Can a child really go to Hell?


Next year my children will be preparing for first Holy Communion after which they will no longer be under the age of reason and able to commit a mortal sin.

Could it really happen?



God is a perfect and all knowing judge. I’m sure He takes into account one’s maturity and moral agency. In fact He tells us to be like little children so something tells me they have a leg up on the rest of us! In short, nobody goes to Hell without actually deserving it and being impenitent. While at least theoretically possible for a child to be guilty as such, I would fathom that it is uncommon to say the least.

That being said, it is important–and I think there are age appropriate ways–to teach children to have a healthy appreciation for the concept of sin and the importance of repentance–including the unhappy result of final impenitence and the happy result of obeying the commandments and remaining in the friendship of God.


Are you asking us to play God?


I feel like you’re a parent who’s freaking out about their child turning 18 because they could commit a felony.

But in reality, a felony is a result of not obeying really clear laws.

Keep your children close to the church and it’s sacraments. God is not unjust.



1861 Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.


Yes. I think the tendency in our age is to not take sin seriously. We think only really bad guys like Hitler and Stalin go to Hell. That said God is merciful. But in an age of presumption maybe we don’t need to be reminded of that?


Maybe a child like Patty McCormick in “The Bad Seed” would go to hell. She was incredibly evil, trying to burn a janitor to death, etc.


Was it Augustine who was disturbed to observe that some babies seemed to intentionally bite mothers at the breast when angry!


Whoever thinks that a young child cannot choose to do something “wrong” has never met a young child. Toddlers are inherelty unreasonable and stubborn creatures. There’s a reason that it takes a while before we consider them rational beings.


Yeah babies do that LOL :joy:!
They can also be taught not to do that.


The difference between a sinner and a babe: the sinner has opportunity.


Sometimes I think age of reason sets in later than one often thinks. Someone had a daughter who was in fourth grade who ate mushrooms off the parkway in the city. There was no way of telling if they were poisonous. She took a chance, saying they aren’t poison, but that wasn’t the point. Another time, she ate a strange looking jelly bean and found it wasn’t a jelly bean at all; it was a capsule full of blue dye. Her mouth was stained for days. Always putting things in her mouth, she would eat candle wax, crayolas, and fish food. (the wafer kind). She wasn’t retarded but she had a hard time discerning what was appropriate and what was not. Climbing up to the third floor of a building with palings missing from the banister, she hunted through a garbage can for black olives, which the neighbors dumped in the trash.

This kid was always taking chances with things when she poured a red antiseptic on her hair, thinking she would be a redhead, which is what she wanted. The use of reason was one of those things where the mother would get frustrated with the girl and yell, “You just don’t think!”

“Why does she do those things?” a teacher would ask after finding the kid making dolls out of pencils and handkerchiefs.

Who knew? Did she at 8 or 9 really reach the age of reason yet, or was she suffering from ADHD or boredom? If God sent her to hell because she pretended to be a grasshopper when she should have been in line like the other kids, I am sure the nun would approve. Sending her to the principal’s office didn’t help because the principal kindly spoke to the girl, put a bandaid on her knee, and gave her two chocolate marshmallow cookies. Go figure.


You seem to be implying a baby is culpable for it’s behaviour. it is born with original sin but what about other unbaptized people who die not culpable for their sin?


It is likely that no unbaptized person can lead a life without at least culpable venial sins (the same is probably true of the baptised).


Ok under the age of reason doesn’t necessarily mean babies. I think it means as a child develops it’s ability to reason venial sin is possible.


At 7 you can understand morals and stuff. Now, I think most kids nowadays at least are not very mature until they become an adult at 18 or 19.
I remember when I was younger like 15 or what not, I would think very stupid things and be very gullible.

Ones culpability changes depending on how able one is I do believe.


Everyone who reaches the “age of reason” (which, mind you, is not clearly defined…there’s a current discipline, but it may change in time…) is capable to exercise his or her free will.

As with all of us, whether we are 7 or 77, there are two principles we ought to bear in mind (or rather, one principle that can be expressed in two ways):

  • ignroance [is the person striving to learn about the faith? Nobody is born knowing. If the person is learning about the Catholic faith and they sin on grave matter not knowing it was grave matter, then they are not guilty of mortal sin; if the person is not embracing their Baptismal vow of growing in the faith, then the excuse of ignorance can hardly be an appeal. The sin may not be what they did, but the omission of having tried to grow in the knowledge of the faith and find out what is right and wrong. That is call forming one’s conscience.’
  • objective vs. subjective culpability [a mortal sin involves grave matter, but also requires the person to have full knowledge and to give deliberate consent. If the person is not sure whether or not something is grave matter, the culpability is diminished. If there are pressures, psychological or otherwise, then the consent is not deliberate. This is typical of addictions or reactive behaviors. A sin may be objectively grave, but the person or subject may not be guilty of a mortal sin if they did not have full knowledge and/or deliberately consent]

I would recommend, as parents who took the Baptismal vows on behalf of your children, to ensure that as long as they are minors under your guardianship they continue growing in the faith, both in Religious Education and at home (the “domestic church”). A healthy and balanced life of faith, with some spiritual readings, occasional trips to Adoration, regular mass attendance, perhaps praying the Rosary in family, and a family life in accordance with the virtues of Christian charity, are the best way to ensure that the seeds of grace will find good soil.

The rest is in God’s hands. We cannot change nor save others. We can only save ourselves and share the love of God and the Good News with others.

Hope this helps a bit :slight_smile:


Remember that we do not measure the age of a soul like we measure the age of human beings.

St. Paul, St. Catherine of Siena, and others have taught us that the soul is in a persistent state of dialogue with God. Cooperation with grace can make this dialogue, this embrace of the divine life, more fruitful.

It sounds sad to say “a child can go to hell”. But the fact is: a soul that dies unrepentant of mortal sin has chosen to reject God. It is their choice, not God’s. God does not “send souls to hell”. Souls choose. That is why life is a process of “conversion” (turning towards God, choosing God).

That is why the Lord Jesus Christ, who was like us in everything except sin, left us the Sacrament of Confession. When we commit mortal sin, we go as soon as possible to confession. There, Christ dispenses the forgiveness He earned for us by dying on the Cross. It is a good habit to go to confession every two weeks or once a month, and to do a good examination of conscience once or twice a week.

Some spiritual writes recommend that the more advanced in the devout life do it daily and confess weekly, but that is not for children. However, every seed must be planted and watered. If we want our children to grow in true devotion, we must begin by helping them with the basic. A good habit, just like a bad vice, is hard to eradicate.

So yes, it could happen. But keep in mind that committing a mortal sin is not that easy, and that we have the undeserved blessing of the Sacrament of Confession.


The Church commit’s unbaptized babies to the mercy of God, not knowing foe sure where their destiny lies .Because of this they recommend that all babies be baptized.


I believe the general consensus among theologians (please don’t ask me for references, it’s just what I’ve read here and there) is that a child is capable of sin from the age of reason, generally around age seven, but they’re not quite capable of mortal sin until adolescence, because of cognitive development.

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