Ask a Catholic: Do Only Catholics Go to Heaven?
NOTE: This column is hosted by and has been updated from it’s original at Spokane Faith & Values. It has graciously been given permission for reposting at MtnCatholic.com.
Q. Please explain if the Catholic faith supports the belief that only Catholics go to heaven.
A. That particular phrasing can be a little misleading — the more accurate question would be, “Do Catholics believe there is no Salvation outside the Catholic Church?”
Here’s what the Church says.
- “Re-formulated positively, [the statement “there is no Salvation outside the Church”] means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body. Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, [Vatican II] teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 846 – read more)
- “This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church. 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.” (paragraph 847)
- “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.” (paragraph 848)
Here’s what that means.
The basic answer is “Yes, BUT.”
This teaching stems from the two core beliefs that a) Jesus Christ is the Son of God and Risen Savior of all mankind, and b) he founded a church before being raised to heaven – one that was built on the 12 Apostles, led by St. Peter, and protected until the end of time by the Holy Spirit.