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Author Topic: No salvation outside the church... what exactly is believed by this?  (Read 11605 times)


I hope that starting this does not cause problems. But I honestly am having a difficult time understand the position on this teaching of the Church. I know that there are a lot of "modernistic" interpretations on the "no salvation outside the Church", but I have yet to find a definative statement on what exactly this means. I've read Lumen Gentium, and I know a lot of people here don't give the documents of VII much credit so it may not hold any water, but it definately has a more merciful view towards non-Catholics.

I guess my real question is this: Do we believe that anyone who is not a baptized Catholic can go to heaven? And further yet, do we believe that all who are not baptized will go to hell? In cases where the mercy of God comes into play, it seems rather presumptuous of us to draw a hard and fast line here, but surely there is something that we can believe about this.

"It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching."

-St. Francis of Assisi


  • Lord Jesus, have mercy on me a sinner.
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Im one of the more liberal people on this forum, simply because Im a very new tradvert.

This is bothering me tremendously also, but I have come to reject my former Novus Ordo understanding.


How I have now come to understand it is this. There is no salvation outside the Church, however, that is not the visible institutional church. Remember many within the institutional church are going to hell. Through the desire to be baptized or to die for Christ and His Holy Religion are part of the Church.


For all others we simply have hope. Death is a mystery none of us have experienced, we don't know if God pours out unfathomable amounts of grace at the last second, desperatley hoping for their salvation. Remember St. John Vianney consoled the woman who's husband had commited suicide? He told her that her husband had said sorry at the last second. It is a different situation, but God can still do something similar.


Also remember that none of us deserve heaven and damnation is absolutlely just. The degrees of suffering in hell can vary, and lets not forget about Limbo, total natural happiness, just no God. You don't weep now because you are not a member of a royal family. It could be similar in limbo.



"..the throne of Peter, and to the chief Church whence priestly unity takes its source..." -St. Cyprian

"...the Roman Church, the Head of the whole Roman world... from thence flow all the rights of venerable Communion to all persons." -St. Ambrose

"You cannot then deny that you do know that upon Peter first in the City of Rome was bestowed the Episcopal Cathedra, on which sat Peter, the Head of all the Apostles for which reason he was called Cephas,  that, in this one Cathedra, unity should be preserved by all, lest the other Apostles might claim -each for himself- separate Cathedras, so that he who should set up a second Cathedra against the unique Cathedra would already be a schismatic and a sinner." -St. Opatus of Milevis


I have struggled with this issue as well.  Particularly since I have people near and dear to me who are atheist (but yes, they are good people).


From what I understand, there is no means of salvation outside of the church.  This means that the Catholic church is the only true religion, the only religion that offers the only means of salvation.  People who think they are saved by the graces offered in other religions are just fooling themselves, or ignorant.


However, God does grant graces to people outside of the faith.  Particularly those who show contrition and those who follow the natural law that God wrote on everyone's hearts.  Sometimes, this grace leads to conversion, as it did in my case. We can never know exactly when someone receives this grace, it could be right at the last moment before death.  I tend to think the grace is often a result of prayerful sorrow of some sort, as it was in my case.


Another aspect of this is invincible ignorance.  There's some good quotes from Pope Pius V (I think) about this.  One is not saved per se due to invincible ignorance, but God will not damn someone due to invincible ignorance.  I've heard people claim that no one has invincible ignorance today due to the visibility of the church.  But I would think that with all the conflicting info out there, and the crisis in the church, that more people fall under invincible ignorance than ever.

Believe nothing just because a so-called wise person said it. Believe nothing just because a belief is generally held. Believe nothing just because it is said in ancient books. Believe nothing just because it is said to be of divine origin. Believe nothing just because someone else believes it. Believe only what you yourself test and judge to be true.– Buddha

Note: According to this precept, I find that Buddhism is NOT true.  I have tested and judged many things, and the only Truth I have found is in God's One True Church: The Catholic Church.

Dear Lord, I know I can live by Your Holy Will every moment of my life, because You have given me faith that Your Grace will enable me to.


