Forum Post on Salvation Outside the Church (1)
Salvation Outside the Church

I received an email from a new member of our forum, Angelina, which posed a query for my ideas on the salvation of non-Catholic Christians. I know that many of you here probably have something to say on this, as well, so I am posting it here for discussion.

This is a highly debated topic, even among Catholics, and it is important to keep in mind that the Magisterium is the final "say-so" on this and all issues.

Here is what is found at EWTN's Experts FAQ on this topic:

Outside The Church There Is No Salvation
The doctrine that "Outside the Church there is no salvation" is one that is constantly misinterpreted by those who won't submit to the Magisterium of the Church. Faith does not depend upon our ability to reason to the truth but on our humility before the Truth presented to us by those to whom Christ entrusted that task. This is why the First Vatican Council taught that it is the task of the Magisterium ALONE to determine and expound the meaning of the Tradition - including "outside the Church no salvation."

Concerning this doctrine the Pope of Vatican I, Pius IX, spoke on two different occasions. In an allocution (address to an audience) on December 9th, 1854 he said:

We must hold as of the faith, that out of the Apostolic Roman Church there is no salvation; that she is the only ark of safety, and whosoever is not in her perishes in the deluge; we must also, on the other hand, recognize with certainty that those who are invincible in ignorance of the true religion are not guilty for this in the eyes of the Lord. And who would presume to mark out the limits of this ignorance according to the character and diversity of peoples, countries, minds and the rest?

Again, in his encyclical Quanto conficiamur moerore of 10 August,1863 addressed to the Italian bishops, he said:

It is known to us and to you that those who are in invincible ignorance of our most holy religion, but who observe carefully the natural law, and the precepts graven by God upon the hearts of all men, and who being disposed to obey God lead an honest and upright life, may, aided by the light of divine grace, attain to eternal life; for God who sees clearly, searches and knows the heart, the disposition, the thoughts and intentions of each, in His supreme mercy and goodness by no means permits that anyone suffer eternal punishment, who has not of his own free will fallen into sin.

These statements are consistent with the understanding of the Church contained in the documents of Vatican II, and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as explaining why the rigorist position of Fr. Feeney (that all must be actual members of the Catholic Church to be saved) has been condemned by the Magisterium. It is ironic that precisely those who know their obligation to remain united to the Magisterium, and thus on whom this doctrine is morally binding, keep themselves from union with the Roman See on this point.
Answered by Colin B. Donovan, STL

Now, the Church has spoken this quite clear in Lumen Gentium as well;

Chapter I, Par 14 Concerning the Faithful of the Church
14. This holy Council first of all turns its attention to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself on scripture and tradition, it teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is 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 (cf. Mk. 16:16; Jn. 3:5), 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.

Fully incorporated into the Church are those who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept all the means of salvation given to the Church together with her entire organization, and who--by the bonds constituted by the profession of faith, the sacraments, ecclesiastical government, and communion--are joined in the visible structure of the Church of Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. Even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not however persevere in charity is not saved. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but "in body" not "in heart.'[12] All children of the Church should nevertheless remember that their exalted condition results, not from their own merits, but from the grace of Christ. If they fail to respond in thought, word and deed to that grace, not only shall they not be saved, but they shall be the more severely judged.[13]

Catechumens who, moved by the Holy Spirit, desire with an explicit intention to be incorporated into the Church, are by that very intention joined to her. With love and solicitude mother Church already embraces them as her own.

Chapter I, par. 15 Concerning those not expressing the Catholic faith
15. The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but who do not however profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter. For there are many who hold sacred scripture in honor as a rule of faith and of life, who have a sincere religious zeal, who lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and the Saviour, who are sealed by baptism which unites them to Christ, and who indeed recognize and receive other sacraments in their own Churches or ecclesiastical communities. Many of them possess the episcopate, celebrate the holy Eucharist and cultivate devotion of the Virgin Mother of God. There is furthermore a sharing in prayer and spiritual benefits; these Christians are indeed in some real way joined to us in the Holy Spirit for, by his gifts and graces, his sanctifying power is also active in them and he has strengthened some of them even to the shedding of their blood. And so the Spirit stirs up desires and actions in all of Christ's disciples in order that all may be peaceably united, as Christ ordained, in one flock under one shepherd. Mother Church never ceases to pray, hope and work that this may be achieved, and she exhorts her children to purification and renewal so that the sign of Christ may shine more brightly over the face of the Church.

