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Three Magisterial statements on Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus September 23, 2015

Posted by Tantumblogo in Basics, catachesis, Ecumenism, Four Last Things, General Catholic, Interior Life, Papa, Society, The End, Tradition, Virtue.

Sort of a for the record kind of post.  Three statements from popes on Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus.

There is but one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which no one at all is saved.”  – Pope Innocent III at the Fourth Lateran Council, 1215

“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 Boniface VIII, Bull Unam Sanctam, 1302.  Poor Boniface VIII. I think his deposing by Philip the unFair was a decisive turning point in the history of the Church, when the secular authority began to assert dominance over the ecclesiastical authority

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 that was prepared for the devil and his angels, 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, not 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.” – Pope Eugene IV, Bull Cantate Domino, 1441

I do have a question – what is the level of doctrinal authority given to these statements.  Obviously, Innocent III’s at Lateran is dogmatic, because it was given by a Pope in union with an ecumenical council.  It is also the least precise of the three.

I know papal bulls are considered Magisterial/doctrinal, but do the statements/declarations raised therein rise to the level of a Sacred Dogma.  I am no theologian, but my understanding of the degree of certainty that should be accorded to papal statements would indicate that yes, such clear statements that reiterate prior dogmatic statements and clarify/strengthen them are dogmatic.  But perhaps I am incorrect.

If they are dogmatic, meaning requiring of the assent of faith of all Catholics, how can Pope Eugene IV’s very specific statement be reconciled with widespread belief in the Church today (they certainly have historical antecedents, as well) that it is possible for those outside visible communion with the Church to be saved through ignorance or  other means?  Eugene IV’s statement seems to say that ignorance is no excuse and that  NONE of those who are pagans, Jews, or heretics/schismatics (including the protestant sects that did not exist at that time) can be saved.

Pope Eugene IV claims that even those who die for Christ but outside communion with the Church are damned.  Is this not problematic with respect to baptism by blood?

Cantate Domino also discusses the Church’s definitions of the triune God and specifies that those who reject the Doctrine of the Trinity are heretics and outside Communion.  If one is damned for not holding to the Church’s Doctrine of the Holy Trinity could those who are ignorant of it be saved?  It would seem that by definition they would not hold the view, being ignorant of it.

In addition, and I think this is most significant, Cantate Domino seems to state – it is not completely clear – that the definition of being “in communion,” or of being a Christian, is having received baptism.

I want to make clear that I don’t reject the idea that those outside the Church can be saved – I certainly hope they can, for the sake of my entire family – but my question is how the doctrines on baptism by desire/blood can be reconciled with Pope Eugene IV?  I have read several analyses of this matter from traditional sources, including the SSPX, and found they ignore Eugene IV’s statement entirely or make only an oblique reference to it.

I’ve read some rather exhaustive arguments in favor of baptism by desire/blood as possibilities – which is rather contrary to the dominant meme in the Church today, which is that pretty much everyone is saved automatically – and I found little to dispute in them. What I did not find was analysis that convincingly reconciled Eugene IV’s Bull and the doctrine on baptism of desire/blood.  I did read two analyses that tried such a reconciliation but to my estimation they failed very badly.

So……..while accepting the possibility of baptism by desire/blood (while personally feeling these means of salvation are probably quite rare), I would like to see something that really reconciles Cantate Domino with those doctrines substantially, with a minimum of arm waving.  Anyone have a recommendation?



1. Brian Springer - September 23, 2015

I think Pope Eugene is saying that martyrdom does not avail those who died for a schismatic or heretical sect. One can still be joined to the Church by desire because the individual professes the Catholic faith and therefore do not place a stumbling block between them and unity with the Catholic Church.

2. Mrs. Maureen Avila - September 23, 2015

I have accepted Vatican II on this issue, noting that the Popes were speaking to people of their times , and to people who were leaving the Faith to join new heretical or other false religions. We cannot hold a Protestant or Jew today who was raised in their respective Faiths and is seeking God with a sincere heart responsible for not becoming Catholic. However…Vatican ii does say that anyone who comes to believe that the Catholic Church is the true Church of Christ and fails to enter into it or anyone who having entered leaves the Church, they cannot be saved. Protestant baptism is valid if performed properly, and is not usually in need of being repeated if the person converts to the Catholic Church. Baptism is one of the “vestiges” of the Catholic Church which came from it , confer grace and tend toward it.

