"no salvation outside the Church"


Can someone help me understand this one? I know it is from the Catechism, that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church. This seems to state that only Catholics can be saved, but the Church also specifically states that is not the case. Salvation is available for other Christians and even people of other religions. Can someone help me sort out this apparent paradox?


Per Lumen Gentium, sec. 14:

Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.

Of course some people do not refuse to enter it because they never knew of it. Their ignorance is inculpable and therefore there is no sin on their part.

Salvation of course is available to other Christians and even non-Christians, i.e., repentance and conversion.


The Fourth Council of the Lateran in its profession of faith teaches as follows (chap. i.): “There is but one universal Church of the Faithful, and outside of it no one can be saved.”
The Roman Church is called by the Synod the mother and mistress of others. Pius IV. inserted the following words in the profession of faith: “I acknowledge the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church as the Mother and Mistress of all Churches.” And it concludes with the words: “This true Catholic faith, without which no one can be saved, I promise to hold intact and entire until my last breath.”

Non-Catholics ought not to object to the conclusion, but to the premises, which assert that Christ instituted and left in His place one only Church. 1

1 Thein, J. (1900). Ecclesiastical Dictionary: Containing, in Concise Form, Information upon Ecclesiastical, Biblical, Archæological, and Historical Subjects (624). New York;Cincinnati;Chicago: Benziger Brothers.


From the Catechism:

"Outside the Church there is no salvation"

846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? [335] Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

[INDENT]Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He 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. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it. [336]

847 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. [337]

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.” [338]

[335] Cf. Cyprian, Ep. 73.21:PL 3,1169;* De unit.*:PL 4,509-536.
[336] LG 14; cf. Mk 16:16; *Jn *3:5.
[337] LG 16; cf. DS 3866-3872.
[338] AG 7; cf. Heb 11:6; 1 Cor 9:16.

Salvation comes from Christ. The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ here on earth. No one can be saved apart from the work of the Church. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that one cannot be saved without being a card-carrying Catholic. It just means that anyone who is saved is not saved apart from the Church (just as anyone who is saved is not saved apart from Christ… whether or not they realize that here on earth).


Thank you. That’s helpful.


I’ll try to use an analogy to see if that helps clarify things.

Say there is a deep dark bottomless pit in the middle of a field. If you’re not looking for it, you’ll walk right into it and fall to your demise.

But along comes a guy who puts up some signs and some guard rails. He can’t stick around forever, so he sets up a Pit Watch Committee to keep an eye on things after he is gone. They keep making sure the signs can be read clearly. They keep pointing out the signs to everyone who will listen.

Still, some people ignore the signs. Some think the Pit Watch committee is kooky. They all fall to their demise.

But then others more or less follow the well-trod path formed by the Pit Watch believers. They may even notice a few of the signs and follow the advice even if they don’t want to join the committee and they’re not sure they really believe there is a bottomless pit to begin with.

This latter group is still saved through the work of the guy and his established Pit Watch Committee even if they don’t fully realize it. They couldn’t be saved apart from their work.


Don’t remember where I read or heard this little phrase,however I think it says it all.“Everyone in Heaven will be Catholic,however,not every Catholic will be on Heaven”:wink:


The Catechism of the Catholic Church generally is. It should be next to the Bible on every Catholic’s nightstand.


Pit Watch Committee Chairman


If someone is ignorant of Catholicism and does not know the Truth of what we believe, then they will be judged according to how they lived their life according to their best understanding of morality. If they know what we believe as Catholics, and reject it, then they are actively denying Christ and will likely not be saved (at least not according to what has been revealed to us). The majority of our separated protestant brethren fall into this category. Some are truly ignorant and believe only what they are told to believe by their “pastors”. But some, usually those engaging in apologetics for protestantism, know about what we believe (as they attempt to refute it). They are not ignorant of Christ but actively denying Him and are outside His grace.


Wow - if my count is right, this is about the 4th thread on this very same subject and every one has been closed by the mods. The last one was very informative and linked to church documents:



True :slight_smile:

I really don’t see why the simple statement is so hard to understand.

Salvation = making it to heaven.

Church = the body of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church governed by the successor of Peter and the bishops in communion with him.

Outside = not a member (not baptized, or not validly baptized)

No = negation

Therefore, there is no salvation unless man is incorporated in the body of Christ.

What if someone does not know about the body of Christ? Well, then the Church is to blame for that, and God - who does not ask for what is impossible - will take care of them in accordance to the Divine Providence that looks over every one of His little ones.

What if someone is in partial communion with the Church of the living God? Well, strictly speaking they are in the Church, though not fully…then obviously there is a degree of ignorance involved - if they knew better, they would be in full communion, wouldn’t they?

This is not half as hard as saying: “unless you are born again of water and Spirit you cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven”, or “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you”. :shrug:



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