Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus, Part 4

Originally posted 2/22/2010.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3


Bishop George Hay [The Sincere Christian, Vol. II, 259-348], Fr. Michael Müller, C.Ss.R., and Orestes Brownson best explain what the Church has defined dogmatically. No adult dying without the Catholic faith (which cannot exist with negative infidelity or positive infidelity, material heresy (in the sense explained by Fr. Müller) or formal heresy, or “vincible or invincible ignorance” of the Catholic faith), hope, and charity can go to Heaven.{1} No child, other than a child murdered in hatred of the Catholic faith,{2} who dies without being baptized with water in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit can go to Heaven.

{1} Cf. Orestes Brownson, “Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus” from Brownson’s Quarterly Review, 1874 in The Works of Orestes A. Brownson, collected and arranged by Henry F. Brownson, vol. 5 (Detroit: Thorndike Nourse, 1884), 554.

{2} Cf.

(a) St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica II-II, q. 124, art. 1.

(b) Pope St. John Paul II, Catechism of the Catholic Church §2473.

The blessings (actual graces) God grants to people outside of the Catholic Church [cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium §15] not only come from the Catholic Church, but lead people to the Catholic Church. Babies validly baptized in a non-Catholic community who die before the age of reason are really members of the Church and go to Heaven. Babies who die before the reception of water baptism do not go to Heaven [cf. George Hay, The Sincere Christian, vol. I, 410]. Someone who dies in the state of “the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of Baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith” and “the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him” (CIC 751) is not saved. “God in ways known to Himself can lead those inculpably ignorant of the Gospel to find that faith without which it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6)” (Vatican II, Ad Gentes § 7), that is, “if someone [who] is brought up in the forest or among wild beasts … followed the direction of natural reason in seeking good and avoiding evil, we must most certainly hold that God would either reveal to him through internal inspiration what had to be believed, or would send some preacher of the faith to him as He sent Peter to Cornelius (Acts 10:20)” [St. Thomas Aquinas, The Disputed Questions on Truth, Vol. II , Q. 14, a. 2; trans. Robert W. Mulligan, S.J. (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1952, 262); cf. Vatican II, Lumen Gentium §16], because explicit faith in Christ and in the Trinity is necessary for salvation [Summa Theologica II-II, qq. 7-8]. An invincibly ignorant non-Catholic adult cannot be saved as such; he must first enter or explicitly desire to enter the Church; God does not deny such persons who diligently follow the dictates of their conscience the natural (e.g., missionary) or supernatural (e.g., illumination) means to bring about this entrance or explicit desire for entrance into the Church before death. Example: A Hindu who dies without first being sorry for his sins and becoming a baptized Catholic or explicitly desiring to become Catholic is damned; it is wrong to say, “a Hindu who is invincibly ignorant of the Catholic Church and does not become a baptized Catholic or at least explicitly desire to become a baptized Catholic before his death can be saved, but in spite of his Hinduism to which he clings in invincible ignorance, not because of it” (compare the statement of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre who wrongly said Buddhists can be saved in Buddhism but not by Buddhism in An Open Letter to Confused Catholics (Leominster: Fowler Wright Books, Ltd., 81) with e.g., the last sentence of Pope Gregory XVI of holy memory in Summo Iugiter Studio §2). If you know someone “who was not received into the Church before his death,” do not despair of his salvation “because we cannot know for certain what takes place between God and the soul at the awful moment of death,” but rather pray that he died a Catholic by an extraordinary grace of God because “God, in His infinite mercy, may enlighten, at the hour of death, one who is not yet a Catholic, so that he may see the truth of the Catholic faith, be truly sorry for his sins, and sincerely desire to die a good Catholic” [Fr. Michael Müller, Familiar Explanation of Christian Doctrine, No. III (New York, Catholic Publication Society, 1875), 108].

And now for the statements of the Bible, the Church Fathers, and the Magisterium.



Matthew 18:17

John 8:24


Bishop St. Ambrose the Great of Milan (Doctor), Concerning Repentance 2:4:24 (384): “And He [Christ] affirms that they act with devilish spirit who divide the Church of God, so that He includes the heretics and schismatics of all times, to whom He denies forgiveness, for every other sin is concerned with single persons, this is a sin against all.”

Monk St. Maximus the Confessor of Constantinople, Defloratio ex Epistola ad Petrum illustrem qtd. in Pope Leo XIII of Rome, Encyclical Letter “Satis Cognitum (6/29/1896):

Therefore if a man does not want to be, or to be called, a heretic, let him not strive to please this or that man … but let him hasten before all things to be in communion with the Roman See. If he be in communion with it, he should be acknowledged by all and everywhere as faithful and orthodox. He speaks in vain who tries to persuade me of the orthodoxy of those who, like himself, refuse obedience to his Holiness the Pope of the most holy Church of Rome: that is to the Apostolic See.

St. Bede


Pope St. Boniface I of Rome, Epistle 14:1 to Bishop Rufus of Thessalonica [PL 20:777B]: “It is clear that this Roman Church is to all churches throughout the world as the head is to the members, and that whoever separates himself from it becomes an exile from the Christian religion, since he ceases to belong to its fellowship.”

Pope St. Leo I the Great of Rome (Doctor), Letter 159:8 to Bishop Nicetas of Aquileia (3/21/458) [PL 54:1138B-1139A]:

“For they who have received baptism from heretics, not having been previously baptized, are to be confirmed by imposition of hands with only the invocation of the Holy Ghost, because they have received the bare form of baptism without the power of sanctification. And this regulation, as you know, we require to be kept in all the churches, that the font once entered may not be defiled by repetition, as the Lord says, “One Lord, one faith, one baptism” [Eph 4:5].Pope Pelagius II of Rome, Epistle 2 “Delectionis vestrae” to the schismatic bishops of Istria (585) [DS 247]:

“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.”

Pope Innocent III of Rome, Profession of Faith Prescribed for Durand of Osca and his Waldensian Companions, from letter “Eius exemplo” to the Archbishop of Terraco (12/18/1208) [DS 423]: “With our hearts we believe and with our lips we confess but one Church, not that of the heretics, but the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, outside which we believe that no one is saved.”

Pope Boniface VIII of Rome, Bull “Unam Sanctam (11/18/1302) [DS 468-469]:

Urged by faith, we are obliged to believe and to maintain that the Church is one, holy, catholic, and also apostolic. We believe in her firmly and we confess with simplicity that outside of her there is neither salvation nor the remission of sins, as the Spouse in the Canticles [Sgs 6:8] proclaims: “One is my dove, my perfect one. She is the only one, the chosen of her who bore her,” and she represents one sole mystical body whose Head is Christ and the head of Christ is God [1 Cor 11:3]. In her then is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” [Eph 4:5]. There had been at the time of the deluge only one ark of Noah, prefiguring the one Church, which ark, having been finished to a single cubit, had only one pilot and guide, i.e., Noah, and we read that, outside of this ark, all that subsisted on the earth was destroyed. We venerate this Church as one, the Lord having said by the mouth of the prophet: “Deliver, O God, my soul from the sword and my only one from the hand of the dog” [Ps 21:20]. He has prayed for his soul, that is for himself, heart and body; and this body, that is to say, the Church, He has called one because of the unity of the Spouse, of the faith, of the sacraments, and of the charity of the Church. This is the tunic of the Lord, the seamless tunic, which was not rent but which was cast by lot [Jn 19:23-24]. Therefore, of the one and only Church there is one body and one head, not two heads like a monster; that is, Christ and the Vicar of Christ, Peter and the successor of Peter, since the Lord speaking to Peter Himself said: “Feed My sheep” [Jn 21:17], meaning, My sheep in general, not these, nor those in particular, whence we understand that He entrusted all to him [Peter]. Therefore, if the Greeks or others should say that they are not confided to Peter and to his successors, they must confess not being the sheep of Christ, since Our Lord says in John “there is one sheepfold and one shepherd.” … Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.

