Can Only Catholics Be Saved? Really?

American Blogger, Margaret USA, is keen for us to discuss the following article, taken from One Peter Five blog…

“… thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.” (Matt 16:18-19)

It is a truth revealed by God that there is absolutely no salvation outside of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is the true Church of Jesus Christ, instituted by Jesus Christ for the sanctification and salvation of the souls of men; how could there possibly be salvation outside the society instituted by Jesus Christ for our salvation?

The Catholic Church is not an invisible society, but a visible one, and there are not two Churches, one visible and the other invisible. It follows from this that it is necessary for salvation to be a member of the visible Catholic Church. There is no invisible Catholic Church. However, it is possible that a person could be, invisibly, a member of the Catholic Church, which is visible. Thus, a person in invincible ignorance of the true Faith who does not know of the necessity of membership in the Church for his salvation would not be held by the Almighty as guilty of a sin that he is not responsible for. Such a person might be, by grace, a member of the Catholic Church.

It is extremely dangerous, to say the least, to remain outside the Catholic Church, when the Catholic Church is the divinely instituted means of our salvation. One becomes a member of the Catholic Church either by baptism or by grace, and, visibly speaking, one becomes a visible member of the Catholic Church by baptism, because that is precisely the visible ceremony that makes men members of the Church. But Protestants, who do have a valid baptism, are not Catholics; for the Church is defined as the visible society of those who profess the faith of Christ, partake of the same Sacraments, and are united under the government of their lawful pastors under one visible head (that is, the pope). Protestants are, however, in an imperfect but real (or, to put it the other way, a real but imperfect) communion with us, and they are Christians, but they are not per se members of the Catholic Church. Catholics have used the phrase “separated brethren” to denote Protestants (and, I suppose, Orthodox and others) for two hundred years or so. The Second Vatican Council uses the phrase “fratres a nobis sejuncti” — the brethren separated from us. The word “separated” denotes the imperfection of the communion; the word “brethren” denotes the real communion that is, nevertheless, imperfect.

To state “there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church” does not mean that no Protestant, Jew, Muslim, etc., could be saved, but if he were saved, it would be by virtue of the Catholic Church and not his erring sect or religion. If he were saved, it would be because he was, by grace (or in the case of Protestants, by baptism), a member of the Catholic Church. Everyone who is in heaven is a member of the Church Triumphant and, ipso facto, a Catholic.

I do not think many people will deny that there are good and holy people in other religions. But this does not lessen the importance of the fact that all the graces in the world enter the world through the Catholic Church.

A person who knows that the Catholic Church is the true Faith, and refuses to enter it, cannot be saved. This is the perennial teaching of the Magisterium and is affirmed by the Second Vatican Council in the document Lumen Gentium.

The Catholic Church is the Church. It is not a part of the Church, or a denomination of the Church; it is the religion instituted by Jesus Christ, outside which there is no salvation. It is the only religion instituted by God Himself, and it is the only religion pleasing to God.

It is the duty of all men on Earth to enter the Catholic Church and to submit to her authoritative teaching. It is God who speaks to men, not through Scripture only, but also through the Sacred Tradition and the universal Magisterium of His Church. We must believe what Christ teaches us through His Church; faith that is at least implicit, in all that God has revealed, is necessary for salvation (and there are certain truths also that must be believed explicitly).

It is a great sin against charity to encourage people to persevere in their errors. Error will not save anyone. The truth of Jesus Christ — which includes the truth of His Church, which is His Immaculate Bride and His Mystical Body — will save people. People have a right to the full truth of the Gospel and should not be denied any part of it. They therefore have a right to know the truth: that Catholicism is the true religion; that the Catholic Church is the Church of God, which is endowed with authority, infallibility, and indefectibility, and will teach the true Faith and preserve the sacraments instituted by Jesus Christ until the end of time. Membership in it is necessary for salvation.   Source

[Author] David Mitchell was born in England and lives there his wife, whom he married in December 2018. David was educated at the University of Durham and was received into the Catholic Church in 2008, while he was a student. He has a B.A. in music and an M.A. in performance and sings in his church choir, where he and his wife met. He has taught music and Latin and currently undertakes freelance music work.

Comments invited…   

38 responses

  1. Thank you, Margaret USA, for requesting this topic. Gratefully, RCAVictor USA…

    I think this is one of the key paragraphs in this excellent article:

    “To state “there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church” does not mean that no Protestant, Jew, Muslim, etc., could be saved, but if he were saved, it would be by virtue of the Catholic Church and not his erring sect or religion. If he were saved, it would be because he was, by grace (or in the case of Protestants, by baptism), a member of the Catholic Church. Everyone who is in heaven is a member of the Church Triumphant and, ipso facto, a Catholic.”

    The way I learned this truth is that while non-Catholics could be saved if God so wills it, only the Catholic Church has the means of salvation, i.e. the Sacraments.

