Mortal Sin


In Latin theology generally, purgatory is considered a level of hell. The purpose of the pains of purgatory and those of hell proper (infernus) are completely different:

Reply to Objection 2. The punishment of hell is for the purpose of affliction, wherefore it is called by the names of things that are wont to afflict us here. But the chief purpose of the punishment of Purgatory is to cleanse us from the remains of sin; and consequently the pain of fire only is ascribed to Purgatory, because fire cleanses and consumes.

With regard to whether the “fire” of purgatory is the same as that of hell, this is theological speculation even according to Aquinas:

I answer that, Nothing is clearly stated in Scripture about the situation of Purgatory, nor is it possible to offer convincing arguments on this question. It is probable, however, and more in keeping with the statements of holy men and the revelations made to many, that there is a twofold place of Purgatory.

When speaking of purgatory it has to be kept in mind that, from a Latin perspective, very little has been revealed to us. As for the hell of the damned - well - those who may end up there are no longer redeemable according to the RCC. There is a notion in eastern theology of apocatastasis where the souls lost to hell will somehow eventually share in salvation. This theory is rejected by the RCC, and I believe it was also condemned by an early synod held in Constantinople.


Apocastasis was rejected only in the extreme case of “All souls will…” since revelation makes it clear that the people will be judged on the end of days, and that not all will be saved.

It is unlikely, due to the nature of unrepentant sinners, that they may turn to god between being cast into hell, and the final judgment, but there is always the slim possibility of hope. Which is why the only people known to be in hell are mentioned in new testament scripture. (OT scripture is irrelevant, since we do not know all who followed Christ out of Hell and into heaven.)


Can you elaborate on this?


In the Catechism of Trent, Purgatory was defined as a part of Hell.

Different Abodes Called Hell"

These abodes are not all of the same nature, for among them is that most loathsome and dark prison in which the souls of the damned are tormented with the unclean spirits in eternal and inextinguishable fire. This place is called gehenna, the bottomless pit, and is hell strictly so­called.

Among them is also the fire of purgatory, in which the souls of just men are cleansed by a temporary punishment, in order to be admitted into their eternal country, into which nothing defiled entereth. The truth of this doctrine, founded, as holy Councils declare,’ on Scripture, and confirmed by Apostolic tradition, demands exposition from the pastor, all the more diligent and frequent, because we live in times when men endure not sound doctrine.

Lastly, the third kind of abode is that into which the souls of the just before the coming of Christ the Lord, were received, and where, without experiencing any sort of pain, but supported by the blessed hope of redemption, they enjoyed peaceful repose. To liberate these holy souls, who, in the bosom of Abraham were expecting the Saviour, Christ the Lord descended into hell.

Since that time the term Hell has been reserved for the first portion, where the utterly damned dwell, but as you can see it wasn’t always the case in Latin terminology. Eastern theologies merely reflect the “blurrier” older usage of terms, but they in no way contradict the teaching of Purgatory, namely that the dead can benefit from our prayers and sacrifices here on Earth, and can be purified after death, by these, to enter Paradise (that is the limit to the dogmatic definition of Purgatory, BTW).

So, despite using very different terminology, the East and West are very close on this teaching. In fact, I would argue that the Byzantine tradition seems to put a greater emphasis on this than the Latin in many ways, strongly emphasizing continued prayer services for the dead in order to benefit their souls. Although the terminology of “indulgences for the dead” isn’t there, the practice is very deeply embedded and has been in the Byzantine East since ancient times.

Peace and God bless!


Mark of Ephesus, who was no friend of the West, said this (notice the mention of lesser sins that don’t damn–which implies greater sins that do):

“But if souls have departed this life in faith and love, while nevertheless carrying away with themselves certain faults, whether small ones over which they have not repented at all, or greater ones for which - even though they have repented over them - they did not undertake to show fruits of repentance: such souls, we believe, must be cleansed from this kind of sins but not by means of some purgatorial fire or a definite punishment in some place.”

Mark of Ephesus’ “First Homily Concerning Purgatorial Fire” quoted in Fr. Seraphim Rose’s The Soul After Death (California: St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood; 1994).

(note too that his problems with the Latin understanding is the idea of fire and the idea of a place.)


This teaching seems absolutely antithetical to the RC teaching. Is this a correct statement?


The RC teaching (and it’s just that, teaching, not dogma) on hell is distinctly different than the earlier uses in the RCC and the various Eastern Catholic Churches, and not imposed upon the other CC’s in the Holy Catholic Church.


