In the early church the apostles often use the term 'let them be anathema'.

But even if we, or an angel from heaven, were to preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be anathema.
Galatians 1:8

If any man does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema. Our Lord has come.
1 Corinthians 16:22

It is also obvious that the Roman Catholic Church continued to use this expression in regards to believing in the Eucharist and issued similar statements as the apostles used.

If anyone denies that in the sacrament of the most Holy Eucharist are contained truly, really and substantially the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of our Lord Jesus Christ, and consequently the whole Christ,[42] but says that He is in it only as in a sign, or figure or force, let him be anathema.
Council of Trent - Canons on the Most Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, Canon I

My question is: Who does the Catholic Church address here to be condemned for not believing in the real presence of Christ in Eucharist? Is it meant for Catholics who reject the idea of Christ present in the Holy Eucharist or is it meant for Protestants and other churches that don't believe it?

If it's all the people, does it mean there is no salvation outside the Catholic church once they recognized their truth?

  • 1
    It appears that it is quite literally addressed to any individual (Catholic or Protestant); though in practice whether it applies to any individual might be decided by what particular religious group they belong to. May 27, 2015 at 13:37
  • There has been a realization in Vatican II that those responsible for the Herecy, the original Revolters of the Church had a measure of power and enfluence over people, poeple who can not decern from the truth and lies. These new Sheppards, who teach a false Gospel do so to individuals that would otherwise be faithful to the Church without thier influence. Those who read VAtican II as a contradiction, fail to make this connection, denying a valid council and making the same error as those they wish to condemn. God is the Judge of mens hearts, not man, and not Rome.
    – Marc
    May 28, 2015 at 12:04
  • @Marc, what connection?
    – Grasper
    May 28, 2015 at 12:19
  • The connection is the Condemnation,(if they fail to repent) of the Guilty, those who conciously apostacize, in opposition, (if innocenct of apostacy truthfully) or those who are victims of the false teachers refered to in the early statements of the Church. The statement relates to the council of Trent statement above and that satement which was introduced in Vatican II below. The concept of the Church Condemning all Protestants is false, if understood with the clarity of thought presented by the Church of God.
    – Marc
    May 28, 2015 at 12:28
  • As far as I know 'anathema' means you are condemned by God and has nothing to do with persecution and forcing one's religion on another person. So I am confused you accepted an answer that has nothing to do with your question. Maybe there is a misunderstanding on the word anathema and that if you are actually asking about persecution, like the Spanish Inquisition, which seems the accepted answer does address. Anyway...just saying the higher voted answers seems to be answering correctly what most people think your question is. I am confused ....so thought I would just give you a heads up.
    – Mike
    May 30, 2015 at 3:13

3 Answers 3


The language of the Council of Trent you quoted is clear and answers your question: "If anyone denies…" etc. Thus, that proposition clearly applies to anyone, Catholic or Protestant, Jew, pagan, etc.

One must profess the Catholic Faith to be a member of the Catholic Church. "Anathema sit" ("let him be anathema") simply professes the heretic's non-membership in the Catholic Church.

  • this explanation lacks the clarity that former declarations address, mainly, that those who profess to be Christian now and are indeed material heretics, are not necessarily responsible for that stance. Where as those who in the past who denied the Catholic Teachings were formal heretics, were indeed responsible for that decision. The Church extends the possibility of Salvation to those who are not responsible for the confusion the revolters propagated. At the time of that pronouncement was a time of formal heresy. We must acknowledge as the Church does, those innocent of that sin.
    – Marc
    Aug 3, 2017 at 16:18
  • For example, my belief is that Pre-Vatican 2 Catholics, who reject formal teachings of the Church are also heretics and deserving of Mercy.
    – Marc
    Aug 3, 2017 at 16:20
  • @Marc To deny something implies knowing it and yet still rejecting it. Thus, those who understand the Church's teaching of transubstantiation and yet still deny it are anathematized. Denial is not the same thing as ignorance.
    – Geremia
    Aug 3, 2017 at 16:22
  • @Marc Yes, of course those "who reject [i.e., deny] formal teachings of the Church are also heretics and deserving of Mercy". Cf. this.
    – Geremia
    Aug 3, 2017 at 16:25
  • agreed, however, learned behavior, as the church recognizes in communities outside the church are very difficult and confusing to those believers who over time are repeatedly taught to think a certain way. Yet, they behave as christians should, doing the works that christians should, not knowing the truth even though they have heard it, the culture hides the truth from them. God is the judge of all, the church judges nobody, those outside the Catholic body, may be Catholic
    – Marc
    Aug 3, 2017 at 16:26

