No salvation outside of the Roman Catholic Church?


#1

Greetings!

As some of you may be aware, some leading Evangelicals have previously attempted to unite with Roman Catholics by signing the “Evangelicals and Catholics Together” document (1994) wherein they agreed to accept each other as Christians. Today I applaud such efforts towards unity in the Body of Christ. However, I did come from an Evangelical fundamentalistic background where fundamentalists said to me that the RC Church is a “counterfeit” church that teaches “evil and false doctrines”, etc. etc. One of the teachings that really used to (and still does) bother them is the RC’s insistence that “Outside the Church there is no salvation”. I know, however, that the RCC holds to an inclusivist view of salvation, and not an exclusivistic one. This can be seen in Pope John Paul II’s book, “Crossing the Threshold of Hope” where he refers to Protestant and Orthodox believers as “Christians” (p. 146). And yet, in this same book, John Paul tries to explain what the Church means when it says “Outside the Church there is no salvation” (see pp. 140-1). To me it sounds like a paradoxical statement. How can the RCC be the “instrument of salvation” while it recognizes the fact that salvation is possible in other churches and even in other religions? Can someone help me understand John Paul’s explanation better on page 140?

Sincerely,
Protestant


#2

Catholic Church is the safest and the surest way to salvation. If you want to know more please see Cathechism of a Catholic Church and Dominus Iesus.


#3

When you use the “SEARCH”, you will find a number of threads on the topic. They will include lots of posts on your question… including the extreme positions of Fr Feeney to Cardinal Kasper.

Is there salvation outside the Catholic Church…no

Do those who are not fully members of the Catholic Church have a chance to be saved… yes

Sounds confusing doesn’t it? A trip through the threads will help in understanding this position.

.


#4

Too many people get hung up on phraseology and wording. There has been a trend lately to restate this Truth with more positive connotations lately (and I don’t have a problem with that). The more diplomatic way of saying “no salvation outside the Catholic Church” is to say that all salvation comes to us from Jesus, through the Catholic Church.

This is not so problematic as it may appear, because the Church never says that only those consciously aligned with her in this lifetime can be saved. If you truly understand the Catholic teaching on what the Church is, it is a pretty easy teaching to accept. Most people don’t realize that simply by being validly baptized, the Catholic Church already considers that person a member of the Church. The concept of “the Church” is broad and deep, and what constitutes membership is not what some people think.


#5

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

819 “Furthermore, many elements of sanctification and of truth” are found outside the visible confines of the Catholic Church: “the written Word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope, and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, as well as visible elements.” Christ’s Spirit uses these Churches and ecclesial communities as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church. All these blessings come from Christ and lead to him, and are in themselves calls to “Catholic unity.”


#6

Good day, Protestant, and welcome to the forums! May the peace and love of Jesus flow to you as a waterfall.

The Church understands that those validly baptised are in some way members of the Body of Christ. Honestly, to say that God confines himself to any one particular religion is unreasonable.

To say “Outside the Church there is no salvation” one can interpret this several ways. The Catholic understanding is that Christ established a church which now resides as the Catholic Church. However, Christ’s baptism is unrestrained. As a validly baptised christian, you share in Christ’s Body, the church. Ergo, salvation is made available to you.

Even the unbaptised, if they live thier lives according to God’s will, will be judged accordingly. (Work’s salvation?) Please read Romans 2:14-16.

So the vehicle for salvation is the Church, but you don’t have to be Catholic to enjoy some of the benefits.

God bless,
Subrosa


#7

Perhaps the following analogy might help…

If you are penniless, you are (by definition) without money.

If I then give you $10, you will of course have $10 more than you had before. Where did you get the $10 from? From me, obviously.

Now let’s say there’s another penniless person standing opposite you, and you turn around and give that person $5 from the $10 I just gave you. Where did that person’s $5 come from? Well, in one sense, it came from you… but a case could certainly be made (since you didn’t even have $10 until just a few sentences ago) that it really came from me.


#8

Hi,

Thank you all for replying to my post.

If I understand you all correctly, Catholicism teaches that while the Catholic church is the “instrument” of salvation", having the “fulness of the gospel”, the salvific benefits are still available outside of the church because the gospel is still taught in other Christian denominations and churches (Protestant and Orthodox)? But then can one not say that Protestant churches are also the “instrument of salvation”?? It all sounds a bit similar to the LDS/ Mormon concept of salvation - they say that they only teach the “fulness of the gospel” whilst recognizing that Christians in other denominations can be saved.

Has anyone read John Paul’s book, “Crossing the Threshold of Hope”? If so, I would be interested to hear your summary of his explanation of the phrase “Outside of the Church there is no salvation” (p. 140).

Also, let me reproduce the e-mail I received from the fundamentalist that sparked off my inquiry to this forum. He wrote:


“Never mind how they try to dress it up, they still teach that salvation is only found in the “true” church, there’s of course - witness the popes words in Brazil just of late…we must strengthen our hold over the people in South America, we must remain the overriding dominant force; in other words get rid of these worrisome evangelicals! - and his words only a few years ago when he was still cardinal - the Roman Catholic church is the ONLY instrument for the salvation of all humanity - ratified by the then pope! Caused havoc amongst those evangelicals trying to sit side by side with the romies!..
where does thet leave you and me Mikey…?? Out in purgatory for a few 1000 years to mend our ways, or simply straight to hell…”


#9

Protestant,
I am going to put this in the simplest terms I can… You are a member of the Church. We consider all Christians members. But, there are members… and there are Members… not in a snobby sort of way… Basically, The Catholic Church is comprised of all Christians, but there are those that are not in total communion with the teachings and beliefs…they are members. They have the same benefits of membership as far as salvation goes, but the Members, who would be defined as those who have the FULLNESS of the faith (i.e. the 7 sacraments, the Holy Eucharist) have an advantage over the members in that it is an easier path if they follow the tenets of the faith.

The part that Protestants have a hard time with is that they don’t understand that they are considered part of the Catholic Church as far as this teaching is concerned. They also don’t consider themselves a part of the Catholic Church so this is a very foreign concept. But like it or not, we consider you part of the family.


#10

You may be confused. I am Catholic. The Catholic Church has a Western and an Eastern side (not to be confused with the Orthodox Church). Having said that, I would never attempt to judge the eternal destination of my reformed brothers and sisters. There is only one judge. :slight_smile:


#11

For those of us who have not read or have the book, I found this site that appears to have the book, but no page numbers. Could you possibly find it here and help us read this part that you wish to discuss?

Crossing the Threshold of Hope

Is is on this page here? Is Only Rome Right?


#12

There is no salvation outside the Church because the Church is the Body of Christ–and the Divine life flows from its Head (Jesus) to its members. It is also like the Ark of Noah. One becomes a member when they are born again through Baptism (this is why anyone who is Baptized is rightfully called a Christian). One separates oneself through willful schism, heresy, or apostacy. If a Protestant, therefore, were judged by God to be mortally guilty of those sins, they could not be saved. Likewise, if someone refused to be Baptized, they could not be saved. It is possible, however, for those who through no fault of their own have not been Baptized to be saved.

This document, from the Holy Office (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) in 1949 addresses this issue very well:

matt1618.freeyellow.com/appendixe.html


#13

One way I like to explain it is this: Jesus says the Kingdom is like a big net that catches all kinds of fish. Then, at the end, the good fish are separated from the bad, and the bad are thrown back into the sea and are lost. Notice also, that those never caught in the net would also be lost. Its *possible *that non-Ccatholics can be in the net, but only by being Catholic can you make absolutely sure that you are in the net. Of course, that does not guarantee salvation, because you still must persevere in charity–if you do not, you will be thrown back.


#14

Depends upon what you mean by these terms. For instance, Catholics and non-Catholics alike may be excluded from heaven, depending upon whether or not they walk in the light of Christ as taught by Christ’s Body, the “pillar and bulwark of truth”–the Church.

In a sense salvation of Christ is exclusive. In a sense, it can be seen as inclusive. It depends very much upon how one walks with God.

This can be seen in Pope John Paul II’s book, “Crossing the Threshold of Hope” where he refers to Protestant and Orthodox believers as “Christians” (p. 146).

Yes, but make no mistake, just because one is a Christian does not mean they will endure in the obedience of faith to the end so as to attain everlasting life in heaven. They may be “inside” the Church in body, but obstinately remain “outside” the Church in soul. Those who obstinately place themselves outside the Church in soul will not attain everlasting life. We will be judged more by how we walk with God, by our likeness to Christ than by our notions of Christ, which can often be erroneous.

And yet, in this same book, John Paul tries to explain what the Church means when it says “Outside the Church there is no salvation” (see pp. 140-1). To me it sounds like a paradoxical statement. How can the RCC be the “instrument of salvation” while it recognizes the fact that salvation is possible in other churches and even in other religions?

