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Kevin Terry wrote:


A lady from my Methodist Bible Study that ended a few weeks ago, asked me,

How is one saved in the Roman Catholic Church?

I know we are saved by faith and works.

  • Where in the Catechism does it discuss this?
  • Do you have anything on your web site that discusses this doctrine?



  { Are there any postings that discuss how Catholics are saved and where is this in the Catechism? }

Mike replied:

Hi, Kevin —

There are two areas in the Catechism that address this teaching.

The first area and main area covers CCC paragraph 1987 through 2029:

  • justification
  • grace
  • merit, and
  • Christian holiness

The second area discusses an important teaching of the Church that is often misunderstood:

Outside the Church there is no salvation

The reason why it is misunderstood is because people omit a certain part of the whole
understanding of the teaching. The end result is one understands half the truth which ends up in a heretical, incorrect understanding of the teaching.

I have a whole section dedicated to this teaching and am very, very familiar with Fr. Feeney issues. The history behind his legacy can be long and complicated.

For visitors who wish to truly understand this teaching, I recommend reading all the postings in that specific section of the site. There are two very important things that everyone should know:

  1. Fr. Leonard was never excommunicated for doctrinal reasons but for reasons based on disobedience.
  2. When the monks associated with the Abbey were reconciled with the Church all they had to do is recite the Creed. Nothing had to be recanted.

Although I would encourage you to read the whole section from the Catechism starting with:

Paragraph 3. The Church Is One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic

The specific section on the teaching: Outside the Church there is no salvation follows:

Outside the Church there is no salvation

846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? (cf. Cyprian, Ep. 73.21:PL 3,1169; De unit.:PL 4,509-536)
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.

(Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 14; cf. Mark 16:16; John 3:5)

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.

(Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 16; cf. DS 3866-3872)

848 "Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men." (Vatican II, Ad Gentes 7; cf. Hebrews 11:6; 1 Corinthians 9:16)

These postings should help:

Hope this helps,


Kevin replied:


I wanted to also ask you:

  • If you were a Protestant and you read your subtitle about the Catholic Church being the only true Church, would you be offended?

I like it, and obviously agree with it, but I think a lot of people around here would be offended if they read that statement.

  • What do you think?



Mike replied:

Hi, Kevin—.

You said:
I wanted to also ask you:

  • If you were a Protestant and you read your subtitle about the Catholic Church being the only true Church, would you be offended?

Sure I would be. I guess because the implication is that the Protestant faith I believe in is not as good as the faith Catholics believe in.

What you would need to do is explain to me:

  • the historical nature of the Catholic Church
  • that it is the only True Church that can trace itself back to 33 A.D., and
  • that in most, if not in all cases, the Bible Belt faiths down South were started by men, not by Jesus establishing His Church on St. Peter.

Once you have historically shown me that the Catholic Church was the only Faith Jesus founded on St. Peter and his successors, I would have no logical reason to deny that the Catholic Church is the only true Church.


Richard replied:

Hi, Mike —

I think Kevin needs something that gets more to the basics of the salvation issue for his dialogue with Methodist friends. Protestant Christians are concerned about questions like these — with the top questions being more important than the bottom ones:

  • What is salvation?
  • Why does man need it?
  • How do we find out about it?
  • Who makes it possible?
  • Does it require our consent [and/or] our cooperation?
  • Does God want us to do anything particular as our part in bringing it about?
  • In what ways is salvation a result of God's action?
  • In what ways is salvation a result of the believer's action?
  • What role do other Christians have in our salvation?
  • What role does the Christian community as a whole (Church) have?
  • Is salvation a permanent condition?
  • Can it be lost and regained?

For example, a Methodist will probably be reassured to learn that Catholics believe in many of the same basic teachings Protestants hold:

  • that salvation is friendship with God (the Holy Trinity), gained for us by Jesus Christ, who is both God and man;
  • that it is a gift, and not something we can independently merit;
  • that it is wholly connected with Jesus' Death and Resurrection;
  • that it includes the forgiveness of our sins; and
  • that it makes us, in some sense, sons of God.

Now, the Catechism doesn't always use the word salvation to talk about all these aspects, because it's not the only word used in Scripture to describe this relationship with God. You'll also find it described as fellowship or communion with God; as being in God's grace; as being in Christ.

