I hear a lot of Catholics say, in response to a person’s death, that the family members of the deceased should try to remember the deceased is in a better place. How do Catholics know that God choose to put this person in Heaven and not Hell? Are Catholics who presume to speak for God committing a great sin?
No we are not supposed. You’ve put your finger on a grave error committed by many Catholics. Place them in God’s hands. That’s enough. We know nothing beyond that.
Isn’t God’s hands a better place?
I hear of lot of everyone saying this. It’s usually a offered as words of comfort for family members. Suggesting that a loved one is on the Express to Hell is not that comforting to those who are grieving.
Catholics have the Doctrine of Purgatory* but I have family who are actually hurt by the thought that their parent didn’t go straight to heaven. I know it means they don’t understand Purgatory (unfortunatly). I can’t imagine what would happen if someone were to suggest that their mom or dad could maybe to to Hell instead.
But what to say? I’ve been sent reeling emotionally and spiritually because of idiotic things said to me while I was grieving. People say sometimes silly (read: theologically incorrect), sometimes hurtful things (and getting into the deceaced eternal destination can be a sticky one) because they don’t know what to say. I try to cut folks some slack here including myself. Expressing sympathy beyond “I’m sorry for your loss” ends up being more verbally klutzy than I care to admit.
As for great sin? Great? Depends on the intent. Do I mean to decieve the person so they do not pray for the soul of their loved one. Then, I think, yes. But is it a sin in the first place? I don’t know. Again I think it depends and what could make it a sin is infinite.
*And let’s not get off topic. It was an example.