February 21, 2010
A messianic friend from Israel wrote to me the following question, which I would like to submit to you for an answer, if you are able to help us out.
Is it true that in Roman Catholicism, that you are never certain of eternal life with JESUS. I heard someone say this - that you have acts of penitence etc but that you can never be certain of entering the kingdom of heaven?
R. Sungenis: Michael, that depends on what one means by "certainty." If by that term one is referring to infallible and incontestable knowledge, then, no, no one has that kind of certainty, not even Protestants who claim to have it because they made a "profession of faith." In order to have that kind of certainty one would have to be infallible and omniscient, which no human being, save Christ, had.
On the other hand, we can have reasonable certainty that we will go to heaven in respect of all the revelation God has given us and theological knowledge we obtain by reason. Hence, if I walk out of the confessional box after having sincerely confessed all my sins, I can have a reasonable certainty that I am going to heaven. If when I go to Mass I confess my sins and know that I have no mortal sins to confess either because I don't have any mortal sins or I have already confessed them, then I can have reasonable certainty I will go to heaven. I can even have reasonable certainty that I will not go to Purgatory if I have diligently followed all the Church's prescriptions for Indulgences.
What the Church means to say when she teaches that we cannot know with infallible certainty that we will go to heaven is that we do not know if, in the future, we will commit a mortal sin and not repent of it. No one can presume that they will be free from sin when they die simply because we cannot know the future.
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