Hindus, Muslims etc. can be saved - Can you clarify?

Regarding a previous question about those who follow false religions being able to be saved - the virtuous pagan idea. Is the Catholic teaching merely that it is possible for those who have never heard the Gospel to possibly be saved but it is not the norm. Since Christ’s teaching that those who do not believe are condemned already is clear, can I also assume that those Hindus, Buddhist etc. who are evangelized then become responsible if they do not believe because they now self consciously reject the Gospel?

Let me put it another way can a non-Christian who is has heard the Gospel and rejects it be saved? If the Catholic church says it is possible (though not the norm) for someone striving in ignorance to be saved I can at least understand that we must believe that that is a possibility. If, on the other hand, the Catholic Church teaches that those who reject the Gospel can somehow lead a virtuous life and still be thought to reasonably be saved I will be greatly troubled since it will constitute a clear rejection of Christ’s teaching. Please put my mind at ease.

Thanks,

Mel

Dear Mel,

To be evangelized is simply to have been preached to. It does not mean that one has been converted. So no, people do not become responsible simply because they have heard the Gospel preached. It is only by the gift of faith that one can believe.

Anyone who has been given the gift of faith and chooses to reject it will not be saved unless he repents before he dies. But simply to hear the Gospel is not necessarily to have been given the gift of faith. To be given the gift of faith is to recognize the truth of the Gospel, to be touched by it. This is an interior matter that we can’t know from the outside by just looking at the person. We can only judge from externals. In this case externals don’t help much.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

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