Note: The following narrative is entirely hypothetical and serves as a thought experiment.

Caleb is not an ordinary man. His life is a profound reflection of his unwavering commitment to his Catholic faith. From teaching Sunday school to attending Mass every Sunday, his dedication is truly inspirational. At the heart of his devotion lies a deep and abiding love for Christ.

Caleb’s life is marked by his love for Christ and the profound sense of forgiveness he has found through the cross. Every day of his life, he has followed the Lord with unwavering dedication. His love for Christ surpasses that of anyone around him, serving as a constant source of inspiration.

Facing Life’s Challenges

Life is often a series of trials and tribulations, and Caleb was no exception. He encountered a multitude of difficulties, including severe financial problems that threatened his family’s well-being. The strain of these financial burdens tested his faith, but he clung to the belief that Christ would provide.

Marital Struggles

In addition to financial woes, Caleb faced challenges within his marriage. Marital conflicts strained the bonds of love and commitment that had once been so strong. Yet, he continued to seek guidance from Christ, trusting that the Lord would guide him through these turbulent times.

The Tragic Loss of a Child

Perhaps the most heart-wrenching of all the challenges was the unimaginable loss of a child. The death of a beloved son or daughter is a burden that no parent should bear. Through this dark time, Caleb found solace in his faith, believing that Christ’s promise of eternal life offered hope even in the face of profound sorrow.

A Moment of Anger at God

Despite Caleb’s unshakable faith, there came a day when the weight of his suffering became too much to bear. In a moment of intense anger and frustration, he cried out to God, shaking his fist at the heavens. He declared that he wouldn’t attend Mass that day, fully aware that it was considered a sin by the Catholic Church. It was a moment of defiance born out of anguish and anger at God, even though he still believed in the redemptive work of Christ and his own need for salvation.

The Roman Catholic Perspective on Missing Mass

From the Roman Catholic standpoint, their doctrine suggests that missing Mass without a valid excuse is considered a mortal sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

“A mortal sin is a grave violation of God’s law, done with full knowledge and deliberate consent. Such sins, if not repented and forgiven, can lead to eternal separation from God.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph 1857)

Additionally, the Catechism underscores the importance of attending Mass:

“The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants).” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Paragraph 2181)

This excerpt from the Catechism encapsulates the Roman Catholic perspective on mortal sins and the significance of attending Mass. It reflects their doctrinal stance on these matters.

The Irony of Doctrine

In conclusion, we are faced with the apparent irony that one moment of human frailty, one missed Mass, might be viewed as a mortal sin, leading to the possibility of being rejected by Christ. This perspective seems at odds with the message of forgiveness, grace, and faith that we find in the Bible.

The Bible and True Gospel

The Bible doesn’t present a system where one mortal sin condemns us eternally, regardless of a lifetime of faith and devotion. Instead, it emphasizes salvation by faith alone. Through our trust in Christ, we find salvation, even if we stumble along the way. The true gospel offers forgiveness and grace, understanding that our faith journey is a process of growth and transformation.

However, a crucial question arises: How is it different with God? Why is it, according to the Roman Catholic Church, that one-time sin breaks the relationship with God, no matter what it was before? For instance, in human relationships, a single mistake or misstep may harm the connection, but it doesn’t necessarily dissolve the relationship itself. Why is it that, according to the Roman Catholic Church, one missed Mass equates to a divorce from Christ, while other relationships can withstand similar challenges?

This question invites us to ponder the differences in the way we view our relationship with God compared to our relationships with fellow humans. It challenges us to consider the implications of such doctrine on our faith journey.

For God has said: I will never leave you, and I will never forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5)

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)

What do such statements mean if you forfeit justification for tripping up and missing Mass once. How much misses or where one goes to church has nothing to do with justification. Christ gives us mercy because we are sinners. Does He retract it if we sin? It makes no sense.

A Dangerous Gospel

While Roman Catholic leaders may fear that this message could lead to complacency, it’s vital to stay true to the biblical message of salvation by faith alone. The Gospel may be radical and challenging, but it remains the unchanging truth.

In the end, it’s our faith in Christ and His redemptive work on the cross that matters most. Caleb’s life, though marked by moments of doubt, ultimately points us to the profound love and forgiveness we find in Christ..

