no salvation outside the church?

i’ve found some pretty clear quotes from previous popes on the matter

  • There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved. (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215.)

  • We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff. (Pope Boniface VIII, the Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302.)

  • The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church. (Pope Eugene IV, the Bull Cantate Domino, 1441.)

Pope Pelagius II (A.D. 578 - 590): “Consider the fact that whoever has not been in the peace and unity of the Church cannot have the Lord. …Although given over to flames and fires, they burn, or, thrown to wild beasts, they lay down their lives, there will not be (for them) that crown of faith but the punishment of faithlessness. …Such a one can be slain, he cannot be crowned. …[If] slain outside the Church, he cannot attain the rewards of the Church.” (Denzinger 246-247)

no mentions of ignorance or anything in there

however, current cahotlic teaching is not quite so forceful.

can someone help clarify?

are there quotes from early church faters or other popes from the same time period that show a different position?

i cna’t find the entire documents these came from either so perhaps i’m missing some context.

as far asw i know, current catholic teaching gives some exceptions os possible salvation. but these statements sure don’t seem to.

I don’t really have time to respond fully right now, later perhaps I will, but in the mean time, read this quote from Pius IX in Singulari Quadem:

""For, it must be held by faith that outside the Apostolic Roman Church, no one can be saved; that this is the only ark of salvation; that he who shall not have entered therein will perish in the flood; but, on the other hand, it is necessary to hold for certain that they who labor in ignorance of the true religion, if this ignorance is invincible, will not be held guilty of this in the eyes of God. Now, in truth, who would arrogate so much to himself as to mark the limits of such an ignorance, because of the nature and variety of peoples, regions, innate dispositions, and of so many other things? For, in truth, when released from these corporeal chains ‘we shall see God as He is’ (1 John 3.2), we shall understand perfectly by how close and beautiful a bond divine mercy and justice are united; but as long as we are on earth, weighed down by this mortal mass which blunts the soul, let us hold most firmly that, in accordance with Catholic teaching, there is “one God, one faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4.5); it is unlawful to proceed further in inquiry.
“But, just as the way of charity demands, let us pour forth continual prayers that all nations everywhere may be converted to Christ; and let us be devoted to the common salvation of men in proportion to our strength, ‘for the hand of the Lord is not shortened’ (Isa. 9.1) and the gifts of heavenly grace will not be wanting to those who sincerely wish and ask to be refreshed by this light.”

Well stated.:thumbsup:

Your best bet is to refer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church for the Church’s teaching in the matter. It’s spelled out pretty clearly.

Church teaching matures over time… An example, early on in the Church (St Agustine) taught the sexual relations even within marriage was sinful. The Church recognized the error in that teaching and corrected it. It now teaches that sex for couples is sacramental, not sinful. You can see in that example how the Church comes to a fuller understanding of issues over time.

i have read the catechism and it seems different, definitely softer

and i’ve been told that a couple of those quotes were ex cathedra statements, i’m not ure if that’s true or not. if they were, can one of those be modified?

angell1 #1

  • There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved. (Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, 1215.)
  • We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff. (Pope Boniface VIII, the Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302.)

Pope Innocent III in the Lateran Council of AD 1215, Unam Sanctam, the Papal Bull of Pope Boniface VIII, 1302, and Pope Eugene IV’s Bull Cantate Domino, 1441 all refer to those who have rejected the true gospel, Pope Eugene IV makes the statement about the pagans, Jews, etc… so this classifies them like the Arians, Monophysites, Ebionites, who heard the message of Christ’s gospel. It is not talking about those who have not heard the gospel. The ones that these decrees are considering are those that have heard the message. If they had heard the message and obstinately stay outside the Church, they can not be saved. Notice that in this decree, just like the first two mentioned, the decree does not say, “Well, if those pagans and Jews, etc. have never heard of the gospel, they can not be saved.” This is fully consistent with what the Church teaches now.

“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.)

