I’m sure many of you are wondering: “So-and-so did this … is he doomed?”, Or “If I do that, will I go to hell?”
First, we need to understand what are the limits for Church’s judgment. As Mother and Teacher, the Church has received from Christ (especially through Peter) the power to judge what is the correct interpretation of Scripture and what are the morally good, bad or neutral acts – in other words, what attitudes lead to salvation, and which ones lead to perdition.
The Catechism (paragraph §1861) explains that the Church can’t say who will certainly go/went to hell or not. THE CHURCH JUDGES ONLY THE ACTS. The judgment on the final destiny of each of us is only up to God.
“Christ is Lord of eternal life. Full right to pass definitive judgment on the works and hearts of men belongs to him as redeemer of the world.” (Catechism, §679).
For example … You don’t know how to swim. Then you tell me will go into the sea on rough day. I will not hesitate, even for a second, to tell you: “If you do this, you may die!”. Is it absolutely sure that you will die? No, but the probability is certainly high. It may be rescued by a lifeguard, may suddenly appear a buoy from nowhere and you grab it … Anyway, you can be extremely lucky and get out alive. However, it is not wise to count on luck in these important risks, is it?
In the same way, we can say in a general way: whoever betrays his wife/her husband goes to hell; whoever is corrupt goes to hell; whoever is a murderer goes to hell. But we cannot say that a certain adulterer, corrupt or homicidal person goes to hell (like … Hitler). If someone consciously chooses the path of perdition, it is very likely that they will condemn themselves, but their final destination, only God knows.
Only Jesus can decide about the eternal condemnation of a sinner, because only He really knows the hearts. Only He is omniscient and knows all the mitigating and aggravating factors of each guilt, and only He knows if there was any kind of final regret, even if it was in the last moments before the final sigh.
That is why, in March 2015, Pope Francis said to a group of Italians: “only one who says to God goes to hell: ‘I don’t need you, I can take care of myself’, just like the devil who is the only one we are sure is in hell”. Besides the devil, we have no way of knowing who the other inhabitants of hell are. They are all anonymous!
It is true that, according to a vision of the blessed Sister Maria Serafina Micheli, the heretic Martin Luther is in Hell. However, this is a private revelation (which I believe is true), not Church Doctrine.
If the name of the condemned is completely unknown to the Church, on the other hand, it reveals the names of some among the saved. The vast majority of saints are anonymous, but there are also the canonized saints, who are certainly in grace and can intercede for us.
“Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell; lead all souls to heaven!”