservations concerning the use of “Catholic” by this forum, I hasten to add !!!

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  2. JabbaPapa says:

    My lack of reservations concerning this forum is probably due the fact that it is a quite evidentially Catholic forum, whereas Voris regularly claims that he disagrees with some Catholic teachings, for whichever reasons.

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  3. Anne Mansfield says:

    I am with Father Z and Dr. Ed Peters on this one. Seems that the officials of the AOD, not the Archbishop, have it in for Michael Voris. Seems like selective morality on the part of those underlings given the much graver problems facing the Church.

    AnneM

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  4. Anne Mansfield says:

    PS What about the National “Catholic” Reporter/distorter/fishwrap, etc?

    AnneM

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  5. teresa says:

    AnneM, thanks for mentioning the National Catholic Reporter, here is something from WIkipedia which could be quite interesting to you:
    “In 1968, NCR’s ordinary, Bishop Charles Herman Helmsing “issue[d] a public reprimand for their policy of crusading against the Church’s teachings,” condemning its “poisonous character” and “disregard and denial of the most sacred values of our Catholic faith.” Helmsing warned that NCR’s writers were likely guilty of heresy, had likely incurred latae sententiae excommunications, and because the publication “does not reflect the teaching of the Church, but on the contrary, has openly and deliberately opposed this teaching,” he “ask[ed] the editors in all honesty to drop the term ‘Catholic’ from their masthead,” because “[b]y retaining it they deceive their Catholic readers and do a great disservice to ecumenism by being responsible for the false irenicism of watering down Catholic teachings.”

    NCR refused to comply, and 66 Catholic journalists signed a statement disagreeing with the condemnation based on its “underlying definition of the legitimate boundaries of religious journalism in service to the church.” The Catholic Press Association reported that the dispute arose from a difference of opinion regarding the function of the press.”

    Since then, numerous conservative Catholic commentators have criticized the National Catholic Reporter for advocating positions contrary to Church doctrines. Among the dissenting opinions criticized include homosexuals and marriage, ordination of women,[6] stem cell research,[7] and Catholic-identifying politicians who support abortion”.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Catholic_Reporter

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  6. JabbaPapa says:

    I am with Father Z and Dr. Ed Peters on this one. Seems that the officials of the AOD, not the Archbishop, have it in for Michael Voris. Seems like selective morality on the part of those underlings given the much graver problems facing the Church.

    hmmm, good points Anne — the problem, as such, being that whilst Voris is unquestionably an orthodox Catholic, he is not OTOH a representative of the Magisterium.

    From hard, personal experience, I know that it is good to be well aware of the limitations of one’s own revelatory sacrifice.

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  7. Lionel Andrades says:

    The Archdiocese of Detroit also opposed Real Catholic TV.com’s understanding of other religions and Christian communities. Vorris affirms the dogma outside the church there is no salvation.
    The case is similar to that of apologist Robert Sungenis of Catholic Apologetics International (CAI). His former bishop asked him to remove the name Catholic from CAI. Robert was also being opposed by the Jewish Left while his bishop was unable to say in public that Jews need to convert into the Church for salvation.
    Robert Sungenis’ bishop of Bishop Kevin Rhoades who is now the bishop of Fort Wayne-South Bend, USA where the owner of Real Catholic TV.com lives. He is Marc Brammar who has written to the bishop and received no reply.
    Wikipedia and other hit media have reported that Sungenis had been criticized by the his bishop, Kevin Rhoades and was asked to remove the name Catholic.
    Michael Vorris has indicated that the pressure on the Archdiocese of Detroit has come also from outside the diocese. He seemed to be indicating the same non Catholic opponents of Sungenis.
    Would the Archdiocese also not accept the conclusion of the following report on the Catechism of the Catholic Church?
    Tuesday, January 10, 2012
    ERRORS IN THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: OUTSIDE THE CHURCH NO SALVATION
    The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) under the sub heading outside the church there is no salvation mentions invincible ignorance and the baptism of desire as exceptions. They are not defacto exceptions.

    Vatican Council II also mentions invincible ignorance (LG 16) but nowhere implies that it is an exception to the dogma or the ordinary means of salvation.

    The Catechism instead implies that those who are saved in invincible ignorance are visible and known to us, so the baptism of water is needed by only those who know about Jesus and the Church.

    The text of the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus states that everyone needs to enter the Church. The text of the dogma defined three times is not included in the Catechism.This is all misleading.

