Are Protestant communities salvific and if so, how?

But doesn’t their response include whether or not they accept *all *that the Lord commanded - or is it only *some *of what the Lord commanded? How much of the Truth are we allowed to reject? Now I know that you will agree with me that the answer is “none - culpably”. And therein lies the problem. In connection with this, I think the text of LG kind of “assumes” inculpable rejection is the norm rather than the exception. I’m looking for something similar to this pre-Vatican II. It’s this “approach” that is very disturbing to me and confusing to so many.

Ok - but still, I think Pope Pius XII was both very charitable and very explicit in the need for the Protestant to “come home” to the church…is this the part of Mystici Corporis you referred to…

  1. …Imploring the prayers of the whole Church We wish to repeat this solemn declaration in this Encyclical Letter in which We have proclaimed the praises of the “great and glorious Body of Christ” and from a heart overflowing with love We ask each and every one of them to correspond to the interior movements of grace, and to seek to withdraw from that state in which they cannot be sure of their salvation. For even though by an unconscious desire and longing they have a certain relationship with the Mystical Body of the Redeemer, they still remain deprived of those many heavenly gifts and helps which can only be enjoyed in the Catholic Church. Therefore may they enter into Catholic unity and, joined with Us in the one, organic Body of Jesus Christ, may they together with us run on to the one Head in the Society of glorious love. Persevering in prayer to the Spirit of love and truth, We wait for them with open and outstretched arms to come not to a stranger’s house, but to their own, their father’s home.See, here’s the difference. The Holy Father, while not denying the possibility of their salvation, says that just by remaining outside of the Church, this salvation is in jeopardy - and follows it with an urgent and explicit call to conversion.

Here’s another passage from the next paragraph of Mystici Corporis…still talking of Christians outside of the Church…
104…Unfortunately many are still wandering far from the Catholic truth, being unwilling to follow the inspirations of divine grace, because neither they nor the faithful pray to God with sufficient fervor for this intention.
See here, Pope Pius XII says that many who remain outside are unwilling to follow God’s grace - that involves culpability since it’s in the will and dealing specifically with our response to God’s grace. And of course the call to prayer for this matter falls on those outside AND us inside the Church. Given that so many folks don’t think conversion is a big deal anyway - I doubt many are praying for those very conversions. Us laity gotta take responsibility too.

Anyway - here, in this and the rest of Mystici Corporis, I still see the urgency of the call to conversion to the Catholic faith, and it’s normative necessity…I just don’t see the same in Lumen Gentium- at least not clearly.


I agree with the Church that it is possible for those not within the visible bonds of the Church to be saved. Don’t get me wrong - I’m not arguing against that. It’s just in how we approach this possibility that is different now - and I think causing much confusion.

That all goes without saying. “Of course!” I respond to all of those things things, but it doesn’t really address my point. This is a laundry list, sort of, of exceptions to the normative rule. I realize they exist.

I don’t think Lumen Gentium “causes” the Church to lose Her importance - nothing could. But I think it does affect the perspective and the fervor of people both inside the Church and outside of the Church. Frankly, I don’t think it does a whole heck of a lot to strengthen it - not all of* LG* mind you - but parts of it can really give a wrong impression with the way it is worded.

And just from real world experience - it’s not the Protestant folks who are offended at the notion that the Catholic Church believes and teaches that they need to convert (though sometimes they remain unconvinced that the Catholic Church “still” teaches this) - it’s fellow Catholics. In the pluralistic world we live in today, it’s just so darn uncomfortable a thought I suppose, it hits close to home with so many of our friends and family and coworkers outside of HMC. It’s easier to get complacent and just “get along”.

See - there you say “all true religion” - as if there is more than one! It’s little things like that that cause red flags to go up for me and cause people to wonder if the Church hasn’t changed Her teachings - perhaps you didn’t mean it “like that”, but perhaps also you are inadvertantly using some of the all to common ambiguous language that has become the norm these days.

And to address the point there - isn’t our salvation itself giving glory to God - the total and complete reception of that gift? I mean, I don’t see how framing things in terms of “salvation” takes away from giving glory to God, It’s what Our Lord died to give us, so I think it’s rather central!


Agreed again - and isn’t “helping as many souls as possible draw into the clostest possible union with Him” the very same thing as calling them home to His Church and leading them out of error that may very well forfeit their eternity with Him? For in the end - there are no “degrees” of salvation - one won’t be “paritially” saved.

That is all for now.

Peace in Christ,


OK, this is what I was looking for … this seems to spell out (at least in this point of my understanding) the salvific ties to the Catholic Church for the protestant communities. Please correct me here … in a nutshell, they are tied to the Catholic Church through Baptism. This extends the *possibility *of salvation to them. However, since they do not have access to the Sacraments, that possibility becomes a bit more uncertain. Ulitimately, God will decide. I have a hard time believing that they are invicibly ignorant - especially since they are closely associated with the Church and since they have such a devotion to the written Word of God where so much of the Church and the Sacraments are preached. I guess they can’t se the forest for the trees!


That is true, but the same applies to those to whom the Gospel has been preached, but inadequately, or incorrectly. The very bottom point of Paul is that God works in God’s way, not man’s way. The Spirit is not limited to the Catholic Church.

Here’s the other…
Romans 3:26-30 Through the forbearance of God, for the shewing of his justice in this time; that he himself may be just, and the justifier of him, who is of the faith of Jesus Christ. Where is then thy boasting? It is excluded. By what law? Of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we account a man to be justified by faith, without the works of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? Is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also. For it is one God, that justifieth circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. Here, I take it, Paul is speaking of the salvation of non-Jews - he’s combating the notion that salvation in Jesus Christ is only offered to those who practice the Mosaic law. I’m not sure how this relates.

*(Continued…)*Again, Paul is speaking to how and to whom the Spirit comes. Yes, his point is specific to Jews and non-Jews; but the same can be said of Catholics and non-Catholics; the Spirit operates to the law of faith. That is not to excuse one who, upon finding evidence that the Catholic Church may be the one true Church, does not inquire.

It does one who is baptized Catholic, and goes through all the motions but has no faith, any good; it is not the actions of Catholics that saves them, but faith. The actions in and of themselves are not salvific.

Here’s a question for ALL Catholics, especially me.
Have you ever shared your faith with a non-Catholic, and told him/her about the Catholic Church, and invited them to join it?

Honestly now. Saying grace over dinner with relatives and signing yourself with the Sign of the Cross doesn’t count!

Have you ever really sat down with those you are concerned about, and TOLD THEM about the Catholic Church and why it is the True Church of Jesus Christ and why they need to join it to have hope of salvation?

It seems to me that if we truly believe that Protestants and others are headed for hell, we’d better get cracking and tell them how to escape from their doom! We can’t wait for the clergy to do it! Most of them aren’t out there in the world like we are! We’re the ones who actually see our friends and relatives on a regular basis. It’s OUR responsibility!

To say that someone is probably going to hell and then do nothing about it is anti-love, which is anti-God. Doesn’t this put our own salvation in jeopardy, to ignore those who need the Lord?

Ezekiel 3: 18 &19 says, “When I say to the wicked, “You shall surely die,” and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you have warned the wicked and he does not turn from his wickedness or from his wicked ways, he shall die in his iniquity, but you have delivered yourself.” (italics mine)

James 5: 19-20 says, “My brothers, if one of you strays away from the truth, and another brings him back to it, he may be sure that anyone who can bring back a sinner from the wrong way that he has taken will be saving a soul from death and covering up a great number of sins.”

I know that many of us are trying to share the Gospel through living good lives and demonstrating love. That’s wonderful, but there comes a time when you actually have to sit down and say, “HERE is the reason why I live a good life and demonstrate love.”

After all, lots of non-Christians live a good life and demonstrate love! And certainly many Protestants live good lives and demonstrate love.

How will simply living a good life and demonstrating love actually inform a Protestant about the errors of his faith?

We have to actually explain, in words, that Jesus loves us enough to die for us, and that in the Catholic Church, the Church that Jesus Himself established, we can follow Jesus as a disciple and hope to achieve the salvation of our souls through faith in Jesus and adherence to the Sacraments that Jesus established.

Have you ever done that? Shared in words? I ashamed to say that I haven’t!



