The belief that a man can be saved outside the visible Church requires that all the elements of faith should be pondered afresh, under pain of complete incoherence. For the entire edifice is built around the contrary affirmation, which scarcely anybody today would venture to support.
No one has yet wanted to recognise the need for such a revision. One gets out of the difficulty by having recourse to miserable expedients. The cracks are plastered over with ersatz cement, shocking mistakes in logic.
Unless the Church recognises this need soon, it is to be feared that it will not be able to accomplish its mission.
There is no salvation without a ‘new birth’, without an inward illumination, without the presence of Christ and of the Holy Spirit in the soul. If, therefore, salvation is possible outside the Church, individual or collective revelations are also possible outside Christianity. In that case, true faith constitutes a very different form of adhesion from that which consists in believing such-and-such an opinion. The whole notion of faith then needs to be thought out anew.
The dogmas of the faith are not things to be affirmed. They are things to be regarded from a certain distance, with attention, respect and love. They are like the bronze serpent whose virtue is such that whoever looks upon it shall live. This attentive and loving gaze, by a shock on the rebound, causes a source of light to flash in the soul which illuminates all aspects of human life on this earth. Dogmas lose this virtue as soon as they are affirmed.
The propositions ‘Jesus Christ is God’ or ‘The consecrated bread and wine are the body and blood of Christ’, enunciated as facts, have strictly speaking no meaning whatever.
The value of these proposition is totally different from the truth contained in the correct enunciation of a fact (for example: Salazar is head of the Portuguese Government) or of a geometrical theorem.
This value does not strictly speaking belong to the order of truth, but to a higher order; for it is a value impossible for the intelligence to grasp, except indirectly, though the effects produced. And truth, in the strict sense, belongs to the domain of the intelligence.
– Simone Weil, Letter to a Priest (trans. A.F. Wills)