Salvation of those who believe wrong is right?


Hi. I hope I posted this in the right place.

I wanted to ask a question about the salvation of many people today. This has been on my mind a lot lately.

Many people in our secularized Western culture have grown up with little to no religious guidance and read the distorted re-tellings of history in their public school textbooks that make religion out to be the source of violence and societal disruption. They hear about gay victims of violent homophobia and women who had illegal abortions and feel sympathy for them. With this conditioning they conclude that being agnostic/atheist, pro-LGBT, advocating “safe sex”,and legal abortion are good, morally correct stances to fight for.

Also, on the flip side, I have a friend who actually holds the view that marriage is between a man and a woman and that abortion is wrong (meaning: stances that align with Catholic teaching), but she has been brought up without religion, views Catholicism as odd and alien and seems to have no interest in adopting any kind of religious belief.

Additionally, there are even Catholics who believe that homosexual martial unions and “safe” sexual promiscuity are sanctified and deserve promotion and legality.

These people all think that they’re doing good for humanity by standing for their respective beliefs.

Do these people have a chance at salvation if they don’t change/repent before death?

I know no one but God truly knows this, but, according to Catholic philosophy and teaching, what is the verdict on these sorts of people who are so populous now? I am so concerned for the souls of my brethren.



Only God knows.

I would add, however, that in light of what happened in Orlando, please don’t be tone deaf and attack those who are sympathetic to the victims of anti-gay violence.


Hi PolarGuy,

JSYK, I have never attacked those who are sympathetic to the victims of anti-gay violence. I am entirely against discriminatory acts against homosexuals, most of all murder! (And, as a Catholic, against any hatred/violence) However, I do see the fault in using the attack to further promote the “homosexual lifestyle” as one might call it, which counters Catholic teaching, or using the attack to blame Christians as a whole, which a lot of people have been doing.
My question was mainly about the souls of anti-Catholic people with good intentions…not necessarily relating to the awful Orlanda attack.
Thanks for the reply.


Salvation comes from Jesus Christ the Lord - via Faith and Baptism…

And of course remaining living in him in grace…or repenting and returning if one falls.

Now is it possible for some who does not know Jesus and his Church be saved?

It is possible:

Compendium (issued by Pope Benedict XVI puts it this way):

“… thanks to Christ and to his Church, those who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ and his Church but sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, try to do his will as it is known through the dictates of conscience can attain eternal salvation.”

Now - those so saved are still saved by Jesus …by his death and resurrection…and this too involves the Church…it is not by simply “being good” or having “good intentions” (though that helps - it shows their seeking the good…seeking in some way God perhaps).

Then the question comes in - what of those who wrongly believe “wrong is right”?

Well God will judge them -God knows them through and through…and can thus judge with love and truth. With mercy.

But one can have an “erroneous conscience” that is not ones fault (and one can also have such that is ones fault…).

Here is the Catechism:

So there can be those who honestly are mistaken and not held accountable for such.


There are three requirments for a sin to be mortal.

  1. The object is grave matter
  2. It is committed with full knowledge
  3. It is done with deliberate consent

If any of these are missing (such as, in this case, #2) then it is either downgraded to a venial sin or is not a sin at all.


Have you heard of invincible ignorance?


I have had these same wonderings for most of my adult life - in college I had many liberal arts professors who were fallen-away Catholics - including some former priests and nuns. They had gone over to the liberal-progressive side during the Vietnam Era. Those who are still alive today haven’t returned to the Church; I’ve prayed for them over the years.

Also there were a fair number of Jewish professors who were non-practicing, secular humanists. I have wondered if after the Holocaust, which would’ve been fresh in their parents’ minds/experiences for sure and possibly their own, it was difficult for some of them to have faith in God anymore . . . I don’t know. And I know it depends on which Jewish tradition they followed how traditional or liberal or whatever they might be on issues such as abortion, and that the stigma on divorce and remarriage we Catholics have might not play out the same.

