Salvation? Presense of Baptism or Absense of Unrepented Mortal Sin?


Baptism is obviously essential for salvation, yet the Church through Popes has also taught that an unbaptised individual who dies without an unrepented mortal sin on their soul can be saved.

"Here, too, our beloved sons and venerable brothers, it is again necessary to mention and censure a very grave error entrapping some Catholics who believe that it is possible to arrive at eternal salvation although living in error and alienated from the true faith and Catholic unity. Such belief is certainly opposed to Catholic teaching. There are, of course, those who are struggling with invincible ignorance about our most holy religion. Sincerely observing the natural law and its precepts inscribed by God on all hearts and ready to obey God, they live honest lives and are able to attain eternal life by the efficacious virtue of divine light and grace. Because God knows, searches and clearly understands the minds, hearts, thoughts, and nature of all, his supreme kindness and clemency do not permit anyone at all who is not guilty of deliberate sin to suffer eternal punishments."

Some would say this presents a contradictory teaching, and I’ve heard some actually question then “Why be Catholic - if this salvation is available outside of being Catholic, and potentially even available outside the Church”


It is not contradictory. Note that this is for the very explicit exception of “invincible ignorance”, which most of us cannot claim.

Being Catholic makes salvation easier because of the many helps that are made available, namely the sacraments.


It’s not just dying without unrepentent mortal sin–due to original sin neutrality will send you to Hell too. Someone must have at least an implicit desire for Baptism. St. Alphonsus Liguori, a Doctor of the Church, explains this well:

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.’"

In other words, one must positively respond to the Holy Spirit and grace in order to have an implict desire. Simply living without mortal sin is not good enough.


Not that he “will be” but in His mercy God can save who He wills.

The short answer is that God is not limited by the Sacraments, He is the power of the Sacraments. In other words He can do as He wishes, He can save outside of the Sacraments, this does not negate the benefit of the Sacraments. As far as the “some say”, some say some fairly incorrect things don’t they? Why be Catholic, read Scripture, it’s what God wants, one Holy, Catholic, apostolic Church. Is it possible to attain salvation outside the Catholic Church? Well even a blind squirrel finds an acorn ever now and then (but most die of starvation).


Those who knowingly reject the Church of Christ cannot be saved according to Lumen Gentium. That’s why you should be Catholic. :slight_smile:

Also, receiving baptism (actually any grace of God whatsoever) outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church is always oriented toward the fullness of unity in the Catholic Church. Even if people don’t realize it or even if it’s never subjectively actualized, there is an objective hunger for the Eucharist and full union with the Church that comes with baptism.


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