I heard it once too often.
You know how it goes. Some older Catholic, or ex-Catholic, tells you, “When I was growing up ...” — in the 1930s or ’40s or ’50s, maybe; or, perhaps, until Vatican II in the 1960s — “... when I was growing up, the Catholic Church said that only Catholics go to heaven.”
Sometimes, it is said in all innocence. Sometimes, it is said accusingly. Sometimes, it is said with a virtual wink-of-the-eye, “knowingly,” as if to imply, You can believe that little white lie that the Church’s teachings don’t change. But I know better.
Yes, I heard it once too often. So, here is a small compendium of Catholic teaching concerning the salvation of Non-Catholics. All of these documents were published before 1950. I present them here from oldest to newest, with a very brief extract from each. The links here go to pages that present the relevant passages of the documents. Those pages include links, when applicable, to the full documents elsewhere.