FOURTH LATERAN COUNCIL (1215) – Pope Innocent III
- Confession of Faith (3rd paragraph, 1st sentence)
a. There is indeed one universal church of the faithful, outside of which nobody at all is saved, in which Jesus Christ is both priest and sacrifice.
UNAM SANCTAM (1302) — Papal Bull of Pope Boniface VIII
WE ARE COMPELLED, OUR FAITH URGING us, to believe and to hold—and we do firmly believe and simply confess—that there is one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, outside of which there is neither salvation nor remission of sins;
The Council of Florence (A.D. 1438-1445) From Cantate Domino — Papal Bull of Pope Eugene IV
It firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart “into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels” [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.
**Vatican II Lumen Gentium 2:14 – **
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 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.
Ibid 2:15 (regarding protestants)- we can say that in some real way they are joined with us in the Holy Spirit, for to them too He gives His gifts and graces whereby He is operative among them with His sanctifying power.
Ibid 2:16 (regarding non-Christians)- 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.
Vatican II - Gaudium et Spes:22 - All 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.
Vatican II Ad Gentes, no. 7** - Therefore those men cannot be saved, who though aware that God, through Jesus Christ founded the Church as something necessary, still do not wish to enter into it, or to persevere in it.” Therefore though God in ways known to Himself can lead those inculpably ignorant of the Gospel to find that faith without which it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6), yet a necessity lies upon the Church (1 Cor. 9:16), and at the same time a sacred duty, to preach the Gospel. And hence missionary activity today as always retains its power and necessity.
Pope Paul VI - We believe that the Church is necessary for salvation, because Christ, who is the sole mediator and way of salvation, renders Himself present for us in His body which is the Church. But the divine design of salvation embraces all men, and those who without fault on their part do not know the Gospel of Christ and His Church, but seek God sincerely, and under the influence of grace endeavor to do His will as recognized through the promptings of their conscience, they, in a number known only to God, can obtain salvation.
Dominus Iesus 6:22- If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation.
**Summary of the Catechism’s teachings **- Jesus died for all (CCC 1260), so that our sins may be forgiven and we could enter heaven, because nothing impure can enter heaven (Rev. 21:27). The Church believes He instituted the Sacraments to be given through the Church for the salvation of man (their effects, however, can be received through desire without the physical sacrament). God wishes that all should come to knowledge of the truth and be saved (1 Tim. 2:3-4), and the Church is God’s plan for salvation (CCC 780). Those who, by no fault of their own, do not know that the Catholic Church is the Church founded by Jesus Christ are not guilty for not having entered the Church (CCC 847). Those people can attain salvation by living according to the natural law, written on the hearts of all men (Rom. 2:14). God knows, because of His omniscience, what ignorant person would cooperate with His will if he was to be evangelized by the Catholic Church. He knows which people would desire baptism if they knew it were necessary. Even if a person is saved, but wasn’t a physical member of the Church (a Protestant, etc.), their salvation is still accomplished through the Church (CCC 846) and Jesus Christ’s redemptive death on the cross (Acts 4:12).
How do we reconcile the previous imperative Papal decrees with post Vatican II?