Salvation for persons who manifestly persevere in objective mortal sin

Let’s consider the case of persons who manifestly persevere in objective mortal sins. These are persons who commit acts that are objectively gravely immoral, on a continuing basis, without apparent repentance. These sins might be interior or exterior; they might be generally acknowledged as sins or crimes by society, or they might be accepted as if moral by secular society. So the question arises as to whether these persons can be saved, if they die without repentance from these grave sins.

The answer is found in the distinction between objective mortal sin and actual mortal sin. If the person commits this type of sin with full knowledge of the grave immorality of the act and full freedom of choice, then the act is an actual mortal sin, which deprives the individual of the state of grace and deserves eternal punishment. The only way to avoid Hell, after falling into actual mortal sin, is by repentance. And for someone without access to the Sacraments, that repentance would need to be perfect contrition: sorrow out of love for God, or sorrow out of the selfless love of neighbor, which is always also, at least implicitly, the love of God.

However, in many cases, a person living in this sinful fallen world, seeing the many grave sins of Christians and the extreme diversity of ideas about morality within society and even among Christians, might not realize that a gravely immoral act is wrong at all. Non-Catholics and non-Christians are particularly susceptible to this type of error, having been led astray by the example and opinions of sinful secular society.

The faithful of the Roman Catholic Church have the truths of Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium to guide them. But even in our case, the current range of opinions as to what is and is not gravely immoral is very harmful to souls. Many Catholics are being led astray by fellow Catholics and by false teachers of Catholicism, who claim that intrinsically evil and gravely immoral acts are justified by intention or circumstances. Many other errors on morality are being spread among the faithful of the Catholic Church, so much so that many lay persons are sincerely confused as to what they should believe.

The situation is much worse for non-Catholics and non-Christians. The constant arguing among their fellow believers and in secular society as to which acts are moral and which are immoral can lead to a sincere but mistaken impression that certain gravely immoral acts are moral, or at least are not gravely immoral. As a result, persons who persevere in committing objective mortal sins might not be guilty of actual mortal sin. And so they might still be in a state of grace.

If such a person dies in the state of grace, due to reduced culpability from a lack of knowledge on morality, he will nevertheless spend a long time, with great suffering, in Purgatory. For even though his objective mortal sins were reduced in culpability to that of actual venial sin, this type of offense is the worst of the venial sins. Objective mortal sin does great harm to one’s neighbor, even when the sin lacks the full culpability of actual mortal sin.

[Luke]
{12:47} And that servant, who knew the will of his Lord, and who did not prepare and did not act according to his will, will be beaten many times over.
{12:48} Yet he who did not know, and who acted in a way that deserves a beating, will be beaten fewer times. So then, of all to whom much has been given, much will be required. And of those to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be asked.

Even when a person sins by objective mortal sin without full culpability, the justice of God requires a severe punishment — unless the sinner repents and is forgiven in this life and does sufficient penance.

The above text is from my book:
Forgiveness and Salvation for Everyone

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

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