Why liars don’t go to Heaven

Sin is nothing else but a knowingly chosen immoral act. Some sins are venial, having relatively light culpability. Other sins are mortal, having grave culpability. An actual mortal sin is a gravely immoral act, committed with full knowledge and full deliberation. Anyone who commits one or more actual mortal sins AND refuses to repent through the last moment of life will be sent to Hell for eternal punishment.

The Magisterium teaches that lying is intrinsically evil and always immoral, regardless of intention or circumstances.

Sacred Scripture condemns lying in a number of different passages, including more severe forms of lying, such as perjury and bearing false witness against one’s neighbor. But one of the strongest expressions against lying is this verse:

{21:8} But the fearful, and the unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and fornicators, and drug users, and idolaters, and all liars, these shall be a part of the pool burning with fire and sulphur, which is the second death.”

The second death is Hell; it is eternal punishment for actual mortal sin. Some lies are gravely immoral; they are objectively mortal sins. If such a lie were committed with full knowledge and full deliberation, the act would be an actual mortal sin. Failure to repent from such a sin would deserve eternal punishment in Hell.

However, other lies are only venial sins. No one is sent to Hell solely because of venial sins, even if he or she is unrepentant from those venial sins. So then, why does Sacred Scripture say that “all liars” go to Hell? Even a person who commits many grave lies, as actual mortal sins, does not go to Hell if he repents.

There are two ways that lying can condemn a person to Hell.

First, the failure to repent from even one lie that is an actual mortal sin certainly would condemn that individual to Hell. But can someone properly be called a liar if they, for example, only tell one lie, but as an unrepentant actual mortal sin? I would say, yes, because the lie is very grave, and the person continues to be unrepentant. By a continual refusal to repent from a lie that is an actual mortal sin, the individual becomes fittingly characterized as a liar. That one lie is the determinant of his final destination.

Second, a person might frequently commit the sin of lying, so that the person is fittingly termed a liar because he or she habitually lies. If each and every lie is only a venial sin, and no actual mortal sins at all are committed, the person would not be condemned to Hell. But there is another consideration. Perhaps the frequent continual commission of one venial lie after another indicates that the person has committed another sin, the interior complete abandonment of truthfulness. Apart from any particular deliberate false assertion, if anyone deliberately and knowingly decides to completely abandon truthfulness (or morality, or love of neighbor, or justice), that person has committed an actual mortal sin. Failure to repent from this sin deserves eternal punishment in Hell.

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

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