How does a Catholic attain Salvation?

OK so I keep getting myself confused about what doctrines I actually believe in (in general) and one of them that confuses me is the Catholics view on how they attain Salvation, I know what Protestants think Catholics believe, but I’ve never heard it from a Catholic…:slight_smile:

How do you attain Salvation? Is baptism necessary? What about works? Do you believe in regeneration? What about the Sacraments: are they necessary for Salvation?

If an unbaptised infant dies? Would they go to heaven, hell or purgatory?
If a person converts on their death bed, but is unbaptised: what happens to them?
What about a Christian (non-catholic) who has believed, lived a good life but not been baptised: would they go to heaven hell or purgatory?
Do you need to be catholic to be saved?

It would be great to hear people points on this, but I’m also happy to be directed to the catechism. I am slowly reading through it, but if you could pinpoint the specific bits which deal with salvation that would be great!

Thanks in advance :slight_smile:

One gets to heaven by being born of God, choosing to accept God’s revelation, and persevering in it until the end.
In Catholic terms, this means being Baptized, believing in Christ, and persevering in charity until the end through the Sacraments(Mortal Sin kills charity in the soul).

Yes, Baptism is necessary for Salvation. But it is not absolutely necessary, you might be able to be saved without it under certain circumstances, but the Grace of Baptism must be given. The grace of Baptism itself, the new birth, is absolutely necessary and is given either in Water Baptism, Baptism of Blood, or Baptism of Desire.

Works are essentially apart of faith because Faith is a submission of intellect and will which very closely involves works. In any case, Catholics do not believe in Faith Alone.

Catholics don’t really use the word regeneration that much. If you mean being born again, then that is Baptism.

Yes, the Sacraments are necessary for Salvation.

Unbaptized infants do not go to hell, but we don’t exactly know there fate. We hope for there salvation.

If a person really converts to God on there deathbed but cannot be baptized, then they can be saved through a baptism of desire.

Being a Catholic is in a sense necessary for Salvation, but not absolutely necessary. The grace of Christ is channeled through his body which is the Church, so all salvation has to be ordered to the Church in some mysterious way.

Thanks for your response!

What’s baptism of blood and baptism of desire?

The Baptism of desire has just been explained by the previous Forum Member, Baptism of Blood means someone who is a Martyr for the faith, take for instance all the Japanese Martyrs who were tortured rather than denounce there Catholic Faith, even the ones that were under instruction and had not yet received Baptism, they would not renounce it, so they received Baptism of Blood, in not denying Christ.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church:


1257 The Lord himself affirms that Baptism is necessary for salvation.60 He also commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them.61 Baptism is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament.62 The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude; this is why she takes care not to neglect the mission she has received from the Lord to see that all who can be baptized are “reborn of water and the Spirit.” God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments.

1258 The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament.

1259 For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament.

1260 "Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery."63 Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity.

1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus’ tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them,"64 allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church’s call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.

See also:

Okay, revert here, don’t rely on my words alone, I’ll answer best as possible:

*]**Salvation **- Most simply, it is attained by confessing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, God-incarnate, whose death alone atones for the sins of the world.
*]**Baptism **- If you can get baptized, GET BAPTIZED, but if one dies faithful to Jesus but never got baptized, regretting never have gone through with it, God will respond to that. Thief on the Cross, wasn’t baptized by water, still yet was baptized by his confession of faith. Christians thrown to the lions without being baptized by water, still baptized by their blood in dying for the faith. Back to less deadly situations, if you believe and are aware of Baptism, DON’T PUT IT OFF!
*]**Works **- Works add NOTHING to us in our salvation. Those who faithfully follow Christ as Messiah/God will be driven to do good works, but that is more God working through you to will and to do his good pleasures, we get NO credit, for it is in faith that we are saved, not by our works. Don’t go serve soup to the poor at a homeless shelter thinking it will help you get to Heaven, but do it if you feel moved to do so, for it would be in the nature of one who is saved.
*]**Sacraments **- It is through the Sacraments that we interact with God. While some say that it is a relationship with Christ that we need, not a religion, what is a relationship with Christ without that kind of interaction as instructed in Scripture. “Do this in memory of me,” Jesus said, and by the traditions passed on through the Apostles, we do it weekly. Neglecting to do so is neglecting our relationship with God the Father Son & Holy Ghost. Like a boyfriend (forgive the analogy) who doesn’t see his girlfriend as often as he should, maybe he’s not so into the relationship. Do best to practice the Sacraments, unless you have something better to do (catch the sarcasm).

