Necessity of Means

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Something is said to be necessary with the necessity of means when it fulfills the function of means to an end; hence it is intrinsically related to the nature of the subject necessitating it. This necessity belongs to the ontological order.

Necessity of means can be absolute or relative. It is absolute when it excludes the possibility of being supplied by something else; e.g., sanctifying grace is necessary for the beatific vision by absolute necessity of means. Absolute necessity of means is also called metaphysical necessity.

Necessity of means is relative when it does not exclude the possibility of being supplied by something else. Thus Baptism of water is necessary for salvation by a relative necessity of means; in fact, under certain conditions, Baptism of desire (in voto ) can remit original sin. Similarly the Church is necessary for salvation by absolute necessity of means, but membership in the Church is necessary only by relative necessity of means, because, if one is invincibly ignorant of the Church and at the same time, through the Church's invisible mediation, one possesses faith and sanctifying grace, one can be saved without being a formal member. Relative necessity of means is also called physical necessity.

In more theological language, absolute necessity of means demands the presence of a thing that is the means in its full reality (in re ), whereas relative necessity can be satisfied by the desire for it or votum (in voto).

See Also: necessity of precept; salvation, necessity of the church for.

Bibliography: f. lakner, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche 2, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiburg 195765); suppl., Das Zweite Vatikanische Konzil: Dokumente und Kommentare, ed. h. s. brechter et al., pt. 1 (1966) 7:862863.

[m. eminyan]