That was back then. Nowadays I wonder more about all the younger people, my own relatives, my friends’ children and grandchildren. The Orlando shooting did bring some of this into sharper focus, and it was bewildering. It was late Saturday night before I had seen any news reports about it, after a long and tiring day, so my emotional reaction was muted, which also made it seem weird and distant. I admit that at first, I felt torn - how to feel - murder is wrong, I’m not happy anyone got killed, yet I was afraid that the public sympathy for the gay community will add to the already growing support for normalizing the gay lifestyle. I had to just turn my questions and confusion over to God and ask Him to help me see clearly and feel sorrow for the murders just as I would for any other murders.

It’s hard even to admit that my mind was muddled about it, for fear someone will think I’m not the truly compassionate person I strive to be. However, I was once told by a confessor that the most important thing is the will - and so I willed myself to pray - and to pray very simply, for good to triumph over evil, for the souls of the victims and for their families, and so on. I tried to avoid hashing over the details in prayer, overthinking it - I gave it all to God’s mercy, including my own wonderings. It helped.


That is informative and explanatory. Thank you!:thumbsup:


Thank you. That adds to the equation. My only question is how this applies in the case of fallen-away Catholics who know what mortal sin is…:shrug:


You mean the logical fault? Is there a Catholic version of it?


It is such a thing to contemplate on, isn’t it? So many factors that may make people lose their faith…It is really sad how many people seem to be separate from it today, and how frustrating it is to wonder about these souls. :frowning:
I had a similar sort of reaction to the shooting. I mean, my family and I never questioned how awful it was and we’ve talked about what a shame it was so many people died etc., but a lot of the media is just using it to perpetuate their liberal, anti-religion political agenda, and it’s turned into a kind of “See? This is why we need to accept the homosexual lifestyle and integrate it into society.” instead of an overall concern about terrorism and unity of all people in general…
Thank you for your thoughts. And that is good advice. Prayer never hurts. Glad to know that gave you some comfort; perhaps surrending my worries to God will help me a bit as well. <3


The questions you pose are the big questions of the modern and post-modern era. Is there Salvation outside the Church, or for for dissenters within the Church?

On March 16, 2016, speaking publicly on a rare occasion, Pope Benedict XVI gave an interview in which he spoke of a “two-sided deep crisis” the Church is facing in the wake of the Second Vatican Council. I think his statement answers your question: the Church is deeply confused on this point and does not have a firm answer.

Pope Benedict:

While the fathers and theologians of the Middle Ages could still be of the opinion that, essentially, the whole human race had become Catholic and that paganism existed now only on the margins, the discovery of the New World at the beginning of the modern era radically changed perspectives.

In the second half of the last century it has been fully affirmed the understanding that God cannot let go to perdition all the unbaptized and that even a purely natural happiness for them does not represent a real answer to the question of human existence.

If it is true that the great missionaries of the 16th century were still convinced that those who are not baptized are forever lost — and this explains their missionary commitment — in the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council that conviction was finally abandoned.

From this came a deep double crisis.

On the one hand this seems to remove any motivation for a future missionary commitment. Why should one try to convince the people to accept the Christian faith when they can be saved even without it?

But also for Christians an issue emerged: the obligatory nature of the faith and its way of life began to seem uncertain and problematic.

If there are those who can save themselves in other ways, it is not clear, in the final analysis, why the Christian himself is bound by the requirements of the Christian faith and its morals. If faith and salvation are no longer interdependent, faith itself become unmotivated.

Lately several attempts have been formulated in order to reconcile the universal necessity of the Christian faith with the opportunity to save oneself without it.

I will mention here two: first, the well-known thesis of the anonymous Christians of Karl Rahner. He sustains that the basic, essential act at the basis of Christian existence, decisive for salvation, in the transcendental structure of our consciousness, consists in the opening to the entirely Other, toward unity with God.

The Christian faith would in this view cause to rise to consciousness what is structural in man as such. So when a man accepts himself in his essential being, he fulfills the essence of being a Christian without knowing what it is in a conceptual way.

The Christian, therefore, coincides with the human and, in this sense, every man who accepts himself is a Christian even if he does not know it.

It is true that this theory is fascinating, but it reduces Christianity itself to a pure conscious presentation of what a human being is in himself and therefore overlooks the drama of change and renewal that is central to Christianity.

