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September 20, 2005

Ch. XXX. Q. 159. What is the Particular Judgment?

THE PARTICULAR Judgment is a final decision as to the worth and destiny of the individual soul, which is made by God immediately after death, and which brings the time of probation to an end. That such a judgment is in store for every man is of faith.1

2. It appears as if the subjective state of the soul immediately after the veil of flesh has been removed must be either hopeful or hopeless, and that this state alone will sufficiently discover to the soul its destiny. The form of the Particular Judgment, however, is not revealed. Yet it may be distinguished from the General Judgment in several ways: (a.) It is private and concerns the soul in its individual capacity, instead of being public and general: (b.) It is passed upon the soul in a disembodied and transitory state, whereas in the General Judgment the soul is judged in the body for the deeds done therein2; (c.) It is passed upon a state of progress not yet completed, although irreversibly determined; whereas the General Judgment is pronounced upon an established condition of righteousness or wickedness.3

3. The probation of every man comes to an end with the mutual separation of soul and body; and the ultimate destiny of all depends upon God's judgment upon the deeds done in the body.4 This is true of those who live in the darkest heathenism, and of those whose lives preceded the Incarnation, as well as of those who learn the truths of the Gospel in this life. The conditions of probation, of course, differ widely; but the Judge of all the earth will do right and take all things into account. Proper matter for judgment exists in any case; for in every life moral issues of some kind, however elementary, compel the soul to unveil its moral attitude towards what it conceives to be right. The judgment concerns not the amount of light and grace which one enjoys, but the moral use made of such light and grace as is available; and all men have some share in truth and grace, unless they wilfully turn away from it. Souls differ in moral worth even in the midst of savage conditions.

4. Many have confounded certain things which should be distinguished, viz.: (a.) probation, which occurs in the body and requires no greater light and grace than all men possess: (b.) opportunity of receiving the knowledge and means of salvation through Christ, which may or may not form one of the elements of probation: (c.) the process of salvation, which in any case goes on after death and in some circumstances possibly does not begin until probation is over with. If the first opportunity of salvation occurs after death in any instance5, it need not constitute a new probation, but may be rather a revelation, through the manner of its reception, of the bent of character which has already been fixed under other and more rudimentary moral conditions. In short the opportunity must be, in effect, a reward to those whose lives, when on trial, have enabled them to accept it, and a judgment to those whose perversity has become too great for them to appreciate or take advantage of Divine love. Dissolution of soul and body ends the period within which the bent of man's character can be changed (cf. Q. 167. 4, 5).6

5. Many Catholic theologians have thought that God will ultimately save from everlasting misery all who do not reject such light and grace as is given them—in particular, those who adhere to false religions and sects through invincible ignorance, striving to be righteous so far as they know how. But it should be borne in mind that (a.) salvation will, in any case, be through Christ and His true religion, even when the knowledge of it comes after death: (b.) The supernatural blessings of the kingdom of heaven are nowhere promised to any except those who enter the Divine Covenant during this life: (c.) If heathen souls are to be blessed after death, therefore, their blessings may belong to the natural order, and be suited to the spiritual characters and desires which they begin to acquire while in their state of probation: (d.) With such a "natural beatification" they will perhaps be as happy as they can be, without a trace of sorrow; and will be forever fulfilling, we may be sure, some righteous and satisfying vocation in God's universe: (e.) Possibly such a future is in store for infants who die unbaptized: (f.) 'Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God;" and, apparently, no one can die unbaptized without eternal loss, whether such loss involves eternal misery or not (Q. 91. 6).7

1 Heb. IX. 27. cf. also the Exhortation to Prisoners under sentence of death which speaks of death as a passing "into an endless and unchangeable [i.e., irreversible] state". Schouppe, XIX. 22, 38-43: Percival's Digest, 167: S. Thos., III. sup, 88. 1.

2 I. Tim. IV. 14: S. John V. 22

3 Rev. XXII. 11

4 Eccles. IX. 10: II. Cor. V. 10: VI. 2: Heb. IX. 27

5 cf. I. Pet. III. 19, 20

6 Mason, XI. 1: Catholic Papers, liii-lv: Denny's Studies, 243-246: Oxenham's Catholic Eschatol., 45-49, 58-65: Emergency Tracts, No. 26:Owen's Dog., XXX. 6: Pusey's What is of Faith, 17, 18.

7 S. Thos., III. sup. 70: Schouppe, XIX. 66, 84.

Posted by Trevor at September 20, 2005 04:03 PM