The Athanasian Creed is one of the most important creeds of the Catholic Faith. It contains a beautiful summary of a Catholic’s belief in the Trinity and the Incarnation, which are the two fundamental dogmas of Christianity. Before the 1971 changes in the Liturgy, the Athanasian Creed, consisting of 40 rhythmic statements, had been used in the Sunday Office for over a thousand years. The Athanasian Creed sets forth the necessity of believing the Catholic Faith for salvation. It closes with the words: “This is the Catholic Faith, which, except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.” The Athanasian Creed was composed by the great St. Athanasius himself, as the Council of Florence confirms.
Pope Eugene IV, Council of Florence, Sess. 8, Nov. 22, 1439, ex cathedra:
“Sixthly, we offer to the envoys that compendious rule of the faith composed by most blessed Athanasius, which is as follows:
“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 eternity.– But the Catholic faith is this, that we worship one God in the Trinity, and the Trinity in unity; neither confounding the persons, nor dividing the substance; for there is one person of the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Spirit, their glory is equal, their majesty coeternal...and in this Trinity there is nothing first or later, nothing greater or less, but all three persons are coeternal and coequal with one another, so that in every respect, as has already been said above, both unity in Trinity, and Trinity in unity must be worshipped. Therefore let him who wishes to be saved, think thus concerning the Trinity.
“But it is necessary for eternal salvation that he faithfully believe also in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ...the Son of God is God and man... This is the Catholic faith; unless each one believes this faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.”
The above definition of the Athanasian Creed at the ecumenical Council of Florence means that this creed qualifies as a pronouncement from the Chair of St. Peter (an ex cathedra pronouncement). To deny that which is professed in the Athanasian Creed is to cease to be Catholic. The Creed declares that whoever wishes to be saved needs to hold the Catholic Faith and believe in the Trinity and the Incarnation. Notice the phrase, “whoever wishes to be saved” (quicunque vult salvus esse).
This phrase is without question the product and inspiration of the Holy Ghost. It tells us that everyone who can “wish” must believe in the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation in order to be saved. This does not include infants and those below the age of reason, since they cannot wish! Infants are numbered among the Catholic faithful, since they receive the habit of Catholic Faith at the Sacrament of Baptism. But, being below the age of reason, they cannot make any act of faith in the Catholic mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation, an act which is absolutely necessary for the salvation of all above the age of reason (for all who wish to be saved). Is it not remarkable how God worded this infallible creed’s teaching on the necessity of belief in the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation in a way that would not include infants? The creed, therefore, teaches that everyone above the age of reason must have a knowledge and belief in the mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation to be saved – no exceptions. This creed, therefore, eliminates the theory of invincible ignorance (that one above the age of reason can be saved without knowing Christ or the true Faith) and further renders those who preach it unable to profess this creed with honesty.
And the fact that no one who wishes to be saved can be saved without a knowledge and belief in the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation is the reason why the Holy Office under Pope Clement XI responded that a missionary must, before baptism, explain these absolutely necessary mysteries to an adult who is at the point of death.
Response of the Sacred Office to the Bishop of Quebec, Jan. 25, 1703:
“Q. Whether a minister is bound, before baptism is conferred on an adult, to explain to him all the mysteries of our faith, especially if he is at the point of death, because this might disturb his mind. Or, whether it is sufficient, if the one at the point of death will promise that when he recovers from the illness, he will take care to be instructed, so that he might put into practice what has been commanded him.
“A. A promise is not sufficient, but a missionary is bound to explain to an adult, even a dying one who is not entirely incapacitated, the mysteries of faith which are necessary by a necessity of means, as are especially the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation.”
Another question was posed at the same time and answered the same way.
Response of the Sacred Office to the Bishop of Quebec, Jan. 25, 1703:
“Q. Whether it is possible for a crude and uneducated adult, as it might be with a barbarian, to be baptized, if there were given him only an understanding of God and some of His attributes… although he does not believe explicitly in Jesus Christ.