Pope Clement VI of Rome, Letter “Super quibusdam” to the Consolator, the Armenian Catholicos Mekhitar I of Cilicia (9/20/1351) [DS 570B]: “In the second place, we ask whether you and the Armenians obedient to you believe that no man of the wayfarers outside the faith of this Church, and outside the obedience of the Pope of Rome, can finally be saved.”

Pope Leo XI of Rome, :

Bl. Pope Innocent XI of Rome, “Various Errors on Moral Subjects … Condemned in a decree of the Holy Office, March 4, 1679” [DS 1214]:

“#64 A person is fit for absolution, however much he labors under an ignorance of the mysteries of the faith, and even if through negligence, even culpable, he does not know the mystery of the most blessed Trinity, and of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Pope Pius VI of Rome, 

Pope Benedict XIV of Rome ;

Pope Leo XII of Rome, Encyclical “Ubi Primum” 14 (5/5/1824):

It is impossible for the most true God, who is Truth Itself, the best, the wisest Provider, and the 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. For we have a surer word of the prophet, and in writing to you We speak wisdom among the perfect; not the wisdom of this world but the wisdom of God in a mystery. By it we are taught, and by divine faith we hold one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and that no other name under Heaven is given to men except the Name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth in which we must be saved. This is why we profess that there is no salvation outside the Church.

Pope Gregory XVI of Rome, Encyclical Letter “Mirari Vos” 13 (8/15/1832) []:

Now We consider another abundant source of the evils with which the Church is afflicted at present: indifferentism. This perverse opinion is spread on all sides by the fraud of the wicked who claim that it is possible to obtain the eternal salvation of the soul by the profession of any kind of religion, as long as morality is maintained. Surely, in so clear a matter, you will drive this deadly error far from the people committed to your care. With the admonition of the Apostle that “there is one God, one faith, one baptism” [Eph 4:5] may those fear who contrive the notion that the safe harbor of salvation is open to persons of any religion whatever. They should consider the testimony of Christ Himself that “those who are not with Christ are against Him” [Lk 11:23] and that they disperse unhappily who do not gather with Him. Therefore “without a doubt, they will perish forever, unless they hold the Catholic faith whole and inviolate” [Athanasian Creed]. Let them hear Jerome who, while the Church was torn into three parts by schism, tells us that whenever someone tried to persuade him to join his group he always exclaimed: “He who is for the See of Peter is for me.” A schismatic flatters himself falsely if he asserts that he, too, has been washed in the waters of regeneration. Indeed Augustine would reply to such a man: “The branch has the same form when it has been cut off from the vine; but of what profit for it is the form, if it does not live from the root?”

Pope Leo XIII of Rome, Encyclical Letter “Satis Cognitum” on the Unity of the Church (6/29/1896):

Pope St. Pius X of Rome, Encyclical Letter “Acerbo Nimis” 2 (4/15/1905):

  1. It is a common complaint, unfortunately too well founded, that there are large numbers of Christians in our own time who are entirely ignorant of those truths necessary for salvation. And when we mention Christians, We refer not only to the masses or to those in the lower walks of life – for these find some excuse for their ignorance in the fact that the demands of their harsh employers hardly leave them time to take care of themselves or of their dear ones – but We refer to those especially who do not lack culture or talents and, indeed, are possessed of abundant knowledge regarding things of the world but live rashly and imprudently with regard to religion. It is hard to find words to describe how profound is the darkness in which they are engulfed and, what is most deplorable of all, how tranquilly they repose there. They rarely give thought to God, the Supreme Author and Ruler of all things, or to the teachings of the faith of Christ. They know nothing of the Incarnation of the Word of God, nothing of the perfect restoration of the human race which He accomplished. Grace, the greatest of the helps for attaining eternal things, the Holy Sacrifice and the Sacraments by which we obtain grace, are entirely unknown to them. They have no conception of the malice and baseness of sin; hence they show no anxiety to avoid sin or to renounce it. And so they arrive at life’s end in such a condition that, lest all hope of salvation be lost, the priest is obliged to give in the last few moments of life a summary teaching of religion, a time which should be devoted to stimulating the soul to greater love for God. And even this as too often happens only when the dying man is not so sinfully ignorant as to look upon the ministration of the priest as useless, and then calmly faces the fearful passage to eternity without making his peace with God. And so Our Predecessor, Benedict XIV, had just cause to write: “We declare that a great number of those who are condemned to eternal punishment suffer that everlasting calamity because of ignorance of those mysteries of faith which must be known and believed in order to be numbered among the elect.”[3]
  1. Instit., 27:18.

Pope Benedict XV of Rome, Encyclical Letter “Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum” 24 (11/1/1914): “Such is the nature of Catholicism 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’” (Athanas. Creed).”

Pope Pius XI of Rome, Encyclical Letter “Mortalium Animos” 11 (1/6/1928) []:

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. Did not the ancestors of those who are now entangled in the errors of Photius and the reformers, obey the Bishop of Rome, the chief shepherd of souls? Alas their children left the home of their fathers, but it did not fall to the ground and perish for ever, for it was supported by God. Let them therefore return to their common Father, who, forgetting the insults previously heaped on the Apostolic See, will receive them in the most loving fashion. For if, as they continually state, they long to be united with Us and ours, why do they not hasten to enter the Church, “the Mother and mistress of all Christ’s faithful”? [Lateran IV canon 5] Let them hear Lactantius crying out: “The Catholic Church is alone in keeping the true worship. This is the fount of truth, this the house of Faith, this 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. Let none delude himself with obstinate wrangling. For life and salvation are here concerned, which will be lost and entirely destroyed, unless their interests are carefully and assiduously kept in mind” [Divine Institutes 4:30:11-12].

Ven. Pope Pius XII of Rome (1939-1958), () []:

Pope St. John XXIII the Good of Rome (1958-1963), “Address on the creation of three new dioceses on Taiwan, L’Osseratore Romano” on 6/29/1961{3}:

And you, venerable brothers, will not fail, in your teaching, to recall to the flocks entrusted to you these grand and salutary truths; we cannot render to God the devotion that is due Him and that is pleasing to Him nor is it possible to be united to Him except through Jesus Christ; and it is not possible to be united to Jesus Christ except in the Church and through the Church, His Mystical Body, and, finally, it is not possible to belong to the Church except through the bishops, successors of the Apostles, united to the Supreme Pastor, the successor of Peter.

Bl. Pope Paul VI of Rome (1963-1978), Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Nuntiandi” 16 (12/8/1975): “Not without sorrow can we hear people continually claiming to love Christ but without the Church; to listen to Christ but not to the Church; to belong to Christ but outside the Church. The absurdity of this dichotomy is clearly evident in this phrase of the Gospel: ‘Any one who rejects you, rejects Me.'”

Apostolic Letter, Motu Propio “Solemni Hac Liturgia, Credo of the People of God” 6/30/1968:

“19. We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, built by Jesus Christ on that rock which is Peter. She is the Mystical Body of Christ; at the same time a visible society instituted with hierarchical organs, and a spiritual community; the Church on earth, the pilgrim People of God here below, and the Church filled with heavenly blessings; the germ and the first fruits of the Kingdom of God, through which the work and the sufferings of Redemption are continued throughout human history, and which looks for its perfect accomplishment beyond time in glory.(24) In the course of time, the Lord Jesus forms His Church by means of the sacraments emanating from His plenitude.(25) By these she makes her members participants in the Mystery of the Death and Resurrection of Christ, in the grace of the Holy Spirit who gives her life and movement.(26) She is therefore holy, though she has sinners in her bosom, because she herself has no other life but that of grace: it is by living by her life that her members are sanctified; it is by removing themselves from her life that they fall into sins and disorders that prevent the radiation of her sanctity. This is why she suffers and does penance for these offenses, of which she has the power to heal her children through the blood of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

  1. Cf. Lumen Gentium, 8, 5.
  2. Cf. Lumen Gentium, 7, 11.
  3. Cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 5, 6; cf. Lumen Gentium, 7, 12, 50.