You hit the nail on the head. I think that what you are describing is TRUE ecumenism. Ulitmately, it MUST lead back to the One Church of Christ, otherwise, it is false and does more damage than good.

As far as this subject goes this is the best explanation that I have ever found (Baltimore Catechism #4):

  1. Q. Are all bound to belong to the Church?
    A. All are bound to belong to the Church, and he who knows the Church to be the true Church and remains out of it, cannot be saved.

Anyone who knows the Catholic religion to be the true religion and will not embrace it cannot enter into Heaven. If one not a Catholic doubts whether the church to which he belongs is the true Church, he must settle his doubt, seek the true Church, and enter it; for if he continues to live in doubt, he becomes like the one who knows the true Church and is deterred by worldly considerations from entering it.

In like manner one who, doubting, fears to examine the religion he professes lest he should discover its falsity and be convinced of the truth of the Catholic faith, cannot be saved.

Suppose, however, that there is a non-Catholic who firmly believes that the church to which he belongs is the true Church, and who has never – even in the past – had the slightest doubt of that fact – what will become of him?

If he was validly baptized and never committed a mortal sin, he will be saved; because, believing himself a member of the true Church, he was doing all he could to serve God according to his knowledge and the dictates of his conscience. But if ever he committed a mortal sin, his salvation would be very much more difficult. A mortal sin once committed remains on the soul till it is forgiven. Now, how could his mortal sin be forgiven? Not in the Sacrament of Penance, for the Protestant does not go to confession; and if he does, his minister – not being a true priest – has no power to forgive sins. Does he know that without confession it requires an act of perfect contrition to blot out mortal sin, and can he easily make such an act? What we call contrition is often only imperfect contrition – that is, sorrow for our sins because we fear their punishment in Hell or dread the loss of Heaven. If a Catholic – with all the instruction he has received about how to make an act of perfect contrition and all the practice he has had in making such acts – might find it difficult to make an act of perfect contrition after having committed a mortal sin, how much difficulty will not a Protestant have in making an act of perfect contrition, who does not know about this requirement and who has not been taught to make continued acts of perfect contrition all his life. It is to be feared either he would not know of this necessary means of regaining God’s friendship, or he would be unable to elicit the necessary act of perfect contrition, and thus the mortal sin would remain upon his soul and he would die an enemy of God.

If, then, we found a Protestant who never committed a mortal sin after Baptism, and who never had the slightest doubt about the truth of his religion, that person would be saved; because, being baptized, he is a member of the Church, and being free from mortal sin he is a friend of God and could not in justice be condemned to Hell. Such a person would attend Mass and receive the Sacraments if he knew the Catholic Church to be the only true Church.

I am giving you an example, however, that is rarely found, except in the case of infants or very small children baptized in Protestant sects. All infants rightly baptized by anyone are really children of the Church, no matter what religion their parents may profess. Indeed, all persons who are baptized are children of the Church; but those among them who deny its teaching, reject its Sacraments, and refuse to submit to its lawful pastors, are rebellious children known as heretics.

I said I gave you an example that can scarcely be found, namely, of a person not a Catholic, who really never doubted the truth of his religion, and who, moreover, never committed during his whole life a mortal sin. There are so few such persons that we can practically say for all those who are not visibly members of the Catholic Church, believing its doctrines, receiving its Sacraments, and being governed by its visible head, our Holy Father, the Pope, salvation is an extremely difficult matter.

I do not speak here of pagans who have never heard of Our Lord or His holy religion, but of those outside the Church who claim to be good Christians without being members of the Catholic Church.

Sorry, here’s the link to the website I got this from:

Let me ponder this a while. I see what you are trying to say - but it seems to be placing in some way the Church He established at odds with the Holy Spirit - for the official words and teachings of the Catholic Church can never contradict the Holy Spirit.

Agreed - but I struggle to see where this is relevant to the discussion. (No one has said that merely be being inside the visible bonds of HMC guarntees salvation - the wheat and tares grow together until judgement day).

A catholic “just going through the motions” takes the free gifts of God and sort of puts them on a shelf and ignores them - at his own peril. Serious business there of course. But we are speaking in general terms - objectively. We should be talking about Catholics who are at least striving as best as they can and by the help of God’s grace to respond to Christ’s graces given to us within His Church. Certainly “bad catholics” give bad example - I’m just not so sure that’s gonna be a sufficient “excuse” for the non-Catholic Christian not saying yes to God and coming home.