Chapter I, par 16 Concerning those who have not heard the Gospel
16. Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways. There is, first, that people to which the covenants and promises were made, and from which Christ was born according to the flesh (cf. Rom. 9 :4-5): in view of the divine choice, they are a people most dear for the sake of the fathers, for the gifts of God are without repentance (cf. Rom. 11:29-29). But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Moslems: these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day. Nor is God remote from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, since he gives to all men life and breath and all things (cf. Acts 17:25-28), and since the Savior wills all men to be saved (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4). Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience--those too many achieve eternal salvation. Nor shall divine providence deny the assistance necessary for salvation to those who, without any fault of theirs, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God, and who, not without grace, strive to lead a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is considered by the Church to be a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life. But very often, deceived by the Evil One, men have become vain in their reasonings, have exchanged the truth of God for a lie and served the world rather than the Creator (cf. Rom. 1:21 and 25). Or else, living and dying in this world without God, they are exposed to ultimate despair. Hence to procure the glory of God and the salvation of all these, the Church, mindful of the Lord's command, "preach the Gospel to every creature" (Mk. 16:16) takes zealous care to foster the missions.

One can search for Lumen Gentium at EWTN's Document Library Search. I offer this as a statement of the Church's position, and to open a possible discussion.

God bless, Matt


I will probably save your entire post for future reference, because it's a very touchy subject. I first came to CEF during a major, major debate (complete with large flashing letters and accusations of being false priests etc) on this very topic.

I admit I winced when you brought it up, but I know that CS is more civilized.

Question - since the Magesterium is so clear, is it really debatable? Or are we just examining case by case to see what might fit and what might not?



It seems to me that it is not really debatable...but, should nonetheless be discussed and understood, so as to properly educate our seperated brothers and sisters on the teaching of the Church in this matter of great importance. The Magisterium has spoken, I believe, quite clearly on this...and, I sincerely pray for those who hold that this is a reversal of Church teaching, for I believe that that they have taken themselves away from full communion with the Church they so dearly love, by their rejection of the Supreme Pontiffs and Magisterium.

Now, I do believe CatholicSource to be a very civil online community. And, I hope that all members (regular visitors and occasional visitors) will utilize good judgement and practice Christian charity in any and all responses - not only on this thread, but all threads. We do have much more control on this board, than CEF, as well...but, let us act in ways that will cause us no need to exercise that control.

God bless, Matt


You are correct that there has been a lot of heartburn over this issue. Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus is a "de fide" doctrine of the Church. Despite what some may say, it can not -- and has not -- been repudiated by the Church. That is not to say, however, that the Church's understanding of EENS can not develop over time.

For anyone who is interested, Matt1618 has some interesting articles on this subject on his site at:

God bless,


I believe in One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

One, because there is but one God, one Head of the Body who is Jesus Christ.

It is Holy, because it's Head is Holy, and it's members are holy, though not all members are holy. It is guided by the Holy Spirit in Truth, and can not err in teaching Faith and Morals.

Catholic, because it is universal and all are called to Salvation won on the Cross for all by Christ.

It is Apostolic, because Our Lord promised to be with us always, and to be led toward Salvation by the Apostles and their successors in the Truth of the Holy Spirit. He will not leave us orphans.

The Church is necessary for Salvation for these reasons. It is both a physical, and a spiritual Church, not one without the other, but joined together as a family is joined and bonded together with God's Love.

No one will enter the Kingdom of God in Heaven, but through Jesus Christ. Only He will judge the hearts of men.

The norm for salvation, the Will of God, is for all to be joined to the Kingdom of God on earth through His Church led by the Bishop of Rome. God, in His Mercy and Love, will not condemn those who have repented perfectly, yet have not entered His Church on earth through ignorance, and God alone will be the judge. To presume on His Mercy is to risk ones salvation. To presume that Baptism is not necessary, nor the One Faith, nor the One Church is to risk salvation.

The "development of dogma" is a phrase that I have much difficulty with. Truth does not, and can not change. It is Absolute. The Church simply finds ways to express this Absolute in a way that is more understandable, assisting the Faithful, guiding us toward Christ. As photographic images are "developed", so too the Church, in it's constant reflections on the Mysteries of God, sees more clearly these Mysteries, and expresses them to us as we await the coming of our Lord. Truth can not contradict Truth.

May God have mercy on me,



I agree! *That's* the Church's position.

God bless, Matt

I am rather concerned about this link. I have not as yet read this in total (the long file) but it seems to bash Fr. Feeney, who was accepted back into the Church before his death. He was excommunicated not for his beliefs on Baptism or Salvation, but rather for disobedience.

It is very easy to put together a case against him in light of Vatican II. Fr. Feeney predates Vatican II, as does his position on Salvation. All one has to do is look at the "long file" and see the dates of the letters written.

