“I Haven’t Killed Anyone!” What Serious Sins Will Exclude Us From the Kingdom of God?

Why aren’t we more concerned about how even many of our fellow Catholics are engaging in behaviors (“lifestyles”), or accepting, or even approving them, in others, that scripture says will exclude them from the kingdom?

A soul being rescued from purgatory.

Right after Vatican II, there was an explosion of interest in moral theology. The “fundamental option” theory gained wide notice in both scholarly journals and in popular Catholic culture. Many people got the impression—and many still have it—that if one’s overall life is pointed in a good direction, particular sinful acts may not exclude us from the kingdom. This interpretation was definitively rejected in Blessed John Paul II’s important encyclical on the moral life, Veritatis Splendor.(Henceforth, VS)

The Pope definitively taught, in continuity with the Church’s tradition, that particular acts can change our fundamental option, and that we can’t dissociate a fundamental option “for God” from particular acts of the body that contradict such an option. The Pope reaffirmed the teaching of the Council of Trent and of Scripture, that our salvation can be lost, not only by acts of apostasy by which faith itself is lost, but also by any other mortal sin. The Pope repeats the usual teaching that mortal sin involves grave matter, sufficient reflection, and full consent of the will. (VS 49, 67- 68)

Another source of confusion after Vatican II were trends in moral theology that exalted the role of individual conscience in making moral choices, without sufficiently stressing that we have an obligation to seek out the truth about what is right and wrong, and act in accordance with it, as opposed to “deciding for ourselves” what we think is right and wrong.

Again, (soon to be “Saint”) John Paul II taught that the moral law is to be recognized, discovered in the reflection of reason and attention to Divine Revelation, and that conscience is the application of this natural—embedded in human nature and susceptible to discovery by the intellect—and divine—explicitly and fully revealed in the Sacred Scripture—moral law in particular circumstances. The moral law is to be discovered and obeyed, with the help of grace, not “thought up” or “made up,” or “received” from a post-Christian culture, or determined by what is legal, or by what the majority think is right or wrong, or a by pastiche of personal opinions and preferences. (VS 36, 40, 58-60)

And like Vatican II, Veritatis Splendor called for a greater attention to Sacred Scripture in the grounding of moral theology. Let’s look now at some particular texts of Scripture that spell out in some detail what acts will exclude us from the kingdom of God, if not repented from. Before we do so, let’s recall the way the Catholic Church views the authority and reliability of Scripture.

Since, therefore, all that the inspired authors, or sacred writers, affirm should be affirmed by the Holy Spirit, we must acknowledge that the books of Sacred Scripture, firmly, faithfully and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the sacred Scriptures. (Dei Verbum 11).

And now some important texts (I’m bolding some sentences for emphasis):

Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived, neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers, will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9-10)

And, as Paul often does, he repeats what is particularly important for us to understand:

For you were called to freedom, brethren: only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another … Now the works of the flesh are plain: immorality, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:13, 19-21)

We also find this clear warning in Ephesians:

Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure man, or one who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for it is because of these things that the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. (Eph 5:5-6)

And, again, in the book of Revelation:

Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates. Outside are the dogs and sorcerers and fornicators and murderers and idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. (Rev 22:14-15)

If we’re not shocked by these texts, we haven’t been paying attention. A lot of seriously sinful acts have the potential to exclude us from the Kingdom. Take fornication as an example. We live in a culture that has come to accept fornication (sexual relations between two unmarried persons of the opposite sex) as normal and morally permissible. This belief has become common, even among Catholics. Many priests and deacons lament how pervasive it has become for Catholics to engage in sexual relationships with each other outside of marriage, who also wish to get married “in church.”

Or take the matter of the active practice of homosexuality (in contrast to homosexual inclination that is not acted on). Again, many Catholics, particularly young Catholics, just in the last 10 years have come to believe that active homosexuality is morally permissible, and should be viewed with equal regard—and even recognized as “marriage”—on an equivalent basis with heterosexual marriage.

