Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus
Let's examine the issue of Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus by looking at the very first of at least seven dogmatic definitions:
Pope Innocent III, Fourth Lateran Council, Constitution 1, 1215, ex cathedra:
“There is indeed one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which
nobody at all is saved, in which Jesus Christ is both priest and sacrifice.”
How does a Catholic understand and receive this dogmatic teaching of the Magisterium ? Pope Pius IX makes it infallibly clear:
Pope Pius IX, First Vatican Council, Sess. 3, Chap. 2 on
Revelation, 1870, ex cathedra: “Hence, also, that understanding
of its sacred dogmas must be perpetually retained, which
Holy Mother Church has once declared; and there must never
be a recession from that meaning under the specious name of
a deeper understanding.”
So, how is one to "understand" the dogma? Exactly as it is written! There are no exceptions made and there can be no exceptions added in the future, because dogmas are believed as once declared!
In all of the Church's statements on EENS all exceptions are clearly excluded (notice the bolded parts):
Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam, Nov. 18, 1302, ex cathedra:
“Furthermore, we declare, say, define, and proclaim to every human creature that they by absolute necessity for salvation are entirely subject to the Roman Pontiff.”
Pope Clement V, Council of Vienne, Decree # 30, 1311‐1312, ex
cathedra: “Since however there is for both regulars and seculars, for
superiors and subjects, for exempt and non‐exempt, one universal
Church, outside of which there is no salvation, for all of whom there
is one Lord, one faith, and one baptism…”
Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Sess. 8, Nov. 22, 1439, ex cathedra: “Whoever wishes to be
saved, needs above all to hold the Catholic faith; unless each one
preserves this whole and inviolate, he will without a doubt perish in
Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, “Cantate Domino,” 1441, ex
cathedra: “The Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and
preaches that all those who are outside the Catholic Church, not only
pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in
eternal life and will go into the everlasting fire which was prepared
for the devil and his angels, (...) and that nobody can be saved, no matter how
much he has given away in alms and even if he has shed blood in the
name of Christ, unless he has persevered in the bosom and unity of the
Pope Leo X, Fifth Lateran Council, Session 11, Dec.
19, 1516, ex cathedra: “For, regulars and seculars, prelates and
subjects, exempt and non‐exempt, belong to the one universal Church,
outside of which no one at all is saved, and they all have one Lord
and one faith.”
Pope Pius IV, Council of Trent, “Iniunctum nobis,”
Nov. 13, 1565, ex cathedra: “This true Catholic faith, outside of
which no one can be saved… I now profess and truly hold…”
Pope Benedict XIV, Nuper ad nos, March 16, 1743, Profession of Faith: “This
faith of the Catholic Church, without which no one can be saved, and
which of my own accord I now profess and truly hold…”
Pope Pius IX, Vatican Council I, Session 2, Profession of Faith, 1870, ex cathedra:
“This true Catholic faith, outside of which none can be saved, which I
now freely profess and truly hold…”
As we see outside the Church there is "nobody", "no one", "none", "no one at all" who can be saved, but to achieve salvation "every human creature", "all", "each one" must be inside the Church and subject to the Roman Pontiff.
Subjection to the Roman Pontiff
Pope Boniface VIII, Unam Sanctam, Nov. 18, 1302, ex cathedra: “With
Faith urging us we are forced to believe and to hold the one, holy,
Catholic Church and that, apostolic, and we firmly believe and simply
confess this Church outside of which there is no salvation nor
remission of sin… Furthermore, we declare, say, define, and proclaim
to every human creature that they by absolute necessity for salvation
are entirely subject to the Roman Pontiff.”
How is one subject to the Roman Pontiff? How are infants subject to the Roman Pontiff?
By examining this question we see even more clearly the necessity of the Catholic faith, received through baptism, for salvation. For infants (and adults) become subject to the Church through baptism!