The Church has always regarded the baptism of non-Catholics as valid – and a valid baptism means you are, in some sense, in union with Christ through His Church. Further, Pope Clement (circa A.D… 95) affirmed that “those who repented for their sins, appeased God in praying and received salvation, even though they were aliens to God." Christ’s Church knew from the beginning that non-Catholics could be saved. Catholic Apologetics Today, 1986, Fr William G Most, p 145].

The “necessity of the Catholic Church for salvation” = no salvation without the Catholic Church; the doctrinal meaning of the phrase, means that whether they know it or not, salvation for anyone can come only through Christ’s Church. Christ offers the actual graces which can enable them to follow the natural moral law, and come home if they have the opportunity to so do.

thank you, this was helpful

Are you asking about people (even infants) who receive Christian Baptism and do not fall into a state of mortal sin before their death? Those are guaranteed salvation, even if they are Baptized by a non-Catholic (or even non-Christian) man or woman, provided the minister intended to “do what the Church does” in Baptism (regardless of whether s/he understands what that means - intent is the only thing that matters, not understanding).

Or, are you asking about people who live a “good life” (whatever that means) and die without receiving Christian Baptism? The answer is, “maybe.”

sorry one more question, in regards to protestants, i guess the same applies, if those are ignorant of the catholic church can be saved but those who obstinately reject her and promote heresy can’t?

what about the eucharist, is it necessary for salvation? jesus said if we didn’t partake we would have no life in us.

angell1 #9
sorry one more question, in regards to protestants, i guess the same applies, if those are ignorant of the catholic church can be saved but those who obstinately reject her and promote heresy can’t?

It applies to everyone. All must do whatever they can to know the truth and live it.

what about the eucharist, is it necessary for salvation? jesus said if we didn’t partake we would have no life in us.

Only if Christ’s great gift is known and understood, but rejected.

We all need to offer these great truths to those around us as best we can.


See Sullivan’s excellent Salvation Outside the Church? for a great discussion of the issues which you’ve noted…!

As the truths of the Church’s dogma and doctrine are vital, readers should also be very wary of the derogatory “Papal absolutism” credited to none other than Francis Sullivan. Magisterium: Teaching Authority in the Catholic Church, 1983, p 145]. The derogatory “Creeping infallibilism” was introduced by no less a dissenter than Charles Curran, fired by US Bishops in 1987 from Catholic University of America. "Curran claims ‘creeping infallibilism,’ ” in Our Sunday Visitor, September 7, 1986]. This is akin to Gaillardetz’s derogatory “ahistorical dogmatism” and his false claim of the “modern ecclesiastical tendency toward ‘creeping infallibility,’ ” which he claims many theologians share. Of course, that’s why they are dissenters.

“its not those who call me Lord Lord who.will enter thr kingdom of heaven, but those the will of my father” Jesus. And what is the will of His Father? To love God & to love others as ourselves. Remember the pharisee whom Jesus asked these questions to & who answered with exactly the same? & Jesus replied “you are not far from the kingdom of heaven”. & that indivdual was a pharisee & a jew your bible. The catholic church is based on it - just dont take everything literally. Remember the woman Jesus was referrimg to when He said “many sins were forgiven her because she had loved much”. However He never did say that it was okay to not love God & to not love your neighbour.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church

“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:

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

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church

"Who belongs to the Catholic Church?

836 "All men are called to this catholic unity of the People of God. . . . And to it, in different ways, belong or are ordered: the Catholic faithful, others who believe in Christ, and finally all mankind, called by God’s grace to salvation."320

837 "Fully incorporated into the society of the Church are those who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept all the means of salvation given to the Church together with her entire organization, and who - by the bonds constituted by the profession of faith, the sacraments, ecclesiastical government, and communion - are joined in the visible structure of the Church of Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. Even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not however persevere in charity is not saved. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but ‘in body’ not ‘in heart.’"321

838 "The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter."322 Those "who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church."323 With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound "that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord’s Eucharist."324

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church

"The Church and non-Christians

839 "Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways."325

The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People. When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People,326 "the first to hear the Word of God."327 The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews “belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ”,328 "for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable."329

840 And when one considers the future, God’s People of the Old Covenant and the new People of God tend towards similar goals: expectation of the coming (or the return) of the Messiah. But one awaits the return of the Messiah who died and rose from the dead and is recognized as Lord and Son of God; the other awaits the coming of a Messiah, whose features remain hidden till the end of time; and the latter waiting is accompanied by the drama of not knowing or of misunderstanding Christ Jesus.

