Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus
“The universal Church of the faithful is one outside of which none is saved.” -Pope Innocent III, ex cathedra, Fourth Lateran Council (1215 AD)
“We declare, say , define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” -Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam (1302 AD)
“The Most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, also Jews, heretics, and schismatics can ever be partakers of eternal life, but that they are to go into the eternal fire ‘which was prepared for the devil and his angels’ (Mt. 25:41) unless before death they are joined with Her… No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ can be saved unless they abide within the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.” -Pope Eugene IV, ex cathedra, Council of Florence, Cantate Domino (1441 AD)
“The holy universal Church teaches that it is not possible to worship God truly except in Her and asserts that all who are outside of Her will not be saved.” -Pope Saint Gregory the Great (590-604)
“By heart we believe and by mouth 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, Eius exemplo, 18 December 1208 (DS 423)
“You see, dearly beloved sons and venerable brothers, how much vigilance is needed to keep the disease of this terrible evil from infecting and killing your flocks. Do not cease to diligently defend your people against these pernicious errors. Saturate them with the doctrine of Catholic truth more accurately each day. Teach them that just as there is only one God, one Christ, one Holy Spirit, so there is also only one truth which is divinely revealed. There is only one divine faith which is the beginning of salvation for mankind and the basis of all justification, the faith by which the just person lives and without which it is impossible to please God and to come to the community of His children.[Rom 1; Heb 11; Council of Trent, session 6, chap. 8.] There is only one true, holy, Catholic church, which is the Apostolic Roman Church. There is only one See founded in Peter by the word of the Lord,[St. Cyprian, epistle 43.] outside of which we cannot find either true faith or eternal salvation. He who does not have the Church for a mother cannot have God for a father, and whoever abandons the See of Peter on which the Church is established trusts falsely that he is in the Church.[St. Cyprian,de unitat. Eccl.] Thus, there can be no greater crime, no more hideous stain than to stand up against Christ, than to divide the Church engendered and purchased by His blood, than to forget evangelical love and to combat with the furor of hostile discord the harmony of the people of God.[St. Cyprian, epistle 72.]” -Blessed Pope Pius IX, Singulari Quidem, #4, 17 March 1856
“Some say they are not bound by the doctrine which teaches that the Mystical Body of Christ and the Roman Catholic Church are one and the same thing. Some reduce to a meaningless formula the necessity of belonging to the true Church in order to gain eternal salvation. Others finally belittle the reasonable character of the credibility of Christian Faith. These and like errors, it is clear, have crept in among certain of our sons who are deceived by imprudent zeal for souls or by false science.” -Venerable Pope Pius XII, Humani Generis, #27, 12 August 1950
All the statements above are beautifully coherent. There is no contradiction in them. In them, the Church explains and teaches one Truth. The emphases are obviously mine.
Please read all these statements attentively. Then reflect on the following:
Cantate domino does not state that a man who does not want to be damned must make a conscious, voluntary, publicly communicated decision to leave his heresy and join the Only Church. The requirement to avoid hell is that he be joined with Her before Death.
God, who is Omnipotent, can certainly join anyone He wishes to save to the Only Church before death. He can do that either by giving the soul of the man the consciousness that he is wrong and the Church is right, and a desire to be part of Her, just before his death (and neither you or I need be informed about the fact), or by joining him with Her of His own decree because the man was particularly good and God has decreed that he has died in invincible ignorance and is, therefore, worthy of becoming part of the Church before his death.
Christ is the Bridegroom. The Church is the Bride. It follows that Christ will not admit to the presence of the Bridegroom those whom He has not decreed to be joined with the Bride.
This is all very linear, very logical, elegantly unavoidable from the premises of Truth.
Where the problems begin is when the “imprudent zeal for souls” leads people to talk nonsense for an apparently good, but ultimately childish desire to see everyone (or almost everyone) saved; a childish desire and wishful thinking which, in fact, contributes to the damnation of those the childish person is so desirous to see saved, and might well be dangerous for the salvation of this person himself.
We cannot say, with absolute certainty, that this or that just deceased Proddie, or Infidel, or Unbeliever has gone to hell. Every single one of them might, just might, have saved his ass to Purgatory in the end. Odds don’t count here. We can just not exclude it, no matter how little the odds.
But we also cannot say that one particular sperm will not manage to fecundate the ovule. We cannot say that, no matter how little the odds!
Good luck, you little sperm. I wish you well. I really do.
Allow me not to bet my pint on you, though…
Being humans, we can’t avoid asking ourselves: “how are the odds”?
The answer lies in the simple phrase extra ecclesiam nulla salus. Seen that the “being joined with Her before death” by Divine Decree must be an exceptional circumstance (otherwise, you will agree, it would not make much sense, and in the extreme it would not make any sense at all, to be a Catholic in the first place) the odds can’t be good at all; in fact they must be, in descending order, from bad to absolutely terrifying for Proddies, Infidels, and Unbelievers*. How many of them will, without any obvious decision to convert, be fished out from Christ from the very jaws of Hell? We don’t know, but as stated above, it can only be the exception. He who stakes his salvation on God making an exception for him is, it seems to me, a presumptuous idiot.
Another important element must be derived from these reflections: there can be no true saintliness outside of the Church. “No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ can be saved unless they abide within the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.”
There is nothing like a “Protestant Saint”. There is also nothing like “protestant saintliness”. Every Protestant is marching towards hell. His piety and love for the Lord, his Christian zeal – no matter how strong; and I am sure it is very strong in many of them – avail him nothing, until and unless he is joined with the Church before death. Let us not kid ourselves about this, lest our “imprudent zeal for souls” makes their path far more difficult, and encourages them to walk toward a cliff out of which only the merciful hand of the Lord can save the one or other of them when they have their feet almost in mid-air.
What a blessing it is, to be a Catholic! How easier it is for us to safely travel through the perilous sea of life from the security of the Barque! How many, who think themselves too good for it, will drown! The greatest blessing of my life was to be born a Catholic. The second, to be born with a strong faith. Yes, in this order.
There is no salvation outside of the Church. The one or other will save their backside by being fished in by Our Lord just at the very last moment. But no one can say that he thinks that they will be very many and believe in extra ecclesiam nulla salus at the same time.
* For these, of course, they might have received the grace of faith and being joined with the Church before dying. If they died in their atheism, the matter is settled already. But this is why the Church teaches us to pray for our relatives and loved ones who apparently died in their atheism.