Vatican II

Do the documents of Vatican II truly contradict all previous church teachings regarding salvation outside the Catholic Church?


Hey Jeff,

It seems necessary before answering, that you would clarify what you believe regarding " all previous church teachings regarding salvation outside the Catholic Church".

I suppose you are thinking of potential problems in Lumen Gentium? Anyway, I think you need to do more to get a response. Maybe you should quote from a portion of the Council that you find problematic.

Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it 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 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.

—Lumen Gentium 14,

The Council then goes on to consider possibilities whereby God in His mercy, could grant salvation to some not visibly affiliated with Catholic Church. But if anyone is saved, it is still through the Church. In #'s 15 and 16, after mentioning the benefits and less visible unity enjoyed by baptized non-Catholic Christians, the Council goes on to mention the still less visible unity enjoyed by Jews and Muslims as “related to the People of God in various ways”. But is it salvific? Only possibly:

Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God. In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh. 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 Mohammedans, 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

—ibid. #16

In my version of the documents there is a footnote to the Summa, which in my opinion attempts to make St. Thos. Aquinas say more than he meant as it relates to salvation outside the visible Church: “Those who are unbaptized, though not actually in the Church, are in the Church potentially.”—Summa Theologica, Part III, Q.8, a. 3

I don’t think this helps the case. Nevertheless, I believe in baptism of desire. I think the Fathers believed in it, and the Council of Trent spoke of it. I think one can interpret the “documents of Vatican II”, if it is Lumen Gentium #14-16, that are being analyzed, as being compatible with Sacred Tradition.

Although I am firmly of the position that Vatican II does not propose any dogma as infallible, I am in the somewhat awkward position of believing that most or all of Vatican II is reconcilable with Tradition. What separates me from most defenders of Vatican II, is that I vehemently deny that Vatican II is of necessity reconcilable with Tradition.

I think Vatican II is compatible with Church teaching on “No salvation outside the Church”, but not necessarily so. The promulgating pope of Vatican II, wisely, providentially, or both, disqualified Vatican II from defining infallible teachings. What is absolutely certain is that no church or religious affiliation is salvific. If you die in a state of grace, you are saved, whatever church or religion you may have claimed to belong to in your mortal life.


I think that the problem lies primarily in the interpretation and suggestive powers of the documents.

For example:

Nostra Aetate #4: “…the Jews should not be presented as rejected or cursed by God…”

Council of Florence: “Therefore [the Church] condemns, rejects, anathematizes and declares to be outside the Body of Christ, which is the Church, whoever holds opposing or contrary views.”

In this case, what is the proper interpretation? Is the rejection that Nostra Aetate speaks of a rejection on a simply human level, or does it indeed contradict the dogmatic Council of Florence? A note, that both decrees use the exact same verb for “reject” although for opposite intentions.

Not at all. St. Augistine said that there are those outside the Church that appear to be inside it and those inside the Church who appear to be outside

NO. Of COURSE not. They are the highest form of teaching the Catholic Church has (an Ecumenical Council) so of COURSE they do not contradict the Church.

Yes. The danger is when we get all “sola scriptura” on old Church documents, and then try to determine whether new documents match the interpretations we’ve independently arrived at. We can call that a hermeneutic of distrust in the Church – the idea that we should be worried that, at any moment, the Church may go off the rails and contradict the truth (leaving, presumably, a tiny and unrecognized remnant of “old believers” as the “true Church”). Rather, we should proceed from a hermeneutic of trust, full of confidence that the Church that Christ ordained continues to do his work and speak his truths. With that approach, we realize that if it looks like there is some grave contradiction, the fault lies merely in our inability to comprehend the truth that there is no contradiction. This should be easy, since so few of us are professional theologians, but it never ceases to surprise me how many people read one document – or, rather, the Wikipedia page about it, or some recap on a dissenting website – and become convinced that the Church has fallen into error.

Unlike dogmatic councils, Vatican II documents seem fuzzy, but the document “NOSTRA AETATE” (“Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions”) definitely seems to oppose sound Catholic dogma. For example…

“The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.”


“The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions.”

It is in this spirit (I believe) that Mother Teresa wrote: “There is only one God and He is God to all; therefore it is important that everyone is seen as equal before God. I’ve always said we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim, a Catholic become a better Catholic.”

