by John Pacheco


The Rigorist position holds that only those baptized with water will be saved in accordance with Our Lord’s words in John 3:5:  “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God.”  Proponents of the position also appeal to many patristic texts as well as to the three declarations of the dogma of “No Salvation Outside the Church” which has been defined by the Catholic Church in the medieval period of her history.  The following piece presents a number of objections to the strict view of “No Salvation Outside the Church” and absolute necessity of water baptism.

Objection 1

The three official definitions, presented in Appendix 1, are often cited by the Rigorists in support of their position.   The citations, however, are done so either ignoring the Magisterium’s intended meaning or out of their historical context.

i) Pope Innocent III - Lateran Council IV (AD 1215) - The 12th Ecumenical Council of the Church:

In relation to baptism only seven years prior to this decree, this same Pope Innocent III wrote in 1208 AD:  “A certain Jew, when at the point of death, since he lived only among Jews, immersed himself in water, while saying I baptize myself in the name of the Father, and the Son, and in the Holy Spirit.. We respond that since there should be a distinction between the one baptizing and the one baptized, as clearly gathered from the words of the Lord when said "Go baptize all nations in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit." The Jew must be baptized again by another. If however such a one had died immediately he would have rushed to his heavenly home without delay because of the faith of the sacrament although not because of the sacrament of faith.” (D413)

Clearly, then, the Pope is affirming the efficacy of baptism by desire.

ii) Pope Boniface VIII - Papal Bull Unam Sanctum, 1302:

This document had nothing to do with condemning heretics or pagans or Jews.  Its origin was precipitated by a dispute between the Pope and King Philip IV over money - taxation to be exact.  The dispute then developed into the Philip’s attack on Papal jurisdiction in the Church itself.  This is the context within which the Pope issued his decree:  it was directed at those who have heard and understood what the Catholic Church teaches.  That is why, for instance, the Pope mentions the Greeks who explicitly reject papal authority.

 iii) Pope Eugene IV, the Bull - Cantate Domino, 1441:

The context of the Bull is clearly directed at heretics who attack the Christological dogmas of the Church including Jesus’ person and hypostatic union. All of these heresies mentioned had contact with the full gospel and many (such as the Arians, Manichaeans, and Monophystes) were anathematized. All of these sects have heard the message, but have refused to enter the Church despite that fact.   This is the context that one must interpret the Pope’s anathema to the pagans and the Jews.  It presumes that the individuals within these groups have also heard and understood the Church, but obstinately reject her.  It is to these individuals that the anathema applies.

Objection 2

The Popes have taught that those who suffer from invincible ignorance can obtain eternal salvation.  This includes at least two Popes, Pius IX and Pius XII, who reigned before the Second Vatican Council.  A brief sample of some papal writings denying the Rigorist position is provided in Appendix 2.

Objection 3

The Vatican Councils of the Catholic Church have clearly taught that formal membership in the Catholic Church is not absolutely necessary for salvation.  The framers of Vatican I, for instance, rejected the Rigorist view outright.  Those who are inculpably ignorant and at the same time respond to the grace that God gives them are not consigned to hell, but can, even in that condition, obtain justification.  Vatican II, of course, was quite explicit in accepting the broad view of this question.  Those who are not at fault by remaining outside the visible boundaries of the Church can still be saved.  See Appendix 3 for the clear evidence of this belief as well as the authority of the Magisterium to authoritatively  interpret all doctrines of the Church.

Objection 4

No Catholic Catechism has ever taught the Rigorist view.  In fact, three major catechisms of the Church clearly affirm that salvation is not restricted to formal membership.  See Appendix 4 for the evidence from the Catechism of St. Pius X, The Catechism of the Council of Trent, and the recent Catechism.

Objection 5

The great majority of the Fathers accept the broad view.  The possibility of extra-sacramental salvation is well established in Patristic literature.  A comprehensive selection of Broad Patristic writings is provided in Appendix 5.

Objection 6

In reviewing the canons of Trent, the Rigorists cite the Seventh Session dealing with the Sacrament of Baptism.

Seventh Session, Canon 2:  “If any one saith, that true and natural water is not of necessity for baptism, and, on that account, wrests, to some sort of metaphor, those words of our Lord Jesus Christ; Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost; let him be anathema. “

Seventh Session, Canon 5:  “If any one saith, that baptism is free, that is, not necessary unto salvation; let him be anathema.”

In isolation from the rest of the Council documents, obviously these canons carry strong weight which heavily support the Rigorist view.  However, two things must be considered:

1)  The context of the Canons are directed at the Reformers who were denying the objective efficacy of the sacraments.  (“If anyone says that the sacraments of the New Law do not confer that grace upon those who do not place an obstacle to it reception… let them be anathema.”  [Seventh Session, Decree on the Sacraments, Canon 6.).  Hence, the Council had to stress the necessity of baptism for all those professing the Christian faith.  The question then becomes:  did the Council intend to teach that water baptism was absolutely necessary even in such a case as a catechumen dying before baptism or that of a pagan who was invincibly ignorant?  It is not valid to extrapolate and assume that a one line sentence, like Canon 5, applies as an exceptionless rule, anymore than it is to say that St. Paul (in Romans 3:9-10) meant that every single living person has sinned (i.e. which would include Our Lord and Our Lady).  Furthermore, it is also unwise to understand these canons without taking into consideration the historical context of their statements.  As stated, the Council was responding to those who denied OUTRIGHT baptism’s power of inward renewal, and so the decree was given IN THIS CONTEXT.  It was never meant to be applied as an exceptionless rule.

Although a case could be made on this point alone, Canon 4 of the same session settles the issue on whether Baptism of Desire justifies since it is explicitly states that it can:

“If anyone says that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary for salvation but are superfluous, and that without them or without the DESIRE OF THEM men obtain from God through faith alone the grace of justification, though all are not necessary for each one let him be anathema.”

The Rigorists do not deny this, but propose an alternative approach which still allows them to hold to their view.  The Rigorists maintain that the desire of baptism does indeed justify, but that justification without baptism does not save.  One of the more prominent Rigorist Apologists wrote this in an internet debate:

“This canon states 1) If anyone says that the Sacraments of the New Law are NOT necessary for SALVATION ---- OR-----2) that without them or without the DESIRE THEREOF men obtain of God through Faith alone the GRACE OF JUSTIFICATION... let him be anathema. In other words, the SACRAMENTS are necessary for SALVATION, but the desire of them can give the GRACE OF JUSTIFICATION. I agree totally. The sacraments are necessary for SALVATION, but Justification can be had with only the Desire.  I totally agree.  This canon says NOTHING about the desire for the sacrament meriting Salvation. It says JUSTIFICATION. The Sacraments of the New law are Necessary for SALVATION.  IN answer to the question, Trent says the Sacraments are necessary for SALVATION, but that one can have JUSTIFICATION with only the desire of them. It says nothing about desire/Justification =Salvation.

The effects of the Sacraments is SALVATION, the effects of the Desire is JUSTIFICATION. Salvation = Entry into heaven; Justification = State of Grace. The difference is certainly there.  Let's look at it again: "If anyone says that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary for (NOTE: THE EFFECTS OF THE SACRAMENTS IS SALVATION) salvation but are superfluous, and that without them or without the DESIRE OF THEM men obtain from God through faith alone the (NOTE: THE EFFECTS OF THE DESIRE IS THE GRACE OF JUSTIFICATION) grace of justification, though all are not necessary for each one, LET HIM BE ANATHEMA."

Question: Is Justification (the State of Grace) and Salvation (entry into heaven) the same thing? Are they synonyms? No sir

So the Rigorist tries to separate justification from salvation.  He maintains that indeed desire can justify but not necessarily result in eventual salvation UNLESS it is accompanied by water baptism before death.  It appears that this type of justification - which requires water baptism for salvation - is little better than what the Reformers were proposing as a mere legal imputation.  In this case, however, it is a kind of ‘suspended justification’ until the saving waters of baptism are applied.   If justification does not indeed put one in a state of being pleasing to God without the necessity of anything else, then the whole meaning of Catholic (or even Protestant!) justification comes into question.  According to Trent the sanctifying grace is the SOLE formal cause of justification.  So where justification is present, then sanctifying grace must be present in the soul.  And if we have sanctifying grace within us, then we go to heaven on death without the strict necessity of water baptism.  The following excerpts from Trent confirm this view:

“…lastly, the alone formal cause is the justice of God, not that whereby He Himself is just, but that whereby He maketh us just, that, to wit, with which we being endowed by Him, are renewed in the spirit of our mind, and we are not only reputed, but are truly called, and are, just, receiving justice within us, each one according to his own measure, which the Holy Ghost distributes to every one as He wills, and according to each one's proper disposition and co-operation.”  (Sixth Session, Chapter 7)

What is Catholic justification then?  It is, according to Trent, “the translation from that condition in which man is born as the son of the first Adam into the state of Grace and adoption among the children of God through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Saviour….”  (Decree on Justification, Sixth Session, Chapter 4).  When the Council speaks of “that condition”, it is, of course, speaking of original sin.  So when that condition is removed, the obstacle that prevents every human soul from seeing the Beatific Vision is likewise removed.

Since now we are in a “state of grace” or in a “state of justice” before the Father, then the state of justification is indeed sufficient for salvation.  The concept “justice” itself demands sufficiency for salvation.  What good is “being just” before God if it does not entail salvation?  The whole word becomes meaningless.  Furthermore, Trent itself clearly stipulates the sufficiency of justification:

"…We must believe that nothing further is wanting to the justified, to prevent their being accounted to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life, and to have truly merited eternal life.  (Sixth Session, Chapter 16)

Excerpts of the other relevant chapters of the Sixth and Seventh Sessions are provided in Appendix 6, along with short commentaries.

