No Salvation Outside Church?

Dear Fr. Bloom,

I recently returned to the Church. I have been viewing your homepage for about a year and a half and thank you for your efforts. I tend to get wordy, so I will try to keep it brief. I just read an e-mail response you posted concerning 'outside the Church there is no salvation'. I gather from your response that if one is to come to believe that the Lord founded a church, then a person has an obligation to join up. I have heard many modifications to what it means to know that Jesus has founded a Church and have read the Holy Father's book "Crossing the Threshold of Hope". From what I have learned from Catholic Answers, read from the Holy Father, heard from a priest friend, and gleaned from my archdiocesan newspaper, it seems to be an academic exercise. If one has an cultural / psychological reason not to believe that ours is the "one true Church" , then it seems ok to believe just about anything. As a bit of anecdotal evidence I used to attend a weekly men's spirituality meeting sponsored by my friend who is a priest. Orthodoxy was a typical topic, and I once stated that my brother and one of my sisters were attending protestant churches due to the fact that they were both married at least twice and were fearful of the Catholic Church. I further stated that I did not know how to approach them to let them know that they are Catholic and that they belong in a Catholic Church, (no sin is too great for God). The priest immediately shouted out, "How do you know that this is where God wants them to be". Excuse me, duh! I can see why a Tibetan monk may go to heaven, ie. he has no one to tell him of Christ, but he calls out to God. Those who seek find. After the 70 disciples returned to Jesus they said that there were others casting out demons in his name, but they did not know them. Jesus said that those who are not against Him are for Him. As you may tell, I am confused. If there is absolute truth out there, I want to know it - but not gloat it.


Yes, the absolute truth is out there. But as you observe, we face an "indifferentism" among our fellow Catholics, even priests. I tried to say something about this in a homily on Workers in the Vineyard. Once a person understands the Bible's teaching on the purpose of human history, it is clear that apart from the Catholic Church, there is on salvation. Still, none of us can judge the person who refuses to come in (there is such a thing as "invincible ignorance"). Catholic Answers has an article on Salvation of Non-Catholics. Its quotes from the Church Fathers are a great help in getting the correct balance.

The Catholic-Lutheran Joint Declaration on Justification

A Lutheran Response to Dominus Iesus (Vatican Document on Unicity of Christ & Church)