Catholic Answers Weak On Salvation?

Sorry I love Catholic Answers, but I am going to have to appeal to Karl Keating directly here. Here is the problem. This is from the current “Ask an Apologist .” Here is the quote regarding whether Jews should convert to Catholicism. I have a real problem with the word ONLY here.

“This means that those non-Christians who serve God to the best of their ability according to the light that they have can achieve salvation. Only if someone knew that Jesus is Messiah and God, that he founded the Catholic Church, that all who know this are required to enter it and remain in it, and deliberately refused to do so, could that person’s salvation be at risk should he not repent before death.”

It isn’t true that ONLY if someone knew that the Catholic church was the true Church, and they refused to enter it they would be damned. NOT TRUE AT ALL!!!
All are obligated, in a general sense, to enter the Catholic church. If someone doesnt know that the Catholic is the one true Church, and that ignorance is their fault(provided their ignorance doesnt reduce their sin to venial, and even then they would have to have no other mortal sins on their soul) then they would be damned even though they don’t “know” that the Church is the one true Church. The answer Catholic Answers gave makes it sound like no one can be damned unless they consciously know the Church is the one true Church, and obstinately refused to enter it.

Also these answers, in my opinion, should clearly state that those who aren’t Catholic run the risk of going to hell. As Dominus Iesus states non catholic are at a profound disadvantage when it comes to salvation.
Karl can we clear this up. Thanks!!!

I am not Karl Keating, But, I have to ask why you are so interested in sending people to hell? Jesus died for their sins, too. Who are you to presume where God should send them?

And to presume that those who are not Catholic run the risk of going to hell ignores that there are a lot of Catholics running that same risk.

What is there to clear up? This is the Church’s teaching, Ask the Apologist got this one right.

No!!! Vatican II never uses the word “only” however the apologist did. If someone is ignorant of the Catholic faith and the ignorance isn’t invincible then that is a sin and they can be damned for it. The apologist said “ONLY” if some knew the Church was the one true faith, and refused to enter it then they would be damned. SHOW ME THE WORD ONLY–!!! NOT THERE SORRY—

What is your interpretation of “invincible ignorance?” If someone is raised in India as a Hindu, but is an educated person that knows that some people believe in Jesus, is that person damned?

Is an evangelical that was raised to believe that the Catholic Church is the whore of Babylon, and truly believes that, damned?

I believe the teaching is that both of these individuals are invincibly ignorant. If not, can you give me an example of someone who is?

Gee, cool your jets. So many capitals and exclaimation point. I believe the apologist is right, even if the word “only” did not appear in a Vatican II document. From the Catechism:

847 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.

All the CA apologist did was state the contrapositive, which is a logical equivalent. This passage narrows the scope to one category of people. Obviously every one is in danger of Hell, Catholic as well. But one one must take the answer in the context of the question.


Invincible ignorance is different from ignorance. Invincible ignorance means the ignorance isnt their fault.

I don’t know what you mean by this. Can you give some examples of ignorance that is or is not that person’s fault? Maybe that will clarify why you think the answer was incorrect.


I think the point he's trying to make, albeit overly emotionally, is to show the difference between invincible ignorance and culpable ignorance.   Invincible ignorance just means that the person had no reasonable way to know.  Culpable ignorance would mean that the means to know, including grace from God, and by an act of his/her will, chose not to know.

 We have to keep in mind, though, that it is Jesus' job to judge the culpability of souls, not ours.  On the other hand, we have a duty to admonish the sinner and instruct the ignorant. ;)

Before this discussion proceeds too far down this road, may I point out that nobody actually knows what God’s criteria are to judge that ignorance is “invincible”. One encounters some Catholics who insist (but do not prove) that essentially the whole world is invincibly ignorant of Christ and His Church, due to one impediment or another. On the other hand, one encounters some zealous Catholics who insist (but do not prove) that essentially everybody except those in the deepest, darkest jungles (and perhaps not even they) have sufficient opportunity to know the truth that their ignorance of Christ and His Church cannot possibly be invincible.

