More Catholic commentary on the death of UBL

Many Catholics are making comments about the death of Osama bin Laden (UBL or OBL), suggesting that he might be in Purgatory, not Hell. And since all the souls of Purgatory eventually go to Heaven, this implies that he would eventually have eternal happiness with God and all the Elect. They don’t deny his very extensive and very severe sins. But they suggest that either he might have repented at the last moment, and therefore have been saved, or that God might find some way to save him, since God is infinitely merciful and infinitely forgiving. And on the basis that he might be saved, they claim that we should forgive bin Ladin, should pray for his soul, and should hope and believe that he might have been saved.

These claims are not opinions on open questions of theology, nor are they reasonable differing judgments within the prudential order. These claims pertain to questions on matters of faith, morals, and salvation which Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture, and the Magisterium have already answered definitively. These claims reflect a poor understanding of Catholic doctrine on morality and salvation.

1. Is God infinitely forgiving, so that He forgives everyone, no matter what they have done?

The definitive teaching of the Catholic Church, as a dogma of the faith and a required belief under pain of heresy (as taught at Trent), is that a person who has committed one or more actual mortal sins is NOT forgiven by God, even in the Sacrament of Confession (also called the Sacrament of Forgiveness), unless he is repentant. Specifically, the penitent in the confessional must have at least imperfect contrition, which is sorrow for sin out of love of self (fear of Hell, desire to be a better person, realization of the disorder in one’s own life, etc.). With imperfect contrition, and a confession of every actual mortal sin, in number and kind, that can be remembered after a due and diligent consideration of one’s life, and absolution from a priest or bishop, these sins are forgiven and the person’s soul is returned to a state of grace.

However, apart from the Sacrament of Confession, a person cannot be forgiven by God for actual mortal sin except by perfect contrition (and an implicit desire for confession). Perfect contrition is sorrow for one’s sins (again, every actual mortal sin….) out of a true selfless love for God and neighbor.

The teaching of the Catholic Church is that a person who is guilty of one or more actual mortal sins, and who does not repent through the last moment of his life, so that he dies in a state of actual mortal sin, not in a state of grace, will necessarily be sent to Hell by God.

It is simply not possible for a person like bin Laden, who has committed innumerable severe actual mortal sins, to repent in a few seconds at the end of his life. The degree of repentance required would be perfect contrition, not imperfect contrition, and he would need to have repented of each and every actual mortal sin. The number of his sins prevents even the possibility that he did so (as some have suggested) in the last seconds of his life.

Nor is there any indication that, at any time, he repented out of true love for God and neighbor. For the last many years of his adult life, he freely chose to hate God and neighbor, to commit innumerable grave sins without remorse, and to lead many other persons in committing the same type of grave sins. And he further sinned by using the name of God in order to justify and promote those sins.

But to answer the initial question, God is not infinitely forgiving in the sense that He would forgive actual mortal sin without repentance on the part of the sinner. Whoever says so is rejecting the infallible teaching of the Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Trent and in the ordinary and Universal Magisterium.

2. Is it possible that a person who dies in a state of actual mortal sin can repent after death, or in some other way be saved by God’s infinite mercy after death?

The definitive teaching of the Catholic Church is that all persons who die unrepentant from actual mortal sin will be sent to Hell by God forever. Although God is infinite Love and infinite Mercy, He is also infinite Justice and infinite Truth. If the truth of your life is that you freely chose to hate your neighbor and you freely chose not to repent, then the infinite love and mercy of God will send you to Hell — for the just punishment of the damned in Hell is an act of love, mercy, justice and truth. Unrepentant wicked souls are always sent to the one place that they belong: Hell.

It is in effect an accusation against God, as if He were not Just, as if the truth of a person’s life would be ignored by God who is Truth, as if the love and mercy of God were unjust love and unjust mercy, — it is a serious accusation against God to claim that a person who is unrepentant from actual mortal sin might be sent by God to Heaven, rather than to Hell. The Shepherd sends the sheep to Heaven, and the wolves to Hell. Only an idiot would put the wolves in the same fold with the sheep.

3. Could UBL be not guilty to the extent of actual mortal sin due to invincible ignorance or a mistaken sincere belief that his actions were good?

