Councils, Popes, & Saints on No Salvation Outside the Church


I know what the Church today teaches on no salvation outside the church. According to Lumen Gentium in Vatican 2 it is possible for those who have never heard of Jesus Christ or His Church to be saved. However, I have recently learned that this seems to contradict what the Church has taught before via popes, councils, and saints. A few of the examples that could be given follow:

The Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, under Pope St. Pius X, in 1907, in answer to a question as to whether Confucius could have been saved, replied: “It is not allowed to affirm that Confucius was saved. Christians, when interrogated, must answer that those who die as infidels are damned.”

Pope Paul III: “And since man, according to the testimony of the sacred scriptures, has been created to enjoy eternal life and happiness, which none may obtain save through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, … (Sublimus Deus)

St. Augustine: “But even the ignorance, which is not theirs who refuse to know, but theirs who are, as it were, simply ignorant, does not so far excuse any one as to exempt him from the punishment of eternal fire, though his failure to believe has been the result of his not having at all heard what he should believe; but probably only so far as to mitigate his punishment. (Grace and Free Will 5)

Pope St. Pius X: “Our Predecessor, Benedict XIV, had just cause to write: “We declare that a great number of those who are condemned to eternal punishment suffer that everlasting calamity because of ignorance of those mysteries of faith which must be known and believed in order to be numbered among the elect.”” (Acerbo Nimis)

St. Louis De Montfort: “My heart is penetrated with grief when I think of the almost infinite number of souls who are damned for lack of knowing the true God and the Christian religion. The greatest misfortune, O my God, is not to know thee, and the greatest of punishments not to love thee.” (Love of Eternal Wisdom)

Pope Pius XI: “Behold how many souls are lost every hour! Behold the countless millions of those who live in barbarous regions and do not know Jesus Christ!” (Raccolta 628)

Council Lyons II, ex cathedra: “The souls of those who die in mortal sin or with original sin only immediately descend into hell, to be punished however with disparate punishments.”

St. Augustine: “They who are not liberated through grace…because they are unwilling to obey; or again because they did not receive… that bath of regeneration, which they might have received and through which they might have been saved, are indeed justly condemned; because they are not without sin, either that which they have derived from their birth, or that which they have added from their own misconduct. (Nature and Grace 4)

St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori: “How thankful we ought to be to Jesus Christ for the gift of faith! What would have become of us if we had been born in Asia, Africa, America, or in the midst of heretics and schismatics? He who does not believe is lost. This, then, was the first and greatest grace bestowed on us: our calling to the true faith. O Saviour of the world, what would have become of us if Thou hadst not enlightened us? …] We would all have perished.” (Preparation for Death)

St. Jerome: “Or lastly make your own the favourite cavil of your [Pelagian] associate Porphyry, and ask how God can be described as pitiful and of great mercy when from Adam to Moses and from Moses to the coming of Christ He has suffered all nations to die in ignorance of the Law and of His commandments. For Britain, that province so fertile in despots, the Scottish tribes, and all the barbarians round about as far as the ocean were alike without knowledge of Moses and the prophets. Why should Christ’s coming have been delayed to the last times? Why should He not have come before so vast a number had perished? Of this last question the blessed apostle in writing to the Romans most wisely disposes by admitting that he does not know and that only God does. ” (Letter 133, 9)

Grace, then, is not given to all; for certainly they cannot be participants in that grace, who are not believers; nor can they believe if it is found that the preaching of the faith has never come to them at all.” (Synodal Epistle of St. Fulgentius and other African Bishops)

St. Francis Xavier: “Before their Baptism, certain Japanese were greatly troubled by a hateful scruple: that God did not appear merciful, because He had never made Himself known to the Japanese people before, especially as those who had not worshiped God were doomed to everlasting Hell. They grieve over the fate of their departed children, parents, and relatives; so they ask if there is any way to free them by prayer from the eternal misery. And I am obliged to answer: there is absolutely none.”


Wow. the last comment by St. Francis Xavior is extremely heartwrenching. I really hope it isn’t true(baptism by desire)


If the Magisterium has contradicted itself in this matter then the Church simply isn’t true. So what’s your verdict?


Um… that’s the question I’m asking myself: Is the Church true? I know her claims well. And they sound convincing until one sees that there are things that seem to have been taught one way initially and then the opposite taught later - which would mean it has contradicted itself.

I’m hoping someone can point out how the things I posted are not contradictory to Vatican 2.

I notice you did not comment on those teachings by Popes and councils.


The quote from the “Council Lyons II, ex cathedra” seems to be missing from the documents of that Council that I have found. Perhaps there was another phantom constitution?

The exerpts in this thread have all been taken from the following website;

Here is just one article of many like it, also featured on the same website;

which purports that John Paul II was a Jewish Anti-Pope.

For the record, the anti-pope thesis is what is offensive to me, considering that the founder of our Church was a Jewish carpenter and the first pope was a Jewish fisherman, but there is a definite anti-semetic smell to this website.

However, that should give everyone a little perspective on where this post is coming from.

My request to eric3141 is to show us first the number and section of the Constitutions of the Second Council of Lyons from which is taken this “ex cathedra” statement.


Hmmm, just an innocent question, huh? Why not come out into the open here. Put your cards on the table. Tell us if you buy into the Feeneyism, that he recanted from by the way. Tell us if you believe that there is a Jewish conspiracy in the Church and that the Pope is not really a pope.

If you are really seeking, there are lots of resources to answer the question. But if you are reading from that website regularly, I doubt you want an answer, or that any answer would satisfy you.


I’ll be interested to hear what people say about these quotes. But this is my take on EENS:

Since the 3rd or 4th century it has always been recognized that some outside the visible confines of the Church could be saved. The early church accepted baptism by heretics as valid if done in the proper form. Therefore, if say a child was baptised by a heretic and died before committing a mortal sin, that child would be saved. If that child was saved by the baptism of a heretic, he was saved by Jesus, who instituted the sacrament and by His Church who received His divine mandate to baptise all nations. Therefore, no statement of EENS by any pope or council could ever have been meant to include every person outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church.


The question is, which of those quotes are Magisterial? The beliefs of individual popes and saints are not (unless the pope is speaking infallibly).

As for councils, the one council pronouncement you quoted has nothing to do with the topic, but is rather a statement (still taught by the Church) that if one dies in original sin one cannot go to heaven. So that one’s a red herring here. (Besides, there’s no such thing as an “ex cathedra” council statement).

What strikes me about your list (taken from some website, I assume), is the lack of statements having magisterial authority. It strikes me that they couldn’t find authoritative statements, so they muddied the waters by adding any statement they could find.

So, which statement in your list has Magisterial authority and contradicts the current teaching of the Church?


Fr. William Most wrote an excellent doctrinal/historical summary of EENS which can be found here:


For the record, yes I am really seeking.

Second, I did an internet search on these matters and yesterday found the site you mentioned. So I have hardly been “regularly” reading it. They seemed to have some things to say on the issue that sounded credible. I had no idea they would lie about the contents of documents from an ecumenical council (which you say they did – I’ll try to find the documents and do a search).

Third: it’s sad to say but I wondered how long it would take for someone to get sarcastic, upset, or accuse me of some sort of wrong doing when all I did was come here looking for answers. I’ve browsed this site and seen it happen before to others. Someone challenges something the Catholic church is saying and wants to see if it can be defended. I mean this is the APOLOGETICS forum after all. Frankly, you have falsely accused me of some sort of wrong doing and you owe me an apology. This is an apologetics site. Asking questions about the Catholic faith (which includes questions about Vatican 2 statements and how they can be true in light of other statements) is a completely legit thing here. If you are going to get upset when people say they are having difficulty reconciling various statements made by the Church then why not go to another forum?

Hmmm, just an innocent question, huh? Why not come out into the open here.

A false accusation that I have something to hide. Gee, thanks. For the record, I have been completely up-front and all my cards are on the table. My “cards” are that I am aware of various statements on these issues made by saints, popes, and even councils that seem contradictory. Since the Church is not supposed to be able to do that then this troubles me. I am a good Catholic person trying to live my faith and believe what I’m told. I have trouble doing that when I have become aware that there seems to be contradiction.

Tell us if you buy into the Feeneyism, that he recanted from by the way.

I have heard he believed in a literal approach to these issues. I have no interest in the man one way or the other. I recently became aware of the things I have quoted and simply came to the APOLOGETICS forum to see if someone could reconcile previous statements vs. the current ones. It would help me enormously if they can - if they can’t then I have a very tough row to hoe as I’ll have to try and believe something when it seems the Church has changed it’s teaching on the matter.

Tell us if you believe that there is a Jewish conspiracy in the Church and that the Pope is not really a pope.

You are way out in left field. I mentioned neither of these and for the record believe neither. Hey, you’ve already decided to pummel me – any more false accusations you want to level against me?

If you are really seeking, there are lots of resources to answer the question.

Umm… for the record, this website IS such a resource which is exactly why I came here. Look, if you can’t tolerate it when others have trouble believing something the Church teaches then why not go somewhere else?

I doubt you want an answer, or that any answer would satisfy you.

How nice of you to malign me and somehow claim to know that no answer will satisfy me.


I had no idea a web site would lie about the decrees of a council. I’ll be glad to look into it and post back here if I find out what you say is true.

