No Salvation Outside the Church?

For centuries, the Catholic Church has held to a rather strict doctrine: extra Ecclesiam nulla salus. For non-Latin speakers, “Outside of the Church, there is no salvation.” For Catholics of a certain age, it was a statement that was uttered often and defined the way Catholics related to non-Catholics, treating people of other faiths with respect, but sorrowfully looking upon their souls as lost.

And then all of the sudden, the phrase disappeared from our common language. Now, you would almost never hear such a statement spoken in a mainstream Catholic Church. It just seems so… politically incorrect, right? In a world where everyone is free to choose what to believe and can’t be judged by it, we would never say something so arrogant.


Well… it might surprise people that the Church has not abandoned this long-held stance. In fact, it has reaffirmed it even after the Second Vatican Council and up through Pope John Paul II’s papacy. If you read the Catechism, you will find this stance, quite literally “on the books.”

And yet, as some in the Church—responding to what they perceive to be a softening of the Church due precisely because of a desire to be politically correct—are bringing back this language in their everyday speech, it is important to know the history of such a phrase and how it doesn’t mean the same thing today as when it was first uttered. As Catholics, we may still hold to the teaching, but the teaching is much more nuanced than what is understood at face value.

4 Comments on “No Salvation Outside the Church?

  1. It would be nice if there were transcripts of these which we could download, plus references where appropriate so we could further study and better comprehend the information presented.

  2. Whoa. Good topic and I’m sure you found the twists and turns to get to the end fun and engaging but …not one of your better efforts. It came across like a lot of “double talk” and I was already familiar with the answers. Heaven help the neophytes! There’s value in the way of simplicity or at least in the slow, methodical roll out of language as it responds to changing societal mindsets. This leaves the Church sounding “addled” and I trust that was not your intent.

  3. What is “the Church”? The Roman Catholic Church, the whole Church Catholic, the followers of Jesus the Christ, the head of the Church. It all depends on the definition of “Church” to say that there is no salvation outside of the “Church”. Or, would it be better to say that there is no salvation outside of Jesus, the Christ???

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