Yet another thing in need of a papal “clarification”?

May 12, 2023 (Steven O’Reilly) – Over the course of the current pontificate, Catholics have been subjected to a growing list of questionable actions by Pope Francis.  Some may, with reason, suggest that describing them merely as “questionable” is to put things too charitably. Items on the list that quickly come to mind include Amoris Laetitia, the Abu Dhabi document, and Pachamama. But these are but a few of the more significant items on the ever growing “list.”

Some may see in a recent action by the Pope another addition to that ever-growing “list.”

Per the EWTN tweet, Pope Francis recently stated the Coptic Christians who were martyred by ISIS a few years back will now be included in the Roman Martyrology. This action has already raised a few eyebrows in Catholic social media.

By way of a brief historical overview, the origin of the Coptic Orthodox Church traces back to the Council of Chalcedon of 451 AD (held to combat heresy of Eutyches and the Monophysites), and the excommunication of Dioscurus, bishop of Alexandria. Without going into the particulars, the main takeaway for the purpose of this article is only to note that the Coptic Orthodox Church is not in communion with the See of Rome.

With the Coptic Church being in schism with Rome, some Catholics on social media have called to mind a quote from Cantate Domino, a Bull of Pope Eugene IV from the Council of Florence.  Below, I provide the Latin text of the portion of Cantate Domino which has been cited, which is relevant to this story:

“Firmiter credit, profitetur et predicat nullos extra ecclesiam catholicam existentes, non solum paganos, sed nec iudeos aut hereticos atque scismaticos eterne vite fieri posse participes, sed in ignem eternum ituros, qui paratus est dyabolo et angelis eius (Mt 25, 41), nisi ante finem vite eidem fuerint aggregati, tantum que valere ecclesiastici corporis unitatem, ut solis in ea manentibus ad salutem ecclesiastica sacramenta proficiant et ieiunia, elemosine ac cetera pietatis officia et exercitia militie christiane premia eterna parturiant, neminem que quantascunque elemosinas fecerit, et si pro Christi nomine sanguinem effuderit, posse salvari, nisi in catholice ecclesie gremio et unitate permanserit.”

(Source: EUGENIUS IV, Cantate Domino, BULLA UNIONIS COPTORUM AETHIOPUMQUE4 februarii 1442 (1441 stilo Florent.), CONC. (OECUM. XVII) FLORENTINUM, 26 Febr. 1439 – Aug. 1445, SESSIO XI)

An automated Google English translation of which is provided below (emphasis added):

“The Church firmly believes, confesses and announces that none of those who are outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, will be able to attain eternal life, but will go into eternal fire, prepared for the devil and his angels (Mt 25:41), if they have not been reunited with her before death; believes the unity of the body of the Church to be so important that only those who persevere in it will the sacraments of the Church obtain salvation, and fasting, other works of piety and exercises of the Christian militia obtain the eternal reward: no one, however how many alms he has given and even if he had shed his blood for the name of Christ he can be saved, if he does not remain in the womb and in the unity of the Catholic Church.

I do not question the heroism of the Copts who were executed by the Muslim radicals of ISIS, or that they were killed for their faith; nor do I presume to call into question, or to decide their eternal fate. The Holy Spirit works where He wills. The question does remain whether these Coptic Orthodox Christians qua Coptic Orthodox Coptic Christians should be entered into the martyrology of the Roman Catholic Church. This question arises when one reads Pope Eugene IV, cited above, where he explicitly writes, “no one, however how many alms he has given and even if he had shed his blood for the name of Christ he can be saved, if he does not remain in the womb and in the unity of the Catholic Church.”

On the question as to whether non-Catholics can be canonized, Catholic Answer opined as follow (emphasis added):


Could a non-Catholic be canonized by the Catholic Church?


It is theoretically possible that the Church could canonize a non-Catholic, because canonization is simply an official acknowledgment that a particular person is in heaven. But to date the Church has done so only with its own members. This is because one of the purposes of canonization is to set forth for Catholics a model of Catholic Christian holiness.”


So, accepting this statement, we are apparently left with this occasion being the first ever entry of ‘non-Catholics’ into the Roman Martyrology. Fine. It would seem that Pope Francis has concluded these Eastern Coptic Christians remained or died “in the womb and in the unity of the Catholic Church.”  Fine.  But still, it seems some further explanation by Pope Francis would be helpful in light of Pope Eugene IV’s Cantate Domino.

