“Ask a Priest: What If Dad Doesn’t Believe in Purgatory?”

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Q: My dad is a practicing Catholic and goes to church every Sunday, helps with Mass and in the past helped with RCIA. But he doesn’t believe in purgatory. Will he go to hell if he doesn’t believe the Church teaching on purgatory? He also doesn’t think you have to confess your sins to a priest. I am very concerned about these very important Church teachings and my dad’s soul. – K.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: God alone knows the heart and soul of each person, so it’s not for any of us to say who is headed for perdition.

Perhaps your dad was exposed to bad catechesis somewhere in the past, and faulty ideas sank deep roots in him.

Some people get to the point of having what we call invincible ignorance. This means they are clueless about something, and anything contrary to what they believe simply doesn’t sink in. This can happen with people.

If would be unfortunate if he had a role in instructing people in the RCIA and passed on faulty information about purgatory. Even worse would have been his telling people they didn’t need to go to confession. But that’s another issue.

It’s possible that your dad is trying to live the faith as best he knows how. There might be a lot of good will here, especially if he attends Mass every Sunday.

So what might you do?

First, pray for him.

Second, considering leaving pamphlets and short books around the house that explain the faith, especially materials on confession and the last things (death, judgment, heaven and hell). You might look for opportunities to share with him how the sacrament of confession has helped you. You can do this without appearing to lecture him.

Third, you might want to do a little research on purgatory and the need for confession. A few possible resources would be articles on purgatory in the Bible, and a related video; as well as articles on confession.

Also helpful might be our Retreat Guides on confession and purgatory.

All this might help you pass on to your dad a knowledge of the Catholic faith that he tried to pass on to you.

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