I am a Roman Catholic and I ask this question as one, but I'm also interested in understanding the answers that other christian denominations may have to my question. So, feel free to share here your conviction, even if you aren't Catholic. Here's the question!

Considering that:

  1. The Catholic Church states that each one of us, human persons, are not just body or soul and that we also are not just a agglutination of both, but an unity that is formed by the mix of the two;

  2. The Catholic Church also states that, after we die, our soul is separeted from the body;


  1. What happens to us after we die? Do we live as just souls until the Final Judgment, when we will finaly get a new body?

  2. If we cannot say that we, as human persons, are not just a soul or just body, as catholics, how could we say that, after death, we would still be human? I mean, if being human is to be an unity of body and soul, how could we still be humans once separated from our bodies?

I hope I was clear in my question. And if I comited a mistake in my exposition of catholic belief, please correct me.


  • 1
    Some non-Catholics might say we are spiritual beings who have a soul and live in a body. The body dies, the soul can die, the spirit lives on. Aug 23, 2020 at 19:13
  • @L.Siqueira This recent (2016) article My Soul Is Not Me: Thomas Aquinas on Human Nature and the Afterlife should give you a good philosophical basis on Catholic understanding of the nature of the soul to which the doctrine of Purgatory makes sense. The Protestant counterpart which denies purgatory can also buy into this philosophical description of the soul, but they instead say that the soul is sleeping until being joined with the resurrected body. Aug 23, 2020 at 19:30
  • 1
    @MikeBorden the soul can die? Catholics teach this?
    – Kris
    Aug 23, 2020 at 23:08
  • @Kris I'm not Catholic. OP said non-Catholic input is welcome. Aug 24, 2020 at 0:19
  • 1
    I see that now@MikeBorden Unusual for me to see a different denomination speak of a soul dying. Immortality of the soul a common teaching does not allow for a soul to die does it?
    – Kris
    Aug 24, 2020 at 0:26

1 Answer 1


Does the Catholic Church believe that we become just souls after we die?

The short answer is yes!

But the Catholic Church also teaches that when we die, our souls are separated from our earthly bodies. However our earthly bodies will be reunited with our souls at the general judgement.

This is why the Church technically refers to souls in Heaven as saints and not as persons. For the human person is technically composed as having a soul united with an earthly body! This will all change at the end of times!

Nevertheless, many refer to the saints in Heaven as saints. The souls in purgatory are interestingly enough referred to as the Souls in Purgatory!

Our Church teaches that immediately after death, our soul separates from our earthly body and we stand before God for judgement. We then enter heaven, Purgatory or hell.

Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness. Those who are free from all sin enter heaven immediately.

Purgatory is a place of purification, for those who die in a state of grace and friendship with God but who are not yet fully purified. Those in Purgatory are assured a place in heaven after their purification. We pray for those in Purgatory, that they may soon be with God in heaven.

Hell is for those who have willingly chosen to reject God and his love. If we persist in a state of serious sin, we damn ourselves to hell.

At the end of time, our Lord will come again to judge the living and the dead. All souls will be rejoined with their bodies, and those in Purgatory will be joined to the blessed in heaven. The Last Judgement will reveal that God’s justice triumphs over all the injustices committed by his creatures and that God’s love is stronger than death. What Happens to Us After We Die?

The following article on The Human Person is quite informative:

The unity of soul and body

Man is not merely a body (that is materialism). Nor is he merely a soul (that is spiritualism). Nor is he two beings, like a ghost in a machine (that is dualism). He is one being in two dimensions, bodily and spiritual. “The unity of soul and body is so profound that one has to consider the soul to be the ‘form’ of the body [‘form’ here meaning not ‘external shape’ but ‘intrinsic meaning’]:234 i.e., it is because of its spiritual soul that the body made of matter becomes a living human body; spirit and matter, in man, are not two natures united, but rather their union forms a single nature” (CCC 365).

The human soul is not imprisoned in the body, as Plato taught, but expressed in it, as the meaning of a play is expressed in its words. And the body is not enslaved by the soul but fulfilled by it, as a beautiful piece of marble is fulfilled and brought to perfection in a great work of sculpture.

The human soul

The human soul is not a pure spirit, like an angel. It is the “form” of the body; it is meant to inform a body. The body is not a house and the soul is not a ghost. We are not haunted! The soul is not something strange, occult, or alien. Just the opposite. It is who we are; it is our personality. God gave it to us at conception (that magical moment that was also the beginning of our body), and we shape it through all of life’s choices. The Church’s most important teachings about the soul are “1 that every spiritual soul is created immediately by God – it is not ‘produced’ by the parents – 2 and also that it is immortal: it does not perish when it separates from the body at death, and [3] it will be reunited with the body at the final Resurrection 235” (CCC 366).

On each of these three points there is good reason for our faith:

  1. The soul must be created rather than evolved, because matter cannot make spirit any more than space can make time or color can make sound. They are two different dimensions. “You can’t get blood from a stone,” and you can’t get self-consciousness and free will from atoms and molecules.

  2. The soul must be immortal because it is not made of atoms spread out in space and capable of being cut into parts. It is not composed, so it cannot be decomposed.

  3. The soul must be reunited with a new body because God made man as a soul-body unity, and God makes no mistakes. Therefore the resurrection of the body is needed to complete and perfect our human nature in Heaven. (Between death and resurrection, we are incomplete.) We do not become angels any more than we become ants.

  • Thanks for your answer! But, as you see it, does it mean that we cease to be human until the time of ressurrection? Aug 25, 2020 at 0:57
  • @L.Siqueira That is correct; it is the crux of the matter!
    – Ken Graham
    Aug 25, 2020 at 19:54
  • @KenGraham the Church certainly doesn't teach that we cease to be human until the resurrection. That's bordering on complete nonsense. Aquinas in particular teaches that the soul is the form of the body. The soul itself is human.
    – eques
    Jan 23, 2021 at 22:45
  • @eques The soul belongs to a human being while in this life. Once separated from the body the human person is no longer a human person. Moreover ‘form’ here meaning not ‘external shape’ but ‘intrinsic meaning. The shape of the the man’s soul has no bearing on this subject. That point is St. Thomas’ personal theological opinion. Please post an answer if you think my post is inaccurate. It is not nonsense, as you strongly imply! Does Thomistic theology teach that once the soul separates the body, the souls in heaven or purgatory are still human persons?
    – Ken Graham
    Jan 24, 2021 at 18:19
  • @KenGraham You are essentially conflating a few things and being fairly loose with terms. You cannot speak of a soul belong to a human being. The soul is the animation principle without which you don't have a being. You also are using the word person without defining what makes a person a person (individual rational substance). Form being external shape vs intrinsic meaning isn't the point at all.
    – eques
    Jan 24, 2021 at 22:52

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