Salvation Outside the Catholic Church

Apostasy is rejection of Christianity, and not rejection of the Catholic Church.

I’m saying that any Catholic who turns their back on the Church and walks away because they don’t understand some Church teachings or they disagree with and reject Church teachings is in a state of mortal sin and yes they are endangering their immortal soul.

I disagree with that limited definition. I’ve heard reformed biblical scholars (such as R.C. Sproul) call the Catholic Church itself “apostate.”

Okay, that’s the clarity of answer for which I was looking. It is, however, inconsistent with previous comments. Thanks for clarifying your position.

Well, we must remember that the person’s misinformation about/ignorance of the Church must be by no fault of his own. Changing faiths is a big decision, and if one neglects to look further into the Church’s doctrine before finalizing his decision, it may be attributed to his fault.

Clear, concise, and correct. :thumbsup:

And there’s the rub. I’ve conversed many earnest, bible-believing men and women who love the Lord and are seeking His will in their lives, but were drawn out of the Catholic Church and into today’s non-denominational and/or mega-church Christianity out of longing for more spiritual food. They confess that they simply don’t have the time to devote to reading Church Fathers or the history of the Protestant Reformation, or to listen to Catholic apologists debating James White. Rather, they spend their time reading Scripture and attending bible studies, witnessing to others and serving in their communities. Is it their “fault” that modern Christianity has an appeal which, for many, is irresistible? Is it their “fault” that their Catholic upbringing lacked substantive and emotional depth? Is it their “fault” that they honestly seek God’s will in their lives but that they’ve simply adopted “the simple Gospel message” of a personal relationship with Jesus? Is it their “fault” that many of the pastors in “Christian” churches present a very compelling case against “works-based” salvation in favor of faith alone doctrine, and that they simply don’t have the time (career, kids, illnesses, etc.) to devote to rejecting it? These are very difficult questions, at least it seems to me. But what I’m gleaning from some of these answers is “sorry, you’ve turned your back on the Truth and therefore you’ve stepped off of Noah’s Ark.”

I get what you’re saying, and, in some ways, you’re right. If they investigate Catholicism, and still somehow fail to find the Truth in her, then they do not sin. However, they are never exempted from the need to investigate the faith, nor does it give them a pass if they simply disagree with the Church. You mention that “modern” Christianity is very alluring, but remember, we will never be tempted past our ability (1 Cor 10:13). You also say that some just don’t have the time to investigate deeply; though I’m not sure that’s a valid excuse (“Lord, I just didn’t have the time to do your will”).

If you do have some fallen away Catholic friends, that’s great! You, as a Catholic, can show them the way home! :slight_smile:

James, not to belabor the point, but their response would be “but I am seeking to do God’s will – I read Scripture daily, go to church Wednesdays and Sundays, participate in small groups/bible studies, etc.” To “investigate deeply” is the very thing they now claim to do. They just are not investigating deeply in an effort to uncover the truth of the Catholic Church. Anyway, I appreciate your responses very much, and I will continue to try (with the help of the Holy Spirit) to steer the lost sheep back. Most of the time, however, I might as well be speaking Greek to them. They just seem so convinced that they’ve now found “truth.”

These are great Truths of God’s free gift of Salvation. What I have tried to convey, is that the Catholic Church does NOT condemn those who believe the gospel of Jesus Christ. We must remember, though, there is a ‘kind’ of faith which says, “yes” to God, but does NOT do His will. What is the will of the Father unto Salvation? There is Initial Justification, which is received by faith and conversion of the heart. This is the first work of the Spirit in those who are saved. Believe AND be baptized. We then are free from the consequences of sin, yet we are in chains to Christ! That means we must rely on His grace to do the Father’s will. Those who deny the Father’s will are putting their salvation at risk! Those who accepted the Sacraments of the Church and then deny them put their salvation at risk! I believe many to fall under heresy and NOT apostacy. Apostacy would be denying a principal Truth of Salvation.

We do not believe in seperate churches. There is One Church. Particular Churchs’ are recognized as Parishes. Protestantism is not a Church, it is many communities of various beliefs. The Catholic Church does NOT deny they have the ministry of salvation. Yet, they are separated brothers and sisters in the Universal Faith.