Popes PRIOR to Vatican II explained this dogma in a much different way, one in which it is very easy to conclude that the Church meant only the living, breathing Church on earth.
Vatican II fully explains the Dogma, and as from the beginning of Christianity, states quite firmly that the Church is necessary for salvation. The norm is inside the living, breathing Church here on earth. The judgement of those outside of this living, breathing, earthly Church of God is not our concern. Our task is to proclaim from the housetops God's One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, the One that is in union with the Bishop of Rome.


So what happens when someone who had been Cathllic all his life, leaves the Church and joins a vehemently anti-Catholic denomination, and then dies without the sacrements, dies still in the arms of this other chruch? Can he enter into heaven?

Knowing that the Catholic Church is the Church founded by Christ, and willingly leaving His Holy Church, would exclude this poor soul from eternal life. This sin is a knowing and willing rejection of God. It damages the unity that Jesus prayed for, and is contrary to God's Will. Should this soul repent of this, and all sin perfectly to God before death, then there is hope for salvation. We pray for God's Mercy.


There is a visible church and an invisible church. At least that is what I've been taught. How many Jews did not accept Christ because they were so caught up into the law, they could not see Him? How many Catholic's are so caught up into being "Catholic the true church" That they do not see Christ?
In the unity of the Holy Spirit we are one body with Christ. We are His Church.

The fact is that there are going to be Catholics who aren't saved, as well as non-Catholics. And, there will be non-Catholics who are saved, as well as Catholics.

Given this, one may say, "Then what difference does it make?" Well, a huge difference...because non-Catholics do not the access to the graces that Catholics do... However, let me state again, this does not mean that a non-Catholic would not be saved.....but, it does make it more difficult. So, to believe that it is just as easy for a non-Catholic to enter heaven as it is for a Catholic would be quite misleading - but, it is not ruled-out.

"Invincibile ignorance" is what will be judged by God, and cannot be judged by man, because it rests in the heart and soul of the individual. We can possibly define it, but we can't say who is acting with in the defintion and who is not....therefore, we should not judge individuals, but rather put out the definition and let the chips fall where they may.

God bless, Matt

My nine yr old son and I have had interesting (and somewhat difficult) conversations because of a parallel salvation without baptism. The following is out of his religion book:

Harry Dean's brother has not been baptized. He is a pretty baby, very sweet and good. He has never done anything wrong. Can he go to heaven if he dies just as he is?

It's hard for a 9 yr to understand why not. He was especially concerned over the soul of his sister who was stillborn. We had to go into topics that were deep for a 9 yr old.

Sometimes the truth as the Church teaches is just plain hard to accept. I think that is why Duy Mara has difficulty accepting no salvation for fallen away Catholics. But being HARD doens't necessarily equate with being wrong.

I guess what I mean is. Christ IS the Church. "Whosever believes in me shall have everlasting life."

And I'm honestly not having a "hard time". I simply believe our God is a just God. He sent his son so that all may be saved.
Love in Christ,
Duy mara

Duy mara,

While it is true that God sent His Son to save all men, all men do not desire to be saved, and thus, they will not.

A minimalist philosophy seems to hold that "belief" doesn't require "doing", but rather, is only intellectual assent. One is not "in Christ" merely through intellectual assent, but by doing all those things God asks, with the help of His grace. Grace is the all important factor, and without acceptance of it, through a working faith, it is impossible to please God.

Now, that is not to say that it is impossible to receive the grace of God. Howerver, we, as Catholics, have access to it in a much more direct way, through the sacraments. The Church, too, has always taught that God is not limited by the sacraments which He instituted, therefore, grace can be bestowed upon those who do not receive the sacraments...and their positive response to this grace - which may not result in their entering into full communion with the Church - can result in their salvation, provided they worked, to the best of their knowledge and ability, to discover Christ and His call in their lives.

I know that's probably not as clear as I'd like, and I haven't developed these ideas to their fullest theologically speaking, but I believe this is where the Church is coming from in stating that there are those outside the Church who may be saved, but that those who are in the Church fully, and "make use" of all the vehicles of grace given to the Church, have an easier road to walk.

God bless, Matt

The visible and spiritual Church is One, not two Churches. For if there were two churches, then there must be two christs, and there is only One Christ.

Christ is the Head of the Body, which is the Church.



What about the case of the person who leaves what they believe to be the Catholic Church, but in fact *was deceived* by false priests? I know a woman who ran in to a whole string of priests who presented pantheism & nature worship under the guise of Catholicism, plus has a dysfunctional family who make "Catholicism" a big part of their dysfunction. In her family alcoholism is rife and sacramental weddings and holy days are celebrated primarily by drunkenness. And then they take their child to be baptized, the priest takes the baby, strips it naked, and processes around the church holding it triumphally overhead.... Add this to the very poor catechesis in the Catholic schools and you come up with something close to invincible ignorance. I can't tell this woman anything about the Church, she's been a Cathoic longer than I have... but no more.


