The Vatican's Claim to Save Humanity
Mike Gendron

The Vatican has declared the Roman Catholic Church is the only "instrument for the salvation of all humanity." The official statement issued September 5 by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith boldly proclaims "individuals can attain full salvation from earthly sin only through the spiritual grace of the Catholic Church." The thirty-six-page document entitled Dominus Iesus states that other branches of Christianity could not be considered equal to Roman Catholicism because they "have defects that place their followers in a ‘gravely deficient situation’ in seeking salvation." The Vatican also declared non-Catholic churches are disqualified as "churches in the proper sense" because they reject the papacy. The document was "ratified and confirmed" by Pope John Paul II and bears his full endorsement.

In a subsequent letter to Bishops worldwide, Pope John Paul II’s chief theological adviser, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, said it was incorrect to call other Christian churches, "sister churches" of the Catholic Church. The Cardinal said the term was "sloppy terminology" and could not be used to describe Christian communities that were not actually in communion with Rome. The cardinal said, "It must be always clear that the one, holy, catholic and apostolic universal church is not the sister, but the mother of all the churches." The term "sister churches’’ often has been used by Rome in the past to foster closer ties among Christians. A key goal of John Paul’s papacy has been to make steps toward unity with other Christians. But Ratzinger, the Vatican official in charge of ensuring doctrinal correctness, appears to be putting the brakes on such equal terminology. He said, "It’s evident that it would go against the faith to consider the (Catholic) church as ‘one’ way of salvation ‘alongside’ those represented by other religions." The term "sister church" may now only be applied to Orthodox churches, which broke away from Rome 1,000 years ago. Thus the churches born of the Protestant Reformation are automatically excluded as "sister churches."

The Goal of Dominus Iesus

The stated goal of the Vatican’s announcement is to counteract the dilution of its authority. The wave of "religious pluralism," which suggests Catholics are equal with other faiths, has eroded the supreme authority of Rome. This effort to re-assert Roman Catholic superiority may be an attempt to halt the exodus of many Catholics who have joined evangelical churches in recent years. In doing so the document may, at the same time, thwart the Vatican’s ecumenical push for unity among all faiths. Pope John Paul II has been successful in mending past rifts and fostering unity between Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Lutherans. Church officials said the document was intended primarily for Catholic theologians and was not intended to discredit other faiths. While the initial reaction from other Christian churches may be negative and disdainful, those who lack discernment will continue to be seduced by Rome’s ongoing method of operation. By distorting and perverting Scripture to justify its claim as the only true church, the Vatican will relentlessly call apostate Christians home to Rome for the "fullness of salvation." Dominus Iesus is just another deliberate step to call the world together under the power and influence of the papacy. Let us examine the document in light of God’s Holy word.

Sole Authority to Rule the Church and Interpret Scripture

Dominus Iesus claims that Peter and His successors were commissioned by Jesus to "rule the church" (Para. 16). It dares to say that the Bishop of Rome’s primacy over the entire Church is "according to the will of God" (para. 17).

Rather the "will of God" is to silence such ignorance of these foolish men with truth and righteousness (1 Pet. 2:15). Jesus renounced such a hierarchy of authority for the church (Mat. 20:25-26). He said, "But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers (Mat. 23:8). The Vatican should learn from the rebuke God gave to apostate Jews: "The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule on their own authority" (Jeremiah 5:31). All Christians and church leaders are equal as brothers and should submit to the authority of Jesus, the only head of the church, who rules it through His Word (2 Tim. 3:15-16; Acts 17:11). The Scriptures also warn us never to put our trust in men (Jeremiah 17:5-7; Psalm 49:13-14; 118:8). The "will of God" calls Christians to silence such ignorance of foolish men with the truth and righteousness (1 Pet. 2:15).

Dominus Iesus states that no one can "interpret Sacred Scripture outside the Tradition and Magisterium of the Church."

