Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus, What Is It?

By: Tony Capobianco

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Artwork Attribution:
{TitleThe Bible panorama, or The Holy Scriptures in picture and story
Year1891 (1890s)
Authors:  Foster, William A. (from old catalog)
Contributing Library:  The Library of Congress
Digitizing Sponsor:  The Library of Congress*}

Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus is a Latin phrase which means, Outside The Church, There Is No Salvation. It is an infallible Dogma of The Catholic Church which The Church has taught always and everywhere. The Church has always taught that Noah’s Ark was a type of The Holy Catholic Church. The online Catholic Encyclopedia NewAdvent.org defines a biblical type as: “a type is a person or thing prefiguring a future person or thing, the connection between the two terms is intended by Him who foresees and arranges the course of history.”

Just as in the days of Noah, there was no salvation outside of his Ark, so too there is no salvation outside of The Catholic Church, which is The Ark of Salvation as willed by Almighty God. Some people, either ignorantly or maliciously, assert that this Church Dogma is merely a Medieval invention. Such an assertion is demonstrably false. The antiquity and universality of this fundamental Truth is without doubt because it has been clearly taught by Doctors of The Church, Saints, Popes, and Ecumenical Councils since the earliest days of The Church. The Holy Catholic Church Authoritatively and Perennially Teaches Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus as follows:

Irenaeus (died A.D. 202) wrote: "One should not seek among others the truth that can be easily gotten from the Church. For in her, as in a rich treasury, the apostles have placed all that pertains to truth, so that everyone can drink this beverage of life. She is the door of life." (Irenaeus of Lyons, Against Heresies, III.4)

Saint Cyril of Jerusalem (died A.D. 386): “Abhor all heretics...heed not their fair speaking or their mock humility; for they are serpents, a `brood of vipers.' Remember that, when Judas said `Hail Rabbi,' the salutation was an act of betrayal. Do not be deceived by the kiss but beware of the venom. Abhor such men, therefore, and shun the blasphemers of the Holy Spirit, for whom there is no pardon. For what fellowship have you with men without hope. Let us confidently say to God regarding all heretics, `Did I not hate, O Lord, those who hated Thee, and did I not pine away because of Your enemies?' For there is an enmity that is laudable, as it is written, `I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seed.' Friendship with the serpent produces enmity with God, and death. Let us shun those from whom God turns away." (The Fathers of the Church)

Saint Ambrose (died A.D. 397): "Where Peter is therefore, there is the Church. Where the Church is there is not death but life eternal. ...Although many call themselves Christians, they usurp the name and do not have the reward." (The Fathers of the Church)

Saint Jerome (died A.D. 420): "As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with none but your blessedness, that is, with the Chair of Peter. For this, I know, is the rock on which the Church is built. ...This is the ark of Noah, and he who is not found in it shall perish when the flood prevails. ...And as for heretics, I have never spared them; on the contrary, I have seen to it in every possible way that the Church's enemies are also my enemies." (Manual of Patrology and History of Theology)

Saint Augustine (died A.D. 430): "No man can find salvation except in the Catholic Church. Outside the Catholic Church one can have everything except salvation. One can have honor, one can have the sacraments, one can sing alleluia, one can answer amen, one can have faith in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and preach it too, but never can one find salvation except in the Catholic Church." (Sermo ad Caesariensis Ecclesia plebem)

Saint Fulgentius (died A.D. 533): "Most firmly hold and never doubt that not only pagans, but also all Jews, all heretics, and all schismatics who finish this life outside of the Catholic Church, will go into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." (Enchiridion Patristicum)

Saint Bede the Venerable (died A.D. 735): "Just as all within the ark were saved and all outside of it were carried away when the flood came, so when all who are pre-ordained to eternal life have entered the Church, the end of the world will come and all will perish who are found outside." (Hexaemeron)

Saint Thomas Aquinas (died A.D. 1274): "There is no entering into salvation outside the Church, just as in the time of the deluge there was none outside the ark, which denotes the Church." (Summa Theologiae)

Saint Peter Canisius (died A.D. 1597): "Outside of this communion - as outside of the ark of Noah - there is absolutely no salvation for mortals: not for Jews or pagans who never received the faith of the Church, nor for heretics who, having received it, corrupted it; neither for the excommunicated or those who for any other serious cause deserve to be put away and separated from the body of the Church like pernicious members...for the rule of Cyprian and Augustine is certain: he will not have God for his Father who would not have the Church for his mother." (Catechismi Latini et Germanici)

Saint Robert Bellarmine (died A.D. 1621): "Outside the Church there is no salvation...therefore in the symbol [Apostles Creed] we join together the Church with the remission of sins: `I believe in the Holy Catholic Church, the communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins'...For this reason the Church is compared with the ark of Noah, because just as during the deluge, everyone perished who was not in the ark, so now those perish who are not in the Church." (De Sacramento Baptismi)

Fourth Lateran Council (1215): "There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside which no one at all is saved."

