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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 19th and 20th century CE

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Earlier statements by Catholic leaders are in a separate essay

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The Roman Catholic Church's teachings on salvation outside the church
(19th & 20th century CE):

[Content repeated 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:

bullet Are a Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or a member of another non-Christian religion,
bullet Are a member of another Christian denomination,
bullet Consider themselves an unaffiliated Christian who follows the teachings of Jesus, or
bullet 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.

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Church statements supporting "Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus."

bullet 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'."

bullet 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')"

bullet 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 whatsoever. ..."

"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.

bullet 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."

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bullet 1863: Pope Pius IX's encyclical Quanto conficiamur moerore, August 10:

"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."

bullet 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."

bullet 1878-1903: Pope Leo XIII:
bullet Encyclical Annum Ingressi Sumus:

"This is our last lesson to you; receive it, engrave it in your minds, all of you: by God's commandment salvation is to be found nowhere but in the Church."

bullet Encyclical Sapientiae Christianae:
"He scatters and gathers not who gathers not with the Church and with Jesus Christ, and all who fight not jointly with Him and with the Church are in very truth contending against God."
bullet 1903-1914: Pope Pius X's encyclical Jucunda Sane:

"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."

bullet 1914-1922: Pope Benedict XV's encyclical Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum: "

"Such is 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."

bullet 1922-1939: 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."

bullet 1950's: Pope Pius XII:
bullet 1950: Encyclical Humani Generis:

"Some reduce to a meaningless formula the necessity of belonging to the true Church in order to gain eternal salvation."

bullet 1953: Allocution to the Gregorian University:

"By divine mandate the interpreter and guardian of the Scriptures, and the depository of Sacred Tradition living within her, the Church alone is the entrance to salvation: She alone, by herself, and under the protection and guidance of the Holy Spirit, is the source of truth."

bullet 1960s: Pope Paul VI wrote:

""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 Church.""

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Reference used:

  1. "Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus," Wikipedia, 2007-JUN-03, at:

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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:
Originally written: 2007-JUL-16
Latest update: 2007-JUL-16
Redactor: B.A. Robinson

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