Are all Protestants going to Hell (Catholic Dogma)?

Question
The Roman Catholic Church says they are the only true church? They say "Outside the Church there is no salvation." So, are all Protestants going to Hell?
Answer

A cry of the Roman Catholic Church is often heard. It says, "Outside the Church there is no salvation" (Extra ecclesiam nulla salus). The Protestant Church(s) according to Roman Catholics are anathema - that is condemned or cursed.

According to their doctrine, Protestants are lacking the fullness of the means of salvation seeing it lacks the Church (meaning the Roman Catholic Church) which is necessary for salvation, seeing she (meaning the Roman Catholic Church) and she alone bears in herself and administers the totality of the means of salvation. Indeed the Catechism of the Catholic Church says:

  • "It is in the Church that 'the fullness of the means of salvation' has been deposited" (824).

  • "Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation" (846).

  • "The Church is catholic: she proclaims the fullness of the faith. She bears in herself and administers the totality of the means of salvation" (868).

Pope Benedict XVI re-emphasized this false doctrine on July 10, 2007 when he said, "one church in Christ . . . subsists in the Catholic Church . . . Protestant communities "cannot be called '"churches in the proper sense," because they lack apostolic succession, that is, the ability to trace their leadership back to Christ's original disciples (FN 1, below under References). See "Pre-Apostolic Succession ???" below.

Essentially the Catholic Church says:

  • 1. All Protestants fall under at least one Latae Sententiae that automatically subjects us to major excommunication:

    • a. If we don't submit to the Pope we're schismatics.
    • b. If we knowingly reject at least one point of RCC dogma we're heretics.
    • c. If we knowingly believe certain ideas the RCC explicitly condemns we're heretics.
    • d. If we have our own churches we're schismatics and sectarians.

  • 2. Anathema is the type of major excommunication Trent (see below) prescribes for transgressions of its Canons:
    • a. Trent anathematizes Protestant formulations of justification.
    • b. Trent anathematizes rejects Protestant formulations of grace.
    • c. Trent anathematizes rejects Reformed notions of:

      • i. regeneration preceding faith;
      • ii. predestination;
      • iii. and arguably irresistible grace.

  • 3. Anathemas and all other major excommunications are the same in substance, though anathema is distinct in its ceremony.
  • 4. The anathema formula specifically consigns us to the fires of hell.
  • 5. Therefore, both because of the major excommunications Latae Sententiae, and the anathemas of Trent, the RCC consigns Protestants to hell.

The Council of Trent

The Council of Trent (Latin: Concilium Tridentinum), held between 1545 and 1563 in Trento (Trent) and Bologna, northern Italy, was one of the Roman Catholic Church's most important ecumenical councils. Prompted by the Protestant Reformation, it has been described as the embodiment of the Counter-Reformation. (FN 2).

Trent placed several "anathemas" upon Protestants. This means that those who disagree with the doctrines of the Catholic Church are "cursed" (cf. Gal. 1:8-9). Catholics excommunicate those under anathema. In other words, excommunication means being outside the "Church." Being outside the "Church" (specifically meaning the Roman Catholic Church [RCC]) means one is are not saved according to RCC doctrine.

The Council of Trent has about one hundred anathemas within it. Here is a small sample concerning Justification:

Canon 1. "If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema."

Canon 4. "If any one saith, that man's free will moved and excited by God, by assenting to God exciting and calling, nowise co-operates towards disposing and preparing itself for obtaining the grace of Justification; that it cannot refuse its consent, if it would, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive; let him be anathema."

Canon 9. "If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema."

Canon 11. "If any one saith, that men are justified, either by the sole imputation of the justice of Christ, or by the sole remission of sins, to the exclusion of the grace and the charity which is poured forth in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and is inherent in them; or even that the grace, whereby we are justified, is only the favour of God; let him be anathema."

Canon 12. "If any one saith, that justifying faith is nothing else but confidence in the divine mercy which remits sins for Christ's sake; or, that this confidence alone is that whereby we are justified; let him be anathema."

Canon 24. "If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema."

Canon 30. "If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema."

Canon 32. "If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life, . . . and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema."

However, Protestants endorse justification by faith alone (sola fide, see below) apart from anything (including good works), a position the Catholic Church still to this day condems as heresy. See "Justification and Merit: Why Does God Count Me as Righteous?" below. Therefore, Protestants are condemned to Hell, according to RCC doctrine.

Among the other anathemas upon Protestants are those who reject: (1) the "Apocrypha" as part of the biblical canon (see below), (2) "transubstantiation" (see below), (3) "sola Scriptura" (Scripture alone, see below) , (4) that "indulgences" (see below) are useless or that the Church does not have the power to grant them, and (5) "purgatory" (see below).

The declarations and anathemas of the Council of Trent have never been revoked! The decrees of the Council of Trent are still confirmed today:

  • (1) The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) is an authority for doctrinal statements in the RCC. In 1962, at the opening of Vatican II in Rome, Pope John XXIII affirmed, "I do accept entirely all that has been decided and declared at the Council of Trent."