Of course, this is not what the Church taught pre-Vatican II. Although, through the “baptism of desire” a non-Christian could, unknowingly, become a member of the Church – he was saved not because his religion was “true and holy” but because he strove to do the best in his power to serve God truly. In other words, if he was saved it was despite his false religion, not because of it.

Note the difference in the pre-Vatican II Church. Pope Pius IX writes in “QUANTO CONFICIAMUR MOERORE” (On Promotion Of False Doctrines):

“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.”

Mercy for those entrapped in false religions, but the religion itself, condemnation. From Pius IX’s “Syllabus of Errors.”


  1. Every man is free to embrace and profess that religion which, guided by the light of reason, he shall consider true. – Allocution “Maxima quidem,” June 9, 1862; Damnatio “Multiplices inter,” June 10, 1851.

  2. Man may, in the observance of any religion whatever, find the way of eternal salvation, and arrive at eternal salvation. – Encyclical “Qui pluribus,” Nov. 9, 1846.

  3. Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ. – Encyclical “Quanto conficiamur,” Aug. 10, 1863, etc.

  4. Protestantism is nothing more than another form of the same true Christian religion, in which form it is given to please God equally as in the Catholic Church. – Encyclical “Noscitis,” Dec. 8, 1849."

These are errors – the opposite of the truth. Sounds a lot like “making a Hindu a better Hindu” nonsense.

St. Pius X in “PASCENDI DOMINICI GREGIS” (“On the Doctrine of Modernists”): writes:

“What is to prevent such experiences from being found in any religion? In fact, that they are so is maintained by not a few. On what grounds can Modernists deny the truth of an experience affirmed by a follower of Islam? Will they claim a monopoly of true experiences for Catholics alone? Indeed, Modernists do not deny, but actually maintain, some confusedly, others frankly, that all religions are true… Now the religious sense, although it maybe more perfect or less perfect, is always one and the same; and the intellectual formula, in order to be true, has but to respond to the religious sense and to the believer, whatever be the intellectual capacity of the latter. In the conflict between different religions, the most that Modernists can maintain is that the Catholic has more truth because it is more vivid, and that it deserves with more reason the name of Christian because it corresponds more fully with the origins of Christianity.”


“3. The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,(5) who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God.”

That the Muslims or Hindus have some truth does not mean the religion, as far as it goes, is “true and holy.” What it means is that, not being the true religion, it is a false religion. And the job of a Catholic missionary is convert others to the One, True, Holy and Apostolic Church. That was Christ’s Great Commission. Has it somehow changed?

I accept Christ’s words… 15 And he said to them: Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned." – St. Mark 16

I can not accept Mother Teresa’s: “…we should help a Hindu become a better Hindu, a Muslim become a better Muslim…”

You didn’t have to interpret the old documents – the whole point was to be clear. It’s modernists who are “fuzzy.” And it’s not accidental.

From “Pascendi”

“4. It is one of the cleverest devices of the Modernists (as they are commonly and rightly called) to present their doctrines without order and systematic arrangement, in a scattered and disjointed manner, so as to make it appear as if their minds were in doubt or hesitation, whereas in reality they are quite fixed and steadfast.”

What a load of hooey. All you’ve done is to take a non-controversial statement from Nostra Aetate, follow it with an alleged statement from Mother Teresa, misinterpret both, and argue against the latter, forgetting the former. Color me unimpressed.

So you’ve set up a false dichotomy between appreciating the spiritual truths and good moral qualities that exist in other religions, even though they are in other respects defective, and preaching the gospel of Christ to them. These are not mutually exclusive approaches to dealing with other religions. I’ve seen on this board people claim that adherents of other religions are basically hellspawn. That’s not what the Church wants. Many other religions have, in varying degrees, lots of good things about them: moral codes much like ours, commandments to live one’s life in an upright and loving manner, even portions of our religious truths: that there is one God, that he created heaven and earth and man to worship him, etc. Only an idiot could say that there is nothing good in other religions, because quite a bit of what is in those religions is in ours as well.