    This article, by the way, is a pointed response to the ridiculous arguments of one Karl Rahner, SJ, who, according to Malachi Martin, attacked and undermined every single dogma of the Church. There are at least two of his heresies addressed in this article: one, the nonsense of the “anonymous Christian,” and two, the nonsense of the “invisible Church.” Under the present Pontificate, tragically, we have Rampant Rahnerism, aimed, as Cardinal Muller put it today on LifeSite News, as a wrecking ball against the Church.

    That said, I’d have to disagree with one of the author’s statements, namely, that Protestants are Christians. How could you be a Christian if you reject the Papacy, the Magisterium, certain books of the Bible, the Mass and the priesthood – all divinely founded and inspired by Christ? Not to mention veneration of Mary and the Saints, Purgatory, etc. etc. I’m trying to think of an analogy, but I guess I’ll have to post one later,

    I’m also amazed that a musician wrote this, considering that, in my extensive experience with the denizens of the professional music world, most classical musicians are either ignorant homosexuals or insufferable, ignorant snobs, both types embracing whatever the latest PC insanity happens to hit their cell phones. May this exception soon become the rule….

    • You’re welcome, RCA Victor. ☺

      I was totally blown away after reading this article. It was almost (emphasis on “almost”!) like reading the CT newsletter.

    • Your comment about musicians made me laugh. However, I studied music at university and the department was among the more open-minded of the arts departments. I had freedom to write anything I wanted without provoking the wrath of secularist ideologues. That is, as long as what I wrote was well argued and supported by evidence. In fact, the director of a prestigious Scottish choir, who herself is not religious, once told me that she felt that Vatican II was to blame for the demise of Church music. That this was obvious to her, but not to most modern churchmen, is astounding.

      • Miles,

        Your experience is encouraging, but I’m afraid the Iron Curtain of political correctness has descended over the once-proud American university system….and is now in the clean-up phase. President Trump has put a major obstacle in their way, however, by threatening to cut off Federal funding for any university that violates freedom of speech.

  2. Here’s my weak attempt at an analogy: for Protestants to claim to be Christians is like a man claiming to be a soldier, yet who:

    -Rejects boot camp and all other forms of discipline
    -Rejects wearing a uniform
    -Rejects carrying a weapon
    Rejects attending class and briefings and taking tests
    -Rejects taking orders from superiors, or even addressing them properly
    -Rejects going into battle

    But who….

    -Demands a military pension all the same.

      • I think the article is excellent. It is hard reading when you have Protestant relatives, but I simply remind myself that God is infinitely just, so if a relative of mine is in Hell, it’s because they deserve it. Similarly, if I end up in Hell it will be because I deserve it.

        • Yes, this article means that even many sincere and devout Greek and Russian Orthodox are all in the fires of Hell, even conservative sympathetic High Church/Anglo-Catholics too.

          Alongside countless billions of Jews, Muslims, Protestants, Hindus, Sihks, Buddhists and Atheists, divorcees, fornicators. Families, children and parents, all suffering eternal damnation, regardless of how much they loved people or how kindly they lived their lives. They are outside the Church!

          Meanwhile, the majority of semi-lapsed, modernist Novus Ordo Catholics are all enjoying eternal happiness in heaven, even those who receive the blessed sacrament in the hand while standing?

          Even all those new-church Catholics who now openly accept, promote and tolerate heretical teachings on sexuality and socialism, they are in heaven.by virtue of baptism and forgiveness of sins?

          Surely not! So logically then, this must mean that only a vey small number of traditional Catholics, are getting into heaven.

          Is that correct?

          • I don’t personally believe that socialism per se is to blame for the Crisis in the Church, nor are the Jews to blame. There are no socialist states in Europe, only liberal democracies. Liberalism is to blame for the downfall of the West, both economic liberalism and cultural liberalism. What and who exactly do you mean by socialists?

            Socialists and Jews are surely not ultimately responsible for the Crisis in the Church? Catholics are, specifically Catholic modernists who synthesised Catholicism with freemasonic philosophies of the Enlightenment during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There is a tendency among some traditional Catholics (typically American) who misidentify any form of liberalism and secularism as ‘socialism’, but to me this simply betrays their McCarthyist tendencies. It’s a distraction from the real threat, and perpetuates conspiracy theories which undermine the intellectual credibility of Traditional Catholicism.

          • I believe that we have to leave all this to the mercy of God who is a loving father and creator. We cannot limit Him or His mercy. What we have to do is work tirelessly for our salvation and pray tirelessly for everyone else. Jesus said that in His Fathers house there are many mansions. It is up to God who He puts in them. The enormous graces gained for mankind through the death of Our Lord on the cross are beyond human understanding. We do not know, and cannot know what happens to a soul on the point of death. Maybe they are given the choice of accepting God then. Who knows?

