Contradiction in teaching on salvation?

Consider the following 3 quotes:

  1. “There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved.” (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215.)

  2. “We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” (Pope Boniface VIII, the Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302.)

  3. “The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.” (Pope Eugene IV, the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441.)

**My questions are:

  1. Do these constitute official Catholic teaching?

  2. How can these be squared with the Vatican 2 teaching:**

“This * holds true not only for Christians, but for all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way. For, since Christ died for all men, and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery.”*

Great question. I have always wondered this. I do know that Pius XII, a traditional pope who I deeply respect, reprimanded Fr. Feeney who said any child not baptized will go to hell.

Personal opinion:

I think when it is said that there is no salvation outside of Mother Church we should take a few things into consideration (like what it means and what it does not mean):

What it means:

  • The only people who are saved (as in, the people who are in heaven right now) are rejoicing in the fullness of the truth (God) which is found in the Catholic Church

What it does not mean:

  • Only Catholics can be saved

Essentially, we can take from this that while it is possible for non-Catholics to be saved, they will not REMAIN as non-Catholics in heaven. Therefore, it is righteous to assume that those who willfully reject the teachings of the Church and choose to be obstinate in their sin risk damnation.

Frankly, Daegus, I don’t know if that’s an option, seeing one of the statements I posted says that people had better be united with the church BEFORE death.

Here’s an analogy I’ve used before. It’s not perfect, but it illustrates the point:

When we say that there is “no salvation outside the Catholic Church”, it does NOT mean that non-Catholics cannot be saved! It means that they might be saved in SPITE of a lack of knowledge. They will be doing the will of God, as passed down through the Bible and proclaimed most fully through the Catholic Church, without even realizing it. It’s akin to this. Imagine the Catholic Church as a 16 year old who goes out and buys a brand new car. They read the entire instruction manual, sign up and take driving lessons, and successfully make it to school. Now, imagine other groups are 16 year olds who go out and buy used cars. They have only partial instruction manuals, or perhaps no instruction manual at all. Some get lessons, but some do not. Now, they may eventually make it safely to school as well, but if school represents the Kingdom of Heaven, which route is the safer choice? If they DO make it to school, it will be by unintentionally following the rules that were in the book they never read and the lessons they never signed up for. (In other words, they were still saved THROUGH the Catholic Church).

I like your analogy, but again that is not what the previous passages state that were in the OP. The quotes taken in the OP clearly state that one must unite with the catholic faith BEFORE death.

In particular I am talking about the last one by Pope Eugene IV. Now the only issue here is if this was an infalliable teaching or not. One could argue that these quotes in the OP were never infalliable, therefore they can be changed.

The Papal quotes are in reference to the saving power of the Church and her sacraments. However, V2 acknowledges the God may save whomever He wishes. Good luck, though.

Well, this is not a new problem. Let me pose the following question before I go to bed, and see how people respond.

In 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered two entirely new continents full of Native Americans that never even had the possibility of hearing the “Word of God”. How did the Church of the 1500s deal with this question? Did God create half of a planet’s worth of people just to automatically be doomed to hell?

(Hint: You might want to look at Sublimus Deus and the Council of Trent…)

Well here are my thoughts on the matter,

I’d like to start out with a real noggin scratcher. The idea of Papal Infallibility was only officially introduced in 1870. So that being said, Is anything before that Infallible (even if spoken ex cathedra)? And just something else to think about. If someone declares themselves Infallible when in fact they are Fallible isn’t the declaration of Infallibility, fallible?

Anyways, About the line “but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her”. I would just like to point out it seems to be a direct reference to Matthew 25:41, “Then he will say to those on his left,’ Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels’.” Now this is the separation of the goats and sheep. And what is stated that they did to deserve this fate? “I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing.” Matthew only states these things. So what then does it mean to be “joined with Her”?

Or is it possible that the Fire Pope Eugene IV is talking about is the refining fire mentioned in 1 Corinthians 3:13? When it gives the idea of the flames in Purgatory?

So many questions. I dunno, But perhaps its like Vatican 2 states, It’s a mystery “known only to God”

Papal infallibility was **officially defined **at that time not introduced. It existed before that but with varying degrees of understanding.

Venerable Pius XII in Mediator Dei strictly rejects the antiquarianism, in the sense that antique documents cannot be freely interpreted against the recent decisions of the popes.

Boniface VIII certainly knew that the Church and the papacy was established by Jesus Christ, and at least some people who died before they were able to be subjected to the pope were saved. He meant that in his age and environment the denial of the primacy of the Pope is heresy and leads to damnation. So did the Council of Florence w/o taking provisions of the time and space outside of their control.

The Church is the Militant, the Suffering and the Triumphant Church and only those are saved who belong or will belong to one of this Churches, the Universalism that no matter what everyone will be saved is false. The membership of the Militant Church certainly and without any doubt is not the only way for the salvation, Abraham, Moses, and many others are saved, and there were not members of the militant Church.

The Militant Church is militant in the proper sense: the orders, in this case the decision of the XXI Ecumenical Council approved by Paul VI and his successors up to day represent the order

Wait, so Vatican 2 didn’t define any doctrine or dogma? So there is actually not a contradiction? So the official doctrine, then, is that you’re in the Catholic church or damned?

Exactly, but even if one is a Catholic, it is no guarantee of Salvation.

Can’t be. Check out your catechism:

841 The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.

846 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.

I think it’s a contradiction. The catechism says non-Christians can be saved. And the statement at the beginning of the thread says it is necessary for the salvation of every creature to be subject to the Roman pontiff.

Look back to my example. If a non-Catholic actually managed to be saved, it would be by following the rules of the Catholic Church without even realizing it, and by having lived an entire life free of mortal sin (since they have no opportunity for confession, although I suppose a remote possibility of an Act of Perfect Contrition would be possible). If they actually fulfilled these requirements, then yes, they would indeed by subject to the Roman Pontiff without even realizing it. Of course, it doesn’t take much to figure out that while possible, this would be extremely difficult.

By the way, the church clearly ruled that Native Americans that lived before the discovery of America DID have a chance at salvation, and it ruled this in the 1500s, so it’s clear that the idea of the possibility of the salvation of non-Catholics dates to WELL before Vatican II.

Ask any Muslim if they believe in the Divinity of Jesus Christ

Ask any Jew if Jesus Christ is the Messiah

Ask a Baptist if the Most Blessed Sacrament is the Body and Blood of Christ

These people are not hermits. They have heard the Truth and reject it. :shrug:

How about a 8 or 10 year old child who happens to be Baptist? or Muslim?
How about a Native American before the discovery of America?
How about an Australian Aborigine before 1700?
How about someone who grows up isolated in a cult?

Could they be considered “invincibly ignorant”?

Lumen Gentium:

  1. This Sacred Council wishes to turn its attention firstly to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism(124) and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.

The bonds which bind men to the Church in a visible way are profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical government and communion. He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a “bodily” manner and not “in his heart.”(12*) All the Church’s children should remember that their exalted status is to be attributed not to their own merits but to the special grace of Christ. If they fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word and deed, **not only shall they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged.(*13)

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