  1. Recognizing also the existence, outside the organism of the Church of Christ, of numerous elements of truth and sanctification which belong to her as her own and tend to Catholic unity,(31) and believing in the action of the Holy Spirit who stirs up in the heart of the disciples of Christ love of this unity,(32) we entertain the hope that the Christians who are not yet in the full communion of the one only Church will one day be reunited in one flock with one only shepherd.
  1. Cf. Lumen Gentium, 8.
  2. Cf. Lumen Gentium, 15.
  1. We believe that the Church is necessary for salvation, because Christ, who is the sole mediator and way of salvation, renders Himself present for us in His body which is the Church.(33) But the divine design of salvation embraces all men; and those who without fault on their part do not know the Gospel of Christ and His Church, but seek God sincerely, and under the influence of grace endeavor to do His will as recognized through the promptings of their conscience, they, in a number known only to God, can obtain salvation.(34)
  1. Cf. Lumen Gentium, 14.
  2. Cf. Lumen Gentium, 16.



Servant of God Pope John Paul I of Rome (1978), Radio Message “Urbi et Orbi (8/27/1978):

According to the words of St. Augustine, an image dear to the ancient Fathers of the Church, the ship of the Church must not fear, because it is guided by Christ and by his Vicar: “Although the ship is tossed about, it is still a ship. It carries the disciples and it receives Christ. Yes, it is tossed on the sea but without it, one would immediately perish” (Sermon 75:3; PL 38:475). Only in the Church is salvation: without it one perishes!

“General Audience” (9/3/1978){4},

It is difficult to accept some truths, because the truths of faith are of two kinds: some pleasant, others unpalatable to our spirit. For example, it is pleasant to hear that God has so much tenderness for us, even more tenderness than a mother for her children. Other truths, on the contrary, are hard to accept. God must punish if I resist. That is not agreeable, but it is clear that Jesus and the Church are the same thing: indissoluble, inseparable. Christ and the Church are only one thing. It is not possible to say: ‘I believe in Jesus, I accept Jesus, but I do not accept the Church.’ When the poor Pope, when the bishops, the priests, propose the doctrine, they are merely helping Christ. It is not our doctrine; it is Christ’s: we must merely guard it and present it.

Pope St. John Paul II the Great of Rome (1978-2005), “Address to the Metropolitan Archbishops of the United States of America” (3/11/1989):

It is essential that the agents, and in the first place we the pastors, speak the true message, “the gospel of God which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son… through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations” (Rom. 1, 1-5). We are guardians of something given, and given to the Church universal; something which is not the result of reflection, however competent, on cultural and social questions of the day, and is not merely the best path among many, but the one and only path to salvation: “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Act. 4, 12). The People of God and those near and far must hear the name.

Catechism of the Catholic Church §836-856

Who belongs to the Catholic Church?

836 “All men are called to this catholic unity of the People of God…. and to it, in different ways, belong or are ordered: the Catholic faithful, others who believe in Christ, and finally all mankind, called by God’s grace to salvation.”320

320 LG 13.



837 “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.'”321

321 LG 14. 

838 “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.”322 Those “who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church.”323 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.”324

322 LG 15.
323 UR 3.
324 Paul VI, Discourse, December 14, 1975; cf. UR 13-18.



The Church and non-Christians

839 “Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways.”325

325 LG 16.


The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People. When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People,326 “the first to hear the Word of God.”327 The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God’s revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews “belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ”,328 “for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.”329

326 Cf. NA 4.
327 Roman Missal, Good Friday 13: General Intercessions, VI.
328 Rom 9:4-5.
329 Rom 11:29.



840 and when one considers the future, God’s People of the Old Covenant and the new People of God tend towards similar goals: expectation of the coming (or the return) of the Messiah. But one awaits the return of the Messiah who died and rose from the dead and is recognized as Lord and Son of God; the other awaits the coming of a Messiah, whose features remain hidden till the end of time; and the latter waiting is accompanied by the drama of not knowing or of misunderstanding Christ Jesus.


841 The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”330
330 LG 16; cf. NA 3.



842 The Church’s bond with non-Christian religions is in the first place the common origin and end of the human race:

All nations form but one community. This is so because all stem from the one stock which God created to people the entire earth, and also because all share a common destiny, namely God. His providence, evident goodness, and saving designs extend to all against the day when the elect are gathered together in the holy city. . .331
331 NA 1.



843 The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as “a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life.”332
332 LG 16; cf. NA 2; EN 53.


844 In their religious behavior, however, men also display the limits and errors that disfigure the image of God in them:

Very often, deceived by the Evil One, men have become vain in their reasonings, and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and served the creature rather than the Creator. Or else, living and dying in this world without God, they are exposed to ultimate despair.333

333 LG 16; cf. Rom 1:21, 25.



845 To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son’s Church. the Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation. the Church is “the world reconciled.” She is that bark which “in the full sail of the Lord’s cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world.” According to another image dear to the Church Fathers, she is prefigured by Noah’s ark, which alone saves from the flood.334
334 St. Augustine, Serm. 96, 7, 9: PL 38, 588; St. Ambrose, De virg. 18, 118: PL 16, 297B; cf. already 1 Pet 3:20-21.


“Outside the Church there is no salvation”

846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers?335
335 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.336
336 LG 14; cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5[ETML:C/].

Conceded: That all those who knowingly and deliberately refuse to enter the Church and do not repent of this before their death are damned.

Denied: That any human not joined to the Catholic Church before death for any reason (inculpable or culpable ignorance, material or formal heresy) can be saved; because “if the Church were necessary for the attainment of eternal salvation only in the sense that individuals contumaciously separated from it could not be saved, it would definitely not be true to say that no man could be saved outside the Catholic Church” [Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, The Catholic Church and Salvation in Light of Recent Pronouncements of the Holy See (Westminster: The Newman Press, 1958), 64].

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.337
337 LG 16; cf. DS 3866-3872.

Conceded: That “those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church”–e.g., a man in a remote forest or island with “a sincere desire to know the truth, with a full resolution to embrace it, but either has no possible means of knowing it, or, after using his best endeavours, is unable to discover it” [George Hay, The Sincere Christian vol. 2, “An Inquiry whether Salvation can be had without true faith, and out of the communion of that one only church established by Christ,” q. 10, 291]–will not inevitably die in that state because “the great God is able to take them out of that state, to cure even their ignorance though invincible to them in their present situation, to bring them to the knowledge of the true faith, to the communion of His holy Church, and to salvation: and we further add, that if He be pleased, of His infinite mercy, to save any who are at present in invincible ignorance of the truth, in order to act consistently with Himself, and with His holy Word, He will undoubtedly bring them to the union of His holy Church for that purpose before they die” [Idem., q. 15, 300]; i.e., such people can “be saved … but not where they are, or without being brought to the Church” [Orestes Brownson, “The Great Question” from Brownson’s Quarterly Review, 1847 in The Works of Orestes A. Brownson, collected and arranged by Henry F. Brownson, vol. 5 (Detroit: Thorndike Nourse, 1884), 547].

Denied: That “those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church” who “die in that state” can be saved [ibid.];

Denied: That “the Church is only the ordinary means, and that it is still possible, in extraordinary cases, for a man to attain the Beatific Vision outside the Church” [Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, The Catholic Church and Salvation in Light of Recent Pronouncements of the Holy See (Westminster: The Newman Press, 1958), 126].

