Outside The Catholic Church There Is No Salvation
EXTRA ECCLESIAM NULLA SALUS
(No Salvation Outside the Church)
The Latin phrase “Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus” means: “Outside the Church there is no salvation”. Catholics interprets this to mean that "all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body."
This expression comes from the writings of Saint Cyprian of Carthage, a bishop of the 3rd century, and is found his Letter LXXII, Ad Jubajanum de haereticis baptizandis, and in Latin reads: “Salus extra ecclesiam non est”. The axiom is often used as short-hand for the doctrine, upheld by the the Roman Catholic Church, that the Church is absolutely necessary for salvation ("one true faith"). The theological basis for this doctrine is founded on the beliefs that (1) Jesus Christ personally established the one Church; and (2) the Church serves as the means by which the graces won by Christ are communicated to believers.
Some of the most pertinent Roman Catholic expressions of this doctrine are: the profession of faith of Pope Innocent III (1208), the profession of faith of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), the bull Unam sanctam of Pope Boniface VIII (1302), and the profession of faith of the Council of Florence (1442). The axiom "No salvation outside the Church" has been frequently repeated over the centuries in different terms by the ordinary magisterium.
This doctrine of the absolute necessity of union with the Church was taught in explicit terms by Christ. Baptism, the act of incorporation among her members, He affirmed to be essential to salvation. “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: he that believeth not shall be condemned” (Mark 16:16). Any disciple who shall throw off obedience to the Church is to be reckoned as one of the heathen: he has no part in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 18:17). St. Paul is equally explicit. “A man that is a heretic”, he writes to Titus, “after the first and second admonition avoid, knowing that he that is such a one is . . . condemned by his own judgment” (Titus 3:10 sq.). The doctrine is summed up in the phrase, Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus.
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 God – 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 deposit – not a majority of it or a part of it – 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" John 14:26), told them to pass it on to the world ("Going therefore, teach ye all nations" Matt. 28:19), and threatened damnation for those who did not believe them ("He who believes not will be condemned" 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" 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" (Gal. 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" (Matt. 28:20). His truth, the actual truth, never changes, and it is as important to hold it today as it was 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 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 Christ.
The Church has certainly always been aware that she has been given by Christ the entire deposit of revelation to guard until the last day and thus asserts the infallibility of her Supreme Pastor, appointed by 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 Christians, 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 Catholics.
The Catholic Church has solemnly defined at least seven 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, 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' (Mt. 25:41) unless before death they are joined with Her... 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 they abide within the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church."
Other two powerful 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, 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, 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 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:
St. Irenaeus (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."
St. Augustine (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."
St. Fulgentius (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 St. Gregory the Great (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."
St. Francis of Assisi (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!"
St. Thomas Aquinas (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."
St. Louis Marie de Montfort (1673-1716): "There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church. Anyone who resists this truth perishes."
St. 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."
St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori (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 (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 dates for the two Popes are the years they reigned as Sovereign Pontiffs.)
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 (John 10:16), and to unite all in the profession of the one Faith given to us by Christ through the Apostles. If She were to hide the truth, or be content to leave others in their error, She would be cruel and indifferent.
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 Tim. 5"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 "overcome the world" today (I John 5:4).
The children or people that are baptized in heretical communities cannot become heretics until they reach the age of reason or until they adopt any heretical views that are opposed to the Catholic Church. This means that some of those baptized persons who are now going to a heretical or schismatic “Church” might not yet be heretics even if everyone else in the same Church are heretics. However, when these children reach the age of reason, many of them might fall into an error called “material heresy.”
