Catholic teaching on salvation


I’m Catholic, and I feel I know my faith pretty well. But in trying to explain to a non-Catholic how we Catholics believe salvation works, I discovered that I myself do not really understand or know the Church’s teaching on salvation. With evangelicals, it’s simple: you accept Jesus, and boom! You’re saved!

But what exactly is the Church’s official teaching on salvation? Here’s what I think I know so far:

-We are actively involved in our salvation; we must cooperate with God every step of the way.
-We are actually made perfect, not just “declared” perfect, as many protestants teach.

But aside from that, I really dont know HOW we’re saved. Can someone who fully understands the teaching explain it? Can you provide links to documents or point me to something that will explain it fully?




Simply put, we are saved by Grace (a free gift from God). Here’s the Catholic Encyclopdiea expansion on it:

Here the CCC:
169 Salvation comes from God alone; but because we receive the life of faith through the Church, she is our mother: "We believe the Church as the mother of our new birth, and not in the Church as if she were the author of our salvation."55 Because she is our mother, she is also our teacher in the faith.

Jesus Christ’s Sacrafice on the cross merited the redemption of all, but we must cooperate with God’s Grace for Salvation. Please correct me if I am wrong. Thanks and God Bless.


Jesus Christ died for the salvation of all men, and made satisfction for all.

Jesus Christ died for all, but not all are saved, because not all will acknowledge Him; all do not observe His Law; all do not avail themselves of the means of slavation He has left us.

It is not enough for our salvation that Jesus Christ has died for us; it is also neccessary that the fruit of His Passion and death be applied to each one of us, which is accomplished especially by means of the Sacraments instituted for this end by Jesus Christ Himself; and as many either do not receive the Sacraments at all, or do not receive them well, they thus render the death of Jesus Crhist useless in their regard.

God Bless :


Salvation is a process of becoming more Christ-like. We do that through faith and works.


[quote=UKcatholicGuy]But what exactly is the Church’s official teaching on salvation?

As someone said, quite simply, we are saved by grace. But Catholics recognize that grace doesn’t simply come from faith. So here is a brief synopsis, for people above the age of reason:

The Holy Spirit is active in our lives, awakening in us an awareness of sin and a need to change. By the grace of that same Spirit, we are led to detest sin, to repent of our sin, and to believe in and hope in God for salvation through Jesus Christ. This is, I believe, what the Council of Trent refers to as the preparation for justification.

Next comes justification. Those who have been led by the Holy Spirit to do what has been described already, will now be baptized. Thus, we go from being “in Adam” to being “in Christ”, we enter the state of grace, we are adopted by the Father, we participate in divine life (2 Pet. 1:4) by faith (Romans 3; Ephesians 2:8) and baptism (John 3:5; Acts 2:38, 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21). Both are necessary for the state of grace. In this justification, we are also sanctified (1 Cor. 6:11), we are actually *made *holy, not just declared holy. If we die at this point, we go to heaven.

Those who have thus been justified/sanctified can now keep the moral law (Romans 8:4), albeit not without struggling with concupiscence and venial sins (1 John 5:16). Having been justified, we can still lose the state of grace by serious sin (1 Cor. 6:9; Romans 11:22; Hebrews 10:26-29 etc.). Thus if the state of grace can be lost through serious sin, it is thus maintained by avoidance of serious sin, which is best achieved by putting to death the misdeeds of the flesh (Romans 8:13). In other words, by leading the holy life God wants us to lead. This process of living the Christian life is refered to in Philipians:

“Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (2:12-13)

Thus, once we have been given the state of grace freely, we are called to cooperate with grace to work out our salvation. But it is important to remember that the works we do in this process are themselves gifts of God (Eph. 2:10). Thus, even our works are gifts of God’s grace.

This all fits very well into the scriptural view of salvation, which describes it as a past event which occurred at a specific time (Eph. 2:8), a process of the present (Phil. 2:12), and a future event (Romans 13:11).

Not an easy formula like the Protestants prefer, but more faithful to scripture.


wow, thanks JH! That helps a lot!

God bless!


It took me a long time to be able to articulate this as well. Here is my understanding of what the Church teaches. There are several elements involved:

In our inherited state of original sin and because of our own sins, we are seperated from God. Nothing we can do *on our own power * can bridge this gap.

Out of love for us God sent us his Son who willingly died for us on the cross. By this means we are redeemed, i.e., he provided a means for us to be justified with God (Jn 3:16).

This redemption and the salvation that goes with it is applied to us, initially, through being born again in baptism (Jn 3:5).

In addition, we must believe in – have faith in – Jesus. This belief is not a mere intellectual or emotional acceptence, but a commitment to follow and obey him as Our Lord (Jn 3:36). This means, as part of our salvation we are to obliged to avoid evil (Rom 6:23) and to do good, both of which we will held accountable for (Rom 2:6-10).