The non-Catholic though, rejects many essential free gifts of God in the first place - especially that awesome gift of His Church where these gifts are all found - at least materially and objectively. The question then is where culpability pops up. Can the non-Catholic Christian who is striving to respond God’s grace inculpably remain outside the Church? Sometimes yes, sometimes no it would seem - but this is mere theological speculation because it’s based on subjective invisible information that is His to judge. Objectively and normatively, however, I think we can recognize that God’s grace never leads away from His Church. The heresies taught in Protestantism are very dangerous precisely because they are wrapped up in much of what is true - it’s this “closeness” that prevents many from accepting it all.


An analogy here - (keeping in mind that no analogy is perfect of course)…

Say there are three bowls on a table. One is pure chicken noodle soup, the second is chicken noodle soup with a subtle yet lethal amout of poison in it. The third is pure poison.

Now most everyone wouldn’t sit down and eat the bowl of pure poison - too bitter and horrible tasting. This goes to what I think is true - pure heresy is more lethal but less dangerous in the practical sense.

But the last two - hmmmmm. The hungry person isn’t quite sure which bowl to consume. (His choosing not to consume the totally poisonous bowl is the good first step…)

But let’s say the chef himself is there telling folks which bowl is good - the one owner of the restaurant himself made…and which bowl is not good because another chef-imitator (who was subsequently fired) came up later and put poison in the second bowl. Is the person who chooses to eat the posion laced soup despite this warning “culpable” for consuming it? Very possibly, for he has still made the choice to refuse to listen to the chef, who the restaurant owner has left in authority and gave his own guarantee of protection from error.

Now this person in question can say that the soup in bowl number two had chicken, and noodles, and broth, and tasted just fine…and according to the chicken noodle soup recipe book he was given by the fired chef - it looked and tasted just like it “was supposed to”. We might and should sympathize with the fella, because he’s been duped…but he’s still in a very dangerous life threatening situation, because he’s eating the poison laced soup. Just because he’s ignorant of it doesn’t mean he’s inculpable and it certainly doesn’t mean he’s automatically going to survive eating the poison laced soup.

Now what should the approach be of the chef? Should he merely point out all those wonderful soup ingrediants that bowl number one and bowl number two have in common and hope the person “eventually” comes to accept bowl number two as a “better bowl” - or should he specifically and explicitly warn the person of the poison that he is consuming therein - pointing out the lethal jeopardy he is in by eating the darn stuff?

Now this goes to the seriousness of error in doctrine. It also goes to my point, that in pointing out all the “good things” still in the non-Catholic religion, without pointing out the eternally significant errors, is tatamount to telling the guy eating the poison soup what wonderful noodles he has, and what nice big chucks of chicken meat are in his soup…but that ours really is better because ours is “total soup”. Now there is no “error” in telling the person this - no falsehood…but it’s what we aren’t saying to the fella that we’ll have to answer for.

One other thing…from a purly “natural” level, it’s rather easy to assume the person inculpable in this situation…just not knowing who to believe and what not. But from the “supernatural” aspect, we know that God’s grace is always there pointing them to the “chef” he appointed. And thus, it is in this rejection of the grace of God that culpability can pop up. Now the danger we face, as Catholics, is this…are we looking at the world with natural eyes, or with supernatural eyes? With eyes of faith, or with eyes of flesh?


Again - this seems more along the lines of faith vs. works, a non-related issue here because we are talking about the the entirety of faith which includes our response to that faith, for faith without works is dead as James tells us. For if a person claims to have faith, but culpably refuses “go” where that faith leads, then his faith is of no avail…it’s dead…

Further, the actions themselves are part of the process of Salvation, the very actions instituted by Christ within His Church that apply that free gift of salvation to us…I’m speaking of course of the Sacraments. Having faith in Christ, yet refusing the very gifts He’s given us to apply that free gift of Salvation, is this not a rejection of Christ? Remember that Sacraments do what they signify - they aren’t things we “do” for God, they’re things God “does” for us.

