Can non-Catholic people go to heaven?

By Paul Dion, STL

I was born and brought up in New England. Western Massachusetts, to be exact. We were a mixed neighborhood. We had Polish people, French people, Irish people, Italian people and we even had a Spanish family that we didn't know was Spanish.

Everyone in the neighborhood was Catholic. Well, not really everyone. We happened to live next door to the only true, blue Anglo-Saxons. They had no religion at all. I knew this because my father told me.

Upstairs from Blake was McClane. I never knew what they were as far as heritage goes, but I did know that they were Presbyterian. They were rather nice folks.

One Sunday on the way back from the 5:00 AM Mass (No, that's not a clerical error) with my father, I asked, "Will Mr. Blake and Mr. McClane go to heaven?"

My father, sure of himself as always, shot back, "Of course."
Ours is the One, True, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The question to you then is , "Do you agree with my father that non-Catholics can indeed go to heaven?"
Share your thoughts with us. Post your comments in this blog.


  1. Anonymous11:41 AM

    Certainly, non-Catholics can go to heaven. What happens to the soul at the time of death is determined by the state of the soul at that time. We will be judged based upon our knowledge of the truth and how we have lived that truth.

    Luke's Gospel (10:25-28) tells us that entrance to heaven is predicated on our love of God and neighbor.

    Perfect love = Heaven
    Imperfect love = Purgatory
    Rejection of God = Gehenna.

    The Catholic Church would never presume to judge that the state of a person's soul at the time of death, deserved eternal damnation.
    As we are saved by grace, it is certainly easier for Catholics to gain entrance to heaven as we have the sacraments. We are able to do by grace what the lone powers of nature could never do, and that is living holy lives.

    Who is to say that those who die in a state of invincible ignorance or not enlightened by God and given the opportunity to choose? After all, God gave the angels a choice; wouldn’t He do the same for man?

  2. Anonymous11:42 AM

    There's a dogma which the Church teaches, Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus, Outside the Church-No Salvation. And the Catechism explains how we are to understand this:

    846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers?335 Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

    Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council 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. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.

    847 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.

    848 "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."

  3. Anonymous11:42 AM

    I have a follow-up question.

    Is it my fault as an Evangelical Christian that the scandalous behavior of Catholic Church officials drives away from their church? Will heaven then be denied me?

  4. Anonymous11:43 AM

    "Rejection of God =Gehenna"

    Why not just call it Hell? That's what we know it by...

    There is a narrow criteria for "invincible ignorance"... so it is probably best not to assume either way and focus on evangelizing, period.

  5. Anonymous11:44 AM


    Matthew, Mark, Luke and James use this word because it reaches back into the Old Testament (2 Chronicles and Jeremiah) and has a more specific impact on the audience then "hell". Hell is fine, but Gehenna is more graphic in context.

  6. Anonymous11:44 AM

    Anonymous said...
    I have a follow-up question.

    Is it my fault as an Evangelical Christian that the scandalous behavior of Catholic Church officials drives away from their church? Will heaven then be denied me?
    My response:

    What scandalous and evil things we have seen in the Catholic Church can, I believe, be found in all churches -- including Evangelical. I cite just a few more well-known cases, such as Swaggart, Jim Baker, and the recent fallout about the pastor in Colorado who was allegedly making it with another man. As a former member of evangelical churches myself (more than thirty years), I assure you I've known and heard of horrible behavior amongst Protestant leadership, as well by those in the pews.

    I don't think the question is so much if God will deny anyone heaven because of their view of the leadership of the Catholic Church (or any church, for that matter). I rather think God will simply ask each of us: "What did YOU do with the illumination I gave you through the Holy Spirit?"

    Anyway, my thoughts.


    1. Anonymous11:48 PM

      A very good response, Rich...Jennifer

  7. Anonymous11:45 AM

    "Matthew, Mark, Luke and James use this word because it reaches back into the Old Testament (2 Chronicles and Jeremiah) and has a more specific impact on the audience then "hell". Hell is fine, but Gehenna is more graphic in context."

    Good point... I got in an "argument" with someone that since Gehenna was really a "garbage dump" outside of Jerusalem, and since by analogy the fires did eventaully go out, that Hell is not eternal, but temporary. It was, I imagine, in her conception, something like Purgatory.