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.”338

338 AG 7; cf. Heb 11:6; 1 Cor 9:16.


Mission – a requirement of the Church’s catholicity

849 The missionary mandate. “Having been divinely sent to the nations that she might be ‘the universal sacrament of salvation,’ the Church, in obedience to the command of her founder and because it is demanded by her own essential universality, strives to preach the Gospel to all men”:339 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and Lo, I am with you always, until the close of the age.”340

339 AG 1; cf. Mt 16:15.
340 Mt 28:19-20.

Comment: Denying the dogma of no salvation outside the Church is equivalent to denying the Catholicity of the Church [Orestes Brownson, “Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus” from Brownson’s Quarterly Review, 1874 in The Works of Orestes A. Brownson, collected and arranged by Henry F. Brownson, vol. 5 (Detroit: Thorndike Nourse, 1884), 574, 577].

850 The origin and purpose of mission. the Lord’s missionary mandate is ultimately grounded in the eternal love of the Most Holy Trinity: “The Church on earth is by her nature missionary since, according to the plan of the Father, she has as her origin the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit.”341 The ultimate purpose of mission is none other than to make men share in the communion between the Father and the Son in their Spirit of love.342
341 AG 2.342 Cf. John Paul II, RMiss 23.


851 Missionary motivation. It is from God’s love for all men that the Church in every age receives both the obligation and the vigor of her missionary dynamism, “for the love of Christ urges us on.”343 Indeed, God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth”;344 that is, God wills the salvation of everyone through the knowledge of the truth. Salvation is found in the truth. Those who obey the prompting of the Spirit of truth are already on the way of salvation. But the Church, to whom this truth has been entrusted, must go out to meet their desire, so as to bring them the truth. Because she believes in God’s universal plan of salvation, the Church must be missionary.
343 2 Cor 5:14; cf. AA 6; RMiss 11.
344 1 Tim 2:4.


852 Missionary paths. the Holy Spirit is the protagonist, “the principal agent of the whole of the Church’s mission.”345 It is he who leads the Church on her missionary paths. “This mission continues and, in the course of history, unfolds the mission of Christ, who was sent to evangelize the poor; so the Church, urged on by the Spirit of Christ, must walk the road Christ himself walked, a way of poverty and obedience, of service and self-sacrifice even to death, a death from which he emerged victorious by his resurrection.”346 So it is that “the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians.”347


853 On her pilgrimage, the Church has also experienced the “discrepancy existing between the message she proclaims and the human weakness of those to whom the Gospel has been entrusted.”348 Only by taking the “way of penance and renewal,” the “narrow way of the cross,” can the People of God extend Christ’s reign.349 For “just as Christ carried out the work of redemption in poverty and oppression, so the Church is called to follow the same path if she is to communicate the fruits of salvation to men.”350
345 John Paul II, RMiss 21.
346 AG 5.
347 Tertullian, Apol. 50, 13: PL 1, 603.
348 GS 43 # 6.
349 LG 8 # 3; 15; AG 1 # 3; cf. RMiss 12-20.
350 LG 8 # 3.


854 By her very mission, “the Church . . . travels the same journey as all humanity and shares the same earthly lot with the world: she is to be a leaven and, as it were, the soul of human society in its renewal by Christ and transformation into the family of God.”351 Missionary endeavor requires patience. It begins with the proclamation of the Gospel to peoples and groups who do not yet believe in Christ,352 continues with the establishment of Christian communities that are “a sign of God’s presence in the world,”353 and leads to the foundation of local churches.354 It must involve a process of inculturation if the Gospel is to take flesh in each people’s culture.355 There will be times of defeat. “With regard to individuals, groups, and peoples it is only by degrees that [the Church] touches and penetrates them and so receives them into a fullness which is Catholic.”356

351 GS 40 # 2.

352 Cf. RMiss 42 47.

353 AG 15 # 1.

354 Cf. RMiss 48-49.

355 Cf. RMiss 52-54.

356 AG 6 # 2.


855 The Church’s mission stimulates efforts towards Christian unity.357 Indeed, “divisions among Christians prevent the Church from realizing in practice the fullness of catholicity proper to her in those of her sons who, though joined to her by Baptism, are yet separated from full communion with her. Furthermore, the Church herself finds it more difficult to express in actual life her full catholicity in all its aspects.”358

357 Cf. RMiss 50.

358 UR 4 # 8.



856 The missionary task implies a respectful dialogue with those who do not yet accept the Gospel.359 Believers can profit from this dialogue by learning to appreciate better “those elements of truth and grace which are found among peoples, and which are, as it were, a secret presence of God.”360 They proclaim the Good News to those who do not know it, in order to consolidate, complete, and raise up the truth and the goodness that God has distributed among men and nations, and to purify them from error and evil “for the glory of God, the confusion of the demon, and the happiness of man.”361

359 Cf. RMiss 55.
360 AG 9.
361 AG 9.



Pope Benedict XVI (2005-2013)


Pope Francis (2013-present), General Audience in St. Peter’s Square (6/25/2014):

At times one hears someone say: “I believe in God, I believe in Jesus, but I don’t care about the Church…”. How many times have we heard this? And this is not good. There are those who believe they can maintain a personal, direct and immediate relationship with Jesus Christ outside the communion and the mediation of the Church. These are dangerous and harmful temptations. These are, as the great Paul VI said, absurd dichotomies. … Dear friends, let us ask the Lord, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church, for the grace never to fall into the temptation of thinking we can make it without the others, that we can get along without the Church, that we can save ourselves on our own, of being Christians from the laboratory. On the contrary, you cannot love God without loving your brothers, you cannot love God outside of the Church; you cannot be in communion with God without being so in the Church, and we cannot be good Christians if we are not together with those who seek to follow the Lord Jesus, as one single people, one single body, and this is the Church.

Ecumenical Councils

12th Ecumenical Council, Lateran IV (1215), Canon 1 [DS 430]: “There is one Universal Church of the faithful, outside of which there is absolutely no salvation.”

17th Ecumenical Council, Florence (1441), Bull “Cantate Domino” of Pope Eugene IV of Rome [DS 714 cited in Catechism of the Catholic Church §1035 n. 616{5}]:

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” (Matthew 25:41), unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. 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.

18th Ecumenical Council, Lateran V (), : “”

19th Ecumenical Council, Trent (): “”

20th Ecumenical Council, Vatican I (): “”

21st Ecumenical Council, Vatican II (), : “”

Presbyterum Ordinis (The Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests) 4 (12/7/1965):

The People of God are joined together primarily by the word of the living God.(1) And rightfully they expect this from their priests.(2) Since no one can be saved who does not first believe,(3) priests, as co-workers with their bishops, have the primary duty of proclaiming the Gospel of God to all.(4) In this way they fulfill the command of the Lord: “Going therefore into the whole world preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15),(5) and they establish and build up the People of God. Through the saving word the spark of faith is lit in the hearts of unbelievers, and fed in the hearts of the faithful. This is the way that the congregation of faithful is started and grows, just as the Apostle describes: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17).

To all men, therefore, priests are debtors that the truth of the Gospel(6) which they have may be given to others. And so, whether by entering into profitable dialogue they bring people to the worship of God,(7) whether by openly preaching they proclaim the mystery of Christ, or whether in the light of Christ they treat contemporary problems, they are relying not on their own wisdom for it is the word of Christ they teach, and it is to conversion and holiness that they exhort all men.(8) But priestly preaching is often very difficult in the circumstances of the modern world. In order that it might more effectively move men’s minds, the word of God ought not to be explained in a general and abstract way, but rather by applying the lasting truth of the Gospel to the particular circumstances of life.

