Theology Questions and Answers (closed)

Ask a question below in the comments, and I’ll try to answer it. Please keep questions brief, and on the topic of theology.

Some questions and answers to get things started:

1. Why can’t lost souls in Hell repent?

God gave humanity the gifts of free will, the ability to reason abstractly (and so understand things of transcendent value: goodness, truth, love, faithfulness, hope), and an immortal soul. So God does not extinguish the souls in Hell, making them cease to exist. Their punishment is never-ending, just as the reward for the Just souls in Heaven is never-ending.

God forgives any and all wrongdoing, no matter how severe, as long as the sinner repents. But repentance is only permitted by God in this life. After we die, we stand before God, each person alone before the judgment of God, and we are judged for all the good and bad we have done, and whether we repented from all the things we did that were seriously wrong (mortal sin). Those who repent from grave sin before death, and who thereafter live a good life (loving God and neighbor), die in a state of grace and will have eternal life in Heaven, perhaps after some time of punishment in Purgatory.

But those who die unrepentant from grave sins, committed with full knowledge that the act was gravely wrong and will full deliberation (full freedom of will), die in a state of unrepented actual mortal sin, and so they do not have the state of grace when they die. All such persons, if they meet all of the aforementioned conditions, are judged by God and sent to Hell.

However, often a grave sin does not have full culpability (full responsibility for the sin), due to a lack of understanding of the seriousness of the sin, or a lack of full freedom in committing the act.

When souls are sent to Hell, they cannot repent because they do not have the grace of God that is absolutely necessary to repent. No one in Hell has the state of grace, which implies and includes the love of God and neighbor, and no one in Hell is given the grace from God to be able to repent, because they have already been judged and sentenced by God. It would not be fair to send all persons to Heaven, no matter how much evil they have done, knowingly and deliberately and without repentance, by some type of process of constant endless opportunities to repent. Some persons deserve Hell due to their own choices and refusal to change.

God forgives any and all sins in this life, if the sinner is repentant. But after death, repentance is not possible for the souls in Hell.


2. In Catholicism, is the procreative meaning of marital sexual acts more important than the unitive meaning?

To be moral, each sexual act must be marital, unitive, and procreative. These three meanings have the same degree of importance, in that the deprivation of any one or more of these meanings makes the sexual act gravely immoral.

The procreative meaning is present as long as the sexual act is of the type that is ordered toward procreation, and the couple do not knowingly thwart that procreative end (such as by contraception). The procreative meaning is not more important than the unitive meaning, but all three meanings must be present in each sexual act, or the act is objectively a grave sin.


3. Is it a sin to miss Mass on Sunday or a holy day?

Catholics have an obligation to attend Mass on Sunday (or the Saturday evening vigil Mass) and on holy days of obligation, as determined by the Vatican, the Bishops Conference of one’s country or region, and the Bishop of one’s diocese.

However, a practicing Catholic who regularly attends Mass can miss Mass on occasion for a just reason. The reason does not need to be grave.

For example, if someone is ill with a cold or the flu, they can and should stay home. You can fulfill the Commandment to keep holy the Sabbath by prayer at home, and perhaps by watching Mass on TV or the internet. (But watching Mass at home is not required.)

If your illness is mental or psychological, you can miss Mass without sin.

If you have an obligation to care for an infant or toddler, or multiple young children, or the elderly, you might miss Mass due to that obligation without sin.

If your work prevents you from attending Mass (this more often occurs with holy days of obligation), then you might miss Mass without sin.

If you are travelling, even for a non-essential reason, and are unable to attend Mass, you might miss Mass without sin.

The overall obligation to worship God and to keep holy the Sabbath is grave, as is the obligation Catholics have to attend Mass. But for a Catholic who regularly attends Mass, missing on occasion for a just reason is not a sin. And the reason need not be grave.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.

Ask other questions below in the comments.

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32 Responses to Theology Questions and Answers (closed)

  1. exploreanbg says:

    What is your understanding of the term ‘meaning’ and ‘unitive’ in your discussion on the morality of a sexual act? Can a ‘meaning’ be thought of as an ‘end’ or a ‘purpose’?
    And what does the ‘unity’ of the act consist in? It is a mere physical union, which is likewise seen in any affectionate touch, or an emotional union, which may likewise be seen in a good conversation? Is there a particular unity in the martial act that isn’t simply an extention of these two kinds of union joined also to the union that comes from the procreative meaning?—the union of the two which creates a new person.
    If there isn’t any further unitive significance than those three, it would seem that the unitive meaning is not in fact equal to the procreative meaning, which is the particular final cause of sexual activity—the unitive meaning emerges from the meaning of physical and spiritual affection and empathy in general, combined with the procreative act.

