Salvation questions from some Protestant brothers

I’m hoping that someone here can point me in the direction for where to get a comprehensive outline of what the Church teaches about Christians outside of Catholicism. I’ve been in some discussions with Protestants and they brought up that before Vatican II (I think it was) the Church maintained that only people who were in fellowship with Rome were saved, and that Vatican II’s declaration that those outside of Rome could inherit eternal life was done more to please the Protestants than anything and that it actually hurt their position of being a valid authority than anything because it was like they were backpedaling.

If there’s anything I’ve learned from returning to the Church after 7 years, it’s that the Church always has an answer if you’re willing to ask it. So, here I am.

As a former Protestant, I have met and know people who are just obviously walking with the Lord. Their love for Christ and their love for others is so evident that you can practically smell it on them (the aroma of Christ and all that). That being said, pre-Vatican II, would the Church really have taught that they weren’t saved? (I’m not getting into once saved, always saved, I think my question is clear without diving into all that.) If the answer is that the Church did teach that they would not inherit eternal life, and changed at V II, then does that mean that the Church was wrong for 1950 years?

I hope these aren’t ridiculous questions. I’ve fallen so in love with the Eucharist that I can’t help but trust that the Church is who she says she is and that her goal is to lead us all into a deeper union with Christ, but if it wasn’t for my love for the Eucharist, this would be a real stumbling block for me.


I am not sure whether this answers your question, but here are excerpts from one of Vatican II’s documents, Lumen Gentium :

  1. […] Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it [the Council] teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism(124) and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.

The key words here being “knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ…” So no judgment is being made on someone who would, in good faith, believe otherwise.

The text then proceeds to say :

  1. The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter. (14*) For there are many who honor Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour. (15*) They are consecrated by baptism, in which they are united with Christ. They also recognize and accept other sacraments within their own Churches or ecclesiastical communities. […] In all of Christ’s disciples the Spirit arouses the desire to be peacefully united, in the manner determined by Christ, as one flock under one shepherd, and He prompts them to pursue this end. (17*) Mother Church never ceases to pray, hope and work that this may come about. She exhorts her children to purification and renewal so that the sign of Christ may shine more brightly over the face of the earth.

Probably someone here will have a better answer than that, but I think that it is not so much the position of the Church on the salvation of non-Catholics that has changed (nowhere does Lumen Gentium explicitly state that non-Catholics will be saved), as our mutual relationship and the way we view each other. At an institutional level, we are thankfully past the time where we kept anathemizing each other and accusing each other of being the Antichrist, which of course, had it been true, would have had rather negative consequences on salvation. Now there is, on the Church’s side, an openness to recognizing the trace of God’s work in the life of non-Catholic ecclesial communities, and to trust in God’s mercy as far as their salvation is concerned.


Short answer worth reflecting upon from yesterday’s gospel in Luke 9:
Then John said in reply,
“Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name
and we tried to prevent him
because he does not follow in our company.”
Jesus said to him,
"Do not prevent him, for whoever is not against you is for you."

One more, also from last week’s readings:
"For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”


Not a theologian here, just an ordinary lay person. The doctrine has not changed, but understanding has increased. Those who believe in Jesus Christ, are baptized & living a Christian life are in partial communion & therefore still saved by the Catholic Church. OSAS is a grave error, since they do not know/understand the need for continued reconciliation - could die in a state of mortal sin believing that their one profession of faith was enough. Even the non-Christian who has lived out the precepts of Jesus’ teaching which was written in their hearts could be saved through the mercy of God. It is a lot harder without the sacraments. My concern is more for the souls of those who have left the Church & became anti-Catholic.


Yes, I agree.
I think we are essentially saying the same thing, unless I missed something? (English is not my first language, so I prefer to make sure!)


So as long as they are teaching Jesus is the way to God its all good?

Romans 2 gives us some help:
13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.
(This goes along with my second quotation, ""For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”)

14 Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law.

15 They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts,

This good comment from DiZent may also help to answer your question.

I hope this helps, Annad.

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Luckily no Protestant denomination that I am aware of holds to this doctrine.

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Not sure, is that a yes?

As long as they are teaching that Jesus is our Lord and savior they’re okay.

They teach about baptism, teach about repenting to God, teaching about the one true God, that Jesus is the way, to be filled with The Holy Spirit to fo Gods will, gather in the name of The Lord, pray for each other…help each other, then they are okay?

Insofar as they are following their conscience and the faith as they know and understand it, then yes. It is not the fullness of our truth, as yet, but they are in the way of salvation.

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not sure what you mean by ‘ok’. No one can say who is and who isn’t going to be saved.

What the Catholic Church is saying is that salvation comes through the Church, whether or not the person is in full communion or is only part way there. There are many reasons why people never become full members of the Catholic Church. The only one that condemns them is if they have full knowledge that the Catholic Church is the one true church and still continue to refuse to be a member.

Isn’t that what Catholic church is saying if you’re not a memeber?

What I mean by okay is that you have wccepted Jesus as youre lLord and Savior, was baptized, received The Holy Spirit, living, doing and following God’s will… your sins are forgiven by God, allowing your soul to enter the kingdom of heaven. (Not the right biblical offical words but you know what I mean…I hope)

no, please reread my post.

The church is saying if you KNOW that the Catholic Church is the one true church and you still reject the church then you are doomed. It’s because the church is the body of Christ. You reject the church, you reject Christ. You reject Christ you lose salvation.

Just the Catholic church or any church? I think Im confused… sorry, I want to understand

This part I understand and totally agree with

in the eyes of the Church this person is still part of the Catholic Church, just not fully. Baptism automatically makes you a member of the Catholic Church. There is only one Baptism and only one Church founded by Christ.

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What does that mean?

I’ve decided to drive from Texas to the Murchison Promontory. No map, no GPS, no roads I am just going to start driving across country. I may end up in a river or stuck or so lost no one ever finds me, or, I may arrive there!

Some people will set out for heaven without the Church, they may end up lost or they may get there.


I’ve had this discussion with some of my Protestant friends who profess Once Saved, Always Saved. They tell me that when you accept Jesus into your heart, all your sins are forgiven - past, present & future - that if you sin again after accepting Jesus, you are already forgiven - there is nothing more you need to do


We are bound by the sacraments… but God is not. We cannot presume on God’s mercy… but we can trust it.

I am sure this is not exactly a satisfactory answer, but maybe this analogy works? Say you want to travel from San Francisco to Hawai’i. Well the ordinary and assured way to get there is by plane. But suppose you want to know if God can make it possible for you to walk there or swim there? He’s God so of course he CAN. He might even do it. But it’s outside the laws of nature so I am not going to PRESUME he will do it. I don’t recommend you presume either. And I’m going to help you get some reasonably-priced airline tickets. Because that’s assured to work (as long as you fulfill your end of things: showing up for the flight, obeying the rules re: what you can/can’t carry onboard, etc.) But if you insist you prefer walking & it’s just as good & God is loving so he’ll make it work out… I can’t KNOW what is going to happen to you. I can trust God. I can believe you have a great heart and mean we’ll and love God & trust him. But that’s as far as MY assurance can go. Because the only route I KNOW will work (if cooperated with properly) is the airplane.

Sorry if the analogy falls short. It’s all I could think up right now.

It means the person has received sacramental baptism. Original sin was washed away, he is an adopted son of God, etc.

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