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The Catholic Church's views of other faith groups

"Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus"
(No salvation outside of the Church)
Church teaching 6th to 15th century CE

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The Roman Catholic Church's teachings on salvation outside the church
(6th to 15th century CE):

The traditional teaching of the Roman Catholic Church was, in Latin, "Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus." 1 That is, if a person is outside of the Catholic church -- whether they:

bulletAre a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or a member of another non-Christian religion,
bulletAre a member of another Christian denomination,
bulletConsider themselves an unaffiliated Christian who follows the teachings of Jesus, or
bulletAre an Agnostic, Atheist, Humanist, secularist, etc.,

they cannot possible by saved. Without having been saved, the Church teaches that they will spend eternity in Hell, suffering eternal, unremitting pain.

This dogma was relaxed significantly in the late 20th century. They now admit the possibility that some individuals outside of the Church can be saved.

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Church statements supporting "Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus."

bullet540-604: Saint Gregory the Great wrote, in "Moralia:"

"Now the holy Church universal proclaims that God cannot be truly worshipped saving within herself, asserting that all they that are without her shall never be saved."

bullet578-590: Pope Pelagius II stated: '

"Consider the fact that whoever has not been in the peace and unity of the Church cannot have the Lord. ...Although given over to flames and fires, they burn, or, thrown to wild beasts, they lay down their lives, there will not be (for them) that crown of faith but the punishment of faithlessness. ...Such a one can be slain, he cannot be crowned. ...[If] slain outside the Church, he cannot attain the rewards of the Church"

bullet991: Pope Sylvester II, in "Profession of Faith" stated:

"I profess that outside the Catholic Church no one is saved."

bullet1215: The Fourth Lateran Council was called by Pope Innocent III to tackle a variety of Church teachings and practices, including the dogma of transubstantiation; proclamation of papal primacy over the patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem; requiring all Jews and Muslims to wear an identifying hat or badge (a predecessor to the yellow badge required by the Nazis), and salvation. The Council also affirmed the belief that outside the church, there is no salvation.
bullet1224-1274: St. Thomas Aquinas wrote:

"The Church is like the Ark of Noah, outside of which nobody can be saved."

bullet1235-1303: Pope Boniface VIII wrote:

"That there is one Holy Catholic and apostolic Church we are compelled to believe and to hold, prompted by divine faith, and we do believe this firmly and confess it simply, outside of which there can be no salvation, or remission of sins…."

bullet1302: Pope Boniface VIII issued a bull "Unam Sanctam:"

"Outside this Church there is no salvation and no remission of sins ... Certainly Noah had one ark at the time of the flood, prefiguring one Church ...  outside of which we read all living things were destroyed. ... We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff."

bullet1351: Pope Clement VI, in a letter to Consolator the Catholicon of Armenia wrote to confirm whether he and the Armenians obedient to him:

"...  believe that no man of the wayfarers outside of the faith of this Church, and outside the obedience of the Pope of Rome, can finally be saved.

The pope also asked if he has:

"... believed and do believe that all who have raised themselves against the faith of the Roman Church and have died in final impenitence have been damned and have descended to the eternal punishments of hell."

bullet1442: Pope Eugene IV issued "Cantate Domino:"

"The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her. ... No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church."

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Later statements by Catholic leaders are in a separate essay

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  1. "Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus," Wikipedia, 2007-JUN-03, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/

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Site navigation: Home > Christianity > Roman Catholic Church > Other churches > here

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This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus" at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
Originally written: 2007-JUL-16
Latest update: 2007-JUL-16
Redactor: B.A. Robinson

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