The term “material heresy” is used to describe persons who believe in a heresy without knowing that they are contradicting the Catholic Church’s official and infallible teaching. There’s no such thing as a material heretic in the dogmatic teaching of the Church. There are heretics; there are schismatics; and there are Catholics. Material heretic is simply a name for a Catholic who is erring in good faith about a dogma. In other words, it’s another name for a mistaken Catholic. It’s a person who is holding a false position – one that is strictly incompatible with Catholic dogma. However, that person is not obstinate against that dogma. He would change his position immediately upon being informed of the true position. The “material heretic” is a Catholic. This is very important to understand. Many Catholic saints have been material heretics. St. Thomas, for example, did not believe that Mary was conceived immaculately (Summa Theologica, Part. III, Q. 14, Art. 3, Reply to Obj. 1) even though it is now a defined dogma that Mary was conceived immaculately, and no wonder that even Saints have erred in their teaching, for it is very hard to imagine that a human can know every Church teaching that exists. Non-Christians cannot be considered as material heretics, since they do not even believe in Jesus Christ or are baptized. Thus, only people who actually profess a belief in Jesus Christ and the Trinity and who are baptized, can be material heretics and thus unknowingly a Catholic.
The Natural Law
The natural law is written on the heart of all men, so that all men know that certain things are against God’s law and that certain things are in accordance with the natural law of charity, etc.
As the Haydock Bible and Commentary correctly explains about Romans 2:14-16,
“these men are a law to themselves, and have it written in their hearts, as to the existence of a God, and their reason tells them, that many sins are unlawful: they may also do some actions that are morally good, as by giving alms to relieve the poor, honoring their parents, etc. not that these actions, morally good, will suffice for their justification of themselves, or make them deserve a supernatural reward in the kingdom of heaven; but God, out of His infinite mercy, will give them some supernatural graces” which if they continue to cooperate with they will get more graces and eventually be exposed to the Catholic Faith, which they must have to be saved.”
All baptized infants are Catholics, even if they are baptized in a Methodist church-building, etc. This is de fide. These baptized Catholics, when they reach the age of reason in a Protestant building, if they hold the Trinity and the Incarnation (which are the two essential mysteries of the Catholic Faith) hold the absolutely essential mysteries of the Catholic Faith.
Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Athanasian Creed, Sess. 8, Nov. 22, 1439, ex cathedra: “Whoever wishes to be saved, needs above all to hold the Catholic faith; unless each one preserves this whole and inviolate, he will without a doubt perish in eternity.– But the Catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in the Trinity, and the Trinity in unity... But it is necessary for eternal salvation that he faithfully believe also in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ...the Son of God is God and man... This is the Catholic faith; unless each one believes this faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.”
If they don’t know about any other Catholic dogmas (other than the Trinity and Incarnation) then they are not heretics but Catholics [Christians], unless they hold a position that is incompatible with Faith in the Trinity and Incarnation or deny a truth that all know about God and the natural law or deny something that they know to be clearly taught in Scripture. For instance, if the baptized person described above claims to believe in the Trinity and Incarnation but holds that all religions are more or less good, then he is a heretic and does not have the Catholic Faith (even before he knows that such a position is condemned by the Church) because his belief is incompatible with true Faith in the Trinity as the one true God, which belief he must have to be said to have the Catholic Faith in its simplest components.
Pope Pius XI, Mortalium Animos (# 2), Jan. 6, 1928: “…that false opinion which considers all religions to be more or less good and praiseworthy... Not only are those who hold this opinion in error and deceived, but also in distorting the idea of true religion they reject it...”
Another example would be if the baptized person who believes in the Trinity and the Incarnation (which are the simplest components of the Catholic Faith) and has never heard of other Catholic dogmas holds that man does not have free will (which some Protestants teach). This person would also become a heretic even before he has seen his position condemned by the Church and before he has heard of other Catholic dogmas (other than the Trinity and Incarnation) because he is rejecting a truth which all know to be true from the natural law, namely, that man has a free will. Thus, he is denying a truth all know about man from the natural law and he is a heretic.
Another example would be if the baptized person who believes in the Trinity and Incarnation (the Catholic Faith in its simplest components) and has never heard of other Catholic dogmas refuses to believe that God is a rewarder and a punisher. This person is a heretic, even though he has never seen that his position is condemned by the Church and has never heard of other Catholic dogmas, because he rejects a truth he knows to be true from the natural law, that God is a rewarder and a punisher of our actions (see Heb. 11:6).
