Continuing our discussion of the last four things we believe in the RC Church, we come to Judgment. However we must first talk a bit about sin and the sacrament of confession.
Sins are evaluated according to their gravity. The Church teaches that there are 2 kinds of sin: mortal sin and venial sin. For a sin to be mortal, three conditions are necessary: it’s a grave matter; it is committed with full knowledge and it is committed with full consent (CCC1857*). A grave matter is specified by the Ten Commandments and there is a relative gravity among sins: murder is graver than theft, violence against parents is graver than against a stranger (CCC1858).
Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of a person and turns them away from God – there is a rupture. One commits venial sin when in a less serious matter, one does not observe the standard prescribed by the moral law or disobeys the moral law in a grave matter without full knowledge or complete consent (CCC1862). Venial sins are every day faults that only weaken charity and impede a soul’s progress in the exercise of virtues. If repeated they can however lead to mortal sin (CCC1863).
All mortal sins must be recounted to a priest in the sacrament of confession (or reconciliation) after a diligent self-examination of conscience (CCC 1456). Confession of venial sin while not strictly necessary, is recommended (CCC1458). Adults must confess their sins to a priest at least once per year (CCC1457). Mortal sins can only be forgiven while we are alive and not after death. Unconfessed venial sins can be forgiven after death.
While we are living, all confessed sins are given absolution by the priest (who becomes Jesus) i.e., are forgiven provided that you are truly sorry and will honestly try not to sin again (CCC1449). Penance (temporal punishment) is assigned as a necessary purifying step to restore us back to a state of God’s grace.
We can now proceed to discuss judgment of which there are two phases:
- The Particular Judgment (CCC 1021-22)
- The Last Judgment (CCC1038-41)
When we die, our soul leaves our body and proceeds to the Particular Judgment. Death puts an end to the time open for each of us to accept or reject divine grace manifested in each of us receives our eternal retribution in our immortal soul: either entrance into heaven – through a purification or immediately – or, immediate and everlasting damnation.
Those who die in God’s grace and friendship (i.e., free of all temporal punishment) are already perfectly purified and live forever in Christ thereafter (their body and soul are reunited and go to heaven immediately). Those who are not yet perfectly purified from the “residue of sin” (Fr. Wade’s words) are assured eternal salvation but first must undergo purification in Purgatory which is also called The Final Purification) (CCC1030). Those who die with unconfessed mortal sin proceed immediately to Hell.
This doctrine of Purgatory was formulated at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The two scripture quotes supporting this period of cleansing are: