we believe that outside of the Catholic Church there is
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 (1). 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."
[Letter of the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office, August
8, 1949, to the Archbishop of Boston (CH 1256)].
it possible to prove this with texts from Catholic Tradition?
Ignatius of Antioch: "Do not deceive
yourselves, he who adheres to the author of a schism will
not possess the kingdom of God." [Epistle to the Philadelphians,
3 (CH 158)].
Saint Cyprianus: "Whosoever is separated from the
Church is united to an adulteress. He has cut himself
off from the promises of the Church, and he who leaves the
Church of Christ cannot arrive at the rewards of Christ
(...) He who observes not this unity observes not
the law of God, holds not the faith of the Father and the
Son, clings not to life and salvation." [De Cath. Eccl.
Unitate, n 6 (CH 555)].
Saint Augustine and the Council of Cirta (412 A.D.):
"He who is separated from the body of the Catholic Church,
however laudable his conduct may otherwise seem, will never
enjoy eternal life, and the anger of God remains on him
by reason of the crime of which he is guilty in living separated
from Christ." [Epist. 141 (CH 158)].
Saint Gregory the Great: "The holy universal Church
teaches that God cannot be truly adored except within its
fold; she affirms that all those who are separated from
her will not be saved." [Moral. in Job. XIV,5 (CH 158)].
Innocent III and the Fourth Ecumenical Council of the
Lateran (1215 A.D.): "There is only one universal Church
of the faithful, outside of which no one can be saved."
[Cap. I; De fide cath.; DS 802 (CH 159)].
same teaching is expressed in the professions of faith which
have been proposed of by the Apostolic See; in the
one which all the Latin Churches use (2); as also in the
others, one which is received by the Greeks (3), and the
other by all other Eastern Catholics" (4). [Pope Gregory
XVI: Encyclical Summo jugiter, May 27, 1832 to the
Bishops of Bavaria (CH 159)].
are we to interpret the dogma teaching us that outside the
Catholic Church there is no salvation?
dogma must be understood in that sense in which the Church
herself understands it. For it was not to private
judgment that Our Saviour gave for explanation those things
that are contained in the deposits of faith, but to the
teaching authority of the Church.
"Now, in the first place, the Church teaches that in this
matter there is a 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. Now, among the commandments
of Christ, one that holds not the least place, is that 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 Saviour 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."
[Letter of the S.C. of the H. Office, Aug. 8, 1949 to the
Archbishop of Boston (CH 1256-7)].
about belonging to the Catholic Church by ‘desire’ or ‘longing’.
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 Baptism and in reference to the Sacrament
of Penance (5). 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
[Letter of the S. C. of the H. Office, Aug. 8, 1949 to the
Archbishop of Boston (CH 1258)].
sort of intention or 'desire' or 'longing' would be required?
this desire need not always be explicit, as it is in catechumens;
for 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 encyclical
which was issued by the Sovereign Pontiff, Pope Pius XII,
on June 29, 1943, On the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ.
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. The same august Pontiff, when discussing
the members of which the Mystical Body is composed here
on earth, says: 'Actually only those are to be included
as members of the Church who have been baptised 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'
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' (7), 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' (8) since 'they still
remain deprived of those many heavenly gifts and helps which
can be enjoyed only in the Catholic Church' (9). 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 (10)".
[Letter of the S. C. of the H. Office, Aug. 8, 1949 to the
Archbishop of Boston (CH 1259-60)].
are not Charity and Faith equally necessary for salvation?
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 effects 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' (11). The Council
of Trent declares: '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' (12)". [Letter of the S. C. of the
H. Office, Aug. 8, 1949 to the Archbishop of Boston (CH
is to be held of the opinion that people who live outside
of the Catholic Faith and Unity can inherit Eternal Life
is absolutely contrary to Catholic teaching. We know
(...) that those who are invincibly ignorant of our most
holy religion, and who, carefully observing the natural
law and its precepts placed by God in the hearts of all
men, and, disposed to obey God, lead an honest and upright
life, can, with the help of divine light and grace, merit
eternal life; for God, who has perfect knowledge, examines
and judges the minds, the souls, the thoughts and deeds
of all men, and does not permit, in his sovereign goodness
and mercy, any man not culpable of willful sin to be punished
with eternal torment. But this Catholic dogma is equally
well known: that one cannot be saved outside the Catholic
Church, and that those who knowingly rebel against the teaching
and authority of the Church cannot obtain eternal salvation,
nor can those who willfully separate themselves from union
with the Church and with the Roman Pontiff, the successor
of Peter, to whom the Saviour has entrusted the safe-keeping
of his vineyard.