We can loose our salvation by commiting mortal sin and not repenting of it, thus placing ones self in a state of rebellion against God. Salvation can be restored through sincere repentence and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Both the intial grace of salvation and the good works that we are given to do are the initiative of God. Again, we have no power to save ourselves on our own, but are to cooperate with the grace given us by God for that purpose. Through faith in Christ, hope (confidence) in God’s promises that he wants to save us and will give us the means, and charity (cooperating with God in our salavtion – Php 2:12-13), we can persevere.

For more info, I;d suggest the Catholic Answers tracts found here:

I’d also recommend Jimmy Akin’s book, “The Salvation Controversy,” found here:

Hope that helps!


[quote=jimmy]Salvation is a process of becoming more Christ-like. We do that through faith and works.

I prefer to state it as “faith working through love”. Gal 5:6.

OUR WORKS have NO MERRIT. But Christ working in us has merritt.

Eph 3
20] Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, 21] to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.

These are not works the scripture calls filthy rags but the works that God sees that are holy and pure when we are brought before him. These works have value and I highly recommend that you have some when you are before him.

Romans 2
4] Or do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
5] But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
6] For he will render to every man according to his works:
7] to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;
8] but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury.


I’m Catholic, and I feel I know my faith pretty well. But in trying to explain to a non-Catholic how we Catholics believe salvation works, I discovered that I myself do not really understand or know the Church’s teaching on salvation. With evangelicals, it’s simple: you accept Jesus, and boom! You’re saved!

Yes, and this is as different from the Catholic Faith as a stick figure drawing is from a real portrait. It is an extreme oversimplification that leaves so much out as to make one want to cry! As any adult knows, the simple and the complex are complementary and go together; but the simplistic and the complicated are contradictories and opposite extremes that are counterfeits. Thus a human being is simple in the unity of the person and bodily nature which at the same time is greatly complex on both sides. The higher one goes in creation the more one sees of that; and the Apostolic Faith the Church has received is even more so, because the Reality of the Christ Mystery is more so.

What is salvation? Negatively it is simply the application of Redemption to the individual in a way that he is not lost and the full Vision of God (positively) – which is after all choice is gone.

The Son of God became one of us and redeemed us on the Cross. This objective Redemption was accomplished for the race in the actual personal human nature of Jesus Who, raised from the dead, has the Holy Spirit in His human soul illuminating His entire personal body and is able to manifest and communicate that same Holy Spirit to others in a full way.

In their experience of the Resurrected Lord that communication began for the Twelve (it was their Baptism, for He breathed the Spirit on them on Easter evening). The Redemption which is none other than Divine Life, personal, i.e, Trinitarian life was begun. But it is at Pentecost that this Trinitarian Personal Divine Life was thoroughly given to the Twelve gathered around the Virgin Mary, and the disciples around them. (That was their Confirmation night.)

This application to them of what Our Lord had gained for His own humanity removed all guilt of sin, Original and personal, and all punishment due as a result, but it did not remove all traces of Original Sin in them – Mary never had such traces because she never had the Sin – though it did so to a very great degree in their particular cases. But to others who were not in the Event of the Descent of the Holy Spirit, like the 3,000 Jews from all parts of the known world who heard St. Peter preach to them, this communication of the Redemption that is in Christ involved accepting the grace to believe Peter’s preaching, a direct Word from God, accepting the added grace to repent of their sins, and Baptism (with Confirmation by the laying on of hands) and repenting, and therefore union with the newborn Church in Faith, Hope, Charity and the spiritual discipline the Twelve had over all.

Communion with that Apostolic Communion of the Church meant communion with the Holy Trinity; and like a human body, it was both simple and complex, i.e., having many qualitatively distinct elements and persons in one supernatural unity of Invisible Head and visible Body with a visible head in St. Peter and the Eleven. They celebrated the Eucharist that Day of the Lord, and so has the same Church every Sunday since.

Redemption was applied to them, or rather entered into them in this sacramental experience of real communion of Faith. Acts shows this. This did not mean that salvation was already perfectly attained never able to be lost. Salvation was begun. And this was a real sanctification that involved their real acceptance and participation. The recipients of this applied redemption were not passive inert things that are moved like pawns or lifeless tools, but real persons with minds and wills and personalities whom God had made such. As a consequence when God’s graces to believe, repent and accept Baptism were given, they actively believed, actively repented, actively accepted and cooperated in being baptized (which means, remember, having to arrange to go to where water was, removed some of their clothes and get wet!, having hands laid on them and anointed. It not only took time, it required their active free will cooperation – they were not dead corpses immersed without their say-so or without conscious cooperation!).

continued. . .


God is the first and complete cause of their salvation having been started, or Redemption having been applied historically to each entering into the Church, but they with their own personal cooperation with all that God did were the second cause. God did all first as cause of all; they simultaneously actively received all and were second causes of all. Two were dancing together, God and the individual, not God dancing and pushing around a dead body inert with no cognition; God acting sacramentally by the visible members of the Body of the Church in a way He once did by using His personal Body in preaching and Baptizing (He did this, too, remember, in His early public life!).

