Why the Souls in Hell cannot Repent

Immediately after death, each soul is judged by God. The soul is given infused knowledge pertaining to the moral evaluation of all the deliberate knowing acts of their lives. All the good and all the bad that the person did is then known to the person, with infallible certitude. The judgment of God, then, is in accord with that knowledge. And so the person cannot deny that they deserve Heaven, or Purgatory, or Hell. They know the truth of their own life.

Whosoever dies in a state of unrepented actual mortal sin will be sent to Hell. Whosoever dies in a state of grace will be sent to Heaven, perhaps after a stay in Purgatory of some length. Those persons die in a state of “original sin alone” who died unrepentant from the actual mortal sin of omission of never having found sanctifying grace in this life (through any of the three forms of baptism), despite ample opportunity. Prenatals, infants, and young children, who die at that age, did not have ample opportunity, so they do not die in a state of original sin alone. They are given a baptism of blood, prior to death, if they were not already baptized.

Why is it that persons who die unrepented from actual mortal sin cannot repent after death? It is a decision of the justice of God, not to offer them that grace. And free will cannot repent from grave sin without grace. It would be unjust to give souls a year, a hundred years, a million years, or more to repent, so that all souls go to Heaven. Everyone is treated fairly by God in this life, in the sense of being given ample providence and grace to reach eternal life. If the circumstances are so severe that the person seems to be denied that providence, then grace intervenes to provide what is lacking.

After death, God does not provide the grace of repentance for those who died unrepentant from actual mortal sin. They are justly condemned because an actual mortal sin is an act fully understood by the sinner to be gravely immoral, and committed with full freedom of choice.

In Purgatory, the souls do have the grace to repent. And this is just because they died in the state of grace. Repentance is consonant with that state. Sinners who die unrepentant from venial sins, or with temporal punishment due for venial or repented mortal sins, must satisfy the justice of God in Purgatory, so that all souls are treated fairly.

In Purgatory, the souls cannot sin any more. They are prevented from sinning by prevenient grace, just as the Blessed Virgin Mary was prevented from sinning, in this life, by the same grace. If they could sin, then they would deserve ever more punishment, and would never be able to leave for Heaven. If they could sin mortally, then they could fall from Purgatory to Hell. Both of those philosophical possibilities are contrary to justice. They died in the state of grace, so they obtain the promise of Christ and His Church to have eternal life.

In Hell, the souls have a merciful grace, which is that they can no longer sin. Again, this is a work of prevenient grace. If they could sin, then, being not in the state of grace, they would continually commit mortal sins, continually deserve ever more punishment, until the punishment of all souls in Hell would be unbearably extreme. Therefore, God prevents them from sinning at all. Neither the devils in Hell, nor the souls in Hell can sin at all. This is actually part of their punishment. Some of them would like to lash out at God and His faithful with utterances of hatred and blasphemy. But it is contrary to justice to allow billions of devils and souls in Hell to sin unceasingly against God. So they are unable. However, they are in a state of blasphemy, as they have utterly rejected God by unrepentant actual mortal sin.

More in my booklet: Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, and Limbo

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

Please take a look at this list of my books and booklets, and see if any topic interests you.

Advertisements
Gallery | This entry was posted in commentary. Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Why the Souls in Hell cannot Repent

  1. Fr Joseph Fazio says:

    It seems to makes sense, but how then would you account for the devil and his fallen angels tempting, seducing and provoking sin in others even hurting through vexations and possessing souls. Would he not be freely sinning? Scripture says that through the envy of the devil sin /death entered into the world.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Good points. Some devils are in Hell already, and others are not. Satan and other devils who are not presently in Hell are able to sin. When they are eventually sent to Hell, they are prevented from ever sinning again.

  2. Tom Mazanec says:

    Whosoever dies in a state of unrepented actual mortal sin will be sent to Hell.

    What if someone commits a Mortal Sin as a child, becomes a Christian as an adult, but never repents of his childhood mortal sin because he has forgotten it?

    • Ron Conte says:

      A good confession forgives all sins, even forgotten mortal sins. Any full cooperation with grace in an act of selfless love of God or neighbor includes implicit perfect contrition, thereby forgiving all sins. If a person commits a mortal sin as a teenager (doubtful this could occur as a child), and forgets about it, he would have to live a life devoid of true love of God and neighbor in order to be condemned to Hell.

  3. Matt Z. says:

    I have just read on the Catholic Encyclopedia that the souls in hell are not allowed to roam the earth and tempt people but the demons are allowed under Gods permission to leave hell and temp the people on earth. Maybe thats what you mean when u say they can sin. When they leave hell to tempt those on earth? In hell they are definitely in a state of sin, always hating God.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I disagree with that article. I don’t think that the demons in Hell are permitted to leave. Hell is like a prison. The warden of the prison is not the devil, but God. No reasonable and just warden allows prisoners to leave, so they can commit more crimes. Some demons are on earth, and others are in Hell.

  4. Grindall says:

    About the vision where God allowed Satan 100 years on earth. How does that fit in?

    • Ron Conte says:

      Satan has been on earth since the time of Adam and Eve. He was allowed (as the vision says, at least) 100 years of fewer restrictions. As we learn from the book of Job, Satan cannot do any harm he wishes, but only what is permitted. Humanity became more sinful, so God permitted devils to do more harm.

  5. Matt says:

    Saint Faustina had a private vision in which every soul, at the point of death, saw the merciful Christ who asked three times, “Do you love me?” and only the souls who refused his love three times would depart into the dark.