My Message to My Catholic Brothers and Sisters

I have many friends who are Roman Catholic. I understand their belief in the authority of the Church. I also comprehend how one may be tempted to “swim the Tiber” and become Catholic. It is a tradition marked by a rich history and beauty. Additionally, I believe that those who are deeply rooted in the Church and have a genuine relationship with Jesus are truly my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Unfortunately, such a system is marred by the overbearing threat of divorce for mistakes. This is not what Christ offers. For these individuals, they will stand before Christ after death and, for the first time, recognize how radical God’s grace really is. It is my prayer that they realize this today.

When you have called on Christ to have mercy on you, the sinner, there is nothing that can separate you from His love and forgiveness. We will make mistakes, both in our relationships here and in our eternal relationship with Him. But He will not divorce you for these mistakes. His mercy extends far beyond what you and I can imagine.”

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    4 replies to "Caleb Goes to Hell: The Concequence of Missing Mass"

    • C Michael Patton

      Well, the Catholic Church right says that we cannot know the destiny of individuals and we should not say, in the end, what their eternal state is (unless they are canonized five years after death!). However, I have discussed this particular issue with all those at Catholic Answers dozens of times. So, this is the basic reality to Rome’s doctrine.

    • Eric Quek

      You have done it again, Michael! Brilliant thought experiment, with some reservation and my comments. Here are what I understand :
      1. Caleb’s commitment—a devout Catholic whose life is grounded in his faith and love for Christ, serving as a testament to dedication amidst life’s adversities.
      2. Human struggle and faith: Highlights that even the most faithful individuals face challenges that test their beliefs–financial , marital and profound grief of losing a child.
      3.Moment of Crisis: Experiences a moment of anger against God, leading to the decision to miss Mass, which is considered a mortal sin in the Catholic Church if done with full knowledge and deliberate consent.
      4. Catholic doctrine on Sin: The Catholic Church teaches that missing Mass is a serious sin, but also provides a path to reconciliation through confession and repentance.
      5. Biblical perspective on grace: This raises the Protestant viewpoint of salvation by faith alone and the belief in the constancy of God’s love and forgiveness, as opposed to the possibility of a single sin leading to eternal separation.
      My take on your thought experiment does engage with Catholics doctrine, but may not fully encapsulate Catholic Church’s teachings regarding sin, grace, and the nature of God’s forgiveness. I am sure your intent was to purposefully miss out several pertinent issues to engage a respectful dialogue. So let me start and other Catholics may want to join in respectfully in this dialogue.
      Some clarifications due to brevity of thought experiment.
      * Mortal sin: In Catholic doctrine, for a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: Grave matter, committed with full knowledge & consent and third is gravity of the reason for missing Mass. Thus, not all missed Masses automatically constitute a mortal sin.

      • C Michael Patton

        You are right. That is why I tried to emphasize that Caleb knew it was a mortal sin, was in his right mind when he committed it, and, at the time of his death, was not repentant.

        Thanks for your continued kind comments. Yes, the purpose here is to draw our attention to the radical nature of God’s grace.

        Of course, a good Catholic could and should hold out hope for Caleb. However, being a hypothetical story, I wanted to make it clear that he did die with a mortal sin on his soul.

        Of course, the recourse that a Catholic may take is that Caleb, by committing this mortal sin, left God. But my hope is that we will see that is such as this is not something that divorces us from our marriage to Christ. There are problems we have, scares we live with, frustrations, and hurts in this marriage. But the key is that Christ does not divorce his people.

    • Ewan Kerr

      This story reminds me of a pivotal point in my religious education in Catholic school. We were very young, ten or under and we were being taught about God’s forgiveness. The story was as follows : The very wicked man, who led a very wicked life and who treated others very badly was hit by a car, and knowing he was going to die, asked God for forgiveness. On the other hand, a very righteous man, who led a saintly life, attending Mass every Sunday without fail, one day decided that he would turn over in bed and miss Mass that Sunday. He died in his sleep.

      God is so forgiving that he forgave the wicked man. ( This was to teach us that we could be forgiven too , I assume.) But the other man dies with a mortal sin on his soul and so went to hell.

      Even to a child this seemed ridiculous and so unfair. It started me on the road to question my religion and led to my agnosticism.

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