A Catholic person cannot tell anyone that they are going to hell. A Catholic person can say that what a person is doing is wrong and can jeopardize his/her salvation. But a Catholic person cannot say definitively nor can they damn a person to hell.On the other side, neither can a Catholic say with perfect certainty that they are going to heaven. This is altogether different than Fundamentalists who believe that all you need to do is to pray to accept Jesus into your heart and soul and you will be received into the kingdom of heaven upon your death.
Let me explain these two thoughts in great detail. First the damnation. As I said before, God created the sacraments, but they do not bind him. A person can go to heaven if that is God's will. That person can be an atheist, a Jew, a Muslim, and a Christian. We simply don't know who will receive God's grace and salvation. Similarly, we don't know who won't receive God's grace and salvation.The CCC (Catechism of the Catholic Church) says this:
#169- Salvation comes from God alone.
The Bible has this to say about judgment of others:
Do not judge others or you will be judged too.Therefore if you ever, ever hear a Catholic saying someone is going to hell or that they are going to hell, they are out of line. Saying a sin or an act or something to that affect will potentially send you to hell is different. We all do things that deservedly should send us to hell, but that is up to God. We are not God who is the Ultimate Judge and to make that judgment call is wrong. In other words, never should I ever hear anyone tell another person that they are going to hell regardless of that person's transgressions.
In that same vain, nobody is ensured of salvation or the golden ticket to get through the pearly gates. What a person can do is put themselves on the path to salvation. Many Fundamentalists ask the question "are you saved?" as though it's assured. As I said, Catholics cannot guarantee their salvation so the question for us is a strange one. We view our salvation as a journey with the final destination of heaven or hell (yes, I know about purgatory, but that's not the final destination). We try to live our lives in such a way as to attain heaven without really knowing if that's where we'll end up. Through faith, one can hope that Jesus will accept us. We live in hope.Unfortunately, the media portrays this kind of thinking as one of despair. The misconception is that since a Catholic doesn't truly know if they are going to heaven, they remain sad, dejected, and ultimately spend their entire lives trying to achieve perfection. This is false. All Catholics know that there was only one perfect person: Jesus. We can never be perfect. We spend our lives trying to follow Jesus's path and we pray often asking for salvation.
Example: Oh, My Jesus, forgive us our sins and save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to Heaven especially those who are in need of your mercy. Amen. (I would like to add that those who are in need of God's mercy is well…everyone.)Okay, why do Catholics think that we aren't necessarily assured of our salvation? Because Jesus said so.
Matthew 7:21-22"Not everyone who says 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven." Many will say to me on that day 'Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons, and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly: I never knew you. Away from me, evildoers."Obviously a person saying "Lord, Lord" believes that Jesus is the messiah. So faith alone does not assure a person's salvation. Jesus continues by saying "only the one who does the will of my Father." This is where works comes into play. Fundamentalists will quote Matthew 7's parable about the good tree who bears fruit. In that thinking, a Christian would naturally do good deeds, but that isn't what makes a person saved. They also point to the robber who was saved by Jesus while on the cross. I'll repeat myself: God created the pathway to salvation, but he is not bound to it.
Ultimately it is God who determines whether or not we followed his will. Jesus said that these persons performed the works of driving out demons and prophesying and performing miracles. Those are all great and fine, but Jesus also calls us to love God and to love our neighbor in other ways.Just like God instructed the Israelites on how to behave to ensure salvation, Jesus also has left us with a blueprint to follow. This doesn't mean he follows it; it simply means that this is the standard, the normal path toward salvation. And as I've said before, wouldn't a person want to follow the standard path with hope rather than deviate from it not knowing if Jesus would make you the exception? At least we have a road map toward salvation.
What is this road map? Faith in Jesus. Doing the will of the Father ie good works or following Jesus's instructions (such as charity, forgiveness, etc). And the sacraments: Baptism especially (which is also something Jesus instructed us to do). This is the path to salvation, but again does not guarantee salvation. And this is what separates Catholics from Protestants and ultimately where Luther disagreed with the Church.So next time someone asks me if I am saved I think I will answer, "I don't know. I won't find out until I'm already dead."
Editors Note: I apologize for the bad formatting. Blogger is not cooperating with me today.