“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your MIND”--Matt
(Continuation of thread which started with: How can billions of people be condemned just because of where they live?)
Question: Doesn't the belief that non Christians are going to heaven contradict the Catholic Church's teaching "Outside the Church there is no salvation"?
Response: Yes, it's true that the Catholic Church once taught that outside of the Catholic Church you couldn't be saved. (Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus--EENS).
And, indeed, the Church still teaches this. That is: if you are outside of the Catholic Church, you can't get to heaven.
This teaching often causes great indignation among our Protestant brethren...we Catholics are accused of supreme arrogance when we declare that they cannot be saved without the Catholic Church....
but, curiously, our Protestant brethren have no problem asserting the reciprocal of EENS. Our Protestant brethren will tell Hindus, Jews, atheists: without Jesus you can't be saved.
Thus, if it's arrogant and harsh for Catholics to profess EENS, then it follows that Christians are arrogant and harsh for professing that Christ is necessary for salvation.
In other words, EENS is nothing more than a more clearly articulated declaration that all Christians affirm--no one gets to the Father except through Christ.
We just take it further and say, since Christ is not a disembodied Head, floating around the universe with no Body to speak for Him...we need His Body, the Catholic Church, in order to be saved.
So how do we reconcile this with the position that Hindus, Jews, etc are saved?
We remind folks that Catholics don't say that they ARE saved, only that it's POSSIBLE that they may be...and if they are in heaven, it's only through Christ, and His Body, the Catholic Church.
Just like one can know Christ without knowing the 33 year old Jewish carpenter, one can be united with the Catholic Church without being a formal card-carrying member of the Church.
"Those who follow the Spirit of Christ, the Logos who writes the law on their hearts, are Christians, are members of Christ, are members of His Church. They may lack indeed external adherence; they may never have heard of the Church. But yet, in the substantial sense, without formal adherence, they do belong to Christ, to His Church."--source.
As our Catechism states: "...all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body" (CCC 846). Christ established the Catholic Church as the ordinary means of salvation, and it is this Church which offers the sacraments, which are the font of the sanctifying grace all of us need to get to heaven. That is, there can be no salvation without the Catholic Church.
The Catechism explains further: "Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it. (CCC 846)
However, each of us is judged according to the knowledge we received. So, for example, a Bedouin in the deserts of North Africa who may have never had the chance to hear of Christ and the Good News of his salvation, would have invincible ignorance, and not be condemned for what he could not have known.
He is innocently ignorant, through no fault of his own, and thus he is not guilty of rejection of Christ and His Church.
A Protestant may bring this document up, from the magisterium--Unam Sanctam. Pope Boniface's Papal Bull which proclaimed "We declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.
Catholic Apologist Jimmy Akin presents it like this:
“ Formally belonging to the Church and formally being subject to the Roman Pontiff are normative rather than absolute necessities…..It is an absolute necessity -- no exceptions at all -- to be joined to the Church in some manner, at least through the virtues of faith, hope, and charity. However, it is only normatively necessary to be fully incorporated into or in perfect communion with the Catholic Church. There are exceptions to that requirement, as the Council of Trent taught (see below), though it is still a normative necessary….A Catholic thus might construct an argument for Unam Sanctam's definition like this:1) To be saved it is necessary to be a Christian.2) To be a Christian it is necessary to be a member of Christ's Church.3) To be a member of Christ's Church it is necessary to be a member of the Catholic Church.4) To be a member of the Catholic Church it is necessary to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.5) Therefore, it is necessary for salvation to be subject to the Roman Pontiff."
He further states:
Thus, no one is saved just by virtue of being a Catholic or Christian. No one is condemned just by virtue of being an atheist, Jew, Hindu, etc.Those "who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church" (Unitatis Redintegratio 3; CCC 838).Those who have not been baptized are also put in an imperfect communion with the Church, even if they do not realize it, if they possess the virtues of faith, hope, and charity. Pope Pius XII explains that the "juridical bonds [of the Church] in themselves far surpass those of any other human society, however exalted; and yet another principle of union must be added to them in those three virtues, Christian faith, hope, and charity, which link us so closely to each other and to God. . . . [I]f the bonds of faith and hope, which bind us to our Redeemer in his Mystical Body are weighty and important, those of charity are certainly no less so. . . . Charity . . . more than any other virtue binds us closely to Christ" (Mystici Corporis 70, 73).Understanding this distinction between perfect and imperfect communion with the Church is essential to understanding the necessity of being a Catholic. It is an absolute necessity -- no exceptions at all -- to be joined to the Church in some manner, at least through the virtues of faith, hope, and charity. However, it is only normatively necessary to be fully incorporated into or in perfect communion with the Catholic Church. There are exceptions to that requirement, as the Council of Trent taught (see below), though it is still a normative necessary.