    To imply that the baptism of desire is a defacto exception to the dogma is heresy. It is indifferentism when one says non Catholics can be defacto saved in their religion and we know who these cases are. This teaching is not part of the Deposit of the Faith. It is irrational and a repititon of the Richard Cushing Error.

    Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in preparing the Catechism did not violate the Principle of Non Contradiction. Since defactro every one needs to enter the Church for salvation (Cantate Domino, Council of Florence) and dejure, in principle, in theory and known only to God a person can be saved in invincible ignorance and the baptism of desire.

    Placing invincible ignorance and the baptism of desire under the subheading Outside the Church NO Salvation however implies that they are relevant to the dogma or defacto exceptions.

    For the Catechism to say that the baptism of water is needed for only those who know about Jesus and the Church could imply that those saved in invincible ignorance are defacto known to us in the present time. It implies that we know these particular cases and so we cannot say that everyone on earth with no exception needs Catholic Faith and the baptism of desire for salvation: to avoid the fires of Hell.

    Also to suggest that only those who ‘know’ need the baptism of water for salvation would imply that Fr. Leonard Feeney was excommunicated not for disobedience but for heresy. It would also imply that the excommunication was wrongly lifted by the Catholic Church without the priest having to recant or make changes in his writing. It also implies that the popes, saints and Fr. Leonard Feeney were wrong in saying everyone needs to be an explicit member of the Church for salvation. It would also be a contradiction of three Councils which defined the dogma in an extra ordinary mode. The ‘dogma’ is referred to in the Letter of the Holy Office 1949 as the ‘infallible statement’.

    For a priest to knowingly say that there are defacto exceptions to the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus is a first class heresy and a mortal sin. He is refuting the Nicene Creed in which we pray, “I believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins” and “I believe in the Holy Spirit the Holy Catholic Church”. It was the Holy Spirit which guided the Magisterium of the Church to teach over the centuries that outside the church there is no salvation.

    A priest, who knowingly continues in this error, even after being informed, is in manifest public heresy and is not to offer Mass without receiving absolution in the Confessional and making public amends; removing the sacrilege. Similarly it would be a sacrilege for a lay person knowingly in this error to receive the Eucharist.
    -Lionel Andrades

    ERRORS IN THE CATECHISM ?

    http://eucharistandmission.blogspot.com/2012/01/errors-in-catechism.html

    Practically everyone needs the baptism of water for salvation while in theory a person can be saved with the baptism of desire – Rector, Church Santa Maria Annunziata, Rome
    http://eucharistandmission.blogspot.com/2012/01/practically-everyone-needs-baptism-of.html

    In the Catechism of the Catholic Church why did Cardial Joseph Ratzinger not mention that the baptism of desire is not a defacto exception to the dogma outside the church no salvation nor to Vatican Council II ?
    http://eucharistandmission.blogspot.com/2012/01/in-catechism-of-catholic-church-why-did.html

    ETERNAL WORD TELEVISION NETWORK (EWTN) SAYS ‘SUBMISSION TO THE CATHOLIC CHURCH AND THE SOVEREIGN PONTIFF IS NECESSARY FOR SALVATION’
    http://eucharistandmission.blogspot.com/2012/01/eternal-word-television-network-ewtn.html

    CHURCH TEXT IS CRITICAL OF THE ARCHBISHOP OF BOSTON : REFERS TO IMPLICIT AND NOT EXPLICIT (TO US) BAPTISM OF DESIRE
    http://eucharistandmission.blogspot.com/2011/12/church-text-critical-of-archbishop-of.html

    VICARIATE OFFICES FOR YOUTH AND THE SICK ARE TEACHING ERRORS
    http://eucharistandmission.blogspot.com/2011/12/vicariate-offices-for-youth-and-sick.html

    YOUTUBE VIDEO QUESTIONS TO ASK THE CATHOLIC CHAPLAIN OR PROFESSOR
    http://eucharistandmission.blogspot.com/2011/12/youtube-video-questions-to-ask-catholic.html

    PROFESSION OF FAITH: I BELIEVE IN THE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH
    http://eucharistandmission.blogspot.com/2011/12/profession-of-faith-i-believe-in-holy.html

    DID THE LETTER OF THE HOLY OFFICE 1949 CONTRADICT THE DOGMA EXTRA ECCLESIAM NULLA SALUS? NO
    http://eucharistandmission.blogspot.com/2011/12/did-letter-of-holy-office-1949.html

