Historical Papal Stance on Salvation

I had these remarks quoted to me recently, and they seem rather odd, at least out of context:

Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence:

Whoever wishes to be saved, needs above all to hold the Catholic faith; unless each one preserves this whole and inviolate, he will without a doubt perish in eternity.”

Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, Constitution 1, 1215:

“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.”

Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam, 1302:

“With Faith urging us we are forced to believe and to hold the one, holy, Catholic Church and that, apostolic, and we firmly believe and simply confess this Church outside of which there is no salvation nor remission of sin… Furthermore, we declare, say, define, and proclaim to every human creature that they by absolute necessity for salvation are entirely subject to the Roman Pontiff.”

Pope Gregory XVI, Mirari Vos 1832:

“With the admonition of the apostle that ‘there is one God, one faith, one baptism’ (Eph. 4:5) may those fear who contrive the notion that the safe harbor of salvation is open to persons of any religion whatever. They should consider the testimony of Christ Himself that ‘those who are not with Christ are against Him,’ (Lk. 11:23) and that they disperse unhappily who do not gather with Him. Therefore, ‘without a doubt, they will perish forever, unless they hold the Catholic faith whole and inviolate” (Athanasian Creed).

Without knowing if those statements are even correct (all non-Catholic and even some Catholic sources are suspect), I see nothing wrong at all in them - given the context of Christ having established one, universal Church lead by Peter (and with Christ’s foreknowledge, by Peter’s successors) that was increasingly coming under attack. This was before the German rebellion - and so, is in a sense prophetic. I believe that this was reiterated at Trent and further clarified as time went on.

The German rebellion greatly complicated the issue of salvation, inasmuch as those validly baptized who embraced theological error obviously placed their salvation in some level of jeopardy. These statements serve as a warning to the faithful not to follow those who teach error. And, the German heresy was and remains error.

As a Catholic, I confessed obedience to the Church, Magisterium, and Holy Father when I was confirmed by my Bishop, and so, I have to say that each of these is Truth.
As Catholics, our aim is not to “judge” whether what was said is true, but to seek understanding of what was declared by the Popes.
Basically, as Catholics, we declare, "It is true because I believe in the one who taught it, and now, what are the implications of this truth? How can we reason through this so that it makes full sense to us?

Peter tried to stop Jesus from going to Jerusalem and the cross, saying Jesus was wrong, but was told to get back behind him and follow.
Peter did not understand the need of the cross, but he did get back behind Jesus rather than remain “Satan” in front of Jesus. And likewise, we do not stand in front of our Popes and say, “You were mistaken, you were wrong”.

John Martin

Thank you both kindly, but while that is helpful, it’s somewhat unsatisfactory.

You claim there’s nothing wrong with these quotes in historical context. But there is simply no reconciling those quotes with Catholic teaching. They say those who are not Catholic, “will without a doubt perish in eternity” and outside the Catholic church “nobody at all is saved.”

To go from that to the current teaching on salvation isn’t “clarification” of doctrine as we Catholics like to call it, but a complete reversal of Catholic teaching. I am further investigating these quotes, but assuming they are genuine, how do we reconcile the above Papal statements with the truth?

Being Catholic, I’m not accusing the papacy of fraud or doctrinal erro, nor anything of that sort. I am only trying to work this all out.

There is nothing really wrong with any of the statements.

  1. They need to be in context however, e.g. what are these popes responding to? And was this official church teaching at the time or now. God won’t let the Church stay in error.

  2. Having said all that, without the Catholic Church, which is the body of our Lord, Jesus Christ, not a single non-Catholic is saved.

  3. Further, if someone is completely versed in Catholicism and rejects it outright, then they refuse Jesus Christ (God) himself. Do they not?

Catholicism is the full truth of God, without which not a single one of us are saved. Without Catholicism not a single Buddhist or Muslim is saved. Because without Catholicism you don’t have God among us. The Church prays for the Mercy of God on all people, does she not? The Church remains the feet and hands and mouth of Jesus Christ himself in 2014, still proclaiming the Mercy and Gospel, does she not? Without her, all are doomed, each and every one of us.

You are equating what is not equal, which comes from not trying to understand what the Popes say.

