What is the current and historical viewpoint on universal salvation as a doctrine in the Catholic Church?

Is there any defence or reference to this doctrine in any of the current catechisms? And what are the historical debates which have influenced the current day opinion of the church on the subject of apokatastasis?


In the past, various saints, apparitions and other authoritative sources have stated that many people are in hell or go to hell. For example, the Marian apparitions in Fatima stated that "many souls perish in hell" and included a graphic vision of hell. In many cases, these sources have listed specific categories of people that will go to hell.

The current catechism also states:

The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire."

However, later in the same chapter:

God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. [...] the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want "any to perish, but all to come to repentance"

In another chapter titled "the necessity of baptism":

The Church does not know of any means other than Baptism that assures entry into eternal beatitude. [...]
"Since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partakers, in a way known to God, of the Paschal mystery."

The latter part is a quote from Lumen Gentium, a document produced by the Second Vatican Council.

In short, as per the catechism the Church decrees that hell exists, and lays out under what circumstances a person may or may not go to hell. However, it does not state that any given person or group did go to hell, and Catholics have differing opinions about this.

Universal salvation is an allowable belief in this framework, but it is not the mainstream.


I found an article on the Internet that discusses this subject in some detail. I believe it is a Catholic web-site. Here are a few partial quotes:

The doctrine of universal salvation (also known as Apokatastasis or Apocatastasis ) has usually been considered through the centuries to be heterodox but has become orthodox. It was maintained by the Second Vatican Council and by Pope John Paul II and it is promoted in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church and in the post-Vatican II liturgy. Universal Salvation in the Early Church: The Fathers of the Alexandrian Church maintained the doctrine of universal salvation in the second and third centuries and various Church Fathers followed them in the doctrine.

The article mentions Origen and lists a number of early Church Fathers who supported the view that all will finally be saved. The article then moves on to discuss the doctrine of universal salvation in the modern Roman Catholic Church. The Second Vatican Council maintained the doctrine that all will be saved in the Apokatastasis or Final Restoration of All Things and the article then provides extracts from the constitution Gaudium et Spes (1:45, 2:57).

Quotes from Pope John Paul II follow (1989-1999), along with quotes from the post-Vatican II Catechism of the Catholic Church, one of which says this:

1821 We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere 'to the end' and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God's eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for 'all men to be saved.'

I had no idea that the Roman Catholic Church taught universal salvation. However, I am unclear as to the Church’s full theological definition of universalism or ‘apokatastasis’. I hope more information will be forthcoming because this is a serious subject that needs to be examined in the full light of Scripture.

Source: http://www.tentmaker.org/articles/universal_salvation_roman_catholic.html

  • I read the about us page from that site, and I am quite sure they are not related to Catholicism. Tentmaker seems to believe in a very strong form of universalism, and are likely to be exaggerating the extent of Catholicism's belief in that direction. Catholics now say salvation is possible outside their church, which they didn't seem to accept in the past. Thanks for your research.
    – Bit Chaser
    Sep 15 '18 at 17:48

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