Why two judgments?

Question: I know that when we die there is an immediate judgment, but when Jesus comes again he calls us all to another judgment. But for what purpose? We were judged once after death. Could you please explain why we must be judged twice? I am confused. 

Name withheld, Des Plaines, Ill. 

Answer: What you are asking about is the relationship between the Particular Judgment when we die and the General or Last Judgment at the end of time. At the risk of oversimplification, we may say that the Particular Judgment refers to the fate of the individual person after having passed through death, while the General Judgment refers to God’s verdict on all history and creation at the end of time. 

The Particular Judgment refers to the fact that each person is called to give an account of his or her whole life before God. The result of that judgment is not God’s doing, but our doing — worked out through the whole course of our lives. After that judgment we go to purgatory, heaven or hell. (I have expressed my hope before in this column that there is nobody in hell, but there is always the possibility that we have so ruined and squandered our lives that we could ultimately reject God’s love and end up there.) 

The General Judgment at the end of time is not a repetition of the Particular Judgment. So you are correct in saying that each person is not personally judged twice. Rather, at the General Judgment, God’s reign will extend over all creation and all that is evil in history will be overcome. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states this matter as follows: “The Last Judgment will come when Christ returns in glory. ... Then through his Son Jesus Christ [God] will pronounce the final word on all history. We shall know the ultimate meaning of the whole work of creation and the entire economy of salvation and understand the marvelous ways by which his Providence led everything towards its final end. The Last Judgment will reveal that God’s justice triumphs over all the injustices committed by his creatures and that God’s love is stronger than death” (No. 1040). 

So, we may say that at the Particular Judgment, God’s verdict on each individual will be pronounced, while at the General Judgment God’s verdict on all reality will be pronounced. There can seem to be a certain coldness in the use of this legal language, but we must never forget that God is infinitely more merciful, wise, and loving than we can ever imagine. 

Is Mormonism a cult?

Question: There have been discussions recently about whether Mormonism is a cult. Since you live in Utah like I do, what is your opinion? 

— John D.,Taylorsville, Utah

Answer: The discussions to which you refer have brought more heat than light to this question. “Cult” has two meanings. First, it refers to a system of worship. Every religious body, Christian or not, has a cult. Otherwise it would not survive. Catholic theology and ecclesiastical documents do not hesitate to talk about liturgical worship as a cult. 

Second, “cult” refers to a certain kind of religious system. The features of a cult in this sense are that it is small, led by a highly charismatic leader, rigidly separated from society, has severe internal controls, and exhibits some forms on mind control. Having lived in Utah for 38 years, my opinion is that Mormonism is not a cult. 

Msgr. M. Francis Mannion is a priest and theologian of the Diocese of Salt Lake City. Send your questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to mfmannion@osv.com. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.