Do you have to be Catholic to be Saved?


#1

Hi!
My name is Abbi, and I am 17 years old, I live in New Zealand and have been brought up as a protestant christian - having attended a baptist church ever since I can remember. I am a firm believer in Jesus Christ, and have accepted Him as my saviour. I am also in my last year at a Catholic school, and have been exposed to obvious differences between Catholics and Protestants, but still believing that despite these differences, as long as we believe in Jesus and choose to live our life for Him, we will be written in the Book of Life.

However today I struck a problem. We have a new priest at our school, and he declared that “if you are not catholic, then you are going to hell.” I was also hesitant to question what grounds he stood on - after all, he is a priest! But I have plenty of scripture references that are contradictory to his statement - it seems that he is contradicting the Bible itself, as it says in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” - not that you have to belong to a particular type of church. The idea seems absurd.

Is this idea consistent with the teachings of the catholic church?

If you would be able to get back to me it would be much apprieciated.

God bless.


#2

But what does it mean to “believe in Jesus”? Muslims believe in Jesus, and so do the Jehovah’s Witnesses, yet they both deny that Jesus is truly God. The Muslims say he was just a prophet, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses say he was just a really good man.

Perhaps you will say that “believing in Jesus” means believing that He was God and died for our sins. If that is your answer, what it shows is that “believing in Jesus” means more than just saying you believe in Jesus - it means believing in the true doctrine’s concerning Jesus. In other words, simply saying you “believe in Jesus” is not enough, unless your belief about Jesus corresponds with reality. Thus, true doctrine is an essential component for “believing in Jesus”. And to truly believe in Jesus we must believe what Jesus taught.

[quote=Abbi]However today I struck a problem. We have a new priest at our school, and he declared that “if you are not catholic, then you are going to hell.” I was also hesitant to question what grounds he stood on - after all, he is a priest!
[/quote]

The priest was simply repeating what the Church has always taught. The Catholic Church, which is the one Church founded by our Lord, teaches what Jesus taught. In other words, the Catholic Church teaches the true Jesus. If anyone rejects what the Catholic Church teaches, they do not truly “believe in Jesus” since it teaches what Jesus taught. (Everyone claims to believe the Bible, but only the Catholic Church teaches what those who wrote the Bible believed).

[quote=Abbi] But I have plenty of scripture references that are contradictory to his statement - it seems that he is contradicting the Bible itself, as it says in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” - not that you have to belong to a particular type of church. The idea seems absurd.
[/quote]

But remember, we have to truly “believe in Jesus”, which means believing the truths that He taught. One of the truths that Jesus taught was that we are bound to hear the Church that He founded, or be considered a heathen - “If he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican” (Mt 18:17).

continue


#3

continuation of last post

[quote=Abbi]Is this idea consistent with the teachings of the catholic church?

If you would be able to get back to me it would be much apprieciated.

God bless.
[/quote]

The following is an infallible dogmatic statement given by a Pope.

Pope Eugene IV, the Bull “Cantate Domino”, A.D. 1441: "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.

I could provide dozens of similar quotes from Popes throughout the centuries that say exactly the same thing.

Now, there can be exceptions to the rule. For example, if someone grew up in a Protestant Church, was baptized, and did not reject any teachings of the Catholic Church, they might be able to attain salvation, since they might believe in the real Jesus. What would prove that they did not believe in the true Jesus is if they were to reject any of the teachings of the Church He founded (the Catholic Church). If they were truly “invincibly ignorant” of the fact that the Catholic Church is the true Church, they may be able to be saved, but it would be the exception to the rule.

However, if the above mentioned person ever suspected that the Catholic Church is the true Church, and failed to look into the claims and convert, that person would no longer qualify as “invincibly ignorant” and thus could not be saved.

So, what does all this mean? In my opinion, it means that God has used this priest to make you aware of something you did not suspect (that the Catholic Church is indeed the Church our Lord founded and necessary for salvation), and is now He is calling you, and drawing you, into His one true Church “outside of which there is no salvation”.

