argument discussion comes up continually in my Catholic circles. I hear people quoting assorted Saints and who said what before and after Vatican II as a way of determining whether or not a reference is reliable. The more authentic orthodox crowd always wants the resources from at least a decade or two prior to VII and the more...how should I say it...today's-typical-Catholic want whatever is new and clear to their thinking. Each is basing their acceptance of material on how they were taught the faith and what sort of education they received and by whom.
For new Catholics coming into the Church through RCIA you probably never heard this discussed at all. And if you were Protestant, you still might unwittingly carry along your Protestant ideas that "anyone who has Jesus in their heart" is saved. That concept is usually shattered the first time they hear a Catholic quote "Outside the Church there is no salvation". Then fear sets in because very often a convert is leaving behind a family member or friend in some other faith community.
That is good fear. Good because it should prompt you to want to work hard to help bring as many people into the Church as possible in your lifetime. If you do that and live your Catholic life to the best of your ability following the Teachings of the Church, you have the true hope of hearing Jesus say to you one day "Well done, good and faithful servant." What joy!
That holy fear of people losing their souls to damnation used to (and in some cases still does) make Catholics battle for the souls of their loved ones and even for complete strangers. The battles could be verbal with those outside the Church or the Catholic could grab their rosary beads and get on their knees, do penance or even offer a Mass. These Catholics were/are working for the salvation of others to bring them into the True Church Christ founded on earth. We as Catholics are all called to do this.
It's not easy trying to turn someone towards the Church where salvation is found, but it is our Christian duty. Why wouldn't we? Unless of course we think salvation can be found outside the Church. No worries if that was the case! Easy, smooth sailing into eternal bliss. If Christ's words "Pick up your crosses and follow me" are flashing in your mind right now you've been paying attention to your catechism. Getting to heaven is not a stroll in the park and there is only One Church Christ founded to help get us to Heaven.
Face it, if any old faith community would do, then why did Christ bother founding and safeguarding only One Church through the centuries? Assorted denominations have popped up and gone down, been reformed and deformed over and over again with doctrines coming and going with the changing times. Why didn't Jesus safeguard those communities that all claimed to be followers of Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit?
Because none of them were created by Christ with the full Truth. His Holy Catholic Church is holy because He made Her so. Through Her comes our salvation, through the Sacraments Jesus Christ endowed Her with. Precious gifts from Christ to those people of good will who seek Him in Truth and in His Church.
I learned the Catholic Faith mostly from writings safeguarded and held by the Church since the beginning. Not through the new writings in "the spirit of Vatican II", but in the old writings, things written over the centuries. Beautiful writings I found in books more than a hundred years old published by the Holy Catholic Church. If you haven't been blessed to read such books I can't accurately describe the beauty in the honest, straight forward to the point writings the Church once gifted the Faithful with. Nowhere in these books are the opinions of men, but rather the pure holy teachings the Church held so dear for so long. These now haggard and musty old books are absolutely priceless to me.
No, no and no again. No we don't have that hope. We can dream it if we want to delude ourselves for a moment or two, but we don't have that actual hope. Saint Paul said "with fear and trembling work out your salvation". How could anyone think we can hope all men are saved if most men don't work out their own salvation with fear and trembling? And no, hell is not a "possibility", Hell is a reality according to Jesus.
So who is in Hell? All those who died outside the Church? Depending on who you ask in the Church the answers you get will more than likely differ.
Those holding to "old school" Catholicism might quote from one of those old books the Catholic Church used to publish, like "The Catholic Manual of the Holy Catholic Church", Catholic Art and Publication Office, Chicago, Ill, copyright 1906.
Quote [this is in a Q&A form]:
Q: Are there any other direct proofs from scripture to show that out of the Church of Christ there is no Salvation?
A: Yes, these two will be mentioned here: First, Christ, speaking of those who were not yet joined in the communion of his Church, but whom he foreknew would make a good use of the graces he would give them for that purpose, says, "Other sheep I have who are not of this fold, them I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd," John x.16. : where he plainly declares, that all of those sheep, who are not yet of his fold, must be brought to it, as a necessary condition of their salvation. Second, In consequence of this settled disposition of the divine providence, no sooner did the apostles begin to preach the gospel, than immediately "the Lord added daily to the Church such as should be saved," Acts ii.47. which evidently show that all who are not added to the Church are out of the way of salvation. [end quote]That is the sort of books I read that led me to become Catholic. It's pure and perfectly clear - at least to me.
Now reading some of what came out of Vatican II, this can get a bit hazy...
Lumen gentium 16 
Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God.(18*) In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh.(125) On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues.(126); But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohamedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things,(127) and as Saviour wills that all men be saved.(128) Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.(19*) Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.(20*) She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator.(129) Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, "Preach the Gospel to every creature",(130) the Church fosters the missions with care and attention. [Source: http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_const_19641121_lumen-gentium_en.html ]
Let's look at one more "oldie".
From my book "The Catholic Instructor: An Educational Library of Ready Reference with an Encyclopedia Dictionary", The Office of Catholic Publications, New York, copyright 1910, page 153.
Quote (again in Q&A form):
Q: May not persons be saved in any religion?
A: No, certainly; St. Paul tell us, Heb. xi 6, "That without faith it is impossible to please God." And St. Peter assures us, Acts iv. 12, "That there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we may be saved, but the name of Jesus." And Christ himself tell us, Mark xvi, 16, "He that believeth not, shall be condemned." So that it is manifest from the holy Scripture, that true faith is necessary for salvation. Now true faith, in order to please God and save souls, must be entire, that is to say, we must believe without exception, all such articles as by God and His Church are proposed to be believed; and he that voluntarily and obstinately disbelieves any one of these articles, is no less void of true saving faith, than he that disbelieves them all. As St. James tells us, with regard to practical duties, chap. ii. 10, "Whosoever shall keep the whole law, yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." Hence St. Paul, Gal. v. 20, reckons heresies, that is, false religions, amongst those works of the flesh, of which he pronounces, "that they who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." And God, himself, Isa. ix.12, tells His Church, "the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee, shall parish." [end quote]How do you answer the question "Is there salvation outside the Catholic Church?"
What do you tell your loved ones who are outside the Church?
Do you evangelize?
I'd love to hear your stories, leave a comment or drop me an email.
God bless! May we all be found INSIDE the Catholic Church before our dear Lord calls us home.
Julie @ Connecticut Catholic Corner