The Catholic Church has always taught that receiving the Sacrament of Baptism is the only way into Christ’s Church, outside of which there is no salvation.
Pope Julius III, Council of Trent, On the Sacraments of Baptism and Penance, Sess. 14, Chap. 2, ex cathedra: “But in fact this sacrament [Penance] is seen to differ in many respects from baptism. For, apart from the fact that the matter and form, by which the essence of a sacrament is constituted, are totally distinct, there is certainly no doubt that the minister of baptism need not be a judge, 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).”
This definition is particularly significant because it proves that only through water baptism is one incorporated into the Body of the Church. The significance of this will become clearer in the later sections where it is proven that Body membership is necessary for salvation.
Pope Eugene IV, The Council of Florence, “Exultate Deo,” Nov. 22, 1439, ex cathedra: “Holy baptism, which is the gateway to the spiritual life, holds the first place among all the sacraments; through it we are made members of Christ and of the body of the Church. And since death entered the universe through the first man, ‘unless we are born again of water and the Spirit, we cannot,’ as the Truth says, ‘enter into the kingdom of heaven’ [John 3:5]. The matter of this sacrament is real and natural water.”
Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis (# 22), June 29, 1943: “Actually only those are to be numbered among the members of the Church who have received the laver of regeneration [water baptism] and profess the true faith.”
Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis (# 27), June 29, 1943: “He (Christ) also determined that through Baptism (cf. Jn. 3:5) those who should believe would be incorporated in the Body of the Church.”
Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei (# 43), Nov. 20, 1947: “In the same way, actually that baptism is the distinctive mark of all Christians, and serves to differentiate them from those who have not been cleansed in this purifying stream and consequently are not members of Christ, the sacrament of holy orders sets the priest apart from the rest of the faithful who have not received this consecration.”
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