And should you happen to convert, you will find all of the treasures our Lord deposited in His Church. Many on this board (including myself) also grew up Protestant and did not discover these treasures until later in life.

Let us pray that you too will one day experience the joys of belonging to the Church founded by our Lord, and have the opportunity to partake of the Holy Eucharist


#4

Hello again!
I respect you’re beliefs, but I am shocked…

I understand that in John 3:16 that belief does not merely mean believing, (after all, the devil believes) - but that it mean accepting that you are a sinner, and also accepting Jesus as you’re saviour. I have done this. Every day I fall deeper in love with Jesus - Jesus is my everything. With Him my life has meaning, it has purpose, in the words of C.S Lewis “I believe in christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

Also in Romans 10: 9-10: “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

As for the true church, I acknowledge that the catholic church was the first church, but do we not all belong to the church of Jesus Christ? - surely that is the one true church being described?


#5

Actually, most protestant denominations claim that the apostles and most early converts believed as they believe.

But remember, we have to truly “believe in Jesus”, which means believing the truths that He taught. One of the truths that Jesus taught was that we are bound to hear the Church that He founded, or be considered a heathen - “If he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican” (Mt 18:17).

Excuse me, but I must take exception to using scripture out of context like that. The passage in question references dealing with conflicts within the church…if a brother (that is, a fellow believer, one who is already in the faith) sins, you are to go to him and tell him of his wrongdoing. If he fails to listen to you, and continues to sin, you take witnesses with you, so that it can be established that you spoke to him by other people. Finally, if he fails to listen to that, you take the matter to the church (that is, the called out ones, the followers of Christ…which could roughly be interpreted as your local church body). And then, if all of that fails to show the person the problem in their life – if they keep sinning after all of this, then you are to cast them out and treat them as a heathen.

Obviously, in context, that passage has no real bearing on the discussion. It’s intent was for intra-church discipline only – never regarding those outside the faith.

You do have to establish the authority of the pope first, but we needn’t deal with that issue here.

Now, there can be exceptions to the rule. For example, if someone grew up in a Protestant Church, was baptized, and did not reject any teachings of the Catholic Church, they might be able to attain salvation, since they might believe in the real Jesus. What would prove that they did not believe in the true Jesus is if they were to reject any of the teachings of the Church He founded (the Catholic Church). If they were truly “invincibly ignorant” of the fact that the Catholic Church is the true Church, they may be able to be saved, but it would be the exception to the rule.

I understand that the standard teaching of the church is this, but, the quote you provided says absolutely nothing about invincible ignorance.

To point out some important stuff from your quote…“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…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.”

Now, I admit the term of “the bosom and the unity of” can be somewhat…reinterpretable, but the context seems clear. Invincible ignorance is a concept that wasn’t developed until much more recently.

However, if the above mentioned person ever suspected that the Catholic Church is the true Church, and failed to look into the claims and convert, that person would no longer qualify as “invincibly ignorant” and thus could not be saved.

On the other hand, if invincible ignorance really does exist, why not simply stop evangelizing? If noone knows the truth, then noone can be guilty for not following it, right?


#6

First, don’t be so sure that the Catholic church was first – check your history a bit, and you’ll see that the organized Catholic church did not actually exist for centuries after Christ’s death. The term “Catholic” was used in writings, but it didn’t refer to the Roman church.

I’ve been doing a lot of studying of the Catholic church myself lately, so if you’d like to ask questions, I’d be willing to try to respond and provide you with the info you need to make an informed decision. :slight_smile:

Also, the one true “church” was not a religious organization as we think of it. The term church didn’t have that meaning. The word used was ecclesia (which Catholics have since adapted), and literally means “called out ones”. So, basically, it speaks of those who adhere to a particular belief system. A religious heirarchy is only a more modern interpretation of the word – not the one the authors of scripture had in mind, nor is it the way the early converts of the church would have understood it.


