EXTRA ECCLESIAM NULLA SALUS
( NO SALVATION OUTSIDE THE CHURCH )
Altar of the Crucifixion - Church of the Holy Sepulchre
"Sicut palmes non potest ferre fructum a semitipso nisi manserit in vite: sic nec vos, nisi in Me maseritis"
( "As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me" )
- Blessed Apostle Saint John 15:4
Today's pluralistic and godless society creates an environment of indifference in matters of religion in order to achieve a false and empty unity and liberty. It is said that everyone must be allowed to believe as they see fit and do what makes them happy. The implication is that God is not very concerned about whether one believes in what is true, for all will be saved as long as they are "nice." Some come to this conclusion by asserting that there does not exist any objective truth for us to adhere to, which in turn leads to a denial of the existence of God. Others say that there exist only a few basic objective truths that we need to believe in order to be saved. Both opinions miss the plain reality of the order established by GodÂ one must believe all and everything that the Catholic Church teaches to be saved.
This assertion implies that all non-Catholic religions are false, that only the Catholic Church contains the entire deposit of Truth given to the Apostles by Christ, and that this entire depositÂ not a majority of it or a part of itÂ is necessary for salvation. Although these truths are denied and scorned by today's world, they are fully in accord with common sense and the constant teaching of the Church. Christ gave to the Apostles the entire deposit of faith "The Holy Ghost will teach you all things" ( Blessed Apostle Saint John 14:26 ), told them to pass it on to the world ( "Going therefore, teach ye all nations". ( Blessed Apostle Saint Matthew 28:19 ), and threatened damnation for those who did not believe them," "He who believes not will be condemned" ( Blessed Apostle Saint Mark 16:16 ). He would not have condemned to hell the disbelievers if either it was not important to believe all that the Apostles taught or if He was not certain that the Apostles were teaching the truth "He that heareth you heareth Me" ( Blessed Apostle Saint Luke 10:16 ). The Apostles themselves knew that all who believed in any way different from their infallible teaching would perish, "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema" ( Galatians 1:8 ).
Christ did not intend for only men who lived in the Apostles' lifetime to know and live the Truth. He ensured that the deposit of faith would be passed on throughout the generations so that all might have an opportunity to believe all that He entrusted to the Apostles - "I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world" ( Blessed Apostle Saint Matthew 28:20 ). His unchanging and indispensable truth, will never change, and it is as important for each of us to hold it today as it was believed in the first century. It is only by holding to what is true that we can love and serve God and be saved, for false principles lead to evil actions. Since there is only one truth and it is unchanging and indispensable, it is impossible for more than one of the systems of belief or religions that exist in the world to lead to salvation. Any other position negates the words of Our Lord.
It is certainly through the Catholic Church that Our Lord has guided men to keep the deposit entrusted to the Apostles throughout the centuries. It is the Catholic Church that defeated the many heresies against the nature and person of the Christ, long before Protestant denominations appeared, such as Arianism, Monophysitism, Monothelitism, Nestorianism, Pelagianism, Apollonarism, etc.. all of these had to be opposed vigorously with the true doctrine before they were extirpated, and some still exist today. It is the Catholic Church that holds to the same doctrines that the Fathers, who had the words of the Apostles "resounding in their ears", taught and defended and which all but the schismatics reject today auricular confession, veneration of images, the Real Presence in the Eucharist, the existence of seven sacraments, the Church as the final arbiter of all doctrinal disputes, and many more. It is only the Catholic Church that has not changed and it is only She that has existed since the time of Jesus Christ .
The Church has certainly always been aware that she has been given by Jesus Christ the entire deposit of revelation to guard until the last day and thus asserts the infallibility of her Supreme Pastor, appointed by Jesus Christ to be His Vicar on earth, and also that salvation can be found only within her maternal bosom. Whenever the Pope, 1.) using his full apostolic authority, 2.) defines, 3.) as supreme teacher of all faithful Catholics, 4.) a matter of faith or morals 5.) that must be held by the universal Church, he is infallible and is expressing a doctrine that is part of the deposit of the faith entrusted to the Apostles and which has been believed always and everywhere by true Catholics.
The Catholic Church has solemnly defined three times by infallible declarations that outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation. The most explicit and forceful of the three came from Pope Eugene IV, in the Bull Cantate Domino, A.D. 1441, who proclaimed ex cathedra : "The Most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, also Jews, heretics, and schismatics can ever be partakers of eternal life, but that they are to go into the eternal fire 'which was prepared for the devil and his angels' ( Blessed Apostle Saint Matthew 25:41 ) unless before death they are joined with Her... No one, let his alms giving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Jesus Christ can be saved unless they abide within the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church."
