Outside of the Catholic Church There is no
You may have heard that the Catholic Church is prefigured
by Noah's Ark.
No one outside of the Ark was saved during the flood. Only
those eight people inside the ark were saved, Noah, his wife, their three sons
and their wives... Gen 6-8.
"These in times past had been disobedient when
the patience of GOD waited in the days of Noah while the ark was building. In
that ark a few, that is, eight souls were saved through water. Its counterpart,
Baptism, now saves you also..." 1Pet 3:20-21.
Now we have the new Noah's Ark,
the Catholic Church...
and a controversy...
From the Council of Florence-Basel-Ferrara held in
1431-1445, came the following decree:
"It (the council) firmly believes,
professes and preaches that all those who are outside the catholic church, not
only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal
life and will go into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and
his angels, unless they are joined to the Catholic Church
before the end of their lives; that the unity of the
ecclesiastical body is of such importance that only for those who abide in it do
the church's sacraments contribute to salvation and do fasts, almsgiving and
other works of piety and practices of the Christian militia produce eternal
rewards; and that nobody can be saved, no matter how much he has given away in
alms and even if he has shed his blood in the name of Christ, unless he has
persevered in the bosom and the unity of the catholic church."
The first impression one would receive from this rather harsh
sounding decree, is that the Church has said, that if you are not a Catholic,
you will have no salvation. If this is the conclusion to which you have arrived,
then please allow me to try to set the record straight. What about the souls who
have never heard of GOD or are ignorant of the commandments? Are all of these
automatically condemned? No, they are not. What about the souls who are isolated
from civilization and have not had the Gospel preached to them? Are they
condemned, through no fault of their own, for something of which they had no
Of course not, for we have a merciful GOD who loves us all and
wants salvation for all people.
This is shown in Holy
Romans 2:14-15, "When the Gentiles who have no law do by
nature what the Law prescribes, these having no law are a law unto themselves.
They show the work of the Law written in their hearts."
All of us
have had GOD's Laws written in our hearts, and are therefore
eligible for salvation. If the unlearned follow those infused Laws of GOD, they
will see salvation.
What about our Protestant brothers and
sisters, are they too condemned? No, they are
The key to this perplexing (to some) Council statement is in having a
Whether Catholics and non-Catholics
realize it or not, anyone Baptized by the Catholic Church, or Baptized
validly by the standard Church approved method by Church
sanctioned non-Catholic denominations, or by individuals who have the intention
of doing what the Church does, is Baptized into the Catholic Church, or if you
prefer, the Church which Jesus Christ founded in Matthew 16:18.
this means, is that all who meet the above requirements for Baptism, are joined
to the Catholic Church, and are therefore, not outside of the Catholic
Church, as the Council states. This covers most protestant
denominations, as most of them, but not all, are Church
Unfortunately, there are a few who call
themselves Catholic, who take the phrase, "There is no salvation outside of the
Catholic Church", as a 'truth' without bothering to find out the real meaning of
what the Council of Florence decreed. Again, the words are taken out of context,
and thus, their interpretation is in error.
Vatican Council II explained what I have
tried to show you above. It is not a contradiction of the Council
of Florence, but merely a redefinement of the decree. You will have to remember
that times change, and language and conditions change.
Now the true meaning of,
"Outside of the Catholic
Church, there is no Salvation", is, 'if you realize the
Catholic Church is the True Church, and if you refuse to join it, then
you have rejected the truth of the Church. By rejecting the Church,
you reject Jesus Christ who founded it'. Therefore you are...
'Outside of the Catholic Church and there is no salvation'.
See Heb 6:4-8
Here is what Vatican II said regarding this subject...
An excerpt from Lumen Gentium...
Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of the Second Vatican Council
14. This holy Council first of all turns its attention to the Catholic
faithful. Basing itself on scripture and tradition, it teaches that the Church,
a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is 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 (cf. Mk.
16:16; Jn. 3:5), 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. Fully
incorporated into 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." All children of the Church should nevertheless
remember that their exalted condition results, not from their own merits, but
from the grace of Christ. If they fail to respond in thought, word and deed to
that grace, not only shall they not be saved, but they shall be the more
severely judged.[ 13] Catechumens who, moved by the Holy Spirit, desire with an
explicit intention to be incorporated into the Church, are by that very
intention joined to her. With love and solicitude mother Church already embraces
them as her own.
15. The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are
honored by the name of Christian, but who do not however profess the Catholic
faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the
successor of Peter.[ 14] For there are many who hold sacred scripture in honor
as a rule of faith and of life, who have a sincere religious zeal, who lovingly
believe in God the Father Almighty and in Christ, the Son of God and the
Saviour,[ 15] who are sealed by baptism which unites them to Christ, and who
indeed recognize and receive other sacraments in their own Churches or
ecclesiastical communities. Many of them possess the episcopate, celebrate the
holy Eucharist and cultivate devotion of the Virgin Mother of God.[ 16] There is
furthermore a sharing in prayer and spiritual benefits; these Christians are
indeed in some real way joined to us in the Holy Spirit for, by his gifts and
graces, his sanctifying power is also active in them and he has strengthened
some of them even to the shedding of their blood. And so the Spirit stirs up
desires and actions in all of Christ's disciples in order that all may be
peaceably united, as Christ ordained, in one flock under one shepherd.
