“My Parents are Good Folks? Will They Go To Heaven?”

by Steve Ray on April 27, 2020

A young man wrote today telling me of his coming into full communion with the Church having been raised Catholic but fallen away during university. Now he is back with full joy and appreciation for the truth.

He asked about his parents who were previously lukewarm Catholics but now just a theist and the other an atheist. They are good citizens and loving people. He asked his priest if they had salvation. The priest said it sounded like they were just fine, as long as their hearts are in the right place they should be alright.

He asked me if the priest was correct. Here is my answer: 

“I think your priest if partly right and mostly wrong.
“The Catechism says in paragraph 847 ‘Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation’.
 
If this applies to your parents they may achieve eternal life. However, I would not want my eternal destiny based precariously upon such a hope that maybe if I am ignorant enough and am really seeking God I might make it.
Your priest may have said these things for one of three reasons. He may 1) have been positive so won’t worry, or 2) considers your parents in the state described by paragraph 847, or 3) he tends toward “Universalism” – a belief that in the end all people are ultimately saved. In any case, he may be correct in #2 but he would be incorrect with #1 and #3.
 
It all depends on the state of your parents’ knowledge and how they respond to it. It seems to me that they have no excuse because the truth is there and in their face. They have been raised as Catholics. The truth is easy to find if they know the truth or they “seek God with a sincere heart…”  However, neither of those seem likely based on the smidgeon of information given to me in the e-mail.
 
There are some people going to hell for rejecting God and his salvation in Christ.  If not, then Christ is a liar. However, we can never say that any certain person has gone to hell since we can never know that.
We can never judge one’s eternal destiny since that is the prerogative of God alone. Many certainly have an invincible ignorance and do seek God. Many have converted at the last minute of their lives and we can always pray that they do make that decision between now and when it is too late. God reads the heart and knows that state of one’s soul and salvation, we cannot do that. Actions and words give evidence one way of the other, but only God knows.
 
Sorry I don’t have better news, but Universalism is a heresy and Scripture is clear that one has to turn to Christ and he is the only means of our salvation. We pray and witness and hope…

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Thomas M Govern April 27, 2020 at 10:34 PM

God’s love is so universal, I think that if a person is really a good person, our Church and the catechism says that they are destined for God’s mercy. That does not mean that we need to not direct misdirected people (like my son) to truth, but I think that it means that God’s mercy extends to those, who in their own way, truly love Him.

Jonathan May 27, 2020 at 1:38 AM

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