It is not possible for UBL to have been not guilty of grave sin due to some type of mistaken sincere belief in morality and the will of God. The Church teaches that the entire moral law is accessible to reason, in all of its requirements for each and every person. Now while original sin and personal sin and living in a sinful world make it impossible for us to perceive every requirement of morality by reason alone without error, the light of reason in any intelligent adult also makes it also impossible to sincerely misunderstand that we should love our neighbor and not kill the innocent.

Therefore, UBL must be guilty to the extent of actual mortal sin for his many crimes of hatred and murder of the innocent. He cannot possibly be free from grave guilt due to invincible ignorance.

Also, our Lord taught that the way to Heaven is narrow and the way to Hell is wide. But if UBL is in Purgatory (all who go to Purgatory eventually go to Heaven), then these words of Christ would be very false.

[Matthew]
{7:12} Therefore, all things whatsoever that you wish that men would do to you, do so also to them. For this is the law and the prophets.
{7:13} Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate, and broad is the way, which leads to perdition, and many there are who enter through it.
{7:14} How narrow is the gate, and how straight is the way, which leads to life, and few there are who find it!

{7:15} Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.

Also, UBL is not a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but a wolf in wolf’s clothing. The Good Shepherd would never place an unrepentant wolf in the fold with the sheep.

When Christ appeared before the sinner Pilate, He spoke to him. But when Christ appeared before the wicked sinner Herod, He refused to say a single world to him, so great were his sins.

4. Is it not true that we cannot know the state of anyone’s soul at death, and so we cannot know their eternal fate?

Did you not celebrate the beatification of Pope John Paul II, along with the Church, a few hours before UBL’s death? If you think that we cannot know the final destination of anyone’s soul, why did you celebrate?

We don’t know the eternal fate of UBL as an article of faith — but we do know with human certitude. For the teachings of Christ enlighten us as to what is good, and what is evil, as to the path to Heaven and the path to Hell. It is unmistakably clear, even apart from the process of canonization, that Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II live holy lives, died in a state of grace, and went to Heaven. It is also unmistakably clear that Hitler, Stalin, Hussein, UBL lived wicked lives, did not repent, and went to Hell.

The Magisterium has infallible teachings on the requirements for salvation and for repentance from grave sin. And all who are saying that such wicked persons may have gone to Purgatory and Heaven are ignoring those teachings. These teachings of the Church are indisputable. A non-Catholic must repent with perfect contrition (out of love for God and neighbor) in order to be forgiven and returned to a state of grace after even a single actual mortal sin. The moral law is clear enough from the light of reason that all of the above named wicked persons would not be innocent of actual mortal sin due to invincible ignorance (sincere mistaken belief).

And it is clear as a matter of human certitude that the above named wicked persons did not repent, out of true love for God and neighbor, from all of their very many wicked sins. Therefore, we can be certain that they went to Hell. It is human certitude, not the certitude of an article of faith. But it is certitude nonetheless.

May the Justice and Truth of God send all who die unrepentant from actual mortal sin to the tortures of Hell forever.

5. At the ironically-named blog ‘The American Catholic‘, Michael Denton, says: “God’s mercy and love has no exceptions; as Christians our mercy and love are to have no exceptions. Simply put, God loved Osama Bin Laden and extended His mercy to him. It is our duty as Christians, as witnesses to the love of God to extend our forgiveness to Bin Laden and pray that he accepted that mercy and that we will be with us in paradise.”

Denton is promoting, even teaching, serious theological errors on the topic of faith and salvation. God loves the Blessed Virgin Mary more than he loves Pope John Paul II, because Mary is holier than John Paul. There is more in Mary that is worthy of love. Whenever one person is more like God, then God loves that person more. Or we could phrase it, from another point of view, that the holier person has chosen to accept more of the love of God. God loves animals, plants, even the inanimate things of Creation. But does He love a rock just as He loves the Blessed Virgin Mary? Of course not. So we cannot speak as if God loves all things equally, or even all human persons equally. But the limitation on the infinite love of God is found in the finite things and persons of Creation, not in the Nature of God, who is infinite love.

