Salvation Outside the Catholic Church

 th[6] What is meant by the teaching , “There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church?” Does this mean that a person cannot be saved unless he is a formal member of the Catholic Church? Well, people outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church have the possibility to be saved if they had never heard of Jesus Christ or had never rejected him.

First of all, let us look at what Jesus says in John 14:6, Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” So, we see in Jesus’ words that a person will only be saved through him. If someone does not know about Jesus because of “invincible ignorance,” and has never had the opportunity to accept or reject him, then he still has the possibility of being saved. But, for the person who knows and rejects, Jesus says, “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not have sin. But now they have seen and hated both me and my Father (John 15:22-24).”

Jesus established a visible Church (Catholic) and appointed Peter as the head when he said, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven (Matt. 16:18).” Jesus’ Church on earth is the “body of Christ.” He says that the Church he established is called to be “…A city set on a mountain that cannot be hidden (Matt 5:14).” Jesus tells us that his visible Church is where the Christian can go to handle disputes, “If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector (Matt 18:17).” So, if someone knowingly rejects the Church Jesus established, then he is rejecting Jesus himself.

What the Church teaches about, “Who belongs to the Catholic Church?”   th[1]

“Fully incorporated into the society of the Church are those who, possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept all the means of salvation given to the Church together with her entire organization, and who – by the bonds constituted by the profession of faith, the sacraments, ecclesiastical government, and communion – are joined in the visible structure of the Church of Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. Even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not however persevere in charity is not saved. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but ‘in body’ not ‘in heart (CCC# 837).‘”

“The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter.” Those “who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church. With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound “that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord’s Eucharist (CCC# 838).”

What does the Catholic Church teach about, “Outside the Church there is no salvation” :

(CCC# 846) How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:
Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.

(CCC# 847) This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:
Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.

Until next time, God bless.

11 thoughts on “Salvation Outside the Catholic Church

  1. Then could we argue that those nobility and clergy who sponsored, led and fostered the Protestant Rebellion lost their salvation in the process? I am referring to people like Martin Luther and John Calvin.

    • Of course it is only God and not for us to judge, but if they knew in their heart what they were turning their back on was indeed Jesus’ Church, then I would not have wanted to be in their shoes when judgement day came. They led people astray. Again, each individual must answer for themselves, but the more a person is given, that much more is expected.

  2. There is truth in this article “Jesus Christ is the only Way of Salvation”, but not only the truth.
    The church was founded on the “same Faith that Peter had”, that is true, but the church Jesus established does not narrowly equate with the Roman Catholic Church. There was no Roman Catholc church in the first centuries. There were the seven churches in the Book of Revelation each having their own Elders and Deacons. Romans 16:15, 1 Corinthians 16:19, Colossians 4;15 , and Philemon 1:2 all mention “Church in their house” and the 1 Corinthian verse mentions “churches in Asia saluting them” ” with the church that is in their house” , so there was a variety of churches in different places each having there own officers. The truth is that there is no salvation outside of Jesus Christ and we must not add to this by demanding many extra beliefs.

    • Thank you for your comment.
      The Church was founded not just on the “faith” of Peter, but on Peter himself. Peter became the first person to hold the office of ‘episcopate’ or ‘head of Jesus’ Church on earth. Jesus gave Peter special authority among the apostles (John 21:15–17) and signified this by changing his name from Simon to Peter, which means “rock” (John 1:42). He said Peter was to be the rock on which he would build his Church (Matt. 16:18).
      In Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, Simon’s new name was Kepha (which means a massive rock). Later this name was translated into Greek as Petros (John 1:42) and into English as Peter. Christ gave Peter alone the “keys of the kingdom” (Matt. 16:19) and promised that Peter’s decisions would be binding in heaven. He also gave similar power to the other apostles (Matt. 18:18), but only Peter was given the keys, symbols of his authority to rule the Church on earth in Jesus’ absence. The Catholic Church has had continued Apostolic succession from St. Peter to our present ‘Pope ‘Francis.’
      The Church Jesus established was known by its most common title, “the Catholic Church,” at least as early as the year 107, when Ignatius of Antioch used that title to describe the one Church Jesus founded. The title apparently was old in Ignatius’s time, which means it probably went all the way back to the time of the apostles.
      Among the Christian churches, only the Catholic Church has existed since the time of Jesus. Every other Christian church is an offshoot of the Catholic Church. The Eastern Orthodox churches broke away from unity with the pope in 1054. The Protestant churches were established during the Reformation, which began in 1517. (Most of today’s Protestant churches are actually offshoots of the original Protestant offshoots.)

