A listener named Kenny asks if salvation is possible for all people. He shares that his girlfriend is Catholic while he is Protestant. His girlfriend believes that the Catholic Church teaches that all people go to heaven, no matter their religion, as long as they are good people. Kenny asks if this is true.
Father Dave responds, “The short answer to that is no. The Church does not believe that everyone goes to heaven. The way we would more theologically describe heaven would be to have eternal life with God and salvation and redemption from our sins because we are not worthy to spend eternal eternity with God. None of us. It is God who makes us worthy. The Catholic Church believes that it is Christ’s sacrifice on the cross that gives us the gift of eternal life. It graces us with redemption.”
“The Church doesn’t say, ‘Just be a good person and you will get to heaven,’” Father Dave continues. “It is important to be a good person because Christ commanded us to do that, but that is not what gains us entry into heaven, nor do we say, it doesn’t matter what somebody believes as long as they’re good. We certainly believe that it is faith in Christ and Christ’s death and resurrection that allows us to have redemption and eternal life. However, we also would not say, in the same way that many other Christians believe, that unless you profess Jesus is Lord you’re definitely not getting into heaven. The Church would not presume to completely know the mind, heart, and will. We know what God has indeed revealed to us, but we don’t limit God.”
“Salvation can be possible outside of the bounds of the Catholic Church, but we don’t say that means everybody gets it no matter what, or as long as you’re a good person. We don’t say only Catholics among Christians could be saved, and we also don’t pass judgment on Christians of other traditions.We know that it is Christ who is the source of our salvation. We who believe in him have eternal life. That’s the gospel Catholics believe, just like all other Christians. But that certainly does imply those who don’t believe don’t have eternal life. Jesus himself talks about separating sheep from goats, and that there will be a judgment and some will be sent this way and some will be sent that way. So Christian or Catholic interpretation would not sweep that under the rug.
“The Catholic Church allows for the possibility of God to work, even in other peoples with other traditions and beliefs around the world. Even those who are outside of Christianity. We don’t know how, and we don’t state how. That’s the important part. We don’t say that just because a Hindu is a good person that we Catholics believe they’re going to heaven. The Church does not teach that. What we would say is that it is possible that God will embrace a Hindu or lots of Hindus into the kingdom of heaven, and we let God decide that. But we don’t rule out that possibility.”