A salvation conundrum

The following situation is hypothetical, but not without real-world applications. Please do not use this thread to resurrect historical controversies.

Let’s say Bishop (or Patriarch, or Cardinal) Q is the leader of a particular group in communion with the Church.

Due to his frustration with certain actions or policies of the Church, Bishop Q goes into schism and takes his followers with him. Though schismatic, this group does not propagate any heretical teachings.

Pope X, leader of the Church responds by excommunicating Bishop Q.

Several years later (50 or 500, as long as you want), one of Pope X’s successors, Pope Y, decides to try and bring the schismatic group founded by Bishop Q back into communion. Bishop Q’s successor, “Bishop” R, accepts.

As part of the reconciliation, Pope Y lifts the excommunication of Bishop Q.

Now here’s the question:

Being excommunicated, Bishop Q is outside the Church and (presumably) goes to Hell upon his death (unless he repented and confessed / made an act of perfect contrition for the sin of schism before dying.)

**Does lifting the excommunication change this?

Or, given Divine foreknowledge, will God send Bishop Q to Purgatory rather than Hell to be purified of his sin (of schism), knowing that Pope Y will lift his excommunication one day and permit him to be saved?**

Thinking caps on. :slight_smile:

Excommunication by the Church no more assures damnation as Canonization by the Church assures Sainthood.

Both are administrative declarations by the Church.

Only God can decide the salvation of a person, not individuals, nor the Church.

By making such claims, we usurp the ultimate power and glory of the Almighty, and are guilty of presumption.

Those that are baptized are members of the Church. Not all of them may die in the state of sanctifying grace. We cannot know this subjective state without a revelation from God.

Excommunication is an exclusion from ecclesial society. I applies to living Catholics. Once you are dead, excommunication has no meaning.

Excommunication cannot be “lifted” from a dead person. If you die in excommunication, that’s it.

One can be absolved from excommunication post mortem, but that is not a “lifting” of excommunication, and its only impact is that it allows an ecclesial burial.

So, “Bishop Q” cannot have excommunication “lifted” after death.

There is no problem.

Maybe, maybe not.

There is no lifting of excommunication. Moot point.

If there were such a thing as post mortem lifting of excommunication, no it would not change anything. Particular judgment happens at the time of your death.

Excommunication or lifting thereof are not directly indicatory of salvation or no salvation. And, particular judgment takes place at the time of death-- so no.

Excommunication is a penalty of the living as it pertains to their ability to exercise rights and responsibilities in Catholic society.

Excommunication is not a pronouncement of damnation to Hell.

It is nonsensical to talk about “lifting excommunication” post mortem.

There is no “problem” here.

Interesting question. As I was reading your post I thought of the movie about St. Thomas Moore “A Man for All Seasons”. In the movie there is the scene where Thomas in brought before King Henry VIII advisors and friends. He was being pressured to sign off on the divorce of King Henry to Queen Mary. One of the men who was a friend of St. Thomas Moore states " Oh come on Thomas. Don’t you see the names of this document. Won’t you sign the document in fellowship!" To which St. Thomas Moore replies “And if at the end of your life you go to heaven for having followed your conscience and I go to hell for haven acted against my conscience will you join me in hell in fellowship. I think not! I won’t sign!”

If Bishop Q’s actions were driven by his conscience and his desire to live according to God’s Will in his life I don’t believe he would be condemned to hell. Only God knows that. What makes the concept of Moral Relativism so dangerous is the belief that if a person convinces themselves that something is not a sin then it is not a sin. What is scary is that individuals will convince themselves something is not a sin for if it is a sin it will interfere with their freedom and will be inconvenient.

Actually the first part is true (does not mean the person necessarily was damned).

The second is not.

(yes the canonized are in heaven! Yes the Church assures the faithful of this).

Thanks for all your replies, especially 1ke’s very comprehensive response! :thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:

“*Excommunication by the Church no more assures damnation as Canonization by the Church assures Sainthood.
Both are administrative declarations by the Church.
Only God can decide the salvation of a person, not individuals, nor the Church.
By making such claims, we usurp the ultimate power and glory of the Almighty, and are guilty of presumption. *”

The Church is not judge of souls in the sense of determining their eternal fate. That said the Almighty shares his authority with the Church using it as his instrument. Canonizations are generally considered to be infallible declarations of the sanctity and eternal state of certain souls.
They are declarations, they themselves do not cause a soul to be a Saint.

I’m not going to comment on the OP’s question (because it is too similar to something currently being discussed involving a certain priestly society) other than to say, as others have, that excommunication is a juridical act of discipline which does not guarantee damnation. It is meant to be medicinal, causing the person to remedy their situation.

Actually, I was thinking of the Orthodox / Catholic schism, where there was some “lifting of excommunications” (which I now presume was a symbolic gesture) in the 1960s if I’m not mistaken. :slight_smile:

Ah, I see, I was thinking of the SSPX.

Interesting historically, local bishops excommunicating other bishops and clergy was not all that uncommon during the middle ages and even until fairly (relatively speaking) recently. In the 18th century Fr. John Carroll of Maryland was excommunicated by the Bishop of Quebec. He later was made Bishop of Maryland but had to cross the Atlantic to be ordained (not being able to be ordained by the Bishop of Quebec the only one available on this side of the pond).

That excommunication was, I think, only recently lifted.

There are two types of excommunication:

  1. ferendae sententiae – a brought judgment, imposed by a decision of Church authority in a particular case
  2. latae sententiae – automatic excommunication (wide judgment) which does not require any decision in the particular case. Commit the offense, with knowledge of the law and its penalty, and the excommunication is incurred, according to Canon law.

However, three particular sins – apostasy, heresy, and schism – excommunicate automatically, by the very nature of the offense, regardless of law or judgment. If you commit any of these three sins, knowingly and deliberately, you cut yourself off from the Church.

If the Church lifts a ferendae excommunication, a latae excommunication might remain in effect, as when a schismatic or heretical group continues in those sins.

Everyone who dies in the state of grace will reach Heaven, perhaps after a short or long stay in Purgatory. Everyone who dies in a state of unrepented actual mortal sin is condemned to Hell forever. A person could be excommunicated and still die in the state of grace, due to a sincere but mistaken conscience.

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