The Seventh and final passage:
“Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, [this Council] teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism, as through a door, men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved” (Lumen Gentium, #14).
Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium (#14-16) acknowledged the possibility of salvation for non-Catholics. The result? Many Catholics, lay and clerical questioned the need for the missionary undertakings of the Church. If non-Catholics could be saved, why bother trying to convert them?
To be clear: Lumen Gentium says that those who know of the necessity of the Church for salvation cannot remain outside of it and hope to be saved. Also (notwithstanding an acknowledgement of the possibility of salvation for non-Catholics) it also says that the Church is necessary for salvation and that Christ is “the unique way of salvation.”
The heterodox interpret Vatican II’s acknowledgment of the possibility of salvation for non-Catholics as saying that there are other paths of salvation outside the Church. Read the documents! This is not what either the council or the Church teaches. As a 2000 document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith makes clear, God’s “salvific grace … is always given by means of Christ in the Spirit and has a mysterious relationship to the Church.” The point is that those who may happen to be saved outside the visible confines of the Church are not saved in spite of the Church or Christ, but arrive at salvation some way through the Church and Christ. The council is, in fact, reaffirming the exclusive claim of Christ and His Church as the one path to salvation.
This passage indicates just how far from the conciliar documents many in “the spirit of Vatican II” have drifted. The joy of my hope is that as a Church we will continue to reflect critically on post-conciliar years to see just how well Vatican II has been so far implemented, and to consider how we can be truer to the council’s teaching as we move forward into the future.