— RC

Mary Ann replied:

Kevin —

Well, I personally would just say the Church founded by Christ, because the rest of it gets technical and thus open to misunderstanding. Theologically, there is one Church. There are some broken-off, but living, branches of the Church like the Orthodox ones, and there are denominations in which people live who are part of the Church:

  • by baptism
  • by faith and baptism, or
  • by faith but don't know it.

Those denominations contain truths, many truths, and these truths are truths of the true Church. There is one Lord, one faith, one Baptism. One rule, one belief, one sacramental body.
One Christ, one truth, one body into which we are baptized.

If it weren't for the Church, the truth and grace participated in by these Christians would not be in the world. The Church is the locus of Christ's acting in the world. Of course, the Spirit blows where He wills, and Christ has sheep not of this fold, but all that seek the good, tend to unite with it, and in that sense, all those who are outside of the Church, but sincerely seek the good according to the lights given them, are tending to union with the Church.

As for:

How do Catholics think we are saved?

We are saved by Christ!! He saves us by His work, and His working in us. In both cases, we have to consent. The fundamentalists give all power to the consent to the salvation prayer.

Catholics credit our consent, moved by God's grace, to Christ's work and to His working in us now by the Spirit, daily, as we work out our salvation, as St. Paul said. (Philippians 2:12)

Mary Ann

Eric replied:

Kevin —

I would avoid this formulation (one true church).

One it sounds triumphal. If you consider that virtuous, then it sounds like we are a cult.

It's not language well received by our modern world. It also sounds overly simplistic, and sounds like, as Mary Ann said, you are excluding the truth that others rightly possess.

I would prefer to say that we possess the fullness of truth. This is in line with the language of Vatican II, which never says we are the one true Church.

Hope this helps,


Terry replied:


Forgive me but I think you are wrong. The doctrine Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus is still part of Catholic Doctrine and to ignore this is to deny the enquirer the fullness of truth which the Church possesses.

Of course other ecclesial communities, like Protestants, Anglicans, etc. are not churches in the proper sense.

They contain some elements of truth, but not the fullness of truth. Similarly, pagan religions such as Hindu, Mohammedanism, etc. contain some (lesser) elements of truth, but we should take the example of St. Paul at the Areopagus when dealing with these issues.

Kind regards,


Eric replied:


  • What part of what I said denies Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus?

The question is not what to teach, but how to teach it.

One would not go up to a Protestant and tell him,

Outside the Catholic Church there no salvation. Join us or you'll go to Hell.

and expect him to convert. It may well be true, but we can't say that and expect people to be attracted to the faith.

Now, I'm not saying that there might not be specific scenarios where it would advance our cause to use such language, nor am I saying that there aren't people who need to hear this.

What I am saying is that, in general, people today are more likely to be turned off to the Catholic Church, thus further away from salvation, if we go around bragging about how we are the One True Church (tm).

On top of that, there is the distinction between saying We are the one true church, which tends to imply that everyone else is dead wrong, and saying We have the fullness of Truth which, from a doctrinal perspective, says exactly the same thing, but it sounds a lot less insulting to some people.

By the way, I am not denying that we are the One True Church. I'm just saying that we have to be careful when we say it to non-Catholics because some people may get the wrong idea.


Kevin replied:


No time to put this diplomatically, but the truth should be told as it is! Perhaps you, and the others, can make these points in a diplomatic manner.

I would start by being very controversial and say the Protestant Churches are not Churches but they are ecclesial communities.

The only Churches, in the true sense of the word, are the Latin Churches, i.e. known as Roman Catholic, though the Orthodox Churches share our beliefs with only two minor disagreements:

  1. the filioque clause in the Creed, and
  2. the Infallibility of the Pope, (although they do accept the Primacy of the Bishop of Rome), the Uniate Church

Note how, when speaking about Protestants etc. the Church refers to ecumenical relations between Catholics and other Christians ... note the absence of the words ...other Christian Churches.

Also note how Leo XIII dealt with Anglicans Orders — they are completely null and void!

If this is put in a kind way when explaining the Catholic position, then others should not take offense.


Eric replied:

My point, Kevin, is not that the Catholic Church isn't the true Church of Christ, but merely that, in some cases, it may not be prudent to use such language.

For example, St. Athanasius's famous statement,

God became man so that man might become God.

has to be handled delicately.


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