Objection 7

The letter from the Holy Office in 1949 clearly rejects the Rigorist position.  In fact, it issues graves warnings to those who do not submit to the Church’s understanding of this doctrine, and still insist on holding to the Rigorist view.  Some external commentary and the letter of the Holy Office is presented in Appendix 7.  And lest those inclined to be suspicious of the Vatican would suggest that the letter was not signed by the Pope himself but rather liberal prelates in the Vatican, it should be noted that one of the signatures was Cardinal Ottaviani, himself, a champion of the Traditionalist movement.

Objection 8

The restrictive Patristic texts used by the Rigorists are provided in Appendix 8.  While the texts are strong and appear to support the Rigorist position,  they probably do not do so at all.  Many of the statements do not clearly address those who die with the desire for baptism or those who are invincibly ignorant.  In fact, those who use many of the passages cited do not take into account to whom the teaching was directed; namely, those who obstinately reject the Church’s teachings and remain outside of her.  Moreover, many of the fathers and popes that the Rigorists cite do not, in fact, hold to their view at all.  The passages are cited selectively without including the whole story on what these same fathers and popes taught on desire and invincible ignorance.  If one compares the Broad texts in Appendix 5 with the Restrictive texts in Appendix 8, one will clearly see many of the citations in both lists come from the same Fathers and Popes!   One Pope in particular, Pius XII, is cited by the Rigorists as supporting their position when, in fact, this Pope offered the most clear rejection of their view in his monumental encyclical "On the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ" (1943).  The Sovereign Pontiff taught that there are those who "are related to the Mystical Body of the Redeemer by a certain unconscious yearning and desire," and these he by no means excludes from eternal salvation, but the other hand states that they are in a condition "in which they cannot be sure their salvation" since "they still remain deprived of those many heavenly gifts and helps which can only be enjoyed in the Catholic Church.”

Objection 9

The following list is a series of other objections to the Rigorist view:

This question has enjoyed considerable movement and development in the history of the Church from Augustine’s “hard damnation” (via the debate with Pelagius on Limbo) to Aquinas ‘s “damnation lite” for unbaptized babies and possible salvation for those invincibly ignorant to the current Catechism’s teaching on the acceptance of baptism of desire and blood.  The historical movement is clearly against Rigorist position, and will likely continue to be so.

This the exact same model and path that Protestants take when they are discussing Scripture.  This controversy alone shows how that concept of sola scriptura is a defunct methodology just like 'sola tradition' without the living Magisterium.  That's why Catholics need three: Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium.  The sixteenth century placed Scripture against Tradition and the Magisterium.  The Rigorist position appears to place Scripture and Tradition against the Magisterium.

Jesus never condemns anyone to hell for not being baptized, but He does for engaging and remaining in sin.

One of the more vociferous opponents of the rigorist position has made the following comments:

The article, "The Waters of Salvation" by Feeney himself….just before this, on pp. 305-06 he had commented on the statement of Pius IX (DS 2866) that God does not "permit anyone to be punished eternally unless he had incurred the guilt of voluntary sin." Feeney comments: "If God cannot (italics his) a human being who has not incurred the guilt voluntary sin, how then, for example, can He punish eternally babies who die unbaptized?" He even called the statement Pius IX heresy, Pelagianism!

To compensate for his distortion of the law of baptism, my opponent has developed a theory of Providence which seems utterly foreign to most Catholics. It is reminiscent of Calvinism in the confidence with which it asserts that God will always order human affairs in such a way that all the elect will find what he considers absolutely essential for salvation, which is sacramental baptism. Various passages from scripture are quoted to support this view of Providence. (This should be no surprise, as Calvin himself twisted scripture to justify his absurd teachings on election and predestination). So according to my opponent, if a man dies even one second before receiving baptism (1), we can be sure he did not truly seek the sacrament, and so is eternally lost. That this unhappy marriage of Calvinism and Pharisaism is not a Catholic teaching is obvious from one passage from the Catechism of Trent.

If the Church had always believed that Providence works in the way my opponent imagines, there would have been no need for such a statement. We Catholics would all know that it would never be possible for any of the elect to be overcome by any unforeseen accident before baptism. God would not allow it. The whole course of human history would be changed to prevent it - and woe to anyone who got in the way! So in the case of those seeking baptism, but dying without it, their intention and determination would avail them to nothing. They died without baptism, so they never truly sought it. They were not of the elect. God always knew this, which is why He allowed them to die before they were baptized. Why such individuals would ever have begun the search for baptism is the unanswered question in my opponent’s theory. Perhaps a quote from John Calvin will help him solve this mystery."(Calvin) taught that only such as are predestined infallibly to eternal salvation obtain justification, whilst in those not predestined God produces a mere appearance of faith and righteousness, and this in order to punish them the more severely in hell."

If any man may be baptized in an emergency, after a simple profession of faith, why has the Catholic Church never adopted the same approach for all conversions, requiring only a profession of faith in the fundamentals, followed by sacramental baptism, and then a period of instruction before admission to the other sacraments? Would this not have been the safer course of action to ensure that no one who desired to be Christian would die without what was absolutely necessary for salvation?

If Providence always ensures that a man who truly desires sacramental baptism will find it, does Providence also ensure that a man who truly desires sacramental confession (‘to be made in its season’) will always find it, either before death, or in some miraculous way? [What about the Eucharist?  Jesus says that one cannot go to heaven unless one has eaten his flesh.  This is just as categorical as John 3:5 where Our Lord says one cannot enter the Kingdom of God unless one is ‘born of water and the Spirit’.]

Some closing thoughts

The logical consequence of accepting the broad view of baptism (i.e. baptism of desire/blood, invincible ignorance, and “hope for unbaptized babies”) is that the restrictive view of limbo *must* be rejected as well. Conversely, if one is still allowed to believe in children’s limbo, then one must also be allowed to hold to the Rigorist view as my e-mail discussion with a fellow Catholic demonstrated:

John:  “If an unbaptized baby is consigned to limbo, then I see no reason why someone who has an implicit or explicit desire should enjoy a better fate than that unbaptized baby. If you say that someone can be saved by explicit or implict desire as an exception to the general rule of water baptism, then you are hinging someone's eternal fate on simply knowing the necessity of baptism (explicit desire) or doing the will of God to the best of his ability (implicit desire). I think neither alternative is tenable. In other words, it would be unjust for God to consign an unbaptized baby to limbo, yet allow those who have either an implicit or explicit desire into heaven. All of these statuses - unbaptized babies, persons with explicit desire (baptism of desire/blood), and persons with implicit desire are all under the same umbrella. They all either get into heaven or none of them do. Soooo....if I am allowed to believe that unbaptized babies go to limbo, then by logical necessity, I am allowed to believe that all those unbaptized with water will not go to heaven.

Other Speaker: “Because sanctifying grace and remission of sins only comes through faith, and without which one is lost. A catechumen has faith; an infidel and unbaptized child does not.”

John:  “Wait. If sanctifying grace and remission of sins only come through faith and we need knowledge for faith, then how is the baby who is baptized saved since he has no knowledge or faith? The sacrament works ex opere operato (is that the right latin lingo?) The instrumental cause of salvation is the sacrament of baptism (and other sacraments). Knowledge and faith, when they come into play at the age of reason, are only dispositions to justification. They are not by themselves strict causes of justification, right? Or am I misunderstanding something? So I guess where I am going with this is this: where knowledge or faith are required, then the catechumen is bound to have faith when presented with the Gospel - or else the sacrament is invalid (as Trent and Pope Innocent III clearly taught). However, when faith is not even possible because he has no knowledge, then how can explicit faith in Christ be necessary? And even if it were necessary, it is not a cause of justification so the person cannot be damned because he has no faith if he is not at fault.”

There are, therefore, two final, reduced positions on this question.  One position, the Broad view, allows for those suffer from lack of knowledge (invincible ignorance) to gain salvation.  The other position, the Rigorist view, says ‘no water baptism, no salvation.’

So the bottom line is this:  since Limbo is still allowed to be believed in the Church (see Appendix 9), the Rigorist position must be at least tolerated even though the objections to it seem pretty overwhelming.

For those interested in reading more about the Church’s teaching on unbaptized infants and the development of the doctrine, two excellent articles are provided the Catholic Encyclopedia (1908):

Unbaptized Infants


1 - 
2 - 
Papal Decrees
3 - 
Vatican Councils
4 - 
5 - 
Broad Patristic Texts
6 - 
Analysis of Trent
7 - 
Father Feeney
8 - 
Restrictive Texts
9 - 
Patristic Support for Limbo



Pope Innocent III
Lateran Council IV (AD 1215)
[The 12th Ecumenical Council of the Church]

One indeed is the universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved, in which the priest himself is the sacrifice, Jesus Christ, whose body and blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the species of bread and wine; the bread (changed) into His body by the divine power of transubstantiation, and the wine into the blood, so that to accomplish the mystery of unity we ourselves receive from His (nature) what He Himself received from ours… But the sacrament of baptism (which at the invocation of God and the indivisible Trinity, namely, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, is solemnized in water) rightly conferred by anyone in the form of the Church is useful unto salvation for little ones and for adults.

Unam Sanctam
Papal Bull of Pope Boniface VIII, 1302

We are compelled, our faith urging us, to believe and to hold-and we do firmly believe and simply confess-that there is one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, outside of which there is neither salvation nor remission of sins; her Spouse proclaiming it in the canticles, "My dove, my undefiled is but one, she is the choice one of her that bore her"; which represents one mystical body, of which body the head is Christ, but of Christ, God. If, then, the Greeks or others say that they were not committed to the care of Peter and his successors, they necessarily confess that they are not of the sheep of Christ; for the Lord says, in John, that there is one fold, one shepherd, and one only. This authority, moreover, even though it is given to man and exercised through man, is not human but rather divine, being given by divine lips to Peter and founded on a rock for him and his successors through Christ Himself whom He has confessed; the Lord Himself saying to Peter: "Whatsoever thou shalt bind," etc. Whoever, therefore, resists this power thus ordained by God, resists the ordination of God, unless he makes believe, like the Manichean, that there are two beginnings. This we consider false and heretical, since by the testimony of Moses, not "in the beginnings," but "in the beginning" God created the heavens and the earth. Indeed we declare, say, pronounce, and define that it is altogether necessary to salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.