  8. Anonymous11:46 AM

    Just a quick comment:
    Gehenna refers to the valley of Guy Ben Hinnon (Gehenna) where, just outside of Jerusalem proper child sacrifices were being offered against the wishes of Yaweh, therefore a place of abomination.

    Paul Dion, STL

  9. Anonymous11:48 AM

    It makes me happy to know that my father was right in his answer. It is also refreshing to learn that in a serious poll of Catholics that took place just a week or so ago, 66% said that non-Catholic people can go to heaven.

    The Holy See also made it clear to all that Catholic doctrine on
    the Church has always held that non-Catholic people can go to heaven.

    Catholic doctrine is based on the dogma of the Unity of the Church of Christ. This means that "the spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as instruments of salvation, whose value derives from that fullness of grace and of truth which has been entrusted to the Catholic Church" in which all other churches and communities subsist.

    "It is possible, [then] according to Catholic doctrine, to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial Communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them."

    This is important doctrine because it means that when we as Catholics say that it is possible for non-Catholics to go to heaven, we are not just being polite, and non-confrontational. It means that we are stating a conviction born of our faith. We were reminded of this by the Fathers of Vatican Council II and we were reminded of it again in the document just released by the Holy See on July 10, 2007.

    This does not mean that "all Christians are the same." The doctrine remains what it has always been, "Christ established here on earth" only one Church and instituted it as a "visible and spiritual community", that from its beginning and throughout the centuries has always existed and will always exist, and in which alone are found all the elements that Christ himself instituted.

    "This one Church of Christ, which we confess in the Creed as
    one, holy, catholic and apostolic […]. This Church, constituted and organised in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him."

    As the document affirms, the Church of Christ is identical to the Catholic Church in which the fullness of grace and truth are found. Catholics and non-Catholics alike are called to gather around this truth. Catholics and non-Catholics alike are called upon to speak the truth as they see it.

    God and His Church are infinite realities. The truth that is
    contained there will never be exhausted here on earth. We are all called upon to carry it in our conscience and to improve upon it as we go through life. The more we embrace it and practice it, the closer we will become to Him through our attachment to His one Church.

    I expect to see all of you there, sitting around the throne of
    God, happy to be with Him and happy that you took my advice not to cry at my funeral.

    The thoughts and statements in this comment are often quoted and deeply inspired by the document released on July 10, 2007 by the Holy See, "RESPONSES TO SOME QUESTIONS REGARDING CERTAIN ASPECTS OF THE DOCTRINE ON THE CHURCH"

    ~ Paul Dion, STL
    ParishWorld Theology Editor

  10. I would suggest people read for themselves the document released by the Vatican on this very issue:


  11. Anonymous7:56 AM

    In Mark 6 and John 12, Jesus reveals to us the characteristics of non-belief and the resulting consequence of not being saved.

  12. Anonymous:
    John 12 quotes Jesus as saying, " I have come not to condemn the world, but to save the world..."

    Mark 6 talks about the amazement that Jesus has at the lack of faith of His people.

    Your one sentence comment signifies that the consequences of not being saved will be felt in this world. That is not Catholic faith. Catholics believe that our eternal salvation is never clearly known to us until after death.

    Catholics believe that the one true consequence of salvation is the God given grace to believe that Jesus has saved us ALL by His passion, death and resurrection. If we live as truly dedicated disciples of Jesus, following His Evangelical invitation, we will be blessed and accepted into Eternal happiness face to face with God Himself.

    Salvation, in one way, has already taken place. In another way, personal salvation will be determined by God's judgment upon each individual.

    Paul Dion, Theology Editor

  13. Anonymous5:32 AM

    With God's divine mercy, I would imagine that He sees into the hearts of all. Jesus said that those not against him were with him. Jesus used the less formal word for father when telling his disciples how to pray. A daddy is not so quick to toss his children into the fire.

  14. Anonymous4:57 PM

    "For God so Loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son. Whosoever shall believe in Him shall
    be saved and have Eternal Life" John 3:16
    The others will go to Heaven but Catholics will get Mansions, they will get apartments and tents !!!!

  15. Isn't it up to God, and only God, as to who goes where? None of us is qualified to make that judgment.