The other two infallible declarations are as follows: There is one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which no one at all can be saved. Pope Innocent III, ex cathedra, ( Fourth Lateran Council, A.D. 1215 ).
We declare, say , define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff. Pope Boniface VIII, ( Unam Sanctam, A.D. 1302).
This means, and has always meant, that salvation and unity exist only within the Catholic Church, and that members of heretical groups cannot be considered as "part" of the Church of Jesus Christ . This doctrine has been the consistent teaching of the Popes throughout the centuries.
Further, it is dogmatically set forth that no authority in the Church, no matter how highly placed, may lawfully attempt to change the clear meaning of this (or any) infallible dogma. Vatican I taught: "The meaning of Sacred Dogmas, which must always be preserved, is that which our Holy Mother the Church has determined. Never is it permissible to depart from this in the name of a deeper understanding." This same Vatican I defined solemnly that not even a Pope may teach a new doctrine.
Naturally, the truth that there is no salvation outside of the Catholic Church has been supported by all the saints from every age. Following are several examples:
Saint Irenaeus ( A.D. 130-202 ), Bishop and Martyr: "The Church is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account we are bound to avoid them . . . . We hear it declared of the unbelieving and the blinded of this world that they shall not inherit the world of life which is to come . . . . Resist them in defense of the only true and life giving faith, which the Church has received from the Apostles and imparted to her sons."
Saint Augustine ( A.D. 354-430 ), Bishop and Doctor of the Church: "No man can find salvation except in the Catholic Church. Outside the Catholic Church one can have everything except salvation. One can have honor, one can have sacraments, one can sing alleluia, one can answer amen, one can have faith in the Name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and preach it too, but never can one find salvation except in the Catholic Church."
Saint Fulgentius ( A.D. 468-533 ), Bishop: "Most firmly hold and never doubt that not only pagans, but also Jews, all heretics, and all schismatics who finish this life outside of the Catholic Church, will go into eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."
Pope Saint Gregory the Great ( A.D. 590-604 ): "The holy universal Church teaches that it is not possible to worship God truly except in Her and asserts that all who are outside of Her will not be saved."
Saint Francis of Assisi ( A.D. 1182-1226 ): "All who have not believed that Jesus Christ was really the Son of God are doomed. Also, all who see the Sacrament of the Body of Christ and do not believe it is really the most holy Body and Blood of the Lord . . . these also are doomed!"
Saint Thomas Aquinas ( A.D. 1226-1274 ), the Angelic Doctor: "There is no entering into salvation outside the Catholic Church, just as in the time of the Flood there was not salvation outside the Ark, which denotes the Church."
Saint Louis Marie de Montfort ( A.D. 1673-1716 ): "There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church. Anyone who resists this truth perishes."
Saint Robert Bellarmine (1542-1621), Bishop and Doctor of the Church: "Outside the Church there is no salvation...therefore in the symbol ( Apostles Creed ) we join together the Church with the remission of sins: 'I believe in the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins"...For this reason the Church is compared to the Ark of Noah, because just as during the deluge, everyone perished who was not in the ark, so now those perish who are not in the Church."
Saint Alphonsus Maria de Liguori ( A.D. 1696-1787 ), Bishop and Doctor of the Church: "All the misfortunes of unbelievers spring from too great an attachment to the things of life. This sickness of heart weakens and darkens the understanding, and leads to eternal ruin. If they would try to heal their hearts by purging them of their vices, they would soon receive light, which would show them the necessity of joining the Catholic Church, where alone is salvation. We should constantly thank the Lord for having granted us the gift of the true Faith, by associating us with the children of the Holy Catholic Church ... How many are the infidels, heretics, and schismatics who do not enjoy the happiness of the true Faith! Earth is full of them and they are all lost!"Pope Pius XII ( A.D. 1939-1958 ): "Some say they are not bound by the doctrine which teaches that the Mystical Body of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church are one and the same thing. Some reduce to a meaningless formula the necessity of belonging to the true Church in order to gain eternal salvation. Others finally belittle the reasonable character of the credibility of Christian Faith. These and like ERRORS, it is clear, have crept in among certain of our sons who are deceived by imprudent zeal for souls or by false science."
