There Is No “Get Out of Hell Free” Card
Jesus Christ is strict. He makes it clear throughout scripture we are to follow Him, His Church, and His teachings, whether they come from Him or through His Church. He is a merciful God and a just God, Who will judge us at the moment of our death as whether we are worthy to sit with Him in Heaven, atone for our sins in Purgatory, or writhe in agony in Hell for all eternity.
Parables are a tool Jesus uses in order to make more complicated teachings easier for us to understand. Having the effects of Original Sin on our souls, we cannot comprehend fully the mysteries of our faith. Thus, we are given these beautiful parallels as ways to which we can relate and comprehend our faith.
Many Catholics claim that those who are ignorant of God will get a pass. At the moment of death, or slightly before, God will reveal to them everything and give them an opportunity to become Catholic if they choose. While this might seem like a merciful act, it isn’t.
It would not be merciful for God to institute the sacraments through His Church and then allow every single person who chose to ignore these sacraments while walking upon this Earth, to receive a “Get Out of Hell Free” card. If all our pain and suffering in this life is for naught, simply because we will go to Heaven anyway, then this God is a cruel and merciless God, who allows suffering because He enjoys it. We know that this isn’t true, but it’s because of our sin and turning away from God that causes all suffering in this vale of tears.
If all we have to do is say we are sorry prior to our death or shortly thereafter, then there is absolutely no point in striving for sanctity, there is no point to living a good and holy life, and there is no point treating others well. We would be able to lie, cheat, steal, engage in sexual immorality, and perform whatever sin our body desired, with no consequence. Finally, if we are presented with this opportunity, then there is no point for us to be Catholic, and no point for the Church to exist. Why bother at all? We get to find out everything and still go to Heaven when we die.
What this line of thinking would eventually entail is that every evil person who lived upon this Earth and caused untold suffering to countless numbers of people would also get to go to Heaven. Adolf Hitler, Genghis Khan, Judas, and a number of evil men and women who have corrupted so many individuals, could very well be waiting in Heaven right now if they were able to choose just prior to their death or a few moments afterwards.
Of course, no Catholic who believes in this idea would give these sinful men that opportunity. Those who subscribe to this heresy won’t extend the olive branch to these evil men. Rather, they use this heresy to allow themselves to feel better after the loss of a friend, family member, or colleague who they liked but objectively speaking lived a sinful life away from Christ and His Church. In believing this lie, the deceased individual no longer benefits from prayers being said to aid them in Purgatory. Rather, they are abandoned to suffer unnecessarily, because friends, family, and acquaintances would rather assume the dead are thriving in Heaven, rather than the possibility (and likelihood) that they are instead being cleansed or purified in Purgatory. Even more so, if the deceased lived a life and died in a state of mortal sin, it is likely that they are not in Purgatory, but are sadly spending eternity in Hell.
There is also the idea of a person not being punished for committing particular sins if they are ignorant of the sin. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus gives us a clear parable that lends the impression that while the sinner might not be reprimanded in full for his actions, he will still be disciplined:
Let your loins be girt, and lamps burning in your hands. And you yourselves like to men who wait for their lord, when he shall return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open to him immediately. Blessed are those servants, whom the Lord when he cometh, shall find watching. Amen I say to you, that he will gird himself, and make them sit down to meat, and passing will minister unto them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. But this know ye, that if the householder did know at what hour the thief would come, he would surely watch, and would not suffer his house to be broken open. Be you then also ready: for at what hour you think not, the Son of man will come. And Peter said to him: Lord, dost thou speak this parable to us, or likewise to all? And the Lord said: Who (thinkest thou) is the faithful and wise steward, whom his lord setteth over his family, to give them their measure of wheat in due season? Blessed is that servant, whom when his lord shall come, he shall find so doing. Verily I say to you, he will set him over all that he possesseth. But if that servant shall say in his heart: My lord is long a coming; and shall begin to strike the menservants and maidservants, and to eat and to drink and be drunk: The lord of that servant will come in the day that he hopeth not, and at the hour that he knoweth not, and shall separate him, and shall appoint him his portion with unbelievers. And that servant who knew the will of his lord, and prepared not himself, and did not according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required: and to whom they have committed much, of him they will demand the more. Luke 12:35-48 DR
Those who follow Jesus and all of His teachings are the faithful servants who keep watch for their Master. Those teachings are to be a member of Christ’s Holy Catholic Church, to stay in a state of grace, to confess all mortal sins in kind and number, and to follow all the precepts of the Church. Protestants, Jews, Atheists, Muslims, agnostics, and every other individual who is not in the Catholic Church and in the state of grace is at risk of spending eternity in Hell. Please, for the sake of your soul, accept Jesus Christ, His Church, and become Catholic. An eternity in Hell is not worth it.