Aramis and others,

I would appreciate some commentary on this particular decree from the Council of Florence, SESSION 6 6 July 1439:

“But the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go down straightaway to hell to be punished, but with unequal pains.”



As an RC, I was always thought the hell was eternal. Is it correct then to say the the Eastern teaching is that one may still be saved even after going to hell as a result of dying in the state of mortal sin?


Check out my above post. There is eternal Hell, and transitory Hell (Purgatory and the Limbo of the Fathers), according to RC tradition. Over time the word Hell became used exclusively for those who are eternally damned. The RC teaching hasn’t changed, just the terminology used.

Peace and God bless!


As a friar recently put it: “Who are we mortals to know the hearts of others between their death and their judgement?”

In their last dying gasp, they might repent. Perhaps not audibly nor visibly, but in the last vestiges of life.

We can not tell.


Hello, expectthebest!

In Catholic theology, the term “hell” is used for three different places of the dead, none of which is the same place. These include:

  • Limbo of the fathers (where Jesus’ soul descended after He died, as we read in the creed: He descended into hell);
  • Gehenna (eternal flames, lake of fire, place of darkness where the devil and his angels await Judgmen Day; it is where those who reject God (are damned) spend eternity in absolute torment)
  • Purgatory (temporal punishment, prison of the deceased; it is where the souls who have died in God’s favor but still have sin go to be purged of their filth so they can enter Heaven; Purgatory is sometimes referred to as a pit-stop to Heaven, because those who are saved yet still need purification go there to be purged)

Limbo, Gehenna, and Purgatory are called “hell” because they all have one thing in common: loss of God. Those in Limbo were the righteous souls (“fathers”) who died before Christ’s death, and who could not enjoy Heaven because of original sin, but whom Christ descended to in order to preach the gospel to them and lead them into Heaven, which He had reopened for all mankind by His death (Limbo is now empty). Those in Gehenna are the unrepentant sinners, the damned who hate God and reject Him, and just as the angels who rebelled against God cannot repent of their sin, so too the damned cannot repent, for they have chosen not to repent; their wills are eternally set in evil and turned against the Lord (hence, they cannot be saved). Those in Purgatory are the holy souls who belong to the triune Church, and they belong to the Church because they among the saved, although they are still in need of purification before entering into the glory of Heaven; the Church on earth can help the holy souls by praying for them. Purgatory, while seen as a place of suffering, is actually a gift of God’s Mercy, just as Limbo was, for He has given to man a way of salvation which goes beyond our imaginations.

Those who die in mortal sin are spiritually dead, for mortal sin kills the soul; hence, those who die unrepentant suffer the second death (damnation). Those who die in venial sin are spiritually wounded, for venial sin weakens the soul; but the soul is not dead to Christ - as it would be in the state of mortal sin, that is, if it had but one mortal sin on itself - so, if it repents, God saves the soul, though it still needs to clensed of sin before going to Heaven, so it goes to Purgatory beforehand. Those who die in the state of grace - that is, with sanctifying grace - are living in Christ, and so, they accquire eternal life (salvation), going straight to Heaven to live and reign with the Lord for eternity. God’s Mercy is infinite, so even if a soul were black as sin, it could still hope for Heaven, if only it repents, begs for Mercy, and trusts in God. The living and the dead, who we read of in the creed, are those who are spirituall alive and dead in Christ at Judgment Day and those whom are physically alive and dead when Christ comes again in glory.

If you have any more confusion over Catholicism, let me know and I’ll be happy to explain the teachings of Holy Mother Church. :slight_smile:

Catholic Church Teaching Questions...
Ignorance and the New Covenent

God’s Mercy is infinite, so even if a soul were black as sin, it could still hope for Heaven, if only it repents, begs for Mercy, and trusts in God

But this mercy is no longer possible after death, correct? Bascially, after the physical body has died, the soul cannot ask for mercy. Correct?

The living and the dead, who we read of in the creed, are those who are spirituall alive and dead in Christ at Judgment Day and those whom are physically alive and dead when Christ comes again in glory.

Those who’s physical bodies have already died on the final judgement day would have already had their eternal judgement at the time of death. Why would they be judged again at the last judgement if they have already been judged at the time of physical death?



