A question on Catholic Salvation

Forgive me if any of my thoughts seem unorganized:

I have been struggling with what I seem to be understanding as the Catholic view of God’s judgement and salvation. Basically, I hear often from Catholics that God will not turn away one who actively tries to seek God. If this is true, then why be Catholic? If it is simply that the Catholic Church is the ultimate source of truth, then why should I completely adhere to the magisterum in my heart. Even if I don’t completely adhere to the Church’s infallible magisterum, why would God punish me if I never stopped seeking him? Aren’t some religious men blowing themselves and innocent people up in order to “seek” God’s will? Where does the truth of the Catholic faith fit into salvation? Why should we seek to evangelize and proselytize non-catholics if they may be seeking God their own way?

BTW- I am currently in RCIA and actively seeking to become Catholic. I love the Catholic Church deeply, but from an apologetic standpoint this seems really confusing. Especially seeing as some Catholics I meet borderline Universalists.

I think what is meant is that people who have no knowledge of the Catholic faith and try to seek God can be saved.

In your case, you are knowledgeable. Therefore, you have an obligation to be received into, and to practise the glorious Catholic faith! :smiley:

I just posted this in another thread:

This is what the Church teaches:

-** Baptism is necessary for salvation** (but does not ensure it as you must die in a state of grace).

  • There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church.

So how can you be baptised and Catholic/deemed to be Catholic? There are 4 ways:

  • Sacramental Baptism as a Catholic
  • Baptism of Blood (non-Catholic dying for the Catholic Faith)
  • Baptism of Desire - Explicit (e.g. a catechumen going through RCIA)
  • Baptism of Desire - Implicit (invincible ignorance which means those who through no fault of their own do not know Christ, His Gospel, or His Church but still live a life according to the teachings of Christ in that ignorance)

You can debate who may or may not be included under invincible ignorance but outside the above 4 there is no salvation.

See, I appreciate this explanation. My problem extends to Michelle Arnold’s explanations on the AAA forum. In one dialogue, someone asked if their atheist grandfather who knew well of the Catholic Church, but remained an Atheist all his life would go to hell. She explained that it is a difficult scenario, but if he lived a moral life he may be saved. Isn’t this loopholes upon loopholes? Aren’t atheists the one that Hell could be made for? I don’t mean that disrespectfully, but if militant Atheists want an existence without God, that’s what Hell is.

We don’t become Catholic by possessing some sort of foreknowledge that Catholic doctrine is true prior to actually coming to believe its true. We must come to believe it’s true first, meaning we must come to agree with the Church, which happens over time. It’s a matter of the sheep recognizing the Shepard’s voice.

A Protestant may hear Gods voice in the bible for example but, IMO, it won’t be a pure, uncontaminated voice because the written Word, even if it’s the Word of God, cannot authoritatively interpret itself- you, myself, a church, or someone else must do so, with varying degrees of success. Speaking for myself, the voice became clearer and clearer as I came nearer and nearer to the Catholic Church, to my own surprise, after many years of being away. But all the other avenues and dead-ends I tried were stepping stones to this understanding-God is pleased with all our attempts to seek truth, as long as we’re sincere and keep looking. And as long as we don’t stop short, we end up Catholic. :slight_smile:

I understand if people are on the journey, the Catholic Church is the full communion of Christ’s one holy catholic and apostolic church. On the other hand, most buddhists will stay buddhists. Muslims could be severely chastized for leaving their faith. Mormons are not looking elsewhere.

Yes, we’re judged according to our knowledge-and how obedient we were to Gods Law regardless of our religious affiliation as per Romans 2. We can’t judge by the heart-only God can see inside. It can be very difficult to cut through religious and cultural traditions-these kinds of things may well reduce our culpability for all we know.

But what we can come to know for certain as Catholics is that God established this Church for the purpose of salvation, giving to her and maintaining through her the authentic gospel for that purpose. And once we know that for ourselves we become like Peter saying to Jesus in John 6, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."

None of us should seek to say definitely who is in hell. We don’t have to speculate about who is in hell, and should hope that they made a repentant, final choice for the Lord. God knows better than all of us (understatement), and we should just leave it to Him.

I will speak for myself and say that I am so happy that I was born Catholic and have come to appreciate the faith more and more. I am so blessed to be able to celebrate the Eucharist often and hope that more people come to know and love our Lord for that great gift!

Our Lord Jesus Christ couldn’t have done anything more perfectly to show how much He loves us, and deserves my best efforts to love Him in return. When I can answer, and non-Catholics ask questions, I do my best to share the faith with them. But, if they have an agenda and want to prove me wrong, I just end the conversation.

Nice concise summary, as I’ve never seen it before, of the Catholic viewpoint regarding salvation. Much appreciated.

Here are what some of the Church Fathers have to say about this:

Ignatius of Antioch

“Be not deceived, my brethren: If anyone follows a maker of schism *, he does not inherit the kingdom of God; if anyone walks in strange doctrine *, he has no part in the passion [of Christ]. Take care, then, to use one Eucharist, so that whatever you do, you do according to God: For there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ, and one cup in the union of his blood; one altar, as there is one bishop, with the presbytery and my fellow servants, the deacons” (Letter to the Philadelphians 3:3–4:1 [A.D. 110]).