Pope Boniface VIII, Bull Unam sanctam(1302): "We are compelled in virtue of our faith to believe and maintain that there is only one holy Catholic Church, and that one is apostolic. This we firmly believe and profess without qualification. Outside this Church there is no salvation and no remission of sins, the Spouse in the Canticle proclaiming: 'One is my dove, my perfect one. One is she of her mother, the chosen of her that bore her' (Canticle of Canticles 6:8); which represents the one mystical body whose head is Christ, of Christ indeed, as God. And in this, 'one Lord, one faith, one baptism' (Ephesians 4:5). Certainly Noah had one ark at the time of the flood, prefiguring one Church which perfect to one cubit having one ruler and guide, namely Noah, outside of which we read all living things were destroyed… 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."

Council of FlorenceCantate Domino (1441): "The most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and heretics and schismatics, can have a share in life eternal; but that they will go into the "eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels" (Matthew 25:41), unless before death they are joined with Her; and that so important is the unity of this ecclesiastical body that only those remaining within this unity can profit by the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, their almsgivings, their other works of Christian piety and the duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved, unless he remain within the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church." The same council also ruled that those who die in original sin, but without mortal sin, will also find punishment in hell, but unequally: "But the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go down straightaway to hell to be punished, but with unequal pains."

Pope Boniface I, Epistle 14.1: "It is clear that this Roman Church is to all churches throughout the world as the head is to the members, and that whoever separates himself from it becomes an exile from the Christian religion, since he ceases to belong to its fellowship."

Pope Pelagius II (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, 469)

Pope Saint Gregory the Great (590-604), Moralia: "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."

Pope Sylvester II, Profession of Faith, June AD 991: "I believe that in Baptism all sins are forgiven, that one which was committed originally as much as those which are voluntarily committed, and I profess that outside the Catholic Church no one is saved."

Pope Leo XII (1823–1829), Encyclical Ubi primum: "It is impossible for the most true God, who is Truth Itself, the best, the wisest Provider, and rewarder of good men, to approve all sects who profess false teachings which are often inconsistent with one another and contradictory, and to confer eternal rewards on their members. For we have a surer word of the prophet, and in writing to you We speak wisdom among the perfect; not the wisdom of this world but the wisdom of God in a mystery. By it we are taught, and by divine faith we hold, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and that no other name under heaven is given to men except the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth in which we must be saved. This is why 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.'"

Pope Gregory XVI (1831–1846), Encyclical Summo jugiter studio (on mixed marriages), 5-6, May 27, 1832: "You know how zealously Our predecessors taught that very article of faith which these dare to deny, namely the necessity of the Catholic faith and of unity for salvation. The words of that celebrated disciple of the Apostles, martyred Saint Ignatius, in his letter to the Philadelphians are relevant to this matter: 'Be not deceived, my brother; if anyone follows a schismatic, he will not attain the inheritance of the kingdom of God.' Moreover, Saint Augustine and the other African bishops who met in the Council of Cirta in the year 412 explained the same thing at greater length: 'Whoever has separated himself from the Catholic Church, no matter how laudably he lives, will not have eternal life, but has earned the anger of God because of this one crime: that he abandoned his union with Christ' (Epsitle 141). Omitting other appropriate passages which are almost numberless in the writings of the Fathers, We shall praise Saint Gregory the Great, who expressly testifies that this is indeed the teaching of the Catholic Church. He says: 'The holy universal Church teaches that it is not possible to worship God truly except in her and asserts that all who are outside of her will not be saved' (Moral. in Job, 16.5). Official acts of the Church proclaim the same dogma. Thus, in the decree on faith which Innocent III published with the synod of the Lateran IV, these things are written: 'There is one universal Church of the faithful outside of which no one at all is saved.' Finally, the same dogma is expressly mentioned in the profession of faith proposed by the Apostolic See, not only that which all Latin churches use (Creed of the Council of Trent), but also that which the Greek Orthodox Church uses (cf. Gregory XIII, Profession 'Sanctissimus') and that which other Eastern Catholics use (cf. Benedict XIV, Profession 'Nuper ad Nos')… We are so concerned about this serious and well known dogma, which has been attacked with such remarkable audacity, that We could not restrain Our pen from reinforcing this truth with many testimonies."

