What does the Church think of reincarnation? (3)

After the judgments of the Church, it remains to examine the various points of conflict between metempsychosis and Catholic dogma. This theory alone contradicts many of the Articles of Faith.

The special judgment

Robert Laffont, director of the publishing house that bears his name, affirmed his belief in metempsychosis in the following terms: “Reincarnation is the possibility of having other chances. This long quest to climb towards something better seems to me philosophically the fairest solution. This solution responds best to my notion of the afterlife. »

“The possibility of having other chances”: this expression is an admission. It manifests one of the fundamental elements of this doctrine: the refusal of an immediate and definitive judgment upon death, the secret desire to put off until later, forever, that moment when the responsibility for our acts and the malice of our sins, and where God will in all justice pronounce on us an irreversible sentence.

But this escape from judgment contradicts revelation. Saint Paul states clearly in the epistle to the Hebrews: “It is the destiny of man to die once, and after that comes judgment. »

The commentary on Pirot and Clamer’s edition is eloquent: “What confirms the definitive nature of death is that it is followed by judgment which fixes the fate of man forever. The thought is that at death everything is over and there is nothing left to do but wait for judgment, the supreme sanction of life. »

Numerous magisterial documents confirm this doctrine. The Second Council of Lyons (1274) teaches that souls who have not been sufficiently satisfied for their faults are purified after death, ” post mortem purgari “.

The saints, on the other hand, are immediately welcomed into heaven, “ mox in coelum recipi “those who die in a state of mortal sin are immediately thrown into hell,” mox in infernum descendere “. Pope Benedict XII uses the same expressions in his constitution Benedictus Deus of January 29, 1336, as well as the Council of Florence of 1439.

the Catechism of the Council of Trent puts within everyone’s reach this teaching of the eternal Church: “The first judgment comes at the moment when we have just left life. At this very moment, each one appears before the judgment seat of God, and there he undergoes a rigorous examination on all that he has done, all that he has said, all that he has thought during his life. This is called particular judgment. »

The theory of reincarnation therefore already appears as a vain attempt by man to avoid the inevitable, a refuge to hide from himself the truth of this inexorable judgment, the end of all human life.


“I accept this dogma of particular judgment, will answer a proponent of metempsychosis, but, precisely, the sanction is this cycle of rebirths that I profess. The succession of earthly lives is only the expiation of past faults. »

In other words, if he admits the existence of the judgment at death, our man denies the sentence, namely purgatory. Catholic doctrine teaches, in fact, that at death the soul is definitively fixed, either in goodness or in hatred of goodness. It is therefore no longer time for a conversion, or for the possible variations of life here below.

Moreover, the sufferings of purgatory are indeed the expiation of past faults, but they are not meritorious. They do not obtain additional graces to the soul.

Now the existence of purgatory is firmly attested by Holy Scripture and Tradition. As early as the 2nd century BC, Judas Maccabee had a collection made so that he could offer sacrifices in the temple of Jerusalem for the sins of those who had died in battle.

The second book of the Maccabees comments on this initiative as follows: “Beautiful and noble action inspired by the thought of the resurrection! For if he had not believed that soldiers killed in battle should be resuscitated, it would have been superfluous and vain to pray for the dead. He further considered that a most beautiful reward is reserved for those who fall asleep in godliness, and this is a holy and pious thought. This is why he made this expiatory sacrifice for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sins. (2 M 12, 43-46)

Scripture, divinely inspired, therefore affirms that there is a painful state from which one must be freed, which will be temporary since it will be followed by a “beautiful reward” and from which one is delivered by prayer and the sacrifices of the living. .

Saint Robert Bellarmine counts nine texts from the New Testament which prove, at least indirectly, the existence of purgatory. Moreover, the existence of expiation after death is sufficiently founded by the constant Tradition of the Church.

Clement of Alexandria distinguishes among men the corrigible from the incorrigible. The first category consists of the souls of sinners reconciled with God at the time of their death, but who have not had time to do penance. On these souls, “the justice of God will be exercised with goodness and his goodness will be exercised according to his justice”. These chastisements, he tells us, are “necessary to achieve the reserved abode.” Bliss is therefore obtained after a time of purification.

This teaching will be extensively developed from the 4th century by Saint Cyril of Jerusalem, Saint Basil and Saint Gregory of Nazianze.