A large majority of Protestants today believe in the doctrines of “faith alone” and “eternal security.” These doctrines contradict both the natural law and reason which says that every man shall be rewarded or punished for his deeds. It also contradicts, word for word, the teaching of James 2 in scripture, which teach that faith without works is dead, and that man is not saved by faith alone. This person who believes in faith alone or eternal security is a heretic, even though he has never seen that his position is condemned by the Church and has never heard of other Catholic dogmas, because he rejects a truth he knows to be true from the natural law, that God is a rewarder and a punisher of our actions, and that faith alone does not justify a man only, but our deeds also.
Other common heresies against the natural law is, 1) to deny the existence of God, 2) to hold as opinion that birth control or natural family planning (also called NFP) is acceptable, 3) to hold that abortion is acceptable or a so called “human right”, 4) to hold that the consumption of mind altering drugs to the point where the conscience is impeded is acceptable, 5) or to hold that masturbation or any other shameful, perverted sexual act, such as foreplay, is acceptable. To hold any or all of these positions as “acceptable” or “right to do” would all fall under the category of the mortal sin of heresy against the natural law, because he who is guilty of this sin is rejecting a truth which all know to be true from the natural law, namely, 1) that God exists, 2) that abortion is murder (of the most innocent too!), 3) that contraception, NFP or masturbation (which, in addition to being inherently shameful, unnatural and perverse) deliberately frustrates the natural power to generate life, and 4) that the consumption of mind altering drugs and getting intoxicated by it – such as by smoking marijuana – is a mortal sin just like getting drunk is, because when “a man willingly and knowingly deprives himself of the use of reason, whereby he performs virtuous deeds and avoids sin... he sins mortally by running the risk of falling into sin. For [Saint] Ambrose says (De Patriarch. [De Abraham i.]): "We learn that we should shun drunkenness, which prevents us from avoiding grievous sins. For the things we avoid when sober, we unknowingly [or knowingly] commit through drunkenness.” Therefore drunkenness, properly speaking, is a mortal sin." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Second Part of the Second Part, Question 150, Article 2. Whether drunkenness is a mortal sin?)
Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi (# 23), June 29, 1943: “For not every sin, however grave it may be, is such as of its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy.”
We can see that it’s the teaching of the Catholic Church that a man is severed from the Church and Salvation by heresy, schism or apostasy.
The baptized children who reach the age of reason in Protestant, Eastern Schismatic, etc. church buildings and believe in the Trinity and the Incarnation (the essential components of the Catholic Faith) and who don’t reject any Catholic dogma because they don’t know of any other than the Trinity and Incarnation, and who don’t embrace any of the positions like those described above, which are directly incompatible with Faith in God, Jesus Christ, the Trinity, the Natural Law or what they know to be clearly taught in Scripture, would be Catholics in a heretical church building.
There is No Salvation for members of Islam, Judaism or other heretical or schismatic non-Catholic sects
So far we’ve seen that it’s an infallibly defined dogma that all who die as non-Catholics, including all Jews, pagans, heretics, schismatics, etc. cannot be saved. They need to be converted to have salvation. Now we must take a brief look at more of what the Church specifically says about some of the prominent non-Catholic religions, such as Judaism, Islam, and the Protestant and Eastern schismatic sects. This will illustrate, once again, that those who hold that members of non-Catholic religions can be saved are not only going against the solemn declarations that have already been quoted, but also the specific teachings quoted below.
SPECIFIC CATHOLIC TEACHING AGAINST JUDAISM
Jews practice the Old Law and reject the Divinity of Christ and the Trinity. The Church teaches the following about the cessation of the Old Law and about all who continue to observe it:
Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, 1441, ex cathedra: “The Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and teaches that the matter pertaining to the law of the Old Testament, the Mosaic law, which are divided into ceremonies, sacred rites, sacrifices, and sacraments, because they were established to signify something in the future, although they were suited to the divine worship at that time, after our Lord’s coming had been signified by them, ceased, and the sacraments of the New Testament began; and that whoever, even after the passion, placed hope in these matters of the law and submitted himself to them as necessary for salvation, as if faith in Christ could not save without them, sinned mortally. Yet it does not deny that after the passion of Christ up to the promulgation of the Gospel they could have been observed until they were believed to be in no way necessary for salvation; but after the promulgation of the Gospel it asserts that they cannot be observed without the loss of eternal salvation. All, therefore, who after that time [the promulgation of the Gospel] observe circumcision and the Sabbath and the other requirements of the law, the holy Roman Church declares alien to the Christian faith and not in the least fit to participate in eternal salvation.”