Pope Pius IX (1846–1878), Encyclical Singulari quidem March 17, 1856): "Teach that just as there is only one God, one Christ, one Holy Spirit, so there is also only one truth which is divinely revealed. There is only one divine faith which is the beginning of salvation for mankind and the basis of all justification, the faith by which the just person lives and without which it is impossible to please God and come to the community of His children (Romans 1; Hebrews 11; Council of Trent, Session 6, Chapter 8). There is only one true, holy, Catholic Church, which is the Apostolic Roman Church. There is only one See founded on Peter by the word of the Lord (St. Cyprian, Epistle 43), outside of which we cannot find either true faith or eternal salvation. He who does not have the Church for a mother cannot have God for a father, and whoever abandons the See of Peter on which the Church is established trusts falsely that he is in the Church (ibid, On the Unity of the Catholic Church). ... Outside of the Church, nobody can hope for life or salvation unless he is excused through ignorance beyond his control."

Pope Pius IX (1846–1878), Encyclical Quanto conficiamur moerore, August 10, 1863: "And here, beloved Sons and Venerable Brothers, We should mention again and censure a very grave error in which some Catholics are unhappily engaged, who believe that men living in error, and separated from the true faith and from Catholic unity, can attain eternal life. Indeed, this is certainly quite contrary to Catholic teaching. It is known to Us and to you that they who labor in invincible ignorance of our most holy religion and who, zealously keeping the natural law and its precepts engraved in the hearts of all by God, and being ready to obey God, live an honest and upright life, can, by the operating power of divine light and grace, attain eternal life, since God who clearly beholds, searches, and knows the minds, souls, thoughts, and habits of all men, because of His great goodness and mercy, will by no means suffer anyone to be punished with eternal torment who has not the guilt of deliberate sin. But, the Catholic dogma that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church is well-known; and also that those who are obstinate toward the authority and definitions of the same Church, and who persistently separate themselves from the unity of the Church, and from the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, to whom 'the guardianship of the vine has been entrusted by the Savior,' (Council of Chalcedon, Letter to Pope Leo I) cannot obtain eternal salvation. The words of Christ are clear enough: 'And if he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as the heathen and publican' (Matthew 18:17); 'He that heareth you, heareth Me; and he that dispeth you, despiseth Me; and he that dispiseth Me, despiseth Him that sent Me' (Luke 10:16); 'He that believeth not shall be condemned' (Mark 16:16); 'He that doth not believe, is already judged' (John 3:18); 'He that is not with Me, is against Me; and he that gathereth not with Me, scattereth' (Luke 11:23). The Apostle Paul says that such persons are 'perverted and self-condemned' (Titus 3:11); the Prince of the Apostles calls the 'false prophets… who shall bring in sects of perdition, and deny the Lord who bought them: bringing upon themselves swift destruction' (2 Peter 2:1)."

Pope Leo XIII (1878–1903), Encyclical Annum ingressi sumus: "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." idem, Encyclical Sapientiae christianae: "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."

Pope Benedict XV (1914–1922), Encyclical Ad Beatissimi Apostolorum: "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."

Pope Pius XI (1922–1939), Encyclical Mortalium Animos: "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."

Pope Pius XII (1939–1958), Encyclical Humani Generis, August 12, 1950: "Some reduce to a meaningless formula the necessity of belonging to the true Church in order to gain eternal salvation."

Doctor of The Church, St. Thomas Aquinas teaches the following concerning those who are ignorant of The One True Faith:

“Answers to Difficulties: Granted that everyone is bound to believe something explicitly, no untenable conclusion follows even if someone is brought up in the forest or among wild beasts. For it pertains to divine providence to furnish everyone with what is necessary for salvation, provided that on his part there is no hindrance. Thus, if someone so brought up followed the direction of natural reason in seeking good and avoiding evil, we must most certainly hold that God would either reveal to him through internal inspiration what had to be believed, or would send some preacher of the faith to him as he sent Peter to Cornelius (Acts 10:20).” (Aquinas, Questiones Disputatae de Veritate: Question Fourteen: Faith.)

Part 2 of the Virgo Potens series on Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus and why it matters is here: https://virgopotens.org/blog/2019/1/23/14xfi4x130aq7ahyeeduyo7rlpup2n

What is the Church? This Virgo Potens series answers that question here: https://virgopotens.org/blog/2019/1/30/ugois5dp2gopmgnkxd1yccy5y1rs9y

Citations:

https://dhspriory.org/thomas/QDdeVer14.htm (Aquinas, Questiones Disputatae de Veritate: Question Fourteen: Faith.)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extra_Ecclesiam_nulla_salus

http://patristica.net/denzinger/ (Denzinger: Sources of Dogma)

* Further information on photo copyright: This image was originally posted to Flickr by Internet Archive Book Images at https://flickr.com/photos/126377022@N07/14761884206. It was reviewed on 5 August 2015 by FlickreviewR and was confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the No known copyright restrictions.

What is the Church? The answer is in this link: https://virgopotens.org/blog/2019/1/30/ugois5dp2gopmgnkxd1yccy5y1rs9y