Or how about greed or covetousness? Or anger or jealousy? When greed or covetousness or anger or jealousy is not just a passing inclination or emotion, but is something that is given in to and willed, often leading to other sinful actions, Scripture indicates that this will exclude us from the kingdom.  It was out of jealousy that the Jewish leaders desired to kill Jesus, and, then “filled with jealousy,” the apostles. (Acts 5:17; 13: 45) Jesus made clear that it may not only  be evil choices of the will that lead to subsequent sinful actions that will exclude us from the kingdom,  but also even if we “only”  harden our hearts in these wicked complex of thoughts, attitudes, and emotions that, in itself, can exclude us from the kingdom. (Mt. 5:20-32) The anger that hardens into unforgiveness, for example, may seal us off from God’s mercy. Every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we ask that God measure forgiveness to us as we measure it to others!

It is not uncommon to hear people say: “Well, most people are good, they’re not murderers!” As is clear from the lists above, murder is only one of a number of actions that can exclude people from the kingdom. Unfortunately, some of the most popular and widespread sins—which in many cases are no longer considered sins—can exclude us from the kingdom as well.

Why aren’t we more concerned about how even many of our fellow Catholics are engaging in behaviors (“lifestyles”), or accepting, or even approving them, in others, that scripture says will exclude them from the kingdom?

One reason is that we have heard that it is virtually impossible to commit a mortal sin, and that most of the people who appear to be committing mortal sins, since they are doing things that are objectively and gravely wrong, are not giving sufficient reflection to what they are doing, or giving full consent of the will—the other two conditions necessary for mortal sin. Blessed John Paul II, aware of this line of reasoning, that would make the actual existence of mortal sins very rare, reaffirms the traditional teaching:

Both in moral theology and in pastoral practice one is familiar with cases in which an act which is grave by reason of its matter does not constitute a mortal sin because of a lack of full awareness or deliberate consent on the part of the person performing it. Even so, “care will have to be taken not to reduce mortal sin to an act of ‘fundamental option’ – as is commonly said today – against ‘God”, seen either as an explicit and formal rejection of God and neighbor or as an implicit and unconscious rejection of love. “For mortal sin exists also when a person knowingly and willingly, for whatever reason, chooses something gravely disordered. In fact, such a choice already includes contempt for the divine law, a rejection of God’s love for humanity and the whole of creation: the person turns away from God and loses charity. Consequently, the fundamental orientation can be radically changed by particular acts.” (VS 70the internal quote is from Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 17)

Another reason we seem to be rather unconcerned about the growing numbers of Catholics engaging in, or approving of, gravely wrong actions and lifestyles is that we have heard that they probably are in “good conscience” and have, in their own consciences, decided that such behavior is morally permissible.

Reflections on the Current Situation

It’s true that many Catholics today have never heard clear and authoritative teaching on what serious sin is, and why it excludes us from the kingdom of God. The failure of those charged with preaching and teaching to clearly communicate such important truth has clearly contributed to the current confusion. But does this make Catholics who engage in these behaviors guiltless? Are they truly not culpable for their ignorance? Only God can judge individual cases, but there are some considerations that should give us pause.

First of all, Scripture (and Church teaching) make clear that apart from all preaching and teaching, God himself reveals basic truths to the human race, both as regards his existence, and as to the basics of the moral law. In other words, every person, whatever their exposure to Church teaching has been, or even if it has been non-existent, has been enlightened to some extent by God himself, and will be held accountable to how they have responded to the light they have been given.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened. (Rom 1: 18-21)

Not only is God’s existence revealed, and the implied obligation to seek him and discover his will, but also the basic elements of the moral law is also revealed to each person.

Romans 2 makes clear that each person will be judged on the basis of their response to the measure of light that God gave them, whether Jew or Gentile.

Do you suppose, O man, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality” (Rom 2: 3-11).

This truth is clearly affirmed by the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Unintentional ignorance can diminish or even remove the imputabililty of a grave offense. But no one is deemed to be ignorant of the principles of the moral law, which are written in the conscience of every man (CCC 1860).

Secondly, the immoral behavior can itself be evidence that underlying such immorality is a prior culpable rejection of God’s revelation of himself that is given to all human beings.