Baptism of desire still happens, when someone studying the Faith with the intention of being baptized suddenly dies, or is martyred as is happening now in various places in the world.

With regard to pagans religions, some of these, are inspired by evil spirits and believers worship them or creatures. It seems this type of religion would be easier to give up after instruction, but it took the Franciscans 10 years and the Marian Apparition at Guadalupe before they converted significant numbers of indigenous Mexicans.

Woody - September 23, 2015

Don’t they hammer away at the fact that Vatican II was PASTORAL only and not dogmatic? This pastoral claim does not change dogmatic claims BUT this is how they get around dogmas they don’t like. Make people forget about the dogma by a different practice and after time, people will forget the dogma. The practice then becomes they new dogma. It’s called “deception.” Oh what a tangled web they weave when they practice to deceive. Beware.

Mrs. Maureen Avila - September 24, 2015

I did not even mention pastoral vs dogmatic, just the matter of evaluating Papal statements in the context in which they were made. I was in Catholic high school when the Council started. At that time the only kind of Roman Catholic that existed was what is now called Traditional. I was taught from early on that anyone outside the Catholic Faith but seeking the truth about God with a sincere heart would be saved , and that Baptism was done at that time “conditionally” for Protestant converts to the faith, in case it was not previously done properly. Baptism of desire or blood was also taught. There were speculative arguments that some Protestants and Jews knew the Catholic Church was the true Church of Christ but stubbornly refused to enter and these were the ones that Vat. II later states cannot be saved.

Tim - September 24, 2015

“noting that the Popes were speaking to people of their times”

No offense intended, but this wording is right out the modernist playbook. Please note: I’m am not accusing you of being a modernist, just pointing out a poor choice of wording. Any of us can type things we don’t really mean on occasion. With Catholic doctrine, what was true then is true now. Vatican 2 “movers and shakers” cannot change doctrine. Baptism being necessary for salvation is dogma, Baptism of Desire and Blood are not dogmatic, they are speculative.

Mrs. Maureen Avila - September 24, 2015

Baptism of Desire and blood were taught to me in Catholic school beginning in the early 1950’s .We used a Baltimore Catechism which was older than that. This is not a new idea of Vat II. If a theological concept is taught by the Church even if not defined, then it can be held.

Tim - September 24, 2015

I never said that they couldn’t be held. I said that they are speculative theology, they are not “de fidie”. I would not gamble my child’s salvation on them when water Baptism is readily available. Nor did I say that they suddenly appeared at Vatican 2.

I think Baptism of Desire has great potential to be abused in this era as an avenue to “universal salvation”, which most modernists buy into.

Tantumblogo - September 24, 2015

Tim, it frequently IS the avenue by which universal salvation is proclaimed. I’ve heard sermons to that effect from NO priests. Since only a madman would not have at least a glimmer of a desire NOT to spend eternity in Heaven if they knew it was real, they must desire it on some level. As such, they have “faith” sufficient to be saved, from a God who doesn’t judge, except for nasty right wingers and pharasaical Catholics…..they get judged with abandon.

3. Jo - September 23, 2015

Listed below is link to the book “The Full Catechism of The Catholic Church” from 1862 and on page 253 (266 on Kindle app) chapter 24 and 25 discuss the TRUE Catholic teaching on the Baptism of Blood/desire. I believe Fr. Feeney began circulating the heresy contrary to Catholic teaching.


If, according to VatII, pluralism now reins supreme, why be Catholic at all?

Ms. Avila, with all due respect, TRUTH is absolute and cannot be changed or altered cause it’s “icky.”

Christ established ONE TRUE Church and there is NO salvation outside of her…no matter who gets their feelers hurt.

God gives us free will and an eternity to pay for it.

God bless,

Jo Lapiana

Tantumblogo - September 23, 2015

Do you feel I got something wrong? The point of the post was to reconcile Pope Eugene’s statement with the Doctrine, which accepts baptism by desire/blood. I don’t deny that doctrine. Feeney did. But I’m not arguing the Feeney POV, I’m just asking for clarification of this one point.

Jo - September 23, 2015

No, no no. I was not disagreeing with you AT ALL… (on this point 😉).

I was merely providing a GREAT reference that helps to clarify your point. I’ve heard many Feeneyites speak on this topic and was somewhat confused by their ambiguous references and arguments.


4. Cantarella - September 24, 2015

Just a word of caution: the SSPX is not the place to research this as they have a VERY liberal theology regarding Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus and yes, those three statements are infallible and define the EENS dogma. BOD / BOB are only theological speculations that most likely never happen in real life, so they are always only hypothetical (in the case of justified catechumens) and never visible.