Pope Eugene IV, the Bull
Cantate Domino, 1441

Besides it anathematizes the madness of the Manichaeans, who have established two first principles, one of the visible, and another of the invisible; and they have said that there is one God of the New Testament, another God of the Old Testament.  It, moreover, anathematizes, execrates, and condemns every heresy that suggests contrary things. And first it condemns Ebion, Cerinthus, Marcion, Paul of Samosata, Photinus, and all similar blasphemers, who, being unable to accept the personal union of humanity with the Word, denied that our Lord Jesus Christ was true God, proclaiming Him pure man who was called divine man by reason of a greater participation in divine grace, which He had received by merit of a more holy life.

It anathematizes also Manichaeus with his followers, who, thinking vainly that the Son of God had assumed not a true but an ephemeral body, entirely do away with the truth of the humanity in Christ. And also Valentinus who asserts that the Son of God took nothing from the Virgin Mary, but assumed a heavenly body and passed through the womb of the Virgin just as water flows and runs through an aqueduct. Arius also, who asserted that the body assumed from the Virgin lacked a soul, and would have the Godhead in place of the soul. Also Apollinaris, who, understanding that there was no true humanity if in Christ the soul is denied as giving the body form, posited only a sensitive soul, but held that the Godhead of the Word took the place of a rational soul. It also anathematizes Theodore of Mopsuestia and Nestorius who assert that humanity was united with the Son of God through grace, and hence there are two persons in Christ, just as they confess that there are two natures, since they were unable to understand that the union of humanity with the Word was hypostatic, and so refused to accept the subsistence of God. For according to this blasphemy, the Word was not made flesh, but the Word through grace lived in the flesh; that is, He was made not the Son of God, but rather the Son of God lived in man.

 It anathematizes also, execrates, and condemns Eutyches the archimandrite; since he believed according to the blasphemy of Nestorius that the truth of the Incarnation is excluded, and therefore it is fitting that humanity was so united to the Word of God that the person of the Godhead and of humanity were one and the same and also, he could not grasp the unity of person as long as a plurality of natures existed, just as he established that there was one person of the Godhead and humanity in Christ, so he asserted that there was one nature, meaning that before the union there was a duality of natures, but in the assumption they passed over into one nature, with the greatest blasphemy and impiety granting either that humanity was turned into Godhead, or Godhead into humanity.

It also anathematizes, execrates, and condemns Macarius of Antioch and all who hold similar views; although he had a correct understanding of the duality of natures and the unity of person, yet he erred greatly concerning the operations of Christ when he said that in Christ there was one operation and one will on the part of both natures. All these, together with their heresies, the Holy Roman Church anathematizes, affirming that there are two wills and two operations in Christ.

The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.


Papal Decrees

Pope Innocent II (1130-1143)

“We affirm without hesitation that the old man who according to the information received from you, died without having received the baptism of water, has been relieved of original sin and granted the joy of the heavenly home, because he has persevered in the faith of holy Mother the Church and in the confession of Christ’s name. Read on this the eighth book of Augustine’s “The City of God” where among other things we read the following: “Baptism is invisibly administered which has been impeded, not by contempt for religion, but by unavoidable death. And read over again the book of St. Ambrose “On the Death of Valentianus” which affirms the same doctrine”. (D741)

Pope Pius IX

“And here, beloved Sons and Venerable Brethren, it is necessary once more to mention and censure the serious error into which some Catholics have unfortunately fallen. For they are of the opinion that men who live in errors, estranged from the true faith and from Catholic unity, can attain eternal life. This is in direct opposition to Catholic teaching. We all know that those who are afflicted with invincible ignorance with regard to our holy religion, if they carefully keep the precepts of the natural law that have been written by God in the hearts of all men, if they are prepared to obey God, and if they lead a virtuous and dutiful life, can attain eternal life by the power of divine light and grace. For God, Who reads comprehensively in every detail the minds and souls, the thoughts and habits of all men, will not permit, in accordance with his infinite goodness and mercy, anyone who is not guilty of a voluntary fault to suffer eternal torments (suppliciis). However, also well-known is the Catholic dogma that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church, and that those who obstinately oppose the authority and definitions of the Church, and who stubbornly remain separated from the unity of the Church and from the successor of Peter, the Roman Pontiff (to whom the Saviour has entrusted the care of His vineyard), cannot attain salvation." (Quanto conficiamur ,1863 (Denz 1677))

“By Faith it is to be firmly held that outside the Apostolic Roman Church none can achieve salvation. This is the only ark of salvation. He who does not enter into, will perish in the flood. NEVERTHELESS equally certainly it is to be held that those who suffer from invincible ignorance of the true religion, are not for this reason guilty in the eyes of the Lord.”  (D1647)

“The Church clearly declares that the only hope of salvation for mankind is placed in the Christian faith, which teaches the truth, scatters the darkness of ignorance by the splendor of its light, and works through love. This hope of salvation is placed in the Catholic Church which, in preserving the true worship, is the solid home of this faith and the temple of God. OUTSIDE OF THE CHURCH, NOBODY CAN HOPE FOR LIFE OR SALVATION UNLESS HE IS EXCUSED THROUGH IGNORANCE BEYOND HIS CONTROL. The Church teaches and proclaims that if sometimes we can use human wisdom to study the divine word, our wisdom should not for that reason proudly usurp to itself the right of master. Rather, it should act as an obedient and submissive servant, afraid of erring if it goes first and afraid of losing the light of interior virtue and the straight path of truth by following the consequences of exterior words.” (Singulari, Quidem, 1856 A.D.)

Pope Pius XII

"They who do not belong to the visible bond of the Catholic Church... [we ask them to] strive to take themselves from that state in which they cannot be sure of their own eternal salvation; for even though THEY ARE ORDERED TO THE MYSTICAL BODY OF THE REDEEMER BY A CERTAIN DESIRE AND WISH of which they are not aware [implicit in the general wish to do what God wills], yet they lack so many and so great heavenly gifts and helps which can be enjoyed only in the Catholic Church." (D3821)

"It is not always required that one be actually incorporated as a member of the Church, but this at least is required: that one adhere to it in wish and desire. It is not always necessary that this be explicit... but when a man labors under invincible ignorance, God accepts even an implicit will, called by that name because it is contained in the good disposition of soul in which a man wills to conform his will to the will of God." (D3870) [Holy Office, Aug 9, 1949, condemning doctrine of L. Feeney]

Pope Paul VI:

"In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided any extraordinary statements of dogmas endowed with the note of infallibility, but it still provided us teaching with THE AUTHORITY OF THE ORDINARY MAGISTERIUM, which must be accepted with docility...." (2)Paul VI, Allocution to Consistory of Cardinals, May 24,1976 (Osservatore Romano, English, June 3, l976), complained: "It is even affirmed that the Second Vatican Council is not binding." (General audience of Jan 12,1966)

“We believe that the Church is necessary for salvation, because Christ, who is the sole mediator and way of salvation, renders Himself present for us in His body which is the Church.[33] But the divine design of salvation embraces all men, and those who without fault on their part do not know the Gospel of Christ and His Church, but seek God sincerely, and under the influence of grace endeavor to do His will as recognized through the promptings of their conscience, they, in a number known only to God, can obtain salvation.” (The Credo of the People of God, 1968, 23)

Pope John Paul II

“The Catechism of the Catholic Church, is a statement of the Church's faith and of catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition, and the Church's Magisterium. I declare it to BE A SURE NORM FOR TEACHING THE FAITH and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion. May it serve the renewal to which the Holy Spirit ceaselessly calls the Church of God, the Body of Christ, on her pilgrimage to the undiminished light of the Kingdom!”

"The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the church. Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all. But it is clear that today, as in the past, many people do not have an opportunity to come to know or accept the Gospel revelation or to enter the church... . For such people, salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the church, does not make them formally a part of the church, but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit. It enables each person to attain salvation through his or her free cooperation." (Dec. 7, 1990)


Vatican Councils


7. No one can be saved outside the church.

Moreover it is a dogma of faith, that no one can be saved outside the church. On the other hand, those who labor under invincible ignorance concerning Christ and his church are not to be damned to eternal punishment on account of such ignorance, since they incur no guilt for this in the eyes of the Lord, who wishes all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth, and who does not deny grace to a person who is doing what lies in his power, so that such a one can obtain justification and eternal life. But no one obtains this who dies in a culpable state of separation from the unity of the faith or the communion of the church.  Anyone who is not in the ark of salvation will perish in the prevailing flood.” (Sacrorum conciliorum nova collectio, 541-542.)

In Session 4, chapter 3, Vatican I says:

Wherefore we teach and declare that, by divine ordinance, the Roman Church possesses a pre-eminence of ordinary power over every other Church, and that this jurisdictional power of the Roman Pontiff is both Episcopal and immediate. Both clergy and faithful, of whatever rite and dignity, both singly and collectively, are bound to submit to this power by the duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, and this not only in matters concerning faith and morals, but also in those which regard the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world. Further down this same session says:

Since the Roman Pontiff, by the divine right of the apostolic primacy, governs the whole Church, we likewise teach and declare that he is the supreme judge of the faithful, and that in all cases which fall under ecclesiastical jurisdiction recourse may be had to his judgment. The sentence of the Apostolic See (than which there is no higher authority) is not subject to revision by anyone, nor may anyone lawfully pass judgment thereupon. And so they stray from the genuine path of truth who maintain that it is lawful to appeal from the judgments of the Roman pontiffs to an ecumenical council as if this were an authority superior to the Roman Pontiff.

So, then, if anyone says that the Roman Pontiff has merely an office of supervision and guidance, and not the full and supreme power of jurisdiction over the whole Church, and this not only in matters of faith and morals, but also in those which concern the discipline and government of the Church dispersed throughout the whole world; or that he has only the principal part, but not the absolute fullness, of this supreme power; or that this power of his is not ordinary and immediate both over all and each of the Churches and over all and each of the pastors and faithful: let him be anathema.


CONSTITUTION ON DIVINE REVELATION (Dei Verbum): "10. Sacred tradition and Sacred Scripture form one sacred deposit of the word of God, committed to the Church. Holding fast to this deposit the entire holy people united with their shepherds remain always steadfast in the teaching of the Apostles, in the common life, in the breaking of the bread and in prayers (see Acts 2, 42, Greek text), so that holding to, practicing and professing the heritage of the faith, it becomes on the part of the bishops and faithful a single common effort. But THE TASK OF AUTHENTICALLY INTERPRETING THE WORD OF GOD, WHETHER WRITTEN OR HANDED ON, HAS BEEN ENTRUSTED EXCLUSIVELY TO THE LIVING TEACHING OFFICE OF THE CHURCH whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed."

Vatican II, LG #16: “For they who without their own fault do not know of the Gospel of Christ and His Church, but yet seek God with sincere heart, and try, under the influence of grace, to carry out His will in practice, known to them through the dictate of conscience, can attain eternal salvation."



Catechism of the Council of Trent

“It was ordered by the Council of Trent, edited under St. Charles Borromeo, and published by decree of Pope St. Pius V (1566). Pope Leo XIII recommended two books for all seminarians: St. Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica and The Catechism of the Council of Trent…

“On adults, however, the Church has not been accustomed to confer the Sacrament of baptism at once, but has ordained that it be deferred for a certain time. The delay is not attended with the same danger as in the case of infants, which we have already mentioned; should any unforeseen accident make it impossible for adults to be washed in the salutary waters, their intention and determination to receive Baptism and their repentance for past sins, will avail them to grace and righteousness.”

Pope St. Pius X Catechism

Question 132 - Will a person outside the Church be saved? It is a most serious loss to be outside the Church, because outside one does not have either the means which have been established or the secure guidance which has been set up for eternal salvation, which is the one thing truly necessary for man. A PERSON OUTSIDE THE CHURCH BY HIS OWN FAULT, AND WHO DIES WITHOUT PERFECT CONTRITION, WILL NOT BE SAVED. BUT HE WHO FINDS HIMSELF OUTSIDE WITHOUT FAULT OF HIS OWN, AND WHO LIVES A GOOD LIFE, CAN BE SAVED BY THE LOVE CALLED CHARITY, WHICH UNITES UNTO GOD, AND IN A SPIRITUAL WAY ALSO TO THE CHURCH, THAT IS, TO THE SOUL OF THE CHURCH.

Question 280 - If Baptism is necessary for all men, is no one saved without Baptism? - Without Baptism no one can be saved. HOWEVER, WHEN IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO RECEIVE BAPTISM OF WATER, THE BAPTISM OF BLOOD SUFFICES, THAT IS, MARTYRDOM SUFFERED FOR JESUS CHRIST; AND ALSO THE BAPTISM OF DESIRE SUFFICES, which is the love of God by charity, desiring to make use of the means of salvation instituted by God.

Catechism of the Catholic Church

CCC 846 - Outside the Church there is no salvation. How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body: Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it. (LG 14)

CCC 847 - This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church: Those who through no fault of their own, do not know the gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience-those too may achieve eternal salvation. (LG 16)


Patristic Broad Texts

Pope St. Clement I (95 AD): "Let us go through all generations, and learn that in generation and generation the Master has given a place of repentance to those willing to turn to Him. Noah preached repentance, and those who heard him were saved. Jonah preached repentance to the Ninevites; those who repented for their sins appeased God in praying, and received salvation, even though they were aliens [allotrioi] of God."

St. Justin Martyr (150 AD): "Christ is the Logos [Divine Word] of whom the whole race of men partake. Those who lived according to Logos are Christians, even if they were considered atheists, such as, among the Greeks, Socrates and Heraclitus….Christ... was and is the Logos who is in everyone, and foretold through the prophets the things that were to come, and taught these things in person after becoming like to us in feeling."

Shepherd of Hermas (140-155 AD):  “The angel asks Hermas who he thinks the old woman was who appeared. He thought it was the Sibyl: "You are wrong... . It is the Church. I said to him: Why then an old woman? He said: Because she was created first of all; for this reason she is an old woman, and because of her the world was established...The books of the prophets and the apostles [say] that the Church is not [only] now, but from the beginning. She was spiritual, like also our Jesus. She was manifested in the last days to save us."

Tertullian (200 A.D.): “We have indeed, likewise, a second font, (itself withal one with the former,) of blood, to wit; concerning which the Lord said, "I have to be baptized with a baptism," just as John has written; that he might be baptized by the water, glorified by the blood; to make us, in like manner, called by water, chosen by blood.”

St. Irenaeus (140-202 AD): "There is one and the same God the Father and His Logos, always assisting the human race, with varied arrangements, to be sure, and doing many things, and saving from the beginning those who are saved, for they are those who love and, according to their generation (genean) follow His Logos.…"For the Son, administering all things for the Father, completes [His work] from the beginning to the end... . For the Son, assisting to His own creation from the beginning, reveals the Father to all to whom He wills." "Christ came not only for those who believed from the time of Tiberius Caesar, nor did the Father provide only for those who are now, but for absolutely all men from the beginning, who, according to their ability, feared and loved God and lived justly... and desired to see Christ and to hear His voice."

Clement of Alexandria (200-211 AD): "From what has been said, I think it is clear that there is one true Church, which is really ancient, into which those who are just according to design are enrolled."…"Before the coming of the Lord, philosophy was necessary for justification to the Greeks; now it is useful for piety... for it brought the Greeks to Christ as the law did the Hebrews."…"Philosophy of itself made the Greeks just, though not to total justice; it is found to be a helper to this, like the first and second steps for one ascending to the upper part of the house, and like the elementary teacher for the [future] philosopher]."

Origen (240 AD): "Do not think I speak of the spouse or the Church [only] from the coming of the Savior in the flesh, but from the beginning of the human race, in fact, to seek out the origin of this mystery more deeply with Paul as leader, even before the foundation of the world.... there never was a time when God did not will to make just the life of men. But He always cared, and gave occasions of virtue to make the reasonable one right. For generation by generation this wisdom of God came to souls it found holy and made them friends of God and prophets….[the law was written on hearts: Cf. Rom 2:14-16] "that they must not commit murder or adultery, not steal, not speak false testimony, that they honor father and mother, and similar things... and it is shown that each one is to be judged not according to a privilege of nature, but by his own thoughts he is accused or excused, by the testimony of his conscience…Since God wants grace to abound, He sees fit to be present... . He is present not to the [pagan] sacrifices, but to the one who comes to meet Him, and there He gives His word [Logos?]."

Hegemonius (325-350 AD): "From the creation of the world He has always been with just men... . Were they not made just from the fact that they kept the law, 'Each one of them showing the work of the law on their hearts..? '[cf. Rom 2.14-16] For when someone who does not have the law does by nature the things of the law, this one, not having the law, is a law for himself... . For if we judge that a man is made just without the works of the law... how much more will they attain justice who fulfilled the law containing those things which are expedient for men?"

Arnobius (305 AD): "But, they say :If Christ was sent by God for this purpose, to deliver unhappy souls from the destruction of ruin - what did former ages deserve which before His coming were consumed in the condition of mortality? ... . Put aside thee cares, and leave the questions you do not understand; for royal mercy was imparted to them, and the divine benefits ran equally through all. They were conserved, they were liberated, and they put aside the sort and condition of mortality."

Eusebius of Caesarea, (311-325 AD): "But even if we [Christians] are certainly new, and this really new name of Christian is just recently known among the nations, yet our life and mode of conduct, in accord with the precepts of religion, has not been recently invented by us; but from the first creation of man, so to speak, it is upheld by natural inborn concepts of the ancient men who loved God, as we will here show... . But if someone would describe as Christians those who are testified to as having been righteous, [going back] from Abraham to the first man, he would not hit wide of the mark."

St. Gregory of Nazianzus, [at funeral of his father, a convert] (374 AD): "He was ours even before he was of our fold. His way of living made him such. For just as many of ours are not with us, whose life makes them other from our body [the Church], so many of those outside belong to us, who by their way of life anticipate the faith and need [only] the name, having the reality….[on his sister Gorgonia]: "Her whole life was a purification for her, and a perfecting. She had indeed the regeneration of the Spirit, and the assurance of this from her previous life. And, to speak boldly, the mystery [baptism] was for her practically only the seal, not the grace."

St. Gregory of Nazianzen: Oration on the Holy Lights "... if you were able to judge a man who intends to commit murder solely by his intention, and without any act of murder, then you could likewise reckon as baptized one who desired baptism without having received baptism."

St. John Chrysostom (391 AD): "For this reason they are wonderful, he [Paul, in Romans 2:14-16] says, because they did not need the law, and they show all the works of the law... . Do you not see how again he makes present that day [Judgment in 2.16] and brings it near... and showing that they should rather be honored who without the law hastened to carry out the things of the law? ... Conscience and reasoning suffice in place of the law. Through these things he showed again that God made man self-sufficient in regard to the choice of virtue and fleeing evil... . He shows that even in these early times and before the giving of the law, men enjoyed complete Providence. For 'what is knowable of God' was clear to them, and what was good and what was evil they knew… Why, then, the gentiles accuse us saying: What was Christ doing in former times, not taking care... ? We will reply: Even before He was in the world, He took thought for His works, and was known to all who were worthy….Do not be surprised that I call MARTYRDOM A BAPTISM; FOR HERE TOO THE SPIRIT COMES IN GREAT HASTE AND THERE IS A TAKING AWAY OF SINS AND A WONDERFUL AND MARVELOUS CLEANSING OF THE SOUL; and just as those being baptized are washed in water, so too those being martyred.”