The fact is that neither side has any access to God’s standards. As Bl. Pope Pius IX stated:

On the other hand, it must likewise be held certain that those who are affected by ignorance of the true religion, if it is invincible ignorance, are not subject to any guilt in this matter before the eyes of the Lord. Now, then, who could presume in himself an ability to set the boundaries of such ignorance, taking into consideration the natural differences of peoples, lands, native talents, and so many other factors? Only when we have been released from the bonds of this body and see God just as he is (see 1 John 3:2) shall we really understand how close and beautiful a bond joins divine mercy with divine justice. But as long as we dwell on earth, encumbered with this soul-dulling mortal body, let us tenaciously cling to the Catholic doctrine that there is one God, one faith, one baptism (see Eph. 4:5). To proceed with further investigation is wrong (Singulari Quadam; my emphasis).

No one is saying or guessing as to what God’s criteria is for determining who is invincibly ignorant, and who isnt. The fact is the does teach that those who are invincibly ignorant can be saved. The apologist says that “only if a person KNEW that the Catholic church is the one true Church etc etc etc…” WRONG!!! Even if the person didn’t know that the Catholic church is the one true faith, and it was their fault they didnt know then they would be damned (provided their ignorance didnt reduce their sin to venial).

(my emphasis.) Yes, as you’ve formulated it there, I believe you’re right.

This is what I struggling with. If a person does not know that the Catholic Church is the one true church, how can it be his or her fault that he does not know? If one is raised Baptist and believes what he is taught by his parents and pastors, living his life as a faithful Baptist, is it his fault that he did not at some point convert to Catholicism? Is such a man damned?

There are various hypothetical scenarios. Someone could read scripture and see the clear contradictions in certain passages regarding Protestanism. They could “block that out” and not explore the possibility that the Catholic church is the one true Church. Or they could read a passage and realize it contradicts their Church’s teaching, but they still don’t explore all possibilities. There are tons of examples. If your going to argue that all ignorance is invincible then i think you would be hard presssed to find any magisterial texts that say that. They all use the term invincible ignorance. Mean the ignorance isnt their fault. We can even use common sense in our everyday life. sometimes we are ignorant of things, but the ignorance is our fault because we dont take the time to learn what we should.

Vincible ignorance. It is his or her fault that he never investigated the claims of the Catholic Church after being invited to do so, or after God moved his conscience to learn about Catholicism. The ignorance is culpable then.

If one is raised Baptist and believes what he is taught by his parents and pastors, living his life as a faithful Baptist, is it his fault that he did not at some point convert to Catholicism?

If he had the opportunity to learn the truth and turned away from that, yes. If God called him to consider the errors of Protestantism and he chose, through arrogance or self-righteousness to never listen to the Catholic truth about things, yes. If he heard a Catholic preacher who caused him to be confused about the errors of the Baptist faith, but closed off all inquiry, then yes.

Is such a man damned?

Since some men would be damned in those situations, the text from Catholic Answers as quoted above should be changed to include a phrase like “ignorance through no fault of his own” and perhaps adding a sentence that we have an obligation to pursue the truth to the best of our ability according to the grace and calling of God.

Excellent post!!!:thumbsup:

I think that most ordinary people find themselves twisted and wrestled to the mat in a pretzel of mental dead-lock when so called “experts” try to knit together and juxtapose multiple instances of indefinite religious concepts with the crude bale wire of absolute “definate” semantics (e.g. “ONLY” juxtaposed with the words “may” and “could”). It’s as if some theologians are trying to simultaneously be dogmatic with traditional clear crisp boundaries at the same time they want to permit the fuzziness of subjective uncertainty (that is reserved for God alone) by using a thick crayola. And here I think most want to see those thick lines as boundaries so wide that most people (within 2 sigmas of the population) can easily hide and camp out here. Thus these kinds of “answers” just let people feel comfortable living right on the edge of the frontier with a plausible hope (which may be nothing more than pandering) that they fall solidly within in bounds of those big fat boundary lines. We all need hope - but the stakes are eternal so we should error on the side of caution and tighten up the lines.

So, to me these sorts of explanations all sound schizophrenic, and I think dangerously so relative to the stakes of eternity. It just panders to the traditional secular human proclivity to embrace mediocrity “as good enough for Government work (and in a secular world that means for God too)”. How can the theology bemoan moral relativism while at the same time saying there are no absolutes or at least crisper boundaries in the interpretation of the catechism? I note here as an aside the irony that most world population densities tend to cluster in the same manner as I describe here - around the boundaries and edges near the natural shore lines. With a majority living so “close to the edge” both in their Christian beliefs and in their lives all it would take is a large global tidal surge of misfortune (or wrath) to take out a majority of the human species.

