Bishop Barron on the privileged way to salvation

Hey guys, i’m a huge fan of Bishop Barron as someone who was/is heavily instrumental in bringing me to greater understanding of the Catholic faith and how it relates to reality. He is probably one of the Greatest Catholic heavyweights alive today fighting for Truth against a society of relativism.

In an interview with Ben Shapiro he says the following when Ben ask’s him if one can be saved outside the chruch.
Barron: “ Yes…the Catholic view…go back to the 2nd Vatican Council says it very clearly….I mean Christ is the privileged route to salvation…that is the privileged route….However, Vatican II clearly teaches that someone outside the explicitly Christian faith can be saved….it might be received according to your conscience….Now that doesn’t conduce to a complete relativism…We would still say the privileged route and the route that God has offered to humanity is the route of His Son…but no, you can be saved…uh…even Vatican II says that an Atheist of good will can be saved……because in following his conscience…John Henry Newman said the conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ in the soul…it is in fact the voice of Christ…when I follow my conscience, I’m following Him…whether I know it explicitly or not…so even the atheist of good will can be saved” .

I can’t help but feel that by using the word privileged he was sort of excusing others who are not of the faith that it’s not essential anyway, i feel that he made it sound to Ben perhaps not to push him away too much that one can still find salvation through a rightly ordered conscience and thats it. The problem is Salvation outside the Church is not a given for those who are innocently ignorant of it who just aim to be good people. It requires one to fully adhere to the law and orientate their lives around it which is difficult for us Christians nevermind someone who has a muddied understanding of it because they are not of the faith and one can easily expect since they did not receive the gifted sacraments that they may still need to atone for their sins after death.

Do others feel the Bishop was too lenient here and did not stress enough the importance of Christ and his Church for salvation by simply relegating it as being a privileged way? As i said i feel the Bishop is a great defender and evangelist of the faith but just on this area i feel his approach here was too lenient or perhaps a misuse of the word privilege which can send out the wrong message, what do others think?


The question was “can you be saved outside the Church” and the answer is “yes, you can, although the Church is the privileged way.” This is in accordance with the official teaching of the Church.

What do you think he should have said instead? I’m asking genuinely as I’m not sure what you think is wrong with what he said.


The Catechism states this as only being for those innocently ignorant of Christ and his truth which of course be for multitude of reasons. A privileged way implies it’s not the only way for one to attain salvation while yes being the best way but not the only way.

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I’d suggest maybe you want to review the threads we’ve had on here about non-Catholics going to heaven. What you are saying is not really what the Catechism says. Bishop Barron’s statement is pretty close to what the Catechism says. He could have used a word other than “privileged way” (perhaps “best way”) or gone into detail explaining all the ways non-Catholics could be partly in communion with the Church, but my guess is that in an interview format he didn’t really have time to do that approach properly, so he confined himself to answering the question.

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He felt this question was just a good setup for Bishop Barron to evangelize and stress the importance and essential nature of Christ and his Church to Ben and other non Catholic viewers. The catechism does state on there being no salvation outside the Church that this: This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church: 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 may achieve eternal salvation. (CCC 847)

I have many times however heard Bishop Barron say that while other faiths and ideologies may have certain degrees of Truth, Christ and his Church is the fullness of Truth therefore reiterating the Catholic belief that Christ and his Church are essential to coming towards objective Truth in our understanding of the Natural law. I don’t think he perhaps meant Christ and his Church is just one among many ways for salvation but that his use of the word privileged could perhaps be used that way by those that disagree with him. It already is in some circles

Yes, and there are also a number of paragraphs discussing how members of specific non-Catholic religions, such as Protestants, Jewish people, and Muslims can be in communion with or otherwise have common beliefs with the Catholic Church. Obviously that’s going to cover some non-Catholics who are probably not invincibly ignorant (for example, if they marry a Catholic or their immediate family member converts and tries without success to convert them too ).

