Is there Salvation outside the Catholic Church?

This is a question that many people ask. The answer is simple: NO!

The Catholic Church has infallibly defined THREE times that there is
no salvation outside the Church. And on numerous other occasions it
has, by way of the ordinary magesterium, taught that there is no sal-
vation outside the Catholic Church.

[The numbers signify the paragraph number in Denzinger's Enchirid-
ion Symbolorum {The Sources of Catholic Dogma} 30th edition.]

Athanasian Creed
39   Whoever wishes to be saved, needs above all to hold the Cath-
olic faith; unless each one preserves this whole and inviolate, he
will without a doubt perish in eternity.

Pope Pelagius II, about 585
246   If anyone, however, either suggests or believes or presumes to
teach contrary to this faith, let him know that he is condemned and 
also anathematized according to the opinion of the same Fathers....
Consider (therefore) the fact that whoever has not been in the peace
and unity of the Church, cannot have the Lord [Gal. 3:7]....

Pope Innocent III, 1208
423   By the heart we believe and by the mouth we confess the one
Church, not of heretics but the Holy Roman, catholic, and Apostolic
(Church) outside which we believe that no one is saved.

Pope Innocent III, 1215   ***INFALLIBLE***
430   One indeed is the universal Church of the faithful, outside
which no one at all is saved...

Pope Boniface VIII, 1302
468   With Faith urging us we are forced to believe and to hold the 
one, holy, Catholic Church and that, apostolic, and we firmly believe
and simply confess this (Church) outside which there is no salvation
nor remission of sins...

Pope Boniface VIII, 1302   ***INFALLIBLE***
469   ...we declare, say, define, and proclaim to every human crea-
ture that they by necessity for salvation are entirely subject to the
Roman Pontiff.

Pope Eugenius IV, 1442, at Council of Florence   ***INFALLIBLE***
714   It firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living
within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews, and
heretics and schismatics ccannot 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 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 prac-
ticed, 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 Cath-
olic Church.

Pope Gregory XVI, 1832
1613   Now we examine another prolific cause of evils by which, we
lament, the Church is at present afflicted, namely indifferentism, or
that base opinion which has become prevalent everywhere through
the deceit of wicked men, that eternal salvation of the soul can be
acquired by any profession of faith whatsoever, if morals are confor-
med to the standard of the just and honest....And so from this most 
rotten source of indifferentism flows the absurd and erroneous opin-
ion, or rather insanity, that liberty of conscience must be claimed and
defended for anyone.

Pope Pius IX, 1854
1646   Not without sorrow have we learned that another error, no 
less destructive, has taken possession of some parts of the Catholic
world, and has taken up its abode in the souls of many Catholics 
who think that one should have good hope of the eternal salvation 
of all those who have never lived in the true Church of Christ. There-
fore, they are wont to ask very often what will be the lot and cond-
ition after death of those who have not submitted in any way to the 
Catholioc faith, and, by bringing forward most vain reasons, they 
make a response favorable to their false opinion. Far be it from Us,
Venerable Brethren, to presume on the limits of divine mercy which
is infinite; far from Us, to wish to scrutinize the hidden counsel and
"judgments of God" which are "a great deep" [Ps 35: 7] and cannot
be penetrated by human thought. But, as is Our Apostolic duty, we
wish your episcopal solicitude and vigilance to be aroused, so that
you will strive as much as you can to drive from the mind of men that
impious and equally fatal opinion, namely that the way of eternal sal-
vation can be found in any religion whatsoever. May you demonst-
rate with that skill and learning in which you excel, to to the people
entrusted to your care that the dogmas of the Catholic faith are in no
wise opposed to divine mercy and justice.
1647   For 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; 
but, on the other hand, it is necessary to hold for certain that they 
who labor in ignorance of the true religion, if this ignorance is invinc-
ible, are not stained by any guilt in this matter in the eyes of God. 
Now, in thruth, who would arrogate so much to himself as to mark
the limits of such an ignorance, because of the nature and variety of
peoples, regions, innate dispositions, and of so many other things?
For, in truth, when released from these corporeal chains "we shall
see God as He is" [1 John 3:2], we shall understand perfectly by
how close and beautiful a bond divine mercy and justice  are 
united," but, as long as we are on earth, weighed down by this mortal 
mass which blunts the soul, let us hold firmly that, in accordance with
Catholic teaching, there is "one God, one faith, one baptism" [Eph.4:5];
it is unlawful to proceed further in inquiry.
1648   But, just as the way of charity demands, let us pour forth contin-
ual prayers that all nations everywhere may be converted to Christ; and
let us be devoted to the common salvation of men in proportion to our 
strength, "for the hand of the Lord is not shortened" [Isa. 9:1] and the
gifts of heavenly grace will not be wanting those who sincerely wish and
ask to be refreshed by this light. Truths of this sort should be deeply
fixed in the minds of the faithful, lest they be corrupted by false doct-
rines, whose object is to foster an indifference toward religion, which 
we see spreading widely and growing strong for the destruction of souls.