So I sometimes wonder if there is some hidden benevolence intentioned in this kind of lexical spaghetti complained about in the OP? I really sort of wonder is it purposely concocted to manufacture a condition of convenient “invincible ignorance” for the masses just so they “may” be saved. :smiley: I always suspected that behind Luther was the same intended benevolent genius to give the common man the bible he could not even read and the single teaching “no Pope but by faith ALONE” (and the whispered part “… so ye shall be invincibly ignorant and thereby gain salvation the easy way”). :rolleyes: Teachers have a a moral responsibility to be ever on guard against the principal of unintentional consequences - even when having benevolent motives.

*Quite frankly I tend to agree with the OP. I don’t like the negation used here by CA to re-express the original church teaching since I think it obscures the more apparent “indefinite” texture in the catechism. Here we have the word “only” in the front matter. The lazy reader is going to gloss over the distant word “could” and the hidden assumption that the invincibly ignorant person is also NOT immune to the other more likely case of being in mortal sins (laws written on the heart) that he has likely committed and born all his life. :shrug: *

Sorry, if an invincibly ignorant cannibal who found my my Catholic missionary work distasteful decided to literally have me for lunch then I insist he at least get heart burn out of the exchange for landing me in hell for being an incompetent teacher and his going to heaven for being stupid and having poor taste. :smiley:

Here I would like to inject an counter-example to make a point:

“Those who receive a dose of nuclear radiation from the war we are currently engaged in MAY die ONLY if you know its a fatal dose. Forget for the moment those already dead and buried who are immune from this rule and the fallout that is presently all around us and the others here all dieing of deadly diseases.” :wink:

I think the clearest way to express the concept at hand it is to put emphasis on the much higher UNCERTAINTY of survival (salvation) for those who do not know they need to wear a life preserver and shark repellent when swimming in deep and shark infested waters away from other help.

Too many people probably tend to equate the word “may” in the Catechism and the CA answer too generously or as if being giving permission to do a dubious thing or else in the most probable and positive expectation. But it is safer and I think more responsible to interpret it in the narrower indefinite sense (and probably much smaller) “possibility”. It is certainly possible to win the lotto at a 1 in 200 million chance - but chances are quite slim indeed that you will - but God is merciful and he knows I’d build him a new church if I did win.

I really think The Church should put more compelling verbiage around this teaching to prevent people sitting on the fence thinking about Catholicism from simultaneously embracing “invincible ignorance” as a faux touch-stone for the Christian virtue of meekness and humility and also as a fetish or relic for salvation.:wink:

I think a more compelling message that should get people off the fence and to be less wishy washy would be to say something like:
“Those who through ABSOLUTELY no fault of their own who in this modern day of mass communication and plentiful information about God, Jesus and The One True Catholic Church who are invincibly ignorant (in particular the mentally impaired, poorly educated or easily duped) and who serve God to the BEST of their ability according to the light that they have MAY possibly achieve salvation according to how God elects to measure and appoint His Mercy.”*

I say, ‘let’s get people off the fences and out from hiding behind “good enough for me then good enough for God” thinking…’


Actually my friend in Christ. The author of this statement is both clear and correct.

He is saying (this is my understanding) only that uncontrollable ignorance lessons ones cupability. (inculapable ignorance) for which only God Himself can pass judgement.

God who is, has to be “All Just” must allow for “all peoples to be saved.” After all, that is why God became man, died for us and unlocked the gates of Heaven.:rolleyes:

The author is simply articulating well, the position of our RCC.:slight_smile:

True the RCC is the depot of the Singular Truth on matters of Faith and or Morals. True, all salvation is mysteriously tied to the RCC, which is the only Chrisitian Church actually founded by Jesus.

But while one benifits GREATLY, from being an informed. fully obedient and practcing RC, and certainly being such a Catholic affords one greater access to heaven, it is nevertheless true, that other Christians, so long as it does not conflict with God’s Mercy, and other peoples of other faiths, can due to God’s Love, Mercy and Justice. seek and attain Salvation.:thumbsup:

God bless you my friend in Christ!

PJM m.c

BVM please lead us to your Son Jesus:)

The apologist is clearly wrong.

Only if one is innocently ignorant of Catholic doctrine can one receive a baptism of desire and enter into implicit communion with the Church.

If the person is culpably ignorant, they will be damned.

Funny that the OP is all in uproar of a change in one word. You have changed the word “invincibly” to “innocently”, another significant change. The apologist is clearly wrong? Pot meet kettle.

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