It's interesting that I just began reading The Splendor of Truth. In it, Pope John Paul II addresses the natural law and the conscience.

Luke 11:34 The light of the body is the eye: therefore when thine eye is single, thy whole body also is full of light; but when thine eye is evil, thy body also is full of darkness.

In this Our Lord is refering to our conscience. If our conscience views things in the light, it is a good conscience. If, however, because of sin and turning from God and doing our own thing, rebelling as it were, our conscience becomes "wrong" than it is "blinded by evil".

This can never be considered "invincible ignornace". Invincible ignorance is when we do only those things we judge in our conscience as certainly good, and God's Will, yet we have not yet found the Catholic Church.

Does this answer your question?



I really don't mean to keep bothering you today, and please don't take it personally, but it doesn't answer my question. I could rephrase the question as, What about the case where the person himself searches for God and tries to do the best he knows how, but the sin of *other people* blinds him to the truth? I know that often people use this as an excuse, "the church is full of hypocrites" or whatever, but if they really only come into contact with a caricature of the Catholic Church, they aren't rejecting the real thing, are they?


In your example, a person left the Church. There are of course bad priests. But the Church give us God's Teaching in many forms. The Catechism is a good example. Older Catechisms were in the form of questions and answers that aid the faithful in knowing what is true. But there was not much depth. The new Catechism is not in a question and answer format, but is rich in wisdom and explainations.

God judges the hearts of men [oops people :>)]. No one can answer the specific question of this person, but God. I can assure you that there is no debate, no excuse, before God. God will not accuse anyone unless guilty in their heart.


I did all my schooling, yes 12 years, in Catholic Schools.
I even remember that I wanted to become a priest, but my I was not allowed to be a Don Bosco priest because I WAS BORN OUT OF WEDLOCK, nevertheless I managed to win a gold medal in a competition among the best religion students in grade 12.
The foregoing means that I was not an equal human being for the church, I was from an inferior caste.
When your Magisterium says that there is not salvation outside the Catholic Church is doing fear mongerin.
It is also following the Jew philosophy that they are different human beings, the chosen ones and unchosen ones.
Well, I by my own will choose to be an unchosen one, and left a church which teach us hatre and fear.

I am sorry for people who so easily give the most valuable
part of our selves. Freedom.
I will quote you a poem where
Freedom Love and Peace are interchangeable, or can be used alternatively.

"There is not peace except the peace of God.
Seek no further.
You will not find peace
except the peace of God.
Accept this fact,
and save yourself the agony
of yet more bitter dissappointments, bleak despair,
and sense of icy hopelessness and doubt.
Seek you no further.
There is nothing else for you to find
except the peace of God.

Page 200 Gifts from a Course in Miracles
Published by G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York


Finally somebody that uses his/her brain properly.
I am completely in support of your ideas.
I am somebody who attended Catholic schools for 12 years and tried to become a Priest, and was not accepted because I was from a lower caste, by BEING BORN OUT OF WEDLOCK.
The Catholic church does preach love, but hatre and fears.

Let me quote from the book "Gifts from a Course in Miracles"

"let me remember I am one with God.
At one with all my brothers and myself."

Let the love of God reside in your hearth so you can reside in the hearth of God.

I think that the Catholic Church is an evolution from Judaism, at least they have a lot of holy books in common.
That is very similar as the many millions Christian that deviate from the Roman Catholics (there are other Christian Catholics who do not agree with Rome).
Is one church evolve from another, how it could be that there is only one salvation?
The Jews think that there are the only chosen ones.
That idea was first elaborated by the founder of the first monotheist church, Zoroaster.

Duy Mara

you are really brave

here is a gem fro you from the book "gifts from a Course in Miracles"

"I am as God created me."
This one thought would be enough to save you and the world,
if you believed that it is true.

Sorry Mac

I can not believe that your mind is so simplistic.

There are many different colours of human beings.
There have always been many religions.
To believe that Catholics are better than Budhists or any other religion is just simple arrogance.

"Seek not outside yourself.
The search implies you are not whole within."

God is God and we are made to his image.

We human beings are made to the image of God, not the church, or any church.

For some people the Church seems to be more important than the human beings and even God.

They feast in what they call sacred thoughts and loose the perspective of mankind and God.
It was in the name of that Church that millions of American Indians were massacred. It was in the name of the Church that a bishop built Marienburg, with the blood of the peasants that paid taxes to him.

However, when the perspective of God and human beings is properly kept, then we have saints like Mother Theresa,
Ghandi and many others.

"Let me remember I am one with God.
At one with all my brothers and my self."

Page 56 from the book "Gifts from a Course in Miracles"

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