Someone both lovable and known-to-be-sinful died recently, and a friend posed this question: What does the Church teach about so-and-so? Is this person now in hell?
This was my answer:
The Church will very occasionally confirm that someone is in heaven, but never makes a judgement on who is in hell.
We can know that certain sins will mortally wound the life of the soul if they are freely chosen by someone who understands their gravity. We cannot know the inner life of another person, and therefore cannot know how culpable they are for a given sin, nor whether they repented (if necessary).
Heck, we barely scratch the surface on our *own* inner lives.
We can, in contrast, appreciate all that is true, good & beautiful in the people around us.
On that note . . . I wrote a long rambly post back in August on the complicated lives of us sinners. There was a relevant section to my friend’s question, so I’ll share that again:
Mercy is the thing that makes us see the part of our friends that must at all costs be saved.
Yes, yes, we know about the immense weaknesses and deplorable lapses and insufferable habits — but we know the other side! We have seen selflessness to make your mouth gape, and virtues so indelibly marked on our friends’ souls that they track in purity and joy on their shoes even when they try their hardest to wipe their goodness off at the door.
Some people get so despicable that it’s hard to see the parts worth saving. God can see those parts though. The question of salvation isn’t how much nastiness needs to be removed to get down to the person you were created to be. The question of salvation is: Are you willing to be saved?
Happy Advent, everyone!
Detail of a Cross of St. Longinus. If there’s hope for him, there’s hope for you. Photo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Longinuskreuz_1.JPG CC 3.0