Mother Church never ceases to pray, hope and work that this may be achieved, and
she exhorts her children to purification and renewal so that the sign of Christ
may shine more brightly over the face of the Church.
16. Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the
People of God in various ways.[ 18] There is, first, that people to which the
covenants and promises were made, and from which Christ was born according to
the flesh (cf. Rom. 9:4-5): in view of the divine choice, they are a people most
dear for the sake of the fathers, for the gifts of God are without repentance
(cf. Rom. 11:29). But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge
the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Moslems: 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. Nor is God remote from those who in
shadows and images seek the unknown God, since he gives to all men life and
breath and all things (cf. Acts 17:25-28), and since the Savior wills all men to
be saved (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4). 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. Nor shall divine providence deny the assistance necessary for
salvation to those who, without any fault of theirs, have not yet arrived at an
explicit knowledge of God, and who, not without grace, strive to lead a good
life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is considered by the Church
to be a preparation for the Gospel[ 20] and given by him who enlightens all men
that they may at length have life. But very often, deceived by the Evil One, men
have become vain in their reasonings, have exchanged the truth of God for a lie
and served the world rather than the Creator (cf. Rom. 1:21 and 25). Or else,
living and dying in this world without God, they are exposed to ultimate
despair. Hence to procure the glory of God and the salvation of all these, the
Church, mindful of the Lord's command, "preach the Gospel to every creature"
(Mk. 16:16) takes zealous care to foster the missions.
12. Cfr. Pius IX,
Bulla Ineffabilis, 8 dec. 1854: Acta Pii IX, 1, I, p. 616; Denz. 1641 (2803).
13. Cfr. Pius XII, Const. Apost. Munificentissimus, 1 nov. 1950: AAS 42
(1950); Denz. 2333 (3903). Cfr. S. Io. Damascenus, Enc. in dorm. Dei genitricis,
Hom. 2 et 3: PG 96, 721-761, speciatim col. 728 B. - S. Germanus Constantinop.,
In S. Dei gen. dorm. Serm. 1: PG 98 (6), 340-348; Serm. 3: col. 361. - S.
Modestus Hier., In dorm. SS. Deiparae: PG 86 (2), 3277-3312.
Pius XII, Litt. Encycl. Ad coeli Reginam, 11 oct. 1954: AAS 46 (1954), PP.
633-636; Denz. 3913. SS. Cfr. S. Andreas Cret., Hom. 3 in dorm. SS. Deiparae: PG
97, 1089-1109. - S. Io. Damascenus, De fide orth., IV, 14: PG 94, 1153-1161.
15. Cfr. Kleutgen, textus reformatus De mysterio Verbi incarnati, cap.
IV: Mansi 53, 290. Cfr. S. Andreas Cret., In nat. Mariae, sermo 4: PG 97, 865 A.
- S. Germanus Constantinop., In annunt. Deiparae: PG 98, 321 BC. In dorm.
Deiparae, III: col. 361 D.S. Io. Damascenus, In dorm. B. V. Mariae, Hom. 1, 8:
PG 96, 712 BC - 713 A.
16. Cfr. Leo XIII, Litt. Encycl. Adiutricem
populi, 5 sept. 1895: ASS 15 (1895-96), P. 303. - S. PiUS X, Litt. Encycl. Ad
diem illum, 2 febr. 1904: Acta, I, p. 154; Denz. 1978 a (3370). - Pius XI, Litt.
Encycl. Miserentissimus, 8 maii 1928: AAS 20 (1928) P. 178. Pius XII, Nuntius
Radioph., 13 maii 1946: AAS 38 (1946) P. 266.
17. S. Ambrosius, Epist.
63: PL 16, 1218.
18. S. Ambrosius, Expos. Lc. II, 7: PL 15,
19. Cfr. Ps.-Petrus Dam., Serm. 63: PL 144, 861 AB. - Godefridus a
S. Victore. In nat. B. M., Ms. Paris, Mazarine, 1002, fol. 109 r. - Gerhohus
Reich., De gloria et honore Filii hominis, 10: PL 194,1105AB.
Ambrosius, l. c. et Expos. Lc. X, 24-25: PL 15, 1810. - S. Augustinus, In lo.
Tr. 13, 12: PL 35, 1499. Cfr. Serm. 191, 2, 3: PL 38, 1010; etc. Cfr. etiam Ven.
Beda, In Lc. Expos. I, cap. 2: PL 92, 330. - Isaac de Stella, Serm. 51: PL 194,
Reference the Catechism of the Catholic Church, CCC
Compiled by Bob Stanley, June 15, 1999
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