Too many Christians have the idea that all you need to do to be saved is be basically good or at least well-intentioned. They have a week grasp on the holiness of God and the infinite distance between divine holiness and natural man at his best.

As a corollary to this attitude, there are acceptable and non-acceptable sins. Acceptable sins are the sins that normal middle class people commit, such as fornication and adultery. More expansive people extend it to underclass sins, such as murder.

But almost everyone draws the line at genocide and child abuse.

What people have a hard time grasping (and I include myself) is that Christ came to die for sinners, including the worst of sinners.

Catholics pray for the living and the dead. Purgatory is a specifically western Catholic doctrine, but Protestants with whom I have discussed it say that the equivalent Protestant doctrine is standing before the judgment seat of God after death, and seeing the full truth of one’s life and of God’s attitude to it.

After the attacks pf 9/11. I couldn’t bring myself to pray for the attackers, although they needed prayers more than anyone else. I prayed for all the dead. When I did the Camino, each day   prayed for the victims of sexual abuse and for the abusers – and that was a hard prayer to make.

As part of their prayers for the dead, Catholics have masses said for the deceased. The mass is not meant to honor the deceased (as idea that has taken hold at funeral masses) but to pray for them as they come before the judgment seat of God.

In Franco’s Spain (and perhaps today) masses are said for the repose of the soul of Adolf Hitler – and if anyone needs prayer, he does. A mass is being offered for the terrible abuser, Cardinal Groër. He had homoerotic contact with almost very student he can in contact with, perhaps a thousand , perhaps more. His case has devastated the church in Austria, and still causes trouble:

VIENNA – Reacting to criticism, an Austrian bishop says he has changed his mind and will not attend a memorial Mass for a cardinal accused of molesting young boys.

Agidius Zsifkovics, the bishop of Eisenstadt, was to participate in Monday’s Mass marking the 10th anniversary of the death of Cardinal Hans Hermann Groer. But Zsifkovics says he decided not to “after numerous encounters and discussions over the past days.”

Groer stepped down as archbishop of Vienna in 1995 after former theological students accused him of sexual abuse.

After Zsifkovics initially said he would attend the service, a statement on the website of “Those Affected by Churchly Abuse” late last month accused him of planning to honour a man who left “a trail of spiritual destruction.”

I don’t know what was the intention of Bishop Zsifkovics; but masses are said – or at least should be said – not to honor the deceased but to pray for him, a sinner. And the worst sinners need the most prayers.

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