Just for Catholics

Salvation Outside the Church?

Question: Catholics believe that salvation is possible for everyone whatever their religion. Good people who are not members of the Catholic Church, such as Jews and Muslims, can be saved also.

Answer: Your statement reflects the teaching of the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council. However this was not always what Rome taught. Please read carefully the following quotations:

There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which no one at all can be saved (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council).

We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff (Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam).

The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes, and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgiving, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church (Pope Eugene IV, Cantate Domino).

According to the teaching of the old Roman religion, there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church. The reason given by the Pope is that all their good works are useless unless one remains within the bosom and unity of the Church. It is ironic that the modern Catholic teaching pins the hope of salvation for "heretics and schismatics" (like Protestants and Orthodox Christians) on a "mysterious relationship" that is supposedly maintained with the Catholic Church. [1] Evidently Pope Eugene had never heard of that mysterious relationship!

The positions taken by the old and the modern Catholic Church are irreconcilable and contradictory. As a faithful Catholic you will find it impossible to admit that the Church was or is now mistaken; with such an acknowledgement the whole structure of infallibility falls like a house of cards. But I think that deep down you can feel the tension.

Certainty about salvation can be known through God's infallible Word, the Holy Bible. The apostle Paul declares, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek" (Romans 1:16). He also reminds the believers in Ephesus how they were saved when they heard the Gospel and trusted in Jesus. "In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise" (Ephesians 1:13).

In the past, the Roman magisterium wrongly condemned the true believers who were outside of papal domination. In the present, the Vatican gives a false hope of salvation apart from the knowledge of the Gospel and faith in Christ Jesus.

To ascertain whether you are saved or not, do not ask the name of you church or denomination. Ask if you know the Word of Truth, the Gospel, and whether you truly believe in the Lord Jesus Christ or not. If you genuinely believe in Jesus, you are a member of His body, the church, and in this sense it is perfectly true to say that there is no salvation outside the church! Being "saved" and "a member of the church" (the spiritual body of Christ) are one and the same thing.


Reference

[1] The Church is the "universal sacrament of salvation", since, united always in a mysterious way to the Saviour Jesus Christ, her Head, and subordinated to him, she has, in God's plan, an indispensable relationship with the salvation of every human being. For those who are not formally and visibly members of the Church, "salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church, but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit"; it has a relationship with the Church, which "according to the plan of the Father, has her origin in the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit" (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Dominus Iesus). [back]

Copyright Dr Joe Mizzi. Permission to copy and distribute this article without textual changes. < BACK TO Q&A