Most chillingly, Scripture reveals that the spiritual rebellion, the refusal to submit to God’s light, leads to an intellectual blindness and moral depravity. The very blindness and bondage to sin is itself a judgment of God on the fundamental sin of unbelief, and refusal to obey. The wickedness is compounded by urging others to abandon the “narrow way that leads to life,” and join the wicked on the “broad way that leads to destruction”(Mt 7:13-14). Celebrating and approving immorality is characteristic of the darkened mind, and a sign of God’s judgment. When wickedness appears to be triumphing, the truth is that the wicked are only storing up wrath for the Day of Judgment (Rom 2:5), as well as participating in a preliminary way in the moral truth of the universe that the “wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23).

Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man or birds or animals or reptiles.  Therefore, God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.  For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural,  and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct.  They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who do such things deserve to die, they not only do them but approve those who practice them.  (Rom 1:22-32)

Thirdly, the witness of scripture, Church teaching, and reflection on our own human experience, show us that sometimes gravely wrong actions can be chosen “knowingly and willingly” (VS 70)  in an instant, that then is covered by layers of rationalizations to obscure even to the person himself or herself the very knowledge he or she had, but rejected, and the sinful choice he or she made instead.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it:

Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It pre-supposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies a consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin. (CCC 1859)

Fourthly, while there can be mitigating factors that diminish, or even remove, the culpability of gravely wrong actions—through possible limitations on full consent, rooted in theories of addictive behavior or choice impeded by “passion” (CCC 1860)—Augustine, in his masterful description of how the chains of sin are woven in a human person, shows how there can be culpable choice, even in apparent cases like these. In his profoundly insightful description of how the chains of sin are woven through repeated choices over time, Augustine points out that, even though a person may have become a “slave to sin,” and is currently no longer free to stop sinning—apart from the grace of God—the slavery may be the culmination of a series of free acts that led to slavery. And, therefore, the slavery, while real, has been self-chosen by repeated decisions to do gravely wrong things, and he/she is, therefore, culpable. (Confessions, Book VIII, nos. 10-11; see also Book X, nos. 33-34)

Fifthly, the encounter of the hearts of human beings with the Gospel (as revealed in Scripture) shows that it is often rejected, as well as accepted. Therefore, it is not reasonable to suppose, then, that virtually all the apparent “rejection” is rooted in inculpable ignorance, or insufficient reflection, or freedom of choice. Or as Vatican II puts it: the possibility of people being saved who haven’t had a chance to hear the Gospel—while it’s theoretically possible, under certain circumstances for that to be the case—“very often” the conditions aren’t met because of the ever-present influence of the world, the flesh, and the devil on the choices for evil that we often make (Lumen Gentium, 16). Or again, as Vatican II puts it, it is not enough just to be a baptized Catholic, or even a faithful church-goer, but it is necessary to be living faithfully to the grace of God in thought, word, and deed. Otherwise, not only will baptized Catholics not be saved, but they will be “more severely judged.” (Lumen Gentium, 14)

Pastoral Conclusions

While we cannot judge, as Scripture indicates, whether the subjective guilt or culpability of those doing gravely wrong actions will exclude them from the Kingdom, there is sufficient reason to suppose that many of those committing mortal sins may actually be culpable in their actions and, quite possibly, cause them to be led down the broad road to destruction. Rather than console ourselves into inaction and presumption by supposing them guiltless—nor should we presume them culpable—we must, with great urgency and love, seek every opportunity to help those in such situations to realize their grave danger, and call them to faith and repentance.

Further, no matter what the level of knowledge or consent, sin wounds the human person, and those who are committing serious sin—whatever the degree of culpability—dulling their minds, weakening their wills, defacing the image of God in whose image they are made, and degrading the dignity of their own persons, and others engaged in sin with them.

And, yes, pastoral sensitivity and compassion need to be shown. We need to understand that once a person is caught up in habits of sin, and the journey back can be long and hard. But that journey must be made; it is false compassion, of the worse kind, not to lovingly tell people the truth, inviting them to begin the journey back to the Father’s love.

We shouldn’t be surprised that some will accept, and others will reject, such truth. We shouldn’t be surprised that some, who initially reject, then later accept, or vice versa. Such was the case from the beginning. Our responsibility is to “preach the Gospel whether it’s convenient or inconvenient”—not just because we’ve been commanded by Jesus to do so, or because the “new evangelization” has become a major focus of the contemporary Church—but because the eternal destinies of multitudes are at stake.