St. Ambrose (375 AD): "Our price is the blood of Christ... . Therefore He brought the means of health to all so that whoever perishes, must ascribe the cause of his death to himself, for he was unwilling to be cured when he had a remedy... . For the mercy of Christ is clearly proclaimed on all."

St. Ambrose De obitu Valentiniani (392 AD): "But I hear that you grieve since he did not receive the sacrament of Baptism. Tell me, what else is in your power but the desire , the petition? But even for a long time he [Valentinian] had this desire, that when he came into Italy, he should be baptized, and recently he made known that he wanted to be baptized by me, and so he thought I should be summoned for this reason, before other reasons. Surely because he asked, he received, and hence there is the Scripture: "The just man be whatsoever death he may be overtaken, his soul shall be at rest... . If [martyrs] are washed in their own blood, his devotedness and intention washed him."

St. Ambrose (392 AD):  “When he talked of Emperor of Valentine II, who died without Baptism . "Tell me, what else could we have, except the will to it, the asking for it? He too had just now this DESIRE; and after he came into Italy it was begun, and a short time ago he signified that he wished to be baptized by me. Did he, then, not have the GRACE WHICH HE DESIRED? Did he not have what he eagerly sought? CERTAINLY, Because sought it, he received it. What else does it mean: "Whatever just man shall be overtaken by death, his soul shall be at rest (Wis. 4:7)?

St. Cyprian of Carthage (250 A.D.): “Catechumens- asking if any one of these, before he is baptized in the church should be apprehended and slain on confession of the name, whether he would lose the hope of salvation and the reward of confession, because he had not previously been born again of water?...Those catechumens are certainly not deprived of ;the sacrament of baptism who are baptized with the most glorious and greatest baptism of blood, concerning which the Lord also said, that he had "another baptism to be baptized with." (Luke 12:50). but the same Lord declares in the Gospel, that those who are baptized in their own blood, and sanctified by suffering, are perfected and obtain the grace of the divine promise, when he speaks to the thief believing and confessing in his very passion, and promises that he should be with himself in paradise.”

St. Augustine (413-426 AD): "Nor do I think the Jews would dare to argue that no one pertained to God except the Israelites, from the time that Israel came to be... they cannot deny that there were certain men even in other nations who pertained to the true Israelites, the citizens of the fatherland above, not by earthly but by heavenly association…this very thing which is now called the Christian religion existed among the ancients, nor was it lacking from the beginning of the human race until Christ Himself came in the flesh, when the true religion, that already existed, began to be called Christian….Wherefore since we call Christ the Word [Logos], through whom all things were made... under whose rule [was/is] every creature, spiritual and corporal... so those from the beginning of the human race who believed in Him and understood His somewhat [utcumque] and lived according to His precepts devoutly and justly, whenever and wherever they were, beyond doubt they were saved through Him... . And yet from the beginning of the human race thee were not lacking persons who believed in Him, from Adam up to Moses, both in the very people of Israel... and in other nations before He came in the flesh."

St. Augustine (413-426 A.D): The same blessed Cyprian sees no small proof that suffering can sometimes take the place of baptism, from the [case of] the thief to whom, though he was not baptized, it was over and over I find that not only suffering for the name of Christ can supply what was lacking of baptism, but also faith and conversion of heart, if it happens that because of circumstances of time, recourse cannot be had to celebration of the mystery of baptism."

St. Augustine (413-426 AD): "Nor do I think the Jews would dare to argue that no one pertained to God except the Israelites, from the time that Israel came to be... they cannot deny that there were certain men even in other nations who pertained to the true Israelites, the citizens of the fatherland above, not by earthly but by heavenly association."

St. Augustine (426-27 AD): "This very thing which is now called the Christian religion existed among the ancients, nor was it lacking from the beginning of the human race until Christ Himself came in the flesh, when the true religion, that already existed, began to be called Christian."

St. Augustine: “That the place of Baptism is sometimes supplied by suffering is supported by a substantial argument which the same Blessed Cyprian draws from the circumstance of the thief, to whom, although NOT BAPTIZED, it was said: "Today you shall be with me in paradise (11). "Considering this over and over again, I find that not only SUFFERING FOR THE NAME OF CHRIST CAN SUPPLY FOR THAT WHICH IS LACKING BY WAY OF BAPTISM, but EVEN FAITH AND CONVERSION OF HEART, if perhaps, because of the circumstances of the time, recourse cannot be had to the celebration of the Mystery of Baptism. (On Baptism 4:22, 29)

St. Augustine: “Those who, though THEY HAVE NOT RECEIVED THE WASHING OF REGENERATION, DIE FOR THE CONFESSION CHRIST, - IT AVAILS THEM JUST AS MUCH FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF THEIR SINS AS IF THEY HAD BEEN WASHED IN THE SACRED FONT OF BAPTISM. For He that said: 'If anyone is not reborn of water and the Spirit, he will not enter the kingdom of heaven/" MADE AN EXCEPTION for them in that other statement in WHICH HE SAYS NO LESS GENERALLY: "Whoever confesses me before men, I too will confess him before my Father, who is in heaven.'(Matt. 10:32).

St. Augustine:  “I do not hesitate to put the Catholic catechumen, burning with divine love, before a baptized heretic. Even within the Catholic Church herself we put the good catechumen ahead of the wicked baptized person. . . . . For Cornelius, even before his baptism, was filled up with the Holy Spirit [Acts 10:44-48], while Simon [Magus], even after his baptism, was puffed up with an unclean spirit [Acts 8:13-19]"

St. Augustine:  "When we speak of within and without in relation to the Church, it is the position of the heart that we must consider, not that of the body . . . All who are within [the Church] in heart are saved in the unity of the ark."

St. Prosper of Aquitaine (450 AD): "... according to it [Scripture] ... we believe and devoutly confess that never was the care of divine providence lacking to the totality of men... . To these, however [who have not yet heard of Christ] that general measure of help, which is always given from above to all men, is not denied."

St. Nilus (430 AD): "In every nation the one who fears God and does justice is acceptable to Him. For it is clear that such a one is acceptable to God and is not to be cast aside, who at his own right time flees to the worship of the blessed knowledge of God."

St. Cyril of Alexandria (433-441 AD): "For if there is One over all, and there is no other besides Him, He would be Master of all, because He was Maker of all. For He is also the God of the gentiles, and has fully satisfied by laws implanted in their hearts, which the Maker has engraved in the hearts of all [cf. Rom 2.14-16]. For when the gentiles, [Paul] says, not having the law, do by nature the things of the law, they show the work of the law written on their hearts. But since He is not only the Maker and God of the Jews [cf. Rom 3.29] but also of the gentiles... He sees fit by His providence to care not only for those who are of the blood of Israel, but also for all those upon the earth."

Theodoret of Cyrus (425-450 AD): "For they who, before the Mosaic law, adorned their life with devout reasonings and good actions, testify that the divine law called for action, and they became lawgivers for themselves... He [St. Paul] shows that the law of nature was written on hearts... . According to this image, let us describe the future judgment and the conscience of those accepting the charge and proclaiming the justice of the decision….But if you say: Why then did not the Maker of all fulfill this long ago? You are blaming even the physicians, since they keep the stronger medicines for last; having used the milder things first, they bring out the stronger things last. The all-wise Healer of our souls did this too. After employing various medicines... finally He brought forth this all-powerful and saving medicine.”

Pope St. Leo the Great (440-461 AD): "So God did not take are of human affairs by a new plan, or by late mercy, but from the foundation of the world He established one and the same cause of salvation for all. For the grace of God by which the totality of the saints always had been justified was increased when Christ was born, but did not begin [then]."

Pope St. Gregory the Great (540-604 AD): "When He descended to the underworld, the Lord delivered from the prison only those who while they lived in the flesh He had kept through His grace in faith and good works….The passion of the Church began already with Abel, and there is one Church of the elect, of those who precede, and of those who follow... . They were, then, outside, but yet not divided from the holy Church, because in mind, in work, in preaching, they already held the sacraments of faith, and saw that loftiness of Holy Church."

Primasius, Bishop of Hadrumetum (560 AD): "'By nature they do the things of the law... . ' He [Paul] speaks either of those who keep the law of nature, who do not do to others what they do not want to be done to themselves; or, that even the gentiles naturally praise the good and condemn the wicked, which is the work of the law; or, of those who even now, when they do anything good, profess that they have received from God the means of pleasing God... . 'And their thoughts in turn accusing or even defending, on the day when God will judge the hidden things of men.' He speaks of altercations of thought... . and according to these we are to be judged on the day of the Lord."

St. John Damascene (late 7th cent. to 754 AD): "The creed teaches us to believe also in one Holy Catholic and Apostolic church of God. The Catholic Church cannot be only apostolic, for the all-powerful might of her Head, which is Christ, is able through the Apostles to save the whole world. So there is a Holy Catholic Church of God, the assembly of the Holy Fathers who are from the ages, of the patriarchs, of prophets, apostles, evangelists, martyrs, to which are added all the gentiles who believe the same way."

Haymo, Bishop of Halberstadt (853 AD): "They show surely that they have the natural law written on their hearts, and they are the law for themselves: because they do the things that the law teaches, even though it was not given to them. For example, the Saracens who have neither the law of Moses nor of the Gospel, while by nature they keep the law, do not commit murder, or commit adultery, or other things, which the law written within them contains; they are a law to themselves. . . . In the second way: When the gentiles . . . naturally do the things . . . because they have the same law of Moses written on their hearts by the inspiration of Almighty God . . . "their conscience bearing witness to them, and their thoughts in turn accusing or even defending." And when will this be? "On the day when the Lord will judge the hidden things of men" according to my Gospel."