#7

Wow, thankyou so much!
That reinforces what I’ve just discovered. I’ve been looking at the site www.gotquestions.org. gotquestions.org/Catholic-questions.html actually goes through each of the catholic beliefs, as well as the origin of the Catholic Church. And I have to say, it makes a lot more sense to me.


#8

But the Jehovah’s Witnesses also claim this. And so do the Mormans. Just because someone claims something does not make it so.

[quote=] Excuse me, but I must take exception to using scripture out of context like that. The passage in question references dealing with conflicts within the church…if a brother (that is, a fellow believer, one who is already in the faith)

Obviously, in context, that passage has no real bearing on the discussion. It’s intent was for intra-church discipline only – never regarding those outside the faith.
[/quote]

I’m not sure how you think I was taking it out of context. I was talking to someone who does claim to be a Christian (which is who the verse is addressing).

Jesus said that if there is a dispute between two people claiming to be Christians (“brothers”) that they are to attempt to sort it out themselves. If they are unable to, they are to take it to the Church, and the Church will settle the matter. The one who fails to hear the Church is then to be considered a “heathen”.

[quote=] You do have to establish the authority of the pope first, but we needn’t deal with that issue here.
[/quote]

The authority of the Pope was established by Jesus and exists regardless of whether you have come to understand it. I will be happy to discuss it with you if you would like.

[quote=] To point out some important stuff from your quote…“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…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.”

Now, I admit the term of “the bosom and the unity of” can be somewhat…reinterpretable, but the context seems clear. Invincible ignorance is a concept that wasn’t developed until much more recently.
[/quote]

Not so. It is true that it wasn’t discussed much, but that is because the Church always taught objectively, and rarely discussed subjective excpetions, but St. Augustine did discuss this.

[quote=] if invincible ignorance really does exist, why not simply stop evangelizing? If noone knows the truth, then noone can be guilty for not following it, right?
[/quote]

Because a person is not saved by invincible ignorance. I believe that almost all of those who are invincibly ignorant will be damned - about 99.999% of them. The reason I even mentioned it is because everyone always brings up the theoretical person who lived a perfect life but never was taught that the Catholic Church was the true Church. Since it is possible for such a person to be saved, I brought up the exception to the rule, which is “invincible ignorance”.


#9

Be careful with anticatholic websites. That almost always distort Catholic teachings, and use out of context Bible verses in an attempt to show that what the Church teaches is not true.

Just as it would be wrong for someone to judge you based on the words of your enemy, so to you will never get the truth about the Catholic Church from anti-Catholic websites.

If those websites raise points that you are curious about, be sure to post on this board and ask for clarification. I’m sure people will be happy to reply.


#10

It is correct that before Vatican II, the CC taught there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church itself. However after Vatican II, the church has taught that salvation is possible to those not ‘visibly’ in the church who exist in other churches, especially those with valid sacraments and holy orders. The priest though, like a lot of Traditionalist or Conservative Catholics like Pax, don’t accept this and stick to the pre-Vatican II ideas.

I myself accept Vatican II and believe most Protestants (provide they don’t fall into deadly sin) will see the face of God.


#11

Vatican II did not change doctrinal beliefs. Do a search for the Catechism of Pius X. It is available online. Read what he said about no salvation outside the Church. He mentions those who are united only to the “soul” of the Church.

[quote=]I myself accept Vatican II and believe most Protestants (provide they don’t fall into deadly sin) will see the face of God.
[/quote]

Provided they don’t fall into mortal sin? Do you know how easy it is to fall into mortal sin, and how difficult it is not to? If a person looks at internet pornography (which many do today) they have fallen into mortal sin.


#12

Ahem; quoting Pope Benedict XVI on other forms of Christianity:

They are not Churches in the proper sense; however, those who are baptized in these communities are by Baptism, incorporated in Christ and thus are in a certain communion, albeit imperfect, with the [Catholic] Church.


#13

Do you have to be…etc…this is from the Feenyites…Not Jesus! Remember…Jesus just before He died exclaimed “Father forgive them for they know not what they do!” ignorance is an excuse in most cases re; the true religion! Only God knows which of us maybe by our actions repell others from joining the RCC…also only He knows what actions others not in the RCC have done similiar to the 10 commandments …if they also made it up the divine elevator.So many have been reared hating the RCC and when they mature still follow that hatefull teaching out of respect for their parents upbringing and advice…plus dont forget many familyl fortunes were made when the RCC was plundered by the upper class …ie; the Papal lands in central Italy…1870…The RCC is the one True Church but other paths .altho wrong and winding…may save others…in spite of their errors…lets wait and see…who shows up on the next cloud…Nino


#14

This touches on fairly complex and delicate issues of eccelisiology, in which I am not an expert. But I can certainly say in the form you have presented it, if this was the doctrine of the Church which was presented to me in my RCIA, I certainly would have run tail between my legs from the Church. This version of faith is very narrow and intolerant, and if it became official policy again, I would leave the Church without hesitation.


#15

I agree historically this has been a dogma, but it should be remembered the church after Vatican II did things such as lift the anathema against the Orthodox Churches and also worked on building bridges with the separated Protestant Churches and also engaged in dialogue with other religions.

Clearly this is a fairly complex and delicate issue in terms of ecclesiology, as many of the debates here between Catholics and Protestants and Orthodox shows.

I feel the best approach, rather than damning those baptised in Christ but for some reason not in full communion with the Church, is to keep working to resolve these issues so once again Christ’s mystical body is one as it was in the early period. Saying those who are outside of the visible CC are automatically damned to perdition by virtue of this state won’t help in this regard.


#16

not that i agree with witnesses, but in all fairness to them, they do believe He is a “really good man” but they also believe He is the Son of God, but they do not believe in the Holy Trinity. That had to be made clear. Sorry to disrail the post. but if your going to mention other beliefs, they have to be accurate about what they believe. the witnesses deny that Jesus is God, but they do not deny He is the Son of God.


#17

Abbi,

see this link from the CA library. Its entitled “Salvation outside the Church”

catholic.com/library/Salvation_Outside_the_Church.asp


#18

Abbi, here is what the current Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers…All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ: they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church.

Paragraph 818

Another paragraph in the Catechism is 838, which says, "The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communication under the successor of Peter. Those who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect communion with the Catholic church."

Abbi, it seems to me that some of these other posts are contradicting what the Catechism clearly states: You are my sister in Christ! You are in communion (although imperfect) with the Catholic Church by virtue of your Triune Baptism.


#19

Addi
Just one question, You say that you are a Baptist, so why are you going to a Catholic school. Are there no other Christian schools where you live that you could attend. And does your Baptist pastor know and aprove. If he does someone needs to talk to him and to your parents


#20

I’m disappointed in this answer, Pax. Check the Catechism:

818 “However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers . . . . All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church.”

819 “Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth” are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: “the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements.” **Christ’s Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth **that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him, and are in themselves calls to “Catholic unity.”

838 “The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter.” Those “who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.” With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound “that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord’s Eucharist.”

839 “Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways.”

The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People. When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People, “the first to hear the Word of God.” (snip)

843 The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as “a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life.”

And, finally, the kicker:

“Outside the Church there is no salvation”

846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, i**t means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body: **

Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.

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.

848 “Although **in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith **without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men.”

So, what does it mean to say “Outside the Church, there is no salvation”?

It means the following, according to the CCC:

  1. The Church is the “sign and instrument” of salvation.

  2. All men are called to be members of the visible Church.

  3. There are elements of the Church that reach beyond the visible membership.

  4. Non-Catholic Christians are joined to the Body of Christ, though not completely.

  5. Non-Christians who do not know the Gospel or, because of their upbringing or social circumstances, misunderstand it, yet who are “moved by grace” to do God’s will, may achieve salvation.

  6. God can lead non-Christians to saving faith in ways we do not know.

Peace,
Dante


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