No Hope for the Damned?


We are often told that we should pray for souls in purgatory, to help move them along to heaven. And that praying for others is a good thing. My question, however, is different. Can we pray for souls in hell? Can we help move them along and maybe get to purgatory and maybe one day get to heaven? Is there no hope for the damned at all? If a person is sent to hell, is there nothing we can do or pray for them for redemption?

I ask because of recent threads about those who are not catholic, or haven’t found God when they die. I am curious about those who haven’t done what’s required, haven’t become closer to God and Jesus, haven’t striven to receive Their grace. And it’s an honest question, not meant to incite debate.

I ask for personal reasons. I personally think my mother was a faithful, good catholic, but not perfect. She was faithful to the church and participated in the sacraments, stayed with church teachings, etc. And she did a great thing in sticking in me the seed of catholic faith which has finally sprouted and grown. :smiley: But she wasn’t perfect. But I have faith that she at the very least ended up in purgatory, and hopefully is working or has worked her way into God’s Kingdom.

My father, on the other hand, I have my doubts about. He was a pretty good catholic, believed in the church and sacraments, went to church weekly. But wasn’t deep in his participation in church. And frankly, he was a pretty big sinner. He had a lot of issues in life, many which he never conquerred. He never committed serious crimes or did serious evil, but he had a lot of problems overcoming his own demons. I hope that his faith in the church, and participation in the church and the sacraments helped with his salvation, but I have my doubts that he managed to end up in purgatory.

I pray for both of them often. I hope my prayers are heard and that it somehow helps them receive God’s grace. I’d love to be reunited with them in God’s Kingdom some day. But I do have my doubts about my father. And I don’t know. If he did end up in Hell, is there no way to pray for his redemption? Is there anything we can do for the dead to help with their salvation?


thomasf – I’m sorry you are struggling with this issue with regards to your mother and father.

What I’m about to offer may not be comforting words. It is what the Scriptures say about prayer, and for whom hell is reserved for.

Our word prayer comes from the greek word Proseuchomai (pros-yoo’-khom-ahee); which means to bow or lean to the will of God. It is the same word used in Matthew the 6th chapter:

verse 9
"This is how you are to pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread;
and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors;
and do not subject us to the final test, but deliver us from the evil one.
If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you.
But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.

Thus, Christ gives clear instruction as to what is proper prayer.

Who holds the keys to hell – Jesus does.

Re 1:18 -
and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.

Jesus knows who will be his followers from the beginning.

2 Thes 2:13 - But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.

He has vessels of wrath, fitted for destruction.

Romans 9:20-23 – Who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed It, why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter the power over the clay of the same lump, to make one vessel unto honour and another unto dishonour-- What if God willing to show his wrath, and make his power known, endured with much long suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he hath afore prepared unto glory.

* fitted - Greek: katartizo- to complete thoroughly; fit; frame; arrange; prepare

For those in hell, there is no escape:

Luke 16:26–(speaking of the rich man in hell)–there is a great gulf fixed.

  • gulf- Greek: chasma: from chao (to gape or yawn); chasm or vacancy (impassible interval); a separation

Respectfully submitted,



The Catholic Church teaches that only God knows a person’s heart and who will get into heaven.

Each of us are different, have different personalities, different abilities, different discipline, etc…nothing the same about any of us. The person who appears to be holy and good to us may not be as holy and good in God’s eyes as another who appears to have led a bad life. Best biblical example I know is the person who had little but gave much of what he had versus the wealthy person who had much and gave a higher amount but a lower percentage.

That our family dead and living will not have eternal life with us sure is a natural worry. It sure is our responsibility to strive to live our lives as Jesus taught us and bring others to that understanding as our ability allow.

The Catholic Church teaches that only God knows who will be accepted into His kingdom for eternity. We cannot for sure say that anyone is excluded.

The important thing to remember is that teachings of Catholic Church is the blueprint that Jesus gave us. It sure makes sense that following a blueprint would make it easier to reach that Kingdom than following anything else.

There are 2 final choices once you die, heaven and hell. It is not for us to judge who goes to hell, we simply do not know a person’s heart.


Hi Thomas_,

To God everything is in the present. If you pray for someone who has already died, God may already have answered your prayer even before that person died.



If someone has rejected God entirely, then purgatory is not open to them. Those who “don’t make the grade” once, lost, ARE lost. Purgatory is merely a cleansing before heaven. However, I will say this: NO ONE Knows the heart of those passed except for God, and what happened in their last moments. Even HITLER could have realized all he had done and humbly and desperately begged God for grace and forgiveness, and filled with desire for baptism and for God, and he would be saved, although I am sure he’d be in purgatory for a while. God’s grace is infinite and far beyond all we can imagine. Even someone who is a christian but has struggles. We all have struggles, but that doesn’t invalidate our salvation so long as we are trying to overcome them, and always focus on God, and seek his grace and forgiveness.

I myself have relatives who have pased away who I cannot be sure of. I think God grants us this ambiguity to save us a lot of pain. And also so we can’t get “so sure” of our salvation that we stop trying to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling”

I would reccomend always praying. You never know, and it never hurts to talk with God. :slight_smile:


It never hurts to pray; it can only help things.

Pray also for an increase in the virtue of hope.


I like this. I’m not sure that it’s true, but i like it.