You left out, (surprise, surprise) the statement in Nostra Aetate that the Church, to fulfill her divine ordination, “proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ ‘the way, the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life.” That throws into perspective the statement, which I expressed above, that the precepts of other religions, “though differing in many aspects from the ones [the Church] holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.”

Therefore, the Council continued, we should “recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men” (emphasis added). Who’s against recognizing and promoting good things? When Sikhs teach that it’s evil to take a life, that’s a good moral teaching. When Jews teach, well, the first half of our religion, those are all true spiritual teachings. So the Council makes the point that although Muslims do not recognize Jesus as God, they reverence him as an important prophet. That’s better than nothing, no? Better than if they considered Jesus a blasphemous idol? Something to build on, rather than killing each other?

You seem to wish with all your heart that Vatican II had said that every religion is good enough. So you blatantly ignore the things it did say, and apply absurdly skewed interpretations to the portions you cherry-pick. All it boils down to, though, is that the Council said that we should recognize and appreciate the good things about other people. (Horrors! I thought the perfidious infidels were the minions of Satan!) Doing that and preaching the Gospel do not rule each other out, except in bizarro-world where preaching the Gospel means aggressively informing people that they are heretics (e.g., people who want the old Good Friday prayers back). Now, I would have no problem with being aggressive or telling people that they were heretics, if it had any proven track record of converting people to the Catholic faith, which, for ludicrously obvious reasons, it does not.

[quote=Mark 9:39-40]Jesus replied, "Do not prevent him. There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me. For whoever is not against us is for us.

I wonder if Jesus counted people who were not of his group, as “saved” even though they might do all the good works?

What about the “good” criminal on the cross? Was he “saved” when Jesus said he’d be with Him in paradise?


The criminal on the cross was probably the first example of baptism of desire and was saved.

No, St. Alphonsus explains:

“Baptism, therefore, coming from a Greek word that means washing or
immersion in water, is distinguished into Baptism of water, of spirit, and
of blood. … But Baptism of spirit 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 character or as
to the removal of all debt of punishment. It is called ‘of spirit’ because
it takes place by the impulse of the Holy Spirit. Now it is de fide that men
are also saved by Baptism of spirit, by virtue of the Canon Apostolicam, ‘de
presbytero non baptizato’ and of 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.”–St. Alphonsus Liguori

Also, check out this document from the Holy Office (now CDF) in 1949 which addressed this issue–this doc is cited by Lumen Gentium:

Also, in regards to the baptized non-Catholics, their Baptism unites them to the Church. While irrepentant heretics cannot be saved, simply being wrong does not make one a heretic as St. Augustine explains:

“Those are by no means to be accounted heretics who do not defend their false and perverse opinions with pertinacious animosity, especially when their error is not the fruit of audacious presumption but has been communicated to them by seduced and lapsed parents, and when they are seeking the truth with cautious solicitude and ready to be corrected.”

It is these kinds of individuals the Council had in mind, not pertinacious heretics.

If the** Dogmatic** Constitution, Lumen Gentium did contradict previous dogma, I would cease to be Catholic, as if would be a self-contradictory and impossible faith.

What we see in Lumen Gentium as a re-wording of the EENS formula from negative to positve. Let us look here:

The Church is, accordingly, a sheepfold, the sole and necessary gateway to which is Christ

  1. This holy Council first of all turns its attention to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself on scripture and tradition, it teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is 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 (cf. Mk. 16:16; Jn. 3:5), 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.

Furthermore, what one is really saying when it is said that Lumen Gentium contradicts the dogma is that it is also self-contradictory. This should indicate a lack of understanding that on has, not a change in doctrinal direction. I should be remembered that Fr. Feeney preceded Vatican II. It is natural that the Church would address and clarify this issue when next it met in council.

what it makes me think of this salvation outside of Church is that who is behind of such. if anyone can be saved outside the One Church Jesus found, what is the point of Jesus chose a people to preach to the whole world? if any good people, all they have to do is to be good, even if they reject the Church, can be saved. it makes me wonder who is behind of such idea. it could be the enemies of the Church?

