EWTN Catholic Q&A
John 6:53
Question from Anonymous on 11-09-2012:

As I understand it, Protestant brothers and sisters (i.e. those who have an authentic relationship with Christ, know him as their Lord and Savior, strive to live for him, etc.) are viewed as able to enter Heaven by the Catholic Church. I know many such people and see by their lives and the fruits of their actions that they are doing their best to live for Christ.

My question is centered around John 6:53, which states, "Jesus said to them, 'Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you' " (NAB). How does the Catholic Church interpret this verse? i.e. How is the "unless" not an ultimatum saying that reception of the Eucharist is a necessary component to salvation?

Answer by Fr. John Echert on 11-12-2012:

Actually the Church teaches that there is no salvation outside of the Catholic Church. While many speculate as to the manner in which someone who is not formally a Catholic may be saved, we may not presume this. As to access to the Holy Eucharist, St. Thomas Aquinas interprets this as a moral necessity but not absolute necessity, as is baptism. The Holy Eucharist is a great source of strength to live out the grace of baptism, but for one who does not have access to It, God can provide actual helping grace by other means.

Father Echert