Oecumenius ( 990 AD):  "They do the things of the law" using the reasonings of nature for just actions. These are wonderful, not needing a teacher, being their own lawgivers and fulfillers of the legislation. . . . "Their conscience bearing witness to them," for it is enough in place of the law to have their own conscience testifying for them. . . . At that judgment we do not need external accusers or witnesses . . . but each one's own reasonings and conscience either accuses or defends.”

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) Summa Theologica Third Part Question 68 Article 2

Whether a man can be saved without Baptism?
Objection 1. It seems that no man can be saved without Baptism. For our Lord said (John 3:5): "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." But those alone are saved who enter God's kingdom. Therefore none can be saved without Baptism, by which a man is born again of water and the Holy Ghost.

Objection 2. Further, in the book De Eccl. Dogm. xli, it is written: "We believe that no catechumen, though he die in his good works, will have eternal life, except he suffer martyrdom, which contains all the sacramental virtue of Baptism." But if it were possible for anyone to be saved without Baptism, this would be the case specially with catechumens who are credited with good works, for they seem to have the "faith that worketh by charity" (Gal. 5:6). Therefore it seems that none can be saved without Baptism.

Objection 3. Further, as stated above (1; 65, 4), the sacrament of Baptism is necessary for salvation. Now that is necessary "without which something cannot be" (Metaph. v). Therefore it seems that none can obtain salvation without Baptism.

On the contrary, Augustine says (Super Levit. lxxxiv) that "some have received the invisible sanctification without visible sacraments, and to their profit; but though it is possible to have the visible sanctification, consisting in a visible sacrament, without the invisible sanctification, it will be to no profit." Since, therefore, the sacrament of Baptism pertains to the visible sanctification, it seems that a man can obtain salvation without the sacrament of Baptism, by means of the invisible sanctification.

I answer that, The sacrament or Baptism may be wanting to someone in two ways. First, both in reality and in desire; as is the case with those who neither are baptized, nor wished to be baptized: which clearly indicates contempt of the sacrament, in regard to those who have the use of the free-will. Consequently those to whom Baptism is wanting thus, cannot obtain salvation: since neither sacramentally nor mentally are they incorporated in Christ, through Whom alone can salvation be obtained.

Secondly, the sacrament of Baptism may be wanting to anyone in reality but not in desire: for instance, when a man wishes to be baptized, but by some ill-chance he is forestalled by death before receiving Baptism. And such a man can obtain salvation without being actually baptized, on account of his desire for Baptism, which desire is the outcome of "faith that worketh by charity," whereby God, Whose power is not tied to visible sacraments, sanctifies man inwardly. Hence Ambrose says of Valentinian, who died while yet a catechumen: "I lost him whom I was to regenerate: but he did not lose the grace he prayed for."

Reply to Objection 1. As it is written (1 Kgs. 16:7), "man seeth those things that appear, but the Lord beholdeth the heart." Now a man who desires to be "born again of water and the Holy Ghost" by Baptism, is regenerated in heart though not in body. thus the Apostle says (Rm. 2:29) that "the circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not of men but of God."

Reply to Objection 2. No man obtains eternal life unless he be free from all guilt and debt of punishment. Now this plenary absolution is given when a man receives Baptism, or suffers martyrdom: for which reason is it stated that martyrdom "contains all the sacramental virtue of Baptism," i.e. as to the full deliverance from guilt and punishment. Suppose, therefore, a catechumen to have the desire for Baptism (else he could not be said to die in his good works, which cannot be without "faith that worketh by charity"), such a one, were he to die, would not forthwith come to eternal life, but would suffer punishment for his past sins, "but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire" as is stated 1 Cor. 3:15.

Reply to Objection 3. The sacrament of Baptism is said to be necessary for salvation in so far as man cannot be saved without, at least, Baptism of desire; "which, with God, counts for the deed" (Augustine, Enarr. in Ps. 57).



Decree on the Sacraments - Seventh Session

Canon 4

“If anyone says that the sacraments of the New Law are not necessary for salvation but are superfluous, and that without them or without the DESIRE OF THEM men obtain from God through faith alone the grace of justification, though all are not necessary for each one let him be anathema.”

Decree on Justification - Sixth Session

Chapter 3:  "But, though He died for all, yet do not all receive the benefit of His death, but those only unto whom the merit of His passion is communicated. For as in truth men, if they were not born propagated of the seed of Adam, would not be born unjust,…so, if they were not born again in Christ*, they never would be justified; seeing that, in that new birth, there is bestowed upon them, through the merit of His passion, the grace whereby they are made just. For this benefit the apostle exhorts us, evermore to give thanks to the Father, who hath made us worthy to be partakers of the lot of the saints in light, and hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the Kingdom of the Son of his love, in whom we have redemption, and remission of sins."

Justification is a ‘new birth’ which is a clear reference to the effects of water baptism which is sanctifying grace.  Justification translates us into the ‘Kingdom of the Son’, which is the Body of Christ - the Church.

Chapter 4:  “By which words, a description of the Justification of the impious is indicated,-as being a translation, from that state wherein man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace, and of the adoption of the sons of God, through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Saviour. And this translation, since the promulgation of the Gospel, cannot be effected, without the laver of regeneration, or the desire thereof, as it is written; unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God”.

Again,  the desire of water baptism is effects the translation from unjustified to justified man.  This repeats Canon 4 of the Seventh Session (above),

Chapter 7:  "…in the said justification of the impious, when by the merit of that same most holy Passion, the charity of God is poured forth, by the Holy Spirit, in the hearts of those that are justified, and is inherent therein: whence, man, through Jesus Christ, in whom he is ingrafted, receives, in the said justification, together with the remission of sins, all these (gifts) infused at once, faith, hope, and charity. For faith, unless hope and charity be added thereto, neither unites man perfectly with Christ, nor makes him a living member of His Body."

Again, justification is said to ‘ingraft’ us into Christ.  St. Paul uses the same wording in Romans 11.  Furthermore, the said justification ‘unites man PERFECTLY with Christ and makes him ‘a living member of His Body.’  Clearly, justification, without subsequent mortal sin, saves.

Chapter 7:  "This disposition, or preparation, is followed by justification itself, which is not remission of sins merely, but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man, through the voluntary reception of the grace, and of the gifts, whereby man of unjust becomes just, and of an enemy a friend, that so he may be an heir according to hope of life everlasting."

Justification means sanctification and the renewal of the inward man.  This the same language that is used of the ‘laver of regeneration’ through baptism.

Chapter 10: "On the increase of Justification received. Having, therefore, been thus justified, and made the friends and domestics of God, advancing from virtue to virtue, they are renewed, as the Apostle says, day by day; that is, by mortifying the members of their own flesh, and by presenting them as instruments of justice unto sanctification, they, through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, faith co-operating with good works, increase in that justice which they have received through the grace of Christ, and are still further justified, as it is written; He that is just, let him be justified still; and again, Be not afraid to be justified even to death."

If one is justified, one is a ‘friend of God’.  If one is a friend of God, one will not be forsaken by Him.  If justification does not necessarily save, as the Rigorist maintains, then why does Trent clearly teach that the justified need not fear death?

Chapter 16:   "…We must believe that nothing further is wanting to the justified, to prevent their being accounted to have, by those very works which have been done in God, fully satisfied the divine law according to the state of this life, and to have truly merited eternal life, to be obtained also in its (due) time, if so be, however, that they depart in grace: seeing that Christ, our Saviour, saith: If any one shall drink of the water that I will give him, he shall not thirst for ever; but it shall become in him a fountain of water springing up unto life everlasting."

Trent says NOTHING further is required for the justified to have TRULY merited eternal life.

Chapter 32:  "If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema."

The justified are described as:

1) a living member of Jesus Christ
2) meriting increase of grace
3) meriting the attainment of eternal life


Father Feeney Case

In its letter to Archbishop Cushing on the Boston heresy case (the protocol to which Pope Pius XII had so carefully attended), the Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office noted that "the Church has always preached and will never cease to preach. . . that infallible statement by which we are taught that there is no salvation outside the Church." (T)his dogma must be understood in that sense in which the Church herself understands it.

For, it was not to private judgments that Our Saviour gave for explanation those things that are contained in the deposit of faith, but to the teaching authority of the Church ( , in , 1952, vol. 127, pp. 308-15).  Holy Office, Aug 9, 1949, condemning doctrine of Father Feeney (DS 3870): "It is not always required that one be actually incorporated as a member of the Church, but this at least is required: that one adhere to it in wish and desire. It is not always necessary that this be explicit... but when a man labors under invincible ignorance, God accepts even an implicit will, called by that name because it is contained in the good disposition of soul in which a man wills to conform his will to the will of God."

Just two decades later, the Second Vatican Council further clarified the position of the Magisterium:  “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.  (LG #16).

It is interesting to note that the footnote for this very paragraph from the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church refers to the protocol condemning the Boston heresy, which certainly lays to rest the popular claim among contemporary Feeneyites that the Protocol was simply a letter from one church bureaucrat to another with no particular force behind it.

In regard to the damnation of infants, tragically, Feeney cited a text of Pius IX (quoted below) saying that no one goes to hell without grave voluntary sin - babies of course have no voluntary sin. Feeney actually ridiculed the text of Pius IX and charged Pius IX with the heresy of Pelagianism, saying (in Thomas M. Sennott, They Fought the Good Fight, Catholic Treasures, Monrovia CA. 1987, pp. 305-06): "To say that God would never permit anyone to be punished eternally unless he had incurred the guilt of voluntary sin is nothing short of Pelagianism... . If God cannot punish eternally a human being who has not incurred the guilt of voluntary sin, how then, for example can He punish eternally babies who die unbaptized?"

Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Archbishop of Boston 8 August 1949: DS 3866-72


From the Headquarters of the Holy Office/August 8, 1949/Protocol Number 122/49.

Your Excellency:

This Supreme Sacred Congregation has followed very attentively the rise and the course of the grave controversy stirred up by certain associates of "St. Benedict Center" and "Boston College" in regard to the interpretation of that axiom: "Outside Church there is no salvation."

After having examined all the documents that are necessary or useful in this matter, among them information from your Chancery, as well as appeals and reports in which the associates of "St. Benedict Center" explain their Opinions and complaints and also many other documents pertinent to the controversy, officially collected, same Sacred Congregation is convinced that the unfortunate controversy arose from, the fact that the axiom: "outside the Church there is no salvation," was not correctly understood and weighed, and that the same controversy was rendered more bitter by serious disturbance of discipline arising from the fact that some of the associates of the institutions mentioned above refused reverence and obedience to legitimate authorities.

Accordingly, the Most Eminent and Most Reverend Cardinals of this Supreme Congregation, in a plenary session, held on Wednesday, July 27, 1949, decreed, and the August Pontiff in an audience on the following Thursday, July 28, 1949, deigned to give his approval, that the following explanations pertinent to the doctrine, and also that invitations and exhortations relevant to discipline be given:

We are bound by divine and Catholic faith to believe all those things which are contained in the word of God, whether it be Scripture or Tradition, and are propose by the Church to be believed as divinely revealed, not only through solemn judgment but also through the ordinary and universal teaching office (Denzinger, n. 1792). Now, among those things which the Church has always preached and will never cease to preach is contained also that infallible statement by which we are taught that there is no salvation outside the Church.

However, this dogma must be understood in that sense in which the Church herself understands it. For, it was not to private judgments that Our Savior gave for explanation those things that are contained in the deposit of faith, but to the teaching authority' of the Church.

Now, in the first place, the Church teaches that in this matter there is question of a most strict command of Jesus Christ. For He explicitly enjoined on His apostles to teach all nations to observe all things whatsoever He Himself had commanded (Matt., 28:19-20).

Now, among the commandments of Christ, that one holds not the least place, by we are commanded to be incorporated by Baptism into the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church, and to remain united to Christ and to His Vicar, through whom He Himself in a visible manner governs the Church on earth.

Therefore, no one will be saved who, knowing the Church to have been divinely established by Christ, nevertheless refuses to submit to the Church or withholds obedience from the Roman Pontiff, the Vicar of Christ on earth. Not only did the Savior command that all nations should enter the Church, but also decreed the Church to he a means of salvation, without which no one can enter the kingdom of eternal glory.  In His infinite mercy God has willed that the effects, necessary for one to be saved, of those helps to salvation which are directed toward man's final end, not by intrinsic necessity, but only by divine institution, can also be obtained in certain circumstances when those helps are used only in desire and longing. This we see clearly stated in the Sacred Council of Trent, both in reference to the Sacrament of Regeneration and in reference to the Sacrament of Penance (Denzinger, nn. 797, ~o7).

The same in its own degree must be asserted of the Church, in as far as she is the general help to salvation. Therefore, that one may obtain eternal salvation, it is not always required that he be incorporated into the Church actually as a member, but it necessary that at least he be united to her by desire and longing.  However, this desire need not always be explicit, as it is in catechumens; but when person is involved in invincible ignorance, God accepts also an implicit desire, so called because it is included in that good disposition of soul whereby a person wishes will to be conformed to the will of God.

These things are clearly taught in that dogmatic letter which was issued by the Sovereign Pontiff, Pope Pius XII, on June 29, 1943, "On the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ" (AAS, Vol. 35, an. '943, p. i93ff.). For in this letter the Sovereign Pontiff clearly distinguishes between those who are actually incorporated into the Church as albers, and those who are united to the Church only by desire.  Discussing the members of which the Mystical Body is composed here on earth, same August Pontiff says: "Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed."

Toward the end of this same Encyclical Letter, when most affectionately inviting unity those who do not belong to the body of the Catholic Church, he mentions who "are related to the Mystical Body of the Redeemer by a certain unconscious yearning and desire," and these he by no means excludes from eternal salvation, but the other hand states that they are in a condition "in which they cannot be sure their salvation" since "they still remain deprived of those many heavenly gifts and helps which can only be enjoyed in the Catholic Church" AAS, loc. cit., 243).

With these wise words he reproves both those who exclude from eternal salvation united to the Church only by implicit desire, and those who falsely assert that men be saved equally well in every religion (cf. Pope Pius IX, Allocution "Singulari quadam," in Denzinger, nn. 1641, ff. also Pope Pius IX in the Encyclical Letter Quanto conficiamur moerore" in Denzinger, n. 1677).

But it must not be thought that any kind of desire of entering the Church suffices that one may be saved. It is necessary that the desire by which one is related to the Church be animated by perfect charity. Nor can an implicit desire produce its effect, unless a person has supernatural faith: "For he who comes to God must believe that God exists and is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Hebrew 11:6). The Council of Trent declares (Session VI, chap 8): Faith is the beginning of a man's salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God and attain to the fellowship of His children" (Denzinger, n. 80l).

From what has been said it is evident that those things which are proposed in the periodical "From the Housetops," fascicle 3, as the genuine teaching of the Catholic Church are far from being such and are very harmful both to those within the Church and those without.

From these declarations which pertain to doctrine certain conclusions follow which regard discipline and conduct, and which cannot be unknown to those who vigorously defend the necessity by which all are bound of belonging to the true Church and of submitting to the authority of the Roman Pontiff and of the Bishops "whom the Holy Ghost has placed . . . to rule the Church" (Acts, 20:28).

Hence, one cannot understand how the St. Benedict Center can consistently claim to be a Catholic school and wish to be accounted such, and yet not conform to the prescriptions of Canons 1381 and 1382 of the Code of Canon Law, and continue to exist as a source of discord and rebellion against ecclesiastical authority and as a source of the disturbance of many consciences.

Furthermore, it is beyond understanding how a member of a religious institute, namely Father Feeney, presents himself as a "Defender of the faith," and at the same time does not hesitate to attack the catechetical instruction proposed by lawful authorities, and has not even feared to incur grave sanctions threatened by the sacred canons because of his serious violations of his duties as a religions, a priest and an ordinary member of the Church.

Finally, it is in no wise to be tolerated that certain Catholics shall claim for themselves the right to publish a periodical, for the purpose of spreading theological doctrines, without the permission of competent Church Authority; called the "imprimatur," which is prescribed by the sacred canons.

Therefore, let them who in grave peril are ranged against the Church seriously bear in mind that after "Rome has spoken" they cannot be excused even by reasons of good faith. Certainly, their bond and duty of obedience toward the Church is much graver than that of those who as yet are related to the Church "only by an unconscious desire." Let them realize that they are children of the Church, lovingly nourished by her with the milk of doctrine and the sacraments, and hence, having heard the clear voice of their Mother, they cannot be excused from culpable ignorance, and therefore to them applies without any restriction that principle: submission to the Catholic Church and to the Sovereign Pontiff is required as necessary for salvation.

In sending this letter, I declare my profound esteem, and remain Your Excellency's most devoted

E Cardinal Marchetti-Selvaggiani
A. Ottaviani Assessor

To His Excellency
Most Reverend Richard James Cushing
Archbishop of Boston


Patristic Restrictive Texts

"Shepherd" of Hermas (140 A.D.): “These apostles and the teachers who preached the name of the Son of God, when they fell asleep in the power and faith of the Son of God, preached also to those who had fallen asleep earlier, and they gave them the seal of the preaching. They therefore went down into the water with them, and came up again.”

St. Justin the Martyr (150 A.D.):  "Then they (converts) are led by us where there is water, and are regenerated. . . . For Christ said: Unless you are born again, you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven."[5] In context, of course, Justin is speaking of converts. Yet the insistence on Baptism is strong. On the other hand, as we shall see, Justin has some of the most important texts of a broader type. St. Irenaeus who also has many broad passages, has one which might be considered restrictive: "God places in the Church apostles, prophets, doctors . . . those who are not partakers of these, who do not run to the Church, deprive themselves of life through evil opinions and wicked working."

Clement of Alexandria (190 A.D.), (Stromata 2. 9: "He who does not enter through the door . . . is a thief and a robber. Therefore it is necessary for them to learn the truth through Christ and to be saved, even if they happen on philosophy."

Lactantius has a similar, though less sweeping text: "Whoever does not enter there (the Church), or whoever goes out from there, is foreign to the hope of life and salvation."[12] It is just possible that this could be taken to refer to those who are culpably outside.

Saint Irenaeus (died A.D. 202): "[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." (Against Heresies, Book III)

Origen (died A.D. 254): "Let no man deceive himself. Outside this house, that is, outside the Church no one is saved." (In Iesu Nave homiliae).

Origen (Homilies on Joshua, c. A.D. 249-251):  “If someone of that people wishes to be saved, let him come into this house, so that he may be able to obtain his salvation.... Let no one, then, be persuaded otherwise, nor let anyone deceive himself: outside this house, that is, outside the Church, no one is saved. For if anyone go outside, he shall be guilty of his own death.” (Jurgens, p. 214).