  3. Hello Catholic brother,
    Read Matthew 16:17 very carefully. The rock that Jesus would build his church on was the truth that He is the Son of Man.
    The Bible should bear out this truth. What does the New Testament say about how can a man be saved?
    ‘If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
    For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.’ Romans 10:9-10.
    If salvation could only be found only within the Catholic Church, that would make the catholic church greater than Christ.
    Nowhere does it say salvation is found within a church. Thank God for that because all churches have their problems, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.
    God bless, Jo

    • Jo, thank you for your interest in this subject.

      Jesus is the head of his body (the Church). All people are saved through Jesus Christ, whether they know it are not. If someone does not know who Jesus is or has never heard of him through no fault of there own, but is truly seeking God and living a life ordered to God, then he has the (possibility) to be saved. Only God can judge that person.

      Thus, Jesus established one visible Church, not (church’s). The Church that He established is called to be “…A city set on a mountain [that] cannot be hidden” (Matt. 5:14). If a person , knowing in their heart that the church (body of Christ) he established is the Catholic Church and still rejects it, he is also rejecting Him who founded it. But, if a person is ignorant of that fact through no fault of their own, he can still be saved. Many people, including practicing Catholic’s and those who have fallen away from the Church, truly do not understand or know this.

      As for the quote from (Romans 10:9-10) about being saved; that is one aspect of the faith journey toward salvation. Only through God’s grace are we justified. However, if we do not respond to God’s grace, with faith and works, then we can indeed lose our justification. St. Paul wrote a letter to the “saved” Christians in Corinth (1 Cor 1:1-2), where he warns them, “Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolators nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9-10).” In other words, St. Paul is telling the “saved” Christians that if they are doing any of these sinful actions and don’t repent and turn their lives around, they might very well lose the promise of eternal life in heaven. If we do not do the will of God for our lives – then we can lose the gift of justification…the gift of salvation…that God has given us through Baptism. You might want to read more about the journey of salvation in my blog posts under the category section “Salvation” found on the “home page” of this site.


  4. Jesus did indeed say that Peter is ROCk and that He (Jesus) would build HIS (Jesus’s) Church upon this Rock, which is not only the utterance that St. Peter made, but his very person. He further would give Him administrative KEYS, involved in binding and loosing. This would be the duty of the Grand Vizier, or prime Minister of the Emperor (or BASILEUS) in the Oriental world. Yes the author of this original article is profoundly correct in statig that this is what Jesus meant when establishing the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.

    • Fr., thank you for your comment. If a person is truly seeking the truth in Jesus’ statement to Peter, then that is the most logical conclusion he would draw. God bless.

  5. A good article. Here is another useful resource (Taken from ‘The Catechism Explained’, 1899, p. 246-247):

    “The majority of men who have been brought up in heresy think that they belong to the true Church; their error is not due to hatred of God. A man who leads a good life and has the love of God in his heart, really belongs to the Church, and such a one is saved, not by his heresy, but by belonging to the Church. St. Peter said: “In every nation he that feareth God and worketh justice is acceptable to Him” (Acts x. 35). “The Catholic Church,” says St. Gregory the Great, “embraces all the just from Abel to the last of the elect at the end of the world.” All who lived up to their lights were Christians, though they might have been looked upon as godless, as, e.g., Socrates among the Greeks, Abraham and Elias among the Jews. They do not belong to the body of the Church, that is, they are not externally in union with the Church, but they are of the soul of the Church, i.e., they have the sentiments which the members of the Church should have. Thus the Catholic Church has members both visible and invisible. The visible members are those who have been received into the Church by Baptism… The invisible members are those who without any fault of their own are outside the Church leading- God-fearing lives.”

    God bless!

    • Thank you my friend for the additional information. I try to keep my posts brief (700-900 words)but to the point. So, many times there is not enough space to put all the information I would like too. Again , thanks.

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