    ROME VICARIATE HIT BY THE RICHARD CUSHING ERROR : Centro Della pastorale sanitaria says the baptism of water is not defacto needed for the salvation of all on earth
    http://eucharistandmission.blogspot.com/2011/12/rome-vicariate-hit-by-richard-cushing.html

    BOSTON ARCHDIOCESE WEBSITE SAYS NOSTRA AETATE DISMISSES CHURCH INTEREST IN BAPTIZING JEWS AND AFFIRMS GOD’S COVENANT WITH THEM : NOWHERE DOES VATICAN COUNCIL II MAKE THIS CLAIM
    http://eucharistandmission.blogspot.com/2011/12/boston-archdiocese-website-says-nostra.html

    CATHOLIC ANSWERS SUCCUMBS TO THE RICHARD CUSHING ERROR
    http://eucharistandmission.blogspot.com/2011/12/catholic-answers-succumbs-to-richard.html

    MSGR.JOSEPH FENTON AND FR. WILLIAM MOST DID NOT NOTICE THE RICHARD CUSHING ERROR
    http://eucharistandmission.blogspot.com/2011/12/msgrjoseph-fenton-and-fr-william-most.html

    USCCB REPORT MAKES ALLOWANCE FOR THE RICHARD CUSHING ERROR
    http://eucharistandmission.blogspot.com/2011/12/usccb-report-makes-allowance-for.html

    FR.LEONARD FEENEY AND HIS COMMUNITIES HAVE ACCEPTED THE BAPTISM OF DESIRE PER SE
    http://eucharistandmission.blogspot.com/2011/12/frleonard-feeney-and-his-communities.html

    ARCHBISHOP OF BOSTON CARDINAL RICHARD CUSHINGS LEGACY: FOLLOWERS INCLUDE USCCB, EWTN, CATHOLIC ANSWERS, SSPX, SEDEVACANTISTS MHFM
    http://eucharistandmission.blogspot.com/2011/12/archbishop-of-boston-cardinal-richard.html

    CARDINAL RATZINGER DID NOT VIOLATE THE PRINCIPLE OF NON CONTRADICTION AS CATHOLICS UNITED FOR THE FAITH IMPLY
    http://eucharistandmission.blogspot.com/search/label/Catholics%20United%20for%20the%20Faith

    FR.TULLIO ROTONDO AFFIRMS CANTATE DOMINO, COUNCIL OF FLORENCE ON EXTRA ECCLESIAM NULLA SALUS
    http://eucharistandmission.blogspot.com/2011/08/frtullio-rotondo-affirms-cantate-domino.html#links

    LEGIONARY OF CHRIST PRIEST FR.RAFAEL PASCUAL AFFIRMS CANTATE DOMINO, COUNCIL OF FLORENCE
    http://eucharistandmission.blogspot.com/search/label/Fr.Rafael%20Pascual%20L.C

    CATHOLIC LAY PROFESSOR AT UNIVERSITA EUROPA DI ROMA AFFIRMS DOGMA EXTRA ECCLESIAM NULLA SALUS
    http://eucharistandmission.blogspot.com/search/label/Corrado%20Gnerre

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  8. JabbaPapa says:

    hmmm, I’m not keen on following all those links, but thank you for a thought-provoking post.

    I think that there are some errors in the article, albeit that the analytical principles used by the author are sound ones.

    First, the Catechism of the Church is a collection of dogmata that we cannot really refute as Catholics, although it is certainly possible to discuss and even criticise them.

    But I’m not sure that the dogma in question should need to be changed by virtue of error.

    First, it is undeniable that salvation is a power that lies in God’s hands alone.

    Second, there are in some senses two Churches — the Catholic Church, and the Universal Church of the Saints ; a Church in this world, and a Church in the next. Now, ultimately the One Church is One and the Same, just as the living and the dead are in communion with each other. But membership in the Universal Church of the Saints is from election by God. God has taught us, in the persons of Jesus Christ and the Saints, that Holy Communion within the Church will lead to salvation ; but this does not remove God’s Sovereign Power to choose those whom He desires should be saved.

    The dogma is teaching that the Catholic Church, baptism, and Eucharist is the only mortal pathway and method towards salvation — that no other means exists within our own power to aid towards that salvation — but it also describes some states of personal Grace whereby God Himself may choose to save some who may be outside the Earthly Church.

    The Bible itself informs us that among those who are saved will be those righteous among the Tribes of Israel.