Pope Benedict XIV, Ex Quo Primum (# 61), March 1, 1756: “The first consideration is that the ceremonies of the Mosaic Law were abrogated by the coming of Christ and that they can no longer be observed without sin after the promulgation of the Gospel.”
Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi (#’s 29-30), June 29, 1943: “And first of all, by the death of our Redeemer, the New Testament took the place of the Old Law which had been abolished… on the gibbet of His death Jesus made void the Law with its decrees [Eph. 2:15]… establishing the New Testament in His blood shed for the whole human race. ‘To such an extent, then,’ says St. Leo the Great, speaking of the Cross of our Lord, ‘was there effected a transfer from the Law to the Gospel, from the Synagogue to the Church, from many sacrifices to one Victim, that, as our Lord expired, that mystical veil which shut off the innermost part of the temple and its sacred secret was rent violently from top to bottom.’ On the Cross then the Old Law died, soon to be buried and to be a bearer of death…”
SPECIFIC TEACHING AGAINST ISLAM
Pope Eugene IV, Council of Basel, Session 19, Sept. 7, 1434: “… there is hope that very many from the abominable sect of Mahomet will be converted to the Catholic faith.”
Pope Callixtus III, 1455: “I vow to… exalt the true Faith, and to extirpate the diabolical sect of the reprobate and faithless Mahomet [Islam] in the East.”
The Catholic Church considers Islam an “abominable” and “diabolical” sect. [Note: the Council of Basel is only considered ecumenical/approved in the first 25 sessions, as The Catholic Encyclopedia points out in Vol. 4, “Councils,” pp. 425-426.] An “abomination” is something that is abhorrent in God’s sight; it’s something that He has no esteem for and no respect for. Something “diabolical” is something of the Devil. Islam rejects, among many other dogmas, the Divinity of Jesus Christ and the Trinity. Its followers are outside the pale of salvation so long as they remain Muslims.
Pope Clement V, Council of Vienne, 1311-1312: “It is an insult to the holy name and a disgrace to the Christian faith that in certain parts of the world subject to Christian princes where Saracens [i.e., the followers of Islam, also called Muslims] live, sometimes apart, sometimes intermingled with Christians, the Saracen priests, commonly called Zabazala, in their temples or mosques, in which the Saracens meet to adore the infidel Mahomet, loudly invoke and extol his name each day at certain hours from a high place… There is a place, moreover, where once was buried a certain Saracen whom other Saracens venerate as a saint. This brings disrepute on our faith and gives great scandal to the faithful. These practices cannot be tolerated without displeasing the divine majesty. We therefore, with the sacred council’s approval, strictly forbid such practices henceforth in Christian lands. We enjoin on Catholic princes, one and all… They are to remove this offense together from their territories and take care that their subjects remove it, so that they may thereby attain the reward of eternal happiness. They are to forbid expressly the public invocation of the sacrilegious name of Mahomet… Those who presume to act otherwise are to be so chastised by the princes for their irreverence, that others may be deterred from such boldness.”
While the Church teaches that all who die as non-Catholics are lost, it also teaches that no one should be forced to embrace baptism, since belief is a free act of the will.
Pope Leo XIII, Immortale Dei (#36), Nov. 1, 1885: “And, in fact, the Church is wont to take earnest heed that no one shall be forced to embrace the Catholic faith against his will, for, as St. Augustine wisely reminds us, ‘Man cannot believe otherwise than of his own will.’”
The teaching of the Council of Vienne that Christian princes should enforce their civil authority to forbid the public expression of the false religion of Islam shows again that Islam is a false religion which leads souls to Hell (not Heaven) and displeases God.