In actuality, no one will be saved apart from the Church - how so?
All salvation is “Sacramental” - it is granted to people by the “Holy People, the Holy Nation”. Within the Church, it is granted by the means of Grace in the (Upper Case) Sacraments. Outside the People, it is granted by the (lower case) sacraments, the People as a Body, the Body of Christ.

  1. Those who give the Body of Christ a drink or visit him in prison (through doing it to his People) will be surprised by that People, through Christ, welcoming them to heaven (be they Muslim, Jew, or Pagan) - so non-Christians will only get into heaven because the Church says, “This person gave me a drink while I was doing the work of Christ”. They held the Faith of the Church secure by honoring its members with kindness.

  2. Those who are Catholics will be judged by whether they kept ready to greet Jesus at his coming, by keeping his commandments (loving one another, attending to the Worship and participation in the Sacraments to keep their Faith, Hope, and Love alive and vibrant, as the 5 wise virgins). They held the Faith of the Church secure by participating in its life.

  3. Those who are our leaders in the Church will be judged by their leading of us, whether faithfully feeding us or unfaithfully mistreating us. Those who faithfully lead us held the Faith of the Church secure by feeding it the received Teaching and Sacraments.

You must believe our Holy Fathers; while they make a statement with a few very select words, you then must ponder the words as true and search and ask for understanding.

John Martin

More:

The doctrine that “Outside the Church there is no salvation” is one that is constantly misinterpreted by those who won’t submit to the Magisterium of the Church. Faith does not depend upon our ability to reason to the truth but on our humility before the Truth presented to us by those to whom Christ entrusted that task. This is why the First Vatican Council taught that it is the task of the Magisterium ALONE to determine and expound the meaning of the Tradition - including “outside the Church no salvation.”
Concerning this doctrine the Pope of Vatican I, Pius IX, spoke on two different occasions. In an allocution (address to an audience) on December 9th, 1854 he said:

    We must hold as of the faith, that out of the Apostolic Roman Church there is no salvation; that she is the only ark of safety, and whosoever is not in her perishes in the deluge; we must also, on the other hand, recognize with certainty that those who are invincible in ignorance of the true religion are not guilty for this in the eyes of the Lord. And who would presume to mark out the limits of this ignorance according to the character and diversity of peoples, countries, minds and the rest?

Again, in his encyclical Quanto conficiamur moerore of 10 August, 1863 addressed to the Italian bishops, he said:

    It is known to us and to you that those who are in invincible ignorance of our most holy religion, but who observe carefully the natural law, and the precepts graven by God upon the hearts of all men, and who being disposed to obey God lead an honest and upright life, may, aided by the light of divine grace, attain to eternal life; for God who sees clearly, searches and knows the heart, the disposition, the thoughts and intentions of each, in His supreme mercy and goodness by no means permits that anyone suffer eternal punishment, who has not of his own free will fallen into sin.

Are you the only one to catch this blunder in the past 600 years? OR, could it just be that the Pope’s words, as with the scriptures, need proper interpretation in the light of Church teaching?

Exactly.

First of all, I think you might find this post helpful:

Scripture, Church Fathers, and Medieval Doctors on the Possibility of Salvation for Non-Catholics
forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=884499

It shows that the “current teaching on salvation” (your words) is as ancient as Catholicism is.

Second of all, regarding your statement, “the current teaching on salvation is…a complete reversal of Catholic teaching” – no it isn’t, because the current teaching of the Church still is that only Catholics can be saved, that outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation, that before you die you have to be united to the Catholic Church or you will be damned. The Catechism says so in paragraph 846: “Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation.” “[Jesus] 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.” (CCC 846)

Third of all, regarding your statement, “there is simply no reconciling those quotes with Catholic teaching” – I think there is, and there are two ways to do it. One way is the way the Catechism explains it in paragraph 847: “This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church.” The exact same thing can be said about the quotes you posted: those quotes are not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and His Church.