“if God did not spare His own Son…”

this reminds of the times of Jesus. if the pharisees were condemned for rejecting Jesus, what makes people think today that it is ok to reject Jesus and still be accepted by God?

what has changed? if God condemned His own people for rejecting His Son, what is so special about us today that we can reject His Son and still be saved?

it seems like we have shifted the gears. all one gotta do today is to be good and one shall be saved. despite of they believe. too many people speaking for the CC, and there is the reason for so much confusion. there isnt one definite voice anymore. too many opinion prevailing out there.

Actually that has a pretty simple answer. It is not easy do stay free of mortal sin and to live a life pleasing to God. We need God’s grace or it would not be possible. Therefore in the Church we have a normative, dependable conduit to the grace of God, to strenghten us. God can work outside the Sacraments, but we know he works withing them.

If I need to travel a thousand miles in two days, I can hope a train and make the journey with surety. If I decide to hitchhike, I may or may not be able to make it. I have no dependable means to obtain my goal. On my own, I can not make it.

if God condemned His own people for rejecting His Son, what is so special about us today that we can reject His Son and still be saved?

They can not. This is specifically stated in* Lumen Gentium*:

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

[quote=Wisdomseeker]what has changed? if God condemned His own people for rejecting His Son, what is so special about us today that we can reject His Son and still be saved?


You are forgetting that these people had obstinacy in unbelief, despite the constant miracles that Jesus performed that should have convinced them. If you saw him raise the dead (Lazarus), multiply loaves, create sight in a man blind from birth, etc., would you dare to reject Him? They were without excuse and God justly condemned them. All of the Old Testament was a shadow that should have prepared them, of ALL people, to make the transition into belief.

Jn. 10:25 Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The miracles I do in my Father’s name speak for me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.

it seems like we have shifted the gears. all one gotta do today is to be good and one shall be saved.

That is not what the Church teaches. The teaching is that those who do NOT know Christ, yet live uprightly in accord with the natural law (10 commandments) written in the hearts of all men by God, may be justified. The essence of their salvation has been given many names, but the most commonly used are Baptism of Desire, perfect contrition, Baptism of Spirit.

It is important to remember that the Spirit may be given to righteous men, even before water baptism, and it is able to justify them. Cornelius received the Holy Spirit in just this manner. St. Peter himself was able to see God’s work as he stated, “I see that God is not a respecter of persons, but whoever does what is right is acceptable to Him.” Acts 10:34. Also, “If God gave to them the same grace as he gave to us who believed in the Lord Jesus, who was I that I should be able to interfere with God?” Acts 11:17

Peter was so convinced that gentiles were not to be part of the sheepfold, that it took three visions from God to correct him. How many visions do some of us need in our day to realize that God is God, and able to justify those who who live as Cornelius?

The context of each makes it pretty clear, IMO.

The Council of Florence is using it in the sense that other Councils uses the phrase “anathema sit”–that those who pertinaciously deny the defined truth are cut off from the Church.

The Second Vatican Council is using it in a different sense in the section of a decree concerned with actual anti-semitism. It is used for those who would portray the Jews as no longer dear to God, that the promises He made to them have been revoked, or that their covenantal relationship with God ruptured by infidelity, is not reparable–thus discounting the promise of God that they will all be saved in the end.

To see the Scriptural and doctrinal justification for this statement by Vatican II, read paragraphs 915-932 of St. Thomas’ commentary on Romans found here:

(it starts on page 454)

I certainly understand that those who never heard the Word of God and never knew about the Church, that God would accept them. for instance, the indians in far lands and so forth. but what has been happened is that many have taking these documents and exagerated to make it look like that the Church is no longer necessary for salvation. so,
i do believe that Catholics who teach falsehood to others inside and outside the CC are more guilt than those who reject the Church.

i certainly understand that. thank you.

If that were true, there would be no need of canonists or theologians until 1965. Anyway, the Filioque had to be added to the Creed from Nicea I due to misinterpretation, the non-Chalcedonians misinterpret Ephesus and Chalcedon as contradicting each other–in fact all the Christological Councils were needed to clarify the decrees of those preceding them. The definition of papal infallibility is still being hasked out (can anyone agree, apart from two famous examples, to which papal pronoucement it applies?). The condemnations of Pelagianism were misniterpreted by the Jansenists, etc., etc. It really goes on and on. It’s why we have a living Magisterium rather than just a pile of texts.

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