Can the blessed in Heaven or the damned in Hell change their mind?

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Thanks for listening, y’all. Here’s the text I read from Aquinas in the Summa Contra Gentiles, below I’ll put the text from Pope Benedict XVI that I read.

Here‘s that dissertation I mentioned entitled “Why Can We Not Repent After We Die?” by Rev. Lawrence Lew, O.P.

The following is from the Summa Contra Gentiles, Book 4, chapters 92, 93, 94.


From these points this is clear: souls immediately after their separation from the body become unchangeable in will, with the result that the will of man cannot further be changed, neither from good to evil, nor from evil to good.

As long as the soul can be changed from good to evil or evil to good, it is in a state of struggle and warfare, for it must with solicitude resist evil lest it be conquered by evil, or it must try to be freed from it. Immediately after the soul is separated from the body it will not be in a state of warfare or struggle, but in a state of receiving reward or punishment, because it “has lawfully or unlawfully striven” (2 Tim. 2:5). For it was shown that reward or punishment follows immediately. No longer, then, is the soul able to be changed in its willing, whether from good to evil, or from evil to good.

Then, too, in Book III it was shown that beatitude which consists in the vision of God is everlasting; and in like fashion we showed in the same Book that mortal sin deserves eternal punishment. But a soul cannot be blessed if its will is not going to be right and it ceases to be right by being tamed away from the end—but it cannot simultaneously be turned away from the end and enjoying the end. Necessarily, then, the rectitude of the will in the blessed soul is everlasting; as a result, it cannot be changed from good to evil.

The rational creature, furthermore, naturally desires to be happy; hence, it cannot wish not to be happy. For all that, its will can be deflected from Him in whom its true beatitude consists; this is the perversity of will. And this takes place because that in which there is the true beatitude is not grasped essentially as beatitude, but something else is, and toward this the disordered will is deflected as though to an end. For example, take the man who puts his end in bodily pleasures; he thinks they are the greatest good, and this is essential to his beatitude. But those who are already happy grasp that in which there truly is beatitude essentially as beatitude and as ultimate end; otherwise, there would be therein no quiet of the appetite and, in consequence, they would not be happy. Therefore, all those who are happy cannot turn their wills away from Him in whom the true happiness is. Therefore, they can have no perversity of will.

Then, too, when what one has suffices him, he seeks nothing beyond it. But whoever is happy has what suffices him in the true beatitude; otherwise, his desire would not be fulfilled. Therefore, whoever is happy seeks nothing which does not belong to that in which true beatitude consists. But no one has a perverse will unless he wills something repugnant to Him in whom true beatitude consists. Therefore, there is no one of the blessed whose will can be changed to evil.

There is more. Sin cannot take place in the will—without some sort of ignorance in the intellect, for we will nothing but the good whether true or apparent. For this reason Proverbs (14:27) says: “They err who work evil”; and in the Ethics the Philosopher says “every evil man is ignorant.” But the soul which is truly happy cannot be in ignorance at all, since in God it sees everything which belongs to its. perfection. Therefore, there is no way for it to have a bad will, especially since that vision of God is always actual, as was shown in Book III.

Our intellect, again, can be in error about some conclusion before a resolution into the first principles is made; once the resolution into the principles is made, one has knowledge of the conclusions in which there can be no falsity. “But what the principle of demonstration is in speculative matters, so the end is in matters of appetite.” Therefore, as long as we do not achieve the ultimate end our will can be perverted, but not after it arrives at the enjoyment of the ultimate end which is desirable in itself, just as the first principles of demonstration are known in themselves.

The good, furthermore, is precisely as good the lovable. Therefore, that which is grasped as the best is the most lovable. But a happy rational substance that sees God grasps Him as the best. Therefore, it loves Him the most. But this is an essential of love: the wills of those who love each other are in conformity. Therefore, the wills of the blessed are most in conformity with God, and this makes rightness of will, since the divine will is the first rule of all wills. Therefore, the wills of those who see God cannot be rendered perverse.

Once more: So long as a thing is by nature changeable to another it does not have its ultimate end. Therefore, if the blessed soul can still be changed from good to evil, it is not yet in its ultimate end. And this is against the essentials of beatitude. It is clear, then, that the souls which immediately after death are beatified become immutable in their wills.


In the same way, also, the souls which immediately after death are made miserable in punishment become unchangeable in their wills.

For we showed in Book III that mortal sin deserves everlasting punishment. But there would be no everlasting punishment of the souls of the damned if they were able to change their will for a better will; it would be unjust, indeed, if from the moment of their having a good will their punishment would be everlasting. Therefore, the will of the damned soul cannot be changed to good.

There is more. The very disorder of the will is a kind of punishment and one of extreme affliction. The reason: So far as one has a disordered will he is displeased by whatever is done rightly, and the damned souls will be displeased because God’s will is fulfilled in all those who by sinning have sided against Him. Therefore, their disordered will shall never be taken away from them.

The change of a will, furthermore, from sin to good takes place only by the grace of God, as what was said in Book III makes clear. But, just as the souls of the good are admitted to a perfect sharing in the divine goodness, so the souls of the damned are entirely excluded from grace. Therefore, they will not be able to change their will for the better.