*]**Unbaptized infants **- They will certainly do not go to Hell, I believe the long speculated Limbo theory (which was never a hardcore doctrine) was officially passed off as false, but I personally don’t know whether it is Heaven of Purgatory they go. With Original Sin, Purgatory is likely, BUT I DON’T KNOW. Nothing unclean enters the Kingdom of God, so what better place for God’s mercy to take place than that realm of purification?
*]**Deathbed Confession of Faith **- I believe I addressed this earlier. Thief on the Cross next to Jesus likely wasn’t baptized, but he was saved at the moment of his faith. God would take all things into account, I’m sure, so if one dies confessing Jesus as Lord, God, & Savior, and seeks his mercy, without being baptized by water, he is saved, I’m sure again, by “Baptism by Desire.”
*]Non-Catholics Saved? - Now we’re getting into complicated matters, which I myself am not so expert in, but some non-Catholics may indeed be saved. I think I did hear the Vatican stating that it does not blame all non-Catholics for the separation, and that they could be saved simply by faith in Jesus (provided the faith is living, not dead, and it drives a person to do good by nature), I COULD BE WRONG, CHECK ME! Those who overtly refuse to be Catholic, to enter the Church or remain therein, are in deep peril I believe, but for those born afar in some other Christian splinter, who never had a conscious thought “maybe I should be Catholic” and lived on having faith in Jesus Christ, such may indeed again be saved (but through fires of Purgatory). SOMEONE CHECK ME ON ALL THAT!
*]Need to be Catholic? - We can only know the standard rules, so yes one should be Catholic. What if one is not? God will deal with him/her in his own way, so we cannot conclusively know. The Spirit moves as it wills, God works in mysterious ways, even calling on atheists who may try to resist could eventually find themselves in a relationship with Christ.

Hello Truth-Faith, and welcome to the Family!

Let’s see how does a Catholic seek Salvation? The shortest answer I can give is thru Jesus Christ of course!

You’ve asked a whole bunch of questions and that is demonstrative of your thirst for righteousness in Him. That is a good thing. It also shows some humility for asking in the first place. Admitting one doesn’t know something doesn’t come easy to some. But it is the first and necessary step to all learning. That being said, I’ll try and answer your questions.

How do you attain Salvation? – Through Jesus Christ, our Savior and His Church.

Is baptism necessary? – Yes, it is your entrance into the Church and washes away original and personal sins up to that point.

What about works? – Works are necessary for faith without works is dead. Works encompass many things from going to Church on Sunday to instructing your children in the faith to learning and praying a Rosary and giving to support your Church and the poor.

Do you believe in regeneration? – No, there is no doctrine of regeneration in Catholic teaching.

What about the Sacraments: are they necessary for Salvation? – Yes. Only those with invincible ignorance can get around this one.

If an unbaptised infant dies? Would they go to heaven, hell or purgatory? – The unbaptized infant has only one impediment to Heaven and that is his or her Original sin. It is said that the mercy of God removes this impediment.

If a person converts on their death bed, but is unbaptised: what happens to them? – We trust the mercy of God on that one too – but if you mean you don’t wait till you’re dying to ask for a Priest.

What about a Christian (non-catholic) who has believed, lived a good life but not been baptized: would they go to heaven hell or purgatory? – I cannot see anyone following Christ as a Christian and NOT desiring Baptism. It is fundamental to being Christian. Even Jesus was Baptized.

Do you need to be catholic to be saved? – If you mean saved as in a once-in-a-lifetime, completed action as in perminently saved from Hell forever, NO. We don’t do that here. There are no guarantees.

I hope this helps and stay curious. It is a good thing to ask questions.


Thank you all for your replies!

I am so confused at the moment…I tank this is all going to take some time to work out!

Baptism of Blood is one dies or is killed in such a way that they are considered a martyr for the faith of Jesus Christ, and yet are unbaptized. In that case, there own death brings them the grace of Baptismal rebirth.

Baptism of desire is when somebody has a desire for the rebirth of baptism but are unable to attain it because of either some outstanding circumstances or because of ignorance that was not a result of there own fault. The desire for Baptism can be explicit, or implicit. That is, they don’t necessarily have to be aware of it consciously.

Thanks for all of your answers and replies! :slight_smile:

How would you answer Protestants regarding verses where the Bible does seem to state that salvation is through faith. What is your interpretation (or the Churches) of these verses?