There is an ongoing debate, that is dealing with this question you ask:
"In our time more than ever before, the greatest asset of the evil-disposed is the cowardice and weakness of good men, and all the vigour of Satan's reign is due to the easy-going weakness of Catholics."   -St. Pius X

"If the Church were not divine, this Council [the Second Vatican Council] would have buried Her."   -Cardinal Giuseppe Siri

St. Peter Arbues, pray for us.


Yeah I saw that one but it's a little more specific on the batism of blood and desire. I'm just talking about general salvation outside the catholic church, not about dying wishes to be baptized.  Someone who dies without a last minute wish to become Catholic, but still has led a holy life to the best of their knowledge.

"It is no use walking anywhere to preach unless our walking is our preaching."

-St. Francis of Assisi


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     A fascinating book which touches on this very topic is:


The Catholic Church and Salvation: In the Light of Recent Pronouncements by the Holy See by Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton (a theologian who can hardly be called liberal or modernist), Newman Press, 1958.


     This book is unfortunately out of print but I was fortunate enough to obtain a copy a few years ago.  I am slowly trying to copy this book into a pdf file to share with others. 


     Msgr. Fenton asserts that the Holy Office letter Suprema haec sacra addressed by order of Pius XII on August 8, 1949 to Cardinal Cushing is "the most completely detailed statement of this teaching ever set forth in an authoratative document of the Church's magisterium." Here is the entire letter:





Archbishop Richard J. Cushing  
Given on August 8, 1949 explaining the true sense of Catholic doctrine that there is no salvation outside the Church.

This important Letter of the Holy Office is introduced by a letter of the Most Reverend Archbishop of Boston.

The Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office has examined again the problem of Father Leonard Feeney and St. Benedict Center. Having studied carefully the publications issued by the Center, and having considered all the circumstances of this case, the Sacred Congregation has ordered me to publish, in its entirety, the letter which the same Congregation sent me on the 8th of August, 1949. The Supreme Pontiff, His Holiness, Pope Pius XII, has given full approval to this decision. In due obedience, therefore, we publish, in its entirety, the Latin text of the letter as received from the Holy Office with an English translation of the same approved by the Holy See.

Given at Boston, Mass., the 4th day of September, 1952.

Walter J. Furlong, Chancellor

Richard J. Cushing, Archbishop of Boston.


From the Headquarters of the Holy Office, Aug. 8, 1949.

Your Excellency:

This Supreme Sacred Congregation has followed very attentively the rise and the course of the grave controversy stirred up by certain associates of "St. Benedict Center" and "Boston College" in regard to the interpretation of that axiom: "Outside the Church there is no salvation."

After having examined all the documents that are necessary or useful in this matter, among them information from your Chancery, as well as appeals and reports in which the associates of "St. Benedict Center" explain their opinions and complaints, and also many other documents pertinent to the controversy, officially collected, the same Sacred Congregation is convinced that the unfortunate controversy arose from the fact that the axiom, "outside the Church there is no salvation," was not correctly understood and weighed, and that the same controversy was rendered more bitter by serious disturbance of discipline arising from the fact that some of the associates of the institutions mentioned above refused reverence and obedience to legitimate authorities.

Accordingly, the Most Eminent and Most Reverend Cardinals of this Supreme Congregation, in a plenary session held on Wednesday, July 27, 1949, decreed, and the august Pontiff in an audience on the following Thursday, July 28, 1949, deigned to give his approval, that the following explanations pertinent to the doctrine, and also that invitations and exhortations relevant to discipline be given:

We are bound by divine and Catholic faith to believe all those things which are contained in the word of God, whether it be Scripture or Tradition, and are proposed by the Church to be believed as divinely revealed, not only through solemn judgment but also through the ordinary and universal teaching office (, n. 1792).

Now, among those things which the Church has always preached and will never cease to preach is contained also that infallible statement by which we are taught that there is no salvation outside the Church.

However, this dogma must be understood in that sense in which the Church herself understands it. For, it was not to private judgments that Our Savior gave for explanation those things that are contained in the deposit of faith, but to the teaching authority of the Church.