The greatest act of charity that one can perform is to bring others to the truth. The Catholic Faith is a gift from God, one that can be shared, one that gives life and salvation. Mother Church, being solicitous for the welfare of all mankind, has always sought to bring all into the One Fold ( Blessed Apostle Saint John 10:16 ), and to unite all in the profession of the one Faith given to us by Jesus ChristÂ and taught to the faithful by the Apostles and their successors. If She were to hide the truth, or be content to leave others in their error, She would be cruel and indifferent to the command of Jesus Christ .
This is a great lesson for Catholics, for many do not esteem the priceless value of their Faith as they should. It must be given to others at every opportunity; it must be passed on to those who languish without the true sacraments, who struggle to interpret the Bible without an infallible teaching authority, or who lead often immoral lives without the guidance of the "....pillar and ground of truth...." ( I Blessed Apostle Saint Timothy 3:15 ).
Let all Catholics then, be both like the martyrs of old, who died rather than relinquish one doctrine of their Catholic Faith, and like the great missionaries, who endured extreme privations and sufferings in order to bring salvation to even one soul. It is only a firm belief in the importance of the Catholic Faith for salvation that motivated these heroic actions, and it is only such a faith that can "....overcometh the world : and this is the victory which overcometh the world, our faith" today ( I Blessed Apostle Saint John 5:4).
Popes through the centuries have defended the doctrine outside the Church there is no salvation. Here is small reference of their infalable teachings on the matter:
Pope Pelagius II ( A.D. 578 - 590 ): 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. ( Denzinger 246-247 ).
Pope Saint Gregory the Great ( A.D. 590 - 604 ): Now the holy Church universal proclaims that God cannot be truly worshipped saving within herself, asserting that all they that are without her shall never be saved. ( Moralia )
Pope Innocent III ( A.D. 1198 - 1216 ): 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. (Denzinger 423)
Pope Leo XII ( A.D. 1823 - 1829 ): We profess that there is no salvation outside the Church. For the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth. With reference to those words Augustine says: `If any man be outside the Church he will be excluded from the number of sons, and will not have God for Father since he has not the Church for mother. (Encyclical, Ubi Primum )
Pope Gregory XVI ( A.D. 1831 - 1846 ): It is not possible to worship God truly except in Her; all who are outside Her will not be saved. (Encyclical, Summo Jugiter )
Pope Pius IX (A.D. 1846 - 1878): It must be held by faith that outside the Apostolic Roman Church, no one can be saved; that this is the only ark of salvation; that he who shall not have entered therein will perish in the flood. ( Denzinger 1647 )
Pope Leo XIII ( A.D. 1878 - 1903 ): This is our last lesson to you; receive it, engrave it in your minds, all of you: by God's commandment salvation is to be found nowhere but in the Church. (Encyclical, Annum Ingressi Sumus )
He scatters and gathers not who gathers not with the Church and with Jesus Christ Christ, and all who fight not jointly with Him and with the Church are in very truth contending against God. ( Encyclical, Sapientiae Christianae )
Pope Saint Pius X ( A.D. 1903 - 1914 ): It is our duty to recall to everyone great and small, as the Holy Pontiff Gregory did in ages past, the absolute necessity which is ours, to have recourse to this Church to effect our eternal salvation. (Encyclical, Jucunda Sane )
Pope Benedict XV ( A.D. 1914 - 1922 ): Such is the nature of the Catholic faith 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. ( Encyclical, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum )
Pope Pius XI ( A.D. 1922 - 1939 ): The Catholic Church alone is keeping the true worship. This is the font of truth, this is the house of faith, this is 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.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. (Encyclical, Mortalium Animos )
Pope Pius XII ( A.D. 1939 - 1958 ): By divine mandate the interpreter and guardian of the Scriptures, and the depository of Sacred Tradition living within her, the Church alone is the entrance to salvation: She alone, by herself, and under the protection and guidance of the Holy Spirit, is the source of truth. ( Allocution to the Gregorian, October 17, 1953 )
Then, as though to set this constant teaching of the Fathers, Doctors and Popes in concrete, so to speak, we have the following definitions from the Solemn Magisterium of the Church:
Pope Innocent III and Lateran Council IV ( A.D. 1215 ): One indeed is the universal Church of the faithful outside which no one at all is saved
Pope Boniface VIII in his Papal Bull Unam Sanctam ( A.D. 1302 ): We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.
Pope Eugene IV and the Council of Florence (A.D. 1438 - 1445): [The most Holy Roman Church] firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will depart `into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:41), unless before the end of life the same have been added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.