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Friday, March 24, 2017

Continuation: Outside the Church There is No Salvation

               “Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, 
         and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

(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: 

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.

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.

For more in-depth study visit these websites:


  1. Unfortunately, its not just Catholics but also Christians in general, as well as Muslims, who are incorrect. You do not have to belong to a particular religion to go to heaven. God is love itself and He is merciful, and all are judged according to what they did and what they knew to be the truth. Also, Jesus Himself made a few comments about other religions in his day which upset some of the Jews, this is nothing new, see What did Jesus say about other Religions?

    As for Protestants, the Catholic church is correct in rejecting faith separate from works. There is a definite danger to one's eternal life if one just believes and does not follow through in how one lives one's life. Again, it is how you live your life which determines what happens in the afterlife.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Doug. I don't think anything you say contradicts what I've posited.

      With that said, you do know that when you say that God is Love that you know this because of Christian revelation, right?

    2. Hello Apologist, that is indeed correct. One would not know of the nature of the Divine, or the existence of God or the afterlife, without revelation. I left a more full comment on this to your comment on my blog post (the one about the Second Coming).

  2. Dear Amateur Apologist, to say that "No one is condemned just by virtue of being an atheist, Jew, Hindu, etc." is to deny the words of Christ, "He who does not believe will be condemned (St. Mark 16:16)."

    The First Vatican Council taught that the "sense of the sacred dogmas is to be perpetually retained which our Holy Mother the Church has once declared, nor is this sense ever to be abandoned on plea or pretext of a more profound comprehension of the truth." As Catholics, we are bound to believe dogmas in the sense they have been defined. The dogmatic definitions on the necessity of Church membership for salvation admit of no exceptions. Catholic dogmas are Catholic (universal) in that they are are not only generally, but universally true, and admit of no exceptions. To say, as many wrongly do today, that a Catholic dogma does not universally apply to everyone, but only to those who know that Christ founded the Catholic Church, is to deny the Catholicity or universality of Catholic dogmas.

    St. Thomas Aquinas taught that invincible ignorance is a punishment for sin. If a man dies in a state of invincible ignorance as regards the true faith, then he is not one of those ordained to life everlasting, "..and as many as were ordained to life everlasting, believed" (Acts. 13:48). Our Lord said that narrow is the way that leads to life and few there are that "find it." Finding the way is necessary. That is why Our Lord desires all to come to knowledge of the truth.

    There is no such thing as partial Church membership or implicit Church membership. One is either a member of the Church or he isn't. Only those who are baptized and profess the true faith can be considered members of the Church. This is what all of the Church Fathers believed. St. Pius X wrote in The Oath Against Modernism, "I sincerely hold that the doctrine of faith was handed down to us from the apostles through the orthodox Fathers in exactly the same meaning and always in the same purport. Therefore, I entirely reject the heretical' misrepresentation that dogmas evolve and change from one meaning to another different from the one which the Church held previously."

    The Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary have courageously defended the truth about this important dogma and have suffered much persecution for doing so. I highly recommend reading some of the material that they have published.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Camillus. And you are correct, that he who does not believe will be condemned. But we aren't sure who believes and based on what knowledge he has rejected or accepted the revelation of God.

      You would be wise to accept the teachings of the Church, rather than protest that which do not sit right with you.

      Feeneyism is nothing more than Protestantism.

      And it would be the greatest of ironies in that those who declare someone condemned for departing (invincibly) from Catholicism are actually...departing (vincibly) from Catholicism.

  3. Thank you A. Apologist for posting my comment.

    "Let Christ the king of Israel come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe (St. Mark 15:30). The mockers of Christ might have believed if He came down from the cross at their request, and yet Christ chose not to do so. As St. Thomas taught, invincible ignorance is a punishment for sin. The mockers of Christ were, for the most part, found unworthy of being given knowledge of the faith. God hides His truths from the wise and prudent of this world and reveals them to the little ones. If a man dies lacking knowledge of the truth of Christ and His Church, it is because God chose not to reveal those truths to him. Such a man is a reprobate.

    As regards your comment on what you refer to as the "greatest of ironies," I am glad that you do believe that some souls will be condemned if they die outside of the Catholic faith. The necessity of believing the Catholic faith "whole and entire" for salvation is clearly expressed in the Athanasian Creed, a creed which modernists hate and work tirelessly to suppress. The reason Catholics in times past had such a horror and hatred of heresy is precisely because they believe that there is no salvation outside the Catholic faith in the same sense Fr. Leonard Feeney believed it.

    1. Everything you say above is quite consonant with Catholicism and therefore I have no objection to your post.

      It is only where you disagree with Holy Mother Church where your protestations put you in peril. #feeneyismisprotestantism