Saint Cyprian (died A.D. 258): "He who has turned his back on the Church of Christ shall not come to the rewards of Christ; he is an alien, a worldling, an enemy. You cannot have God for your Father if you have not the Church for your mother. Our Lord warns us when He says: `he that is not with Me is against Me, and he that gathereth not with Me scattereth.' Whosoever breaks the peace and harmony of Christ acts against Christ; whoever gathers elsewhere than in the Church scatters the Church of Christ." (Unity of the Catholic Church)

"He who does not hold this unity, does not hold the law of God, does not hold the faith of the Father and the Son, does not hold life and salvation." (Patrologiae Cursus Completus: Latina, Father Migne)

"Nay, though they should suffer death for the confession of the Name, the guilt of such men is not removed even by their blood...No martyr can he be who is not in the Church." (Ancient Christian Writers)

“If the Baptism of public witness and of blood cannot profit a heretic unto salvation, because there is no salvation outside the Church, () how much the more worthless is it for him, in secret places in the caves of robbers, dipped in the contagion of adulterous water, not merely not to have put off his former sins, but even to have added new and greater ones! (William A. Jurgens, , vol. 1, Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1970, p. 238)

Bishop Firmilean (died A.D. 269): "What is the greatness of his error, and what the depth of his blindness, who says that remission of sins can be granted in the synagogues of heretics, and does not abide on the foundation of the one Church." (Anti-Nicene Fathers)

Lactantius (died A.D. 310): "It is the Catholic Church alone which retains true worship. This is the fountain of truth, this is the abode of the Faith, this is the temple of God; into which if anyone shall not enter, or from which if anyone shall go out, he is a stranger to the hope of life and eternal salvation." (The Divine Institutes)

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (died A.D. 386): "Abhor all heretics...heed not their fair speaking or their mock humility; for they are serpents, a `brood of vipers.' Remember that, when Judas said `Hail Rabbi,' the salutation was an act of betrayal. Do not be deceived by the kiss but beware of the venom. Abhor such men, therefore, and shun the blasphemers of the Holy Spirit, for whom there is no pardon. For what fellowship have you with men without hope. Let us confidently say to God regarding all heretics, `Did I not hate, O Lord, those who hated Thee, and did I not pine away because of Your enemies?' For there is an enmity that is laudable, as it is written, `I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed.' Friendship with the serpent produces enmity with God, and death. Let us shun those from whom God turns away." (The Fathers of the Church)

Saint Ambrose (died A.D. 397): "Where Peter is therefore, there is the Church. Where the Church is there is not death but life eternal. ...Although many call themselves Christians, they usurp the name and do not have the reward." (The Fathers of the Church)

Bishop Niceta of Remesiana (died A.D. 415): "He is the Way along which we journey to our salvation; the Truth, because He rejects what is false; the Life, because He destroys death. ...All who from the beginning of the world were, or are, or will be justified - whether Patriarchs, like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, or Prophets, whether Apostles or martyrs, or any others - make up one Church, because they are made holy by one faith and way of life, stamped with one Spirit, made into one Body whose Head, as we are told, is Christ. I go further. The angels and virtues and powers in heaven are co-members in this one Church, for, as the Apostle teaches us, in Christ `all things whether on the earth or in the heavens have been reconciled.' You must believe, therefore, that in this one Church you are gathered into the Communion of Saints. You must know that this is the one Catholic Church established throughout the world, and with it you must remain in unshaken communion. There are, indeed, other so called `churches' with which you can have no communion. ...These `churches' cease to be holy, because they were deceived by the doctrines of the devil to believe and behave differently from what Christ commanded and from the tradition of the Apostles." (The Fathers of the Church)

Saint Jerome (died A.D. 420): "As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with none but your blessedness, that is, with the Chair of Peter. For this, I know, is the rock on which the Church is built. ...This is the ark of Noah, and he who is not found in it shall perish when the flood prevails. ...And as for heretics, I have never spared them; on the contrary, I have seen to it in every possible way that the Church's enemies are also my enemies." (Manual of Patrology and History of Theology)

Saint Augustine (died A.D. 430): "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 the sacraments, one can sing alleluia, one can answer amen, one can have faith in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and preach it too, but never can one find salvation except in the Catholic Church." (Sermo ad Caesariensis Ecclesia plebem)

St. Fulgentius of Ruspe (The Rule of Faith (c. A.D. 523-526)):  “Hold most firmly and never doubt in the least that not only all pagans but also all Jews and all heretics and schismatics who end this present life outside the Catholic Church are about to go into the eternal fire that was prepared for the Devil and his angels (William A. Jurgens, , vol. 3, Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1979, p. 298).

Saint Fulgentius (died A.D. 533): "Most firmly hold and never doubt that not only pagans, but also all Jews, all heretics, and all schismatics who finish this life outside of the Catholic Church, will go into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." (Enchiridion Patristicum)

Pope Innocent III, (1208: DS 792): "We believe in our heart and confess in our mouth that there is one Church, not of heretics, but the Holy Roman Catholic apostolic Church, outside of which we believe no one is saved."

Lateran Council IV (1215: DS 802): "There is one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which no one at all is saved."

Pope Boniface VIII, (1302: DS 870): "Outside of which there is neither salvation nor remission of sins... . But we declare, state and define that to be subject to the Roman Pontiff is altogether necessary for salvation." [The second part merely means there is no salvation outside the Church, for it is quoted from St. Thomas Aquinas, Contra errores Graecorum 36. #1125 where context shows the sense]. Pope Clement VI, , 1351: DS 1051): "No man... outside the faith of the Church and obedience to the Roman Pontiff can finally be saved."

Council of Florence (1442: DS 1351): "It firmly believes, professes and preaches, that none who are outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can partake of eternal life, but they will go into eternal fire... unless before the end of life they will have been joined to it [the Church] and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body has such force that only for those who remain in it are the sacraments of the Church profitable for salvation; and fastings, alms, and other works of piety and exercises of the Christian soldiery bring forth eternal rewards [only] for them. 'No one, howsoever much almsgiving he has done, even if he sheds his blood for Christ, can be saved, unless he remains in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church. '" [Internal quote at end is from Fulgentius, as we saw above].

St. Cyril of Alexandria, says J. N. D. Kelly, "was voicing universally held assumptions when he wrote (in Ps 30:22) that 'mercy is not obtainable outside the holy city'."[16]

 St. Fulgentius of Ruspe clearly follows in the train of St. Cyprian: "Not only all pagans, but also all Jews and all heretics and schismatics, who finish their lives outside the Catholic Church, will go into eternal fire. . . . No one, howsoever much he may have given alms, even if he sheds his blood for the name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remains in the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church."[17] Fulgentius also is at least close to the error of Cyprian on invalidity of baptism given by heretics: "Baptism can exist . . . even among heretics . . . but it cannot be beneficial (prodesse) outside the Catholic Church."[18] He likewise believes, with Augustine, in the damnation of unbaptized infants.[19]

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, 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."

St. Bede the Venerable (died A.D. 735): "Just as all within the ark were saved and all outside of it were carried away when the flood came, so when all who are pre-ordained to eternal life have entered the Church, the end of the world will come and all will perish who are found outside." (Hexaemeron)

Saint Thomas Aquinas (died A.D. 1274): "There is no entering into salvation outside the Church, just as in the time of the deluge there was none outside the ark, which denotes the Church." (Summa Theologiae)

Saint Peter Canisius (died A.D. 1597): "Outside of this communion - as outside of the ark of Noah - there is absolutely no salvation for mortals: not for Jews or pagans who never received the faith of the Church, nor for heretics who, having received it, corrupted it; neither for the excommunicated or those who for any other serious cause deserve to be put away and separated from the body of the Church like pernicious members...for the rule of Cyprian and Augustine is certain: he will not have God for his Father who would not have the Church for his mother." (Catechismi Latini et Germanici)

Saint Robert Bellarmine (died A.D. 1621): "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 with 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." (De Sacramento Baptismi)


Patristic Support for Limbo of the Children

St. Gregory Nazianzan said: "...It will happen, I believe, that those last mentioned [i.e. infants dying without baptism] will neither be admitted by the just judge to the glory of heaven, nor condemned to suffer punishment, since though unsealed [by baptism], they are not wicked...For from the fact that one does not merit punishment it does not follow that he is worthy of being honored, any more than it follows that one who is not worthy of a certain honor deserves punishment on that account."

St. Bonaventure writes: "...Finally to these punishments are added the punishment of...being deprived of the sight of God and the loss of heavenly glory, affecting both adults and children who are unbaptized. The children are punished along with the others but by the mildest punishment because they deserve only the punishment of those who are lost not the punishment of the senses."

In 1206 Pope Innocent III wrote to the Archbishop of Lyons in response to his question concerning the fate of unbaptized babies: "Original sin, therefore, which is committed without consent, is remitted without consent through the power of the sacrament of Baptism; but actual sin which is contracted with consent, is not mitigated in the slightest without consent...The punishment of original sin is deprivation of the vision of God, but the punishment of actual sin is the torments of everlasting hell." (Denz. 410)

In 1274 the Council of Lyons taught: “The souls of those who die in mortal sin or in original sin only, however, immediately descend to hell, yet to be punished with different punishments." (Denz. 464)

In 1321 Pope John XXII wrote in a letter to the Armenians: "[The Roman Catholic Church] teaches...that the souls...of those who die in mortal sin, or with original sin only, descend immediately into hell; however to be punished with different penalties and in different places." (Denz. 493a)

In 1438 the Council of Florence said that the Church's teaching on the Limbo of the Children had been "defined." While this of course is not strictly true, it perhaps indicates the high theological note which this teaching enjoys: "It has likewise been defined...moreover the souls of those who depart in actual mortal sin or in original sin only, descend immediately into hell but undergo punishments of a different kind." (Denz. 693)

The rigorist Jansenists taught that unbaptized children were punished in the fires of hell, and rejected as a "Pelagian fable" the Church's teaching on the Limbo of the Children. This error was condemned by Pope Pius VI in 1794:  "The doctrine which rejects as a Pelagian fable that place of the lower regions (which the faithful generally designate by the name of the Limbo of Children) in which the souls of those departing with the sole guilt of original sin are punished with the punishment of the condemned, exclusive of fire, just as if, by this very fact, that those who remove the punishment of fire introduced that middle place and state, free of guilt and punishment between the kingdom of God and eternal damnation, such as that about which the Pelagians idly talk: [This proposition is] false, rash, injurious to Catholic schools." (Denz. 1526)

John Pacheco
The Catholic Legate
December 12, 2001