“[The spiritual man] shall also judge those who give rise to schisms, who are destitute of the love of God, and who look to their own special advantage rather than to the unity of the Church; and who for trifling reasons, or any kind of reason which occurs to them, cut in pieces and divide the great and glorious body of Christ, and so far as in them lies, destroy it—men who prate of peace while they give rise to war, and do in truth strain out a gnat, but swallow a camel. For they can bring about no ‘reformation’ of enough importance to compensate for the evil arising from their schism. . . . True knowledge is that which consists in the doctrine of the apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place *” (ibid., 4:33:7–8).


“If someone from this people wants to be saved, let him come into this house so that he may be able to attain his salvation. . . . Let no one, then, be persuaded otherwise, nor let anyone deceive himself: Outside of this house, that is, outside of the Church, no one is saved; for, if anyone should go out of it, he is guilty of his own death” (Homilies on Joshua 3:5 [A.D. 250]).

Cyprian of Carthage

“Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress [a schismatic church] is separated from the promises of the Church, nor will he that forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is an alien, a worldling, and an enemy. He cannot have God for his Father who has not the Church for his mother” (The Unity of the Catholic Church 6, 1st ed. [A.D. 251]).


“Heretics bring sentence upon themselves since they by their own choice withdraw from the Church, a withdrawal which, since they are aware of it, constitutes damnation. Between heresy and schism there is this difference: that heresy involves perverse doctrine, while schism separates one from the Church on account of disagreement with the bishop. Nevertheless, there is no schism which does not trump up a heresy to justify its departure from the Church” (Commentary on Titus 3:10–11 [A.D. 386]).


“We believe also in the holy Church, that is, the Catholic Church. For heretics violate the faith itself by a false opinion about God; schismatics, however, withdraw from fraternal love by hostile separations, although they believe the same things we do. Consequently, neither heretics nor schismatics belong to the Catholic Church; not heretics, because the Church loves God; and not schismatics, because the Church loves neighbor” (Faith and the Creed 10:21 [A.D. 393]).

“[J]ust as baptism is of no profit to the man who renounces the world in words and not in deeds, so it is of no profit to him who is baptized in heresy or schism; but each of them, when he amends his ways, begins to receive profit from that which before was not profitable, but was yet already in him” (On Baptism, Against the Donatists 4:4[6] [A.D. 400]).

“Whoever is separated from this Catholic Church, by this single sin of being separated from the unity of Christ, no matter how estimable a life he may imagine he is living, shall not have life, but the wrath of God rests upon him” (ibid., 141:5).***

“Whoever is separated from this Catholic Church, by this single sin of being separated from the unity of Christ, no matter how estimable a life he may imagine he is living, shall not have life, but the wrath of God rests upon him” (ibid., 141:5).

See if I read that, I think all non- Catholics go to Hell. Modern Catholics (at least ones I am noticing) never come close to saying this. I can understand it is no human’s place to judge. When it comes to other Christian faiths, I can understand leaving that up to God. Other religions, I think that is different. Why though are we not drawing the lines so people can strive to maintain salvation and not risk it? Christ said that ““I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6).” He didn’t say, “Well, Buddhists may not think of me as one with the Father, but they will be ok.” or “Well, the atheists deny me and most hate me, but they’re ok.” I don’t see scripture nor apostolic tradition painting everything as gray as some Catholics are making it out today. So far, if I rely on Thisle’s layout- I can live with that because it fits the whole picture. I seem to have problems reconciling where I seem to see apologists saying “Well, your atheist relative denied God every chance he/ she got, but they may be in Heaven.” Why? Why would they be in Heaven? Did they love God on Earth? So why after death?

AGAIN- I am not trying to probe anybody or be beligerant. I really am seeking the official Catholic teaching in a way that I can explain it to people and understand it myself.

Here is my specified and hypothetical question in order to seek the Catholic teaching:

If he ultimately did not repent, is the merit in saying that he could not be granted Paradise? Whether God says yes or no, does the Magisterial teaching say that?

It is loopholes upon loopholes. What is the problem with that?

If Hitler, after blowing away half his brain, in his last conscious seconds thought: “I am so sorry, i did so much wrong, i wish i could undo it, please help me Lord …” then he might have avoided hell. Not likely, but possible, remember the criminal on the cross next to Jesus. He only asked Jesus that Jesus remembers him and this was enough because it came from a changed heart.

Everyone has until their dying breath to repent of mortal sins. Anyone who does not repent and dies in a state of mortal sin goes to Hell immediately.
That is the Church teaching.

CCC 1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.” The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

I want to respond to this post because I think the question is different than the take most people have put on it. You’re asking, basically, if invincible ignorance is an allowable factor, then why should anyone have to be catholic?

Let’s look at invincible ignorance though… it requires that one be ignorant of truth (obviously that is not the case for most catholics). It requires that one actively be seeking the truth (not necessarily the case for most people/atheists). It requires that one not reject the rational presentation of the truth. It requires that one discerns and forms their conscience well, without the aid of the church (rare). It requires that the person follow their conscience to their fullest, without the aid of the sacrament of reconciliation to assist. Finally, invincible ignorance does not guaruntee salvation… it merely is a means by which God may CHOOSE to save us. Not all of the invincibly ignorant will be saved… God is still just and will still reward us accordingly… including damning those invincibly ignorant who have no place in heaven.

so basically, relying on invincible ignorance for salvation is a crapshoot… and one that certainly isn’t open to MOST people who are CURRENTLY catholic. Why roll the dice when we know that following the teachings of the church and taking the sacraments is a SURE THING? (I underlined “following” because I want to note that that includes refraining from sin)

Very well spoken Prometheus. That helps a bunch. I just get a bit disturbed hearing “we are all serving God as we are.” Obviously we all are not.

This is a good summary.

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