SPECIFIC CATHOLIC TEACHING AGAINST PROTESTANT AND SCHISMATIC SECTS
The Catholic Church also teaches that those baptized persons who embrace heretical or schismatic sects will lose their souls. Jesus founded His Church upon St. Peter, and declared that whoever does not hear the Church be considered as the heathen and publican (Matthew 18:17). He also commanded His followers to observe “all things whatsoever” He has commanded (Matthew 28:20). The Eastern schismatic sects (such as the “Orthodox”) and the Protestant sects are breakoff movements that have separated from the Catholic Church. By separating themselves from the one Church of Christ, they leave the path of salvation and enter the path of perdition.
These sects obstinately and pertinaciously reject one or more of the truths that Christ clearly instituted, such as the Papacy (Matthew 16; John 21; etc.), Confession (John 20:23), the Eucharist (John 6:54), and other dogmas of the Catholic Faith. In order to be saved one must assent to all the things which the Catholic Church, based on Scripture and Tradition, has infallibly defined as dogmas of the Faith.
Below are just a few of the infallible dogmas of the Catholic Faith which are rejected by Protestants and (in the case of the Papacy) by the Eastern “Orthodox.” The Church “anathematizes” (a severe form of excommunication) all who obstinately assert the contrary to its dogmatic definitions.
The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, Anathema: “To understand the word anathema…we should first go back to the real meaning of herem of which it is the equivalent. Herem comes from the word haram, to cut off, to separate, to curse, and indicates that which is cursed and condemned to be cut off or exterminated, whether a person or a thing, and in consequence, that which man is forbidden to make use of. This is the sense of anathema in the following passage from Deut., vii, 26: ‘Neither shalt thou bring anything of the idol into thy house, lest thou become an anathema like it. Thou shalt detest it as dung, and shalt utterly abhor it as uncleanness and filth, because it is an anathema.’”
Thus, a Protestant or an “Eastern Orthodox” who obstinately rejects these dogmatic teachings is anathematized and severed from the Church, outside of which there is no salvation. It’s quite interesting that, in issuing these dogmatic canons, the Church says: “If anyone shall say…. let him be anathema [anathema sit]” as opposed to “If anyone shall say… he is anathema [anathema est].” This qualification of “let him be” allows room for those Catholics who may be unaware of a particular dogma and would conform to the teaching of the canon as soon as it were presented to him. The person who is obstinate, however, and willfully contradicts the dogmatic teaching of the Church receives the full force of the automatic condemnation.
The point here is that if one is able to reject these dogmas and still be saved, then these infallible definitions and their accompanying anathemas have no meaning, value or force. But they do have meaning, value and force – they are infallible teachings protected by Jesus Christ. Thus, all who reject these dogmas are anathematized and on the road to damnation.
Pope Pius XI, Rerum omnium perturbationem (#4), Jan. 26, 1923: “The saint was no less a person that Francis de Sales… he seemed to have been sent especially by God to contend against the heresies begotten by the [Protestant] Reformation. It is in these heresies that we discover the beginnings of that apostasy of mankind from the Church, the sad and disastrous effects of which are deplored, even to the present hour, by every fair mind.”
Pope Julius III, Council of Trent, Session 13, Can. 1 on the Eucharist, ex cathedra: “If anyone denies that in the sacrament of the most holy Eucharist there are truly, really, and substantially contained the Body and Blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore the whole Christ, but shall say that He is in it as by sign or figure, or force, let him be anathema.”
Pope Julius III, Council of Trent, Session 14, Canon 3 on the Sacrament of Penance: “If anyone says that the words of the Lord Savior: ‘Receive ye the Holy Ghost; whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins ye shall retain, they are retained’ [John 20:22 f.], are not to be understood of the power remitting and retaining sins in the sacrament of penance… let him be anathema.”