If the Church does not deny that protestant believers (though heretical) still can receive the “ministry of salvation,” then why the inconsistent message that salvation comes through the Catholic Church?

Where did Protestant communities come from? Who did they receive their gospel through? It was the Church built on Peter and the Apostles. These groups just determine what to accept and what not to accept from that deposit of faith handed down from the apostles. Yet, it is the Father who beckons all to believe and follow. And it is His grace which delivered the gospel to man.

I agree with what you’ve written, but, with respect, it does not answer my last question. You stated that the Catholic Church does NOT (your emphasis, not mine) deny that protestant churches still have the ministry of salvation. And I asked that if that is true, why does the Catholic Church teach that (except for the rare occurrence of invincible ignorance) salvation must come through Rome’s doors? If my bible-believing non-denominational church down the street still has the ministry of salvation, and I enjoy the music better, the coffee and donuts and the sermon – then why can’t I just stay there?

Well, if they left Catholicism without a single thought that their faith may be true, that’s quite irresponsible, and I’m afraid that it might make their ignorance vincible.

Anyway, I appreciate your responses very much, and I will continue to try (with the help of the Holy Spirit) to steer the lost sheep back. Most of the time, however, I might as well be speaking Greek to them. They just seem so convinced that they’ve now found “truth.”

I’m sorry that Satan has led your fallen friends so far away from the Church. I will pray for them. :signofcross: :gopray:

dtreimer #29
If the Church does not deny that protestant believers (though heretical) still can receive the “ministry of salvation,” then why the inconsistent message that salvation comes through the Catholic Church?

There is nothing “inconsistent” with the Church’s teaching.

Pay attention to Her teaching:
“The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all. But it is clear that today, as in the past, many people do not have an opportunity to come to know or accept the gospel revelation or to enter the Church. The social and cultural conditions in which they live do not permit this, and frequently they have been brought up in other religious traditions. For such people salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of His Sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit. It enables each person to attain salvation through his or her free cooperation.” (Pope John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, 1990, 10).

This theological principle “means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body” (CCC 846).

Why such laboured confusion when the teaching is clear?

I appreciate your response, though it is rather snarky. I HAVE paid attention to the teaching, and have read it several times in the CCC and its progeny. The “laboured confusion” is obviously in the teaching’s application as hypothesized in this thread. Since you seem to possess effortless clarity, can you provide an answer to the main question – does a poorly catechized Catholic who leaves the Church (say at age 30) to attend a non-denominational church, and who daily seeks God and His will in prayer, regular church attendance, Christian fellowship, bible-study and evangelization, lose his salvation if he never returns to the Catholic Church? Answers on this rather short thread range from “yes” to “maybe” to “nobody can know” to “it’s up to God”. Why such variety in responses if it is so crystal clear?

dtreimer #84
can you provide an answer to the main question – does a poorly catechized Catholic who leaves the Church (say at age 30) to attend a non-denominational church, and who daily seeks God and His will in prayer, regular church attendance, Christian fellowship, bible-study and evangelization, lose his salvation if he never returns to the Catholic Church?

The teaching is quite clear:
“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.” (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 14].

How could “a poorly catechized Catholic who leaves the Church” be expected to “know” that he/she should not have left the Church, and how would they know that they should have admitted their errors, returned and confessed?

Who are we to judge a person’s conscience?

The rule from Christ is:
“Judge not that you be not judged.” (Mt 7:1) We may not judge motives, intentions, and guilt before God but are commanded to judge actions, speech, writing against truth and in this way we can help others by offering truth.

We are commanded not to judge the guilt of anyone before God.

I wish I had my Catechism on hand. Its packed for our move! I would show my source for the ministry of salvation comment i made. Its somewhere around #'s 818-839 I believe.

There are definitely more challenges in the realm of Catholicism! Where the carcus is, there are the vultures too! We have to contend with the devil in a profound way. Jesus told Peter that the devil demanded to sift him.

The full deposit of faith is given through the Catholic Church. She is intrusted with His flesh and blood. But the ministry of His gospel reaches to far off folds of His people. They are enjoying His grace at the cost of many dear saints throughout history and even now. Those who suffer in quiet steadfast devotion. Those who pray constantly at the altar for the conversion of the world.