841 The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day."330


Trent, Seventh Session, Canon 5 on baptism - If anyone says that the baptism which is given by heretics in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, with the intention of doing what the Church does, is not true baptism, let him be anathema.

St. Justin Martyr, 1.46 (c. 150 AD): “We have been taught that Christ is the first-begotten of God, and we have declared him to be the Logos of which all mankind partakes [John 1:9]. Those, therefore, who lived according to reason [Greek, logos] were really Christians, even though they were thought to be atheists, such as, among the Greeks, Socrates, Heraclitus, and others like them. . . . Those who lived before Christ but did not live according to reason [logos] were wicked men, and enemies of Christ, and murderers of those who did live according to reason [logos], whereas those who lived then or who live now according to reason [logos]are Christians. Such as these can be confident and unafraid” 2.10:" Christ… was and is the Logos who is in everyone, and foretold through the prophets the things that were to come, and taught these things in person after becoming like to us in feeling."

7. The Church clearly declares that the only hope of salvation for mankind is placed in the Christian faith, which teaches the truth, scatters the darkness of ignorance by the splendor of its light, and works through love. This hope of salvation is placed in the Catholic Church which, in preserving the true worship, is the solid home of this faith and the temple of God. OUTSIDE OF THE CHURCH, NOBODY CAN HOPE FOR LIFE OR SALVATION UNLESS HE IS EXCUSED THROUGH IGNORANCE BEYOND HIS CONTROL. The Church teaches and proclaims that if sometimes we can use human wisdom to study the divine word, our wisdom should not for that reason proudly usurp to itself the right of master. Rather, it should act as an obedient and submissive servant, afraid of erring if it goes first and afraid of losing the light of interior virtue and the straight path of truth by following the consequences of exterior words.

Pope St. Pius X Catechism, Question 132 - Will a person outside the Church be saved? It is a most serious loss to be outside the Church, because outside one does not have either the means which have been established or the secure guidance which has been set up for eternal salvation, which is the one thing truly necessary for man. 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.

Pope St. Pius X Catechism, Question 280 - If Baptism is necessary for all men, is no one saved without Baptism? - Without Baptism no one can be saved. However, when it is impossible to receive Baptism of water, the Baptism of blood suffices, that is, martyrdom suffered for Jesus Christ; and also the Baptism of desire suffices, which is the love of God by charity, desiring to make use of the means of salvation instituted by God.

Thanks for this post. Very helpful.

Acts 2:21 “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven givsen to men by which we must be saved.” previous verses “It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom thou crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. He is 'the stone you builders rejected,” and then comes vs 12 That salvation is found in no one else.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that who so ever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”

1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanses us from all unrighteousness.”

John 14:6 Jesus Christ is saying " I am the Way, the Truth and the Life, no man comes to the Father but by Me."

I think many people latch on to the idea of not being a member of the Church “through no fault of their own.” That could, arguably, apply to each and every person who is not in full communion with the Church, making the general dogma of “no salvation outside the Church” a meaningless one.

We must be careful in allowing the exception to swallow up the rule, so to speak. Being a faithful Catholic, in a state of Grace is absolutely necessary to be saved. To insist that our protestant friends are saved because “they don’t know better” is presumptuous at best. Ultimately, they have all heard the call of the Church and chosen to remain outside of full communion. We don’t know why for sure - only God does. But we should do everything to convert them, and to offer our prayers that God may pour out enough grace to save them. Those outside are obligated to continue to seek God with open hearts - as we all should.


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