Now, in the first place, the Church teaches that in this matter there is question of a most strict command of Jesus Christ. For He explicitly enjoined on His apostles to teach all nations to observe all things whatsoever He Himself had commanded (Matt. 28: 19-20).

Now, among the commandments of Christ, that one holds not the least place by which we are commanded to be incorporated by baptism into the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church, and to remain united to Christ and to His Vicar, through whom He Himself in a visible manner governs the Church on earth.

Therefore, no one will be saved who, knowing the Church to have been divinely established by Christ, nevertheless refuses to submit to the Church or withholds obedience from the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth.

Not only did the Savior command that all nations should enter the Church, but He also decreed the Church to be a means of salvation without which no one can enter the kingdom of eternal glory.

In His infinite mercy God has willed that the effects, necessary for one to be saved, of those helps to salvation which are directed toward man's final end, not by intrinsic necessity, but only by divine institution, can also be obtained in certain circumstances when those helps are used only in desire and longing. This we see clearly stated in the Sacred Council of Trent, both in reference to the sacrament of regeneration and in reference to the sacrament of penance (, nn. 797, 807).

The same in its own degree must be asserted of the Church, in as far as she is the general help to salvation. Therefore, that one may obtain eternal salvation, it is not always required that he be incorporated into the Church actually as a member, but it is necessary that at least he be united to her by desire and longing.

However, this desire need not always be explicit, as it is in catechumens; but when a person is involved in invincible ignorance God accepts also an implicit desire, so called because it is included in that good disposition of soul whereby a person wishes his will to be conformed to the will of God.

These things are clearly taught in that dogmatic letter which was issued by the Sovereign Pontiff, Pope Pius XII, on June 29, 1943, (AAS, Vol. 35, an. 1943, p. 193 ff.). For in this letter the Sovereign Pontiff clearly distinguishes between those who are actually incorporated into the Church as members, and those who are united to the Church only by desire.

Discussing the members of which the Mystical Body is-composed here on earth, the same august Pontiff says: "Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed."

Toward the end of this same encyclical letter, when most affectionately inviting to unity those who do not belong to the body of the Catholic Church, he mentions those who "are related to the Mystical Body of the Redeemer by a certain unconscious yearning and desire," and these he by no means excludes from eternal salvation, but on the other hand states that they are in a condition "in which they cannot be sure of their salvation" since "they still remain deprived of those many heavenly gifts and helps which can only be enjoyed in the Catholic Church" (AAS, 1. c., p. 243). With these wise words he reproves both those who exclude from eternal salvation all united to the Church only by implicit desire, and those who falsely assert that men can be saved equally well in every religion (cf. Pope Pius IX, Allocution, , in , n. 1641 ff.; also Pope Pius IX in the encyclical letter, , in , n. 1677).

But it must not be thought that any kind of desire of entering the Church suffices that one may be saved. It is necessary that the desire by which one is related to the Church be animated by perfect charity. Nor can an implicit desire produce its effect, unless a person has supernatural faith: "For he who comes to God must believe that God exists and is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Heb. 11:6). The Council of Trent declares (Session VI, chap. 8): "Faith is the beginning of man's salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God and attain to the fellowship of His children" (Denzinger, n. 801).

From what has been said it is evident that those things which are proposed in the periodical , fascicle 3, as the genuine teaching of the Catholic Church are far from being such and are very harmful both to those within the Church and those without.

From these declarations which pertain to doctrine, certain conclusions follow which regard discipline and conduct, and which cannot be unknown to those who vigorously defend the necessity by which all are bound' of belonging to the true Church and of submitting to the authority of the Roman Pontiff and of the Bishops "whom the Holy Ghost has placed . . . to rule the Church" (Acts 20:28).

Hence, one cannot understand how the St. Benedict Center can consistently claim to be a Catholic school and wish to be accounted such, and yet not conform to the prescriptions of canons 1381 and 1382 of the Code of Canon Law, and continue to exist as a source of discord and rebellion against ecclesiastical authority and as a source of the disturbance of many consciences.

