Can one be saved outside the CC?

This may be a question that has been asked before, but I’m not on this forum that often. The Church seems pretty quiet on this lately, although St Augustine clearly states, no.

LOVE! :heart:

The Church clearly teaches there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church. The debate is what that actually means.
The Church does not list individuals or groups who would fall under invincible ignorance (those who through no fault of their own do not know Christ and his Church but in that ignorance still live a good life according to the teaching of Christ may (not will) be saved) so anyone saying this that or the other person will be saved is simply speculating and expressing an opinion.

Personally (my opinion), I think very few people in the world will be covered by invincible ignorance.

I agree with the other poster that very few people are invincibly ignorant. This makes evangelization important.

As far as Protestants, the church holds that they are in the church by virtue of their baptism. They are missing many of the sacraments and other tools of receiving Gods grace of forgiveness and healing after falling into sin and so they too need our prayers and evangelization.

I second what the other two posters said. The Church hasn’t been as quiet on this as you seem to think. Here is something I wrote which looks briefly at what the Second Vatican Council says on this topic:

Is the Catholic Church Necessary for Salvation?

This topic is also dealt with in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraphs 846-848) and I’m almost positive Benedict mentions it in Spe Salvi (although I might be wrong on that last point.)

If you want a more detailed treatment of the Church’s perennial teaching on this, I can’t recommend Ralph Martin’s book, Will Many Be Saved? highly enough.

God bless.

My understanding is technically no. However, whether one has to be a physical member of the Church to be saved is, I think, another, related issue. The Church offers the Sacraments, and therefore, according to Catholic teaching, it is easier to be saved by availing oneself of them though this is no guarantee. Without the Sacraments, it is more difficult but not impossible. In any case, according to Christian–and Catholic–belief, it is Jesus who saves THROUGH the Church. If He wishes to save a Protestant or even a non-Christian or an atheist, that is up to Him.

It is not just an opinion of St. Augustine; rather, it is a dogma of Catholic faith that no one is saved unless he be united to the Catholic Church at the moment of his death (cf. Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam, A.D. 1302).

Clearly, this union of an individual with the Church normally involves formal and visible membership; however, God can, if he so wills, unite a soul to his Church apart from the normal means, as with the thief on the cross – not by bypassing sanctifying grace and the virtues, but by infusing them in an extraordinary way.

I think there will be a lot of people covered by “invincible ignorance.” There is also “Baptism of desire” to consider. And I have no reason to believe that God will not and does not touch all lives in a way to make salvation possible. This is from my own experience of learning about God through a near death experience.

Prior to that experience I did not know God existed or what salvation even meant. After that experience I did. So I tend to think that God will make the effort to assist all people regardless of where they live or what their circumstances are. In the end each of us will be the one finally responsible for where we land up in eternal life, by our choices in this life.

I do believe that there are many members of Judaism or the Muslim faith who unwittingly follow Christ to a greater degree than many Christians. I trust that all who follow Christ will somehow be saved.

LOVE! :heart:

Just a few short months ago, you submitted a response in this thread titled “**Salvation outside of the Church?” **
There was a lot of material presented in that thread, which makes me wonder what, if anything, did you not understand from what you read? Your OP leaves much unsaid in order that anyone may help you.

Had I remembered this post, I would not have started a new thread. Sorry!

LOVE! :heart:

No problem, but if you started it because there is something you did not understand, maybe a clarification would be helpful. :slight_smile:

Church Fathers on Invincible Ignorance and the Possibility of Salvation for Non-Catholics

97 A.D. - Pope St. Clement I - “Let us go through all generations, and learn that in generation and generation the Master has given a place of repentance to those willing to turn to Him. Noah preached repentance, and those who heard him were saved. Jonah preached repentance to the Ninivites; those who repented for their sins appeased God in praying, and received salvation, even though they were aliens of God.” (1 Clement 7:5-7)

157 A.D. - St. Justin Martyr - “Christ is the Logos [Divine Word] of whom the whole race of men partake. Those who lived according to Logos are Christians, even if they were considered atheists, such as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus.” (First Apology 46)

180 A.D. - St. Irenaeus - “Christ came not only for those who believed from the time of Tiberius Caesar, nor did the Father provide only for those who [are currently alive], but for absolutely all men from the beginning, who according to their ability, feared and loved God and lived justly…and desired to see Christ and to hear His voice.” (Against Heresies Book IV Chapter 22 Paragraph 2)

~335 A.D. - Hegemonius of Chalcedon - “From the creation of the world [God] has always been with just men. … Were they not made just from the fact that they kept the law, ‘Each one of them showing the work of the law on their hearts…?’ For when someone who does not have the law does by nature the things of the law, this one, not having the law, is a law for himself. … For if we judge that a man is made just without the works of the law…how much more will they attain justice who fulfilled the law containing those things which are expedient for men?” (Acts of Archelaus with Manes)