The soul has made an eternal choice - for God or against God - and because God respects our free-will, He will not force us to love Him. So, even if a damned soul could be saved, God would not force them to repent, and because the damned’s wills are set in evil (just as the saved’s wills are set in good), they would not want nor accept God’s Mercy.

Now, to clarify on Purgatory: I said it was punishment, but also a gift from God’s Mercy. Now, how can the condemnation of a soul to suffering be called a gift of God’s Mercy? In itself, Purgatory is the work of God’s Justice: Mercy dose not want the soul to suffer, but Justice demands it. Some would say this makes God against Himself, but it is actually the opposite: in allowing the soul to be purged, in accordance to Justice, He is giving the soul a way to Heaven - rather than the soul just going to Hell for being stained with sin - and it is in this way that Purgatory is a work of Mercy. Those in Purgatory are already saved, precisely because they’ve chosen God and accepted His Mercy at death, and so God has assured them of Heaven, but they still have venial sin, so God wipes the stains of sin off their souls, making them holy. Just as He has given them eternal life, so now, in Purgatory, He gives them purification; just as the soul accepts eternal life, so now, in Purgaory, it accepts purification: though the soul still longs for God, and this is quite natural indeed, for we are made in His Image and Likeness, we will not rest until we rest in Him, we long for Him because He is our happiness, our life, and our everything: to not long for God is to cease to be His creature, so to speak.

Those who’s physical bodies have already died on the final judgement day would have already had their eternal judgement at the time of death. Why would they be judged again at the last judgement if they have already been judged at the time of physical death?

The general judgment question is an ancient question, and it is right to ask such questions, for in asking we come to a greater knowledge of God, and the more we know God, the more we love Him.

The reason for Judgment Day is not because God has prophesized it through His prophets, but because He must judge those who have not been judged yet when Christ comes in glory, and because He demands a proper estimate of the good and bad actions of all, and because He wills to show all that everything was ordered by an All-Wise and All-Just God. In judging men, God will reveal the good and bad of all, and in revealing the actions of all, He will show that everything was ordered by Him.

Those whom God has already judged - who have already gone through the particular judgment - will not be judged in the manner of either condemnation or reward (“You will go to hell!” “You will go to Heaven!” to use a human way of speaking), but rather, they will be judged in the manner that all will be judged on the last day: their good and bad actions will be made known to all. Indeed, the good and bad actions of every man will be revealed, including those whom not been judged yet when Christ comes in glory, and for these lot, they will be judged in the manner like all men are at particular judgment: either going to join the saved or the damned. Thus, when all the saved are assembled before Christ and all the damned are grouped together, the Lord will invite the former to their eternal reward and He will condemn the latter to their eternal punishment.


Are Eastern Catholics supposed to believe the Orthodox view or the Roman Catholic view?

As an Eastern Catholic I personally think that we are bound to believe in some sort of transitory period between this life and the next. Whether this is Purgatory, which I for simplicity just believe that it is, or some other place or state of cleansing that can happen over whatever period of time, is allowably up for debate.

However, I am not quite sure how some of the things I have read on here such as getting out of Hell or not being judged immediately after death are acceptable for Catholics as in all Catholics of any rite, to believe.

But I am mainly convinced in the existence of Purgatory and something to the extent of the Western Concept because of St. Faustina and the Divine Mercy Chaplet. It actually is quite Eastern even though it is a Western prayer which further leads me to conclude it is appropriate to have that belief.


Eastern Catholics are Catholic Christians, therefore they must follow the Catholic Church. Your error is in the understanding of “Eastern”: It is a cultural and geographical reference, not a religious one. The Orthodox do not all refer to themselves as Eastern Orthrodox - only those who live in the eastern half of the world do. Though I’ve never heard of a Wesern Orthodox, and it’s probably because Orthodox don’t like to associate themselves with the Western Church, i.e., the Catholic Church (this dates back to the Great Schism, when some Catholics split from the Church, forming a Church that preserved its eastern traditions. Meanwhile, the Catholic Church has grown and taken up every culture, purifying it for God).


Are the Orthodox still Schismatic?



Recommended Reading: Eastern Orthodoxy

Also, feel free to correct me on any errors regarding Orthodoxy. I am always open to the truth. :slight_smile:


No Eastern or Oriental Church (nor the Western Church) teaches that repentance can occur after physical death. What occurs is that the graces of our prayers, suffrages, holy acts/sacrifices (especially the Holy Sacrifice) can in some unknown way benefit those in the afterlife who have need of it.



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