Expert Answer Forum
No salvation outside the church? QUESTION from Magnús December 20, 2000 I have been trying to find an answer to this question, if there is salvation in other christian churces, like a for example Lutheran church or a fundamentalist group. On EWTN faq's says We must hold as of the faith, that out of the Apostolic Roman Church there is no salvation, but it adds that those who are invincible in ignorance of the true religion are not guilty for this in the eyes of the Lord. I have also read about how fr. Feeney was condemned for stating that only baptized Catholics can go to heaven. It is a little hard for me to get a firm understanding on this. I want to understand this. Lutheran ministers and fundamentalists, which know of the Catholic church and have heard the arguments for why we belive i is the church Christ founded, but refuse to belive it, are they in ignorance? They accept Jesus but reject his church (or belive that their church is included in the church of Christ). If they ask me, do I think there is salvation for people of their church, what should I tell them? It would be easy to avoid answering and say God only knows but the answer is in Magisterium of the Church, or what?
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, O.L.S.M. on March 4, 2001 Dear Magnús:
This is a good question and one that many wonder about.
First, because someone KNOWS OF does not mean that they KNOW. For example, nearly every single person in the Western World KNOWS OF Jesus, that is they know his name. They might even know that he claimed to be the Son of God. But knowing that a person named Jesus lived in history is a far cry from KNOWING Jesus in one's heart.
If a person has not come to a place that he has been honestly convinced of the Truth of Jesus and His Church, even though he may have heard of the Catholic Church may be in invinsible ignorance -- that is an unintentional ignorance. He is ignorant because he was praised Baptist, or Hindu, and thus doesn't know any better.
But there may come a time in that person's life in which he has been given adequate reason to believe but he chooses not to believe or chooses to pretend ignorance, it is at this time a person may depart from invincible igorance into a culpable konwledge.
St. Gregory said, It is one thing not to know, another to wish to not to know; for he who closes his eyes that he may not see the truth is the despiser of the law.
But since true knowing, understanding, and accepting of the truth cannot be known by us of another person, we must leave to God to sort out who really KNOWS and is rejecting as opposed to people who are honestly ignorant.
Feeney was excommunicated because he asserted that one had to be a card caryying baptised and confirmed Catholic to go to hell. To Feeney it did not matter if someone was in invincible ignorance. It did not matter to him if a person was a native of come Amazon tribe who had never heard of Jesus or the Catholic Church. They are going to hell, as far as he was concerned. These ideas of Feeney's were heresy. Yes, there is salvation for those not in the Catholic Church. But the Catholic Church is the surest and easiest way to be saved. The Church of Christ, because they have not yet been convinved of the truth of the Catholic Church, will be judged according to what they do know. That is God's mercy.
Back to Index Page