Can a Same-sex Married Couple go to Heaven?

There are two types of true marriage: natural marriage and the Sacrament of Marriage. There can be no true marriage of any kind between persons of the same sex. Those persons sin gravely who attempt or claim to have a marriage with another person of the same sex. Moreover, all sexual acts outside of any true marriage are intrinsically evil and always gravely immoral. And same-sex sexual acts are even more sinful than sexual sins between a man and a woman.

Even so, we live in a sinful fallen world, in which many good persons have been badly misled by society on marriage and on sexual ethics. So the question arises as to whether a person who is in a same-sex marriage, with a sincere but mistaken conscience, can die in a state of grace, and have eternal life in Heaven.

My answer to this question is the same as for almost any objective mortal sin, committed without repentance. An objective mortal sin might not also be an actual mortal sin and only actual mortal sin deprives the soul of the state of grace. So, in the simplest case, a baptized Christian who lives in a same-sex marriage, and who dies unrepentant from those objective mortal sins, can still go to Heaven, by way of Purgatory, if those objective mortal sins are not also actual mortal sins, and if he or she has not committed, or at least has repented from, any actual mortal sins in any area of life.

And the same is true for any type of objective mortal sin, including: abortion, contraception, adultery, other sexual sins, and sins against religion. Every human person is judged by his conscience, as to whether he entered the state of grace (by some form of baptism), whether he departed from that state by actual mortal sin (not by a sin that was merely objectively grave), and whether he repented from any actual mortal sins.

There is a certain idea, often expressed by various Catholics online, that anyone guilty of objective mortal sin is always or almost always also guilty of actual mortal sin, and therefore they must repent from the sin or be condemned to Hell. But this idea is contrary to Catholic doctrine on salvation and sin. Only unrepentant actual mortal sin condemns to Hell. An objective mortal sin is not also an actual mortal sin unless it is committed with full deliberation and with full knowledge of its grave immorality. And we cannot assume that every objective mortal sin is also an actual mortal sin.

Ironically, many of the Catholics who publicly make this claim — that persons who are unrepentant from objective mortal sin always or almost always go to Hell — are also themselves guilty of the objective mortal sin of heresy. Yet they are convinced that they themselves will go to Heaven, despite their failure to repent from heresy, and at the same time they loudly condemn those persons who may perhaps have a sincere but mistaken conscience in their grave sins.

We cannot assume that persons who died unrepentant from objective mortal sin went to Hell, and of course we also cannot assume that they went to Heaven. We cannot judge their souls. But we can acknowledge the true teachings of the Church on salvation and sin.

{21:28} But how does it seem to you? A certain man had two sons. And approaching the first, he said: ‘Son, go out today to work in my vineyard.’
{21:29} And responding, he said, ‘I am not willing.’ But afterwards, being moved by repentance, he went.
{21:30} And approaching the other, he spoke similarly. And answering, he said, ‘I am going, lord.’ And he did not go.
{21:31} Which of the two did the will of the father?” They said to him, “The first.” Jesus said to them: “Amen I say to you, that tax collectors and prostitutes shall precede you, into the kingdom of God.
{21:32} For John came to you in the way of justice, and you did not believe him. But the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. Yet even after seeing this, you did not repent, so as to believe him.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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5 Responses to Can a Same-sex Married Couple go to Heaven?

  1. Matt says:

    In this day and age you would have to be living in the deep jungles of a banana republic and not know that fornication, adultery, and homosexuality, are considered to be grave offenses to God. I believe very few could actually claim of not having full knowledge that these aforementioned acts they are committing are gravely sinful. One of the reasons for such a large amount of grave unrepentant sins in our society and widespread acceptance of them is that the Catholic Church has become largely silent on the teachings of the realities of Hell and eternal damnation these past 50 years. I don’t think I have heard my priest even mention Hell in any of his sermons in many years. The Church has been too nice and treads carefully with its parishes. Father Corapi was one of the few priests that frequently mentioned that we are in a spiritual warfare for souls and of the realities of Hell. As the Virgin Mary stated in Medjugorje, many souls go to Hell.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Knowing that the Church teaches something is gravely immoral is not the same, especially for non-Catholics, as realizing in one’s conscience that the same act is gravely immoral. Many Catholics and almost all non-Catholics do not form their consciences according to Church teaching.

  2. Joe says:

    I agree with your comment Ron. We are all called to form our consciences in truth. But it seems to me that God who works toward the salvation of all souls is not impatient with us. Meaning he is not quick to correct us of our misunderstandings. He allows our ignorance for a time such that he prepares us to be able to receive his truth. The spirit or heart of Pope Francis when he speaks that we must not focus as much on this and that but rather the Goodnews. The good Father was not quick to take his son inside his house but rather welcoming him home began redressing him. Imagine the condition of his son when he returned. I like the saying “it is not so much were we are at but where are we going.” And ” the problem is not so much sin, but our failure to repent of it and ask forgiveness.” God sees the whole life of the soul and corrects at the appropriate time. Those of us that adhere to the faith must not dismiss our brothers and sisters who have not accepted it. In the end the salvation of souls is far greater than the perception of how we think things should be. And it is Christ alone who is charged with the task of redemption, though in his mercy he shares his cross with us. Pope Francis approach is starting to make more sense to me as I see the movement of the Holy Spirit in his Papacy.

  3. Michael says:

    I think what it comes down to, for a lot of Catholics especially, is a question of perceived justice. It’s not easy being a faithful Catholic. We give up a lot and we fight temptation daily. All the while others who make no attempt to really seek the truth and continue living lives of carnal pleasure are given a pass precisely because of their willful ignorance. If you read a lot of the books written by saints and mystics, it’s not uncommon to get a sense of fear in thinking if you’ll make it into heaven. Souls were being sent to hell for sins that may not seem so mortal today. And now there is this shift in thought that is almost implying that you don’t even need to worry about being a faithful Catholic to be saved. That any faith is fine and as long as you are good to your neighbor then you will go to heaven. It begs the question, what is the point of evangelization? I’ll always support the Magisterium’s teaching on invincible ignorance but I have to somewhat agree with Matt above that it just may be much rarer than one might think.

    • Ron Conte says:

      The easiest path to Heaven is that of the believing and practicing Catholic. The further away from Catholicism one goes, the harder it is to get into Heaven. It is possible for an atheist to get into Heaven, by the true selfless love of neighbor; but it is not easy. And the same is true for those persons who are living in objective mortal sin. It is possible but difficult. More souls go to Hell for sins of the flesh (sexual sins) than for any other reason. One can implicitly accept Christ, but one can also implicitly reject Christ.

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