Pope Pius IX, 1863
1677   And here, beloved Sons and Venerable Brothers, We should mention 
again and censure a very grave error in which some Catholics are unhappily 
engaged, who believe that men living in error, and seperated from the true
faith and from Catholic unity, can attain eternal life. Indeed, this is cer-
tainly quite contrary to Catholic teaching. It is known to Us and to you that
they who labor in invincible ignorance of our most holy religion and who,
zealously keeping the natural law and its precepts engraved in the hearts of
all by God, and being ready to obey God, live an honest and upright life, can,
by the operating power of divine light and grace, attain eternal life, since 
God who clearly beholds, searches, and knows the minds, souls, thoughts, and
habits of all men, because of His great goodness and mercy, will by no means
suffer anyone to be punished with eternal torment who has not the guilt of
deliberate sin. But, the Catholic dogma that no one can be saved outside the 
Catholic Church is well-known; and also that those who are obstinate toward
the authority and definitions of the same Church, and who persistently seperate
themselves from the unity of the Church, and from the Roman Pontiff, the succ-
essor of PETER, to whom "the guardianship of the vine has been entrusted by the 
Savior," cannot obtain eternal salvation.
1678   But, God forbid that the sons of the Catholic Church ever in any way be
hostile to those who are not joined with us in the same bonds of faith and love;
but rather they should always be zealous to seek them out and aid them, whether
poor, or sick, or afflicted with any other burdens, with all the offices of
Christian charity; and they should especially endeavor to snatch them from the 
darkness of error in which they unhappily lie, and lead them back to Catholic 
truth, and to the most loving Mother the Church, who never ceases to stretch
out her maternal hands lovingly to them, and to call them back to her bosom so
that, established and firm in faith, hope, and charity, and "being fruitful in
every good work" [Col. 1:10], they may attain eternal salvation.

(From the Syllabus of Errors, Pope Pius IX. These are CONDEMNED errors:

1715   Everyman is free to embrace and profess that religion which he, led by 
the light of reason, thinks to be the true religion.
1716   In the worship of any religion whatever, men can find the way to eternal
salvation, and can attain eternal salvation.
1717   We must have at least good hope concerning the eternal salvation of all 
those who in no wise are in the true Church of Christ.
1718   Protestantism is nothing else than a different form of the same true 
Christian religion, in which it is possible to serve God as  well as in the 
Catholic Church.

Here are quotes from Pope John XXIII, Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul I, and Pope 
John Paul II:

The Ship of the Church is guided by Christ and by His Vicar...It alone 
carries the disciples and receives Christ. Yes, it is tossed on the sea
but, outside it, one would perish immediately. Salvation is only in the
Church; outside it, one perishes.     

Pope John Paul I, from the First Address to College of Cardinals,
Aug. 27, 1978, in the 1979 Catholic Almanac.

The mystery of salvation is revealed to us and is continued and 
accomplished in the Church, and from this genuine and single reaches the whole world. Dear young people, and
members of the faithful...we have to be conscious of and absorb
thid fundamental and revealed truth, contained in the phrase 
consecrated by tradition: There is no salvation outside the Church.
From her alone there flows surely and fully the life-giving force 
destined, in Christ and in His Spirit, to renew the whole of humanity,
and therefore directing every human being to become a part of the 
Mystical Body of Christ.

Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 10-21-81

It is impossible to be joined to God except through Jesus Christ; it is
impossible to be united to Christ except in and through the Church
which is His Mystical Body.

Pope John XXIII, Quotiescumque Nobis, 6-29-61

Jesus and the Church are the same thing: indissoluble, inseperable.
Christ and the Church are only one thing. It is not possible to say: I
believe in Jesus, I accept Jesus, but I do not accept the Church.

Pope John Paul I, General Audience, 9-13-78, published in 
L'Osservatore Romano.

One cannot believe in Christ without believing in the Church, the 
Body of Christ...Faithfulness to Christ implies, therefore, faithfulness
to the Church...Be faithful, then, to your faith without falling into the
dangerous illusion of seperating Christ from His Church.

Pope John Paul II, L'Osservatore Romano, 6-21-80 and 11-9-81

Not without sorrow can we hear people continually claiming to love
Christ but without the Church; to listen to Christ but not to the 
Church; to belong to christ but outside the Church. The absurdity of
this dichotomy is clearly evident in this phrase of the Gospel: "Anny-
one who rejects you, rejects me."

Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, No. 16, 12-8-75

And, for those who believe Vatican II is the ultimate Church Council, 
and the only one that really matters:

Lumen Gentium, Chapter II, 14

   This sacred Synod turns its attention first to the Catholic faithful.
Basing itself upon sacred Scripture and tradition, it teaches that the 
Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation.
For Christ, made present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the
one Mediator and unique Way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself 
affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mk 16:16; Jn. 3:5) and
thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism 
as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing 
that the Catholic Church was made necessary by God through Jesus Christ,
would refuse to enter her or to remain in her could not be saved.
   They are fully incorporated into the society of the Church who, 
possessing the Spirit of Christ, accept her entire system and all the 
means of salvation given to her, and through union with her visible
structure are joined to christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pont-
iff and the bishops. This joining is effected by the bonds of professed 
faith , of the sacraments, of ecclesiastical government, and of communion.
He is not saved, however, who, though he is part of the body of the Church,
does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the 
Church, but, as it were, only in a "bodily" manner, and not "in his heart".
All the sons of the Church should remember that their exalted status is to
be attributed not to their own merits but to the special grace of Christ.
If they fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word, and deed,
not only will they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged.


Here are some further quotes, from "Papal Teachings: The Church"
Selected and arranged by The Benedictine Monks of Solesmes, and 
published by St. Paul Editions (Daughters of St. Paul) 1962.

(The numbers are paragraph numbers as listed in the above named book)

Pope Gregory XVI, 1832
157 ...For in fact, you know as well as We do, Venerable Brothers, 
with what constancy our Fathers endeavored to inculcate this article
of faith which these innovators dare to deny, namely, the necessity of
Catholic faith and unity to obtain salvation.
158 This is what was taught by one of the most famous of the disciples
of the Apostles, St. Ignatius Martyr, in his Epistle to the Philadel-
phians: "Do not deceive yourselves," he wrote to them, "he who adheres
to the author of a schism will not possess the kingdom of God". St.
Augustine and the other bishops of Africa, assembled in 412 in the 
Council of Cirta expressed themselves in the following terms on the
subject: "He who is seperated from the body of the Catholic Church,
however laudable his conduct may otherwise seem, will never enjoy 
eternal life, and the anger of God remains on him by reason of the 
crime of which he is guilty in living seperated from Christ". And 
without citing here the witness of almost innumerable other ancient
Fathers, We will limit Ourselves to quoting Our glorious predecessor,
St. Gregory the Great, who gives explicit testimony to the fact that
such is the teaching of the Catholic Church on this head. "The holy
universal Church," he says, "teaches that God cannot be truly adored
except within its fold: she affirms that all those who are seperated
from her will not be saved".
159 It is also stated in the decree on faith published by another of 
Our predecessors, Innocent III, in concert with the fourth Ecumenical
Council of the Lateran, "that there is only one universal Church of 
the faithful, outside of which no one can be saved". Finally, the same
teaching is expressed in the professions of faith which have been pro-
posed by the Apostolic See; in the one which all the Latin Churches
use; as also in the two others, one of which is received by the 
Greeks, and the other by all other Eastern Catholics.
160 If we have cited these authorities among so many others We might
have added to them, it was not, Venerable Brothers, with the intention
of teaching you an article of faith as if you were ignorant of it. Far
be it from us to entertain so absurd and so damaging a suspicion in 
your regard! But the astonishing boldness with which certain innov-
ators have dared to attack one of our most important and obvious dog-
mas has made so painful an impression upon Us that We could not pre-
vent Ourselves from speaking at some length on this matter.

