Is There Still A Particular Judgment?

Yes, there is. But silence regarding this dogma from all too many pulpits together with Funeral Masses that focus on celebrating the life of the deceased and are replete with eulogies (amounting to instant canonization) have tended to make the Particular Judgment disappear from the mental horizon of many Catholics who, steeped in sin, sit comfortably in the pews of their parishes, forgetful of the "hard sayings" of Christ regarding eschatology.

Eschatology is the area of doctrine and theology that deals primarily with the "Last Things", (the "eschata"): death, judgment, Purgatory, Heaven and Hell. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches as an article of Catholic faith that:

"The New Testament... repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his life and works... Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven - through a purification or immediately - or immediate and everlasting damnation."

That all are subject to Christ as the Judge of the living and the dead and His just judgments in this life and those in the next is a truth of Divine Revelation. This truth noted in the Creed has been the subject of profound meditation by all the great Fathers, Saints, theologians, and spiritual writers through the centuries who have bent every effort to secure the salvation of souls with sound teaching on the need to avoid sin and the occasions of sin, to repent for sins committed, and to receive those holy sacraments which give grace for confounding "the spirit of the world, the flesh, and the devil". They did not fear to preach the precise meaning of salvation, namely, to be eternally with Christ in heaven; they did not fear to emphasize the need for faith in Christ and reception of Baptism to be members of the Church and by a holy life achieve salvation; they were not afraid to teach self-righteous sinners that faith, repentance, and observance of the commandments as the expression of love of God and neighbor are absolutely necessary for salvation. They did not fear in view of the inherent weakness and fragility of man to inculcate in the faithful a healthy "fear of the Lord" (one of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. CCC #1831). Not for nothing did St. Paul encourage his converts to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" and to be "children of God without blemish in the midst of a depraved and perverse generation." (Philippians, 2: 12-15).

In all too many parishes today reigns the Ethos of a deadly silence concerning the meaning of the spiritual salvation Christ has brought His people and that all must give an accounting to God facing at death the "particular judgment" wherein they will know their situation before God: a time of purification and cleansing in that state called purgatory, or immediate entrance into heaven with the Beatific Vision of God, or the soul's immediate damnation. This Ethos is supported by widespread falsehoods: God is Love and does not punish, and certainly not eternally; everyone will be saved and go to heaven; the dark warnings in the Gospels do not apply to modern secular men and women whose morality has evolved to free them from intolerable restrictions. This unfortunate silence from Catholic pulpits has resulted in the deadening of consciences especially with respect to sexual morality.

Sitting in Catholic pews are those who remain ignorant of or are permissive regarding the sins of fornication, adultery, contraception, abortion, sodomy, same-sex marriage, in vitro-fertilization, etc., not to ignore other serious sins that disgrace the Christian name and endanger the souls of those committing them. The immorality of irreligion itself is rarely mentioned. Our Lord often spoke in the most forceful and strong terms about salvation, judgment, condemnation, and damnation, and the failure of Catholic bishops and priests to do similarly regarding the evils of dechristianization simply results in lost opportunities to motivate souls to conversion. As Pope Francis noted in a recent homily at San Marta:

"When we are pervaded by fear of the Lord, then we are led to follow the Lord with humility, docility and obedience... The gift of fear of the Lord is an 'alarm' against the obstinacy of sin. When a person lives in evil, then one blasphemes against God, when one exploits others, then he tyrannizes them, when he lives only for money, for vanity, or power, or pride, then the holy fear of God sends us a warming: be careful... May fear of the Lord make them understand that one day all things will come to an end and they will have to give account to God."

Catholic teaching is clear: souls go immediately (mox) into heaven and hell after death as noted in the Profession of Faith recited at Lyons II; Pope Benedict XII's infallible definition in Benedictus Deus; and the Council of Florence's Decree for the Greeks. The irrevocable nature of damnation is addressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, #393 ( where the Eastern Father, St. John of Damascus, is cited).

Interestingly, and perhaps to the surprise of some Catholic ecumenists, Catholic doctrine regarding the particular judgment remains obscure, confused, or even denied among the Eastern Orthodox. They have no clear official teaching that the just go to heaven immediately after death. Some say there are no souls in heaven or hell, this occurring only with the Last Judgment. Even then, some say that the Saints do not see God "face to face" by seeing the essence of God in the Beatific Vision. It is not true to say that they do not believe in purgatory for they offer prayers, alms, and the Unbloody Sacrifice for the deceased, but some of their theologians extend the intermediate state to all the departed, even the Saints. Their confused teaching on the After-Life is another example of "arrested development" of doctrine resulting from centuries of separation from the supreme authority of the Successor of Peter who wields the Keys of Peter in the One Church of Christ.

About James Likoudis
James Likoudis is an expert in Catholic apologetics. He is the author of several books dealing with Catholic-Eastern Orthodox relations, including his most recent "The Divine Primacy of the Bishop of Rome and Modern Eastern Orthodoxy: Letters to a Greek Orthodox on the Unity of the Church." He has written many articles published by various religious papers and magazines.
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