Non-christian and non-catholic judgement


These came from another thread where the discussion turned to those who are non-christian and non-catholic not being judged as harshly, or not being judged the same as catholics. Because they did not know the implications of sin, or the severity of sin.

I have a hard time understanding this. The implication is, because we’re catholic and we know that certain sin is mortal, we are held to a stricter standard. But those who don’t know the severity of sin will get off easier.

So someone who is not christian or catholic who commits a sin such as adultery, won’t be held to the same standards as a catholic because the non christian didn’t understand that it was a mortal sin?

I just don’t get this. I understand the idea of invincible ignorance, but I always thought it applied to people who had never heard the gospels or knew of God’s laws. It seems to me, that even in this secular society, most people know and understand what is basically bad and what is good. Even a secular non christian knows that cheating or committing adultry is wrong. Even non christians should know the natural laws that are inheirent in our hearts.

And then when it comes to non-catholic christians, it’s hard for me to believe anyone who reads and knows the bible at least can claim some kind of ignorance of the severity of sins they commit.

I’d like to hear some kind of explanations of this.


The thing is, there are some things than men and women “can’t not know”, to use J. Budziszewski’s term.

In the beginning of his letter to the Romans, St. Paul makes this point. It was not because of a lack of specific knowledge or either himself or his Son that “God gave them up.” It was because they ignored those things they could not not know.

The Anglican Prayer Book contains a collect addressed to “Almighty God, unto whom all hearts be open, all desries know, and from whom no secrets are hid.” It is such a God who judges, and if there seems to be a difference in standards, I’d suggest it has more to do with him having a view of people that no human can ever have, or approach. But there’s no way that there’s any kind of a free pass available, because there are things that men and women just can’t not know.




What we are discussing is culpability and God’s mercy.

God does not hold people accountable for what they could not have known. That is only fair. If you don’t know that Jesus died for your sins you can hardly be expected to have believed it or lived by it. Yes?

Of course, just who is more culpable than another is the thing bothering our OP. It’s one of those things we cannot really know. God judges as he sees fit, not as we perceive.

St. Paul told us that the pagans were without excuse because they could see the goodness of God in nature, so they had the natural law to draw upon. That being said, there are some things that natural law cannot do for us or tell us. So, what it cannot do for us or tell we are not responsible for.

Jesus said, “To whom much is given much is required,” so those of us who have the advantage of knowing what natural law alone cannot tell us are more responsible than those who don’t. And that’s only logical, too.

Just who will be saved and who won’t is not for us to determine, of course. And who will be judged more severely is also not known to us. God alone knows this, which is why we are to spread the Gospel and pray for both sets of people–those who know more and are more responsible and those who do not have the privilege of drawing on the truths of the Church and its Sacraments.


I gotta believe, in the society we have today, with as much access as people have to the word of God, with as much of our morality based on christian morality, that there’s not a whole lot of room for people to say “I didn’t know about that” and expect God not to judge them harshly.

The other part of this is, especially for non-catholic christians, what about mortal sin? We’re told we must be in a state of grace, and friendship, and as far away from mortal sin as possible when we die in order to be judged to go to heaven. Thankfully we as catholics have the use of confession and the last rites sacraments. But what about non-catholics that reject that and think they are saved because of a prayer and an alter call? Surely God isn’t going to overlook their mortal sins.

What would be the point then, of being catholic? One could just claim ignorance to God and go through life ignoring the bible and teachings of Christ, claim invincible ignorance, and get in scott free.

I have to believe God is not just going to give people passes like that. Sure, I can see those who lived before Christ, people who haven’t been evangelized. But for the rest of the modern world who has access to the gospels, they’ve got to have some level of culpability somewhere. Otherwise what would be the advantage of becomming Christian/Catholic? I thought we had to be a part of the body of Christ through baptism to qualify for salvation?

Doesn’t seem right to me.


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