To this day, the Church does not know of anyone who have been saved by the Baptism of Desire. We can only administer the Baptism of water to infants and adults with the Catholic Faith. There are not baptism certificates for BOD. It is a dogma of the Faith that sacramental Baptism is necessary for salvation. I am glad to see that this excellent blog is finally coming to the realization of what is really behind the Vatican II Modernist ecclesiology, that traditionalist think they reject.

5. Sobieski - September 24, 2015

I’ve often wondered whether these statements of the Magisterium apply to formal heretics, schismatics, etc. (i.e., those who formally reject the Faith) vs. those who are materially in error. If so, someone materially in error could be lost, but for a reason other than formal rejection of the Faith.

Pope Pius IX seems to imply this in his encyclical, Quanto Conficiamur Moerore:

7. Here, too, our beloved sons and venerable brothers, it is again necessary to mention and censure a very grave error entrapping some Catholics who believe that it is possible to arrive at eternal salvation although living in error and alienated from the true faith and Catholic unity. Such belief is certainly opposed to Catholic teaching. There are, of course, those who are struggling with invincible ignorance about our most holy religion. Sincerely observing the natural law and its precepts inscribed by God on all hearts and ready to obey God, they live honest lives and are able to attain eternal life by the efficacious virtue of divine light and grace. Because God knows, searches and clearly understands the minds, hearts, thoughts, and nature of all, his supreme kindness and clemency do not permit anyone at all who is not guilty of deliberate sin to suffer eternal punishments.

8. Also well known is the Catholic teaching that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church. Eternal salvation cannot be obtained by those who oppose the authority and statements of the same Church and are stubbornly separated from the unity of the Church and also from the successor of Peter, the Roman Pontiff, to whom “the custody of the vineyard has been committed by the Savior.”[4] The words of Christ are clear enough: “If he refuses to listen even to the Church, let him be to you a Gentile and a tax collector;”[5] “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you, rejects me, and he who rejects me, rejects him who sent me;”[6] “He who does not believe will be condemned;”[7] “He who does not believe is already condemned;”[8] “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.”[9] The Apostle Paul says that such persons are “perverted and self-condemned;”[10] the Prince of the Apostles calls them “false teachers . . . who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master. . . bringing upon themselves swift destruction.”[11]

9. God forbid that the children of the Catholic Church should even in any way be unfriendly to those who are not at all united to us by the same bonds of faith and love. On the contrary, let them be eager always to attend to their needs with all the kind services of Christian charity, whether they are poor or sick or suffering any other kind of visitation. First of all, let them rescue them from the darkness of the errors into which they have unhappily fallen and strive to guide them back to Catholic truth and to their most loving Mother who is ever holding out her maternal arms to receive them lovingly back into her fold. Thus, firmly founded in faith, hope, and charity and fruitful in every good work, they will gain eternal salvation.

I accept, of course, whatever the Catholic Church teaches on this matter.

6. Deborah Cole - September 24, 2015

I read Pope Eugene’s statement on this matter very recently and skimmed more extended portions of Cantate Domino. I was struck by the fact that although there are plenty of anathemas in the document, there is none attached to the Nulla Salus declaration. Does this have any significance?

7. tg - September 24, 2015

Both Mother Angelica and Father Mitch have said on EWTN that it was heresy to say that only Catholics can go to heaven. Yet some of the popes did say that according to the statements above. I say leave it to God. Only God knows the heart. I need to worry about my own salvation and my family’s.

8. Tim - September 24, 2015

From The Council of Florence session 8:

Sixthly, we offer to the envoys that compendious rule of the faith composed by most blessed Athanasius, which is as follows:

Whoever wills to be saved, before all things it is necessary that he holds the catholic faith. Unless a person keeps this faith whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish eternally. The catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in the Trinity, and the Trinity in unity, neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance. For there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the holy Spirit. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son and of the holy Spirit is one, the glory equal, and the majesty co-eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the holy Spirit. The Father uncreated the Son uncreated and the holy Spirit uncreated. The Father infinite, the Son infinite and the holy Spirit infinite. The Father eternal, the Son eternal and the holy Spirit eternal. Yet they are not three eternals, but one eternal. As also they are not three uncreateds nor three infinites, but one uncreated and one infinite. Likewise the Father is almighty, the Son is almighty and the holy Spirit is almighty. Yet they are not three almighties, but one almighty. Likewise the Father is God, the Son is God and the holy Spirit is God. Yet they are not three gods, but one God. Likewise the Father is Lord, the Son is Lord and the holy Spirit is Lord. Yet they are not three lords, but one Lord. For just as we are compelled by the Christian truth to acknowledge each person by himself to be God and Lord, so we are forbidden by the catholic religion to say there are three gods or three lords. The Father is made by none, neither created nor begotten. The Son is from the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten. The holy Spirit is from the Father and the Son; not made nor created nor begotten, but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three fathers; one Son, not three sons; one holy Spirit, not three holy spirits. And in this Trinity nothing is before or after, nothing is greater or less; but the whole three persons are co-eternal together and co-equal. So that in all things, as has been said above, the unity in Trinity and the Trinity in unity is to be worshipped. Whoever, therefore, wishes to be saved, let him think thus of the Trinity.

It is also necessary for salvation to believe faithfully the incarnation of our lord Jesus Christ. The right faith, therefore, is that we believe and confess that our lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, is God and man. God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the ages; and man, of the substance of his mother, born in the world. Perfect God, perfect man, subsisting of a rational soul and human flesh. Equal to the Father according to his Godhead, less than the Father according to his humanity. Although he is God and man, he is not two, but one Christ. One, however, not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh, but by the taking of humanity into God. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person. For as a reasoning soul and flesh is one man, so God and man is one Christ. He suffered for our salvation and descended into hell. On the third day he rose from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty. Thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead. At his coming all shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give an account of their own deeds. Those who have done good shall go into eternal life, but those who have done evil shall go into eternal fire.

This is the catholic faith. Unless a person believes it faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.

9. Jo - September 24, 2015

You’re putting Mother Angelica and Fr. Mitch statement of heresy against almost 2000 YEARS of Catholic teaching?!!!

Perhaps the saints and martyrs, brutally tortured and murdered for CATHOLIC truth, would have died peacefully in their sleep if they, too, had bought into that diabolical and heretical belief.

10. Jo - September 24, 2015

Tantumblogo, I selected “reply” under the comment by tg.

I know who you are…I’ve been reading your blog for years!


P.s. If this comment doesn’t end up in the correct spot, please note that I selected “reply” here, too.

Tantumblogo - September 24, 2015

Eh, I figured it out later. I deleted my comment. My apologies. I get a fair number of comments, but the way I have to see them, I don’t see them threaded. They all just come in a stream. So I can’t tell who’s being replied to.

And I’ll remember that comment about agreeing with me…..this time.

Jo - September 24, 2015


11. David Konietzko - September 25, 2015

I’m not a theologian, but here is my own opinion based on my personal study of the issue.

All three papal statements are clearly infallible. But the doctrines of “baptism by desire” and “baptism by blood” are universally taught by approved theologians and therefore (at least) theologically certain. Baptism of desire is also in the Roman Catechism of St. Pius V., and St. Alphons de Liguori wrote in his “Theologia moralis” that it is “de fide” that some are saved by an explicit or implicit desire for baptism (this was taught by the Council of Trent, according to his interpretation). If you want to, I can look up the passage.

I think the issue can be clarified by noting that there is a difference between being “in the Church” and being a “member of the Church.” St. Robert Bellarmine taught that there are two ways of being “in the Church:” you can be in the Church “in re,” i.e., as a member, or “in voto,” i.e., by desire. The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, and something can be in a body without being a member of it.

So people who die as non-Catholics can occasionally be saved, but those who die outside the Catholic Church are absolutely always damned.

And the sacrament of baptism is absolutely necessary for salvation, but the actual reception of this sacrament is not. The fact that XYZ is an indispensable means for achieving a certain goal doesn’t mean that there is only one way of using XYZ. The usual way of benefiting from baptism is by recieving it, but under certain circumstances, people can benefit from it by merely desiring it. This is an instance of the general principle (announced in the 1949 letter of the Holy Office about Fr. Feeney) that if something is a necessary means of salvation not by its instrinsic nature, but by Divine say-so, then people can sometimes acquire some of its effects by merely desiring it as opposed to using it in the ordinary way (I think this is also the basis of “spiritual communion”).

12. frankljs - September 25, 2015

Can you recommend the titles breaking down the arguments on both sides? Ive been looking for something specific and authoritative on this topic.

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