The ministry of the word is carried out in many ways, according to the various needs of those who hear and the special gifts of those who preach. In areas or communities of non-Christians, the proclaiming of the Gospel draws men to faith and to the sacraments of salvation.(9) In the Christian community, especially among those who seem to understand and believe little of what they practice, the preaching of the word is needed for the very ministering of the sacraments. They are precisely sacraments of faith, a faith which is born of and nourished by the word.(10) This is especially true of the Liturgy of the Word in the celebration of Mass, in which the proclaiming of the death and resurrection of Christ is inseparably joined to the response of the people who hear, and to the very offering whereby Christ ratified the New Testament in his blood. In this offering the faithful are united both by their dispositions and by their discernment of the sacrament.(11)

  1. Cf. 1 Pt 1:23; Acts 6:7; 12:24. “(The apostles) preached the word of truth and founded Churches.” (St. Augustine, On Psalms, 44, 23; PL 36, 508).
  2. Cf. Mal 2:7; 1 Tim 4:11-13; 1 Tim 1:9.
    3. Cf. Mk 16:16.
    4. Cf. 2 Cor 11:7. All that has been said regarding bishops also applies to priests inasmuch as they are cooperators of the bishops. Cf. Statuta Ecclesiae Antiqua, c. 3 (ed. Ch. Munier, Paris 1960, p 79); Decree of Gracian, c. 6, D.88 (ed. Friedberg, 1, 307); Council of Trent, Decree De Reform., Session 5, c. 2, n 9 (Ecumenical Council Decrees, ed. Herder, Rome 1963, p 645); Session 24, c. 4 (p 739); Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, Nov. 21, 1964, n 25: AAS 57 (1965), pp 29-31.
    5. Cf. Constitutiones Apostolorum II, 26, 7: “(Priests) are teachers of sacred science as the Lord himself commanded when he said: ‘Going, therefore, teach, etc.'” (ed. F.X. Funk, Didascalia et Constitutiones Apostolorum, I, Paderborn 1905, p 105); Leonine Sacramentary and other sacramentaries up to the Roman Pontifical, preface of the ordination of priests: “By this providence, Lord, you have added to the apostles of your Son fellow teachers of the faith through whom the apostles have filled the whole world with their teaching.” Ordo Book of the Mozarabic Liturgy, preface to the ordination of priests: “Teacher of peoples and ruler of subjects, he keeps intact the Catholic faith and announces true salvation to all.” (ed. M. Ferotin, Paris, 1904, col. 55).
    6. Cf. Gal 2:5.
    7. Cf. 1 Pt 2:12.
    8. Cf. Rite of priestly ordination in the Alexandrian Jocobite Church: “…Gather your people to the word of doctrine like a foster-mother who nourishes her children” (H. Denzinger, Oriental Rites, Book II, Wurzburg 1863, p 14).
    9. Cf. Mt 28:19; Mk 16:16; Tertullian, On Baptism, 14, 2 (The Body of Christians, Latin Series, I p 289, 11-13); St. Athanasius, Against the Arians, 2, 42 (PG 26, 237); St. Jerome, On Matthew, 28, 19 (PL 26, 218 BC): “First let them teach all nations, and then pour water on those who have learned. It cannot be that the body receive the sacrament of baptism unless the soul first has received the truth of faith;” St. Thomas, “Exposition of the first decretal,” n 1: “Sending his disciples to preach, our Savior enjoined on them three things: first, that they teach the faith; second, that they confer the sacraments on believers…. (ed. Marietti, Opuscula Theologica, Taurini-Rome 1954, 1138).
    10. Cf. Second Vatican Council, Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Dec. 4, 1963, n 35, 2: AAS 56 (1964), p 109.
    11. Cf. ibid, nn 33, 35, 48, 52 (pp 108-109, 113, 114).
    12. Cf. ibid, n 7 (pp 100-101); Pius XII, encyclical letter, Mystici Corporis, June 29, 1943: AAS 35 (1943), p 230.

Ad Gentes 7 (12/7/1965):

This missionary activity derives its reason from the will of God, “who wishes all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, Himself a man, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim. 2:45), “neither is there salvation in any other” (Acts 4:12). Therefore, all must be converted to Him, made known by the Church’s preaching, and all must be incorporated into Him by baptism and into the Church which is His body. For Christ Himself “by stressing in express language the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mark 16:16; John 3:5), at the same time confirmed the necessity of the Church, into which men enter by baptism, as by a door. Therefore those men cannot be saved, who though aware that God, through Jesus Christ founded the Church as something necessary, still do not wish to enter into it, or to persevere in it.”(17) Therefore though God in ways known to Himself can lead those inculpably ignorant of the Gospel to find that faith without which it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6), yet a necessity lies upon the Church (1 Cor. 9:16), and at the same time a sacred duty, to preach the Gospel. And hence missionary activity today as always retains its power and necessity.

By means of this activity, the Mystical Body of Christ unceasingly gathers and directs its forces toward its own growth (cf. Eph. 4:11-16). The members of the Church are impelled to carry on such missionary activity by reason of the love with which they love God and by which they desire to share with all men the spiritual goods of both its life and the life to come.

Finally, by means of this missionary activity, God is fully glorified, provided that men fully and consciously accept His work of salvation, which He has accomplished in Christ. In this way and by this means, the plan of God is fulfilled – that plan to which Christ conformed with loving obedience for the glory of the Father who sent Him,(18) that the whole human race might form one people of God and be built up into one temple of the Holy Spirit which, being the expression of brotherly harmony, corresponds with the inmost wishes of all men. And so at last, there will be realized the plan of our Creator who formed man to His own image and likeness, when all who share one human nature, regenerated in Christ through the Holy Spirit and beholding the glory of God, will be able to say with one accord: “Our Father.”(19)


Lumen gentium (the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) 8 (11/21/1964):

Christ, the one Mediator, established and continually sustains here on earth His holy Church, the community of faith, hope and charity, as an entity with visible delineation (9*) through which He communicated truth and grace to all. But, the society structured with hierarchical organs and the Mystical Body of Christ, are not to be considered as two realities, nor are the visible assembly and the spiritual community, nor the earthly Church and the Church enriched with heavenly things; rather they form one complex reality which coalesces from a divine and a human element.(10*) For this reason, by no weak analogy, it is compared to the mystery of the incarnate Word. As the assumed nature inseparably united to Him, serves the divine Word as a living organ of salvation, so, in a similar way, does the visible social structure of the Church serve the Spirit of Christ, who vivifies it, in the building up of the body.(73) (11*)

This is the one Church of Christ which in the Creed is professed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic, (12*) which our Saviour, after His Resurrection, commissioned Peter to shepherd,(74) and him and the other apostles to extend and direct with authority,(75) which He erected for all ages as “the pillar and mainstay of the truth”.(76) This Church constituted and organized in the world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him,(13*) although many elements of sanctification and of truth are found outside of its visible structure. These elements, as gifts belonging to the Church of Christ, are forces impelling toward catholic unity.

Just as Christ carried out the work of redemption in poverty and persecution, so the Church is called to follow the same route that it might communicate the fruits of salvation to men. Christ Jesus, “though He was by nature God . . . emptied Himself, taking the nature of a slave”,(77) and “being rich, became poor”(78) for our sakes. Thus, the Church, although it needs human resources to carry out its mission, is not set up to seek earthly glory, but to proclaim, even by its own example, humility and self-sacrifice. Christ was sent by the Father “to bring good news to the poor, to heal the contrite of heart”,(79) “to seek and to save what was lost”.(80) Similarly, the Church encompasses with love all who are afflicted with human suffering and in the poor and afflicted sees the image of its poor and suffering Founder. It does all it can to relieve their need and in them it strives to serve Christ. While Christ, holy, innocent and undefiled(81) knew nothing of sin,(82) but came to expiate only the sins of the people,(83) the Church, embracing in its bosom sinners, at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, always follows the way of penance and renewal. The Church, “like a stranger in a foreign land, presses forward amid the persecutions of the world and the consolations of God”(14*), announcing the cross and death of the Lord until He comes.”(84) By the power of the risen Lord it is given strength that it might, in patience and in love, overcome its sorrows and its challenges, both within itself and from without, and that it might reveal to the world, faithfully though darkly, the mystery of its Lord until, in the end, it will be manifested in full light.

