Q. Can a person who dies in mortal sin go to purgatory, or will they forever be condemned to hell?
A. Here’s a reply from Father Reginald Martin:
Church teaching is very clear regarding the fate of those who die in a state of mortal sin. “The souls of those who die in the condition of personal grievous sin enter Hell.” (“Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma,” p. 479). However, as the penalty is so great, the Church has traditionally taught that a sin must be extremely serious to merit such punishment. Likewise, the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that sinners have access to the remedy of perfect contrition, which “arises from a love by which God is loved above all else…. Such contrition … obtains forgiveness of mortal sins if it includes the firm resolution to have recourse to sacramental confession as soon as possible” (No. 1452).
We should not presume the quality of our contrition, for perfect contrition must be motivated by love of God, not mere fear of punishment or disgust for a sin. At the same time, much is beyond our control, and the Catechism is quite consoling when it states: “Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom.… If it is not redeemed by … God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell.… However … we must entrust judgment … to the justice and mercy of God” (No. 1861). Thus we should never doubt God’s omniscience, compassion and love.