Pope Julius III, Council of Trent, Session 14, on Extreme Unction and Penance: “These are the things which this sacred ecumenical synod professes and teaches concerning the sacraments of penance and extreme unction, and it sets them forth to be believed and held by all the faithful of Christ. Moreover, the following canons, it says, must be inviolately observed, and it condemns and anathematizes forever those who assert the contrary.”
Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Session 6, Chap. 16, ex cathedra: “After this Catholic doctrine of justification - which, unless he faithfully and firmly accepts, no one can be justified - it seemed good to the holy Synod to add these canons, so that all may know, not only what they must hold and follow, but also what they ought to shun and avoid.”
Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council I, 1870, Sess. 4, Chap. 3, ex cathedra: “… all the faithful of Christ must believe that the Apostolic See and the Roman Pontiff hold primacy over the whole world, and the Pontiff of Rome himself is the successor of the blessed Peter, the chief of the apostles, and is the true vicar of Christ and head of the whole Church... Furthermore We teach and declare that the Roman Church, by the disposition of the Lord, holds the sovereignty of ordinary power over all others… This is the doctrine of Catholic truth from which no one can deviate and keep his faith and salvation.”
Concerning those Baptized validly as infants by members of non-Catholic sects
The Catholic Church has always taught that anyone (including a layman or a non-Catholic) can validly baptize if he adheres to proper matter and form and if he has the intention of doing what the Church does.
Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, “Exultate Deo,” 1439: “In case of necessity, however, not only a priest or a deacon, but even a layman or woman, yes even a pagan and a heretic can baptize, so long as he preserves the form of the Church and has the intention of doing what the Church does.” (Denzinger 696)
The Church has always taught that infants baptized in heretical and schismatic churches are made Catholics, members of the Church and subjects of the Roman Pontiff, even if the people who baptized them are heretics who are outside the Catholic Church. This is because the infant, being below the age of reason, cannot be a heretic or schismatic. He cannot have an impediment which would prevent Baptism from making him a member of the Church.
Pope Paul III, Council of Trent, Sess. 7, Can. 13 on the Sacrament of Baptism: If anyone shall say that infants, because they have not actual faith, after having received baptism are not to be numbered among the faithful… let him be anathema.”
This means that all baptized infants wherever they are, even those baptized in heretical non-Catholic churches by heretical ministers, are made members of the Catholic Church. They are also made subject to the Roman Pontiff (if there is one). So, at what one point does this baptized Catholic infant become a non-Catholic – severing his membership in the Church and subjection to the Roman Pontiff? After the baptized infant reaches the age of reason, he or she becomes a heretic or a schismatic and severs his membership in the Church and severs subjection to the Roman Pontiff when he or she obstinately rejects any teaching of the Catholic Church or loses Faith in the essential mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation.
Pope Clement VI, Super quibusdam, Sept. 20, 1351: “…We ask: In the first place whether you and the Church of the Armenians which is obedient to you, believe that all those who in baptism have received the same Catholic faith, and afterwards have withdrawn and will withdraw in the future from the communion of this same Roman Church, which one alone is Catholic, are schismatic and heretical, if they remain obstinately separated from the faith of this Roman Church. 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.”
So, one must be clear on these points: 1) The unbaptized (Jews, Muslims, pagans, etc.) must all join the Catholic Church by receiving Baptism and the Catholic Faith or they will all be lost. 2) Among those who are baptized as infants, they are made Catholics, members of the Church and subjects of the Roman Pontiff by Baptism. They only sever that membership (which they already possess) when they obstinately reject any Catholic dogma or believe something contrary to the essential mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation. In the teaching of Pope Clement VI above, we see this second point clearly taught: all who receive the Catholic Faith in Baptism lose that Faith and become schismatic and heretical if they become “obstinately separated from the faith of this Roman Church.”
The fact is that all Protestants who reject the Catholic Church or its dogmas on the sacraments, the Papacy, etc. have obstinately separated from the Faith of the Roman Church and have therefore severed their membership in the Church of Christ. The same is true with the “Eastern Orthodox” who obstinately reject dogmas on the Papacy and Papal Infallibility. They need to be converted to the Catholic Faith for salvation.