Pope Gregory XVI, 1841
186 With God's help, your clergy will never have any more pressing 
anxiety than to preach the true Catholic faith: he who does not keep
it whole and without error, will indubitably be lost. They will endea-
vor, therefore, to favor union with the Catholic Church; for he who is
seperated from it will not have life. They will maintain obedience to
this sovereign Chair of Peter, in which Christ the Lord laid the foun-
dation of this same Church, and where, consequently, is to be found 
the entire and perfect stability of the Christian religion.

Pope Pius IX, 1847
196 Therefore, let those who wish to be saved come to this pillar, to
this foundation of the truth which is the Church; let them come to the
true Church of Christ which, in her Bishops and in the Roman Pontiff,
the supreme head of all, possesses the uninterrupted succession of 
apostolic authority, which has never had anything more closely at 
heart than to preach, to preserve, and to defend with all her strength
the doctrine announced but the Apostles on the order of Jesus Christ;
who, since the days of the Apostles, has grown in the midst of diffi-
culties of every kind, and who, splendid with the splendor of miracles
in the entire world, made fruitful by the blood of Martyrs, ennobled
by the virtues of Confessors and Virgins, strengthened by the testi-
mony and the wise writings of the Fathers, has sent down roots and 
still flourishes in all the countries of the earth, brilliant in the 
perfect unity of her faith, of the sacraments and of her spiritual
sacred government. For Us, who, in spite of Our unworthiness, sit on
this supreme Chair of the Apostle Peter, on which Jesus Christ our
Lord laid the foundations of His Church, We will never spare either
Our efforts or Our labors, to bring back, by the grace of the same
Jesus Christ, to this unique way of truth and salvation, those in ig-
norance and error. Let all those who oppose Us remember that heaven
and earth will pass away, but that not one of Christ's words can pass
away,  that nothing can be changed in the doctrine which the Catholic
Church has received from Jesus Christ to preserve, to defend, and to

Pope Pius IX, 1856
222 The true Church is one, Holy, catholic, Apostolic, and Roman; 
unique: the Chair founded on Peter by the Lord's words; outside her
fold is to be found neither the true faith nor eternal salvation, for
it is impossible to have God for Father if one has not the Church for
Mother, and it is in vain that one flatters oneself on belonging to 
the Church, if one is seperated from the Chair of Pater on which the 
Church is founded. There could be no greater crime, no more detest-
able injury than opposition to Christ, than the rending of the Church
purchased and engendered in His divine Blood, than the furious att-
acks of pernicios discord against the peaceful and single-minded peo-
ple of God, to the detriment of evangelical charity.

Pope Leo XIII, 1896
555 The Church of Christ, therefore, is one and the same forever; 
those who leave it depart from the will and command of Christ the 
Lord--leaving the path of salvation they enter on that of perdition.
"Whosoever is seperated from the Church is united to an adultress. He
has cut himself off from the promises of the Church, and he who leaves
the Church of Christ cannot arrive at the rewards of Christ.... He who
observes not this unity observes not the law of God, holds not the 
faith of the Father and the Son, clings not to life and salvation".

Pope Leo XIII, 1900
647 By the ministry of this Church so gloriously founded by Him, He
willed to perpetuate the mission which He had Himself received from 
His Father; and, on the one hand, having put within her all the means
necessary for man's salvation, on the other hand, He formally enjoined
upon men the duty of obeying His Church as Himself, and religiously
taking her as a guide of their whole lives. "He that heareth you, 
heareth Me; he that despiseth you, despiseth Me". Therefore, it is 
from the Church alone that the law of Christ must be asked: and con-
sequently, if for man Christ is the way, the Church, too, is the way,
the former of Himself and by His nature, the latter by delegation and
communication of power. Consequently, all those who wish to reach sal-
vation outside the Church, are mistaken as to the way and are engaged
in a vain effort.

Pope Leo XIII, 1902
653 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 no-
where but in the Church; the strong and effective instrument of sal-
vation is none other than the Roman Pontificate.

Pope Pius XI, 1931
907 "I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly".
When it is a question of this life and this salvation, we can and we
must say of the Church what St. Peter said of jesus Christ Himself:
"Neither is there salvation in any other". Fot it is is to the Church
alone that Jesus Christ has conferred the mandate and the means: the
doctrine of faith, the divine and ecclesiastical law, the divine word,
the sacraments, prayer, the theological and infused virtues. ........

Pope Pius XI, 1931
923 Therefore, from the high dignity of this Apostolic See, We pater-
nally exhort all those who glory in the fact that they are Christ's
disciples, who place in Him  all hope for the salvation not only of 
individuals but of society, to adhere each day more closely and firmly
to the Roman Church. In her alone is christ believed with a faith 
whole and entire, worshipped with sincere homage of adoration, and 
loved with the constant flame of ardent charity. Let them remember,
especially those who preside over the flock seperated from Us, what 
was the faith professed by their forbears at Ephesus: the same which
this supreme Chair of truth, in the past as in the present, keeps in-
tact and strenuously defends. Let them remember that the unity of the
the true faith rests on that unique rock established by Christ, and 
that this unity can be preserved in full security only by the supreme
authority of the successors of Blessed Peter.
924 A few years ago We spoke at greater length of this unity of the
Catholic religion in Our encyclical letter Mortalium Animos. It will
be useful here briefly to recall this matter to mind, since the hypo-
static union of Christ, solemnly defined at the Council of Ephesus,
contains and offers an image of that unity with which our Redeemer
wished to adorn His Mystical Body, that is, the Church, "one body"
"compacted and joined". For if the personal unity of Christ consti-
tutes the mysterious exemplar to which He Himself willed to see the 
close union of the Christian society conform, this certainly could 
never be the result of an unreal union of many warring elements, but
only of a single hierarchy, a single supreme teaching authority, a 
single rule of belief, and one faith embraced by all Christians. No
intelligent man can fail to see this.

Pope Pius XI, 1936
932 And you will say also, beloved sons, and you will not weary of re-
peating what the Vicar of Christ believes and proclaims-not simply as
Common Father of all the faithful, but also oas a man of his own time;
not simply for the well-being of the Church of which he is the Head,
but also for the general good-: that the catholic Church is the ir-
replaceable support and the sole conserving force of real and genuine
Christianity. In fact, what remains outside the Catholic church after
the real havoc wrought by the so-called free thought, liberalism, and
various pretended reforms, what remains of the doctrine of Jesus 
Christ transmitted by the Gospel and legitimate tradition? What rem-
ains of the sacraments instituted by Jesus Christ? What remains of His
Divine Person itself? .......

Pope Pius XI, 1937
934 Faith in Christ cannot be maintained pure and unalloyed when it is
not protected and supported by faith in the Church, "the pillar and 
ground of truth". It is Christ Himself, the ever-blessed God, who 
erected this pillar of faith. His commandment to hear the Church, to
receive in the teaching and commandments of the Church his own teach-
ing and commands, is binding on all men, on every period, and every 
country. The Church founded by the Redeemer is one-for all peoples and
nations. .......

As shown above, the Catholic Church has ALWAYS taught, DOES teach, and ALWAYS
Anyone who does not believe this, WILL, unless before death he firmly professes
and believes it, suffer eternal damnation.

This page was last updated on December 19, 1998