Another source of faith in purgatory is the practice of praying for the dead. Some New Testament apocryphal texts sometimes contain interesting testimonies. The Acta Pauli and Theclae (160) relate that Queen Tryphene hears, in a dream, her dead daughter asking her to have recourse to the prayers of Thecla to obtain to be placed among the just. Tryphène addresses Thecla thus: “Pray for my child, that she may live for eternity. »

The author of Acta Joannis reports that the apostle John would have gone to the tomb of a Christian, three days after her death, to celebrate the sacrifice of the mass there.

The old Latin version of the Didascalia (3rd century) is explicit: “In commemorations, gather together, read the Holy Scriptures and offer prayers to God; also offer the royal Eucharist which is the image of the royal body of Christ, both in your collections and in the cemetery; and the pure bread that the fire has purified and that the invocation sanctifies, offer it while praying for the dead. »

These considerations do not take us away from our subject. They show us that, far from being a late invention of theologians, the doctrine of purgatory is part of the treasure of the faith of all time. It is therefore invested with the very authority of God and thus relegates to the rank of fables the theories of metempsychosis on the beyond.


With the doctrine of purgatory, that of hell is taken to task by metempsychosis. Most of his versions proceed from a basic optimism. Human life cannot end in failure. The chain of earthly lives can only lead to absolute and eternal happiness.

The existence of hell is taught with too much emphasis in the Gospel to need dwelling on it. The story of the wicked rich man and poor Lazarus sums up this teaching: “The rich man also died, and he was buried.

“In hell he looked up, and while he was in torment, he saw Abraham afar off, and he cried out, ‘Abraham our father, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to he dips the tip of his finger in the water and cools my tongue; for I suffer cruelly in these flames”.

“Abraham answered, ‘Between us and you there is forever a great chasm, so that those who would pass from here to you cannot, and it is impossible to pass here from where you are.’ (Lk 16, 19-31)

The resurrection of bodies

Christians sing with pride in the Credo: et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum, I await the resurrection of the dead. After the vicissitudes of this life, beyond the heartbreak of death, they hope not only for the bliss of the soul, but also that of the body. At the end of time, the bodies will be called back to life, for an eternity of happiness or for an eternity of misfortune.

God wanted to teach us this truth with particular solemnity in Holy Scripture. Saint Paul shows the link between the resurrection of men and that of Christ. “If it is preached that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, how do some say that there is no resurrection of the dead?

“If there is no resurrection from the dead, neither has Jesus Christ risen. And if Jesus Christ is not risen, then our preaching is vain, vain also your faith. Since death came by a man, it is also by a man that the resurrection of the dead came. (1 Cor 15, 12-21)

Tradition and the Magisterium of the Church take up the same teaching.

“Thus the example of our Head leads us to confess that there is a true resurrection of the flesh for all the dead. We do not believe that we will be resurrected in an aerial body or in some other kind of body, according to the ramblings of some, but in this body with which we live, we exist and we move. Our Lord and Saviour, having provided the model of this holy resurrection, regained by his ascension the paternal throne which his divinity had never abandoned. »

This dogma throws a beautiful light on the human compound. As the body is the instrument of the soul in this earthly life, it is its companion for eternity. The glory that will flood the soul of the elect will reflect on the body. This one having fought and suffered for the soul, will participate in its reward.

He who, on the contrary, was her accomplice in sin will follow her in sorrow, “for we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each may receive according to what he has done while in his body, according to what he has done good or evil” (2 Cor 5:10).

Does this contradict metempsychosis? If, from its creation until its entry into bliss, the soul must pass through several earthly lives, if it is united successively to several bodies, which one will it find at the resurrection? Which will be associated with the eternity of the soul, and which will be rejected? A minority of existing human bodies will be resurrected.

Such a conception is radically opposed to the revelation of the resurrection of all bodies, but does it not still go against the desire for immortality present in the heart of man? Don’t we have, not only for our soul, but also for our body, a thirst for duration? Isn’t death a violence done to our nature? This concrete body with which I live, I think, I communicate with others, isn’t it a friend? Better yet, isn’t it a necessary part of me?

As we can see, the doctrine of reincarnation creates a tear at the very heart of the human being. The body is separated from the soul, it is lowered to the rank of an old garment that is thrown away after wear, it will forever remain a stranger to the bliss of the soul.

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What does the Church think of reincarnation? (3)

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