    • Ron Conte says:

      The unitive meaning is the result of the sexual union of a man and woman as they become one flesh in natural intercourse. They are united in body, in a particular manner, and so the unitive meaning refers to sexual union. But this physical sexual union is also a symbol and expression of the love between the man and woman. Thus, it has two components, one bodily (the sexual union) and the other spiritual (a loving spiritual union). I would use the analogy of body and soul united as one human person. The unitive meaning requires the type of sexual union called natural intercourse. But that mere physical act is not sufficient. This union must be an expression of love between the two persons, for the fullness of the unitive meaning to be present.

  2. Marcello Oliveira says:

    Hello Ron, my question is about Saint Simon of Trent, many of the so-called traditional Catholics say that his veneration was forbidden to please the Jews, is this true? And can a pope forbid the veneration of someone already canonized?

    • Ron Conte says:

      The Pope has authority over discipline, which includes the veneration of Saints. St. Simon of Trent’s disappearance and death was blamed on the town’s Jews without evidence. The lack of emphasis on the veneration of this Saint is due to the desire to not be misunderstood as blaming or hating Jews. Personal veneration is still permitted. I don’t think he is in the calendar. But there are thousands of Saints now, and so the Church can reasonably emphasize some more than others, for various reasons.

      The Church has the full authority of Christ.

  3. Doubter says:

    If the identity of the pope is always known and cannot be doubted, then why do some say a doubtful pope is no pope? He does theology contradict itself?

    • Ron Conte says:

      It is not correct to say that a doubtful Pope is no Pope. That is a false expression. The true Pope is the one accepted by the body of Bishops as the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter. The Church is indefectible and apostolic, so the successors to the Apostles (the Bishops) cannot go astray as a body following a false successor of Peter (the Pope). If many doubt a Pope, he might still be the valid Pope.

  4. T says:

    I am reading Sylvester Hunters’ Outline of Dogmatic Theology and in volume I he says 2 things: the identity of the pope is a dogmatic fact; that when there is legitimate doubt those who doubt it are not schismatic. And, indeed, in Church history there have been cases where saints have supported antipopes and also where most people thought an antipope was the true pope. The way I grapple with this seeming contradiction is that when there are two possible popes there can be legitimate grounds for doubt. How do you resolve the matter if there are no legitimate grounds for doubting whatsoever?

    • Ron Conte says:

      A work of theology is not doctrine or dogma. It doesn’t matter if you can find a book that says something. Canon law states:

      Can. 751 Heresy is the obstinate denial or obstinate doubt after the reception of baptism of some truth which is to be believed by divine and Catholic faith; apostasy is the total repudiation of the Christian faith; schism is the refusal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.

      When the body of Bishops accepts a person as the Roman Pontiff, refusal of submission to that Pope, or to the Bishops in communion with him, is schism and carries the penalty of automatic excommunication. There is no such thing in Canon law as “legitimate doubt”. Catholics are required to give the submission of faith to the leaders of the Church and their decisions on doctrine and discipline.

  5. Doubter says:

    Then why are these saints in heaven and not hell, especially St. Bernard, since he was schismatic by your claims, not accepting what the majority think? Not that I am saying they should be damned but by your logic they should. Or is there a way to accept what you are claiming and still have these saints not be schismatic? I don’t understand it. This would help me understand dogmatic theology better. Thanks.

    • Ron Conte says:

      I don’t know what you are referring to, regarding St. Bernard. The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, and the head of the body of Bishops as well as of the whole Church. It is a dogmatic fact that Vatican II is a legitimate Council, and the Popes since Vatican II are each true Popes. Allowing an exception to schism, a very grave and harmful sin, in cases of doubt or controversy, is not in keeping with Canon law for the beliefs of the Faith. Cases centuries ago are not at issue today, so one cannot argue from individual cases to establish a general rule that allows a supposed “legitimate doubt” thereby creating a seemingly legitimate sin of schism.

      Pope Francis is the true Pope, and that is a dogmatic fact. He can be criticized and we can disagree with him, only to a limited extent, as he is the true Pope.

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