~340 A.D. - Eusebius of Caesarea - “But even if we [Christians] are certainly new…yet our life and mode of conduct, in accord with the precepts of religion, has not been recently invented by us; but from the first creation of man, so to speak, it is upheld by natural inborn concepts of the ancient men who loved God… But if someone would describe as Christians those who are testified to as having been righteous [going back] from Abraham to the first man, he would not hit wide of the truth.” (Church History Book I Chapter 1 Paragraph 4)

374 A.D. - St. Gregory Nazianzus - “[A certain pagan] was ours even before he was of our fold. His way of living made him such. For…many of those outside [the Church] belong to us, who by their way of life anticipate the faith, and need [only] the name, having the reality.” (Oration 18:6)

384 A.D. - St. John Chrysostom - “And Peter,” it says, “opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons.” (Acts 10:34.) … Was He “a respecter of persons” beforetime? God forbid! For beforetime likewise it was just the same: “Every one,” as he saith, “that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, would be acceptable to Him.” As when Paul saith, “For when the Gentiles which have not the Law, do by nature the things of the Law.” (Rom. ii. 14.) “That feareth God and worketh righteousness:” he assumes both doctrine and manner of life: is “accepted with Him;” for, if He did not overlook the Magi, nor the Ethiopian, nor the thief, nor the harlot, much more them that work righteousness, and are willing, shall He in anywise not overlook. “What say you then to this, that there are likely persons, men of mild disposition, and yet they will not believe?” Lo, you have yourself named the cause: they will not. But besides the likely person he here speaks of is not this sort of man, but the man “that worketh righteousness:” that is, the man who in all points is virtuous and irreproachable, when he has the fear of God as he ought to have it. But whether a person be such, God only knows. See how this man was acceptable: see how, as soon as he heard, he was persuaded.’’

395 A.D. - St. Augustine - “[Y]ou are not considered at fault if you, against your will, are ignorant; however, if you are ignorant because you fail to ask, you are at fault. … So even now, if ignorance of the truth and difficulty in behaving rightly are [natural]…no one properly condemns the soul because of its natural origin. But if a man refuses to strive for excellence, or wills to step back from where he set out, he justly and properly suffers punishment.” (On Free Choice of the Will Volume III Chapter 19)

~440 A.D. - St. Cyril of Alexandria - “[The Lord] is also the God of the gentiles, and has fully satisfied by laws implanted in their hearts, which the Maker has engraved in the hearts of all. For when the gentiles, [Paul] says, not having the law, do by nature the things of the law, they show the work of the law written on their hearts. But since He is not only the Maker and God of the Jews, but also of the gentiles…He sees fit by His providence to care not only for those who are of the blood of Israel, but also for all those upon the earth.” (Against Julian 3)

More Church Fathers, Medieval Doctors, and Pre-Vatican II Popes on Invincible Ignorance and the Possibility of Salvation for Non-Catholics

593 A.D. - Pope St. Gregory the Great - “The passion of the Church began already with Abel, and there is one Church of the elect, of those who precede, and of those who follow. … They were, then, outside, but yet not divided from the holy Church, because in mind, in work, in preaching, they already held the sacraments of faith, and saw that loftiness of Holy Church.” (Homilies on Ezekiel Book II Chapter 3 Paragraph 16)

~853 A.D. - Haymo of Halberstadt - “[Some pagans] show surely that they have the natural law written on their hearts, and they are the law for themselves: because they do the things that the law teaches, even though it was not given to them. For example, the Saracens who have neither the law of Moses nor of the Gospel, while by nature they keep the law, do not commit murder, or commit adultery, or other things, which the law written within them contains; they are a law to themselves. … In the second way: When the gentiles…naturally do the things…because they have the same law of Moses written on their hearts by the inspiration of Almighty God…‘their conscience bearing witness to them, and their thoughts in turn accusing or even defending.’ And when will this be? ‘On the day when the Lord will judge the hidden things of men’ according to my Gospel.” (Exposition on Romans 2:14-16)

~990 A.D. - Oecumenius - “[Some pagans] do the things of the law using the reasonings of nature for just actions. These are wonderful, not needing a teacher, being their own lawgivers and fulfillers of the legislation. … ‘Their conscience bearing witness to them,’ for it is enough in place of the law to have their own conscience testifying for them. … At that judgment we do not need external accusers or witnesses…but each one’s own reasonings and conscience either accuses or defends.” (On Romans 2:14-16)

