Where do souls of non-Christian go after they die?


The Catechism of the Church states that souls after death go to heaven, hell, or purgatory. Souls do not just go wandering the world as an alternative fourth path, as that is not one of the choices offered.

It is possible that God in his mercy might allow a soul to manifest on earth in some way for God’s purpose. For example, St. Padre Pio reported seeing deceased souls who manifested to him asking for his prayers, thanking him for prayers he had already said for them, or serving their purgatory on earth by doing some assigned task. It is important to note that these souls were in purgatory, which according to the Church is a state of being and not a physical location, so they were able to physically be on earth if God willed it, while still being in purgatory.



I would like to hear more about your past! Maybe not now, but sometime, because it sure sounds interesting.



Purgatory is for any Catholic or person deemed to be within the Catholic Church who dies in a state of grace but still needs cleansing before going to Heaven.
Purgatory is not for anyone.



Trusting in our own powers has been called Pelagianism.

Nothing we do can save us, except to choose God. In baptism, our desire for God and our rejection of Satan are acts of will. God supplies the grace.

But how can the infidel choose to follow a God he does not know? I suppose that, insofar as he chooses that which is good, all good having God as its source, he indirectly is choosing God.

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Just to be clear, “being within the Catholic Church” is not a club membership thing delineated by explicit membership in a parish, or by baptism at the font.

Not all baptized Catholics go to heaven.
And at the same time,
Everyone in heaven is one with the Catholic Church, whether they lived an explicitly and materially Catholic life or not. And they are considered to be baptized into the Church in ways we do not comprehend, obviously.



No issue with that.

Baptism is necessary (but not sufficient on its own) for salvation and there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church.
Who would be considered within the Church and baptised?
This is achieved by:

  1. Sacramental baptism as a Catholic.
  2. Baptism of blood (a non-Catholic dying for the Catholic faith)
  3. Baptism of desire - explicit (e.g. a catechumen in RCIA)
  4. Baptism of desire - implicit (invincible ignorance - someone who through no fault of their own does not know Christ and his Church but lives a life in accordance with the teachings of Christ without knowing that).

Those who fall into one of the above categories would be deemed to be within the Catholic Church.

You are correct. Not all Catholics are saved. We must die in a state of grace to be saved.
Yes everyone in Heaven is Catholic.

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Don’t forget all the ways that the Catechism states that non-Catholics can also be considered to be in at least partial communion with the Catholic church (already discussed in detail up-thread).



Unless they fall into one of the four things I mentioned they are not considered within the Catholic Church.

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The Catechism presents it in much more shades of gray.
By your definition, many if not most Protestants would go to hell, which is not the teaching of the Church.



The Church teaching is that (for invincible ignorance) a person who through no fault of their own does not know Christ and his Church (the Catholic Church) but lives a life in accordance with Christ’s teachings MAY (not will) be saved.
I don’t see how most people these days, in particular Protestants could possibly be captured under invincible ignorance. The Church does not teach that anyone outside the Catholic Church may be saved and the Church certainly does NOT teach that Protestants are a group within the Catholic Church.
That would make a nonsense of me converting from Methodism to Catholicism.
Please show me where the Church teaches that Protestants are within the Catholic Church. Separated brethren does not mean that.

In my opinion (yes OPINION) there are hardly any people on the planet who have not heard of the Christ and the Catholic Church and have ample opportunity to explore further.



According to some saints, “ghost wandering in this world” is examples of purgatorial tasks.



Yes, but the important difference is that the soul is in Purgatory, which is not a physical place but a state of being. God permits the soul to visit the earth for a limited time in order to accomplish a purgatorial task (example would be the friar that Padre Pio saw cleaning the sanctuary because he didn’t do it well enough when he was alive) or to convey a message to someone (example would be the souls who visited Padre Pio asking that he pray for them so they could get out of Purgatory).

They don’t just wander around in the world. They are in Purgatory the whole time because it’s a state of being (not a physical place), and God allows them to visit Earth for a purpose (or one might say manifest on Earth), then they leave. Same way as He sometimes allows saints from Heaven to visit Earth for a purpose and then go back to Heaven.



It can be both.

Father John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary:

PURGATORY. The place or condition in which the souls of the just are purified after death and before they can enter heaven. They may be purified of the guilt of their venial sins, as in this life, by an act of contrition deriving from charity and performed with the help of grace. This sorrow does not, however, affect the punishment for sins, because in the next world there is no longer any possibility of merit. The souls are certainly purified by atoning for the temporal punishments due to sin by their willing acceptance of suffering imposed by God. The sufferings in purgatory are not the same for all, but proportioned to each person’s degree of sinfulness. Moreover, these sufferings can be lessened in duration and intensity through the prayers and good works of the faithful on earth. Nor are the pains incompatible with great peace and joy, since the poor souls deeply love God and are sure they will reach heaven. As members of the Church Suffering, the souls in purgatory can intercede for the persons on earth, who are therefore encouraged to invoke their aid. Purgatory will not continue after the general judgment, but its duration for any particular soul continues until it is free from all guilt and punishment. Immediately on purification the soul is assumed into heaven. (Etym. Latin purgatio , cleansing, purifying.)

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This is interesting. Is there somewhere I can read more about this. I had never heard it before, but know of a couple possible experiences.



I agree with this. Many protestants today will tell you they know all about the teachings of the Catholic church and they do and some know it better that many Catholics. Yet these protestants or non-Catholics refuse to accept what they know and refuse to come home to the Catholic church. That would not be invincible ignorance. (many non-Catholics here at CAF, can quote Church teaching very well, but then say they refuse to accept it)

IMHO we should pray more for the conversion of those outside the Church and stop accepting so much talk that they will be saved,…

This is true. They may be saved, not will be saved. There is no salvation outside the Catholic Church.



I’ve not heard this explicitly before, but it makes a lot of sense.



St. Padre Pio’s experiences with some souls are a good place to start.


I know there’s another source or two but I can’t locate it right now. I will post back if I do.



Pretty much every Protestant I know in real life doesn’t know much of anything about the Catholic church that is true apart from the fact that there is a Pope and Catholics talk a lot about Mary.



That is how it has always been for me too, until I started coming here. There are quite a few non Catholics who are quite knowledgeable in Catholic teaching. Makes me wonder how much people really don’t know especially in todays age of technology.

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However, in this day and age they have no excuse for not exploring Catholicism and they have every opportunity to do so.


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