It is a truth revealed by God that there is absolutely no salvation outside of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church is the true Church of Jesus Christ, instituted by Jesus Christ for the sanctification and salvation of the souls of men; how could there possibly be salvation outside the society instituted by Jesus Christ for our salvation?
The Catholic Church is not an invisible society, but a visible one, and there are not two Churches, one visible and the other invisible. It follows from this that it is necessary for salvation to be a member of the visible Catholic Church. There is no invisible Catholic Church. However, it is possible that a person could be, invisibly, a member of the Catholic Church, which is visible. Thus, a person in invincible ignorance of the true Faith who does not know of the necessity of membership in the Church for his salvation would not be held by the Almighty as guilty of a sin that he is not responsible for. Such a person might be, by grace, a member of the Catholic Church.
It is extremely dangerous, to say the least, to remain outside the Catholic Church, when the Catholic Church is the divinely instituted means of our salvation. One becomes a member of the Catholic Church either by baptism or by grace, and, visibly speaking, one becomes a visible member of the Catholic Church by baptism, because that is precisely the visible ceremony that makes men members of the Church. But Protestants, who do have a valid baptism, are not Catholics; for the Church is defined as the visible society of those who profess the faith of Christ, partake of the same Sacraments, and are united under the government of their lawful pastors under one visible head (that is, the pope). Protestants are, however, in an imperfect but real (or, to put it the other way, a real but imperfect) communion with us, and they are Christians, but they are not per se members of the Catholic Church. Catholics have used the phrase “separated brethren” to denote Protestants (and, I suppose, Orthodox and others) for two hundred years or so. The Second Vatican Council uses the phrase “fratres a nobis sejuncti” — the brethren separated from us. The word “separated” denotes the imperfection of the communion; the word “brethren” denotes the real communion that is, nevertheless, imperfect.
To state “there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church” does not mean that no Protestant, Jew, Muslim, etc., could be saved, but if he were saved, it would be by virtue of the Catholic Church and not his erring sect or religion. If he were saved, it would be because he was, by grace (or in the case of Protestants, by baptism), a member of the Catholic Church. Everyone who is in heaven is a member of the Church Triumphant and, ipso facto, a Catholic.
I do not think many people will deny that there are good and holy people in other religions. But this does not lessen the importance of the fact that all the graces in the world enter the world through the Catholic Church.
A person who knows that the Catholic Church is the true Faith, and refuses to enter it, cannot be saved. This is the perennial teaching of the Magisterium and is affirmed by the Second Vatican Council in the document Lumen Gentium.
The Catholic Church is the Church. It is not a part of the Church, or a denomination of the Church; it is the religion instituted by Jesus Christ, outside which there is no salvation. It is the only religion instituted by God Himself, and it is the only religion pleasing to God.
It is the duty of all men on Earth to enter the Catholic Church and to submit to her authoritative teaching. It is God who speaks to men, not through Scripture only, but also through the Sacred Tradition and the universal Magisterium of His Church. We must believe what Christ teaches us through His Church; faith that is at least implicit, in all that God has revealed, is necessary for salvation (and there are certain truths also that must be believed explicitly).
It is a great sin against charity to encourage people to persevere in their errors. Error will not save anyone. The truth of Jesus Christ — which includes the truth of His Church, which is His Immaculate Bride and His Mystical Body — will save people. People have a right to the full truth of the Gospel and should not be denied any part of it. They therefore have a right to know the truth: that Catholicism is the true religion; that the Catholic Church is the Church of God, which is endowed with authority, infallibility, and indefectibility, and will teach the true Faith and preserve the sacraments instituted by Jesus Christ until the end of time. Membership in it is necessary for salvation.
David Mitchell was born in England and lives there his wife, whom he married in December 2018. David was educated at the University of Durham and was received into the Catholic Church in 2008, while he was a student. He has a B.A. in music and an M.A. in performance and sings in his church choir, where he and his wife met. He has taught
music and Latin and currently undertakes freelance music work.