God loves an ordinary faithful Catholic, who is in a state of grace, more than he loves a sinner in a state of mortal sin, because the object of the love is more worthy. When a person commits many grave sins, there is a sense in which God still loves that person, for He continues to seek his repentance and conversion. But it is absurd and contrary to justice — it is a false accusation against the Love of God — to claim that God loves a wicked terrorist the same as anyone else, or what is worse, to claim that God extends mercy and love to an unrepentant wicked person just as to a repentant sinner, or just as to a holy person who has no need of repentance.

The dogma of the Council of Trent is that God does not forgive even a single actual mortal sin, except with contrition and confession, or perfect contrition out of love for God and implicit desire for confession. The idea that God’s love and mercy do not absolutely require contrition and confession in order to obtain forgiveness and salvation, is a heresy condemned by Trent, but often revived in recent times under the claim that God is all forgiving, infinitely loving, infinitely merciful, etc.

Denton’s claim that we should forgive the unrepentant is contrary to the teaching of Jesus Christ, who taught us to be perfect as His heavenly Father is perfect. But the heavenly Father does not forgive grave sin without repentance. Neither does our Lord and Savior. Neither should we.

[Ephesians 5]
{5:1} Therefore, as most beloved sons, be imitators of God.

[1 Corinthians 11]
{11:1} Be imitators of me, as I also am of Christ.

The facts of the case of bin Laden are well known and are certain. He committed innumerable actual mortal sins, and he admitted those sin in video and audio tapes. He did not repent of all his actual mortal sins with perfect contrition and an implicit desire for confession before he died. He died resisting capture. He was shot in the head and died instantly. He did not rest on a death bed for hours or days or weeks, and perhaps repent.

Denton’s prayer that bin Laden somehow “be with us in paradise” is a suggestion that we ask God not to be Just, not to be Truth, and we pray that the wolves may be placed with the sheep in the fold forever. This type of pseudo-pious sentiment is not based on the teachings of the Catholic Faith, nor on the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is contrary to the teachings of the Church, and contrary to the teachings of our Lord.

[Matthew]
{4:17} From that time, Jesus began to preach, and to say: “Repent. For the kingdom of heaven has drawn near.”

{5:20} For I say to you, that unless your justice has surpassed that of the scribes and the Pharisees you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
{5:21} You have heard that it was said to the ancients: ‘You shall not murder; whoever will have murdered shall be liable to judgment.’
{5:22} But I say to you, that anyone who becomes angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment. But whoever will have called his brother, ‘Idiot,’ shall be liable to the council. Then, whoever will have called him, ‘Worthless,’ shall be liable to the fires of Hell.

{7:22} Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and perform many powerful deeds in your name?’
{7:23} And then will I disclose to them: ‘I have never known you. Depart from me, you workers of iniquity.’

{8:12} But the sons of the kingdom shall be cast into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

{10:33} But whoever will have denied me before men, I also will deny before my Father, who is in heaven.

{11:23} And you, Capernaum, would you be exalted all the way to heaven? You shall descend all the way to Hell.

{15:13} But in response he said: “Every plant which has not been planted by my heavenly Father shall be uprooted.
{15:14} Leave them alone. They are blind, and they lead the blind. But if the blind are in charge of the blind, both will fall into the pit.”

{18:3} And he said: “Amen I say to you, unless you change and become like little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

[Luke]
{19:27} ‘Yet truly, as for those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here, and put them to death before me.’ ”
{19:28} And having said these things, he went ahead, ascending to Jerusalem.

[edited 3:08 pm May 3 to note that he died resisting capture, not firing a weapon.]

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2 Responses to More Catholic commentary on the death of UBL

  1. Linda Pollock says:

    Thank you! There is a tremendous amount of education in this blog – and I appreciate the time, effort, energy, dedication and love with which you continue to be available to us. Over time – and through either erroneous teaching or my erroneous understanding – I’ve held many of the stated beliefs about final contrition and forgiveness. It is wonderful to have that definitively answered and clarified. I especially appreciate being in the position of Truth – as to be able to extend that to my children who are of age to be discussing these very issues. Blessings to you!

  2. Veteran Haymaker says:

    NOt to try to contradict what you say but it seems to me a better way to say one part of your comments is to say that God is all merciful and forgives all, but, we need to act to make it happen. Mercy is there for the claiming by accepting, confessing, repenting and changing our ways. It was there for Osama but it appears he never acted on it.
    I was always told that the way you live is the way you die. Live in sin, you die in sin.

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