Furthermore, it is beyond understanding how a member of a religious Institute, namely Father Feeney, presents himself as a "Defender of the Faith," and at the same time does not hesitate to attack the catechetical instruction proposed by lawful authorities, and has not even feared to incur grave sanctions threatened by the sacred canons because of his serious violations of his duties as a religious, a priest, and an ordinary member of the Church.

Finally, it is in no wise to be tolerated that certain Catholics shall claim for themselves the right to publish a periodical, for the purpose of spreading theological doctrines, without the permission of competent Church authority, called the "" which is prescribed by the sacred canons.

Therefore, let them who in grave peril are ranged against the Church seriously bear in mind that after "Rome has spoken" they cannot be excused even by reasons of good faith. Certainly, their bond and duty of obedience toward the Church is much graver than that of those who as yet are related to the Church "only by an unconscious desire." Let them realize that they are children of the Church, lovingly nourished by her with the milk of doctrine and the sacraments, and hence, having heard the clear voice of their Mother, they cannot be excused from culpable ignorance, and therefore to them apply without any restriction that principle: submission to the Catholic Church and to the Sovereign Pontiff is required as necessary for salvation.

In sending this letter, I declare my profound esteem, and remain,

Your Excellency's most devoted,

F. Cardinal Marchetti-Selvaggiani.

A. Ottaviani, Assessor.

(Private); Holy Office, 8 Aug., 1949.


One cannot enter heaven without supernatural faith, hope and charity.  Natural virtue (prudence, justice, fortitude and temperence) is not  enough. The supernatural virtues are freely given gifts from God, they  can be given to anyone at anytime.
  We cannot know the state of someone's soul after death with certainty.  It is laudable to commend them to the mercy of God and pray for their  soul.
  The problem with the modern interpretation is the assumption is in the wrong direction. We need to stop emphasizing that God can save anyone he wants - people interpret that as licence.  While possibly true, we simply don't have any information on what God might do with them...
  What we need to emphasize is what we do know. God has provided a  sacramental economy, administered by his Church which is efficacious  for the salvation of all men. No one's salvation is guaranteed, but if  you are a baptized, practicing Catholic who recieves the sacraments of  penance and the Holy Eucharist regularly then you are following the  path created by God Himself for attaining salvation.
  Stray from that path at your own risk.
Pax Tecum,
Kevin V.

"I am a converted pagan living among apostate puritans"
- C.S. Lewis

"In the world it is called Tolerance, but in hell it is called Despair, the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing,


Quote from: kjvail
God has provided a sacramental economy, administered by his Church which is efficacious for the salvation of all men.


I never understood this concept until I was baptized.  One longs for the Eucharist, one cannot receive unless in a state of grace.  The Rite of Penance is humiliating for greivous sinners.  I think alot of cradle catholics don't realize how very protective these two sacraments are from mortal sin.  It makes it impossible to sin without thinking about it, or how one will confess such a thing, or a sorrow at missing the Eucharist etc.


These sacraments are a beautiful means of salvation, mostly because they cause one to stop sinning, or at the least, bring about perfect contrition.

Believe nothing just because a so-called wise person said it. Believe nothing just because a belief is generally held. Believe nothing just because it is said in ancient books. Believe nothing just because it is said to be of divine origin. Believe nothing just because someone else believes it. Believe only what you yourself test and judge to be true.– Buddha

Note: According to this precept, I find that Buddhism is NOT true.  I have tested and judged many things, and the only Truth I have found is in God's One True Church: The Catholic Church.

Dear Lord, I know I can live by Your Holy Will every moment of my life, because You have given me faith that Your Grace will enable me to.


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All those who are now in Heaven died as Catholics - for there is no salvation outside the Church. Those who to the world died as non-Catholics, yet are now in Heaven, actually died as Catholics. Because of true invincible ignorance, or the fervent prayers of others for the non-Catholic, or because of a scapular or miraculous medal that the non-Catholic was wearing (which hold the promises of Mary's intercession), sometimes non-Catholics are given a last moment grace by God (the last seconds of their life) to have the Truth revealed to them and to accept Christ and His Church. The following is a true story of such a grace given to a Jewish mother, whose son (a convert and priest) never stopped praying for her conversion and commended her to the Blessed Virgin. 