One last comment on the immensity of God’s mercy. There has been a particularly strong and helpful emphasis on the immense mercy of God in the contemporary Church. This emphasis has been deepened in devotional power by the revelations given to St. Faustina about God’s mercy, her canonization, and the establishment, by John Paul II, of the Feast of Divine Mercy, which is celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Unfortunately, as with virtually every other good gift of God, Satan has tried to neutralize its impact by leading us to ignore important aspects of the revelations given to St. Faustina, and pushing us toward a presumption of mercy, rather than a repentance and conversion in the face of mercy.

The Lord made clear to St. Faustina that he wanted her to communicate the message of his mercy in the context of his Second Coming and Final Judgment. (See St. Faustina’s Diary, 965.) He also took the extraordinary step of having an angel take her on a tour of hell, which she vividly and horrifyingly describes in her Diary (741). As she puts it after she describes what she saw:

I am writing this at the command of God, so that no soul may find an excuse by saying there is no hell, or that nobody has ever been there, and so no one can say what it is like.

I, sister Faustina, by the order of God, have visited the abysses of hell so that I might tell souls about it, and testify to its existence. I cannot speak about it now; but I have received a command from God to leave it in writing. The devils were full of hatred for me, but they had to obey me at the command of God. What I have written is but a pale shadow of the things I saw. But I noticed one thing: that most of the souls there are those who disbelieved that there is a hell.

As priests, deacons and concerned lay people, we have been entrusted with the amazing privilege, and great responsibility, of telling people the truth about how we can be saved, announcing both God’s great mercy in giving us Jesus, and the absolute necessity to respond to that mercy through faith, repentance and obedience. Mercy is not automatically applied; there needs to be a real “yes” to mercy for it to be effective in our lives, for the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life.

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avatar About Ralph Martin, S.T.D.

Ralph Martin, S.T.D., is director of graduate theology programs in the New Evangelization at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in the Archdiocese of Detroit. He is also the president of Renewal Ministries (www.renewalministries.net). His most recent books are: The Fulfillment of All Desire: A Guidebook for the Journey to God Based on the Wisdom of the Saints, and Will Many Be Saved? What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization.

Comments

  1. avatar Bill Bannon says:

    Actually the recent Popes are also unwittingly involved in the complacency. Both Blessed John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict stated in a book and sermon respectively that we cannot be certain that Judas is in hell because the Church never declared it. But Christ declared it…and most strikingly when He said to His Father, “Those whom you gave me I guarded and not one of them perished except the son of perdition..”. If “perished” doesn’t get you, “son of perdition” should since it’s an odd term for someone bound for glory through the reward of purgatory which is a reward not a default setting.
    But the noted words of Christ are final for a very special reason. Christ spoke of Judas as having perished in the past tense PRIOR to Judas sinning. Judas had just started on his way to the betrayal moment and was far from his suicide which lay in the future hours but Christ said “perished”…past tense. Let’s listen to St. Justin Martyr in the First Apology, section 42 on the meaning of past tense prophecy: “The things which He absolutely knows will take place, He predicts as if already they had taken place. ”
    Christ’s passion is predicted in the past tense in Isaiah 53:5 because it will happen with certainty…
    ” But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.”
    Jonah (3:4) predicts Nineveh’s destruction in the future tense because it is conditional on their repenting or not repenting…”forty days and Nineveh will be destroyed”. They repented and the prediction lapsed because it was not certain of outcome being conditional.
    But Christ used the past tense about Judas perishing …like Isaiah 53:5′s past tense…because it was certain that Judas would be damned. Both Augustine and Chrysostom stated Judas’ damnation in sermons. Fundamentalist truck drivers know what Augustine and Chrysostom knew on this topic. I suspect the majority of our priests side with the last two Popes. And that is why many Catholics think it is almost impossible to reach hell. If Judas can’t get in hell certainly in the minds of two Popes no matter what Christ said, then how can anyone else get in hell.