I mean, it’s not as if these things are incedentals - non-essential. We still head the infallible voice of the Church in this matter don’t we?Council of Trent, Session VII, CANON IV.
If any one saith, that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary unto salvation, but superfluous; and that, without them, or without the desire thereof, men obtain of God, through faith alone, the grace of justification;-though all (the sacraments) are not indeed necessary for every individual; let him be anathema.

Peace in Christ,


By pointing out the truth of the Gospel - the whole truth…it is often taken to mean that the “traditional” Catholic is standing as judge before individual souls. Not the case. For one thing, the person in question is still walking the earth and isn’t standing before the throne of Judgement yet. For another, the Lord knows the heart and soul - where the will is so to speak - and He knows whether what seems to you to be a person who “loves Jesus and wants to follow him” really is, in fact, the case.

That being said, we can go by what we do see objectively and surly - and not make presumptions one way or the other on what we can’t know. And here is what you described - objectively. A person led into error by someone else, and based on those errors, rejecting and “laughing” at the One True Church established by Christ. Thus, just by objectively looking at this situation, we can acknowledge that this person’s soul is at grave risk of eternal loss. For he *has *heard the gospel and, for whatever reasons, rejected it.

Peace in Christ,


I’m going to exert some willpower here and not get too involved in this discussion, because I just wrote magazine article on this very topic. Based on our understanding, we must have faith in God to work these issues. The short answer, however, appears to be that different standards are in effect–based upon our understanding and whether, or not, we belong to the Church. As the Bible teaches, if we are given more, more is expected of us. So, yes, different standards exists–for good reason. This point of view, supported by the CCC, also is found within the writings of Saint Augustine–towards the end of his *Confessions. *This is all I can say right now…

The Soul of the Church, the Holy Spirit, is present in them by virtue of their union with the Catholic Church (this assumes they are not mortally guilty of the sins of heresy or schism, which the CCC is assuming by not charging them with those sins).

Imagine a very misinformed Catholic spread the faith to some pagans and they were Baptized–the thing is, they were taught a bunch of errors. They thought they were joing Christ’s Church and the missionary thought he was helping them to do so. Generations later, still having not received the full Gospel, would their community not be salvific like other particular Catholic communities?

That’s the essence of how we look at protestants who are generations removed from the actual breaks and who we do not charge with those sins.

As for the Sacraments, they are necessary for salvation, but not necessary that each person receive them (except for Baptism, or its desire).

It also bears pointing out that those Churches who have maintained valid sacraments, if they be in good faith and not completely separated from the Catholic Church, would derive saving grace from their sacraments–in fact, that is the whole reason why we believe that certain sacraments are valid even in materially schismatic groups. Those in good faith are not harmed by those who caused the separations.

Ah - that’s why I like the ol’ Baltimore Catechism. Clear, concise, to the point…and pulls no punches. Makes me feel like I’ve been trying to “reinvent” the wheel with my posts.


And peace in Christ,


PS: How goes the “deciding”?

Thank the Good Lord for the “head-bashers”! And welcome home! :thumbsup:


I started RCIA last week. I guess it’s about time I updated my profile. God Bless!

You bet!! Of course, I hated him, at the time - both for being rude, and for being right. :stuck_out_tongue:

Well praise God! That’s great! Keep praying and learning about the faith…and I hope you have a blessed time in RCIA! I’m sure everyone here will be praying for you. You’re on now my “official” prayer list :). (Not to be confused with the semi-official and casual prayer list).

Peace in Christ,


You bet he has heard the Gospel and he preaches the Gospel and sola scriptura and all the rest of that baggage. He doesn’t reject the Gospel at all he rejects how we chose to interpret it. Just hearing the “Truth” as you and I see it isn’t going to move him an inch. He believes on Jesus and while not saying it to my face believes I am hell bound because I am not born again to his way of believing. I have no doubt he believes he has the truth and that I am the one that needs to be saved.

Just because someone hears the “Truth” does not mean they are no longer ignorant. It is only when the “Truth” convicts them and they know they are wrong and then still reject it. Like in the Parable of the sower there are those who listen but do not hear. It is all well and good to have the “Truth”, and praise Jesus I think I do, but to be able to break through to a mind like this guy has will take an act of God, not my arguments for the Faith.

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