Pope Leo XIII, Nobilissima (# 3), Feb. 8, 1884: “The Church, guardian
of the integrity of the Faith – which, in virtue of its authority,
deputed from God its Founder, has to call all nations to the knowledge
of Christian lore, and which is consequently bound to watch keenly
over the teaching and upbringing of the children placed under its
authority by baptism…”
Pope Julius III, Council of Trent, On the Sacraments of Baptism and
Penance, Sess. 14, Chap. 2, ex cathedra: “… since the Church exercises
judgment on no one who has not previously entered it by the gate of
baptism. For what have I to do with those who are without (1 Cor.
5:12), says the Apostle. It is otherwise with those of the household
of the faith, whom Christ the Lord by the laver of baptism has once
made ‘members of his own body’ (1 Cor. 12:13).”5
Clearly the unbaptized can in no way be subject or under the judgment (jurisdiction) of the Church and therefore are excluded from salvation.
What this means for Vatican II
Pope Paul VI, Vatican II, Decree on Ecumenism: It follows that the
separated Churches and Communities as such, though we believe them to
be deficient in some respects, have been by no means deprived of
significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the
Spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of
salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of
grace and truth entrusted to the Church.
Pope Paul VI, Vatican II, , Lumen Gentium: But the plan of salvation
also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place
amongst these there are the Muslims, who, professing to hold the
faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on
the last day will judge mankind.
You state: "From what I understand about Catholic teaching, it is not possible for infallible teachings, either from a pope or an ecumenical council, to contradict each other. However, there seems to be a clear incompatibility between medieval Catholic doctrine and that of Vatican II around the question of salvation outside the church."
There indeed cannot be a contradiction in the Magisterium (the teaching authority of the Church), since it is free from all error.
Pope Pius XI, Divini Illius Magistri (#16), Dec. 31, 1929: “To this magisterium Christ the Lord imparted immunity from error...”
However, Vatican II is not merely incompatible, but blatantly heretical and opposed to the constant and universal teaching of the Church on many points. Therefore it cannot be part of the Magisterium.
A Council is ecumenical and infallible (per Vatican I) if it is
- promulgated by a valid Pope
- with his apostolic authority
- to the universal Church
- on a point of faith and morals,
and since Vatican II meets conditions 2 through 4, but is heretical, it necessarily follows that Paul VI was not a true Pope of the Catholic Church because a contradiction in the Magisterium would follow if he were.
That Paul VI never attained to the Pontificate is easily proven.
To answer Mike Borden's bounty question directly - Vatican II cannot be reconciled with Unam Sanctam, they are in clear opposition.
A non-Catholic may try to point to the great apostasy of the majority of the Church as proof that the gates of Hell have prevailed against Her. However, this situation only further proves that the Catholic Church is the Church of Christ because this was predicted in the Apocalypse to happen to the true Church.
Short refutation of Ken Graham's Answer
The widespread apostasy in the sect pretending to be the Catholic Church is manifest in the answer by Ken Graham which is heretical on many points and outright wrong on others. I will refute just a few lest this answer become too long.
He asserts that souls can be converted after death which is condemned in the very quote which this question is based on:
“The Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that all those who are outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life and will go into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless they are joined to the Church before the end of their lives;
The theory that Benedictus Deus leaves room for conversion after death is laughable and heretical. It is recognized by all that the dogmatic bull Benedictus Deus condemned the error of the previous Pope John XXII that the blessed departed do not see the Beatific Vision immediately. In doing so it uses the exact same word, mox, which Ken Graham has attempted to abuse in another place, to mean immediately:
[iii.] and the souls of children reborn in that same baptism of Christ and of those to be baptized when they shall have been baptized, dying before the use of their free will, immediately [mox] after their death and the aforesaid purgation of those who stood in need of a purgation of this kind, even before the resumption of their bodies and the General Judgment, following the Ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into Heaven, have been, are, and will be in Heaven, in the Kingdom of Heaven and in the Celestial Paradise with Christ…”
Notice also that it is explicitly defined that all who are in Heaven (or will go to Heaven) are (or will be) baptized. It is even clearer from the full definition.
