Should Catholics believe that Mormons are Saved?

Errors among Catholics

Unfortunately, a large segment of the conservative Catholic subculture has gone astray from the Magisterium. They no longer accept Roman Catholic teaching on faith. Instead, they put themselves above every teaching, to judge whether it is true or false. This is seen in the accusations against Pope Francis, which claim that he taught material heresy or committed formal heresy. It is seen in the so-called “Declaration of Truths”, which declares many errors as if they were truth. It is seen in the wicked book “Infiltration”, which claims that Pope Pius XII, Pope Saint John XXIII, Pope Saint Paul VI, Vatican II, Pope Saint John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis all went astray from the true faith and issued errors on doctrine and discipline.

One of the errors that has infiltrated the conservative Catholic subculture is the claim that only validly baptized Christians are saved, or that only Catholics are saved. This error proposes that anyone who knows about the Catholic Christian Church and does not convert and accept Her teachings cannot be saved without repentance. There are various versions of this error. Essentially, the error narrows the path of salvation far beyond what the Church actually teaches. Sometimes they assert that atheists cannot be saved unless they convert. The so-called Declaration of Truths claims that Muslims cannot be saved without converting (and implies the same about Jews). But as I said, this is a grave error and it is not in accord with true Catholic teaching. Those who teach this type of error are foolish and unfaithful.

Pope Saint John Paul II

John Paul II: “The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all. But it is clear that today, as in the past, many people do not have an opportunity to come to know or accept the gospel revelation or to enter the Church. The social and cultural conditions in which they live do not permit this, and frequently they have been brought up in other religious traditions. For such people salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his Sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit. It enables each person to attain salvation through his or her free cooperation.

“For this reason the Council [Vatican II], after affirming the centrality of the Paschal Mystery, went on to declare that ‘this applies not only to Christians but to all people of good will in whose hearts grace is secretly at work. Since Christ died for everyone, and since the ultimate calling of each of us comes from God and is therefore a universal one, we are obliged to hold that the Holy Spirit offers everyone the possibility of sharing in this Paschal Mystery in a manner known to God.’ ” [Redemptoris Missio 10]

Pope Saint John Paul II: “For those, however, who have not received the Gospel proclamation, as I wrote in the Encyclical Redemptoris Missio, salvation is accessible in mysterious ways, inasmuch as divine grace is granted to them by virtue of Christ’s redeeming sacrifice, without external membership in the Church, but nonetheless always in relation to her (cf. RM 10). It is a mysterious relationship. It is mysterious for those who receive the grace, because they do not know the Church and sometimes even outwardly reject her. It is also mysterious in itself, because it is linked to the saving mystery of grace, which includes an essential reference to the Church the Savior founded.”

As the holy Pontiff taught in the encyclical Redemptoris Missio, salvation is not limited only to “those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church”. People enter the Church, formally, by the Sacrament of Baptism (with water). But the Church Herself teaches that other persons, those who are not validly baptized with water, are also given salvation by Christ and Her Church. They are implicit members of the Church, even if they do not “explicitly believe in Christ,” even if they are not baptized with the Sacrament, even if they are not Christians. So the claim to the contrary by many conservative Catholics today is contrary to Church teaching.

Mormons

According to Catholic teaching, Mormon baptism is not valid as a Catholic or Christian Sacrament. The reason is that Mormon teaching on the Trinity is not in accord with Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant beliefs: three Persons but one eternal God. So Mormons have not entered the Church, formally, by the Sacrament of Baptism. If a Mormon were to convert to Catholicism, he or she would have to receive the Sacrament of Baptism first, before the other Sacraments.

But, as shown by the teaching of Pope Saint John Paul II and Vatican II above, a valid Sacrament of Baptism is not absolutely essential to salvation. It is the ordinary path of salvation, but unbaptized persons can still be saved and have eternal life in Heaven. So “all people of good will in whose hearts grace is secretly at work” can be saved by the love of neighbor, and, for those who believe in God, by the love of God. A baptism of desire (or of blood) is sufficient to place the person in the state of grace, and to make them children of God by spiritual adoption.

Mormons who love God and neighbor have the state of sanctifying grace, the infused virtues of love, faith, and hope, and they are children of God by spiritual adoption. They are saved, unless — as is the case for anyone else, Christian or not — unless they commit an actual mortal sin and refuse to repent.