(9) Leo XIII, Litt. Encycl. Sapientiae christianae, 10 ian. 1890 AAS 22 (1889-90) p. 392. Id., Epist. Encycl. Satis cognitium, 29 iun. 1896; AAS 28 (1895-96) pp. 710 ct 724 ss. Pius XII, Litt. Eneyel. Mystici Corporis, 1. c., pp. 199-200.
(10) Cfr. Pius XII, Litt. Encycl. Mystici Corporis, 1. c., p. 221 ss. Id., Lin. Encycl. Humani genesis, 12 Aug. 1950: AAS 42 (1950) p. 571.
(11) Leo XIII, Epist. Encycl. Satis cognitum, 1. c., p. 713.
(12) Cfr. Symbolum Apostolicum: Denz. 6-9 (10-13); Symb. Nic.-Const.: Denz. 86 (150), coll. Prof. fidei Trid.: Denz. 994 et 999 (1862 et 1868).
(13) Dieitur. Saneta (catholica apostolica) Romana Ecelesia .: in Prof. fidei Trid., 1. c. et Concl. Vat. I, Sess. III, Const. dogm. de fide cath.: Denz. 1782 (3001).
(14) S. Augustinus, Civ. Dei, XVIII, 51, 2: PL 41, 614.

73 Cf. Eph. 4:16.

74 Jn. 21:17.
75 Cf. Mt. 28:18, f.
76 1 Tim. 3:15.
77 Phil. 2:6.
78 2 Cor. 8:9.
79 Lk. 4:18.
80 Lk. 19:10.
81 Heb. 7:26.
82 2 Cor. 5:21.
83 Cf. Heb. 2:17.
84 Cf. 1 Cor. 11:26.


Lumen gentium (the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) 14 (11/21/1964):

This Sacred Council wishes to turn its attention firstly to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism(124) and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.

They are fully incorporated in the society of the Church who, possessing the Spirit of Christ accept her entire system and all the means of salvation given to her, and are united with her as part of her visible bodily structure and through her with Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. The bonds which bind men to the Church in a visible way are profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical government and communion. He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a “bodily” manner and not “in his heart.”(12*) All the Church’s children should remember that their exalted status is to be attributed not to their own merits but to the special grace of Christ. If they fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word and deed, not only shall they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged.(13*)

Catechumens who, moved by the Holy Spirit, seek with explicit intention to be incorporated into the Church are by that very intention joined with her. With love and solicitude Mother Church already embraces them as her own.

(12) Cfr. S. Augustinus, Bapt. c. Donat. V, 28, 39; PL 43, 197: Certe manifestum est, id quod dicitur, in Ecdesia intus et foris, in corde, non in corpore cogitandum. Cfr. ib., III, 19, 26: col. 152; V, 18, 24: col. 189; In Io. Tr. 61, 2: PL 35, 1800, et alibi saepe.

(13) Cfr. Lc. 12, 48: Omni autem, cui multum datum est, multum quaeretur ab eo. Cfr. etiam Mt. 5, 19-20; 7, 21-22; 25 41-46; Iac., 2, 14.

124 Cf. Mk. 16:16; Jn. 3.5.



Lumen Gentium 15 (11/21/1964):

The Church recognizes that in many ways she is linked with those who, being baptized, are honored with the name of Christian, though they do not profess the faith in its entirety or do not preserve unity of communion with the successor of Peter. (14*) For there are many who honor Sacred Scripture, taking it as a norm of belief and a pattern of life, and who show a sincere zeal. They lovingly believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and Saviour. (15*) They are consecrated by baptism, in which they are united with Christ. They also recognize and accept other sacraments within their own Churches or ecclesiastical communities. Many of them rejoice in the episcopate, celebrate the Holy Eucharist and cultivate devotion toward the Virgin Mother of God.(16*) They also share with us in prayer and other spiritual benefits. Likewise we can say that in some real way they are joined with us in the Holy Spirit, for to them too He gives His gifts and graces whereby He is operative among them with His sanctifying power. Some indeed He has strengthened to the extent of the shedding of their blood. In all of Christ’s disciples the Spirit arouses the desire to be peacefully united, in the manner determined by Christ, as one flock under one shepherd, and He prompts them to pursue this end. (17*) Mother Church never ceases to pray, hope and work that this may come about. She exhorts her children to purification and renewal so that the sign of Christ may shine more brightly over the face of the earth.

(14) Cfr. Leo XIII, Epist. Apost. Praeclara gratulationis, 20 iun. 1894; AAS 26 (1893-94) p. 707.
(15) Cfr. Leo XIII, Epist. Encycl. Satis cognitum, 29 iun. 1896: ASS 28 (1895-96) p. 738. Epist. Encycl. Caritatis studium, 25 iul. 1898: ASS 31 (1898-99) p. 11. Pius XII, Nuntius radioph. Nell’alba, 24 dec. 1941: AAS 34 (1942) p. 21.
(16) Cfr. Pius XI, Litt. Encycl. Rerum Orientalium, 8 sept. 1928: AAS 20 (1928) p. 287. Pius XII, Litt. Encycl Orientalis Ecclesiae, 9 apr. 1944: AAS 36 (1944) p. 137
(17) Cfr. Inst. S.S.C.S. Officii 20 dec. 1949: AAS 42 (1950) p.142.



Lumen Gentium 16 (11/21/1964):

Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God.(18*) In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh.(125) On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues.(126) But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things,(127) and as Saviour wills that all men be saved.(128) Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.(19*) Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.(20*) She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator.(129) Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, “Preach the Gospel to every creature”,(130) the Church fosters the missions with care and attention.

(18) Cfr. S. Thomas, Summa Theol. III, q. 8, a. 3, ad 1.

(19) Cfr. Epist. S.S.C.S. Officii ad Archiep. Boston.: Denz. 3869-72.

(20) Cfr. Eusebius Caes., Praeparatio Evangelica, 1, 1: PG 2128 AB.

125 Cf. Rom. 9:4-5

126 Cf. Rom. 1 l:28-29.
127 Cf. Acts 17:25-28.
128 Cf. 1 Tim. 2:4.
129 Cf Rom. 1:21, 25.
130 Mk. 16:16.



A bishop marked with the fullness of the sacrament of Orders, is “the steward of the grace of the supreme priesthood,” (48*) especially in the Eucharist, which he offers or causes to be offered,(49*) and by which the Church continually lives and grows. This Church of Christ is truly present in all legitimate local congregations of the faithful which, united with their pastors, are themselves called churches in the New Testament.(50*) For in their locality these are the new People called by God, in the Holy Spirit and in much fullness.(167) In them the faithful are gathered together by the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, and the mystery of the Lord’s Supper is celebrated, that by the food and blood of the Lord’s body the whole brotherhood may be joined together.(51*) In any community of the altar, under the sacred ministry of the bishop,(52*) there is exhibited a symbol of that charity and “unity of the mystical Body, without which there can be no salvation.”(53*) In these communities, though frequently small and poor, or living in the Diaspora, Christ is present, and in virtue of His presence there is brought together one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.(54*) For “the partaking of the body and blood of Christ does nothing other than make us be transformed into that which we consume”. (55*)

(48) Oratio consecrationis cpiscopalis in ritu byzantino: Euchologion to mega, Romae, 1873, p. 139.

(49) Cfr. S. Ignatius M. Smyrn 8, 1: ed. Funk, 1, p. 282.
(50) Cfr. Act. 8, 1; 14, 22-23; 20, 17, et passim.
(51) Oratio mozarabica: PL 96 7S9 B
(52) Cfr. S. Ignatius M., Smyrn 8, 1: ed. Funk, I, p. 282.
(53) S. Thomas, Summa Theol. III, q. 73, a. 3.
(54) Cfr. S. Augustinus, C. Faustum, 12, 20: PL 42, 26S Serm. 57, 7: PL 38, 389, etc.
(55) S. Leo M., Serm. 63, 7: PL 54, 3S7 C.