I don’t ponder the motive of Ben Shapiro, but the Bishop needed to give a correct short answer. Saying that outside the Church, only invincibly ignorant non-Catholics can be saved would in my view be contrary to the Catechism’s broad view of salvation being possible through God’s mercy for non-Catholics.

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Bishop Barron actually addressed this to an extent on this week’s episode of Word on Fire:

The question comes around the 28:15 mark.


Yet another great follow-up answer by Bishop Barron.

I’m sure the guy who asked the question and cited all the way back to Pope Pius IX is not going to be satisfied with anything short of “those who don’t join the Church and aren’t either invincibly ignorant or else had baptism of desire or baptism of blood are going to Hell”. Oh well.

Although we don’t have to believe private revelations, Padre Pio reportedly knew the Jewish father of one of his Catholic “spiritual children” was saved after death, but in Purgatory and in need of prayers. Some months later he updated the person that her father was now in Heaven.

Thank you very much for that, it helped clear that up for me.

The second Vatican council states that those who refuse to enter the Church or leave her cannot be saved. It also states that this does not apply to those who are “invincibly ignorant.” This doesn’t mean, however, that we don’t need to evangelize. And their salvation isn’t even certain. They MAY be saved. There is no way of knowing if they can at all be saved. Who knows! Its one of those things that we can only ponder. Let’s leave it to God and occupy ourselves with what we know we have to do.


No, as Bishop Barron stated, it is the teaching of the Church that they “can be saved”, as in, there’s a possibility or potential for them to be saved, through God’s mercy. It doesn’t mean they will definitely be saved, but God could save them through His mercy.

The alternative would be to say they “cannot be saved” as in, if they aren’t Catholics and aren’t invincibly ignorant they cannot be saved at all. This is wrong for the reasons described by the Bishop.

It’s correct to say there is no way of knowing if a specific person is saved, but the bottom line is that God can save anybody from any group any time, so everyone in the world “can be saved”, potentially. Doesn’t mean they “will be saved”, just that the potential is there.

  1. he implies this changed at the Second Vatican Council, which is an overstatement
  2. seems his statement overall is accurate, but the wording is rather unique and I do not seem how it helps in people’s understanding.

I don’t think Bishop Barron’s response adequately explained the Church’s position. It’s a very divisive topic and one, I feel, gets white washed at times for the sake of fostering unity. Usually the “possibility” of one being saved, now becomes more of a “probability”, much like Bishop Barron’s earlier statements where he referenced having a reasonable hope that all will be saved.

Can someone be saved outside of the Church? My understanding is Yes, it is possible, but how is that a possibility; well I don’t think we know all the facts surrounding this belief other than by saying, they need “invincible ignorance”. Which opens up a whole new can of worms, because this can be very subjective. How does one prove “invincible ignorance”?

Unfortunately, I think many within the Church have adopted the belief that many “will be saved” more as a matter of probability rather than a possibility. Which has lead to a decline in needing to evangelize and to share the gift of having the One True Faith. After all, if an atheist can be saved simply by following his conscience, then what need does he have of the Church?

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“Privileged way” implies there is more than one way. There is not. We are not saved merely by following our consciences–faith is absolutely necessary. However, by following an upright conscience with the aid of grace, we will be led to that necessary faith by God.

From the Catechism:

The necessity of faith

161 Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation.42 "Since “without faith it is impossible to please [God]” and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life ‘But he who endures to the end.’"43

After Catechism 847 talks about those who follow their conscience being able to achieve salvation, in 848 it says how this is done: “…in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him…”

St. Robert Bellarmine, in the 16th century) explained how this might work, in response to Protestants who said that the existence of non-Christians in far off lands means Christ does not offer salvation to all:

St. Robert Bellarmine, De Gratis et Libero Arbitrio, lib. 2, cap. 8

This argument only proves that not all people receive the help they need to believe and be converted immediately. It does not, however, prove that some people are deprived, absolutely speaking, of sufficient help for salvation. For the pagans to whom the Gospel has not yet been preached, can know from His creatures that God exists; then they can be stimulated by God, through His preventing grace, to believe in God, that He exists and that He is the rewarder of those who seek Him: and from such faith, they can be inspired, under the guidance and help of God, to pray and give alms and in this way obtain from God a still greater light of faith, which God will communicate to them, either by Himself or through angels or through men.