Rejection of Pope Francis

Which conservative Catholics are promoting this error, which narrows the path of salvation? They are the same individuals and the same groups and media outlets which presume to judge and condemn Pope Francis. Having judged and condemned one Pope, they of course go on to judge other Popes, to judge an Ecumenical Council (Vatican II), and to speak as if they were the arbitrators of what is and is not true doctrine and correct discipline. Rejection of Pope Francis implies rejection of the papacy itself, which implies rejection of the Magisterium and the Church. So, very quickly, having been separated from the vine, the branches whither.

Remain faithful to each and every Pope, to each and every Ecumenical Council, and you will not go astray. The teaching of the Magisterium must be accepted by all Catholics. How is it that so many individuals and groups think that they can judge the Magisterium itself, merely because they are conservative? When did Jesus teach us to put conservatism above Christianity? (Never.)

The situation in the Church today is absurd. For so many years, conservatives claimed to be the most faithful and the most orthodox — and they disdained all others. And now we see that pride goes before a fall. They have fallen away by their arrogance.

Jesus taught us that the Samaritan was saved by his love of neighbor. Jesus held up the example of the good Samaritan for everyone to imitate. Yet Samaritans had incorrect beliefs. Jesus taught us that the Centurion and the woman of Canaan had great faith, and therefore were saved, despite being pagans. So how can anyone today think that only Catholics or only Christians are saved?

Orthodox, Protestants, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jews, Muslims, other believers, agnostics, pagans, and atheists can all be saved — if only they love their neighbor truly and selflessly. Catholics who behave like Pharisees are not saved.

{5:20} For I say to you, that unless your justice has surpassed that of the scribes and the Pharisees you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

by
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

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13 Responses to Should Catholics believe that Mormons are Saved?

  1. Rob says:

    It is not *impossible* for a Mormon or Muslim to be saved. However, it is less likely. And the further from orthodox truth one goes, the less likely salvation becomes.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Yes. I said just that in a previous post, the further away one goes from the fullness of truth in the Catholic faith, the more difficult the path of salvation.

  2. Denis says:

    Your observation “having judged and condemned one Pope, they of course go on to judge other Popes” is very enlightening in the current accusatory culture. It helps to explain a little of why the Reformation turned into the Protestant Revolution. One must remain on the vine!

  3. Rob says:

    Don’t forget that the children of Fatima beheld souls falling into hell “like snowflakes”… it is a dire error to be complacent about the salvation of anyone or any group in particular. I’m afraid that you’re being too optimistic, and some might take it as an excuse to grow lukewarm or fail to evangelize when possible.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’d like nothing better than to be proven wrong here and discover most (if sadly not all) of humanity made it in the end… but I think you might be straying a little too close to religious indifferent-ism for comfort here.

  4. erm6 says:

    Rob mentioned “snowflakes” in connection with Our Lady’s apparition at Fatima. But I thought that it was St. Teresa of Avila who had mentioned “snowflakes”. I googled this a bit, and although I found some posts online that mentioned snowflakes in connection with Our Lady’s apparition at Fatima, I’m pretty sure that that’s not part of the of the official text of the Fatima Secrets as recorded by Sister Lucia.

    I like to go to this link on vatican.va when I want to refer to the text of the Fatima Secrets: http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000626_message-fatima_en.html. It does not mention people falling into hell like “snowflakes”, nor does it in any way attempt to describe the vertical movement of souls right after God judges them (upward into Heaven or downward into hell). Rather, this vision describes souls who are presently already in hell, who look like “transparent burning embers.” The vision does indeed describe vertical movement, but it is a type of cyclic up-and-down movement within the fires of hell, where the souls are propelled upward “by the flames that issued from within themselves” and then fall back down again.

    I then tried to find out something definitive about St. Teresa of Avila mentioning the “snowflakes”. I remembered this from a retreat I went to, where the priest said that St. Teresa talked about Lutherans falling like snowflakes. After googling a bit, I found several pages that give the quote like this: “I had the greatest sorrow for the many souls that condemned themselves to Hell, especially those Lutherans. […] I saw souls falling into hell like snowflakes.” That’s the typical form of the quote seen online, and it consistently contains the ellipses. I haven’t yet found a precise attribution of this quote. In fact, on this page (the page I copied the quote from) http://catholicquotations.blogspot.com/2008/07/greater-part-of-men-choose-to-be-damned.html a reader commented at the bottom of the page, that the closest thing that he found within St. Teresa’s autobiography was a mention of Lutherans that did NOT mention snowflakes.

