Surely this can’t be right

Catholic questions 2.001

It’s a Friday in Lent and Pete (not his real name, because he’s not a real person) is out to dinner with his wife at the local pub which caters to the Catholic crowd with Lenten Friday night fish fries. This pub also serves the most excellent burgers around…such as to die for, as his wife, being a committed carnivore herself, likes to tell her friends. But being good Catholics, they’ve come for the frixum pisces in conformity with the Church’s prohibition against eating meat on Fridays during Lent.

Pete and Mary (also a fictitious name for a nonexistent person) are loving, caring, generous human beings devoted to the Church and doing their best to obey her teachings and cooperate with God’s grace in doing good works. They are the kind of Catholics whom others emulate and who would be expected to require the briefest of stays in Purgatory. “Exemplary” is the adjective often applied to their lives.

As the couple waits for the server to take their order, menus unopened on the table, a group of Hardees_MemphisBBQ-Burgerbusinessmen next to them is served theirs. “To die for” all around. Man, those burgers look good…and smell even better, Pete thinks to himself. And before long he has rationalized the gastronomical act of disobedience he is about to take and orders the Rancho Cucamega burger with the BBQ sauce and crispy onion strips. He never quite understood the rationale behind this particular prohibition, and he’ll be going to confession tomorrow anyway, he reassures himself.

But there would be no tomorrow for Pete, for just as he is swallowing the last delicious, meaty morsel he feels a sudden, stabbing pain in his chest, face plants into his ketchupy fries, and expires on the way to the hospital from a massive heart attack.

According to the doctrine of the Catholic Church, Pete will actually be skipping Purgatory all together because he’s going straight to Hell. All his good deeds count for naught because his final deed was in willing disobedience to the Church’s commandment. Does this make any sense at all?

So that’s what I want to ask Catholics this week. How would you defend your doctrine of salvation that makes this scenario possible? Even if you don’t think eating meat on a Lenten Friday is a mortal sin, one could easily imagine any number of similar scenarios involving one final mortal sin negating a lifetime of good works. But my scenario is not frivolous or contrived because Catholic Answers Live senior apologist Jimmy Akin has said, “In terms of eating meat on Fridays, the reason that that has been regarded as potentially a mortal sin is because it involves the grave matter of disobeying the Church when it makes a solemn commandment….An individual infraction or an individual deviation from the Church’s requirements may not be grave, but if you just say, well I’m just not going to follow the Church’s penitential requirements, I just don’t care, then that IS grave matter.”

Would anyone like to take this on? How do you think Jimmy Akin would defend it?