Only those “joined” to the Catholic Church who endure in supernatural faith and charity will attain eternal life in heaven. What John Paul II is saying is that, to be “joined” to the Church is not necessarily limited to being united merely in “body”, but one must also be united in “heart” or “soul” to the Church. Thus, one united in soul but perhaps not yet in body is truly saved “inside” the same ark of salvation we call the Church.

This is not simply John Paul II’s notion of who belongs to the Church, but St. Pius X also explained it similarly…

Catechism of St. Pius X:

**Q: Can one be saved outside the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church? **

A: No, no one can be saved outside the Catholic, Apostolic Roman Church, just as no one could be saved from the flood outside the Ark of Noah, which was a figure of the Church.

**Q: But if a man through no fault of his own is outside the Church, can he be saved? **

A: If he is outside the Church through no fault of his, that is, if he is in good faith, and if he has received Baptism, or at least has the implicit desire of Baptism; and if, moreover, he sincerely seeks the truth and does God’s will as best he can such a man is indeed separated from the body of the Church, but is united to the soul of the Church and consequently is on the way of salvation

Thus, the “inclusiveness” you speak of is not that people outside the Church can be saved, but instead means that there may be some who appear outside the Church in the eyes of man, because they are outside in body, but in the eyes of God they are truly inside the same Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church because they are joined to the soul of the Church, and are then truly members of the Mystical Body of Christ.


#15

The complete message that was taught by Jesus resides in the Catholic Church. This is documented fact and can be found in the history of Christ’s church to the beginning of christianity. Doctrines that are extracted from the bible are many. Many began after 1500 years of christian history. If I were to speak to you about biblical teaching, and then to a Unitarian about biblical teaching, the result would be two different things. Does the Holy Spirit teach more than one truth? The Church Christ founded is the one built on the Rock of Peter and in which the gates of hell would not prevail against (Mt. 16:18) Only that one can contain the true gospel. Ask Dr. Beckwith…rightreason.ektopos.com/archives/2007/05/my_return_to_th.html

It all sounds a bit similar to the LDS/ Mormon concept of salvation - they say that they only teach the “fulness of the gospel” whilst recognizing that Christians in other denominations can be saved.

Good point! The truth about them is this - they either are correct, making the Catholic Church wrong, or they are wrong and the Catholic Church is correct.

There is of course the one true church - the Western Branch of American Reformed PresbyLutheranism. :smiley:

Has anyone read John Paul’s book, “Crossing the Threshold of Hope”? If so, I would be interested to hear your summary of his explanation of the phrase “Outside of the Church there is no salvation” (p. 140).

Yes, and I have summarized it above. The Catholic Church is the instrument, everyone else are the sounds that come from the instrument (musical metaphor).

Also, let me reproduce the e-mail I received from the fundamentalist that sparked off my inquiry to this forum. He wrote:


“Never mind how they try to dress it up, they still teach that salvation is only found in the “true” church, there’s of course - witness the popes words in Brazil just of late…we must strengthen our hold over the people in South America, we must remain the overriding dominant force; in other words get rid of these worrisome evangelicals! - and his words only a few years ago when he was still cardinal - the Roman Catholic church is the ONLY instrument for the salvation of all humanity - ratified by the then pope! Caused havoc amongst those evangelicals trying to sit side by side with the romies!..
where does thet leave you and me Mikey…?? Out in purgatory for a few 1000 years to mend our ways, or simply straight to hell…”

Please, show us the Pope’s words that the evangelical refers to.

Here is the official teaching of the Church (Lumen Gentium). It makes good reading and it would behove you to read it in it’s entirety.

ewtn.com/library/COUNCILS/V2CHURCH.HTM

Pay special attention to paragaphs 15 and 16 as these relate directly to our discussion.

God bless,
Surosa


#16

From a Catholic perspective, unless your Church sacramentally confects a valid Eucharist, you do not have a true particular Church. Catholic ecclesiology is very specific on that point. No Eucharist…no true particular Church.

Consequently, while the Orthodox (and a few others) are indeed true particular Churches in the Catholic understanding of the word (although they may not be in full unity with the Catholic (universal) Church), in general, Protestant communities are not understood to be true particular Churches.

The Christians that go to Protestant services are understood to be true Christians, so long as their sacramental baptism was valid. But Protestant assemblies are not understood to be true Churches, but instead are likened to gatherings of lay Christians.

You must have a validly ordained priest who validly confects the Holy Eucharist to be a true particular Church, according to Catholic theology. I understand Protestants disagree with this ecclesiology, but this is how the Catholic Church understands it.

With that said, what Church do Protestants belong to from this Catholic perspective? They do not belong to a true particular Church since they have no validly ordained priest and valid Eucharist. They can only be joined to the Catholic (universal) Church insofar as they were validly baptized, and then only imperfectly as they do not conform to true Christian ecclesiology and epistemology according to Sacred Scripture and Catholic theology. They are “Catholics,” even if unconscious to that fact, but without right worship (orthod-doxy), they are objectively clinging to material heresy, a grave sin.

At best, the Protestant Christian may be joined to the Catholic Church in soul if they error in “good faith,” which connotes that while one objectively adheres to the grave error of material heresy, there is some impediment of will or intellect at work, some measure of involuntariness in their error such that they lack full culpability for the grave sin. This means the grave error does not rise to the level of formal heresy.

Formal heresy is a damnable sin which is committed obstinately, with full advertence of grave sinfulness and perfect consent of will, which automatically results in being severed from the body of Christ–the Church–at least in soul.

Outside the Church there is no salvation. So if you are necessarily severed–in soul–from the Church due to formal heresy (or any formal mortal sin), and one remains finally impenitent of this mortal sin unto death, such a person will descend immediately into hell.

We pray that does not happen. And we evangelize non-Catholics because it very well may happen, as we don’t have insight into the internal disposition of their souls. They may be obstinate, they may be inculpably ignorant–we just dont’ know. We cannot count upon our brethren having inculpable ignornance in their grave sins. Thus, when the pope actively promotes the evangelization of Protestants, he does so out of charity, out of a concern for the eternal state of their souls.

So the Church still has a mission to preach the full Gospel, which includes the true Christian ecclesiology and epistemology that Protestants reject. The error of Protestantism is damnable if the error is born of obstinacy with full advertence and perfect consent. Thus, Pope Benedict understands that Protestants are still in need of truth. They do indeed cling to objectively grave error which does harm to one’s soul. Whether such grave error will be met with eternal punishment depends upon the measure of obstinacy involved.


#17

This is a very true and a very difficult statement to understand and accept.

I have been chastised by a poster or two for insisting on calling the Catholic Church the Church… and all other “break-away” Reformation groups simply faith communities.:rolleyes:

But the fact is that the word Church only applied to that group of early Christians (first called The Way, then called Catholic), and our separated brethren have erroneously labeled their communities as churches… and time has given a sort of validation stamp to the misuse.

.


#18

Hi Maria G,

Yes, the Pope’s statements are on the link you provide: “Is Only Rome Right?”

The specific paragraphs that I would like clarification on are the following:


Here the Council sets forth its teaching on the Church as the active subject of salvation in Christ: “Fully incorporated into the society of the Church are those who, having the Spirit of Christ, integrally accept its organization and all means of salvation instituted in it. In the Church’s visible structure they are joined with Christ-who rules the Church through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops-by the bonds of the profession of the faith, the sacraments, ecclesiastical government, and Communion. Those who do not persist in charity, even if they remain in the Church in ‘body’ but not in ‘heart,’ cannot be saved. All of the Church’s children must remember that their privileged condition is not the result of their own merits, but the result of the special grace of Christ. Therefore, if someone does not respond to this grace in thought, in word, and in deeds, not only will that person not be saved, he will be even more severely judged” (Lumen Gentium 14). I think that the Council’s words fully respond to the difficulty raised by your question; they shed light on why the Church is necessary for salvation.

The Council speaks of membership in the Church for Christians and of being related to the Church for non-Christian believers in God, for people of goodwill (cf. Lumen Gentium 15-16). Both these dimensions are important for salvation, and each one possesses varying levels. People are saved through the Church, they are saved in the Church, but they always are saved by the grace of Christ. Besides formal membership in the Church, the sphere of salvation can also include other forms of relation to the Church. Paul VI expressed this same teaching in his first encyclical, Ecclesiam Suam, when he spoke of the various circles of the dialogue of salvation (cf. Ecclesiam Suam 101-117), which are the same as those indicated by the Council as the spheres of membership in and of relation to the Church. This is the authentic meaning of the well-known statement “Outside the Church there is no salvation.”



#19

Hi Mickey,

When the fundamentalist wrote to me, “where does thet leave you and me Mickey…”, he was referring to ME, “Protestant”, as “Mikey”. I am also known as “Mikey” else where as my name is Michael. :slight_smile:

Protestant / Michael


#20

Hi Blest One,

You wrote:

“I am going to put this in the simplest terms I can… You are a member of the Church. We consider all Christians members.”

So do you think that when Pope John Paul referred to “the Church” in his statement, he wasn’t referring exclusively to the Roman Catholic Church, but rather, the universal Catholic church / body of Christ?

Protestant


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.