Then again: just as the good when living in the flesh make God the end of all their works and desires, so also the wicked do with some improper end which turns them away from God. But the separated souls of the good will cleave unchangeably to the good they have set before themselves in this life; namely, to God. Therefore, the souls of the wicked will cleave unchangeably to the end which they themselves have chosen. Therefore, as the will of the good will not be able to become evil, so the will of the evil will not be able to become good.


There are some souls, however, which do not attain beatitude immediately after separation, and for all that are not damned, such are those who carry with them something subject to purging, as was said; therefore, one ought to show that not even souls of this kind after separation from the body are able to be changed in their wills. Now, the blessed and the damned souls have an unchangeable will by reason of the end to which they adhered, as what was said makes clear; but the souls which carry with them something subject to purging do not differ in end from the blessed souls, for they depart in charity by which we cleave to God as to an end. Those very souls, then, will have an unchangeable will.

Spe Salvi (In Hope We Are Saved)

Here’s a few chapters from Spe Salvi by Pope Benedict XVI

45. This early Jewish idea of an intermediate state includes the view that these souls are not simply in a sort of temporary custody but, as the parable of the rich man illustrates, are already being punished or are experiencing a provisional form of bliss. There is also the idea that this state can involve purification and healing which mature the soul for communion with God. The early Church took up these concepts, and in the Western Church they gradually developed into the doctrine of Purgatory. We do not need to examine here the complex historical paths of this development; it is enough to ask what it actually means. With death, our life-choice becomes definitive—our life stands before the judge. Our choice, which in the course of an entire life takes on a certain shape, can have a variety of forms. There can be people who have totally destroyed their desire for truth and readiness to love, people for whom everything has become a lie, people who have lived for hatred and have suppressed all love within themselves. This is a terrifying thought, but alarming profiles of this type can be seen in certain figures of our own history. In such people all would be beyond remedy and the destruction of good would be irrevocable: this is what we mean by the word Hell[37]. On the other hand there can be people who are utterly pure, completely permeated by God, and thus fully open to their neighbours—people for whom communion with God even now gives direction to their entire being and whose journey towards God only brings to fulfilment what they already are[38].

46. Yet we know from experience that neither case is normal in human life. For the great majority of people—we may suppose—there remains in the depths of their being an ultimate interior openness to truth, to love, to God. In the concrete choices of life, however, it is covered over by ever new compromises with evil—much filth covers purity, but the thirst for purity remains and it still constantly re-emerges from all that is base and remains present in the soul. What happens to such individuals when they appear before the Judge? Will all the impurity they have amassed through life suddenly cease to matter? What else might occur? Saint Paul, in his First Letter to the Corinthians, gives us an idea of the differing impact of God’s judgement according to each person’s particular circumstances. He does this using images which in some way try to express the invisible, without it being possible for us to conceptualize these images—simply because we can neither see into the world beyond death nor do we have any experience of it. Paul begins by saying that Christian life is built upon a common foundation: Jesus Christ. This foundation endures. If we have stood firm on this foundation and built our life upon it, we know that it cannot be taken away from us even in death. Then Paul continues: “Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:12-15). In this text, it is in any case evident that our salvation can take different forms, that some of what is built may be burned down, that in order to be saved we personally have to pass through “fire” so as to become fully open to receiving God and able to take our place at the table of the eternal marriage-feast.

47. Some recent theologians are of the opinion that the fire which both burns and saves is Christ himself, the Judge and Saviour. The encounter with him is the decisive act of judgement. Before his gaze all falsehood melts away. This encounter with him, as it burns us, transforms and frees us, allowing us to become truly ourselves. All that we build during our lives can prove to be mere straw, pure bluster, and it collapses. Yet in the pain of this encounter, when the impurity and sickness of our lives become evident to us, there lies salvation. His gaze, the touch of his heart heals us through an undeniably painful transformation “as through fire”. But it is a blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God. In this way the inter-relation between justice and grace also becomes clear: the way we live our lives is not immaterial, but our defilement does not stain us for ever if we have at least continued to reach out towards Christ, towards truth and towards love. Indeed, it has already been burned away through Christ’s Passion. At the moment of judgement we experience and we absorb the overwhelming power of his love over all the evil in the world and in ourselves. The pain of love becomes our salvation and our joy. It is clear that we cannot calculate the “duration” of this transforming burning in terms of the chronological measurements of this world. The transforming “moment” of this encounter eludes earthly time-reckoning—it is the heart’s time, it is the time of “passage” to communion with God in the Body of Christ[39]. The judgement of God is hope, both because it is justice and because it is grace. If it were merely grace, making all earthly things cease to matter, God would still owe us an answer to the question about justice—the crucial question that we ask of history and of God. If it were merely justice, in the end it could bring only fear to us all. The incarnation of God in Christ has so closely linked the two together—judgement and grace—that justice is firmly established: we all work out our salvation “with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12). Nevertheless grace allows us all to hope, and to go trustfully to meet the Judge whom we know as our “advocate”, or parakletos (cf. 1 Jn 2:1).


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