Lateran Council IV (A.D. 1215) — Pope Innocent III

Chapter I. The Catholic Faith

Firmly we believe and we confess simply that the true God is one alone, eternal, immense, and unchangeable, incomprehensible, omnipotent and ineffable, Father and Son and Holy Spirit: indeed three Persons but one essence, substance, or nature entirely simple. The Father from no one, the Son from the Father only, and the Holy Spirit equally from both; without beginning, always, and without end; the Father generating, the Son being born, and the Holy Spirit proceeding; consubstantial and coequal and omnipotent and coeternal; one beginning of all, creator of all visible and invisible things, of the spiritual and of he corporal; who by His own omnipotent power at once from the beginning of time created each creature from nothing, spiritual, and corporal, namely, angelic and mundane, and finally the human, constituted as it were, alike of the spirit and the body. For the devil and other demons were created by God good in nature, but they themselves through themselves have become wicked. But man sinned at the suggestion of the devil. This Holy Trinity according to common essence Undivided, and according to personal properties distinct, granted the doctrine of salvation to the human race, first through Moses and the holy prophets and his other servants according to the most methodical disposition of the time.

And finally the only begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ, incarnate by the whole Trinity in common, conceived of Mary ever Virgin with the Holy Spirit cooperating, made true man, formed of a rational soul and human flesh, one Person in two natures, clearly pointed out the way of life. And although He according to divinity is immortal and impassible, the very same according to humanity was made passible and mortal, who, for the salvation of the human race, having suffered on the wood of the Cross and died, descended into hell, arose from the dead and Ascended into heaven. But He descended in soul, and He arose in the flesh, and He ascended equally in both, to come at the end of time, to judge the living and the dead, and to render to each according to his works, to the wicked as well as to the elect, all of whom will rise with their bodies which they now bear, that they may receive according to their works, whether these works have been good or evil, the latter everlasting punishment with the devil, and the former everlasting glory with Christ.

One indeed is the universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved , in which the priest himself is the sacrifice, Jesus Christ, whose body and blood are truly contained in the sacrament of the altar under the species of bread and wine; the bread (changed) into His body by the divine power of transubstantiation, and the wine into the blood, so that to accomplish the mystery of unity we ourselves receive from His (nature) what He Himself received from ours. And surely no one can accomplish this sacrament except a priest who has been rightly ordained according to the keys of the Church which Jesus Christ Himself conceded to the Apostles and to their successors. But the sacrament of baptism (which at the invocation of God and the indivisible Trinity, namely, of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, is solemnized in water) rightly conferred by anyone in the form of the Church is useful unto salvation for little ones and for adults. And if, after the reception of baptism anyone shall have lapsed into sin, through true penance he can always be restored. Moreover, not only virgins and the continent but also married persons pleasing to God through right faith and good work merit to arrive at a blessed eternity.

  • Donald E. Flood

    The quote in bold from the Lateran IV Council is taken from Saint Cyprian who lived in the first-half of the 3rd Century:

    “Not even the baptism of a public confession and blood can profit a heretic, because there is no salvation outside the Church.” (Epistle LXXII)

    Mr. Brian Kelly, in his wonderful article, Baptism of Desire: Its Origin and Abandonment in the Thought of Saint Augustine, writes,

    “In any event, the historical fact is that Saint Cyprian refused to accept Pope Stephen’s correction (including the threat of excommunication in case of non-compliance) of his teaching concerning the invalidity of baptisms in heretical sects that used the correct matter and form.”

    Mr. Kelly quotes Saint Cyprian,

    “God is powerful in His mercy to give forgiveness also to those who were admitted into the Church in simplicity [of heart] and who died in the Church and not to separate them from the gifts of the Church.” (Letter to Jubaianus, n. 23, Patrologia Latina 3, 1125).

    Mr. Kelly’s article can be read here:

    Some points:

    1) Saint Cyprian, who died in 258 AD, had a dispute with Pope Stephen regarding the validity of Baptisms that were administered by individuals, who both Saint Cyprian and Pope Stephen agreed, were outside the Catholic Church. What was not in disagreement between the two men was the fact that there were baptized individuals who were formally outside the Church and who would not be saved unless they came into formal union with the Pope and Catholic Church.

    2) Many individuals who were baptized by heretics were seeking formal union with the Catholic Church, so they also came to believe that the Church and full communion with the Pope was necessary for salvation. Never did the Pope or anyone in union with him ever tell these would-be converts that they did not need to join the Church to be saved.

    3) Clearly, by mid-third century, the Pope and everyone who was in communion with him believed that a formal union with the Catholic Church was absolutely necessary for salvation. The dispute between Saint Cyprian and Pope Stephen over baptisms administered by heretics who used correct matter, form, and intent would be completely moot if either the Pope or Saint Cyprian believed in “salvation outside of the Church.”

    4) Neither Saint Cyprian nor anyone else disputed the fact that Pope Stephen had the power to excommunicate individuals. When Pope Stephen threatened to excommunicate Bishop Cyprian, the latter never said, “Hey, you cannot do that! You don’t have that power, right, authority, etc.” (No one else made a similar claim on Saint Cyprian’s behalf, either.) Cyprian accepted the fact that the ultimate authority lie with Pope Stephen, that is, that Pope Stephen alone held “the keys of the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 16:19) Hence, there is complete continuity between the teachings of Christ (“He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me; and he that despiseth me, despiseth him that sent me., Luke 10:16), and Saint Paul who said, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him be anathema” (Galatians 1:8) up until the time of Pope Stephen. The idea that there could be salvation “outside the Church” would make the whole notion of excommunication moot and absurd. The very definition of “excommunication” means to “cut off,” that is, put outside something, in this case, the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ. To be excommunicated means to be anathematized.

    5) Saint Irenaeus’ (died AD 202) statement, “[The Church] is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account we are bound to avoid them…We hear it declared of the unbelieving and the blinded of this world that they shall not inherit the world of life which is to come…Resist them in defense of the only true and life giving faith, which the Church has received from the Apostles and imparted to her sons,” (Against Heresies, Book III) pushes the dogma of EENS back to the 2nd-century. Given, once again, the testimony of Sacred Scripture (“Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” John 20:23), it is clear that EENS is of Apostolic origin, which means that the dogma originated with the Creator of “all that is seen and unseen,” Jesus Christ, God Incarnate.