    • I don’t know, Bill. You may be right about Judas, but the case does not seem air-tight to me. The “prophetic future in past tense” might be stretching far into the future, and be a reference to this person, “the lawless one”:

      2 Thes 2:3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For unless the apostasy comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one doomed to perdition,
      2 Thes 3:4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god and object of worship, so as to seat himself in the temple of God, claiming that he is a god—…

      The evil that this person is guilty of is grave indeed, and goes beyond Judas’s betrayal. Perhaps this is the “son of perdition” that Jesus was speaking of, in the far distant future.

      I’m speculating here. There are many mysteries in these prophesies.

      • avatar Bill Bannon says:

        Thomas,
        Look closely….Christ is talking about those whom the Father gave Him and those Christ was WITH:
        John 17:11…”And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.
        12
        When I was with them I protected them in your name that you gave me, and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction, in order that the scripture might be fulfilled.”
        ………………………….
        Christ was WITH Judas not with future anti Christ figures who the Father could not be said to have placed with Christ. Further read Mark 14:21
        ” For the Son of Man indeed goes, as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”
        No person in Heaven would have been better off not born but Christ is saying Judas would have been better off if he was never born…ergo from another passage entirely, Judas is in hell.
        There were 266 Popes. Can you name any Pope prior to John Paul II and Benedict who ever suggested that Judas might be anywhere but hell? I had 16 years Catholic school and 8 of those with Jesuits. I never heard them mention any Pope in history that thought Judas might be in Purgatory or Heaven. None…nada.

      • Bill – I don’t want to try to counter every argument you make for your interpretation, that debate could go on for a very long time. There are mysteries here, and the mind of man is capable of finding what he is looking for, and proving what he wants proved. I think there is room in the faithful Church for both interpretations, and that is good.

        The wider issue is, I think, more important. Sin ought not be artificially covered over, or neglected as it often is in the pulpit. Holiness ought not be so trivially understood that the word becomes meaningless. Indeed, if sin and holiness become meaningless and irrelevant, then God’s mercy and desire that all might be saved, also become meaningless and irrelevant. It is s short step, in such a shallow religion, to practical atheism: God Himself is simply irrelevant.

        Thank you for your thoughts.

    • avatar Bill Bannon says:

      Then Catholic writers like Ralph Martin should note the papal positions which militate against fear of the Lord. But then….they’ll be in hot water with the publishing community and their income will surely go down. Here’s Pope Benedict in Verbum Domini section 42 stating that the OT massacres or herem or bans were immoral:
      ” Revelation is suited to the cultural and moral level of distant times and thus describes facts and customs, such as cheating and trickery, and acts of violence and massacre, without explicitly denouncing the immorality of such things. ”
      Now here is God commanding those massacres:
      Joshua 10:40
      Joshua conquered the entire land; the mountain regions, the Negeb, the Shephelah, and the mountain slopes, with all their kings. He left no survivors, but put under the ban every living being, just as the LORD, the God of Israel, had commanded.

      Joshua 11: 14-15
      All the spoil and livestock of these cities the Israelites took as plunder; but the people they put to the sword, until they had destroyed the last of them, leaving none alive.
      15
      As the LORD had commanded his servant Moses, so Moses commanded Joshua, and Joshua acted accordingly.f He left nothing undone that the LORD had commanded Moses should be done.
      ……………………………………….
      You see…..it is not just about Judas. It is about God’s wrath and these last two Popes have tried to contradict that wrath ( see EV sect.40 also for John Paul attributing deuteronomic death penalties to a culture…not to God) via modern critico-historical techniques which have their place but that place is not in reversing mandates of God and what Jerome called the literal level of a moral command by God.
      Judas/ herem- massacres / death penalties….all three frightened these two Holy Popes too much.

      • avatar Bill Bannon says:

        PS
        Here is an example of the actual first person imperative:

        Joshua 8:18.
        Then the LORD directed Joshua: Stretch out the javelin in your hand toward Ai, for I will deliver it into your power. Joshua stretched out the javelin in his hand toward the city…24 When Israel finished killing all the inhabitants of Ai in the open, who had pursued them into the wilderness, and all of them to the last man fell by the sword, then all Israel returned and put to the sword those inside the city.
        25. There fell that day a total of twelve thousand men and women, the entire population of Ai. 26 Joshua kept the javelin in his hand stretched out until he had carried out the ban on all the inhabitants of Ai.

