The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The Catholic Universalist - Feeling Hypocritical

I always told myself I would never be a “salad bar” Christian, picking whatever doctrines tickle my fancy. As most of you know, however, I was born and raised Catholic, and I still heavily identify with the Catholic faith. I realize that I tend to accept Catholicism’s lovely traditions, rosaries, and patron saints like they are the yummy cheese selection of Christianity’s salad bar, while I pass up ideas like mortal sin and eternal torment as if they are the nasty anchovies. As a result, my Catholic salad tastes quite nice, but it hardly includes everything. :confused:

And I feel guilty over that.

On one end, I feel drawn to Catholicism, because on its surface it seems more tolerant to universal restoration than mainline Protestantism. Consider the following hints at a hopeful universalism within the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Not to mention Pope John Paul II’s very own words that,

That seems much more hopeful than the typical Protestant orientation that most of humanity will be in hell. For this reason, plus the heavier inclination toward universal mercy I’ve personally seen among modern-day Catholic clergy, I feel compelled to remain Catholic.

Of course, here’s the kicker-- the part of the salad bar I more-than-willingly pass over:

The Catholic Church still “officially” teaches things very different from what they practice, and even from the aforementioned hope from the former Pope himself. Foremost in my mind is the concept of mortal sin. Consider what the Church Canon also teaches about missing Mass on Sunday or on a Holy Day of Obligation:

Now, for a sin to be “mortal,” it must fit three criteria:

**Grave matter. ** And missing Mass is specified as “grave matter.”
Full knowledge. You need to know fully that what you are doing is a sin and you need to know that it is grave. That is, I know the Church teaches that missing Mass is grave.
Full consent. You need to do it deliberately with complete consent. Some Sundays, I just don’t attend Mass. Most Catholics have missed Mass at one time or another for no reason other than to sleep in or attend a baseball game. If they never confess, apparently it’s the everlasting BBQ for them. :open_mouth:

I am baffled by the idea of a God who takes attendance. Even more so, I am baffled at how a faith could teach that salvation of all mankind is a real hope, while including in the “fine print” that likely 99% of its professing faithful will burn eternally because they’ve committed something “mortal?”

It just makes no sense to me, and as a result, I have serious issues feeling like a Catholic in good standing, or even any sort of Catholic at all.

And let’s not even get into the fact that I’m a dogmatic universalist. :astonished: That’s probably flat-out heresy right there, and yet I keep on receiving the Eucharist on Sundays (and by the way, receiving Communion in a state of mortal sin is-- you guessed it!-- another mortal sin.)

On one end, I feel very disgruntled and frustrated at this illogical nature behind Catholic teaching. On the other hand, it still rather frightens me quite a bit! I’d feel like a full-fledged heretic were I to leave (as if a secret heretic is somehow better. :unamused: )

Anyway, where’s the Pharisee’s lunch table? Because after picking and choosing this salad, I feel like I’d best sit among like hypocritical company. :unamused:

Hi twin, I’m outside my safety zone in making this post, and, unfortunately, I don’t have anything substantial to say cos’ I’m… well… lame. But if you walk with some zesty italian dressing, we can have a lunch date. Some times I DO dress my salad dressing with salad :slight_smile:

Oh, and while you’re at it. I would luurrrve me some chai tea, at the pharisee’s table, Miss Tea :smiley: That’s of course if sinners and tax collectors are welcomed :slight_smile:

:laughing: Well, AL, I was sitting with the Pharisees because I feel so hypocritical, but maybe we could just start our own sinners’ and tax collector’s table. :smiley: And maybe then Jesus will sit with us. :slight_smile:

Kate, try thinking about mortal sin this way: assuming three three criteria you cited are fulfilled, the act is mortal because of the damage it does to your soul. By this grave sin you have intentionally and willfully and freely separated yourself from the communion of the Trinity.

Why is Mass so important for the Catholic Church? Precisely because Jesus Christ is present in his sacramental body, upon whom the baptized feast. Now consider what it means, therefore, for a person to intentionally decide he’d rather be doing something else.

That is how it is typically explained to me, Fr. Kimmel. (Are you a Catholic or Orthodox priest? From other posts, I always thought you were Orthodox.) It still seems highly legalistic to me. Sure, missing Mass or eating meat on Good Friday or using contraception even within marriage (all Catholic mortal sins) might cause the soul harm, but eternally separate the soul from God until the Sacrament of Penance is administered? That seems extreme even in the realm of a works-centered religion.

I’m with you on this one Kate. :smiley:

You have some Catholic background, too, Cole, isn’t that correct? Did this whole notion of mortal sin cause you unease, as well?

Although I don’t really subscribe to such legalism, I nonetheless feel greatly uncomfortable subscribing to a faith that teaches these things “in the books.” I even find comfort in Confession, but I much prefer the old Anglican adage that “All may, some should, none must.” Although it helps to sometimes receive more tangible forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, surely God is of utmost concerned with our hearts.

Nonetheless, I still feel guilty at knowing I am in a state of mortal sin, even if I don’t technically subscribe to that doctrine. I suppose it’s a lose-lose situation. Either I feel guilty for being a universalist and thereby denying the teachings of the Church, or I feel guilty endorsing the Church’s teachings pertaining to mortal sin and thereby denying my convictions for universal salvation. :confused:

I guess the main question is: Should I remain Catholic even as a universalist, knowing that doing so will mean I inherently must deny core teachings of Catholic doctrine?

Kate, have you ever read Hans Urs von Balthasar’s book Dare We Hope That All Men Be Saved?

I have heard that Hans Urs von Balthasar helped to significantly promote hopeful universalism within the Catholic Church. Nonetheless, he maintained that Judas is in hell, so if one individual is in hell, thereby universal salvation thereby cannot possibly be true. Is that correct?


My friend has been a Catholic since he was a baby (he is now 83). He doesn’t really focus too much on these things. He goes to mass every week and prays but doesn’t get into all the details of the theology. I guess that’s why he has remained healthy. If I was you I would find somewhere else to go. I’m more of a free spirit and I just can’t bring myself to hold to Catholicism. It’s too structured for me. Not that all structure is bad.


I should also add that he hasn’t been healthy his whole life. I met him in A.A. Despite this he has remained Catholic.

I do not recall Balthasar ever stating that Judas is in hell. That would seem to go against his conviction that we must pray for the salvation of all human beings.

He may have said something meaning that Judas was in hell but was actually meaning purgatory - an impermanent hell state I guess Kate. I’m sure Father Kimel is right here.

Oh, whoops, I found that Von Balthasar’s writing said the exact opposite, asserting “the Church … has never said anything about the damnation of any individual. Not even about that of Judas.” His claims of both a hope in universal salvation and the damnation of Judas, didn’t actually strike me as that odd, because I am getting rather used to Catholic theology seemingly directly contradicting itself.

My fundamental confusion still lies in how Von Balthasar or any other hopeful Catholic universalists could claim a hope in universal salvation while not denying the concept of mortal sin. Surely, some professing Catholics have missed Mass, used contraception, eaten meat on Good Friday, or commited some other common “mortal sin” before death without Confession. According to the accepted Church doctrine on mortal sin, they are in ECT and thereby any sort of Catholic universalism is false.

Maybe, Kate, that’s because they have a different understanding, and more Catholic, understanding of mortal sin than you do. :slight_smile:

Kate, I’d be way out of my depth to make comments on RCC doctrine, so I won’t do that – but it’s my experience that every church I’ve ever attended had some things in their doctrinal statements that I couldn’t agree with. You were probably baptized into the RCC when you were a babe in arms. If at this point you think, “I can’t agree with this” or “I can’t agree with that,” then well, it’s not as if you signed some statement of obligation, having read the whole small-print-agreement. It’s your family heritage (sort of) and I really don’t think that’s a thing that would bother me.

I did refuse to become a “covenant member” of a certain church because to do so meant to sign a statement affirming that I’d never drink alcohol, dance, shop on Sundays, go to movies, etc. The pastor said that no one took that stuff seriously except a few of the old, old-timers, yet there it was. He thought I was silly not signing. (sigh) I couldn’t sign it. Neither could Terry (even though he doesn’t enjoy an evening glass of wine like I usually do. :laughing: ) BUT you haven’t personally pledged to anything like that, I’m guessing. If you’re asked to do that at some point, then I suppose that’s a different matter, but it’s a problem for the future, not for now.

As to being with Jesus – you are always with Jesus. Where shall I go from Your presence? In Him we live and move and have our being. The times of prayer for me do not differ from the times of work. (or something like that – Br. Lawrence) If I go for very long forgetting God’s presence, then I feel in the wrong. Not guilty so much, but definitely missing it. If you go to the ball game, be in Him. If you lay in bed, dream of Him. If you fix your family a nice Sunday breakfast, do it unto Him. I don’t feel obligated for human doctrines unless I obligate myself to follow them.

Love you, Cindy

Edit: Just saw your latest post, Kate. You know what your problem is, my girl? You think entirely TOO clearly. :laughing:
All human organizations are like that. Lots of people contribute; lots of people make statements; there will be contradictions. I suppose it’s understood that you’ll ignore the dissonance and try to believe all the various things (insert cognitive barriers as needed). You love the RCC with its beauty and its rituals and its community. Just enjoy it for what it is: a splendid, magnificent, supportive, lovely group of fallible humans trying their best to worship God and love one another.

Cinders, I know you said you were out of your element in commenting on RCC doctrine, but I think you hit my troubles right on the head. (Aside from the ‘thinking too clearly’ part-- I’m a muddled mess. :laughing:)

Yes, I could never sign such a statement as your church offered, even if only a few people did still take it seriously. I would just feel so wrong, assenting to something I knew I’d never follow. But I still feel like I do this nonetheless by verbally professing myself as Catholic. Catholics don’t really need to sign a paper. There is already the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church, where things like mortal sin are expressly stated. :confused:

Bottom line, I know what’s written in the Catechism, disagree with much of it (and still feel guilty about this, although I can’t quite pinpoint why), and yet go on professing myself as Catholic. Non-Catholics are forbidden from partaking in the Church’s Eucharist. Would I fall under this category? After all, I believe in many things not ordained by the Church and have disagreed with even more things that are. :confused: How can I continue calling myself Catholic if I don’t agree with much of the core tenets of Catholicism? If I disagree, why would I still feel such great guilt in leaving?

What would be this understanding, Father Kimel? Even the Cathochism’s explanations of mortal sin strike me as exceedingly legalistic. I wish I could understand-- It feels like there’s some secret Catechism code that only “good” Catholics “get.” :neutral_face:

Kate, consider this passage from Fr Herbert McCabe:

I know that “mortal sin” can sound very legalistic, but it really must be understood existentially.

And as far as the sacrament of Penance, it is God’s gift to sinners.

Father Kimel, this attitude behind mortal sin makes sense to me, but in the Catechism, it doesn’t seem existential at all. It seems like a rulebook-- Use a condom, give up salvation. I hope such bluntness is not offensive; I am just a confused Catholic, and this issue has bothered me for quite some time. :confused:

Hi Kate… given that “catholic” literally means – “universal; relating to all men; all-inclusive” I’d say why not be ok with what you’re comfortable with. :mrgreen: