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Michael Voisinet wrote:

Hi, guys —

  • Does the Church teach that there is no salvation outside of the Catholic Church?


  { Does the Church teach that there is no salvation outside of the Catholic Church? }

Mike replied:

Dear Michael,

Thanks for the question.

We do believe there is no salvation outside the Church but you have to understand this teaching within the proper context. We teach two things simultaneously.

  • That those, who by no fault of their own, are not aware of the importance of the saving nature of the Catholic Church, can be saved; not by their non-Catholic faith but despite not knowing our faith.
  • That those who know the Catholic Church to be the true Church, yet refuse to enter, cannot be saved.

Now there may be extenuating circumstances. e.g. a young child or seminarian that was abused by a priest. Those cases and cases similar to them we leave to God's judgment. Why? Because we can never know the true relationship each individual has with God; only God and the individual can know.

God does not send people to Hell. We are choosing our own eternity, with God, or without God.
If we know the true way of salvation and

  • accept it, we are choosing Heaven.
  • reject it, we are choosing Hell.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it this way:

'Outside the Church there is no salvation.'

846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? (cf. Cyprian, Ep. 73.21:PL 3,1169; De unit.:PL 4,509-536.)

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.

(Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 14; cf. Mark 16:16; John 3:5)

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.

(Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 16; cf. DS 3866-3872)

848 "Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men."

(Vatican II, Ad Gentes 7; cf. Hebrews 11:6; 1 Corinthians 9:16)

If you really wish to understand this teaching correctly you should read the 30-plus web postings that answer related questions on this important doctrine of the Church here:

I believe there are about four pages of questions.

I hope this helps,


Bob replied:


Yes, you are correct. The doctrine that there is no salvation outside the Church is relevant here.

If someone walks away knowing that this is Christ's Church, they are in serious peril for it is a damnable offense. If they are ignorant, their culpability is less but only Christ can judge to what degree.

These days the devil is doing a tremendous job of destroying people's faith in the Church, because too often we associate it simply with the hierarchy, who are largely getting pressed for corruption. Scandal after scandal would make you believe this can't be a holy Church; but in truth, this is Christ's own Church and despite the many scandalous individuals in the Church, we have many more that do live holy lives. It remains the true Church because it is Christ's own Church, built on His Apostles, even if some Judases are sometimes in charge. The teaching that has been passed down through the ages is Christ's own Truth, which, if rejected, is like rejecting Christ Himself.

Sometimes people come full circle if they are truly on a quest to know the truth, and they make this stop along the way because what they believe about Catholicism is very distorted and the Protestant portion of truth seems clear. What they can't see at first is the plethora of errors in Protestantism, which ultimately becomes just as distorted as an erroneous version of Catholicism they once held.

So there is hope, but I would work to help this person find their way home, because anyone who jumps out of the Ark risks drowning.


Bob Kirby

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