The Church accepts Christ’s declaration about himself: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6). She also recalls his words to her that warn those who would turn away from her: “Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me” (Lk 10:16).
If Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation, and the Church is his Body on earth, we can understand why the Church fathers often declared: “Outside the Church there is no salvation.” Or to put it another way: “All salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body” (Catechism 846). Does this mean that only Catholics can be saved?
The Second Vatican Council made the following affirmations about the possibility of salvation for those outside the Catholic Church:
* Those who know that God founded the Catholic Church through Christ as the necessary means to salvation, yet still refuse to enter it or remain in it, cannot be saved (see Lumen Gentium 14).
* “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience — those too may achieve eternal salvation” (Lumen Gentium 16, emphasis added).
* “Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men” (Ad Gentes 7).
RELATED SCRIPTURE — Texts cited: Lk 10:16; Jn 14:6; 1 Tm 2:4; Heb 2:3; Rv 5:9. General: Mt 8:11-12; 10:40; 28:18-20; Lk 13:28-30; 1 Cor 9:16; 2 Cor 5:14-15; Heb 11:6; Jas 2:21-23. CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH — 816-822; 846-856.