    • avatar Carolyn says:

      Most people, to their own damnation, refuse to believe in Hell, where MOST PEOPLE WILL BE FOR ETERNITY according to the words and revelations of Our Blessed Mother Mary (MANY TIMES OVER SHE STATED: They are falling like snowflakes into Hell…)

  2. avatar GTB says:

    It is true that we don’t know who is in hell. It’s also true that fact doesn’t exempt any person from ‘doing whatever He tells you.’
    Mr Bannon, your reference to “fundamentalist truck drivers” is stereotyping & demeaning, even if it wasn’t intended that way.

  3. avatar Bill Bannon says:

    GTB,
    You missed much. Judas is in hell according to Christ and I love part of the fundamentalist ethic and I like most truck drivers….a work I did when young.

  4. avatar Ted Heywood says:

    Bannon and Richard excellent discussion and well reasoned on both sides. I am not sure what the answer is but there has to be someone in hell. The statements of Christ relative to Judas do seem to be quite clear and explicit
    GTB – Your comment on being demeaning and stereotying is the pot calling the kettle black (you probably won’t like that one either).
    There are an awful lot of souls in Hell, from Sr. Faustina’s observations at least, and if we can not make moral judgements about observed actions then all becomes relative and we would have to wonder how (on earth) could anyone get there.
    It would be enlightening if there was an official Church teaching/interpretation on the passages quoted by Bannon. Anyone know?

  5. avatar Bill Bannon says:

    Ted,
    There cannot be a Church interpretation in an infallible context or the last two Popes (and Von Balthasar and Rahner by implication) would not have been able to say what they said which is the opposite of what Augustine and Chrysostom said. The Council of Trent said we cannot judge another particular soul outside revelation which scripture is on Judas…so he can be seen as being in hell… but not him alone. Both Jezebel and Herod are not only killed by God but His Providence allows both to be eaten by dogs and worms respectively. Dathan and Abiram are not decently buried as Ananias and
    Sapphira were but they were swallowed by the earth…yet all four were killed by God. I suspect Ananias and Sapphira then reached Purgatory for not deeply knowing that they had lied to the Holy Spirit.
    Outside scripture we cannot judge an individual but we can state the probable about patently evil groups e.g. that millions of pirates, and criminals who were killed throughout history as they tried to kill law enforcement…simply cannot all have been saved by God in the several moments between heart death and brain death ( or were all insane or lacked sufficient reflection). If everyone is saved in those moments, then why does Christ say: “Many will seek to enter and will not be able” Luke 13:24. Von Balthasar and Rahner cannot circumvent that passage by Christ…but they did. Popes cannot circumvent Christ on Judas but they do. And who are Catholic authors usually critiquing? Us in the peanut gallery.

    • avatar HPR Site Admin says:

      One must discern between what’s in Scripture and one’s interpretation of Scripture. Your interpretation of Jesus’ words are just that; the final word is God’s. Whether or not one agrees or disagrees with these popes, among others, I think this conversation has reached a point that is unclear to the point of needlessly setting them against the Word of God, defaulting to the supposed (pardon, but) perspicuity of Scripture in your eyes, Mr. Bannon. Let’s let this conversation close.

      • avatar Bill Bannon says:

        Consider me done and satisfied that my perspicuity of scripture on these topics probably matches that of an overwhelming majority of Popes throughout history.

  6. avatar Ted Heywood says:

    I guess it is much more comforting and politically correct to support the illusion that all will repent at the last moment and avoid Hell while still able to do so, no matter the levelof our evil actions, Now that I think about it, I can never remember a funeral mass at which the celebrant allowed that the deceased was, for the most part, an evil wretch most likely to not even make Purgatory. Sort of sets a level of expectation that is continuously feeding the problem.
    We should never let inconvenient facts interfere with our more delusional expectations. Pay no attention to the Justice stuff and just focus on the mercifull part. Feels better!
    Great article — we need much more of this kind of reality therapy.

  7. avatar jenny says:

    “I Haven’t Killed Anyone” this is what usually men say about aborting their unborn children.

    I wonder what is the name of the sin of a man who kills his unborn child by starvation?
    If the father does not provide food for his unborn child, then the child will die.
    So, I am wondering what is the name of the sin done by that father who kills his unborn child?

    • avatar Carolyn says:

      It’s called FIRST DEGREE MURDER…in ALL cases when killing an unborn or already born child. Penalty-Damnation for Eternity by the Almighty Creator of Life

  8. avatar Father Dylan Schrader says:

    Thank you, Doctor Martin, for your article. Catholic dogma is clear that sanctifying grace is lost not only by apostasy but by every mortal sin.

    In my ministry, I encounter at least two widespread attitudes among faithful Catholics. First, many believe that God always provides a chance for repentance after death. Second, many are not aware of the distinction between the natural and the supernatural.

    The consequences of the second are many and include the practical reduction of morality to its social dimension without a reference to God or without a reference to God as he reveals himself. Thus, people will claim that an apostate relative is “a good person.” They think this because they have reduced morality to being nice to others and have forgotten that the greatest commandment is to love the Lord above all. They envision a God who places no demands on them over and above what society considers to be a common standard of decency. Because they do not distinguish the natural from the supernatural, they do not really believe in original sin. They think of Heaven as the “default” destination of every person.

    When I preach about Hell, I usually start off by telling people that there are several good reasons for reflecting on it. First, Jesus spoke frequently of Hell. Second, so that we can learn how to avoid it. Third, so that we will appreciate more fully the greatness of the gift of salvation by knowing from what Christ can save us.

  9. avatar Carolyn says:

    Thanks to priests like you, Father, people know about the reality of HELL. Other pastors are afraid of the topic and doing a GRAVE dis-service to their parishioners. Mostly everyone today thinks they bound to go to Heaven….NOT SO!!!

    P.S. from Managing Editor: Ralph Martin is a layperson, see brief bio at end of story!

  10. avatar GTB says:

    Actually, i have killed someone, my own child. So this post of Ralph Martin’s has my name all over it. And not only mine but the millions of parents, grandparents, silent bystanders & perpetrators who have made millions of dollars off killing the unborn for the last forty years.

    Ralph’s point, along with much of his writing over the course of his career, is well taken. I.e., repentance precedes mercy. He’s correct in identifying the false compassion that doesn’t allow repentance by sweeping guilt under the rug. His emphasis on God’s justice is well founded in Scripture. I’m in no position to be able to speak for all the teachings of 266 Popes on this issue so I won’t try.

    That said, it is well for Catholics to remember that Jesus’ strongest condemnation was reserved for whitened sepulchers. I.e., for the men at Simon’s house who judged Jesus & the woman who was washing his feet. For those who, eager to stone a woman caught with a man in adultery, were blind to their own sins. For those who placed heavy burdens on the backs of others & didn’t lift a finger to help them carry it.

    In giving my testimony over the years, I’ve been continually surprised by Catholics who haven’t hesitated to tell me that forgiveness (ie, mercy) was “too easy” for parents like me. Someone who killed her own daughter shouldn’t be allowed to get off by “just going to confession” etc. I say surprised because these comments have always indicated to me that the person saying them has little idea of what God’s Mercy means.

    #1. God’s Mercy isn’t ‘easy’. It wasn’t easy for Jesus earn it & it’s not easy for those in need of it to (daily) accept it.
    #2. God’s Mercy is a scandal to our self-righteousness. Jesus goes to great lengths to help us understand this. E.g., In the Prodigal Son Parable, He could’ve simply used it to teach us about our Father who runs down the road to meet us & won’t let us finish our apology before He starts rejoicing in our return. But instead, Jesus introduces the elder son who harbors so much bitterness in his heart, there is no room left for rejoicing and mercy. Turns out, the prodigal son repents and the elder son does not because he’s blind to his self-righteousness.
    #3. God’s Mercy is proactive. I.e., He is the initiator, He is the giver, He is the pursuing Hound of Heaven. I’m just guessing here but I bet God could’ve just decided at any point in human history, “They made their bed, now they can lie in it.” But, turns out, our heavenly Father’s attitude seems to be more like what St John of the Cross (whose feastday is today!) says, “Where there is no love, put love & you will find love.”
    In order to be more like God, we need to follow this admonition and put love into every relationship, esp with those who seem farthest away from God. In this way, we will be far more likely to draw them to healing & to God than by condemnation.

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