The sudden death of Tony Palmer–the friend of Pope Francis–has raised the question whether he could be saved even though he never converted to the Catholic faith.
Some Catholics would shake their head sadly and quote the famous phrase, Extra Ecclesiam nulls salus- Outside the Church, No Salvation.
Does this mean that everyone who is not a Catholic will go to hell?
Let’s think it through.
First of all, apart from canonizations, nobody, not even the pope can make the call on whether a particular person is in heaven or hell.
We agree that there is no salvation outside the church, but the discussion gets interesting when we ask “What is the Church?”
Dominus Iesus - the document published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2000 clarifies that the Church is coterminous with Christ himself.
Therefore to be united to Christ must include being united with his Church. You cannot be “in Christ” without being “in the Church.”
Furthermore, to be a Catholic one has to believe and trust that the Catholic Church is that same Church founded by Christ himself.
The Church teaches that Christ’s Church “subsists” in the Catholic Church. What does this mean?
Therefore there are other “churches” and “ecclesial communities” within which are found “elements of sanctification and truth”. What is another “church”?
This is where it gets more interesting. Is Tony Palmer’s CEEC (Communion of Evangelical Episcopal Churches) one of these “true particular churches”? Continue Reading