Even less acceptable is the solution proposed by the pluralistic theories of religion, for which all religions, each in their own way, would be ways of salvation and in this sense, in their effects must be considered equivalent.

The critique of religion of the kind exercised in the Old Testament, in the New Testament and in the early Church is essentially more realistic, more concrete and true in its examination of the various religions. Such a simplistic reception is not proportional to the magnitude of the issue.

Let us recall, lastly, above all Henri de Lubac and with him some other theologians who have reflected on the concept of vicarious substitution. For them the “pro-existence” (“being for”) of Christ would be an expression of the fundamental figure of the Christian life and of the Church as such.

It is possible to explain this “being for” in a somewhat more abstract way. It is important to mankind that there is truth in it, this is believed and practiced. That one suffers for it. That one loves. These realities penetrate with their light into the world as such and support it.

I think that in this present situation it becomes for us ever more clear what the Lord said to Abraham, that is, that 10 righteous would have been sufficient to save a city, but that it destroys itself if such a small number is not reached.

It is clear that we need to further reflect on the whole question.


Your question asks about two different issues.

  1. Non-Catholics. The Catechism addresses this issue at 846-848.

“Outside the Church there is no salvation”

846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? 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.

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.

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.”

Two Catholic Answers apologists have written very good articles discussing this issue. Jim Blackburn:; Tim Staples:

  1. Dissenting and Fallen-Away Catholics.

The answer here is complicated. Different types of assent are required depending on the type of teaching involved - i.e., the Supreme Magisterium requires “the obedience of faith” and the Ordinary Magisterium requires “religious assent.”

CCC 891-892:

891 “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful - who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals. . . . The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter’s successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,” above all in an Ecumenical Council. ***When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine “for belief as being divinely revealed,” and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.”***This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself.

892 Divine assistance is also given to the successors of the apostles, teaching in communion with the successor of Peter, and, in a particular way, to the bishop of Rome, pastor of the whole Church, when, without arriving at an infallible definition and without pronouncing in a “definitive manner,” they propose in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals. To this ordinary teaching the faithful “are to adhere to it with religious assent” which, though distinct from the assent of faith, is nonetheless an extension of it.

CCC 2089: “Incredulity is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it. Heresy is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same.”

CCC 2088 [Doubt]: “Voluntary doubt about the faith disregards or refuses to hold as true what God has revealed and the Church proposes for belief. Involuntary doubt refers to hesitation in believing, difficulty in overcoming objections connected with the faith, or also anxiety aroused by its obscurity. If deliberately cultivated, doubt can lead to spiritual blindness.”

The final issue is whether the dissent, while objectively incredulous or heretical, amounts to the mortal sin of incredulity or heresy. In order for a sin to be mortal, it must involve a) grave matter; b) full knowledge; and c) complete consent. See, CCC1854-1861. There can be mitigating factors but simple “unbelief” is not one of them.


There’s also this. These are pretty stark warnings for those who promote as “good” what God says is evil.

Isaiah 5:20:

Woe to those who call evil good
and good evil,
who put darkness for light
and light for darkness,
who put bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!

Matthew 18:6-7

“Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of things that cause sin! Such things must come, but woe to the one through whom they come!"


Thank you for your deep and informative answers, everyone. This is definitely a big question and I’ve received a lot of helpful insight. God bless.


A fallen away Catholic is in a state of mortal sin by turning their back on the Church. Unless such a Catholic repents, goes to Confession and is absolved they remain in a state of mortal sin and any Catholic dying in that state goes immediately to Hell.


If they’re fulfilling the 3 conditions for the sin to be mortal for them in their circumstances (i.e. have a comprehensive knowledge of Catholic moral teaching, have nothing like insanity to impair the free exercise of the will, were not forced, and so on). Not that we should go looking for loopholes. But God alone can know precisely where a person falls on each of the three conditions. Let us pray that all sinners be converted, that everyone receives good catechesis and spiritual direction for any sin s/he struggles with a lot, and that as many souls can be saved as possible. :yup:




Psychiatry is Catholic, medicinal purposes are apprehended with extreme divine and moral theology


What on earth does that mean and what does it have to do with the thread?

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