Something that drew me into the Catholic faith was the real sense of family with the faithfull now, and throughout the ages because of one person,…Jesus. This has been accomplished through His Eucharist. The Church truly is full of saints and sinners, trees and weeds. These separated brothers and sisters are trying to find Jesus and only Jesus. Their zeal can blind them to the truth of the Eucharist, but its not a complete rejection of God’s will. It is a genuine and life saving Communion we have in common.

You could find salvation in Jesus while being in a separated Communion supper from the pope, but you will still be in a Spiritual Communion with him. but the person who knows in his heart the Hidden Manna of the Eucharist and leaves because he is unable to face the challenges that come in receiving Him with a pure heart and conscience, is putting his salvation at risk.

I receive Jesus’ body and blood when I will, but do I really Commune with Him all day, every week, each month during the whole year!!?? No, not by a long shot. But His grace is sufficient for me. Is my brother down at the Evangelical community receiving Jesus less than me because He is not taking His Body and blood to eat? Not necessarily. You see I am not the measure, nor is any member, but Jesus Himself. Therefore, He is also the judge.


So then that person would be considered invincibly ignorant in your view and, therefore, not sinning gravely? If I am interpreting your answer correctly, then this is not so rare as suggested by some other replies in this thread. And given my experience with many poorly catechized Catholics who have left the Church (including me for a decade, family members and friends), there must be a host of invincibly ignorant Christians drinking coffee and singing Chris Tomlin songs at non-denominational churches. Thanks again for your replies.

And my inquiry is not proffered in order that I can judge. I have no desire to judge, as Christ’s words command. But if so many ex-Catholics that I know (and many I’ve probably forgotten by now) who were poorly catechized (post Vatican II) are truly invincibly ignorant (haven’t left a Church they knew to be THE Church), then other than wanting them to enjoy the fullness of the RCC, I don’t see the pressing need to assist in their re-conversion. In fact, an argument could be made that I should just keep quiet and allow them to persist in their ignorance so that their salvation remains secure. Otherwise, if I try too hard to persuade them of the truth of the RCC, they might just come to realize the truth and then have to decide to swim back to the Tiber lest they drown in eternal damnation.

Michael, thanks for sharing those beautiful thoughts. I don’t think any of the ex-Catholics I have encountered in my life “knew in their heart the Hidden Manna of the Eucharist.” They rejected what they believed “in their heart” was false teaching. The attraction to modern worship music, bible only authority and “me and Jesus” sentimentality is what lured them away from the RCC. But, it sounds like they’ll be just fine (unless of course they knew that they rejected the truth). Thanks again.

The Church since V2 has gone to pains to put a positive spin on the Church’s constant teaching on this.

To highlight the points of your question, a “non-denominational church” cannot be the Church. They do not have the authority to be a Church because they do not possess any apostolic pedigree. The name “non-denominational church” is a contradiction in terms because they still seek to be separate from other denominations. They do not possess the truth in its fullness; any truth that they do possess they have received from the Catholic Church(that goes for any protestant denomination).

So therefore regular Church attendance in regards to this non-denominational faith community is irrelevant. Whether they attend or not attend makes no difference in regards to their spiritual growth. They’re objectively just as well off as if they didn’t go at all.

Prayer can be a difficult thing, and self-deception in prayer too possible. Its easy for someone who is feeling the emotional highs of group fellowship to convince himself that he is “doing God’s will” just because he finds pleasure in that group. He can convince himself that “this is where God wants me to be” simply because he was accepted by this new crowd and thinks that he’s “finding his place”. These feelings are not really associated with God or prayer but just because everything is new; its the novelty of the “honeymoon” stage, not necessarily any action on God’s part.

The real problem comes with “bible study”. If they have been duped into the idea that protestants always accuse Catholics of being, that is, ignorant of the Bible(which may have actually been the fault of poor catechesis, or maybe since they were raised in the Church they, as most kids, just never paid attention to the Liturgy of the Word at Mass). In any case when they’re introduced to Scripture they’re then taught to read Scripture through the colored lens of Protestantism. They’re taught that the Bible is the sole rule of faith, faith alone, and all of the other non-biblical doctrines of Protestantism.


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