Unitatis Redintegratio 1 (Decree on Ecumenism) [11/21/1964]:

The restoration of unity among all Christians is one of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council. Christ the Lord founded one Church and one Church only. However, many Christian communions present themselves to men as the true inheritors of Jesus Christ; all indeed profess to be followers of the Lord but differ in mind and go their different ways, as if Christ Himself were divided.(1) Such division openly contradicts the will of Christ, scandalizes the world, and damages the holy cause of preaching the Gospel to every creature.

  1. Cf. 1 Cor. 1, 13.

Unitatis Redintegratio 2:

The Church, then, is God’s only flock; it is like a standard lifted high for the nations to see it:(16) for it serves all mankind through the Gospel of peace(17) as it makes its pilgrim way in hope toward the goal of the fatherland above.(18

  1. Cf. Is. 11, 10-12.
  2. Cf. Eph. 2, 17-18, collato Mc. 16, 15.
  3. Cf. 1 Petr. 1, 3-9.

Unitatis Redintegratio 3:

Even in the beginnings of this one and only Church of God there arose certain rifts,(19) which the Apostle strongly condemned.(20) But in subsequent centuries much more serious dissensions made their appearance and quite large communities came to be separated from full communion with the Catholic Church – for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame. The children who are born into these Communities and who grow up believing in Christ cannot be accused of the sin involved in the separation, and the Catholic Church embraces upon them as brothers, with respect and affection. For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect. The differences that exist in varying degrees between them and the Catholic Church – whether in doctrine and sometimes in discipline, or concerning the structure of the Church – do indeed create many obstacles, sometimes serious ones, to full ecclesiastical communion. The ecumenical movement is striving to overcome these obstacles. But even in spite of them it remains true that all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are members of Christ’s body,(21) and have a right to be called Christian, and so are correctly accepted as brothers by the children of the Catholic Church.(22)

  1. Cf. 1 Cor. 11, 18-19; Gal. 1, 6-9; 1 Jn. 2, 18-19.
  2. Cf. 1 Cor. 1, 11 sqq; 11, 22.
  3. Cf. CONC. FLORENTINUM, Sess. VIII (1439), Decretum Exultate Deo: Mansi 31, 1055 A.
  4. Cf. S. AUGUSTINUS, In Ps. 32, Enarr. 11, 29: PL 36, 299


Pope Leo XIII, Encyclical “Adiutricem” on the Rosary §27 qtd. in Dave Armstrong, “‘Separated Brethren” Term Before Vatican II (1962-1965)'”:

Pope St. Pius X, Encylical “Ex quo” qtd. in ibid.

Pope Pius XI, qtd. in ibid.

Ven. Pope Pius XII, qtd. in ibid.

Denied: That a validly baptized child, after coming to the use of reason and either positively rejecting the Catholic faith or omitting “to elicit the Catholic faith, which neither is nor can be elicited out of the Catholic Church; for out of her the credible object, which is Deus revelans et cclesia proponens, is wanting” [Orestes Brownson, “Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus” from Brownson’s Quarterly Review, 1874 in The Works of Orestes A. Brownson, collected and arranged by Henry F. Brownson, vol. 5 (Detroit: Thorndike Nourse, 1884), 573], is still justified and remains a member of Christ’s body.

Moreover, some and even very many of the significant elements and endowments which together go to build up and give life to the Church itself, can exist outside the visible boundaries of the Catholic Church: the written word of God; the life of grace; faith, hope and charity, with the other interior gifts of the Holy Spirit, and visible elements too. All of these, which come from Christ and lead back to Christ, belong by right to the one Church of Christ.

Conceded: That validly baptized children before the age of reason have “the infused habit of faith,” hope, and charity [Orestes Brownson, “Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus” from Brownson’s Quarterly Review, 1874 in The Works of Orestes A. Brownson, collected and arranged by Henry F. Brownson, vol. 5 (Detroit: Thorndike Nourse, 1884), 573], and that adults who wish to join the Catholic Church can have faith, hope, and charity; cf.

Denied: That non-Catholic adults (even those invincibly ignorant of the Church) before they desire to abandon their non-Catholic beliefs and become Catholics, can “make any supernatural acts of divine faith, hope, and charity, which are necessary to obtain life everlasting” [Fr. Michael Müller, C.Ss.R., The Catholic Dogma Extra Ecclesiam Nullus Omnino Salvatur, Chapter 5, Part II, §6].

The brethren divided from us also use many liturgical actions of the Christian religion. These most certainly can truly engender a life of grace in ways that vary according to the condition of each Church or Community. These liturgical actions must be regarded as capable of giving access to the community of salvation.

Conceded: That by reason of valid Sacraments retained by non-Catholic churches children receiving these valid sacraments can become members of the Catholic Church and live “a life of grace” i.e., be in the state of sanctifying grace, and that an adult separated from the Church who does not yet want to join the Church can be the recipient of “many actual graces” (cf. CCC §2024) “which refer to God’s interventions” (cf. CCC §2000) preparing him for the gifts of Catholic faith, hope, and charity without which no adult can be joined to the Church; cf. the 29th error of the Jansenist Pasquier Quesnel “condemned [by Pope Clement XI] in the dogmatic Constitution, ‘Unigenitus‘” on 9/8/1713 [Denzinger 1379], “Outside the Church, no grace is granted.”

Denied: That “a stable and supernatural disposition that perfects the soul itself to enable it to live with God, to act by his love,” (Catechism of the Catholic Church §2000), i.e., “the life of supernatural grace itself is … to be obtained or possessed outside the Church” [Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, The Catholic Church and Salvation in Light of Recent Pronouncements of the Holy See (Westminster: The Newman Press, 1958), 28].

It follows that the separated Churches(23) and Communities as such, though we believe them to be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Church.

  1. Cf. CONC. LATERANENSE IV (1215) Constitutio IV: Mansi 22, 990; CONC. LUGDUNENSE II (1274), Professio fidei Michaelis Palaeologi: Mansi 24, 71 E; CONC. FLORENTINUM, Sess. VI (1439), Definitio Laetentur caeli: Mansi 31, 1026 E.

Conceded: That non-Catholic churches on account of the “ecclesial elements” they still have can be “forces impelling toward Catholic unity” (Lumen Gentium 8), i.e., that they can “tend and lead toward the Catholic Church” (CDF “Notification on the book ‘Church: Charism and Power’ by Fr. Leonardo Boff”) “outside which no one at all is saved” (Lateran IV under Pope Innocent III).

Denied: That someone can be saved despite remaining in a non-Catholic Church and not being joined to the Catholic Church before the moment of death by being formally received into her or explicitly desiring to be received into her with an act of faith, hope, and perfect charity but being prevented by death from being formally received into her. Maybe one can express the distinction as being a “means” in a “partial, precarious, borrowed and accidental manner” (to borrow an expression used in a different context by the Servant of God Charles Cardinal Journet–concerning whose writings on the dogma cf. the first post in this four-part series–in The Church of the Word Incarnate, Chapter IX: The Unity and the Action of the Hierarchy, II. indirect Action of the Hierarchy in the World, 2. Survivals From The Power Of Jurisdiction, “A. The Presence Of A Partial And Borrowed Jurisdiction”) but not being a means in a proper, principal, immediate, per se manner.

Denied: That “the Church [is] really necessary only for the complete fullness of those revealed truths and other supernatural aids which … can be obtained outside the Church and independently of it less perfectly, although still to an extent sufficient to make salvation possible” [Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton, “The Meaning of the Church’s Necessity for Salvation,” American Ecclesiastical Review, February, 1951].

Unitatis redintegratio 22:

Whenever the Sacrament of Baptism is duly administered as Our Lord instituted it, and is received with the right dispositions, a person is truly incorporated into the crucified and glorified Christ, and reborn to a sharing of the divine life, as the Apostle says: “You were buried together with Him in Baptism, and in Him also rose again – through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead”.(40)

Baptism therefore establishes a sacramental bond of unity which links all who have been reborn by it. But of itself Baptism is only a beginning, an inauguration wholly directed toward the fullness of life in Christ. Baptism, therefore, envisages a complete profession of faith, complete incorporation in the system of salvation such as Christ willed it to be, and finally complete ingrafting in eucharistic communion.