“A. A missionary should not baptize one who does not believe explicitly in the Lord Jesus Christ, but is bound to instruct him about all those matters which are necessary, by a necessity of means, in accordance with the capacity of the one to be baptized.”
The dogma that belief in the Trinity and Incarnation is absolutely necessary for salvation for all those above the age of reason is also the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas, Pope Benedict XIV and Pope St. Pius X.
St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica: “After grace had been revealed, both the learned and simple folk are bound to explicit faith in the mysteries of Christ, chiefly as regards those which are observed throughout the Church, and publicly proclaimed, such as the articles which refer to the Incarnation, of which we have spoken above.”
Saint Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica: “And consequently, when once grace had been revealed, all were bound to explicit faith in the mystery of the Trinity.”
Pope Benedict XIV, Cum Religiosi (# 1), June 26, 1754:
“We could not rejoice, however, when it was subsequently reported to Us that in the course of religious instruction preparatory to Confession and Holy Communion, it was very often found that these people were ignorant of the mysteries of the faith, even those matters which must be known by necessity of means; consequently they were ineligible to partake of the Sacraments.”
Pope Benedict XIV, Cum Religiosi (# 4):
“See to it that every minister performs carefully the measures laid down by the holy Council of Trent… that confessors should perform this part of their duty whenever anyone stands at their tribunal who does not know what he must by necessity of means know to be saved…”
Those above the age of reason who are ignorant of these absolutely necessary mysteries of the Catholic Faith – these mysteries which are a “necessity of means” – cannot be numbered among the elect, as Pope St. Pius X confirms.
Pope St. Pius X, Acerbo Nimis (# 2), April 15, 1905:
“And so Our Predecessor, Benedict XIV, had just cause to write: ‘We declare that a great number of those who are condemned to eternal punishment suffer that everlasting calamity because of ignorance of those mysteries of faith which must be known and believed in order to be numbered among the elect.’”
So let those who believe that salvation is possible for those who don’t believe in Christ and the Trinity (which is “the Catholic Faith” if defined in terms of its simplest mysteries) change their position and align it with Catholic dogma. There is no other name under all of heaven whereby a man is saved other than the Lord Jesus (Acts 4:12). Let them cease contradicting the Athanasian Creed and let them confess that knowledge of these mysteries is absolutely necessary for the salvation of all who wish to be saved. They must firmly hold this so they can themselves possess the Catholic Faith and profess this creed with honesty and as our Catholic forefathers did.
These essential mysteries of the Catholic Faith have been disseminated and taught to most by means of the Apostles’ Creed (which is given in the Appendix). This vital creed includes the central truths about God the Father, God the Son (Our Lord Jesus Christ – His conception, crucifixion, ascension, etc.) and God the Holy Ghost. It also contains a profession of Faith in the crucial truths of the holy Catholic Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of the body.
There is No Salvation for members of Islam, Judaism or other heretical or schismatic non-Catholic sects
So far we’ve seen that it’s an infallibly defined dogma that all who die as non-Catholics, including all Jews, pagans, heretics, schismatics, etc. cannot be saved. They need to be converted to have salvation. Now we must take a brief look at more of what the Church specifically says about some of the prominent non-Catholic religions, such as Judaism, Islam, and the Protestant and Eastern schismatic sects. This will illustrate, once again, that those who hold that members of non-Catholic religions can be saved are not only going against the solemn declarations that have already been quoted, but also the specific teachings quoted below.
 Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, Vol. 1, pp. 550-553; Denzinger 39-40.
 Denzinger 1349a.
 Denzinger 1349b.
 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Pt. II-II, Q. 2., A. 7.
 St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Pt. II-II, Q. 2., A. 8.
 The Papal Encyclicals, Vol. 1 (1740-1878), p. 45.
 The Papal Encyclicals, Vol. 1 (1740-1878), p. 46.
 The Papal Encyclicals, Vol. 3 (1903-1939), p. 30.
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