Salvation of Unbaptized

Hi. I am getting a very conflicting view on the salvation of the unbaptized. A priest told me that unbaptized people can get to heaven. However, when you listen to Traditionalist priests they say, with out a doubt, that unbaptized people cannot enter heaven, and that it is extremely hard for people outside of the Catholic Church to enter heaven. What is the traditional doctrine of the church, and therefore is believed by Traditionalists?

The “yes” answer represents material heresy.

Sorry for my ignorance…but could you explain why this is material heresy, and the what the difference between material heresy and heresy is? Thank you.

If by “extremely hard” they mean “impossible”, then that’s not heretical :wink: . To say that it’s possible for people “outside the Catholic Church to enter heaven” is a heretical proposition contrary to the thrice defined dogma: “Outside the Church no salvation” (Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus).

Unbaptised people cannot enter heaven? They can, if it is through no fault or choice of their own that they are unbaptised. But it is more difficult for them to do so, since they still have to be free of serious sin as we do. This has always been the traditional teaching of the church right from St Paul onwards.

Priests who say otherwise are probably thinking of the situation in the developed world, where if a person is unbaptised it almost certainly IS through some fault or choice of their own not to be, given the free availability of the sacraments, and wide knowledge of the necessity of baptism, in the UK, Europe, America etc.

They were following the Baltimore Catechism’s principles for non-Catholics being saved.

It is de fide — an unchangeable article of Faith — that souls who depart this life in the state of original sin are excluded from the Beatific vision. The Second Council of Lyons (1274) and the Council of Florence (1438-45) taught infallibly:

“The souls of those who die in original sin as well as those who die in actual mortal sin go immediately into hell, but their punishment is very different.”

Heresy, generally speaking, means a denial of a revealed truth taught infallibly as such by the Church.

Theologians distinguish between material heresy and formal heresy, with the former meaning the someone might say or think something heretical without committing a sin (say, through ignorance of the Church’s teaching, etc.) and the latter meaning that there’s a “pertinacious” (knowing, willful, stubborn) rejection of Church teaching – e.g. yes, the Catholic Church teaches such and such, but I don’t believe it.

I couldn’t answer the poll because I don’t know. That is God’s providence.

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:

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 *

So it is not heresy to say that there is a possibility of heaven for those who through no fault of their own are unbaptised or even entirely ignorant of Christianity.


When you say “baptized”, what do you mean? Do you only mean to include correct water baptism, or do you include a martyr, baptized by blood for example?

I mean someone who dies without being cleansed of original sin. So all forms of baptism apply (water, desire, blood). I’m confused because I get conflicting understandings about the doctrine. I tend to be more literal in the doctrine with most traditionalists because the Church has declared that anyone who dies with Original Sin is excluded from the Beatific Vision. But does that mean all of those who belong to religions who do not practice baptism or do not have a valid baptism are condemned to hell?

I guess the St. Pius X taught material heresy in his catechism:

29 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

And St. Alphonsus Liguori taught material heresy when quoting the materially heretical Council of Trent:

St. Alphonsus Liguori (1691-1787) Moral Theology - (Bk. 6): “But baptism of desire is perfect conversion to God by contrition or love of God above all things accompanied by an explicit or implicit desire for true Baptism of water, the place of which it takes as to the remission of guilt, but not as to the impression of the [baptismal] character or as to the removal of all debt of punishment. It is called ‘of wind’ ‘flaminis’] because it takes place by the impulse of the Holy Ghost Who is called a wind ‘flamen’]. Now it is de fide that men are also saved by Baptism of desire, by virtue of the Canon ‘Apostolicam De Presbytero Non Baptizato’ and the Council of Trent, Session 6, Chapter 4, where it is said that no one can be saved *‘without the laver of regeneration or the desire for it.’” *

Or maybe they were completely orthodox.

Read my post #9 - it depends on how narrowly you want to interpret the provision of the catechism in regard to ‘outside the Church there is no salvation’.

Oh, then that person cannot enter Heaven, no. This is a dogma of the faith.

But how are we to interpret ‘implicit desire for baptism’?

If someone is ignorant of the very idea of baptism, yet is seeking to do God’s will to the utmost of their knowledge, to the point where they would have received baptism if they had heard of such a thing, then surely that must be sufficient to constitute ‘implicit desire’?

I completely and totally believe in the Council of Trent and Baptism of Desire, Baptism of Blood, and Baptism of Water. I’m sorry for the confusion.

I would say no. The Baltimore Catechism says “Baptism of desire is an ardent wish to receive baptism” my emphasis added. So it would only apply to those who wish to be baptized in the valid form of baptism such as a convert entering the church. This is what I understand it meaning.

How can anyone answer this poll question since the Church has not?

I have also understood this to be an acceptable meaning of baptism of desire. Is that not a correct understanding? (It also seems to apply to invincible ignorance, maybe more so.)

The Council of Florence states: "The souls of those who depart in actual mortal sin or in Original Sin only, descend immediately into Hell but to undergo punishments of different kinds.”

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