  • (2) The "Dogmatic Constitution on the Church," says that the Second Vatican Council "proposes again the decrees of" three previous councils, one of which is the Council of Trent. ("Lumen Gentium" ("Dogmatic Constitution on the Church"), paragraph 51. In Austin Flannery (Editor), "Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents," Volume 1, New Revised Edition, fourth printing. Northport, NY: Costello Publishing Company, 1998, page 412).

  • (3) The "Decree on the Training of Priests" states that the Second Vatican Council was "continuing the work begun by the Council of Trent." ("Optatum Totius" ("Decree on Priestly Training"), Conclusion. In Austin Flannery (Editor), "Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents," Volume 1, New Revised Edition, fourth printing. Northport, NY: Costello Publishing Company, 1998, page 724).

  • (4) "The Catechism of the Catholic Church" (CCC) is a summary of basic Catholic doctrine. The CCC was approved by Pope John Paul II in 1992 and printed in English in 1992 and again in 2000. The CCC mentions Trent over one-hundred (100) times in an authoritative and positive way. It uses such phrase as, "We therefore, hold, with the Council of Trent, that...".

  • (5) On December 31, 1995, honoring the 450th anniversary of the opening of Trent, Pope John Paul II declared, "Its [Trent's] conclusions maintain all their value."

  • (6) On July 10, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI said, "one church in Christ . . . subsists in the Catholic Church . . ." He added, Protestant communities "cannot be called 'churches in the proper sense," because they lack apostolic succession, that is, the ability to trace their leadership back to Christ's original disciples (FN 1). Since Protestants are not part of "the church" (RCC) according to Trent they are "anathema."

Thus, though many Catholics are not aware of it, Roman Catholic doctrine teaches that Protestants are Hell bound, eternally condemned, and cursed. Some appeal to the Unitatis Redintegratio. However, though it (see section 3) states:

The children who are born into these Communities and who grow up believing in Christ cannot be accused of the sin involved in the separation, and the Catholic Church embraces upon them as brothers, with respect and affection. For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect.

It adds:

For it is only through Christ's Catholic Church, which is "the all-embracing means of salvation," that they can benefit fully from the means of salvation.

Thus, Roman Catholic Doctrine is not revoked; they just try to find ways of making it sound more acceptable.

Of course, this is a false doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church (see below). Protestants do not view "all" Catholics under the same condemnation. Calvin, while he understood the Catholic Church has the esse of the faith, pointed out numerous false doctrines of the "Church." It is the Catholics who err here, not Protestants. See "Calivinism vs. Roman Catholicism." This said he still, along with Turretin, believed that there were saved Catholics. See "Can Catholics be Saved?" below. Despite what the Catholic Church asserts, all true believers in Christ are justified and will be glorified (Rom. 8:29-30). See "Justification and Merit: Why Does God Count Me as Righteous?" below.

References:

FN 1. Vatican Web site: http://www.vatican.va/phome_en.htm

FN 2. "Trent, Council of" in Cross, F. L. (ed.) The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, Oxford University Press, 2005.

Related Topics:

Pre-Apostolic Succession ??? by Dr. Joseph R. Nally
The Reformed and Post-Reformation Creeds and Councils: The Council of Trent, Part I, Sola Scriptura by Charles Biggs
The Reformed and Post-Reformation Creeds and Councils: The Council of Tent, Part II, Sola Fide by Charles Biggs
Justification by Faith Alone by Dr. Joel Beeke
Justification by J.I. Packer
Justification In Church History by J.V. Fesko
PROTESTANT TRANSUBSTANTIATION Part 1 of 4 by Keith Mathison
PROTESTANT TRANSUBSTANTIATION Part 2 of 4 by Keith Mathison
PROTESTANT TRANSUBSTANTIATION Part 3 of 4 by Keith Mathison
PROTESTANT TRANSUBSTANTIATION Part 4 of 4 by Keith Mathison
What Do We Mean by Sola Scriptura? by Dr. W. Robert Godfrey
It is Written: Sola Scriptura by Richard Bennett
Sola Scriptura and the Early Church by William Webster
Audio: Indulgences - 01 by Dr. Frank James
Audio: Indulgences - 02 by Dr. Frank James
Apocrypha Accounts
What is the Perpetual Virginity of Mary?
What is the Immaculate Conception?
Praying the Rosary?
Catholics and Justification?
Is Purgatory Biblical?
Is Catholic Penance Biblical?
The Catholic Bible?
Apocrypha Accounts?
Transubstantiation vs. Consubstantiation vs. Memorialism vs Reformed?
Hahn's Hersey: The Four Cups?
What are the three types of Merit?
Can Catholics be Saved?
Are all Protestants going to Hell (Catholic Dogma)?
Was Peter the First Pope?
Who is the One True Church?
Do you agree with what the Roman Catholic teaches?
Purgatory by Ra McLaughlin
The Old/New Testament Church
Calivinism vs. Roman Catholicism

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).