Pope Francis teaches the same thing in his first encyclical:

Lumen Fidei

Because faith is a way, it also has to do with the lives of those men and women who, though not believers, nonetheless desire to believe and continue to seek. To the extent that they are sincerely open to love and set out with whatever light they can find, they are already, even without knowing it, on the path leading to faith…Any-one who sets off on the path of doing good to others is already drawing near to God, is already sustained by his help, for it is characteristic of the divine light to brighten our eyes whenever we walk towards the fullness of love.

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This passage has always given me trouble. It is speaking of those who are ignorant of the Gospel. Meaning what exactly, only those who have never heard it before or would that extend to those who heard it, but from a different perspective.

Would this apply to those who heard the Gospel, but let’s say it was preached to them by Mormon missionaries or JW’s. Would that constitute true ignorance if they merely followed what they were told by non-Catholics.

If all of these other Christian and quasi Christian religions contain some truth and if the truth they contain is enough to get a person to heaven, then why do people need to be Catholic?

This is one of those tough questions that makes what Bishop Barron said, appear to lessen the need for anyone to actually become Catholic.

What is necessary for salvation is faith and charity. The Catholic Church is that community of those united by faith and charity, what we call communion (on the other hand, heresy and apostasy are the sins against faith, and schism the sin against charity, that separate one from the Church–while other mortal sins destroy charity within us, they do not completely sever the bond of faith and charity with the Church). Here’s what faith is:


143 By faith, man completely submits his intellect and his will to God.2 With his whole being man gives his assent to God the revealer. Sacred Scripture calls this human response to God, the author of revelation, “the obedience of faith”.3

144 To obey (from the Latin ob-audire, to “hear or listen to”) in faith is to submit freely to the word that has been heard, because its truth is guaranteed by God, who is Truth itself.

Acknowledging the one God is not faith (that comes from reason, see CCC 50); believing His revelation is. But one cannot even have faith unless one believes in God first (see Hebrews 11:6). Mormons do not acknowledge God (they profess their god to be a creature).

So what is God’s revelation that must be submitted to unconditionally? Ultimately it is Jesus.


65 Christ, the Son of God made man, is the Father’s one, perfect and unsurpassable Word. In him he has said everything; there will be no other word than this one.

This is why believing in the Word made flesh is necessary (that is the faith necessary to please God–see CCC 161 in my prior post). Believing in Christ is believing God’s Word. JWs do not believe in the Word made flesh. The specific truths proposed by the Church as articles of faith must be believed with faith as we come to know them, but innocent ignorance in their regard does not impede salvation, so long as one has totally submitted themselves to Christ–since all those truths are contained in Him (and why culpably rejecting them destroys our faith in Him). Not ever Catholic knows every detail and that’s ok so long as they intend to be completely submitted to Christ, who encompasses all such truths about God and His saving plan of loving goodness. That is the Gospel.

Finally, charity is necessary since God is a communion of love and therefore to have communion with Him, we must love Him and those He loves. This is why the Church is a community of persons necessary for salvation, because God is a community of persons.

All that being said, while there is only one way of salvation, there are many “on ramps” whereby souls begin their journey on the one way. Some enter very early and travel the one way their whole lives (like those born and raised by Catholic parents who persevere to the end). Other get on later and some even get on at the very end just before death–at the “eleventh hour” (see Christ’s parable of the workers in the vineyard).

If there is a privilege, it is being on the one way one’s whole life. But persevering to the end in faith and charity (ultimately what being Catholic is about) is what is necessary for salvation. And God gives these graces at different times for different people, but all are offered them at some point.

Have you been hanging around with the Angelic Doctor again? :wink:

Very well stated!!!


Clearly this user has taken the Aquinas pill.


Outside the Church, there is no salvation. If anyone is saved, it is through the Church.

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