Another way to reconcile the possibility of salvation for non-Catholics with the fact that only Catholics can be saved is the way Pope St. Pius X explained it in 1908: “A person outside the Church by his own fault, and who dies without perfect contrition, will not be saved. But he who finds himself outside without fault of his own, and who lives a good life, can be saved by the love called charity, which unites unto God, and in a spiritual way also to the Church, that is, to the soul of the Church.” (Catechism of Christian Doctrine)

Therefore if any non-Catholics are saved it is because charity united them to the Church before their deaths. That shows that the current doctrine of the Church is not different from the ancient teaching. The ancient teaching was that non-Catholics can only be saved if they are united to the Church before their deaths. The “current teaching” is that non-Catholics can be united to the Church’s soul by charity. And, as the page I linked you to earlier shows, the “modern teaching” is just as well-attested in the history of the Church as anything else.

Let me know if that helps. God bless!

It is necessary to know the meaning.

Christ’s Church knew from the beginning that non-Catholics could be saved:
Pope St Clement knew that non-Catholics could be saved from the beginning, for he wrote in about 95 A.D. to the Church in Corinth: “Those who repented for their sins, appeased God in praying and received salvation, even though they were aliens to God.” Catholic Apologetics Today, 1986, Fr William G Most, p 145].

“By Faith it is to be firmly held that outside the Apostolic Roman Church none can achieve salvation. This is the only ark of salvation. He who does not enter into it will perish in the flood. Nevertheless, equally certainly it is to be held that those who suffer from invincible ignorance of the true religion, are not for this reason guilty in the eyes of the Lord. Now, then, who could presume in himself an ability to set the boundaries of such ignorance, taking into consideration the natural differences of peoples, land, native talents, and so many other factors” (Pope Pius IX, Singulari Quidem, 1863 A.D.).

She specifically teaches in Vatican II, Lumen Gentium #16: “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.”

Msgr Cormac P Burke was for many years a Judge of the Roman Rota, High Court of the Church, and has a Doctorate in Canon Law; he is a priest of the Prelature of Opus Dei. “http://www.cormacburke.or.ke/cv/1

He has explained that the Latin extra can mean either “without” or “outside” and, with the Magisterium, gives the true meaning of the possibility of salvation for non-Catholics. His contribution to the ECD (OSV) explains.

“Extra Ecclesiam, Nulla Salus”
• What are we to say about those who, lacking Baptism, are not members of the Church in any of the senses explained above? Here it is necessary to clarify the meaning of an old theological principle whose interpretation has caused difficulty in the past: *Extra ecclesiam, nulla salus *(literally, “outside the Church, there is no salvation”). Some people have wished to understand this saying in the most literal sense: that is, that the person who is not formally a practicing Catholic cannot be saved. The Church has condemned such an interpretation (cf. Denzinger-Schönmetzer, 3870-3873).

This is not to say that the maxim is false. Properly understood, it is quite true. The Latin word extra can mean either “without” or “outside.” **The correct interpretation and sense of the maxim is that we cannot be saved without the Church. It is through the Church, which carries on and makes present the salvific work of Jesus Christ in the world, that all who are saved reach heaven (even if it is perhaps only there that they realize it). **Those who, through no fault of their own, have never known Christ or his Church can still be saved. But their salvation, too, is the effect of Jesus working through his Church. In a positive sense, this theological principle “means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body” (CCC 846).
Encyclopedia of Catholic Doctrine, OSV].

God bless you as well, and thanks, I think I’m getting closer to sorting out my doubts.

Buuuut not quite. What do you mean by saying the Church teaches you have to accept the Catholic Church before you die to be saved? You mean you have to accept Catholicism, hook, line and Eucharist, in order to be saved!? That’s not the impression I’ve gotten.

Third of all, regarding your statement, “there is simply no reconciling those quotes with Catholic teaching” – I think there is, and there are two ways to do it. One way is the way the Catechism explains it in paragraph 847: “This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church.” The exact same thing can be said about the quotes you posted: those quotes are not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and His Church

.

I’ve read that, and that’s what bothers me. Today the Catechism (a relatively recent development as you know) says, “This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church.” But that’s really not what “There is indeed one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which nobody at all is saved" implies. It strongly implies there are no exceptions.

Thank you, Abu, but while that is all reassuring, those merely contradict the statements rather than explaining them.

The Catechism leaves open the possibility that some may be saved if they are in ignorance. The Catechism does not say anyone will be, just that it is possible. If anyone has told you that the Church teaching today is that people outside the Church are, in fact, saved, then that person was in error.

I hear this error a lot on these forums. We must remember that, with God’s mercy, anything is possible. However, the teaching remains unchanged: there is no salvation outside of the Church. How and when someone may bring themselves into the Church before death is a matter that should concern is greatly. No one should go to their death without hearing the truth. If someone does die without having the truth presented, then we have failed as a Church.

But, again, the Church acknowledges that some may be saved in a way unknown to us.

Peace

Sean

Pound Coolish #4
there is simply no reconciling those quotes with Catholic teaching.
To go from that to the current teaching on salvation isn’t “clarification” of doctrine as we Catholics like to call it, but a complete reversal of Catholic teaching

Incorrect; and those definite conclusions of “reversal” of Catholic teaching reflect a mindset opposed to the expressed view that “I am only trying to work this all out.”

#12
I’ve read that, and that’s what bothers me. Today the Catechism (a relatively recent development as you know) says, “This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church.” But that’s really not what “There is indeed one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which nobody at all is saved" implies. It strongly implies there are no exceptions.

Then pay attention to the reality in post #11 which definitively clarifies the erroneous assumption:
‘This is not to say that the maxim is false. Properly understood, it is quite true. The Latin word extra can mean either “without” or “outside.” The correct interpretation and sense of the maxim is that we cannot be saved without the Church. It is through the Church, which carries on and makes present the salvific work of Jesus Christ in the world, that all who are saved reach heaven (even if it is perhaps only there that they realize it). Those who, through no fault of their own, have never known Christ or his Church can still be saved. But their salvation, too, is the effect of Jesus working through his Church. In a positive sense, this theological principle “means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body” (CCC 846).’
Encyclopedia of Catholic Doctrine, OSV].

outsidethechurchnosalvation.blogspot.com/search/label/Magisterium (Ludovicus)
Here is another quotation for those who are fond of opposing the early statements on “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” against the current Church interpretation:
‘Since Christ brings about salvation through his Mystical Body, which is the Church, the way of salvation is connected essentially with the Church. The axiom “extra ecclesiam nulla salus”–“outside the Church there is no salvation”–stated by St. Cyprian (Epist. 73, 21; PL 1123 AB), belongs to the Christian tradition. It was included in the Fourth Lateran Council (DS 802), in the Bull *Unam Sanctam *of Boniface VIII (DS 870) and the Council of Florence (Decretum pro Jacobitis, DS 1351). **The axiom means that for those who are not ignorant of the fact that the Church has been established as necessary by God through Jesus Christ, there is an obligation to enter the Church and remain in her in order to attain salvation (cf. LG 14). **For those, however, who have not received the Gospel proclamation, as I wrote in the Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, salvation is accessible in mysterious ways, inasmuch as divine grace is granted to them by virtue of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice, without external membership in the Church, but nonetheless always in relation to her (cf. RM 10). It is a mysterious relationship. It is mysterious for those who receive the grace, because they do not know the Church and sometimes even outwardly reject her. It is also mysterious in itself, because it is linked to the saving mystery of grace, which includes an essential reference to the Church the Savior founded.’
vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/audiences/alpha/data/aud19950531en.html

Note that the quotation is from St John Paul II himself.

Thank you, Abu, but while that is all reassuring, those merely contradict the statements rather than explaining them.

Incorrect, as the explanation of the meaning of the maxim had already been given and there is no contradiction.

these is an example of the development of faith. There are recent documents that seem to suggest that these are wrong and recent sayings on salvation contradict this. Rather they are developments not changes.

Catholic.com does a good job explaining this.

catholic.com/magazine/articles/what-no-salvation-outside-the-church-means

pay special attention here

The Church recognizes that God does not condemn those who are innocently ignorant of the truth about his offer of salvation. Regarding the doctrine in question, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (quoting Vatican II document Lumen Gentium, 16) states:

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. (CCC 847)

Vatican II document Gaudium Et Spesteaches similarly on the possibility of salvation:

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. (22)

This in no way contradicts the statements you posted previously.

Pope Gregory XVI and the Council of Florence are merely repeating the Athanasian Creed.

As the old Catholic Encyclopedia article on it notes concerning the damnatory clauses:

[quote=CE]They are but the credal equivalent of Our Lord’s words: “He that believeth not shall be condemned”, and apply, as is evident, only to the culpable and wilful rejection of Christ’s words and teachings.
newadvent.org/cathen/02033b.htm

[/quote]

The Fourth Lateran Council and the document Unam Sanctam of Bonifce VIII confirm the dogma that belonging to the Church is necessary for salvation. Pope Boniface merely clarifies which Church: the one subject to the Roman Pontiff.

Just to add to my previous post, St. John Paul II explained this in detail in the following allocution, citing both the Fourth Lateran Council and Boniface VIII, as well as a similar statement from the Council of Florence and St. Cyprian:

[quote=St. John Paul II]However, as I wrote in the Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, the gift of salvation cannot be limited “to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all.” And, in admitting that it is concretely impossible for many people to have access to the Gospel message, I added: “Many people do not have the opportunity to come to know or accept the Gospel revelation or to enter the Church. The social and cultural conditions in which they live do not permit this, and frequently they have been brought up in other religious traditions” (RM 10).

We must acknowledge that, as far as human beings can know and foresee, this practical impossibility would seem destined to last a long time, perhaps until the work of evangelization is finally completed. Jesus himself warned that only the Father knows “the exact time” set by him for the establishment of his kingdom in the world (cf. Acts 1:7).

What I have said above, however, does not justify the relativistic position of those who maintain that a way of salvation can be found in any religion, even independently of faith in Christ the Redeemer, and that interreligious dialogue must be based on this ambiguous idea. That solution to the problem of the salvation of those who do not profess the Christian creed is not in conformity with the Gospel. Rather, we must maintain that the way of salvation always passes through Christ, and therefore the Church and her missionaries have the task of making him known and loved in every time, place and culture. Apart from Christ “there is no salvation.” As Peter proclaimed before the Sanhedrin at the very start of the apostolic preaching: “There is no other name in the whole world given to men by which we are to be saved” (Acts 4:12).

For those too who through no fault of their own do not know Christ and are not recognized as Christians, the divine plan has provided a way of salvation. As we read in the Council’s Decree Ad Gentes, we believe that “God in ways known to himself can lead those inculpably ignorant of the Gospel” to the faith necessary for salvation (AG 7). Certainly, the condition “inculpably ignorant” cannot be verified nor weighed by human evaluation, but must be left to the divine judgment alone. For this reason, the Council states in the Constitution Gaudium et Spes that in the heart of every man of good will, “Grace works in an unseen way… The Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery” (GS 22).

It is important to stress that the way of salvation taken by those who do not know the Gospel is not a way apart from Christ and the Church. The universal salvific will is linked to the one mediation of Christ. “God our Savior…wants all men to be saved and come to know the truth. And the truth is this: God is one. One also is the mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim 2:3-6). Peter proclaimed this when he said: “There is no salvation in anyone else” and called Jesus the “cornerstone” (Acts 4:11-12), emphasizing Christ’s necessary role at the basis of the Church.

This affirmation of the Savior’s “uniqueness” derives from the Lord’s own words. He stated that he came “to give his own life in ransom for the many” (Mk 10:45), that is, for humanity, as St. Paul explains when he writes: “One died for all” (2 Cor 5:14; cf. Rom 5:18). Christ won universal salvation with the gift of his own life. No other mediator has been established by God as Savior. The unique value of the sacrifice of the cross must always be acknowledged in the destiny of every man.

Since Christ brings about salvation through his Mystical Body, which is the Church, the way of salvation is connected essentially with the Church. The axiom extra ecclesiam nulla salus"–“outside the Church there is no salvation”–stated by St. Cyprian (Epist. 73, 21; PL 1123 AB), belongs to the Christian tradition. It was included in the Fourth Lateran Council (DS 802), in the Bull Unam Sanctam of Boniface VIII (DS 870) and the Council of Florence (Decretum pro Jacobitis, DS 1351). The axiom means that for those who are not ignorant of the fact that the Church has been established as necessary by God through Jesus Christ, there is an obligation to enter the Church and remain in her in order to attain salvation (cf. LG 14). For those, however, who have not received the Gospel proclamation, as I wrote in the Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, salvation is accessible in mysterious ways, inasmuch as divine grace is granted to them by virtue of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice, without external membership in the Church, but nonetheless always in relation to her (cf. RM 10). It is a mysterious relationship. It is mysterious for those who receive the grace, because they do not know the Church and sometimes even outwardly reject her. It is also mysterious in itself, because it is linked to the saving mystery of grace, which includes an essential reference to the Church the Savior founded.

In order to take effect, saving grace requires acceptance, cooperation, a yes to the divine gift. This acceptance is, at least implicitly, oriented to Christ and the Church. Thus it can also be said that sine ecclesia nulla salus–“without the Church there is no salvation.” Belonging to the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, however implicitly and indeed mysteriously, is an essential condition for salvation.
[/quote]

vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/audiences/alpha/data/aud19950531en.html

These declarations are each one of them authentic and true. All you have to do is research them if you doubt what I say. What is so hard to believe about them anyway, if one holds the Catholic faith whole and inviolate, and professes the true faith of the saints? God bless you.

The running theme seems to be, the Church is the Church of Christ, without Christ and His Church, no one can be saved. If people are saved, even if they don’t believe in the one true Church, they somehow still go to Heaven through it. The Christ part is easy to get. After, He is, “the way, the truth, and the light.” No one can come to the Father except through His sacrifice.

I guess my question about the Catholic Church part would be, how? You’ve all referred me to articles and posted papal quotes explaining how people can be saved, but not explaining how and why people can only be saved through the Church. In fact, some of the quotes list various ways to be saved that seem to have nothing to do with the church. For instance, dying in ignorance, truly and honestly believing the Church is wrong, not through voluntary doubt or heresy.

But, in that instance for example, how is one being saved through the Church? You don’t believe in the Church, but it’s for integrative reasons, you still go to Heaven. If that happens, you still die outside the church and you are still saved.

Pound Coolish #19
You’ve all referred me to articles and posted papal quotes explaining how people can be saved, but not explaining how and why people can only be saved through the Church.
how is one being saved through the Church? You don’t believe in the Church, but it’s for integrative reasons, you still go to Heaven. If that happens, you still die outside the church and you are still saved.

Unless and until you listen to the Church, and the clear explanations She has already given through her Saints who were popes, you will remain in a quagmire of uncertainty and disbelief.

She specifically teaches in Vatican II, *Lumen Gentium *#16: “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.”

Msgr Cormac P Burke was for many years a Judge of the Roman Rota, High Court of the Church, and has a Doctorate in Canon Law; he is a priest of the Prelature of Opus Dei. “http://www.cormacburke.or.ke/cv/1

He has explained that the Latin extra can mean either “without” or “outside” and, with the Magisterium, gives the true meaning of the possibility of salvation for non-Catholics. His contribution to the ECD (OSV) explains.

“Extra Ecclesiam, Nulla Salus”
• What are we to say about those who, lacking Baptism, are not members of the Church in any of the senses explained above? Here it is necessary to clarify the meaning of an old theological principle whose interpretation has caused difficulty in the past: Extra ecclesiam, nulla salus (literally, “outside the Church, there is no salvation”). Some people have wished to understand this saying in the most literal sense: that is, that the person who is not formally a practicing Catholic cannot be saved. The Church has condemned such an interpretation (cf. Denzinger-Schönmetzer, 3870-3873).

This is not to say that the maxim is false. Properly understood, it is quite true. The Latin word extra can mean either “without” or “outside.” The correct interpretation and sense of the maxim is that we cannot be saved without the Church. It is through the Church, which carries on and makes present the salvific work of Jesus Christ in the world, that all who are saved reach heaven (even if it is perhaps only there that they realize it). Those who, through no fault of their own, have never known Christ or his Church can still be saved. But their salvation, too, is the effect of Jesus working through his Church. In a positive sense, this theological principle “means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body” (CCC 846). [My emphasis].
Encyclopedia of Catholic Doctrine, OSV].

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