But what does the Scripture say? (Gal. 4:30). Each person will, one day, be held accountable for understanding God’s word. It is His word that will judge the world on the last day (John 12:48). The truth of God’s word is set forth plainly to every man’s conscience in the sight of God (2 Cor. 4:2).

Salvation Only Through the RCC

Dominus Iesus boasts that salvation is mediated only through the Catholic Church and "the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation" (Para. 4). It declares that "God has willed that the Church founded by him be the instrument for the salvation of all humanity" (para. 22).

The Bible reveals that salvation is mediated only through Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and man (John 14:6; Acts 4:12, 1 Tim. 2:5). The instrument of salvation is not a church but faith in the Lord Jesus Christ–His death for the forgiveness of sins and His resurrection for our justification (Rom. 4:25). "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household" (Acts 16:31).

Salvation for Non-Catholics

Dominus Iesus states all non-Catholic churches "derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church" (para. 16). "Those who are not formally and visibly members of the (Catholic) Church, salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which…enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. The way in which the salvific grace of God comes to individual non-Christians, God bestows it ‘in ways known to himself.’ Theologians are seeking to understand this question more fully. Their work is to be encouraged, since it is certainly useful for understanding better God’s salvific plan and the ways in which it is accomplished. Certainly, the various religious traditions contain and offer religious elements which come from God. Indeed, some prayers and rituals of the other religions may assume a role of preparation for the Gospel. Furthermore, it cannot be overlooked that other rituals, insofar as they depend on superstitions or other errors, constitute an obstacle to salvation" (para. 21). This quote of 145 words suggests there is salvation for those who have rejected the Gospel or never trusted the Lord Jesus Christ. The document also states "the sacred writings of other religions may be instruments by which countless people are able today to nourish and maintain their life-relationship with God" (para. 8).

Why do Catholic Theologians study and ponder how non-Christians are saved? The Bible is clear–those who do not believe Jesus and His Word are rejected by God and under His condemnation (John 3:36; 2 Thes. 2:12, 2 Tim 3:8; Rom 2:8). Jesus is the fullness of grace and truth, not the Catholic Church (John 1:14). Christians receive their efficacy directly from God who is able to make all grace abound to His children. He is sufficient and able to meet all our needs (2 Cor. 9:8, 12:9).

Catholic Church the Only True Church

Dominus Iesus states "there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church." Other churches "lack full communion with the Catholic Church, since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy." They "are not Churches in the proper sense; however, those who are baptized in these communities are, by Baptism, incorporated in Christ and thus are in a certain communion, albeit imperfect, with the Church. These separated Churches…suffer from defects" (para. 17).

The Bible reveals it is the Roman Catholic plan of salvation that suffers from defects. God does not save anyone on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, such as Baptism (Titus 3:5). God saves sinners by grace—not by works, otherwise grace would not be grace (Eph. 2:8-9, Rom. 11:6). The true Church of Christ is made up of those who have heard and believed the Gospel; those whose names are enrolled in heaven (1 Cor. 12:13; Eph.1:13-14; Heb. 12:23).

All Catholics are Saints

Dominus Iesus states "the Church can say with Saint Paul: ‘You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are saints (italics mine) and members of the household of God’" (para.23). If Pope John Paul really believes all Catholics are saints why does he chose to elevate only a select few to sainthood after a long and tedious examination of their lives?


In Dominus Iesus the Vatican has once again tried to supplant the authority of God with an authority of its own. By declaring that its bishops have sole authority to interpret the Scriptures, it has renounced the Holy Spirit’s authoritative role to illuminate and disclose the Word of Christ (John 14:16; 16:14). By asserting papal authority over all of Christianity with its faulty and self-serving interpretation of Scripture, it has replaced Jesus as head of the church. Finally, by declaring the Roman Catholic Church is the mediator of salvation, it has replaced the Lord Jesus as the only one qualified to reconcile sinners to God.

The false pen of the scribes certainly works falsehood. Behold they have rejected the Word of the Lord so what wisdom do they have. (Jeremiah 8:8-9)

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