In 19th Century France, there was a Jewish concert pianist of great promise. His name was Hermann Cohen. His virtuosity not only made him a bright star in the salons of Paris, but merited for him the honor of being
widely recognized as a re­spected associate of the Hungarian, Franz Liszt(1811-86), one of the greatest pianists of all time. Then suddenly, in the midst of his growing fame, Hermann Cohen, unaccountably and quietly, slipped away from the concert circuit into virtual oblivion.

Several years later, he caused one of the greatest sensations of the hour when he reappeared in the streets of Paris dressed in the garb of a Carmelite monk. He had undergone a wondrous spiritual con­version to the
Catholic Faith. On fire with his new found Faith, he quickly applied for admission to the Order of Mount Carmel and was warmly accepted. He was vested in the Religious habit and given the name in Religion of Augustine. In due course he pronounced the solemn vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, completed his theological studies and was ordained to the priesthood.

Father Augustine's inspired zeal and tireless mis­sionary labors soon became even more celebrated among the Parisians than his masterful keyboard performances of old. As once with unparalleled passion he strove to fill the ears of his audience with the beauty of sound, now with even greater passion, he strove to fill them with the beauty of eternal Truth.

Although the holy Carmelite was unceasing in prayer for the conversion of his beloved mother, she died without being received into the Church. Fa­ther Augustine was deeply grieved that his mother should die an unconverted
Jewess, but let us see how our merciful Lord, whom he loved so tenderly, con­soled him.

The death of Madame Cohen took place on December 13, 1855. Father Augustine was at the time preaching the Advent sermons in Lyons. He announced the sad
news to a friend in Cuers in the following touching words:

"God had just inflicted a terrible blow on my heart. My poor mother is dead,...and I am in uncer­tainty. Nevertheless, so many prayers have been offered up for her, that we must hope that something special occurred
between her soul and God, of which we know nothing. I have been ordered to Paris to console my family."

The sorrow of the son was great; but his hope in the infinite goodness of God supported him. He was to preach on the evening when this crushing news reached him. Many in his place would have been totally unfit for the duty; but he, after weeping and praying much, ascended the pulpit as usual. He preached on death; and, according to the testimony of all that heard him, it was in words that sank into the lowest depths of the hearts of his audience, exciting salutary and durable emotions. And when, toward the end of his discourse, he breathed his own sorrow into the souls of his audience, his words found in every heart a sympathetic echo.

Not long afterward he confided to the holy Cure of Ars his anxiety about his mother's death -- departing this life without the grace of Baptism. "Hope,"said the man of God to him, "hope! You will one day, on the Festival of the Immaculate Conception, receive a letter which will be very consoling to you."

These words were nearly forgotten, when on December 8, 1861, six years after his mother's death, a letter was handed to Father Augustine by a priest of the Society of  Jesus. The writer of the letter had died in the odor of sanctity. Her letter was as follows:--

"On the 18th of October, after Holy Communion, I found myself in one of those moments of intimate union with our Lord  wherein he so sweetly makes me feel His presence in the Sacrament of His Love, that it seems to me as if faith were no longer necessary in order to believe in it. After some moments He made His voice audible to me, and was pleased to give me some explanations relative to a conversation that I had had the previous evening. I remembered then that, in this conversation, one of my friends had expressed to me her astonishment that our Lord, who promised everything to prayer, had nevertheless remained deaf to those of Father Hermann, so often offered up for the conversion of his mother; her surprise amounted almost to discontent, and I had found some difficulty in making her  understand that we must adore the justice of God, and not seek to penetrate His secrets. I have the boldness to ask our Lord how it was that He, who is Goodness itself, could have resisted the prayers of Father Hermann, and not grant the conversion of his mother. This was His answer:

" 'Why will ___ always seek to sound the secrets of My justice, and try to penetrate  into mysteries that she cannot understand? Tell her that I owe my grace to no one, that I give to whomsoever I please, and that in acting thus I do not cease to be just, and Justice itself. But let her know also that,sooner than fail in the promises that I have made to prayer, I would overthrow the heavens and the earth and that every prayer that has My glory and the salva­tion of souls for its object is always heard, when it has the necessary qualities.

