Salvation in Roman Catholicism is an ongoing process that begins at infant baptism and continues for the rest of one’s life. Our analysis of this process will be broken down into three segments:
- Attaining Salvation
- Maintaining Salvation
- Regaining Salvation
Let’s explore a brief overview before examining each segment in depth.
The beginning of a Roman Catholic’s salvation begins at baptism, whether as an infant or later in life. Rome teaches that baptism is the new birth where a person is justified and their original sin is washed away (CCC 405).
To maintain salvation, Rome teaches the following are necessary:
- Faith in God, His revelations, and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church (CCC 183; CCC 1814)
- The Roman Catholic Church (CCC 846)
- The sacraments, including baptism and penance (CCC 980; CCC 1129; CCC 1257)
- Service of and witness to the faith (CCC 1816)
- The observance of the natural law (CCC 2036)
What happens when a person sins? There are two types of sin: venial and mortal.
Venial sins are sin committed when a person does not observe the standard of the moral law in a less serious matter, or disobeys the moral law without full knowledge or complete consent (CCC 1862). Venial sin does not result in a sinner losing sanctifying grace (i.e. damnation of the soul) (CCC 1863). Venial sins can be cleansed by partaking in the sacrament of Penance (CCC 1496), the Eucharist (CCC 1394) and contrition of charity (CCC 1452).
Mortal sins are violations of the Ten Commandments with full knowledge and deliberate consent (CCC 1857-1859). They cause a complete separation between the person and God, and therefore result in damnation.
How does one regain salvation? Mortal sins must be cleansed through confession and penance (CCC 1496). This sacrament involves confession of sin to an ordained priest, receiving absolution (forgiveness), and then doing the penance assigned (CCC 1424). Examples of penance are: fasting, prayer, and almsgiving (CCC 1434).
Any Catholic that dies with mortal sin is condemned eternally to hell (CCC 1035), however Catholics that die with venial sin must undergo a purifying fire known as purgatory. This final purification must be done before a person can enter into heaven (CCC 1030-1032).