Though the ecclesial Communities which are separated from us lack the fullness of unity with us flowing from Baptism, and though we believe they have not retained the proper reality of the eucharistic mystery in its fullness, especially because of the absence of the sacrament of Orders, nevertheless when they commemorate His death and resurrection in the Lord’s Supper, they profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ and look forward to His coming in glory. Therefore the teaching concerning the Lord’s Supper, the other sacraments, worship, the ministry of the Church, must be the subject of the dialogue.

  1. Col. 2, 12; cf. Rom. 6, 4



Unitatis redintegratio 23:

The daily Christian life of these brethren is nourished by their faith in Christ and strengthened by the grace of Baptism and by hearing the word of God. This shows itself in their private prayer, their meditation on the Bible, in their Christian family life, and in the worship of a community gathered together to praise God. Moreover, their form of worship sometimes displays notable features of the liturgy which they shared with us of old.

Their faith in Christ bears fruit in praise and thanksgiving for the blessings received from the hands of God. Among them, too, is a strong sense of justice and a true charity toward their neighbor. This active faith has been responsible for many organizations for the relief of spiritual and material distress, the furtherance of the education of youth, the improvement of the social conditions of life, and the promotion of peace throughout the world.

While it is true that many Christians understand the moral teaching of the Gospel differently from Catholics, and do not accept the same solutions to the more difficult problems of modern society, nevertheless they share our desire to stand by the words of Christ as the source of Christian virtue, and to obey the command of the Apostle: “And whatever you do, in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him”.(41) For that reason an ecumenical dialogue might start with discussion of the application of the Gospel to moral conduct.

  1. Col. 3, 17



Each and all these matters which are set forth in this Decree have been favorably voted on by the Fathers of the Council. And We, by the apostolic authority given Us by Christ and in union with the Fathers, approve, decree and establish them in the Holy Spirit and command that they be promulgated for the glory of God.

Given in Rome at St. Peter’s, November 21, 1964

Orientalium Ecclesiarium (Decree on the Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite 11/21/1964) 2:

  1. The Holy Catholic Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ, is made up of the faithful who are organically united in the Holy Spirit by the same faith, the same sacraments and the same government and who, combining together into various groups which are held together by a hierarchy, form separate Churches or Rites. Between these there exists an admirable bond of union, such that the variety within the Church in no way harms its unity; rather it manifests it, for it is the mind of the Catholic Church that each individual Church or Rite should retain its traditions whole and entire and likewise that it should adapt its way of life to the different needs of time and place.(2)

(2) S. Leo IX, Litt. In terra pax, an. 1053: Ut enim; Innocentius III, Synodus Lateranensis IV, an. 1215, cap. IV: . Licet Graccos; Litt. Inter quatuor, 2 aug. 1206: Postulasti postmodum; Innocentius IV, Ep. Cum de cetero, 27 aug. 1247; Ep. Sub catholicae, 6 mart. 1254, proem.; Nicolaus III, Instructio Istud est memoriale, 9 oct. 1278; Leo X, Litt. Ap. Accepimus nuper, 18 maii 1521; Paulus III, Litt. Ap. Dudum, 23 dec. 1534; Pius IV, Const. Romanus Pontifex, 16 febr. 1564, 5; Clemens VIII, Const. Magnus Dominus, 23 dec. 1595, 10; Paulus V, Const. Solet circumspeata, 10 dec. 1615, 3; Benedictus XIV, Ep. Enc. Demandatam, 24 dec. 1743, 3; Ep. Enc. Allatae sunt, 26 iun. 1755, 3, 6-19, 32; Pius VI, Litt. Enc. Catholicae communionis, 24 maii 1787; Pius IX, Litt. In suprema, 6 ian. 1848, 3; Litt. Ap. Ecclesiam Christ;, 26 nov. 1853; Const. Romani Pontificis, 6 ian. 1862; Leo XIII, Litt. Ap. Praeclara, 20 iun. 1894, n. 7; Litt. Ap. Orientalium dignitas, 30 nov. 1894, proem.; etc.


Each and all these matters which are set forth in this decree have been favorably voted on by the Fathers of the Council. And we, by the apostolic authority given us by Christ and in union with the Fathers, approve, decree and establish them in the Holy Spirit and command that they be promulgated for the glory of God.

Given in Rome at St. Peter’s, November 21, 1964

Gaudiem et spes 22 (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) on 12/7/1965:

All this holds true not only for Christians, but for all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way.(31) For, since Christ died for all men,(32) and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery.

Such is the mystery of man, and it is a great one, as seen by believers in the light of Christian revelation. Through Christ and in Christ, the riddles of sorrow and death grow meaningful. Apart from His Gospel, they overwhelm us. Christ has risen, destroying death by His death; He has lavished life upon us(33) so that, as sons in the Son, we can cry out in the Spirit; Abba, Father(34)

  1. Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Chapter 2, n. 16: AAS 57 (1965), p. 20.
  2. Cf. Rom. 8:32.
  3. Cf. The Byzantine Easter Liturgy.
  4. Cf. Rom. 8:15 and Gal. 4:6; cf. also John 1:22 and John 3:1-2.

Comment: Cf. Ad gentes 7.

Local Councils

Local Council of Laodicea, Canon 34 (363): “No Christian shall forsake the martyrs of Christ, and turn to false martyrs, that is, to those of the heretics, or those who formerly were heretics; for they are aliens from God. Let those who go after them be anathema.”

Local 12th Council of Carthage, Canon 57 (419):

Those who as were baptized by the Donatists, and not yet being able to know the pernicious character of their error, and afterward when they had come to the use of reason, had received the knowledge of the truth, abhorred their former error, […] having anathematized their error may be received by the imposition of the hand into the one Church, the pillar as it is called, and the one mother of all Christians, where all these sacraments are received unto salvation and everlasting life; even the same sacraments which obtain for those persevering in heresy the heavy penalty of damnation. So that which to those who are in the truth lighteneth to the obtaining of eternal life, the same to them who are in error tends but to darkness and damnation.

Other Magisterial Documents



Doctors of the Church

St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelic Doctor), Summa Theologica III, q. 73, art. 3, corp.: “There is no entering into salvation outside the Church, just as in the time of the deluge there was none outside the Ark, which denotes the Church, according to 1 Peter 3:20-21.”

St. Francis des Sales,

St. Peter Canisius, S.J.

St. Robert Bellarmine, S.J.

St. Alphonsus Maria Liguori, C.Ss.R.

Various Saints

St. Francis of Assisi, O.F.M., ”

St. Bridget of Sweden

St. Catherine of Siena, T.O.S.D. <https://ia800206.us.archive.org/26/items/seraphicvirginca00cathuoft/seraphicvirginca00cathuoft.pdf>

St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort

Other Theologians


{3} Qtd. by Br. Thomas Mary Sennott, M.I.C.M. (R.I.P.) at http://catholicism.org/doctrinalsummary.html.

{4} Ibid.

{5} As pointed out at http://catholicism.org/a-quiet-affirmation-from-the-new-catechism.html.



3 Responses to Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus, Part 4

  1. […] from Part 1. Click here for Part 3. Click here for Part […]

  2. […] Unity of the Church. He very clearly taught that there is no salvation outside the Church, and that heretics belong to the lifeless, rotten branches that have fallen off the tree. If Baptism is the sacrament whereby someone becomes a member of the one and only true Church, how […]

  3. Uniatism | says:

    […] problem is not Eastern Orthodox Christians being reunited to the Catholic Church (something they MUST do if they wish to save their souls; if this is what one means by Uniatism, it is the will of God), […]

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