In this recording, Archimandrite Athanasios Mytilinaios (1927-2006), answers the question: “how will God judge the severely disabled persons?” “My dear ones, according to an opinion, they are happier, luckier than us…”
Audio source: “Catechism”, no. 33 (in Greek)
“[…] The disabled people as well as the ones born crippled and with severe bodily disabilities, how will God judge them?”
My dear ones, according to an opinion, they are happier/luckier than us, according to an opinion.
Of course, a man who is mentally disabled to a high degree, [that is] to a degree that he is not conscious of his actions, [is] not a [just] bit disabled. Because if he is a [only a] bit disabled and understands some things, meaning he can perceive the ethical law, then certainly, he is responsible without a doubt.
What about the case where he has absolutely no consciousness [of his actions]? Then, certainly, this man will be judged based on what he offers. Meaning, he will not be punished, even if he commits acts which are not morally right. Likewise, sainthood presupposes freedom and consciousness. Otherwise I do not have an act of sainthood. The same [applies] here. When I do not have real freedom or consciousness, how is it possible to judge an act of this man as morally wrong or right? It is not.
Thus, these people will be judged accordingly, and one can say that they will be saved as they are deprived of perception, deprived of moral responsibility. They will be saved. Whereas we that have freedom, noesis [intellectual apprehension], consciousness etc., I do not know whether we will be saved. That’s why I told you, according to an opinion, they might be in a more “advantageous” place [than us].
Why are they [in this place] and whether they really have a soul — because we have got to a point where we discuss whether the mentally disabled have or do not have a soul — of course they have a soul.
Imagine the case of a guitar where some of its strings are broken and a part [of a song] cannot be played. The part is ready to be played but the guitar does not provide the possibility. Likewise, the soul exists, [but] it is impossible to “surface” because its instrument, the nous, excuse me, the brain, not the nous, because the nous refers to the soul. [Soul cannot “surface” because] the brain, which refers to the body, is broken. Broken does not mean missing, but in the sense that it has damage. Thus, we cannot have a “surfacing of the soul.” But the soul is in the whole. She exists.
[Besides, how could it be otherwise,] when a fetus has its own soul. A fetus is an unborn human, does it not have a soul? [How then can we say that the mentally disabled do not have one of their own?] A child that is born, does it not have soul inside? It does. The brain has just not developed yet, for the soul to surface.
So, they will be judged and since God is righteous, He always rules as His justice commands. [And this applies to] the generations of people throughout history, since the ethics were different [from one era to another], Likewise, the generations of people will be judged based on the way they perceived something, especially before the Grace of God, that became apparent with Jesus Christ, arrived.[They will be judged] on the basis of their moral consciousness. That’s why morality has a unique dimension in every generation.
We notice this in the Old Testament with the saying: “[one] was perfect in his generation.” (Gen. 6:9) This phrase is often found in the Old Testament: “[one] was perfect in his generation,” which means that the condition under which he is judged is based only on [the standards of] his generation. [Only] then [can] this man can be judged “perfect,” meaning virtuous. If he were to be judged based on another generation, take for example the generation of the Gospel, [then] of course his virtue would not be able to stand.
For example, if we judge Jacob, who has a lot of virtue, based on [the standards of] the Gospel, certainly, a lot of things do not stand [the comparison]. But since Jacob did not live during the age of the Gospel, but in another age, he will be judged based on his age. And based on his age, Jacob is righteous, he is virtuous.
Likewise with Abraham. The faith of Abraham surpasses every limit. It goes beyond the [conceivable] limits of faith. The faith of Abraham is something inconceivable. The faith of Abraham in the Old Testament and of the thief [on the cross] in the New Testament. Neither [the faith] of Peter, nor Paul’s [can be compared with it]. Abraham’s in the Old and the thief’s in the New. Two “peaks” of faith that were not surpassed, neither will be unto the ages of ages. If we take out this issue of faith in Abraham, as far as other things are concerned, although, he is a virtuous man, he is righteous in the narrow sense of the word as well as in the broad sense of the word, he has virtue. And yet, how many things do we see which are weak, which are “pale.” Based on the standards of the Gospel, they do not “sit right.” Still, Abraham is a giant, but one in his age. Thus, he was “perfect in his generation.”