    Ron, all this got me thinking about your previous speculation on the proportion of people who are saved. I found one of your posts here https://ronconte.com/2016/05/04/michael-voris-versus-mark-shea-on-bishop-robert-barron/ in which you state, “My position, by comparison, is like that of Pope Benedict XVI — most persons go to Heaven by way of Purgatory, a small percent go directly to Heaven, and a small percent (though a large number) are sent to eternal Hellfire.”

    I got interested to trace down the Pope Benedict XVI connection that you mentioned there. That article of yours gives an indirect quote of Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical “Spe Salvi”, via Bishop Barron’s article at https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/column/how-many-are-saved-2383. It’s a bit tricky for me to follow, because Bishop Barron is countering a text by yet another writer, Dr. Ralph Martin. The Bishop states, “[Dr. Martin] is referring to observations in sections 45-47 of the Pope’s [Benedict’s] 2007 encyclical “Spe Salvi,” … [Pope Benedict] concludes that ‘the great majority of people’ who, though sinners, still retain a fundamental ordering to God, can and will be brought to heaven after the necessary purification of Purgatory.”

    I took a glance at “Spe Salvi” paragraphs 45-47 (http://w2.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_ben-xvi_enc_20071130_spe-salvi.html) and now I’m a bit confused, because it does not seem to state what Bishop Barron says it states. But it seems like you were satisfied with Bishop Barron’s paraphrase of Pope Benedict XVI (despite the fact that you disagreed with the Bishop overall). Do you have any other articles that more clearly explain the position of Pope Benedict XVI on this topic (from “Spe Salvi” or otherwise)?

    Going further on this topic, Ron, I would much appreciate if you would consider doing further research and writing on the history of this question, with some investigation into various statements on the “fewness” of the saved by various saints, and some discussion of the degree of magisterial authority (or lack thereof) of different statements at different time periods. Pages such as http://catholicquotations.blogspot.com/2008/07/greater-part-of-men-choose-to-be-damned.html list many saints’ quotes (many of which sound rather pessimistic on the number of the saved) but the sources of most the quotes are not given, and the context is not always there as to whether they are talking about “fewness” among people in general, or “fewness” among Catholics. If you might consider researching at least some quotes on which you are able to find sources … then it would be interesting to make some interpretation of this, regarding the content and also the audience of these types of quotes … e.g. were the various Church Fathers quoted here addressing mixed audiences of Christians and pagans, or at least Christians living among pagans, so that the fewness would be in the context of including also their pagan neighbors? Also, who was St. Alphonsus Liguori addressing in his quotes? What is the magisterial weight of some of these quotes (e.g. from Pope Saint Gregory the Great)? Finally, regarding Pope Benedict XVI, can we say that his encyclical “Spe Salvi” has given a definite magisterial answer to some questions about salvation that were previously open questions?

    I very much appreciate your writing, Ron, and I know that you research a variety of different topics, so I’m just suggesting that you consider taking on this one a little more deeply, basically sorting out magisterial teaching from various saints’ quotes, and assessing to what extent Pope Benedict XVI may have settled some questions about this.

  5. erm6 says:

    Forgiveness and Salvation for Everyone. I skimmed the sample, and I’m thinking about ordering a paper copy. Is the paper version up-to-date with any and all revisions that you might have made to the Kindle version?

  6. Rob says:

    Don’t get me wrong, I’m with C S Lewis here:

    i would pay any price to be able to say truthfully “all will be saved”. but my reason retorts, “Without their will, or with it?” if i say “Without their will” i at once perceive a contradiction; how can the supreme voluntary act of self surrender be involuntary? if i say “With their will”, my reason replies “How if they will not give in?”

  7. Joshua says:

    Mr. Conte, I would like your response to the following quote from the Papal Bull “Cantete Domino”:

    “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 which 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, 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.”

    • Ron Conte says:

      The Ecumenical Council of Florence infallibly taught the above doctrine. But the proper interpretation of the dogma is that it applies only to those who are unrepentant from actual mortal sin. So while it is an objective mortal sin to know about Christianity and not convert, the dogma that they are lost to Hell only applies if the sin has the full culpability of actual mortal sin. For it is also a dogma that grave sins do not deserve eternal punishment unless they have that full culpability. Thus, Jews, Muslims, heretics, schismatics, pagans, atheists may be members of the Church implicitly, if they are in the state of grace by an implicit baptism of desire. So they would then be in the bosom of the Church.
      See also this talk by JP2: http://catechism.cc/articles/All-Salvation-Comes-through-Christ.htm

  8. Matt says:

    Will Mormons united with the Catholic Church during the 2020’s?

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