Salvation outside the church


A friend quoted me these two councils below… how would a Catholic reconcile them without being in contradiction?

God bless.

“The holy Roman church… firmly believes, professes and preaches that all those who are outside the catholic church, not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life and will go into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless they are joined to the catholic church before the end of their lives; that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is of such importance that only for those who abide in it do the church’s sacraments contribute to salvation and do fasts, almsgiving and other works of piety and practices of the Christian militia produce eternal rewards; and that nobody can be saved, no matter how much he has given away in alms and even if he has shed his blood in the name of Christ, unless he has persevered in the bosom and the unity of the catholic church.” (Ecumenical Council of Florence; Session 11— 4 February 1442 “Bull of union with the Copts” )


“On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues; But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohamedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things, and as Saviour wills that all men be saved. Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience” **(Lumen Gentium 15-17)

“Thus the Church of Christ acknowledges that, according to God’s saving design, the beginnings of her faith and her election are found already among the Patriarchs, Moses and the prophets. She professes that all who believe in Christ-Abraham’s sons according to faith -are included in the same Patriarch’s call, and likewise that the salvation of the Church is mysteriously foreshadowed by the chosen people’s exodus from the land of bondage.” **(Nostra Aetate 4)


Depends on what the first passage means by being ‘outside’ the Church and the sacraments. Current understanding is that one can be ‘inside’ or ‘joined to’ the Church and its sacraments, and saved, by being a faithful follower of God after honestly making every effort to discern Him and His will, without formally being a member of the Catholic Church or even aware of its existence or Christ’s.

Since the Church is the body of Christ, (second person of the Blessed Trinity and thus the supreme being that most people and cultures have some understanding of), all salvation comes through her whether the one who is saved is consciously aware of the fact or not.

Certainly there are some pagans, schismatics, heretics etc, who fail in this regard, and are thus outside the Church and aren’t saved, just as there are some who call themselves Catholic who do as well. Doesn’t mean it’s their invariable fate.


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