Role of Baptism in Salvation

Can a person be saved by any religion whatsoever?

by Frank Rega


   There is a tendency today, due the influence of the ecumenical thrust of the Vatican II Church, to think that a person can be saved by any religion whatsoever.  But it is the Catholic Church alone that is the one ark of salvation; it is the only true religion, founded by God, outside of which no one can be saved.  The question then remains as to how the dogma of salvation within and by the Church can be reconciled, for example, with the article "Padre Pio on Salvation Outside the Church," which demonstrates that St. Pio affirmed the possibility of the salvation of an unbaptized Jew and two Protestants?

    That paper has been sharply criticized by certain rigid, self-proclaimed "Doctors of the Law" who assert that only water-baptized practicing Catholics can be saved and attain to Heaven. They reject as heretical and as non-Catholic anyone who believes in the validity of baptism of desire or baptism of blood.  Thus these extremists would exclude from salvation everyone who accepts Vatican II and attends the New Mass, as well as almost all those who attend the Tridentine Latin Mass, including those involved with the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX).

   An excellent summary of the correct view of "outside the Church there is no salvation" is presented in the book by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, Open Letter to Confused Catholics (Angelus Press, 1986, pp. 73-74, used by permission):

   Does that mean that no Protestant, no Muslim, no Buddhist or animist will be saved?  No, it would be a second error to think that.  Those who cry for intolerance in interpreting St. Cyprian's formula "Outside the Church there is no salvation," also reject the Creed, "I confess one baptism for the remission of sins," and are insufficiently instructed as to what baptism is.  There are three ways of receiving it:  the baptism of water, the baptism of blood (that of the martyrs who confessed the faith while still catechumens) and baptism of desire.

    Baptism of desire can be explicit.  Many times in Africa I heard one of our catechumens say to me, "Father, baptize me straightaway, because if I die before you come again, I shall go to hell."  I told him, "No, if you have no mortal sin on your conscience and if you desire baptism, then you already have the grace in you."

   The doctrine of the Church also recognizes implicit baptism of desire. This consists in doing the will of God.  God knows all men and He knows that amongst Protestants, Muslims, Buddhists and in the whole of humanity there are men of good will. They receive the grace of baptism without knowing it, but in an effective way.  In this way they become a part of the Church. 

   The error consists in thinking that they are saved by their religion.  They are saved in their religion but not by it. 

Excerpts from the Catechism of Pope St. Pius X


Q: Is Baptism necessary to salvation?

A: Baptism is absolutely necessary to salvation, for our Lord has expressly said: "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God."

Q: Can the absence of Baptism be supplied in any other way?

A: The absence of Baptism can be supplied by martyrdom, which is called Baptism of Blood, or by an act of perfect love of God, or of contrition, along with the desire, at least implicit, of Baptism, and this is called Baptism of Desire.   

Q: But if a man, through no fault of his own is outside the Church, can he be saved?

A:  If he is outside the Church through no fault of his, that is, if he is in good faith, and if he has received Baptism, or at least has the implicit desire of Baptism;  and if, moreover, he sincerely seeks the truth and does God's will as best he can such a man is indeed separated from the body of the Church, but is united to the soul of the Church and consequently is on the way of salvation."

-end excerpts-

    Scripture and the Church clearly teach that Jesus Christ is the only saviour, and no one comes to the Father except through Him.  There is salvation in no other name. 

    Since Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church, which is His mystical body, then everyone who is saved becomes in some way a member of the Church.   Perhaps this is one of the mysterious actions of Purgatory upon the soul of one who was not a Catholic during his lifetime.

    Thus we can summarize the role of baptism in salvation by saying that those not within the Catholic Church who are saved become so in spite of their false religion, not because of it. 

    As mentioned in my book Life of the Mystic Luisa Piccarreta, no one is lost who truly loves Jesus Christ, because He can not reject someone who loves Him.  Further, He is not bound by His own sacraments!

    On hearing the Lord speak this way about love, Luisa recalled that she had recently told a person who was worried about whether or not she was saved, that someone who truly loves Jesus Christ is surely saved.  Luisa had said to her that it would be impossible for Jesus to withdraw from a soul who loves Him with all her heart; therefore, our salvation will be in hand if we think of loving Him.   Luisa asked Our Lord whether she was correct in what she had told that person.  Jesus replied that she had spoken with reason, because love forms one object from two, one will from two.  Since His nature is love, if it finds even a few sparks of love within a human nature, He unites it to the Eternal love.  Thus a soul who loves Him forms one single thing with Him, and one single will.  Since they are now one, how can they be separated?  Therefore it is impossible for someone who truly loves Him to be lost (pp. 98-99)

   [Otherwise] His love would remain as though shackled and bound by the sacraments.  But no, He is free!  The sacraments are contained within His heart.  He is the owner of them and can exercise them when He wishes (p. 229).

The volumes of Luisa Piccarreta's Diary upon which the above two selections are based, received the Nihil Obstat from St. Annibale Di Francia, and the Imprimatur of her bishop.


Luke 10: 25-28.

And behold a certain lawyer stood up, tempting him, and saying, Master, what must I do to possess eternal life? But he said to him: What is written in the law? how readest thou? He answering, said: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind: and thy neighbour as thyself.  And he said to him: Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

Reference added 11/24/2011:


 Controversial, bold and thought-provoking, the above book is available in print or Kindle format.



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Frank Rega is the author of:  Padre Pio and America,
St. Francis of Assisi and the Conversion of the Muslims,

The Greatest Catholic President: Garcia Moreno of Ecuador
  Life of the Mystic Luisa Piccarreta - Journeys in the Divine Will 
vols. 1 and 2
Life of the Mystic Luisa Piccarreta - volume 3 in preparation
 The Truth about Padre Pio's Stigmata and Other Wonders of the Saint
Vatican II, Evolution, and Medjugorje: Hubris, Heresy, and Mystery

This page was last updated on 02/12/14