    Seeing the merciful Christ at the point of death and still rejecting God, most definitely tells me that the soul chooses Hell and does want to leave Hell.

    • Matt says:

      Sorry, does not want to leave Hell.

    • Ron Conte says:

      That’s a figure, representing the truth that the state of grace is the state of loving God and neighbor. If you die in that state, you will have eternal life; otherwise, eternal punishment. It is not literal, because that would contradict everything the Church teaches about the path to salvation.

    • Marco says:

      “It is not literal, because that would contradict everything the Church teaches about the path to salvation.”

      Not if that happens before actual death, when the souls is not departed from the body yet.

      In that case, there is still time for repentance, and i think that it makes sense that Christ offers a last chance.

      Of course if someone thinks that this happens after death he would be glaringly wrong, but if it happens before death i don’t think that it would contradict doctrine.

    • Ron Conte says:

      It absolutely contradicts doctrine, even if it occurs before death. Giving everyone some special revelation and a special choice, just before death — positing this experience as the determinant of salvation — contradicts all that the Church teaches on salvation: the need for a form of baptism, repentance from grave sin, all the other helps of grace, and the entire moral law. For then the person could live any kind of life, and then be saved by that alleged last experience.

    • Marco says:

      2283 “ We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives”.

      Since suicide is the last act of one’s life, it wouldn’t make sense to say that “God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance” if a last chance to accept salvation wasn’t given before actual death. We know that death, if we are talking about actual death, is a longer process than what was tought previously, so it’s not impossible.

      And it makes a lot of sense, since Jesus died for us it makes sense that only those who stubbornly and willingly (not just indirectly) refuse Him go to Hell.

      This doesn’t nullify justice, since Purgatory can be very long and harsh.

    • Ron Conte says:

      No. Death is the dividing line between this life and the next. The salutary repentance can occur prior to the suicide, if it is committed without full culpability, or after the act of suicide, if the method is such that the person has time before they die.

      A suicide bomber, who commits the act with full culpability, and dies immediately has no time for repentance. But even that person had sufficient help from grace and providence to be saved, if only they had been willing.

    • Marco says:

      @Ron

      “For then the person could live any kind of life, and then be saved by that alleged last experience.”

      But if someone repents in the last minutes of his life he can be saved, that is already established. Even the life of the saints are full of these episodes.

      Not to mention the good thief.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Yes, a person can repent at the end of life. But the claim that everyone necessarily receives a special revelation from God, at the hour of death, which is the determinant, solely or in large part, of their eternal salvation is absolute heresy. It implies necessarily a rejection off many infallible teachings on the path of salvation.

    • Marco says:

      “All grace flows from mercy, and the last hour abounds with mercy for us. Let no one doubt concerning the goodness of God; even if a person’s sins were as dark as night, God’s mercy is stronger than our misery. One thing alone is necessary: that the sinner set ajar the door of his heart, be it ever so little, to let in a ray of God’s merciful grace, and then God will do the rest. But poor is the soul who has shut the door on God’s mercy, even at the last hour. It was just such souls who plunged Jesus into deadly sorrow in the Garden of Olives; indeed, it was from His Most Merciful Heart that divine mercy flowed out.” ( from the Diary of Saint Faustina, 1507)

    • Marco says:

      “Yes, a person can repent at the end of life. But the claim that everyone necessarily receives a special revelation from God, at the hour of death, which is the determinant, solely or in large part, of their eternal salvation is absolute heresy. It implies necessarily a rejection off many infallible teachings on the path of salvation.”

      Ron, the thing is that someone who has lived his entire life in the state of actual mortal sin, if he repents at the end of life if forgiven and gains eternal life.

      And many times this happens because of special graces gained by someone else for this person, that’s why the Holy Virgin said, in the apparition of Fatima “ pray, pray a great deal and make many sacrifices, for many soids
      go to Hell because they have no one to make sacrifices and to pray for them”

      These words logically imply that the salvation of many souls derived from graces gained by themselves earlier in life or by someone else for them. I’m well aware that everyone receives the opportunity of salvation and sufficient grace, but God what Graces giving to them and at what time so that they will accept, that’s why praying for sinners is very important.

      The good thief, for example, received the great grace of meeting Jesus on the Cross. Without that encounter, without that special Grace, he would have been lost. Now, wasn’t that encounter determinant for his salvation, irrespective of the sins committed by him during his life?

    • Marco says:

      Corrections

      “ but God what Graces giving to them and at what time”

      But God *knows” what Graces giving to them and at what time.

      “if he repents at the end of life if forgiven and gains eternal life.”

      If he repents at the end of life he is forgiven and gains eternal life.

  6. Guest says:

    Since grace is needed to do good and avoid evil does God give all men on earth, including unbelievers, sufficient grace to live a sin-free life. If not perfection, at least sin free?

    • Ron Conte says:

      The Council of Trent taught that we cannot generally avoid all venial sin, unless one has the special help of God’s grace, as in the case of the Virgin Mary. So He gives sufficient grace for salvation and to avoid mortal sin. He gives prevenient grace to everyone, even the most wicked. He offers subsequent grace to everyone, but we receive more or less depending on if we cooperate.

  7. Manz says:

    “In Hell, the souls have a merciful grace, which is that they can no longer sin.”
    The reasoning offered is interesting, have any Church Fathers, Doctors or Popes expressed their opinion on this matter?

Comments are closed.