          • I think you are asking pointless questions. We cannot know for certain who is saved and who isn’t, canonised saints being the exception. No one can put a limit on God and His mercy.

            However, what we do know for definite is that salvation can only be assured by being in full communion with the Catholic Church, outside of which there is no salvation. It’s worth noting that if someone denies a doctrine of the Faith they place themselves outside of the Church.

            • So just to recap =

              We cannot know for certain who is saved. However, we can say for certain that there’s no salvation outside the Church?

              Thanks for clearing that up Petrus.

              • TCK

                Well, with all due respect, it’s self-evident that “we cannot know for certain who is saved” (with the exception, as Petrus points out, of canonised saints.)

                It’s also an infallible dogma of the Church that there is no salvation outside the Church.

                Petrus really didn’t say anything new…

          • TCK,

            Your post sounds as if you are trying to be controversial, rather than factual.

            I think the essential truth here was spoken by Our Lord in Matthew 7:21: “Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

            All the various categories of modern Catholics you cite, including traditionalists, are subject to Our Lord’s restrictions. As for those who are outside the Church, I suggest you read Elizabeth’s post below.

      • Josephine,

        I know what you mean, believe me, as I was removed from the Church at age 5 and raised Protestant due to re-marriage (which, incidentally, was invalid). Moreover, almost all of my surviving relatives are Protestant.

        There are, as the article points our, many good Protestants who sincerely love Our Lord, but their hearts are only pumping with 1 ventricle, or less, and they have no means of expiation of sin. And if they consciously reject the Catholic Church, rather than perhaps thinking of it as just another Christian denomination, then I’m afraid they will be in hot water when they face their judgement.

        Furthermore, since there is no liturgical sacrifice in any Protestant sect, they really don’t even qualify as a religion. I asked that question of one of our priests last year, and he said they are a faith, but not a religion. I’m not sure what the difference is, though, and i didn’t get a chance to follow up.

        As for the class of people known as “separated brethren,” the Church is in such a bad way now that I wonder if we could include much of the hierarchy in that group. After all, doesn’t “the Great Apostasy” mean separation?

        • “I asked that question of one of our priests last year, and he said they are a faith, but not a religion.”

          With all due respect, he has it backwards. There is only one Faith – the Catholic Faith. All other religions are false.

          Btw, “religion” comes from the Latin phrase “to bind”. Any good dictionary will have the etymology of “religion” in its definition.

          • But many people have faith in false gods. Their faith is real, even if what they believe is false. Most atheists and secularists I know have a much stronger ‘faith’ than your average luke-warm Novus Ordo Catholic.

    • RCA Victor,

      👍👍 for your awesome post! Totally spot on!

      Margaret 🇺🇸

      P.S. Where are you in the U.S.? I forget.

  3. Dear Madame Editor,

    Thank you very much for posting this article! When I first started learning about the crisis in the Church, I had a hard time accepting EENS.

    I boned up on good Catholic reading (e.g. The Catholic Church and Salvation by Msgr. Fenton – available from Angelus Press +1-800-96-ORDER) but still couldn’t understand it.

    This article distilled the Catholic teaching on EENS and made it comprehensible to my poor going-gray matter.

    I think it was GKC who wrote that you can look at something 999 times and the 1000th time you’re in danger of seeing it for the first time.

    Well, this article made everything click. The author may not be a dyed-in-the-wool traditionalist but he’s still a brother-in-spiritual-arms.

    Yours in Christ the King,

    Margaret 🇺🇸

  4. I am sure that false religions can positively lead a person to damnation. How many suicide bombers have there been who sincerely believed that they loved God and were destined for paradise?

    My understanding of EENS is not so much that the lack of knowledge of Catholicism leads to damnation, but rather that false religions (including atheistic materialism) delude people and give them licence to act against the natural law, whether it be Islamist terrorists or secular humanist abortionists, or pagans who throughout history have commited human sacrifice.

    • May I add that although there have been virtuous pagans who have obeyed the natural law and have been saved, almost everyone — except by an extraordinary grace — will have a faulty understanding of the natural law, and I know that I certainly would have had the Catholic Church not taught me the authentic interpretation of the natural law. Most man-made religions permit their members to deviate in some way from the natural law, for example, most Protestants accept artificial contraception.

  5. I think it is futile to speculate, and/or try to predict on a case-by-case basis, who is saved and who is not – and not only futile, but an act of stubborn pride. The Church has given us the rule, and it is de fide. However, in favor of those outside the Church, God may will to save a soul who has been pleasing to Him, and who has not consciously rejected His Church, thus demonstrating an exception to the rule.

    Conversely, against those inside the Church – and again I cite Matthew 7:21 – God may condemn Catholics who merely gave the Faith lip service. So, another exception to the rule.

