Can non-Christians be saved?


The following question and answer was in my church bulletin this past Sunday. I have some SERIOUS issues with this, despite the Impimatur.

Do you agree with “The Padre’s” answer?

Dear Padre,

I have a question: Can every good person go to heaven after they die, even if they haven’t been a Christian? My dad is from India and he just grew up with another religion. My mom, sister, and me are Catholic. I am afraid that we won’t see each other again after we die.


Dear Mira,

Put your mind at ease. A person who is not a Christian can go to heaven. I imagine we will see many more people than we think in heaven. Heaven is not just for Christians, but for everyone who loves God and respond’s to God’s will in his or her life.

We know that God wants all people to be saved, not just Christians. Jesus began a Church to help people achieve salvation. What I know as a Catholic is that God called me into the Church. It is there that I will work out my salvation. I do not know why there are some people who have never heard of Jesus or who do not have the faith to join the Church. I do know that God wants them in heaven just like God want me in heaven.

You should pray for your dad and be a faithful Catholic. Perhaps your good example will help him become a Christian. Even if he never becomes a Christian, your prayers will help him work out his salvation without the benefit of the sacraments and a believing community. Ih he does what is right, God will reward him.

The Padre
Father Joseph Nolen, C.Ss.R.

2004 Liguori Publications, Liguori, MO 63057-9999 Printed in USA

Impimatur: Most Rev. Robert J. Herman, Archdiocese of St. Louis


Yes, Fr. Nolen is correct that non-Christians may find salvation. To expand upon his answer, here is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on the issue of the salvation of non-Christians:

This affirmation “outside the Church there is no salvation”] 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).

Although 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, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men (CCC 848).

The Catechism’s passages are a more formal means of stating what Fr. Nolen told Mira: It is possible for non-Christians to find salvation so long as they are faithful to the light God has given them. They may not know until the next life that their salvation was accomplished through Christ and his Church. A Christian’s prayers and example to non-Christians may be a means through which God can grant non-Catholics the grace of conversion.

**Recommended reading:

Can Outsiders Be Insiders?** by Fr. Peter Stravinskas
It Didn’t Go Out With Vatican II by Mark P. Shea

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