For example, on what theological basis does a pope distinguish between those who “shed his blood for the name of Christ” and die “in the unity of the Catholic Faithfrom those who “shed his blood for the name of Christ” and do not diein the unity of Catholic Faith“?  Is there even such a distinction according to Francis? Is Francis correcting Eugene IV? Is the implication that Francis is suggesting Eugene IV is speaking of a non-existent, hypothetical category? Is the answer to be found in John 15:13, i.e., a love for God?  Is Pope Francis “developing” doctrine here?  Separately, even setting aside the questions and granting the truth of the matter, is it prudent to do so, given the risk of contributing toward something of religious indifferentism?

I am not saying there are not good, sufficient answers to be had here. I am just curious as to what they are. Perhaps another round of dubia are needed…and, if they do come, they will most likely remain unanswered as well.

Steven O’Reilly is a graduate of the University of Dallas and the Georgia Institute of Technology. A former intelligence officer, he and his wife, Margaret, live near Atlanta. He has written apologetic articles, and is author of Book I of the Pia Fidelis trilogy, The Two Kingdoms; and of Valid? The Resignation of Pope Benedict XVI(Follow on twitter at @fidelispia for updates). He asks for your prayers for his intentions.  He can be contacted at  or (or follow on Twitter: @S_OReilly_USA or on GETTR, TruthSocial, or Gab: @StevenOReilly).

4 thoughts on “Yet another thing in need of a papal “clarification”?

  1. Saint Cyprian of Carthage, Father of the Church.

    14. Even if such men were slain in confession of the Name, that stain is not even washed away by blood: the inexpiable and grave fault of discord is not even purged by suffering. He cannot be a martyr who is not in the Church; he cannot attain unto the kingdom who forsakes that which shall reign there. Christ gave us peace; He bade us be in agreement, and of one mind. He charged the bonds of love and charity to be kept uncorrupted and inviolate; he cannot show himself a martyr who has not maintained brotherly love. Paul the apostle teaches this, and testifies, saying, “And though I have faith, so that I can remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I give all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profits me nothing. Charity is magnanimous; charity is kind; charity envies not; charity acts not vainly, is not puffed up, is not easily provoked, thinks no evil; loves all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Charity never fails.” “Charity,” says he, “never fails.” For she will ever be in the kingdom, she will endure for ever in the unity of a brotherhood linked to herself. Discord cannot attain to the kingdom of heaven; to the rewards of Christ, who said, “This is my commandment that you love one another even as I have loved you: ” John 15:12 he cannot attain who has violated the love of Christ by faithless dissension. He who has not charity has not God. The word of the blessed Apostle John is: “God,” says he, “is love; and he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God dwells in him.” 1 John 4:16 They cannot dwell with God who would not be of one mind in God’s Church. Although they burn, given up to flames and fires, or lay down their lives, thrown to the wild beasts, that will not be the crown of faith, but the punishment of perfidy; nor will it be the glorious ending of religious valour, but the destruction of despair. Such a one may be slain; crowned he cannot be. He professes himself to be a Christian in such a way as the devil often feigns himself to be Christ, as the Lord Himself forewarns us, and says, “Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ, and shall deceive many.” Mark 13:6 As he is not Christ, although he deceives in respect of the name; so neither can he appear as a Christian who does not abide in the truth of His Gospel and of faith.

    Denzinger 714:

    714 It firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart “into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels” [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.

    For ecumenical reasons (Ecumenism is the Universal solvent of Tradition tm) Who was the First Pope who thought it wise to include heretical schismatics in the Roman Martyrology?

    Sadly, it is no surprise:

    Do the AmBishops desire to add, say, Martin Luther King to the Roman Martyrology?

    O, you betcha:


    1. VC, thanks for the citation and comments. There is so much the next, or a future pope will need to clarify, correct, and or fix after this pontificate. Easy to have lost track at this point of each and every controversy.




  2. Craziest thing about Cantate Domino is that it is specifically about the Copts!

    We also do not know how voluntary the deaths were, nor how closely related religion was to the killing of each.

    Very concerning. Let’s pray for the Pope.


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