Does formal defection lead to eternal damnation?


I’m not sure whether this is the right forum, but I do see some connection.

I just read an article that reports that in the Diocese of Limburg, Germany, the numbers of people formally defecting from the Church, that is through disassociating themselves from her through the state (formal membership in a church in Germany is dependant on whether one is listed with the authorities and pays Church tax, if eligible) has increased noticeably in recent times due to the diocesan Bishop being harshly criticised for his “authoritarian leadership style”. Whether that “leadership style” is actually the case is not the issue here. I have never had the idea he was like that.

Anyway, these people (more than 100.000 a year in all of Germany) are taking this step as a means to protest the Bishop, it appears.

Does formal defection from the Church for this purpose lead to eternal damnation?

Here’s why I would consider it possible.

*]He who knows the Catholic Church to be the True Church is called to join (and stay in) her.
*]He who does not follow this calling rejects God and cannot be saved. (Mortal sin).
*]A person in a state of mortal sin cannot receive the Sacraments licitly, constituting (at least in the case of the Eucharist) another mortal sin.
*]Thus, a person who believes all of Catholic teaching (incl. point 1), but formally defects from Holy Church commits mortal sin and excludes themselves from the Sacraments, leading to mortal sin being retained in their soul.

What is your take on this?


What about the formal defectors who aren’t in that position? The ones that don’t know Catholicism is true and don’t feel that calling.

True but I’ve often wondered doesn’t that mean Non-Catholics in general are in trouble since they can’t receive that sacraments?

I’m not quite sure to be honest. Just like with any other person. I would just leave it up to God.


Only unrepentance leads to eternal damnation. Christ will never forsake a penitent heart.

Sins against faith (heresy, apostasy, schism) are very grave and carry the penalty of excommunication. The Church Fathers reveal what can occur if the soul never repents of such sins committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent:

See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop.

He who honours the bishop has been honoured by God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does [in reality] serve the devil.

Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church.

For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of repentance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ.

Do not err, my brethren. If any man follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If any one walks according to a strange opinion, he agrees not with the passion [of Christ.].

(St. Ignatius, disciple of John, successor of Peter at the See of Antioch, 35-117 AD)

[E]ternal fire was prepared for him who voluntarily departed from God and for all who, without repentance, persevere in apostasy.

(Justin Martyr, 156 AD)

The keywords here are obedience and repentance. Obedience is the main attribute of Our Lord, who “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men [and] humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross”, and who affirmed: “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”.

We need to pray very much for those who are firm, that they may not fall, and for those who have fallen, that they may rise to new life by the love of Christ.


Eternal damnation is for those who do not repent of their sins and die in a state of mortal sin. It makes no difference what the mortal sin is.
Everyone has until their dying breath to repent.


OK, so one can’t even say they’re more prone to that fate?


I think the OP’s statement involves a direction towards, not a certitude of.

As such, the OP would be correct. A formal defection, being a rejection of the Church and Her teachings, would be grave matter. The death of the soul in such a rejection would depend (as all sin does) on the level of culpability of the person performing the act.

Thus we cannot state that the person WOULD be damned, but we can be certain their soul is in jeopardy.


Yes but that applies to anyone in a state of mortal sin. If they drop dead on the spot unrepentant they go to Hell.
Everyone, even the example in the OP, still has to their dying breath to repent and be saved.


We can’t say who will be/ shall be/ is now going to be damned. In most instances, it is very unhealthy to speculate about. It is something we could not possibly have knowledge of, because it involves so much internally in the person and so much about the circumstances about all the actions that take place.

Suffice it to say this, in the words of Vatican II, “Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.”

We must simply believe in the necessity of the Catholic Church, believe God is open and merciful to all, and acknowledge the extreme danger of leaving The Church, the ark of Salvation. Pray for those who forsake the Church.


Well, in that case, one would have to ask whether such a person is even competent to defect. If one is not educated in the ways of the Church and the Christian life, one can hardly be able to “defect” from anything therein.

So it’s not so much a, “Here is an exception,” thing as a, “This cannot happen in the first place because the prerequisite act(s) of faith/action never took place,” thing.


Could it be these Catholics just don’t want to pay the tax, but will still go to church occasionally. It’s a matter of money and not loss of faith in the teachings of Christ… State support of the Church is an antiquated system that flies in the face of “Separation of Church and State” which most Europeans believe in. In most parishes in large cities in America, at least a third of the parishioners are not registered with their local parishes. They feel they have more freedom, giving what they wish and going and coming as they please. I wouldn’t say it was “kosher,” but it is what it is. :shrug:


Only about one third of all Catholics in Germany pay Church tax. Those who don’t are still on the state’s roll, they just don’t have to pay. Catholics in Germany are obliged to be enlisted there, and the tax only applies to certain people. Those who do pay the tax aren’t exactly poor, so no one can tell me that a few euros extra a month will do much for anyone.

The German state does not support the Church. The tax is an historically rooted and very fair one and has no bearing on “Church and State”.


I am not German and don’t live there, so I bow to your wisdom on this. However, when the State collects taxes and pays them to the Church, that is not the separation of Church and state. We had that in America with everyone paying a maintenance tax to the Anglican Church collected by the British Crown. It was not a good thing.


Even there we have a difference.

The Church tax in Germany originates from the Church being forced to give up what she owned, lands and monasteries, etc. during the time of Napoleon. To compensate for the loss, the new landowners (Earldoms, Duchies, etc.) were to take care of the Church. In time, when Germany became unified, this financial support was shifted from the state directly to the faithful. The tax is completely paid by the faithful, no money from the state goes to the Church through it. The Church, in turn, reimburses the state for any costs it may have in processing this tax.

Thus, it is not a matter of “The state funds the Church!”, but a matter of justice and the state’s self-obligation.

Even non-Christian religions can opt-in on the tax! That shows that it really isn’t about some religion being favoured, although I disagree with it, since it defeats the purpose.


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