    • I agree with your distinction between faith and religion. Faith is merely a belief system, such as secular humanism. Whereas religion is a belief system AND a system of worship. Worship necessarily must include sacrifice. The concept of sacrifice seems to be written into our DNA, as even pagans sacrificed to their false gods.

  6. I think there is a second fatal hole blown in the hull of Protestantism, possibly even worse than their lack of liturgical sacrifice. That is their rejection of Our Lord’s Mystical Body, the Church: according to them, He doesn’t have a Mystical Body, and thus there is no Ark of Salvation, no Treasury of Graces, no Sacred Deposit of Faith, no Heaven on Earth, no City of God.

    This elimination of an essential dimension of Christ has resulted, in part, in what Max Weber called “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism.” That is, the Catholic worldview, before the disordered Luther provided an handy excuse for German princes to rebel against the Church, seize Church assets and adopt a false religion, was that we should lay up our treasures in Heaven, and remain detached from earthly things.

    The Protestant worldview, on the other hand, having dispatched, with endless lies and distortions, Our Lord’s Mystical Body, is exactly the opposite: lay up your treasures on earth, because you’re already saved or damned!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Protestant_Ethic_and_the_Spirit_of_Capitalism

    • The heretical Calvinist doctrine of double predestination ceratainly encourages people to lay up their treasures on earth, as you say. Wealth was taken as a sign of being part of the elect. This contributed to what Weber called the Protestant work ethic. I suspect that the influence of historical Protestantism has warped the collective cultural mindset of Americans and has lead them to avarice.

  7. Is this an accurate summary – most part are obviously accurate, really I just wish to query how a non-Catholic person might merit grace:

    – The Catholic faith is the true faith, and the Catholic Church the only Church

    – It is the source of grace in the world

    – The practice of any other (naturally false) religion has no efficacy as regards as persons salvation

    – A person who is not visibly a member of the Catholic Church might invisibly be so, through grace

    – Such grace may a result of desire, the prayer of the Church and/or others, or freely bestowed by God (?)

    The premise of the statement:

    A person who knows that the Catholic Church is the true Faith, and refuses to enter it, cannot be saved.

    Seems illogical to me, in so far as if a person knew Catholicism was true and necessary, why would they refuse to enter the Church? (or – perhaps better – how could they then refuse to enter it?)

    Of course a person would damn themselves by rejecting the truth, but I am baffled as to why/how someone would reject it – if they first had the grace to recognise it?

    I have various non-Catholic friends and relations and pray for them daily, that they might be converted by God’s grace. I prefer hope and prayer over worry, as regards their situation.

    I also try to give them good example, by actively trying to “live my faith” and showing the many ways in which my faith benefits me, in terms of my happiness, contentment, resilience etc.

    (I am sure there are various ways in which I give poor example at times also, but not – I hope – when it comes to the faith).

    Given the ongoing failure of the Church to properly teach and articulate its doctrines – and, of course, it’s unfortunate habit of preaching the exact opposite to its doctrines – I do think that culpability is much reduced (in modern times) for people who do not become Catholics.

  8. An excellent sermon by a Fatima priest it is a long sermon but worth the effort.
    I watched it over two days in about 20 minute segments, in the second half of the sermon he tells some very good true stories.

    • Thank you for this John – it’ll be a while before I can watch it, but looks to be very useful. I’ll be interested to read some concrete example from you and others who have viewed it – “tasters”, so to speak – which always motivate viewing!

  9. Editor

    This priest has a talent for preaching and touching people’s hearts.
    I posted a sermon by the same priest general discussion July 18th ( the power of a mothers prayers)
    The story how he became a priest thanks to his mothers prayers .

    The above sermon reiterates it is never to late to pray or do sacrifices for your loved ones who have died God does not view time as we do.

    • John

      That puzzles me about never too late to pray for loved ones because the Church teaches that the Sacrament of Extreme Unction is for the living not the dead, so it is not to be administered after death. You’d think if “God does not view time as we do” in the matter of prayer, then the most important prayers of all – the prayers of the Church for the dying – would be applicable after death, at least for a few days before the funeral and burial. So, that part of your comment puzzles me.

      • Nicky

        What Fr seems to be saying ( at about 1hr 15 mins ) because God knows everything, he knows what prayers and sacrifices people do for their loved ones after they die which could help them immensely at their moment of death.

        From memory I believe St John Vianney has preached similar.

  10. My question on this matter is if God created us to love and serve in this world and the next ..Is it possible in God’s Magnificent plan of love and salvation that those who do not deliberately ignore the church because of how they were raised as a child and certain other circumstances not of their doing and die before they have a chance to know or understand the Catholic Faith ? I have been a Catholic for 69 years and follow the Catholic Church but there still must be compassion and love for them also! How do we help them even Christians who are strong in their Faith but still fail the light of Christ through the Catholic Church! Marcel

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