Is it right for the Church to give lapsed Catholics funerals?

Full Question

I’ve been at funerals where the person had not been a practicing Catholic. Some of these people had never been to Church in all the years I knew them. Why is it the Church buries these lapsed Catholics?


Often it is not clear why a lapsed Catholic has lapsed. The Church wants to fulfill the wish of Christ that all be saved. It is not proper for us to pass judgment on the spiritual state of others, particularly if we have not been with them during their last minutes of life.

Remember that at the last moment the good thief had a change of heart and Christ welcomed him into paradise. The parish priest or hospital chaplain will look for any indication that the individual wished to die on good terms with the Lord. Given that indication, the priest will not withhold any of the spiritual benefits that can be given the deceased and those close to him by a funeral Mass.

Catholic Answers Staff


  1. Patrick Gannon Reply

    “particularly if we have not been with them during their last minutes of life.”

    So if Hitler made a full confession and had Last Rites, then he would not have to go to “hell” to join the Jews he sent there (with a head start on their eternal torment) for failure to have become baptized Catholics? You can kill 6 million Jews and still go to heaven, while your victims go to hell, as long as you’re sorry in your last couple minutes and perform the correct ritual before you die, right? This is justice? This is fair? This is what a good god would do?

  2. Timothy J. Corbitt Reply

    Patrick, where did you get the idea that Catholics think that the Jews went to Hell? The Catholic Church has never designated any person as being in Hell, and leaves that decision up to the Perfect Justice, and Perfect Mercy of Christ. If Hitler confessed, and he was not sincere, he would not have fooled Christ.

    1. Patrick Gannon Reply

      As a child, I was taught that only Catholics go to heaven. Is that no longer the case? Can you point me to the relevent section of the catechism? From my understanding the issue is still very muddy, and basically boils down to a) you have to be Catholic or b) you have to be ignorant. See:

      What do you mean in saying the Church “has never designated any person as being in Hell”? I’ve heard plenty of priests refer to people they said were in Hell, and many who told all of us that we would go there too if we didn’t believe, say and do the right things.

      Hell just got bigger. They closed down Limbo, and all those souls have nowhere to go but Hell because they weren’t baptized. To the best of my understanding the catechism says you have to be baptized. I think the unofficial policy is that they now have a “hope” for salvation.

      Of course some research regarding the words Sheol, Gehenna, Hades and Tartarus lead us to understanding that Hell as we understand it is not biblical.

  3. Francis Kamau Reply

    The two answers given above go with gospel teaching. We should not judge our neighbors. Only God can see the motives of our hearts.

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