Of course, the result was complete joy in the Divine life, confidence in God’s love; but it was also a perseverance to the end! Salvation has been begun, but one must persevere to the end for it to be complete and final. Now GOD knows (by His choice) if each will freely persevere so as to be eternally saved; he will not withdraw His choice. But after baptism, one does not lose free will; one does not lose the possibility of sinning. Indeed, we still have those tendencies resulting from Original Sin of a wounded nature that inclines to sin, yet God does not tell us if we will be finally saved because He wants us to trust Him and not slack.

The repentance needed for an adult to be baptized is the decision not ever to sin seriously again (first conversion) with a sin that would kill the personal relationship with God by breaking freely a known command of His in some matter He says is serious. But that does not mean that slight sins, or habits of them, which do not break a serious command of God but do go against His will do not occur. One’s guilt about that and subsequent punishment due can exist for which repentance and an expiation under grace are needed – a second degree of conversion after Baptism determined to eradicate all venial sin!

Knowledge of human beings shows that the possibility of falling into deadly sin that removes the “salvation-that-was-begun”, i.e., breaks the friendship with God, does occur. In fact, in our times, it is probably the usual experience due to stopping prayer during their adolescence or college-age years for Christians baptized as infants and brought up in the Faith. But for that God has given us the second “baptism” of the Sacrament of Penance for this purpose (which also is extremely powerful for the second degree of conversion of eliminating all venial sin and its punishment due: it is part of the Sacrament of Penance to expiate and repair what one has admitted, confessed, and determined not to repeat. There is a third degree of conversion of detachment from self that is associated with the unitive way of infused sanctity. This is the way of the Saints, beyond that of the spiritual or proficient.

But contrasting now this Catholic (thus fuller) portrait of the salvation process to the stick figure of Evangelical belief, one can rather easily detect an infantile, simplistic, pollyanna reaction to self-centered fear of punishment and feeling of guilt in the latter.

continued. . .


When the Catholic child who does not receive the love of God mediated by the family comes across the teaching of the catechism which presumes it! about the conditions for persevering in salvation-begun and not losing it, he will misinterpret Catholicism and miss seeing the whole. He will be very prone to oversimplifying and thus take the stick figure alternative of Protestant belief as truth and think he’s not only better off, but superior in understanding Revelation. He’ll come out with platitudes naively asserted about “no conditions”. It is childish, but it calms the exaggerated fears of the past which distorted seeing things right in the first place. It is a premature “peace,” really a psychological-emotional overcoming of morbid fear about salvation. But it is also an unaware presumption of being right about Revelation because of the subjective role such over-simplification brings in eliminating self-centered worry. He will have little awareness that the solution he comes up with is still highly self-centered, because he has swung from thinking everything depended on himself to please God and avert condemnation (hopelessness) to everything depends on God alone (guaranteed!) and relieves him of having any responsibility for his own eventual salvation and presumes God has chosen him. As a result, he confuses his **own ** judgments about Scripture and Revelation with the Holy Spirit (since he doesn’t do anything in attaining salvation, except believe, of course, which is the illogical exception), so it must be the Holy Spirit, not him. Also, he will swing from the excessive fear of punishment for wrongdoing to no punishment at all for future sins for those who believe (because Christ took all that on Himself in place of our going through it, ignoring the glaring reality that we still die and suffer before death!).

This self-satisfied “peace” makes it easy for him to judge the Church (which is blamed for error that caused him painful fear before, conveniently avoiding any consideration that he had defects of psyche and/or upbringing by his parents, e.g., such a simple one of non-communication about important things like how one understands God. Oversimplification about salvation carried over to Scripture “alone” is understood by the individual, but seen as God the Holy Spirit telling on the Truth, against which every other belief, beit of the Universal Church even, is judged and rejected if contrary. Such people never rise to sanctity; indeed, they never even become proficients in the spiritual life, and their use of the sacraments - if they remain in the Church is really not as Catholics, but Protestants with distorted interpretation - and thus profit them little. Their lack of self-knowledge is astounding. They consider themselves equal to the Saints, or rather, more often just don’t look at the Saints lest those examples of heroic love of God show them up as infantile and simplistic. How comfortable is their ignorance and how pitiful. It strengthens their presumption of being right, increases their pride without their even noticing it.

In contrasting summary, we are saved by the grace (God’s choice) through faith leading to Baptism within the Church and moved by the charity of the Holy Spirit putting into practice the life of the virtues, with the aid of the Sacraments, gradually deepening into a holiness which if not attained in this life will be in the next by purification of post-baptismal sin of commission or omission, confident that God will bring to completion what He has begun in us, not presuming it is done already without our cooperation. A humble trust in God and distrust in self, combined with active participation, is the simple-complex reality.


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