The Popes on Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus

The Popes through the centuries have defended the doctrine “outside the Church there is no salvation.” Here is small reference of their teachings on the matter:

Ordinary Magisterium

Pope Pelagius II (A.D. 578 – 590): “Consider the fact that whoever has not been in the peace and unity of the Church cannot have the Lord. …Although given over to flames and fires, they burn, or, thrown to wild beasts, they lay down their lives, there will not be (for them) that crown of faith but the punishment of faithlessness. …Such a one can be slain, he cannot be crowned. …[If] slain outside the Church, he cannot attain the rewards of the Church.” (Denzinger 246-247)

Pope Saint Gregory the Great (A.D. 590 – 604): “Now the holy Church universal proclaims that God cannot be truly worshipped saving within herself, asserting that all they that are without her shall never be saved.” (Moralia)

Pope Saint Gregory the Great

Pope Saint Gregory the Great

Pope Innocent III (A.D. 1198 – 1216): “With our hearts we believe and with our lips we confess but one Church, not that of the heretics, but the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church, outside which we believe that no one is saved.” (Denzinger 423)

Pope Leo XII (A.D. 1823 – 1829): “We profess that there is no salvation outside the Church. …For the Church is the pillar and ground of the truth. With reference to those words Augustine says: `If any man be outside the Church he will be excluded from the number of sons, and will not have God for Father since he has not the Church for mother.'” (Encyclical, Ubi Primum)

Pope Gregory XVI (A.D. 1831 – 1846): “It is not possible to worship God truly except in Her; all who are outside Her will not be saved.” (Encyclical, Summo Jugiter)

Pope Pius IX (A.D. 1846 – 1878): “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.” (Denzinger 1647)

Pope Leo XIII (A.D. 1878 – 1903): “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 nowhere but in the Church.” (Encyclical, Annum Ingressi Sumus)

“He scatters and gathers not who gathers not with the Church and with Jesus Christ, and all who fight not jointly with Him and with the Church are in very truth contending against God.” (Encyclical, Sapientiae Christianae)

Pope Saint Pius X (A.D. 1903 – 1914): “It is our duty to recall to everyone great and small, as the Holy Pontiff Gregory did in ages past, the absolute necessity which is ours, to have recourse to this Church to effect our eternal salvation.” (Encyclical, Jucunda Sane)

Pope Benedict XV (A.D. 1914 – 1922): “Such is the nature of the Catholic faith that it does not admit of more or less, but must be held as a whole, or as a whole rejected: This is the Catholic faith, which unless a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.” (Encyclical, Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum)

Pope Pius XI (A.D. 1922 – 1939): “The Catholic Church alone is keeping the true worship. This is the font of truth, this is the house of faith, this is the temple of God; if any man enter not here, or if any man go forth from it, he is a stranger to the hope of life and salvation….Furthermore, in this one Church of Christ, no man can be or remain who does not accept, recognize and obey the authority and supremacy of Peter and his legitimate successors.” (Encyclical, Mortalium Animos)

Pope Pius XII (A.D. 1939 – 1958): “By divine mandate the interpreter and guardian of the Scriptures, and the depository of Sacred Tradition living within her, the Church alone is the entrance to salvation: She alone, by herself, and under the protection and guidance of the Holy Spirit, is the source of truth.” (Allocution to the Gregorian, October 17, 1953)

Extraordinary Magisterium

Then, as though to set this constant teaching of the Fathers, Doctors and Popes “in concrete,” so to speak, we have the following definitions from the Solemn Magisterium of the Church:

Pope Innocent III and Lateran Council IV (A.D. 1215): “One indeed is the universal Church of the faithful outside which no one at all is saved…”

Pope Boniface VIII in his Papal Bull Unam Sanctam (A.D. 1302): “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 Eugene IV and the Council of Florence (A.D. 1438 – 1445): “[The most Holy Roman Church] firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics cannot 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 unity of 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 practiced, 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 Catholic Church.”

  • Agbo Francis

    Vatican ll Council teaches that salvation can also be found outside the Church. As a devot Catholic, (1) should i stop going to Church (2) should i reject this teaching (3)if i should stop going to Church, do i sin against God since this Council rejects this Dogma of salvation

  • Dear Agbo Francis,

    Vatican II teaches no such thing. It is conceivable that one might read that meaning into an ambiguous passage, but this would violate the “hermeneutic of continuity” the present Holy Father says must be applied to Vatican II. What the Magisterium has defined infallibly is binding dogma. Vatican II has not bound us to new dogma, and this is verified by Pope Benedict XVI. You must not stop going to Church. You must hold binding Church dogma and reject what contradicts it, leaving the judgment of Vatican II to the Supreme Pontiff — the only authority on earth who can judge it definitively.