Ken Graham: "The narrow interpretation of the Latin phrase extra ecclesiam nulla salus is not the true traditional manner of interpretation. Nor is the more wider framed interpretation something that just seemed to have popped up as a result of the Second Vatican Council."
There are no narrow and loose interpretations, there is only "what the Church has once declared" (Vatican I).
Indeed, his whole answer is based on interpreting the Magisterium, which denies that the Church's judgment is final and infallible. By interpreting the Magisterium one invariably believes that Christ did not confer the teaching authority on Peter but on various saints or theologians, which is condemned.
Pope Pius XII, Humani generis (# 21), Aug. 12, 1950: “This deposit of faith our Divine Redeemer has given for authentic interpretation not to each of the faithful, not even to theologians, but only to the Teaching Authority of the Church.’”
His assertions that St. Therese and Padre Pio believed that many are saved, even outside the Church, are not worthy of refutation. However, this is a good opportunity for Padre Pio to remind us of the feweness of the saved:
Padre Pio said: “Don’t you know that we must be alert on the road to
salvation? Only the fervent succeed in reaching it, never the tepid
or those who sleep!”
In a letter on May 27, 1914, Padre Pio said: “Dear God! If all were
aware of your severity as well as of your tenderness, what creature
would be so foolish as to dare to offend you?”
One of the brothers asked Padre Pio, “Why do you cry?” Padre Pio
responded: “Why should I not cry seeing humanity damning itself at all
Speaking of the Divine Blood of Jesus: “Only a few will profit by It,
the greater number run the way of perdition.”
It is a clear error on Mr. Graham's part that only sedevacantists (Catholics who recognize that there is currently no Pope) are, what he calls, Feeneyites (a demeaning term used to refer to those who believe in the dogma Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus).
Actually the organization founded by Fr. Feeney, the St. Benedict Center is part of the Vatican II "Catholic" Church to which Ken Graham belongs, which also received Fr. Feeney into "full communion" without any abjuration of error, while most sedevacantists reject Fr. Feeney's error on justification.
Pope Clement XIV, Cum Summi (#14), Dec. 12, 1769: “… We lament that
the destruction of souls is propagated more widely each day.
Accordingly you must work all the harder and exercise diligence and
authority to repel this audacity… Be confident that you will
accomplish this by simplicity of sound doctrine and by the word of
Ken Graham inadvertently admits that his doctrine isn't sound, since it isn't simple: "The whole nuance of this question is somewhat complicated to say the least."
However, the teaching of the Church is simple - outside the Church no one at all is saved.
Whoever adds to or recedes from the dogmatic definition in doing so rejects it.
Pope Gregory XVI, Mirari Vos (#7), Aug. 15, 1832: “… nothing of the
things appointed ought to be diminished; nothing changed; nothing
added; but they must be preserved both as regards expression and
Pope Gregory XVI, Mirari Vos (# 13), Aug. 15, 1832: “With the admonition of the apostle that ‘there is one God, one faith, one baptism’ (Eph. 4:5) may those fear who contrive the notion that the safe harbor of salvation is open to persons of any religion whatever. They should consider the testimony of Christ Himself that ‘those who are not with Christ are against Him,’ (Lk. 11:23) and that they disperse unhappily who do not gather with Him. Therefore, ‘without a doubt, they will perish forever, unless they hold the Catholic faith whole and inviolate” (Athanasian Creed).
When someone asks you: "Can a non-Catholic be saved?" the Lord has told you how to answer:
“But let your speech be yea, yea: no, no: and that which is over and
above these, is of evil” (Mt. 5:37).
For more on this topic see the free book Outside the Church There Is Absolutely No Salvation by Bro. Peter Dimond which is the most comprehensive and definitive book on the topic ever made and will answer any questions or objections you might have.