    Third, the analysis is anachronistic. This is a teaching concerning salvation throughout eternity, not just in the lifetime of our Church. Those worthy who died prior to the creation of our Church by the Lord Jesus are concerned by this doctrine, just as are those worthy who are or who have been or who will be materially prevented from being baptised into the Church. Is Moses unsaved ? Abraham ? David ? Solomon ?

    Fourth, the statement To imply that the baptism of desire is a de facto exception to the dogma is heresy is a false one, because the dogma in the Catechism provides no such exception, and especially because to claim that the Catechism teaches heresy is itself an apostasy. This is in fact a teaching about the Grace and Mercy of God. It does not teach that any willfully extrabaptismal state will lead to salvation !!

    Fourth bis, Placing invincible ignorance and the baptism of desire under the subheading Outside the Church NO Salvation however implies that they are relevant to the dogma or defacto exceptions. is another false statement – I can see no such implication in this dogma of our Church.

    Fifth : For the Catechism to say that the baptism of water is needed for only those who know about Jesus and the Church could imply that those saved in invincible ignorance are defacto known to us in the present time. It implies that we know these particular cases and so we cannot say that everyone on earth with no exception needs Catholic Faith and the baptism of desire for salvation — this is a farrago of theological error. a) the “baptism of water” normally refers to the Johannine baptism prior to the baptism of our Lord, which is a ritual of purification, that still exists in some form in modern Judaism by the way, but is not the baptism in the Spirit that is provided to us in the Christ. b) the phrase “invincible ignorance” obviously goes both ways, so that to claim that we can identify those who are afflicted by it is clearly nonsensical. c) the author is making heavy use of the word “imply”, basically because he’s attempting to cover up for his poor logic d) Only God Almighty provides salvation, except that He has instituted our Church in this world to provide for a means towards that salvation, in His Mercy. This does not however institute our Church as the ultimate source of salvation, because God is that ultimate source.

    Sixth : Also to suggest that only those who ‘know’ need the baptism of water for salvation would imply that Fr. Leonard Feeney was excommunicated not for disobedience but for heresy. It would also imply that the excommunication was wrongly lifted by the Catholic Church without the priest having to recant or make changes in his writing. It also implies that the popes, saints and Fr. Leonard Feeney were wrong in saying everyone needs to be an explicit member of the Church for salvation. It would also be a contradiction of three Councils which defined the dogma in an extra ordinary mode. The ‘dogma’ is referred to in the Letter of the Holy Office 1949 as the ‘infallible statement’. — the logic in this paragraph is so poor as to be impenetrable, so that it is an extremely unconvincing piece of writing.

    Seventh : For a priest to knowingly say that there are defacto exceptions to the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus is a first class heresy and a mortal sin. He is refuting the Nicene Creed in which we pray, “I believe in one baptism for the forgiveness of sins” and “I believe in the Holy Spirit the Holy Catholic Church”. — this is false, both for reasons of poor logic, and because the Catechism teaches nothing else than there is only one baptism that is effective towards the forgiveness of our sins. It is a strawman argument, because the notion that there might be “de facto exceptions to the dogma extra ecclesiam nulla salus” has NOT in fact been provided by any priests, but only by the author of this article. There is in fact no refutation whatsoever of the Credo. But to accuse the Pope, who was the principle author of the current Catechism, as well as accusing the Magisterium, of heresy is an apostasy.

    Finally : A priest, who knowingly continues in this error, even after being informed, is in manifest public heresy and is not to offer Mass without receiving absolution in the Confessional and making public amends; removing the sacrilege. Similarly it would be a sacrilege for a lay person knowingly in this error to receive the Eucharist. This conclusion is a very grave error, as far as I can see. You have provided some false doctrinal teachings, which constitutes a minor heresy in itself, albeit that personal interpretations of Catholic teachings are licit ; but now you are enjoining clergy and laity to act upon these false teachings, and to reject dogmata provided in the Catechism, which is quite blatantly heretical. No, it is NOT heretical to accept and to teach the dogmata provided in the Catechism. You have NO Authority whatsoever to forbid clergy from participating in and providing the blessings of the Eucharist. Nor any such Authority concerning laity.

    I can only enjoin you to stop preaching these heretical teachings.

    May God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit bless you in your prayers.

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  9. JabbaPapa says:

    I would add that the particular Charism of conversion into the Faith can ONLY be a Charism of those who are outside the Church.

    Conversion itself is the simplest refutation of your idea that extra ecclesiam nulla salus should be interpreted in the extremely uncharitable manner that you propose.

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