"He also said: 'And to prove this truth to you, I will let you know what took place at the moment of the death of Father Augustine's mother.' . . . I was made to understand, the moment that the mother of Father Hermann was on the point of breathing her last, when she seemed deprived of consciousness, and life was almost gone, Mary, our good, Mother, presented herself before her Di­vine Son, and prostrating herself at His feet, said to Him:


'Grace, mercy, O my Son! For this soul that is about to perish. Another moment and it will be lost, lost for all eternity! . . . The soul of his mother is what is dearest to him; a thousand times he has consecrated it to me; he has con­fided it to the tenderness, to the solicitude of my heart. Can I allow it to perish? This soul is mine; I want it, I claim it as a heritage, as the price of Thy Blood, and of my sorrows at the foot of Thy Cross.'

"Hardly had the most holy suppliant ceased to speak, when a grace, strong, mighty, escaped from the source of all graces, the adorable Heart of Jesus, and fell upon the soul of that poor dying Jewess, and triumphed instantly over its obstinacy. The soul immediately turned with loving confidence toward Him whose mercy pursued her even in the arms of death, and she said:

'O Jesus, God of the Christians, God whom my son adores, I believe, I hope in Thee, have mercy on me!'

"In this cry which was heard by God alone, and which came from the lowest depths of the heart of the dying woman, there were included sincere regrets for her obstinacy and her sins, the desire of Baptism, the explicit wish to receive it, and to live according to the rules and precepts of our holy religion if she could return to life. This outburst of faith and hope in Jesus was the last sentiment of this soul; as she was uttering it before the throne of Divine Mercy, the feeble threads that still held her in her earthly tenement were broken, and she threw herself at the feet of Him who had been her Saviour before being her Judge. "Af­ter having shown me all these things, our Lord added:


'Make this known to Father Augustine; it is a consolation that I wish to grant to his long sufferings, in order that he may everywhere bless and cause to be blessed the goodness of My Mother's heart and her power over Mine.'

"An entire stranger to the Rev. Father Hermann, the poor sick woman that has just penned these lines is happy to think that they will bring consolation and balm to the ever-bleeding wound of his heart - the heart of a son and a priest. She presumes to ask of him the alms of his fervent prayers, and she hopes that he will not refuse them to one who, although unknown to him is united to him by the sacred bonds of the same faith and the same hopes.."

What seems to add greater authority to this letter is the fact that it had been announced to Father Hermann six years before hand by the saintly Cure of Ars, as above mentioned.


(From "Glimpses of the Supernatural," Thomas B. Noonan & Co., Boston, 1884.)


Quote from: miss_fluffy

I have struggled with this issue as well.  Particularly since I have people near and dear to me who are atheist (but yes, they are good people).


       Miss Fluffy, did you mean to say your atheist friends are good willed people at times? I do not mean to pick you out of the bunch, because a lot of folks say the same thing. However, is it not a key idea in Catholicism that man is not good at all (Not going Calvinist at the same time, however)? The Bible says there is not a single good person on the face of the Earth. Do not believe the Bible? Well then, just ask yourself if you have ever lied, stolen, looked lustfully, sworn? In short, measure yourself up against the Ten Commandments. If you have answered yes to any of the above negative commands, then that makes one a liar, a thief, a fornicator and/or a blasphemer at heart - and that is only four out the the ten. Once someone answers yes to any of these charges, and we all do, then we ask them where they would go if they died. Long story short, they realize they are not square with God and this has a high rate of conversion from what I was able to see. I would suggest Catholics use the Law of God in their conversion methods. I did not mean to pick on you Miss Fluffy :).

I promise not to put anything here which might help us question our mind-forged manacles, inspire us, or help us in any way at all.

N.B.: I will not be posting on this site again until the Christmas octave. Have a good Advent.

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