  • Rushad

    Brother Andre, it is so wonderful to see an order of religious that is dedicated to defending the reality of Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus and the Traditional Latin Mass. God Bless you Slave of Our Lady in the work for the gospel that you do!

  • John M. Blake

    When will we be able to obtain copies of Cardinal Biffi’s book “Shepherds and Sheep” in English???

  • Doug

    The disclaimer here at the bottom states: “We do not allow disrespectful remarks directed at the Supreme Pontiff or the bishops in communion with him” and “Personal attacks against authors will not be posted. Neither will personal attacks against the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary”. Notice how nothing is said about attacks against the one true Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He must not be important here.

  • Doug:

    Read No. 4: “4. Blasphemy, foul language, bathroom talk, and links to immoral web sites will not be allowed.”

    If you look up “blasphemy,” you will find that affronts to Our Lord Jesus Christ are covered in it. Should you actually read our site’s content, you will find that your false inference — “He must not be important here” — is just that.

  • Alan Fud

    Some claim that people do not need to be Catholic in order to be saved if, through no fault of their own, they were never exposed to the faith because of the Church’s invincible ignorance teaching? Is this true? If not, how does one address that?

  • Alan,

    The quickest thing to show them is the infallible definition of Pope Euguene IV from the Council of Florence, which does not admit of that interpretation:

  • Charles

    Pope St. Pius X wrote in his Catechism:

    29 Q. But if a man through no fault of his own is outside the Church, can he be saved?
    A. If he is outside the Church through no fault of his, that is, if he is in good faith, and if he has received Baptism, or at least has the implicit desire of Baptism; and if, moreover, he sincerely seeks the truth and does God’s will as best he can such a man is indeed separated from the body of the Church, but is united to the soul of the Church and consequently is on the way of salvation

    Fr. Michael Mueller, writing in the 1880’s, called that proposition a heresy. Now, I don’t think anybody would call Pope Pius X a heretic. So, how do you address this passage of Pius X’s catechism?

  • Mark

    I have to admit that I haven’t performed a thorough search on related articles, but I think you must, along with the teaching of the Popes mentioned, include those sections of Lumen Gentium, a dogmatic Constitution, the fruit of a solemn ecumenical Council, a solemn act of the Church’s Magisterium – which deal with “Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus”. Especially if you espouse Pope Benedict XVI’s “hermeneutic of continuity”. Just as it can mislead people to isolate passages of Scripture from the context of its united whole, it can mislead people to select particular Church doctrine without considering the coherence of the truths of faith among themselves.

  • Mark:

    Perhaps you can show whether, how, and to what degree a decree of a pastoral council corrected the previous magisterium, particularly in light of Cardinal Ratzinger’s statement:

    “The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular Council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest.” — Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, “Address to the Bishops of Chile,” (13 July 1988). Online; available from:

    And then there’s notification appended to Lumen Gentium. During the course of the Council, the Theological Commission published a Declaration dated March 6, 1964. The text was subsequently inserted into an official series of Notificationes appended to LG by Archbishop Pericle Felici, Secretery General to the Council. It therefore represents the authority of the Council itself in the matter:

    “Taking conciliar custom into consideration and also the pastoral purpose of the present Council, the sacred Council defines as binding on the Church only those things in matters of faith and morals which it shall openly declare to be binding. The rest of the things which the sacred Council sets forth, inasmuch as they are the teaching of the Church’s supreme magisterium, ought to be accepted and embraced by each and every one of Christ’s faithful according to the mind of the sacred Council. The mind of the Council becomes known either from the matter treated or from its manner of speaking, in accordance with the norms of theological interpretation.”

  • Andrew Joe Nelson

    Pope Pius X also wrote this in his Catechism:

    27 Q. Can one be saved outside the Catholic, Apostolic and Roman Church?
    A. No, no one can be saved outside the Catholic, Apostolic Roman Church, just as no one could be saved from the flood outside the Ark of Noah, which was a figure of the Church.

    Also, through no fault, or invincible(innocent) ignorance may be saved(it is not automatic as a person can still be in a state of mortal sin). Plus, vincible(culpable) ignorance is not a legitimate defense in not coming into the Catholic Church.

    As I look at my own past before I came into the Catholic Church, I was definitely in mortal sin, and I was also culpable for not seeking the one truth of Jesus Christ. When we truly seek the one truth, we will inevitably be led to the Catholic Church. However, many do not sincerely seek the one truth, as was the case for myself. I chose not to seek the one truth in the past, and held firm in the pride of my personal beliefs.