Will the vast majority of people end up in hell?

**1035 **The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.” The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

If taken literally, this statement from the CCC (and it seems there is little room for interpretation here) that the vast majority of people in this world WILL in fact end up in hell.

When taken as stated, it would literally mean virtually evertone I know. Considering that missing Mass is oftne a mortal sin and masturbation is often a mortal sin alone, it would include everyone know in this life. This is quite distressing indeed. The statement leaves little room for the hope of the salvation of virtually everybody on the planet with the possible exception of the most devout Catholic.

I thought our souls were in jeopardy of damnation when we died in mortal sin. This statement seems to imply it is a one way ticket to hell. This is devasting to my faith. It would mean the only way I will attain Heaven will be to be fortunate enough to die as I leave the confesional or shortly thereafter AND that if I am so lucky as to attain this, I will not see any of my loved ones there.

I simply cannot accept this. Is there anything more that can be said about “1035”?

Section 1035 of the Catechism must be read in context with the whole Catechism. While the Church does affirm the existence of hell and its eternity, the Church has never made any pronouncement on who is in hell. Nor can we judge someone’s heart. The Catechism states: “although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God” (CCC 1861).

On mortal sin, we know that “Mortal sin requires full knowledge and complete consent. It presupposes knowledge of the sinful character of the act, of its opposition to God’s law. It also implies consent sufficiently deliberate to be a personal choice. Feigned ignorance and hardness of heart do not diminish, but rather increase, the voluntary character of a sin.” (CCC 1859). However, “Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors” (CCC 1735).

Thus, while you can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, you cannot judge the eternal destiny of a person’s soul. We leave that to our loving heavenly Father—the perfect judge. “God,” St. Thomas says, “judges men through the Man Christ, so that the judgment may be gentler for men,” (*Summa Theologica * III question 59).

And, because “Christ is Lord of eternal life", the "Full right to pass definitive judgment on the works and hearts of men belongs to him as redeemer of the world. He “acquired” this right by his cross. The Father has given “all judgment to the Son”. Yet the Son did not come to judge, but to save and to give the life he has in himself. By rejecting grace in this life, one already judges oneself, receives according to one’s works, and can even condemn oneself for all eternity by rejecting the Spirit of love.” CCC 679

Thus, you need not despair of the salvation of anyone in your life. We are to pray and make sacrifices for souls. Our Lady at Fatima told the three Fatima children to, “Pray, pray much and make sacrifices for sinners; many souls go to hell because they have no one to pray and make sacrifices for them”.

Answer continued below…

In *Reconciliatio et Paenitentia * (Reconciliation and Penance) Pope John Paul II exhorts us to trust the merciful love of God:

“Here of course it is a question of external radical manifestations: rejection of God, rejection of his grace and therefore opposition to the very source of salvation -these are manifestations whereby a person seems to exclude himself voluntarily from the path of forgiveness. It is to be hoped that very few persist to the end in this attitude of rebellion or even defiance of God. Moreover, God in his merciful love is greater than our hearts, as St. John further teaches us, and can overcome all our psychological and spiritual resistance. So that, as St. Thomas writes, “considering the omnipotence and mercy of God, no one should despair of the salvation of anyone in this life.”

Then in Crossing the Threshold of Hope, the Holy Father again speaks to this mystery:

”In Christ, God revealed to the world that He desires “everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” (1 Tm 2:4). This phrase from the First Letter to Timothy is of fundamental importance for understanding and preaching the Last Things. If God desires this-if, for this reason, God has given His Son, who in turn is at work in the Church through the Holy Spirit-can man be damned, can he be rejected by God?

Can God, who has loved man so much, permit the man who rejects Him to be condemned to eternal torment? And yet, the words of Christ are unequivocal. In Matthew’s Gospel He speaks clearly of those who will go to eternal punishment (cf. Mt 25:46). Who will these be? The Church has never made any pronouncement in this regard. This is a mystery, truly inscrutable, which embraces the holiness of God and the conscience of man. The silence of the Church is, therefore, the only appropriate position for Christian faith. Even when Jesus says of Judas, the traitor, “It would be better for that man if he had never been born” (Mt 26:24), His words do not allude for certain to eternal damnation.

At the same time, however, there is something in man’s moral conscience itself that rebels against any loss of this conviction: Is not God who is Love also ultimate Justice? Can He tolerate these terrible crimes, can they go unpunished? Isn’t final punishment in some way necessary in order to reestablish moral equilibrium in the complex history of humanity? Is not hell in a certain sense the ultimate safeguard of man’s moral conscience?”

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Lastly, in his General Audience of Wednesday, July 28, 1999 (*L’Osservatore Romano * 4 August 1999) the Holy Father states: “Eternal damnation remains a real possibility, we are not granted, without special divine revelation, the knowledge of which or which human beings are effectively involved in it. The thought of hell…must not create anxiety or despair, but is a necessary and healthy reminder of freedom within the proclamation that the risen Jesus has conquered Satan, giving us the, Spirit of God who makes us cry “Abba, Father” (Rm. 8:15; Gal. 4:6).

This prospect, rich in hope, prevails in Christian proclamation. It is effectively reflected in the liturgical tradition of the Church, as the words of the Roman Canon attest: “Father, accept this offering from your whole family…save us from final damnation, and count us among those you have chosen”. And, “In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

I hope this brings you peace.

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