I guess my point was, I can’t be sure where either one went. Neither one was perfect. THat’s why I pray for them. The church teaches that living through the church and taking part in the sacraments and believing in God and repenting your sins is essential. I believe they both did this to some extent. But who knows what happens.

I guess I was just wondering if it would help any to pray for the damned or offer up our suffering for them. Because I would, and I do, for my parents. It would be nice that if they were in trouble if this helped them out at all.

I also worry because I am not sure my father receieved his last rites. He died alone at a hospital out of state, which is sad enough as it is. I would think being as regular as he was with the church he would have gotten it if he could. He probably needed as much help as he could get.

I would hope that doing their duty to raise their son to be a good catholic and believe and come back to the Lord would account for something.


Those in Hell do not receive the benefit of prayers, or Grace. That’s what Hell is- the utter separation from God.

That said, it’s been pointed out that no one but God knows who goes where when they die.

Instead of offering up your suffering “for the damned”, maybe you could offer it up to “those souls most in need of Grace”. Since God doesn’t exist in time or space, He can apply those prayers and sacrifices in any way He sees fit.

I believe there was a question posted to the “Ask an Apologist” forum where the poster mentioned praying for the sailors on Columbus’ voyage to the Americas. The poster wondered if this was a wasted prayer. The apologist who answered said that no prayer is ever wasted, and, who knows? The mystery of God is so great that who can say that our prayers 600 years after the fact don’t help our ancestors.

Take comfort. Maybe your prayers for your parents now are ones that God used to ensure that your mother and father were able to pass on in a state of friendship with Our Lord.



Hi thomasf,

I guess I was just wondering if it would help any to pray for the damned or offer up our suffering for them.

If you knew for sure that someone was damned, then your prayers would be in vain. Don’t pray for Satan; it won’t save him.
But nobody knows whether a particular person was damned. So it is always a good thing to pray for the dead.



Not to sound like a Protestant, but I wouldn’t worry overly much about what your parents did or did not do, and whether it was or wasn’t enough.

It’s only by God’s grace, freely given and unearned, that we can even begin to please Him. It sounds as though your parents both had good relationships with the Lord, even if they were still struggling with sinful impulses and (by His help) progressing in their virtues. Even the acknowledged saints, right back to St. Paul, tended to refer to themselves in their writings as terrible sinners, knowing how far from the ideal they still were.

Prayer, devotions, Mass, and the other sacraments are important spiritual helps along the way, but there’s no standard of performance that makes the difference between purgatory and hell. So long as we are clasping onto the hand that God always has held out to lead us along the way, and not turned obstinately away from his proffered love, we should be all right.

I also endorse the “God exists outside of time, and there is no reason your prayers now can’t have been one of the influences helping your parents turn more toward Him during their lives” view already stated by a few people.

Hope this helps. I will also pray for your parents.



Well, this does bring up a question of mine. Is Hell truly forever? If someone truly has faith in God, and they commited big sins, but never were truly sorry, they do go to hell. HOWEVER, surely the sins of the faithful can only be fairly punished for so long. Billy Graham is outside the Catholic Church. He rejects some of It’s teachings. He will go to hell, that is certain, but forever? I highly doubt it. God is merciful, and if we love God, have faith in him, how can He truly be merciful if he sentences the stained faithful to hell for deeds done in a span of less than 90 years?


According to the Catechism, once a soul is sentenced to Hell, that soul remains there forever (see CCC 1033-1035)

I’ve read somewhere that Purgatory has different levels. The lowest level being one that closely resembles Hell. Maybe that’s what you’re envisioning…??



Billy Graham is outside the Catholic Church. … He will go to hell, that is certain

That is neither wise nor accurate. Billy Graham has gone on record for supporting the Catholic Church.

I very much doubt he will go to hell. We can help all the dead by our prayers. The Lord said that ‘God is God not of the dead but the living as everyone is alive to God’.

Our prayers for those who have died outside of faith are wholesome and a good work of mercy :slight_smile:


Sounds like most of us.


Have Masses said for your parents’ souls. They will be known by God and taken into account in determining where each soul goes, so do not neglect this.


The key concept is that no one is “sent to hell.” Each person is there by his own irrevocable choice. Nothing we can do will change that. Souls in purgatory are going to heaven eventually whether we pray for them or not.

God’s mercy is boundless and overcomes everything except our own choice to refuse it. I too suffer anxiety over the prospect that anyone, let alone my loved ones, is in hell. Since we can’t know the state of the dead, there can be no harm in praying for them.



Nobody knows but God who actually has gone to Hell (apart from Satan and the other fallen angels). However, anyone who does go to Hell is there for eternity. There is no escape from Hell so no hope for the damned. Jesus makes this very clear.

41 Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me not to drink. 43 I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you covered me not: sick and in prison, and you did not visit me. 44 Then they also shall answer him, saying: Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee? 45 Then he shall answer them, saying: Amen I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it to me.

46 And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting.


I forgot to mention this is Matthew 25:41-46.


I know that the Catholic Church tells us that there is a place called purgatory, but the scriptures don’t speak of any such place. It’s smoking, or non-smoking only!. Also, there is only one way to end up in hell, and that is by rejecting the Holy Spirit; the point of no return.

God Bless,
Eph 5:20-21 “Test all things, hold fast what is good.”


That’s not correct. There is plenty of scriptural evidence of Purgatory.

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