Unam Sanctam Catholicam: It Is Not Wrong to Assume Someone is in Heaven

Posted by

We are all familiar with the modern spectacle of funerals as immediate canonizations rather than occasions for prayer and penitence for the deceased. Contemporary discomfort with the doctrines of hell and purgatory—and a profound lapse in catechesis on the gravity of sin—has transformed funeral masses into a “celebration of life,” in such a way that the bereaved are not enjoined to pray for the dead. Everybody just seems certain that grandma is among the choirs of angels and doesn’t give it a second thought.

This approach is woefully uncatholic. It is terribly sad when you have an occasion where everyone is gathered together in memory of the deceased and they fail to take the opportunity to pray for his soul, often with the complicity of the parish priest. It is another example of how modern theological errors have corrupted even our view of death.

That being said, I have noticed that traditional Catholics are prone to erring in the opposite way, by acting like we can never assume someone has made it to heaven. There seems to be this attitude that we can simply have no clue one way or another; that Christians are meant to have a disposition of complete uncertainty when it comes to the eternal destiny of our loved ones. Confronted with the holy life and abundant fruits of grace of the deceased, at most they will venture to say is a timid, “I hope they made it,” quickly followed up with, “but I will pray for their soul,” lest their hearer assume they have adopted the heresy of universalism.

This is not a Christian attitude either. While we admit that there’s always the possibility of secret vices (e.g. that our pious Grandma Doris was secretly a mule for the cartels, or daily Mass-goer Uncle Randy had a hidden gay lover), in general, the historic attitude has been that we can be assured of the salvation of those whose lives clearly manifest the work of grace, as demonstrated through their piety and virtues. 


Unam Sanctam Catholicam: It Is Not Wrong to Assume Someone is in Heaven

Leave a Reply