The Catholic Church has traditionally declared, "There is no salvation outside the Church", meaning, "outside the Catholic Church". To the best of my knowledge, this is still the teaching of the Catholic Church. See, for example, No Salvation Outside the Church.

Let me add that, as a Baptist, I don't find anything particularly remarkable or offensive about this teaching. Presumably every religion believes that its beliefs are true, or what would it mean to say that they believed them? It logically follows that any contradictory beliefs must be false. Catholics believe that you must participate in certain rituals, i.e. the Sacraments, to be saved. Some of these rituals specifically require that they be administered by a priest. Therefore, you cannot be saved without going through a Catholic church and a Catholic priest.

Protestants say that these rituals are not essential to salvation. So a Protestant would say that, while he believes Catholics to be in error on many points, he nevertheless sees no inherent barrier to a Catholic being saved. Catholics cannot say the reverse.

  • this is not the understanding of the Catholic Church.
    – Marc
    Aug 3, 2017 at 16:11

The Catholic Church certainly did historically condemn Protestants and all who questioned its teaching, but this is one area in which change has occurred.

The Second Vatican Council, which met in 1962, issued a Declaration on Religious Freedom, with the subtitle “On the Right of the Person and of Communities to Social and Civil Freedom in Religious Matters.” When debated, the Declaration met with considerable resistance from some Vatican officials and a number of bishops, but was passed by the Council in December 1965. It stated, “the human person has a right to religious freedom.”

In defining this freedom, it asserted that

all men are to be immune from coercion” by individuals, social groups, or “any human power,” so that “in matters religious no one is forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs. Nor is anyone to be restrained from acting in accordance with his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others, within due limits.

Since the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church has therefore taught what Catholics must believe for their salvation and what the Church wishes others to believe, but the Church does not, as a body, use condemnation or any other form of coercion against non-Catholics:

[I]n spreading religious faith and in introducing religious practices everyone ought at all times to refrain from any manner of action which might seem to carry a hint of coercion or of a kind of persuasion that would be dishonorable or unworthy, especially when dealing with poor or uneducated people. Such a manner of action would have to be considered an abuse of one's right and a violation of the right of others.

  • 1
    What you quote is an illustration of how the Second Vatican Council is not Catholic: it directly contradicts what the Church has always taught; and since the Church cannot contradict herself or lead others into error, Vatican II is not of the Catholic Church. Specifically, what you quote directly contradicts Bl. Pius IX's Quanta Cura and Syllabus of Errors, among many other pre-Vatican II magisterial pronouncements.
    – Geremia
    May 28, 2015 at 3:21
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    @Geremia Yet, most Catholics, priests, and parishes adhere to it.
    – user3961
    May 28, 2015 at 3:37
  • 1
    @fredsbend Then they're not Catholic, but Modernists.
    – Geremia
    May 28, 2015 at 3:52
  • 1
    Hmm, seems to me there's a huge difference between saying that you will not force people to attend a Catholic Church or to affirm Catholicism, and saying that people can be saved without being part of the Catholic Church. If someone is dying from heart failure, I wouldn't force him to get a heart transplant. But that doesn't mean that I believe he'll live without a heart transplant. (PS I'm speaking as a non-Catholic.)
    – Jay
    May 28, 2015 at 13:40
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    @Jay So your comment is a philosophical position rather than one in which you personally believe only Catholics go to heaven. I did watch a TV interview with Cardinal George Pell (now 3rd in the Vatican after Pope Francis) several years ago, in which he expressed the opinion that righteous-living atheists could go to heaven. This was only a personal opinion at this stage, but it shows how change gradually occurs. May 28, 2015 at 21:57

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