"The words of Jesus Christ are in fact extremely clear:
'If he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as a
heathen and a publican' (13). 'He that heareth you
heareth me, and he that despiseth you despiseth me, and
he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me' (14).
'He that believeth not will be condemned' (15). 'He
that believeth not is already judged' (16). 'He that
is not with me is against me and he that gathereth not with
me, scattereth' (17). So the Apostle Paul says that
men are subverted and condemned by their own judgment (18),
and the Prince of the Apostles calls 'lying teachers them
who shall bring in sects of perdition, and deny the Lord
who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction'
(19)". [Pope Pius IX Letter Quanto conficiamur maerore,
August 10, 1863, to the Italian Episcopate (CH 242-3)].
errors in this matter must be rejected by Catholics?
error: "Every man is free to embrace
and profess that religion which, guided by the light of
reason, he shall consider true." (Proposition XV).
Second error: "Man may, in the observance of any
religion whatever, find the way of eternal salvation and
arrive at eternal salvation." (Proposition XVI).
Third error: "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." (Proposition XVII).
Fourth error: "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." (Proposition XVIII). [Pius IX: Principal errors
concerning the Church, Syllabus, Dec. 8, 1884 (CH 260-263)]
practical conclusions must be reached by those who do not
belong to the Catholic Church?
let those who wish to be saved come to this pillar, to this
foundation of the truth which is the Church; let them come
to the true Church of Christ which, in her Bishops and in
the Roman Pontiff, the supreme head of all, possesses the
uninterrupted succession of apostolic authority, which has
never had anything more closely at heart than to preach,
to preserve and to defend with all her strength the doctrine
announced by the Apostles on the order of Jesus Christ;
Who, since the days of the Apostles, has grown in the midst
of difficulties of every kind and Who, splendid with the
splendour of miracles in the entire world, made fruitful
by the blood of Martyrs, ennobled by the virtues of Confessors
and Virgins, strengthened by the testimony and the wise
writings of the Fathers, has sent down roots and still flourishes
in all the countries of the earth, brilliant in the perfect
unity of her faith, of the sacraments and of her spiritual
sacred government." [Pius IX: Allocution Ubi primum
to the Consistory, Dec. 17, 1847 (CH 196)].
is the practical conclusion to be drawn from this teaching?
Catholics desire nothing so much as the disappearance from
among Christians of all schisms and dissensions, and that
all should be eager to keep unity of the spirit in the bond
of peace (20). That is why the Catholic Church prays
and invites the faithful to pray to Almighty God that all
those who have left the holy Roman Church may be converted
to the true faith, may abjure their errors, and return in
grace to her fold, outside of which there is no salvation.
Moreover, she prays and orders prayers that all men may
come, with the help of God's grace, to the knowledge of
truth. But that Christians and ecclesiastics should
pray for Christian unity under the direction of heretics
and, what is worse, according to an intention which is radically
impregnated and vitiated by heresy, this is absolutely impossible
[Letter from the Holy Office, Sept. 16, 1864 to the English
Episcopate (CH 254)].
(1) First Vatican Council, Sess. III, c 3; DS 3011.
(2) DS 1870.
(3) cf. Gregory XIII: Prof. XXX; DS 1985.
(4) Benedict XIV: Const. Nuper ad Nos; DS 2540.
(5) Sess. VI, cc.V and XIV; DS 1525 and 1543.
(6) CH 1022.
(7) CH 1104.
(8) CH 1104.
(9) CH 1104.
(10) cf. Pius IX: Encycl. Quanta conficiamur moerore
, DS 2865-7.
(12) Sess. VI; c VIII; DS 1532.
(13) Matt. XVIII,17.
(14) Luke X,16.
(15) Mark XVI,16.
(16) John III,18.
(17) Luke XI, 23.
(18) cf. Tit. III,11.
(19) II Pet. II, 1. cf. Ephes. IV, 5.
(20) cf. Ephes. IV, 5.
the above texts cited have been drawn from the following
Teachings: The Church selected and arranged by the
Benedictine Monks of Solesmes, printed in Boston, by the
Daughters of St. Paul. For easy reference consult
the number following the abbreviation: CH.
The abbreviation 'DS' stands for Enchiridion Symbolorum,
by H. Denzinger and A. Schonmetzer, Herder, Rome, 1976.