The Catholic Church's views of other faith groups
"Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus"
(No salvation outside of the Church)
Church teaching 19th and 20th century CE
Earlier statements by Catholic leaders are
in a separate essay
The Roman Catholic Church's teachings on salvation outside the church
(19th & 20th century
for your convenience in case you haven't read it already]
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:
||Are a Muslim, Hindu,
Buddhist or a member of
another non-Christian religion,
||Are a member of another Christian denomination,
||Consider themselves an unaffiliated Christian who follows the teachings
of Jesus, or
||Are 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 in 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.
Church statements supporting "Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus."
||1823-1829: From Pope Leo XII's encyclical Ubi Primum:
"It is impossible for the most true God, who is Truth Itself, the
best, the wisest Provider, and rewarder of good men, to approve all
sects who profess false teachings which are often inconsistent with one
another and contradictory, and to confer eternal rewards on their
members. ... This is why we profess that there is no salvation outside
the Church. ... For the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth.
With reference to those words Augustine says: 'If any man be outside the
Church he will be excluded from the number of sons, and will not have
God for Father since he has not the Church for mother'."
||1832: From Pope Gregory XVI's encyclical Summo Jugiter Studio
(on Mixed marriages)
"You know how zealously Our predecessors taught that very article of
faith which these dare to deny, namely the necessity of the Catholic
faith and of unity for salvation. The words of that celebrated disciple
of the Apostles, martyred Saint Ignatius, in his letter to the
Philadelphians are relevant to this matter: 'Be not deceived, my
brother; if anyone follows a schismatic, he will not attain the
inheritance of the kingdom of God.' Moreover, Saint Augustine and the
other African bishops who met in the Council of Cirta in the year 412
explained the same thing at greater length: 'Whoever has separated
himself from the Catholic Church, no matter how laudably he lives, will
not have eternal life, but has earned the anger of God because of this
one crime: that he abandoned his union with Christ' (Epsitle 141).
Omitting other appropriate passages which are almost numberless in the
writings of the Fathers, We shall praise Saint Gregory the Great, who
expressly testifies that this is indeed the teaching of the Catholic
Church. He says: 'The holy universal Church teaches that it is not
possible to worship God truly except in her and asserts that all who are
outside of her will not be saved' (Moral. in Job, 16.5). Official acts
of the Church proclaim the same dogma. Thus, in the decree on faith
which Innocent III published with the synod of the Lateran IV, these
things are written: 'There is one universal Church of the faithful
outside of which no one at all is saved.' Finally, the same dogma is
expressly mentioned in the profession of faith proposed by the Apostolic
See, not only that which all Latin churches use (Creed of the Council of
Trent), but also that which the Greek Orthodox Church uses (cf. Gregory
XIII, Profession 'Sanctissimus') and that which other Eastern Catholics
use (cf. Benedict XIV, Profession 'Nuper ad Nos')"
||1854: Pope Pius IX's allocution Singulari Quadem:
"But, as is Our Apostolic Duty, we wish your episcopal solicitude and
vigilance to be aroused, so that you will strive as much as you can to
drive from the mind of men that impious and equally fatal opinion,
namely, that the way of eternal salvation can be found in any religion
"For, it must be held by faith that outside the Apostolic Roman
Church, no one can be saved; that this is the only ark of salvation;
that he who shall not have entered therein will perish in the flood;
but, on the other hand, it is necessary to hold for certain that they
who labor in ignorance of the true religion, if this ignorance is
invincible, will not be held guilty of this in the eyes of God. ... let
us hold most firmly that, in accordance with Catholic teaching, there is
"one God, one faith, one baptism" (Eph. 4.5); it is unlawful to proceed
further in inquiry.
This is a particularly important papal writing because it states that
persons ignorant of the Catholic Church as the only "true religion"
may be saved.
||1856: Pope Pius IX's encyclical Singulari Quidem:
"Teach that just as there is only one God, one Christ, one Holy
Spirit, so there is also only one truth which is divinely revealed.
There is only one divine faith which is the beginning of salvation for
mankind and the basis of all justification, the faith by which the just
person lives and without which it is impossible to please God and come
to the community of His children (Romans 1; Hebrews 11; Council of
Trent, Session 6, Chapter 8). There is only one true, holy, Catholic
Church, which is the Apostolic Roman Church. There is only one See
founded on Peter by the word of the Lord (St. Cyprian, Epistle 43),
outside of which we cannot find either true faith or eternal salvation.
He who does not have the Church for a mother cannot have God for a
father, and whoever abandons the See of Peter on which the Church is
established trusts falsely that he is in the Church."
||1863: Pope Pius IX's encyclical Quanto conficiamur moerore,
"And here, beloved Sons and Venerable Brothers, We should mention
again and censure a very grave error in which some Catholics are
unhappily engaged, who believe that men living in error, and separated
from the true faith and from Catholic unity, can attain eternal life.
Indeed, this is certainly quite contrary to Catholic teaching. It is
known to Us and to you that they who labor in invincible ignorance of
our most holy religion and who, zealously keeping the natural law and
its precepts engraved in the hearts of all by God, and being ready to
obey God, live an honest and upright life, can, by the operating power
of divine light and grace, attain eternal life, since God who clearly
beholds, searches, and knows the minds, souls, thoughts, and habits of
all men, because of His great goodness and mercy, will by no means
suffer anyone to be punished with eternal torment who has not the guilt
of deliberate sin. But, the Catholic dogma that no one can be saved
outside the Catholic Church is well-known; and also that those who are
obstinate toward the authority and definitions of the same Church, and
who persistently separate themselves from the unity of the Church, and
from the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, to whom 'the
guardianship of the vine has been entrusted by the Savior,' (Council of
Chalcedon, Letter to Pope Leo I) cannot obtain eternal salvation."
||1864: Pope Pius IX's The Syllabus of Errors, attached to
Encyclical Quanta Cura. This contains a list of specific errors, two
of which refer to salvation outside the church:
"16. Men can, in the cult of any religion, find the way of eternal
salvation and attain eternal salvation."
"17. One ought to at least have good hope for the eternal salvation of
all those who in no way dwell in the true Church of Christ."
"It is our duty to recall
to everyone great and small, as the Holy Pontiff Gregory did in ages past,
the absolute necessity which is ours, to have recourse to this Church to
effect our eternal salvation."
Pope Benedict XV's encyclical Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum: "
the nature of the Catholic faith that it does not admit of more or less, but
must be held as a whole, or as a whole rejected: This is the Catholic faith,
which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved."
Pope Pius XI's encyclical Mortalium Animos:
"The Catholic Church
alone is keeping the true worship. This is the font of truth, this is the
house of faith, this is the temple of God; if any man enter not here, or if
any man go forth from it, he is a stranger to the hope of life and
salvation. ... Furthermore, in this one Church of Christ, no man can be or
remain who does not accept, recognize and obey the authority and supremacy
of Peter and his legitimate successors."
""We believe the Church is necessary for salvation because
Christ, who is the sole mediator and exclusive way of salvation,
renders Himself present for us in His body which is the Church. We
must always remember the unity of the mystical body, without which
there can be no salvation, is open to no one outside the Catholic
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