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Anonymous Alan wrote:

Hi, guys —

With all the problems and seriously demented people in the world, I cannot believe some of the stuff I read on these sites.

We constantly hear God is love, then I read posts about unbaptized babies going to Hell.

  • What if a loved one is condemned?
  • Is it a sin to miss Mass at age 90?
  • Is it a sin to have a certain opinion?

I had a problem with scruples when I was young. Because I had skipped a grade, I made first Confession at age six. I tried to figure exactly how many times I missed Mass or ate meat on Friday when I was a baby.

  • Does counting sins start the day you're born, or the day you're baptized?

I never really developed myself or my talents because I was so afraid of sinning. I was yelled at for this and told scruples was a sin, in itself, but real troublemakers do what they do without a second thought or they can't help it because they are troubled.

  • If there is a God who has a plan, and things go according to His Will, then how could people be condemned for doing what they do, if it is part of God's plan?
  • How can anyone seriously believe this scary stuff?
  • Does anyone realize what harm this does?

Alan

  { If we constantly hear of God's love, why are these scary questions alive and well in the Church? }

Eric replied:

Hi, Alan —

I'd recommend you sit down with a priest and address this stuff with him. I think it would go a long way toward helping you as you appear to have a lot of misconceptions floating around.

First of all, the Church does not teach that unbaptized babies surely go to Hell. Instead, we commend them to the Mercy of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 1261 says as much.

1261 As regards children who have died without Baptism, the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God, as she does in her funeral rites for them. Indeed, the great mercy of God who desires that all men should be saved, and Jesus' tenderness toward children which caused him to say: "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them," allow us to hope that there is a way of salvation for children who have died without Baptism. All the more urgent is the Church's call not to prevent little children coming to Christ through the gift of holy Baptism.

As for the condemnation of loved ones, each person has a fundamental choice: To love God or to reject God. God is not going to force someone who rejects Him to spend all eternity with Him in worship and adoration.

  • Does that make sense?

There is no love without a choice not to love; otherwise it's just compulsion, or else we're just automatons. That means the possibility of everyone, including our loved ones, being able to voluntarily choose Hell — and to definitively choose to exclude God from their life — is real.

Those who have, have chosen what they want, and there is not much we can do about that after death. It's sad for those of us who choose God but we have to face it: Just as there are evil people in the world (who have relatives who love them too), we may also have relatives who reject God, whether explicitly or implicitly, by knowingly and deliberately committing grave sins.

If your primary conception of sin is missing Mass or eating meat on Friday, I'm afraid you're missing the point and have been misled. Read the four Gospels and you'll get a much better idea of what sin is. I am not saying that both of these things are OK but they are much less important in the scheme of things than:

  • loving one another
  • taking care of the poor
  • keeping a tight rein on our tongues
  • etc.

I'm not even sure why you even worried about missing Mass or eating meat on Friday as a child since, being a child, you were hardly responsible for getting yourself to Mass or feeding yourself. In fact, until age 7, you were not obliged to go to Mass or abstain from meat on Fridays. Today [as of 1983] this is extended to First Communion for attending Mass, and age 14 for abstaining from meat. I think the only sins you needed to worry about at age six were disobeying your parents, lying, or doing mean things to other kids.

Actually though I think your First Confession should have been delayed a year, since a six-year-old, unless they are especially precocious, cannot properly understand what sin is. Maybe that's where some of the confusion entered in: you received First Confession too young and got disoriented.

Counting sins starts at the age of reason, normally designated at age seven or at Baptism, whichever comes last.

Scrupulosity is not a sin and it is extremely unhelpful to tell this to someone with scrupulosity! I am sorry that you were told this; whoever told you this was ignorant.

As for God's plan, everything happens because it's God's will — either God directly wills it or He allows it to happen for a greater good. When God allows evil to be committed, the person doing the evil is still responsible for it. Just as if you and I were standing together and a third person punched you, they are responsible for that, whether or not I can or choose to prevent it from happening.

Consider a parent who knows that a child is going to break a rule at school. They may opt to not interfere to allow their child to learn a lesson. The child is still responsible for his malfeasance. Likewise, sinners are always responsible for the evil that they do, even if God allows it.

I hope this helps. Again, read the four Gospels in the Bible — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — and make an appointment with your local priest to discuss some of these matters.

Eric

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