My request to Uther is that he stop accusing me of things that are not true and adopt a more charitable attitude towards me.



Just a word of concern–it is a bit of a trap to rest one’s belief in the Catholic faith upon whether the Church has “changed” its teaching based upon a personal criteria for what it means to have “changed.”

The infallible truth of the Church is that it can not and will not ever teach universal error or contradict previous universal teaching.

Being Catholic means really understanding that the Church has the Christ-given authority to make that statement first.

If you can do that, and if all of us can avoid the temptation of letting our fallible judgment determine whether the Church is consistent or not, then we can stand firm in the faith.

The infallibility of the Church’s teaching rests with the infallible Magisterium and not with our fallible interpretations of what the Church “really” teaches…

Contradictions we perceive should not call into question the Church but rather should call into question our own judgement and understanding first.



There is a difference between change and growth.


Huh? I would think that an infant that received a sacramental baptism and then doesn’t reject the teachings of the Church, perhaps because he dies before reaching the age of reason, is paradigmatically INSIDE the Church.



My apologies. It is not my intention to malign you and you say you are truly seeking the answers.
First, let me say that there are much better websites to find answers than the one that you provided the quotations from. here is one for starters;

I can tell you why I jumped all over you, and again, I apologize, I was out of line and jumped the gun.

There are those that lurk here that seemingly innocently throw out questions that relate directly to a mentality that is at the basis of a schism, whereby the accusation is made that the current Pope and the one before him are and were invalid. Some time ago there was a ban here put on even the mention of the word that describes these people, yet occasionally they pop up in disguise. The website that you got these quotes from is one such place that spreads those kind of vicious ideas. And what is really disturbing about those people is that they claim to be Catholic. I almost got sucked into their maelstrom when I was a new convert, so perhaps I am over vigilant.

A suggestion. Whenever someone quotes a majesterial document, me or anyone else, papal or council, Google it and see if they are quoting accurately. Virtually everything is available somewhere from some trustworthy source. My instincts went on full alert re. the Second Council of Lyons so I found the document and read it. Then I found the web-page you were referencing and read some of the vicious hatred and anti-semitism found there and knew, despite the URL that the page was not Catholic.

That is what happened on my part. It doesn’t excuse my jumping the gun so once again, my sincerest apologies.


Pope Paul III: “And since man, according to the testimony of the sacred scriptures, has been created to enjoy eternal life and happiness, which none may obtain save through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, … (Sublimus Deus)

It is difficult to respond to all the quotes in one post, but I will try the first one and let others work them also.

When infants are baptised, it is the faith of the parents that is what is most important at that time. The family unit is special which is what Vatican II called a “domestic Church”. In scripture, there is a passage that describes a person being lowered down through the roof to Jesus and was healed not because of his own faith, but the faith of his friends. This is why priests are reluctant to baptise infants if the parents are not practicing their faith.

Hope this helps,


:slight_smile: Thanks. And I did do a search on the text of the council of Lyons II, and you are correct. The site I got that from apparently did fabricate that. I searched for the words “hell” and “original sin” and could not find them. I guess I’m naive, but this surprises me.

I’ll try to read the document you gave the link to as soon as I can.




Right, I agree. That is why I don’t think any magisterial statement of “No Salvation Outside the Church” ever was so rigorous as to include baptised children before the age of reason in its restrictions. Since the early days of the Church, such children, as well as catechumans dying before receiving water baptism, as well as unbaptised martyrs who died for the faith were thought to be paradigmatically (nice word btw ;)) INSIDE the Church.


What those quotes acknowledge is the absolute need for supernatural faith (which can cancel out original sin when baptism is not available), something idolators, polytheists, and atheists cannot have. Acknowledgement of the one God is necessary for salvation. An implicit faith in Jesus Christ, the Logos, is sufficient, but one must have an explicit knowledge of the one God.

Lumen Gentium affirmed this. After explaining how certain non-Catholics could be achieve salvation, it goes on to say that idolators and atheists are only given the helps necessary for salvation–they need to respond to these with supernatural faith, which means loving God above all things, repenting to Him for one’s sins, and being willing to receve all He has revealed. Lumen Gentium goes on to explain that the missions should be primarily concerned with these groups of non-believers.

Since people can come to the knowledge of God through natural means, according to St. Paul and then the First Vatican Council there is no excuse in this regard.


Here is the passage from Lumen Gentium:

  1. Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God.(18*) In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh.(125) On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues.(126); But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohamedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things,(127) and as Saviour wills that all men be saved.(128) Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.(19*) Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.(20*) She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator.(129) Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, “Preach the Gospel to every creature”,(130) the Church fosters the missions with care and attention.

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