Eg Eph. 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. 9Not by works, lest any man should boast.”

Please note: I’m not arguing myself, I still don’t know whether I believe sola fidela or the CCs position. Just trying to understand arguments and counter arguments.

Thanks :slight_smile:

In a fully formed Catholic view, Salvation is through Faith. Faith, the biblical term, is still the best way to express it.

Faith is defined a bit differently in the Catholic Church.
Faith, a theological virtue, is a submission of mind and will to God.
A submission of mind and will obviously is closely related to “works” in the protestant sense, as there is no real hard and fast distinction in the Catholic Church.

We are saved by Faith, because Faith is our choice to submit ourselves to God and follow his will. Everything else follows from that.

Hello again Truth-Faith.

I can tell you this about this verse - when I was on my way into the Church it was through reading a Bible literally cover to cover because that’s the way I read every book. When I got here, the verses you pointed to it meant to me that I was in the process of being saved by the grace of God coming to me and that meant I was placing my trust in Him, having faith for the first time and it certainly wasn’t from myself because by that point in my conversion, I could clearly see the wreck I’d made of my life living the way I thought best and not according to God’s will for me. But I think this is a place you can only get when you are in conversion. It too is a grace. It is the gift of God - conversion - just like the Scripture says. And no I hadn’t done much of anything to get it except ask God sincerely to help me because in my sorrowful, pitiful life I knew I hadn’t any good works at all to “boast of.” Nope. But that’s just where I was before I got Baptized. It wasn’t long after reading my Bible that I knocked on the Rectory door one evening and asked the priest on duty “What do I have to do to become a Catholic?” I was literally weak in the knees and shaking from the grace flowing into my life. God was doing the work of saving me. He ain’t done with me yet. I hope you join us soon.


P.S. This is my own ideas about the passage and what it meant to me when I read it the first time. It is in no way anything close to an “official Catholic interpretation” of the passage of Scripture. If you want that ask an expert, which I’m not.

Do you have a catechism? I’ll send you one. Do you have a copy of Catholicism for Dummies?

Both are excellent resources and will help to dispell the doubts/difficultues that you are experiencing.

Hello Truth_Faith13,

I think that if a person converts without being baptized in his life, the person will be saved, but he will go to Purgatory.

By turning away from sin and turning to doing the will of God, with the help of grace, as Jesus showed us. This begins, as a formal act, with Baptism. From there we’re to continue to grow and persevere in holiness; the sacraments helping us to achieve this together with prayer and a walk that includes cooperating with God in the work He’s doing within us, doing His will in specific ways as He gives us the grace to do it-and in Catholic teaching grace is always resistible at any step along the way. Faith working through love (Gal 5:6) is the Catholic means to justice, love being what our justice consists of as the greatest commandments reveal.

I’m receiving daily emails with bits of the catechism with the aim of reading it within a year. I can look up other sections via the email. It’s just knowing which parts are relevant to salvation.

Thanks for all of your replies!

Simply, Catholics are saved by grace through faith working in love.
God’s grace is first in the equation. Grace is freely given as a gift, and it’s by grace alone that we are saved.
Faith is both a gift of God and our response to God’s freely given gift of grace.
Our faith must be working in love, or we must show charity. It must not be a dead faith of
words only or affirmation alone for salvation. We r not saved by faith alone.
Even faith itself is a work. We can’t just ‘faith’, we must make an act of faith.
All this is Biblical.
So faith and works together are important, not faith alone, nor works alone, but faith
working in love together for salvation.
At the end of time, we r all judged on our works. Rev 20:12-13.
Of course, none of this is possible without grace.
We gain grace through the sacraments, initially by Baptism, by avoiding mortal sin, and through other spiritual actions, like prayer.
See Gal 5:6, James 2:24, James 2:26, Eph 2:5,8, John 3:5. Many more scriptures for confession and confirmation.

Btw. Here is an online, searchable catechism.

If u r new to the Catechism and find it hard to read, you might want to
Pick up the YOUCAT, or youth Catechism. This is a but easier to read.

I think this will help you a lot…read the journal on Justification and salvation…it is written by former protestants now catholic…look for the one written by Dr. William Marshner…

Read it in light of all other Scripture, especially James, 1 John, and the Gospels. They detail specifically that to have faith you must obey God’s commandments. Faith isn’t an emotion, but an act of our will. We don’t work our way to salvation, but we must cooperate with God’s will and perform those good works He sets before us, and obey Him.

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