Invincible Ignorance

Is whether or not one is invincibly ignorant a concern for Protestants? Is this something we should be concerned about? Should we evangelize them?

Is whether or not one is invincibly ignorant a concern for Protestants?

yes whether or not they are concerned about it

Is this something we should be concerned about?

yes, since with the availability of information and the many facets the truth can be known being invincibly ignorant is in reality a rare case

Should we evangelize them?

Yes, we should invite them and share the truth with them, so they can be one with the Church Christ instituted and be available to the graces in the sacraments

these answers are based on my understanding of invincible ignorance

John Martignoni gives a great talk on this in Apologetics for the Masses - Issue #208

Does God want everyone to be Catholic?

It is LESS a concern for Christian protestants, who have received valid Christian Baptism. But, maybe, we should be MORE concerned with these.

The doctrine of invincible ignorance does not apply to Christians (those who have received valid Christian Baptism, which includes most protestants). It applies only to those “righteous” people who were never Baptized (such as, perhaps, Gandhi).

The “rule” of Salvation is no different from anyone (Catholic or protestant) who has received valid Christian Baptism. Baptism saves us (ie, places us in a State of Grace). If we commit mortal sin, we remove ourselves from this State. Catholics have recourse to Sacramental Confession, but other Christian do not. Thus, a Baptized protestant who falls into mortal sin (probably) has no recourse though the doctrine of Invincible Ignorance.

We should evangelize everyone who is not Catholic. It might possibly be reasonable to adopt the medical practice of “triage,” in which injured persons are prioritized according to their probability of recovery. Validly baptized protestants are much closer to “recovery” than non-Christians, and maybe we should focus on them first.

Dear C794,

Invincible ignorance can apply to anyone who through no fault of their own has not formally become a member of the Church. So non-Catholic Christians can fall in this category. Having formerly not been in the Catholic communion, I can definitely attest to the great misconceptions non-Catholics have about the Catholic Faith. Those who grow up with this (mis)understanding of Catholicism, and refuse to enter the Catholic Church thereby, but otherwise live their lives according to the revelation God has given them, would fall under invincible ignorance. But it is not invincible ignorance that saves them. It is God’s mercy that saves them.

The catch is that the Church does not know who actually is in invincible ignorance. Only God knows. The Church only teaches that if a person has not become a formal member of the Church because he or she is sincerely invincibly ignorant, God will not hold that against him or her.

So it is our duty to witness for the Faith to ALL.


CCC#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.”:o

Here’s what the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says:

[quote=CDF]Therefore, the work of ecumenism does not remove the right or take away the responsibility of proclaiming in fullness the Catholic faith to other Christians, who freely wish to receive it.

Note, “ecumenism” in this context refers to more corporate efforts at unity, rather than those at the individual level.

Thanks for the replies. Being a convert I know many people who are Protestant. I struggle with this topic. Sometimes I’m worried, others not. It becomes really difficult because I don’t know what my role is.

I completely agree. Many on these forums hold a pretty liberal view of invincible ignorance - almost to the faulty and heretical conclusion of universal salvation (even though they won’t call it that).

I think that the doctrine of invincible ignorance does not explicitly apply to Protestants. They have the Holy Spirit, and therefore need only pray and properly discern the spirit to find the true Church. Ignorance is not an excuse in this regard IMHO.


Invincible ignorance has also been a concern for me lately. I have talked to a neighbor, who is attending a non-denominational seminary, several times and had dinner at their home.

While trying not to offend her, I still try to discuss the Catholic faith. She is sincerely interested. (I think shes trying to convert me). But, sometime things I say does offend her. I try to be full of grace, and yet there must be conviction in thing I say. She has said she wishes that I was attending school with her, she must be getting the other side!

Last time she walked by with her dog, my wife and I were in the driveway. I have become worried about invincible ignorance and culpability, but she seems on the road home.

She wants reassurance that we are equal and on the same team, and that she doesn’t need to look any farther. She believes that all the denominations just use different lenses and it’s ok.

I sometimes try to just change the subject. But, I’m reminded of Acts 20, Paul said, ““And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.”

So, do we have some “culpability” in those situations?


Has she received valid Christian Baptism (using water, and the Trinitarian Form)? If so, she has nothing to do with invincible ignorance (which applies only to pagans).

If she is guilty of post-Batmisal mortal sin, she cannot hope that invincible ignorance will save her.

This is the really great sadness of protestantism. It offers eternal salvation (by Baptism), but no recourse (other than Catholic conversion) if someone falls into mortal sin afterward.

But Protestants don’t believe in mortal and venial sin. They may claim that all sins are mortal to counter us, but I feel that their understanding is different. So are they really as accountable as we are when we commit a mortal sin? Doesn’t the fact that they don’t know they need confession mean that they have less culpability for not going? Does this mean that Protestants are in a worse position than pagans?

That’s an interesting question. I posted such a question on this Forum a few weeks ago. I was really hoping that one of the more “knowledgeable” Members would reply to the thread early, but I had no such luck - the thread quickly became an absolute quagmire of people who really do not understand mortal sin at all (but think they do). It got so bad that a moderator deleted the entire thread. He PM’d me to tell me he had killed it, and I thanked him for it.

This got me more interested in an idea that has been kicking around in my head for a couple of years - an “advanced apologetics” forum, which is somewhat restricted (like the Ask an Apologist forum), but with a broader membership. The mod suggested that I mention my idea to Jo Benedict. But I would prefer to present a mature proposal, and I still haven’t worked out how an invitation to join would be extended (preferably within the limitations of the vBulletin system that this site is built upon).

But I can’t decide on a membership criteria (not even on a concrete suggestion). Should members nominate others, who would be voted up-or-down? (and, how would the initial membership be selected?) Should there be a minimum Forum seniority (join date and/or post count), and how would exceptions be handled? (such as, what if Dr. Scott Hahn wanted to join?) What would happen if a member kinda went off the rails (hey, it could happen. Bart Brewster is a Catholic priest (as was Arius and Martin Luther)). What would happen if an otherwise respected member got drunk and posted nonsense? I had initially thought that such a forum would not need a moderator, but maybe that’s wrong.

I cannot even decide to recommend that the forum be world-readable, or only available to members. I could see that people could easily misunderstand the theological nature of some discussions (such as: can a protestant consent to mortal sin if he doesn’t believe in mortal sin?) and misconstrue such discussions as being somehow rooted in Catholic doctrine (since it is, after all, an advanced apologetics forum of the world’s foremost English-language apologetics site). It is a complete minefield! If I wanted to create and manage an “advanced apologetics” forum on a website of my own, that would be one thing. But to operate under the auspices of is another. There’s a reason why Catholic academic theologians often discuss and debate questions without attracting much attention to themselves. St Thomas Aquinas raised logical questions about the Immaculate Conception, and we occasionally get questions about why he “rejected” the idea. Aquinas asked questions, but he he has been perceived as rejecting.

I will be visiting my brother, Fr. Eric Filmer (of the “Ask an Apologist” Forum) in a few days, and I plan to discuss both questions with him. I’m sure he will have some valuable insight.

Please share any insights you arrive at. I’d greatly appreciate it :slight_smile:

I guess my biggest 2 questions are…

  1. There seems to be a point where a non-Catholic becomes culpable, or moves to vincible ignorance at some point, and of course, we don’t know when that is. However, we are told in scripture to “study to show ourselves approved”, also…“make our calling and election sure”, also, “even the elect may be deceived”, and " to study the Scriptures to verify the teaching.

Granted, there is so much teaching out there that contradicts Catholic doctrine, so a non-Catholic will have no trouble finding someone who teaches contradiction.

  1. If we take the easy way out because we don’t want to get into it, sometimes just because of the spiritual conflict involved, do we then become the least bit complicit? or culpable?

In Acts 20, Paul certainly believed that ‘his’ failing to preach the whole truth would have left him complicit with the blood of those he evangelized on his hands.



I think that would be a great idea. Each of us may have different concerns that could be discussed on a different level without condemnation.

A couple of threads that I have considered starting, I haven’t. I have seen other forums on similar topics to mine, and the few responses doesn’t seem fulfilling.


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