Pagans in Purgatory?

As far as I know, one of conditions of mortal sin and therefore of being in state of going to hell is, quoting the Catechism “…]knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law”. Does this mean that paganism of people, who never knew about Christianity, is a venial sin, and that they may go only to Purgatory?

Ah, but God’s law is written in our hearts, isn’t it? Some may never have known God as YHWH or as Jesus, but they’d know that what they were doing is morally reprehensible, right?

Mortal sin doesn’t depend on knowing the definition in the catechism, but simply knowing that what one is about to do is gravely wrong, but still intending to do it and actually doing it.

So, no, I don’t think that it would be correct to suggest a sort of “universalism” of all non-Christians… :wink:

How would a pagan know that being a pagan is “morally reprehensible”? Or are you saying that they are more likely to knowingly do wrong than we are?

I hope this letter helps you:

Pope Pius IX wrote: “Well known is the Catholic teaching that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church. Eternal salvation cannot be obtained by those who oppose the authority and statements of the same Church and are stubbornly separated from the unity of the Church and also from the successor of Peter, the Roman Pontiff”. In the same letter, he said: “There are, of course, those who are struggling with invincible ignorance about our most holy religion. Sincerely observing the natural law and its precepts inscribed by God on all hearts and ready to obey God, they live honest lives and are able to attain eternal life by the efficacious virtue of divine light and grace since God who clearly beholds, searches, and knows the minds, souls, thoughts, and habits of all men, because of His great goodness and mercy, will by no means suffer anyone to be punished with eternal torment who has not the guilt of deliberate sin.”

Also this desire need not always be explicit, as it is in catechumens; but when a person is involved in invincible ignorance God accepts also an implicit desire, so called because it is included in that good disposition of soul whereby a person wishes his will to be conformed to the will of God.

No, it’s not that the act of ‘being a pagan’ is necessarily morally reprehensible. I’m talking about sinful acts in general. If one knows that an act is gravely contrary to moral law, and yet fully chooses to commit that act, then that act has grave consequences (such that we couldn’t just say “all pagans are capable only of venial sin”).

Or are you saying that they are more likely to knowingly do wrong than we are?

No. I’m not making any assertions as to whether Christians or non-Christians are “more likely” to sin. (Paul’s statements in Romans are interesting, though: we know what’s sinful, because the law identifies for us what is sinful. Therefore, knowing what sin is, we now know better what to stay away from… and yet, we’re still drawn to it.)

Note that, in this encyclical (Quanto Conficiamur Moerore, On the Promotion of False Doctrines), Pius was talking about those who were teaching as Christian doctrine that which is not part of the Deposit of the Faith – that is, those who were misrepresenting Christian doctrine. So, strictly speaking, it doesn’t directly apply to the question at hand, since pagans (generically speaking) couldn’t be said to be “opposing authority” or are “stubbornly separated” from the Church.

In the same letter, he said: "There are, of course, those who are struggling with invincible ignorance about our most holy religion.

Correct; in fact, this is the paragraph that precedes the one you quoted above! Here, Pius is discussing an issue that he spoke against, on many occasions and in various writings: indifferentism. Indifferentism is the belief that it doesn’t matter what faith or denomination one follows – it’s the belief that all paths lead to God, equally and on their own merits. That notion is, of course, false: salvation comes about only through Jesus and only through the Catholic Church. It doesn’t mean that those outside the Church are damned, but it does mean – as Pius points out here – that there’s a big difference between ‘invincible ignorance’ and ‘all faith saves, regardless of the content of that faith.’

:hmmm:

We know that Christ is the only path to Heaven, and it is written “And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?”

Purgatory is for those holy souls who are not yet purified of their earthly sins.

We cannot assume, or pray for in good faith, anyone outside of the Church. If God includes them into the plan of salvation, it is out of our knowledge.

I don’t believe anyone said that pagans are capable only of venial sin. But “capable” doesn’t mean you’re going to do it. I’m sure I’m 'capable" of murder, but I’ve never committed it.

And then there’s the question of whether you’re bound by the requirement of Confession if you don’t know about it. So, it would seem that pagans could, indeed, attain purgatory.

[quote=PrinceFarfoocle]Does this mean that paganism of people, who never knew about Christianity, is a venial sin, and that they may go only to Purgatory?
[/quote]

Agnes,

I took this question to mean “are pagans who know nothing of Christianity incapable of mortal sin, such that their sins can only be understood to be venial, and therefore, no such pagans will go to hell, but will necessarily attain to heaven through purgatory?”

(Looking at the question again, I’m hoping Prince didn’t mean “will pagans go to purgatory as a final destination, rather than heaven or hell?”; it’s possible (although it’s a real stretch) to guess that he meant “are pagans (who can commit mortal sin, like the rest of us) only guilty of a venial sin in their lack of knowledge of Christianity?”)

But “capable” doesn’t mean you’re going to do it. I’m sure I’m 'capable" of murder, but I’ve never committed it.

Sure, but the question seems to ask whether pagans’ lack of knowledge of Christianity makes them incapable of mortal sin in this regard; in other words, are they only to be held responsible for venial sin in this case…

And then there’s the question of whether you’re bound by the requirement of Confession if you don’t know about it.

I’m not quite sure what you’re getting at. Are you asking whether unbaptized persons are ‘bound’ to go to confession? Of course not! Unbaptized persons are unable to participate in any of the sacraments! So, no – if you “don’t know about” the sacrament of reconciliation because you know nothing about Christianity, you’re not “bound by [any] requirement” to receive sacramental absolution… :wink:

So, it would seem that pagans could, indeed, attain purgatory.

This is where Prince’s question is somewhat odd. He’s asking a question with two claims, and these claims don’t fit hand-in-glove. First, there’s the question of whether the pagan beliefs of pagans who don’t know about Christianity are merely venial sins. Then, there’s the question of whether pagans are in purgatory.

The first question is rather simply answered: if a pagan doesn’t know anything about Christianity, then he is “invincibly ignorant” of it. Therefore, I would assert, there’s not even venial sin involved.

The second question is much more far-reaching, and carries with it a number of implications. For a pagan to be in purgatory means that he has been judged as being worthy of attaining to heaven, but must enter a process of purgation, through which any unforgiven venial sin and any remaining temporal punishment due to sin will be purged away. For this to be the case, it means that the person (by definition) is not in a state of mortal sin.

So, can you see how this question asks far more than the first one? After all, the first question only asks whether it’s a sin for a pagan (who knows nothing about Christianity) to be a pagan. The second implies that the pagan also never committed a mortal sin. That’s a question of far greater scope – it’s talking about a person’s entire life! Way, way different questions, there!

It seems that Prince is asking whether, by definition, a pagan is incapable of mortal sin – at least in his paganism. It would seem that, in this case, the ‘paganism’ might not be sinful; but, that doesn’t mean that he’s incapable of mortal sin.

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