1274 A.D. - St. Thomas Aquinas - “[It] is not imputed as a sin to man, if he fails to know what he is unable to know. Consequently ignorance of such like things is called ‘invincible,’ because it cannot be overcome by study. For this reason such like ignorance, not being voluntary, since it is not in our power to be rid of it, is not a sin: wherefore it is evident that no invincible ignorance is a sin.” (Summa Theologica I-II Question 76 Article 2)

1532 A.D. - Francisco de Vitoria - “For [those] to whom no preaching of the faith or Christian religion has come…if they do what in them lies, accompanied by a good life according to the law of nature, it is consistent with God’s providence [that] He will illuminate them regarding the name of Christ [so that they may be saved]… [And] if before hearing anything of the Christian religion they were excused [from the sin of unbelief], they are put under no fresh obligation by a simple declaration and announcement of [the gospel], for such announcement is no proof or incentive to belief… Nay…it would be rash and imprudent for any one to believe anything, especially in matters which concern salvation, unless he knows that this is asserted by a man worthy of credence…[therefore] matters of faith are seen and become evident by reason of their credibility.”

1863 - Blessed Pope Pius IX - “There are, of course, those who are struggling with invincible ignorance about our most holy religion. Sincerely observing the natural law and its precepts inscribed by God on all hearts and ready to obey God, they live honest lives and are able to attain eternal life by the efficacious virtue of divine light and grace. Because God knows, searches and clearly understands the minds, hearts, thoughts, and nature of all, his supreme kindness and clemency do not permit anyone at all who is not guilty of deliberate sin to suffer eternal punishments.” (Quanto Conficiamur Moerore 7)

1908 A.D. - Pope St. Pius X - “A person outside the Church by his own fault, and who dies without perfect contrition, will not be saved. But he who finds himself outside without fault of his own, and who lives a good life, can be saved by the love called charity, which unites unto God, and in a spiritual way also to the Church, that is, to the soul of the Church.” (Catechism of Christian Doctrine)

And: “If [a man] is outside the Church through no fault of his [own], that is, if he is in good faith, and if he has received Baptism, or at least has the implicit desire of Baptism; and if, moreover, he sincerely seeks the truth and does God’s will as best he can,] such a man is indeed separated from the body of the Church, but is united to the soul of the Church and consequently is on the way of salvation.” (Catechism of Pope St. Pius X, the Ninth Article of the Creed, Question 29)

And: “The absence of Baptism can be supplied by martyrdom, which is called Baptism of Blood, or by an act of perfect love of God, or of contrition, along with the desire, at least implicit, of Baptism, and this is called Baptism of Desire.” (Catechism of Pope St. Pius X, On Baptism, Question 17)

Dmar, that was quite a thorough synopsis of historical Catholic teaching on this issue. :thumbsup:
I was edified the other night when Mother Angelica taught on my favorite scripture from John 14:21. “Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” She emphasized the word “whoever” and said that this applies to ALL (not just Catholics) who in purity of conscience, keep God’s law. They are beloved of God and the Lord Jesus will manifest himself to them.

Of course, I agree with her, but it was providentially timely that I happened upon that broadcast, since I had seen that scripture hotly contested recently. God bless Mother!

I often wonder what the purpose of this question is.

  1. we can’t know for sure
  2. God gave us a plan of salvation
  3. he told us to tell the world and make disciples.
  4. he told us narrow is the gate and few find it.

So I see it as presumptuous to assume everyone is saved. It may be true, but it may not.

I think we hold such a view because we hate the idea of people suffering.

The danger is that in sort of putting our head in the sand, we are potentially not evangelizing as fervently, and possible many more are lost than should be.

The purpose? I suppose “no salvation outside the Church” is so controversial b/c it runs directly contrary to the general relativism that is the fashion of the age. The idea that other people, even entire other cultures, are wrong, while the Church is right, is shocking to the relativist, in fact it violates everything he holds (intellectually) dear. Its the same with the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. Many today want Him to be another spiritual guru, but can’t handle the idea that in His Name and in His Name alone can we be saved.

There are folks who always see the negative, and act as if they alone are on the road to salvation, and very few are as fortunate as Catholics.

And there are those who believe and trust in God’s Infinite Mercy as evidenced in the countless encyclicals that teach salvation is possible outside of card-carrying Catholics, such as those presented by Dmar above

I guess in the final analysis, one need not listen to the Church, but follow the glass half-empty idealogy that holds greater appeal.

I get it really , but isn’t there a bit of Pasquals wager here.

If everyone is saved and you evangelize them and act as if few are saved- no harm

If few are saved and we evangelize as if few are saved we will save more.

If few are saved and we act as if all are saved. Then many will be lost.

I agree also.

LOVE! :heart:

That’s why personal opinion does not hold up and is destructive to the Mystical Body of Christ… We need to listen to the Church. What does she teach? Many will be lost? :dts: Do our best to bring all into the fold in unity with us? :yup:

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit