As most of you know, there has been a rather vivid discussion recently in the blogosphere on the subject of hell. As one who has written rather substantially, on the topic of hell, and our need to recover a more biblical notion regarding judgment and hell, I pray that you will tolerate me adding my own voice to the recent discussions.

Those who read this blog regularly, will know that I have spoken on the topic of Hell on any number of occasions. For example:

The Hell of It ——–Hell Has to Be——Will Many Be Saved? ——–Sinner Please Don’t Let this Harvest Pass ——–The Fire Next Time ——–The Mystery of Iniquity ——–Ignoring Two Words Devastates Evangelization

In all these posts, over the past several years I have argued, that our modern notion that Hell is a remote possibility, and a sentence likely incurred by only a very tiny number, is an unbiblical notion, and one that also runs contrary to almost the whole of Christian Tradition, beginning with the early Fathers of the Church, all the way forward until about 50 years ago.

I was thus very excited and pleased when Dr. Ralph Martin, a great teacher of mine over the years, published his recent book, Will Many be Saved? In this book, as I have already detailed, there is a great survey of the Church’s teaching, and traditional understanding of the topic of judgment and Hell. Ralph Martin also details in a respectful way recent trends, which have influenced a great many Catholics, and others to discount the biblical teaching, as well as the Christian Tradition of over 1900 years, prior to modern reconsideration.

I will not rewrite all the articles that I have referenced above, and re-defend the teaching on Hell, as I have done before, and Ralph Martin has done ably and thoroughly in his book.

But permit just a few summary bullet points:

  1. The biblical teaching, that there is a Hell, and that many go there is in no way ambiguous. When asked directly whether many would be saved Jesus answers soberly, and I would suppose with great sadness, that “many” were on the wide road that led to perdition, and that the road that led to salvation, was narrow, and difficult and that “few” found it.
  2. Jesus the main source – No one loves us more than Jesus Christ, and no one has worked more to save us than Jesus Christ. Yet no one spoke of Hell more than Jesus Christ, or warned of judgment with greater sobriety.
  3. Words mean things – However one may wish to interpret the biblical data, “many” does not mean few, and “few” does not mean many.
  4. Hell is, in a sense, necessary if human freedom is to have any meaning. All while Hell has mysterious aspects, understanding its existence must be rooted in the fact that God respects the freedom he has given us, even if he may regret the choices we make. But we are summoned to love, and love requires freedom, and freedom requires that our choices be about real things.
  5. That hell is an eternal reality is also mysterious, but is caught up in the mystery of the eternity itself. It would seem that as we move from this temporal world toward eternity, our decisions become forever fixed and final.
  6. Devastating – It does not require an advanced degree in sociology to understand that, to remove the unambiguous biblical teaching on the very real and possible outcome of Hell, is to remove strong motivation to seek a Savior and salvation. It is therefore no surprise that as the teaching on Hell has been largely set aside by the modern world, that recourse to the sacraments, prayer, Church attendance and any number of spiritual remedies have suffered significant declines during the same period.
  7. More can be read, if you wish, in the articles I have written elsewhere, referenced above.

In the current discussion taking place in the blog is here, I have this particular regret. Namely, that a man and a priest I admire greatly, Father Robert Barron holds the position he currently does on this topic.

To some extent, I have seen an evolution, on the part of Father Barron, on this topic in the past few years. One of my early blog posts on the topic of Hell, and why it is a reasonable teaching, actually made use of a video by Father Barron wherein he articulates quite well the reasonableness of the Biblical teaching. It is true, that at the end of the video he does brook the notion that we don’t know if anyone is specifically in Hell, but he does not dismiss the notion either, and leaves the matter sufficiently vague, such that his vigorous defense of the reasonableness of Hell is not undermined. (I have posted that earlier video below).

But in more recent years Father Barron has seem to move more steadily toward the notion, that Hell is largely unpopulated and that the Lord’s teaching that many go there is largely to be set aside in favor of other notions relating to His mercy.

In his recent critique of Ralph Martin’s book, Fr. Barron states his fundamental objection to Martin’s reiteration of Church teaching and of Lumen Gentium 16. In effect Barron references Spe Salvi, 45-47 wherein Pope Benedict seems to suppose that few are in Hell and that the great majority of humanity will ultimately be saved.

Father Barron concludes,

It seems to me that Pope Benedict’s position — affirming the reality of Hell but seriously questioning whether that the vast majority of human beings end up there — is the most tenable and actually the most evangelically promising.

Ralph Martin ably answers father Barron’s critique, HERE, but the heart of his answer is that the Pope’s reflections are in the form of a supposition. Pope Benedict says in effect, that we “may suppose” that the great majority of people end up eventually in heaven. Hence, the Holy Father does not formally or solemnly teach contrary to either the biblical teaching, or to Lumen Gentium 16, but simply permits us to suppose that many in fact will be ultimately saved. In this context, Martin writes in his book that he hopes that the Pope can further clarify his remarks at some point in the future. But Martin in no way simply sets aside the Pope’s remarks.

But Here’s the Problem: In this regard, the fact that Father Barron then consigns Ralph Martins position as analogous to dissent directed against Humanae Vitae, is, I would argue, unnecessary, excessive and hurtful. It is far from the kind of balanced and careful analysis I have come to admire about Father Barron. Father Barron’s exact quote that most troubles me is,

….but one of the most theologically accomplished popes in history, writing at a very high level of authority, has declared that we oughtn’t to hold that Hell is densely populated. To write this off as “remarks” that require “clarification” is precisely analogous to a liberal theologian saying the same thing about Paul VI’s teaching on artificial contraception in the encyclical Humanae Vitae.

I don’t think this is a carefully thought-out quote by Father Barron. And it surprises me greatly. I personally hope the Father Barron would consider the excessiveness of his judgment here, and issue his own clarification. Ralph Martin is merely requesting clarification regarding the “supposition” of the Pope. He is not a dissenter and to suggest that he is this such, is unjust

Frankly, it pains me to have to write this. I have been, and remain a great fan of Father Barron. I have used almost every one of his video productions, and I podcast his homilies. I hope for a more balanced critique, and clarification of his remarks in the near future.

Ralph Martin is a good Catholic, a great man of the Church. His book, written many years ago, entitled Crisis of Truth, was a great instrument of my own rediscovery of the need for orthodoxy and clarity in an age of confusion and true dissent.

I realize that I am not of the caliber of either one of these men, and perhaps my remarks here should, and will go largely unobserved. I write more as a great admirer of both these men.

Perhaps, in the end, Michael Vorris has the best take on this Internet debate. In his view is that, thanks be to God that Catholics are even talking about Hell anymore. The topic, even the word, has largely been off the Catholic radar for far too long. As one who was written more than a few times on the topic in the past four years, a common response I get, is, “Are you crazy? No one believes in hell anymore.” And thus, that we can even be discussing the topic is, of itself, some progress. I have included forces video below as well.

I do pray for clarification, from Father Barron. I also, with Ralph Martin, hope for greater clarification from the Pope, regarding his “supposition” in Spe Salvi 45–47. I with Martin, ask this only in greatest respect. I too am a loyal son of the Church and I seek to be taught, that I may come to greater understanding of what the Pope’s supposition means in the light of Scripture, Tradition, and Lumen Gentium 16.

314 Responses

  1. Humble and Awake says:

    Thank you for another great article, Msgr Pope.

  2. Tom Mulcahy says:

    I don’t think our Pope is advocating fundamental option theology as he would be acutely aware of its formal rejection in Veritatis Splendor. In fact, if you look at footnotes 37 and 38 of Spe Salvi he references the CCC on Heaven and Hell. Some of these CCC sections cited by the Pope clearly state the traditional Catholic doctrine regarding mortal sin (for example, CCC 1033 and 1035). Footnotes 37 and 38 occur in Section III of Spe Salvi on the Last Judgment. I hope this helps.

  3. Ferde Rombola says:

    There are three items deserving of consideration in this debate which haven’t been discussed. First, in the ‘many/few’ aspect, how many are many? Are they being counted at the time of Christ or at the end of time? It’s possible, at the end of time, the few may end up being billions — a number no one can count. Looking around the world today, what’s the ratio of believers to the heathen and the depraved? Betcha it’s fewer than one in four. Are the three deserving of eternity in torment?

    At the end of the ‘many/few’ discourse, Our Lord was asked, ‘How can anyone be saved.’ “With God all things are possible.” was His reply. That is no doubt the source of the Pope’s hope and his ‘supposition.’

    I’ve always considered eternity to be a very long time. I’ve entertained the idea that three billion years in torment in Purgatory ought to be sufficient to make up for any sin, except for that sin that will not be forgiven. Is there anyone here who doesn’t think three billion years is enough?

    • Rick DeLano says:

      “With God all things are possible.”

      Yes.

      It is for this reason that LG 16, and the words of the Holy Father in Spe Salvi, cannot be heretical.

      They must be, and are, susceptible of being understood in continuity with Tradition.

      The correct understanding of both LG 16 and Spe Salvi must be one which renders the assent of Faith to the following infallible definition:

      “The Most Holy Roman Church firmly believes, professes and preaches that none of those existing outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews, heretics, and schismatics can ever be partakers of eternal life, but that they are to go into the eternal fire ‘which was prepared for the devil and his angels,’ (Mt. 25:41)unless before death they are joined with her; and that so important is the unity of this Ecclesiastical Body, that only those remaining within this unity can profit from the sacraments of the Church unto salvation, and that they alone can receive an eternal recompense for their fasts, alms deeds, and other works of Christian piety and duties of a Christian soldier. No one, let his almsgiving be as great as it may, no one, even if he pour out his blood for the Name of Christ, can be saved unless they remain within the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.” (Florence, Cantate Domino,1443)

      Since with God all things are possible, it must be admitted that it is possible that God might act in ways unknown to us to save souls not in visible communion with the Catholic Church.

      This is, after all, *possible*.

      But the Church knows of no way- no way at all!- other than baptism, or the desire for it, by which a human person can be joined with the Catholic Church.

      Put another way:

      It is certainly possible for God to have arranged to save some souls apart from the Ark at the time of the Flood.

      He did not do so.

      My humble suggestion is to climb aboard the Ark.

      • John says:

        Having complete trust in God’s love and mercy and from that maintaining hope that most if not all are ultimately saved from Hell is one thing. Presuming that will be the case is quite another. For God’s love and mercy to be effective as the source of such a hope requires a serious response to conform our lives to His. Presumption corrupts the will to do that.

      • Lorraine says:

        Rick, you’re right. Everything must be read in the light of what came before it – in other words – traditional Church teaching.

        God have mercy on us all!

  4. Mrs. Works says:

    Well Everyone , I just came back From Receiving The Body,Blood,Soul and Divinity Of JESUS HIMSELF, and After Holy Mass I got To Sit With JESUS HIMSELF for an Hour ! I am Going Back For Another Visit & I Will Bring Up All The Concerns Of Everyone Here,God Bless You ALL :-D REALITY CHECK !!!

  5. E. Atkinson says:

    Here’s the English translation of the pertinent sentence of Spe Salve 46: “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.”

    But we must look at the same sentence in the normative OFFICIAL Latin text of Spe Salve if we wish to appreciate the intent of the encyclical:
    “Plerisque in hominibus – sic opinari possumus – in ima eorum essentia ad veritatem, ad amorem, ad Deum postremus et interior aditus manet.”

    “Sic opinari possumus” is literally translated: “thus we can (or, are able to) think/suppose/imagine.”

    • Bender says:

      Latin might be the “official” version, but I would wager that the Pope actually wrote the text in German, which was then translated to Latin. And probably the English was translated from the German, rather than a retranslation from the Latin. But if we stick with the Latin, isn’t “opine” a better translation of “opinari” than think/suppose/imagine? If so, then the idea is definitely in the nature of opinion, not a definitive statement.

      The German is “so dürfen wir annehmen” — “so we may assume” or “so we may accept” according to Google translator (I don’t remember enough of my high school German to translate myself).

      As for the object of the supposed supposition/assumption/opinion — “there remains in the depths of their being an ultimate interior openness to truth, to love, to God” — that is, that there remains some spark or ember of goodness remaining in the person no matter how far from God, I would think that such is undeniably 100 percent true as a matter of doctrine and not really supposition or assumption at all, but rather something to be accepted. As Augustine himself pointed out, even Satan has some residual goodness in him — if Satan did not have any goodness, if he was pure evil, then he would cease to exist altogether. So, if the person exists, there must necessarily be some measure of good still in them, some openess to truth, love, God, no matter how infinitely small it might be.

      Is that tiny spark enough for the person to say “yes” when it counts? Will they say “yes” when it counts, even if God were to stop time a milli-second before death in order to give the person one last chance? We can only speculate. But I certainly wouldn’t bet on getting that last chance. Waiting to convert on the assumption that you can always make a death bed conversion is always too high a gamble. Better to get in now.

  6. Bruce Barker says:

    If Martin is a dissenter, than so are: Cardianls Dolan, Wuerl, George and Turkson, as well as Archbishop Di Noia, OP (formerly of the CDF) and other bishops, whose praise of Martin’s book populates its back cover.

    Rather, the more reasonable view of Pope Benedict’s words is Martin’s assessment, which reflects a hermeneutic of continuity with Tradition firmly in keeping with the present pontiff’s own theological orientation. Fr. Barron’s view simply does not.

  7. Greg Mockeridge says:

    The late (and I would say great in fact the greatest Catholic theologian the U.S. has ever produced)Cardinal Avery Dulles had an intersting take on this subject back in May 2003:

    http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/08/the-population-of-hell-23

  8. wife of many years with many children says:

    There were many years that I went to daily mass, not really out of devotion, but with an understanding that something far greater than I could wrap my head around was happening there. I went without feeling much of the time, and forced myself to stumble forth, while wrapped in a kind of coldness. This coldness bothered me. My complaining children who were often with me, made it almost a form of torture. I know that a subtle form of spiritual greed motivated me, as I had read hundreds of books about the gifts and graces to be found there. I was “ambitious” for heaven, and one might even say, to have a “higher” place there. I avoided sin with scrupulosity. Still, there was that coldness.
    .
    Through the years, and after being “gifted” with crosses, some which were nearly unbearable, God took pity on me, granting me a gift of devotion and love for Him; love for the sake of The Love.
    .
    I would be saddened if my children only visited me to ensure their inheritance.
    .
    I would be filled with joy if they came every day with love in their hearts; love for love’s sake.
    .
    What bothers me the most about this debate is that even if fear is the beginning of love and devotion, it is also an impoverished place to stay. One can almost sense a Pharisaical “stingeyness” on the part of those who would argue that “most are damned”. *All* would be damned were it not for the extravagance of God’s love.
    .
    Jesus tells Sr. Faustina that even if a soul is like a dead corpse because of it’s sins, He will revive it if it only it invokes His great mercy.
    .
    The devils understand theology better than we do, but do not love.
    .
    I believe in the unfortunate necessity of Hell, but believe that it is far more efficacious to evangelize with the extravagance of Love than the eternal doom of Hell and Brimstone.
    .
    Those who focus on Hell, proper payment to God, and shrill damnation for the vast majority of creation, remind me of the Prodigal son’s older brother, and the workers in the Vineyard who begrudged the latecomers their pay (Ebeneezer Scrooge?). They have fastidious hearts that resemble well kept little walnuts.
    .
    Augustine and Aquinas were not infallible. Aquinas was acutely aware of this at the end.
    .
    As the little Flower pointed out, a thimble can be filled to overflowing, just as an ocean can be.

    • Patricia says:

      Excellent…write a book about these things…I’d read it.:)

    • Mark says:

      I lived the life of the prodical son, however in a slightly different way. I partied like it was 1999..Sex, Drugs and heavy metal, after all God is a loving God and I will be forgiven if I say I am sorry. My relationship with God was great just ask me.
      I prayed once a day, if I remebered, I went to Mass once every four years, confetional not in 30, Oh yeah me and God were tight, after all I was not interested in my inheritance, I wanted only to love my mother for the rest of my life.

      When I was behind bars, I saw what my many years of my back away from God felt like. It was cold and empty love from shallow life sucking leeches, the fast high for an instant of gratification only left for wanting and all you get is the circle of doom, and the rhythmic beating of the secular drum, come follow me, I feel like doing it for I have no responsibility for my actions as God loves me and I shall be saved if I return and just say I am sorry all is forgiven, forget loving my Father anytime during those years of abuse, I THINK he will just hand me the key’s to the house, Oh yeah.

      I was rudely brought back around 360 degrees, by a very LOVING voice, with a gentle authority, not asking me if I was okay, but asking me which path did I want to take from here on out, fore he loved me to much to se me loose out on my Inheritence which would be spending an eternity with him, I would get it all. All I had to do was pick a path, one would lead me to his love and one away from his love, he had given me the gift od life and the gift of free will, to choose me fate.

      In a dream quality I saw to my left a lush, green pasture with the sun sitting in the eastern sky, as if it were early morning, as I looked farther out I could see the pasture rose in a gentle slope, atop the hill was a large tree, with outstretched branches, and it all looked so good and inviting. the sun shone warmly on my face, so I put my foot down and walk a little bit, and the grass felt cool under my feet, and I could see for ever, yet my HEART was cold and dark.

      To the right I saw a path made of broken shale, sharp edges that cut into the feet, brambles lining the sides of the narrow path, so every other step your skin was pricked by the thorns, and the air was damp and wet, yet in the the distance I could make out a faint light glowing at the far end, of what appeared to be a tunnel. Misery set in to the bone with a chill I prayed for some Sonlight to warm me up, my belly ached for a bite of food, my hearing bad and my voice weak, yet my heart was warming up.

      I chose the path to the right, because we need to suffer a little here on earth before we are worthy of entering heaven, we need to de vigilant in prayer, for we must prepare the way for our King. I realized that I do believe in Hell and I do not want to go there. I know that many more people are on the other path than the one I travel, I feel the eyes upon me, those that I do not know and those that say they are my brother.

      Far to many people on this earth, especially this country, fear loosing their possessions more than the lose of their Fathers’ love, fore i fear the lose of my Fathers’ love more than I love anything on this world. Oh my God I am HEARTLY sorry for having offending you, in choosing to do bad, I have SINNED against you, “Whom I should love above ALL OTHER THINGS”. So I will believe in Heaven and hell, I will believe far more will follow the path to predition than the few that follow the path to salvation, if it was easy I would be there already.

      As I tell my wife and she will tell me. “It is my heart that I worry about, it is not yours’, I will pray for salvation for your soul, I will work in unison with you so we can both brepare for his coming, I bless you in his name Lord and king Jesus Christ, may he have mercy on your soul”.

      Love the Lord our king and Fear you lose your love for him.

      • Eve says:

        Mark,

        Your words remind me of Scupoli’s “The Spiritual Combat” – Love of God, and distrust of self; both of these are necessary for our salvation.

        (The Combat is a practical manual of living. At first it teaches that the sense of life is incessant fighting against egoistic longings and replacing them with sacrifice and charity. The one who does not do this loses, and suffers in Hell; the one who does it, trusting not in his own, but God’s power, triumphs and is happy in Heaven. The work of Scupoli analyses various usual situations and advises how to cope with them, preserving a pure conscience and improving virtue. It emphasizes also the boundless goodness of God, which is the cause of all good. What is bad originates from the human who rebels against God.)
        [edit] http://www.catholictradition.org/Classics/combat2.htm

        God bless you!

      • Marcus says:

        “Love the Lord our King and fear you lose yoru love for Him”.

        That has been my guide the past 15 years of my life. My constant prayer is not so much not to suffer but that I will never lose faith, that I will never ever stop loving Him. That is what I pray for. By my own feeble self it is only too easy to fall so I pray always for the grace not to stop loving Him.

    • John says:

      This is by far one of the best comments I have seen anywhere on this debate. Excellent!

    • Marcus says:

      Some of what you have written is very good. But if you have read the book, the whole point that Martin is making is, if we preach that everyone is saved anyway (which is what post Vatican II preaching has been ) then for the person listening to this, what is the point of becoming a Christian at all?

      If everyone is saved anyway, there really is no reason to evangelize and there is no reason for the person to heed the evangelist. After all, salvation is what this is all about. It makes nonsense of Jesus’ command to evangelize and baptize all nations.

      It is precisely the hegemony of the universalist viewpoint post Vatican II that has led to the haemorrhaging of the Catholic Church. We need to recover the truth teaching of the Church.

      Another thing to remember is that your perseverance during the “cold years” is precisely the training ground for the grace that God would grant you in the end.

      A great many saints endured arid years in prayer – St Teresa, St Theresa and even Mother Theresa.

      Love of God is more than just feelings.

  9. Marty says:

    who then, can be saved??

    • John Siple says:

      Marty,
      Mark was telling us the KEY to Salvation! In one’s next instance, choose the right path. That makes all the difference. There may be a grace of Mercy in your next breath!
      You can be saved!
      John Siple

  10. flan Kus says:

    I never was a fan of Fr. Barron.
    He seems to be the supreme Bloviator of the Catholic Media
    85 percent of what he says has no meaning, just words
    let us have a media blackout of Fr. Barron, meaning, nobody posts his stuff on facebook or twitter, or even refers to him and his books and articles. Like they did to Lyndon Larouche.
    bloviation – Speech or writing that is wordy, pompous, and generally empty of meaning

    • Marcus says:

      I would disagree with you there. Fr Barron is a gifted speaker and has given a lot of beautiful insights on our faith. His Catholicism series is a good catechism for so many under-catechized catholics although there are some parts in that series that I question myself and would hesitate showing to my group.

      However, he is only human and this is why as much as I love his work, I always measure this by the teaching of the Church.

      As Msgr Pope has said, his original video on hell is quite enlightening. The second one, I think has some questionable points. I think it may be due to his fondness for von Balthazar.

  11. Cathy says:

    Msgr Pope, you sell yourself very short if you do not view yourself as of the same caliber as Fr. Barron and Ralph Martin. Trust me that you are every bit as skilled as teacher, preacher, theologian and scholar. You are articulate and have a wonderful sense of humor. You present very balanced and respectful essays. I am amazed at the breadth of your knowledge. I always come away with fresh insights on multiple levels. I have profited tremendously. And the videos are outstanding, too. …In fact, I have no doubt that Jesus led me to your blog. You are now one of my mentors and I am deeply grateful. Thank you!!!

    • Thank you, you are very kind. I will say, more technically, I am often amazed at the depth of Fr. B’s learning, especially in Philosophy and Scholastic theology. He is also very conversant in the trends etc of modern philosophy and is knowledgeable regarding the the classics. He is quite the renaissance man. Dr. Martin too, has sweeping knowledge of theology and philosophy. I am far less skilled and trained in all these areas, I am essentially a parish priest. I DO appreciate however that God has given me gifts that you note and I don’t mean to seem to discount them at all and am glad that you find them helpful. God bless you.

    • Marcus says:

      I agree with you Cathy. I was very thankful when I stumbled upon this site. Praise God for Msgr Pope.

      I have emailed his articles to my friends.

  12. Maria says:

    As far as knowing if ANYONE is in hell, don’t we know according to scripture that at least the rich man (who saw Lazarus in the bosom of Abaraham) is in hell? Are there other scriptural references to specific persons in hell?

  13. David Hahn says:

    Msgr. Pope,
    Didn’t one of the most revered Theologians of our time By John Paul II, Hans Urs Von Balthasar, write a book on a similar topic called “Dare We Hope That All Men Be Saved”? I have never read it but heard he makes a case that heaven may not be crowded. I also read a book called “The Meaning of Grace” by Cardinal Journet. In it he makes this statement “So if, anyone is not among the predestined…..” pg49. By him saying “if” seems to me that he is not sure that there are people in heaven either. If you were to read what St. John Of The Cross defines as a “narrow gate” and a “narrow path” it is easy to see why the Lord would say there are few who enter the gate or path to heaven. Maybe Mary and St. John the Baptist, or St Francis of Assisi did and some of the other Saints who embraced total self-abdegnation. The rest of us are on the path to hell according to St. John. I think when Our Lord is saying things about hell he is speaking not literally. Even the Apostles question Jesus on the possibility of anyone getting to heaven, (so I can see why others would think so as well) when he says how hard it is for one who is rich to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus answers his apostles by saying for man it is impossible but for God all things are possible. All things. He said this in the context of who can get to heaven. Non of us can get to heaven. We all fall short and it is only because of God’s mercy that any of us to get there.

    So I think the Lord is trying to set the scene for his mercy when he is talking about hell. He is letting us know the greatness of His mercy by showing us how difficult it is to make it to heaven. If Christ acted out of pure Justice we would all go to hell. But Christ’s mercy triumphed over his justice upon the cross. St Therese says, “I know we must be very pure in order to appear before the God of all holiness, but I know also the Lord is infinitely just, and it is this justice, which terrifies so many souls, which is the object of my joy and confidence… I hope for as much from the the justice of God as from His mercy. It is because he is just that he is compassionate and full of gentleness, slow to punish and abounding in mercy, for he knows our frailty. He remembers that we are nothing but dust” Taken from I believe in Love By Father Jean C.J. d’Elbee

    The CCC states in 1735 “Imputability and responsibility for an action can be diminished or even nullified by ignorance, inadvertence, duress, fear, habit, inordinate attachments, and other psychological or social factors.” Now I realize that this statement says “can be diminished or even nullified”. So it is not a given that any act is diminished or nullified by one of these conditions. However I wonder how often one of these conditions diminishes someones imputibility just enough so a person doesn’t give full consent or doesn’t quite have full knowledge, both which are needed for a sin to be mortal. It seems St Therese who is a Doctor of the Church, might think it happens more often than not. I understand your arguments. People can become presumptuous and think I can do anything and still go to heaven because God is understanding of my weakness. I am certainly not going to make the case that nobody is in hell. I understand why some people feel hell is not crowded. I can see from what Our Lord says in scripture why people think hell maybe crowded. I would ask you to do one thing. Please read the book I mentioned above by Father Jean C.J. d’Elbee, if you haven’t already, called “I Believe in Love” from SOPHIA INSTITUTE PRESS and let me know what you think of that book. I now how busy people and especially priest are today but I think this book is well worth anybodies time.

    Thank you

    David Hahn

    • Marcus says:

      Hi David,

      I encourage you to read “Will Many be saved?” by Ralph Martin (the book that is the subject of all this hoo haa).

      He did a critique of von Balthazars’s Dare We Hope.

  14. robert waligora says:

    I don’t need double talk from those with higher learning….I’ll go to the Blessed Mother Mary and the apparition of Fatima in which HELL ITSELF was shown to the 3 children….souls fall into HELL like snowflakes…..case closed

  15. Brenda says:

    Dear Lord, we need many more clear thinking and courageous theologians like Michael Voris. “the harvest is full, but the laborers are few..”

  16. Christine Niles says:

    Thank you, Monsignor Pope, for this clear, frank commentary on hell, sorely needed today. The more seriously we take hell, the more seriously we will take our duty to evangelize a world that is lost.

  17. Maria Barnes says:

    Matthew 7:13-14
    “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.”
    -Jesus

  18. Bob says:

    I dare to presume that for God even one soul in Hell, is one too many. Perhaps Fr. Baron leaves out the topic of Hell for the other Christians so that one day, when they covert to Catholicysm, the Holy Spirit will help them realize that Hell is as real as Heaven. Fr. Baron is too smart to know how NOT to evangelize people whose faith is rooted in false teachings. Give them the “good wine” first, and the “bad one” later. It’s not a Catholic trap, but rather Catholic diplomacy. And for those who converted or reconverted it just works because the Truth becomes the keeper of their hearts, minds, and souls.

    • Marcus says:

      But isn’t it precisely this kind of Catholic diplomacy that has emptied the pews?

      The interesting this is that more conservative parishes are the ones that are increasing.

  19. Meg says:

    “I am not of the caliber of either of these men…”. Monsignor, please know I clicked to this link from another blog that had your post among Barron’s, Voris’s and others on Hell to choose from. It is your link I clicked first. I trust you and your teachings, as you are loyal to Christ, his Church and the Magesterium. You truly see what our Lord is trying to tell us. We must take up our cross and follow Him, or perish alone. In Hell. Without God. They say the devil’s greatest triumph in the 20th century was convincing Man there was no longer a Hell. We are in the 21st Century and great priests such as Barron are swaying. I am so scared for the coming years. What must our Lord think?

  20. Pete Holter says:

    Monsignor Pope!

    Thank you for raising this concern. I am concerned by Father Barron’s comment as well.

    I stand with Augustine in his repeated assertions that there are few who would be saved when compared with the many who are lost (even within the Church itself). He acknowledged that God “could give the gospel to man even without the help or agency of men” (On Christian Doctrine, Bk. 4, Ch. 16:33); but, at the same time, he brought our attention to the fact that Sts. Cyprian and Ambrose “were of the mind to understand that it is given to very few to receive the teaching of salvation through God Himself, or through the angels of heaven, without any human preaching to them; but that it is given to many to believe in God through human agency” (On the Gift of Perseverance, Ch. 19:48). To appreciate that few are saved, but that most of those few who are saved are saved through human agency: I think that this “is the most tenable and actually the most evangelically promising” position because it gives us an impetus and a sense of urgency to share the Gospel of our Lord. “The time is short” for me to become “all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 7:29; 9:22).

    Father Barron. We love you. I am indebted to you personally for your course on the 7 deadly sins helping my wife come into the Church. Thank you so much. Catholics are free to believe that the majority are saved, if this is how they understand the words of our Lord. Augustine sees it otherwise and understood something along these lines to be an “amicable controversy with those tender-hearted Christians” (City of God, Bk. 21, Ch. 17). We are free to suppose that the majority will be saved, and to hope “that very few persist to the end in this attitude of rebellion or even defiance of God” (Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 17). Please don’t attack us for believing the face value of the words of our Lord in thinking that more are lost than are saved. It appears to me that the Catholic Church has always embraced/tolerated both opinions. Although, I haven’t seen anyone defend well from the Scriptures the position that the majority will be saved.

    “Neither ought we to be moved by the consideration that many consent unto the devil, and few follow God; for the grain, too, in comparison with the chaff, has greatly the defect in number. But even as the husbandman knows what to do with the mighty heap of chaff, so the multitude of sinners is nothing to God, who knows what to do with them, so as not to let the administration of His kingdom be disordered and dishonored in any part” (On the Catechizing of the Uninstructed, Ch. 19.31).

    And please consider this pastoral admonition from Augustine:

    “Brethren, I wish to be extremely fearful; for it is better not to give you a hurtful security. I will not give what I do not receive, as I fear, I will affright: I would make you secure if I were myself made secure: I myself fear eternal fire” (Exposition on Psalm 81.20).

    I love all of you guys. Thank you again, Monsignor Pope. Thank you, Michael Voris and Ralph Martin. I am happy to be in the Catholic Church and to know that we can have these discussions in love.

    With love in Christ,
    Pete

  21. Paul C says:

    Msgr Pope,
    Doesn’t this all come down to the authentic Catholic teaching that you must be in the state of grace at death to enter heaven. And we know that with a few exceptions ( invincible ignorance, the baptism of desire, the baptism of blood), you need to be baptized to enter the state of grace so there would seem to be finite limits to those in heaven. The pool for heaven is further reduced by those that commit mortal sin and don’t reconcile to God through the sacrament of reconciliation. One way to look at this problem is to believe in the universality of heaven is to deny the efficacy of the sacraments in the economy of salvation.

    Obviously wishing that others go to Hell is not loving and trying to judge others’ fitness for heaven is inappropriate, which I think is why some people fall back on the paradigm that heaven is for everyone. Nevertheless, we should recognize that this is harmful. After all, the first two spiritual works of mercy are:
    - Instruct the ignorant
    - Admonish the sinner.
    It is absolutely in everyone’s best interest that the truth of salvation be taught. And that includes the sacraments role in the economy of salvation, does it not?

  22. Patt says:

    The thought of Hell and the forever lost–is a most powerful reason to pray, pray. pray for those around us who reject and neglect Our Lord. We do not want any of our loved ones to end up there, including ourselves. It is a worthy cause to pray for the salvation of souls—-I hope God will listen to my prayers…

  23. Patt says:

    Monsignor Pope–you did an EXCELLENT breakdown of the subject of Hell. I am certain Martin’ s book is a very scholarly book on the subject, considering his careful scrutiny of various sources. I felt Fr Barron was far too dismissive on his assessment of the book (subject), “Will Many Be Saved?”,

  24. valeriajoseph says:

    I belive in hell however for me hell is the absence of jesus in our hearts which brings a lots of suffering I cannot imagine a Mercyful God sitting and roasting human beings for their sinfulness for the saying goes we make our own hell and heaven when Jesus is present in us ,there heavenly peace and that is the most important part of our lives

    • Marcus says:

      Fr Barron and Ralph Martin (although I think he was quoting someone else but I can’t remember who) that hell and heaven are the same thing viewed from different vantage points.

      For the damned Jesus is a pain to behold, for the saved Jesus is a joy. What makes the damned writhe in pain is the very same being that makes the saints rejoice in joy.

  25. Cvp says:

    Father Barron = A great Trojan Horse. Time to wake up.

  26. Irenaeus of New York says:

    Some pertinent reviews:

    Timothy Cardinal Dolan
    Archbishop of New York

    For many years we have all appreciated Dr. Martin’s considerable contributions to the mission of the Church. Now he gives us a profound doctrinal foundation for understanding and implementing the ‘new evangelization.’ This is a shot in the arm for bishops, priests, and laity as we respond to the Holy Father’s call.

    Donald Cardinal Wuerl
    Archbishop of Washington, D.C.

    Dr. Ralph Martin’s Will Many Be Saved? contributes significantly to a richer understanding of our faith, helps restore confidence in the gospel message, and engenders a desire to share the truth of Christ’s message. An important contribution to the pastoral strategy of the ‘new evangelization.’

    Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I.
    Archbishop of Chicago

    Martin clarifies a doctrinal point that has been often obscured but must be recovered as a necessary foundation for the ‘new evangelization.’ This is a uniquely important book.”

    Peter Cardinal Turkson
    President, Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

    Provides a refreshing reminder of the undiminished urgency and validity of the missionary mandate of Jesus to his followers to evangelize.

    Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia, O.P.
    Vatican City

    These penetrating reflections will compel us to reassess our pastoral approach to the preaching of the gospel in our present circumstances. An important book.

    Archbishop Robert Carlson
    Archbishop of St. Louis

    Our response to the new evangelization will lack enthusiasm and conviction if we don’t realize what’s truly at stake here — our eternal salvation in Christ. Ralph Martin’s book provides much-needed clarity on these very important issues.

    Bishop David L. Ricken
    Green Bay, Wisconsin
    Chairman, Bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis

    I highly recommend that all Catholics and other Christians concerned with salvation give this important book the attention it deserves.

  27. Cathy says:

    From Catholic World Report’s column on “Best Books I read in 2012″:
    Jim Graves, a frequent contributor to Catholic World Report, is a Catholic writer living in Newport Beach, California: …Catholicism by Fr. Robert Barron. Good, modern presentation of the Catholic faith. Incorporates images of great works of art throughout the book. There are some points I’d quibble with Fr. Barron on, such as his discussion of who goes to hell, but overall a good read.

    Here’s another person noting potential problems with Fr. Barron’s depiction of Hell.

  28. Fr Jeffrey says:

    Having just read Ralph Martin’s book what I would like to add to this discussion is my own experience as a priest. In theology we make a distinction between imperfect contrition and perfect contrition. The former is contrition for one’s sins out of fear of hell. The latter is contrition for one’s sins out of love of God. The good news is that both imperfect and perfect contrition can get one to heaven. I must say that of the relatively few Catholics (if we take them as a percentage of the whole) that frequent the sacrament of reconciliation, in my experience, the majority are operating at the level of imperfect contrition. Even as I honestly reflect within my own heart I see that my love of God is lacking in such a way that at times it is not deep enough to move me to avoid sin and that the sins I commit do not pain my heart as they should if my love of God were deeper. I thus operate at the level of imperfect contrition many times. I believe that only a very holy person will operate at all times out of love of God and repent of his or her sins out of perfect contrition.

    That being said, many Catholics have abandoned the sacrament of reconciliation altogether. This is the mark of someone who has no awareness of his or her sinfulness and the consequences that sin brings about. These people have neither imperfect nor perfect contrition since they fail to repent of their sins at all. I believe that this is the fruit of a failure on the part of my brother priests to preach about sin and hell. But let’s not forget that such a choice to eliminate these topics from preaching was not accidental. It stemmed from a particular pastoral model adopted after Vatican II.

    This pastoral model which is the logical conclusion of what seems to be Fr Barron’s position on hell claims to be one of hope, hope that by preaching the love and mercy of God while at the same time downplaying the possibility of eternal punishment in hell more people will be drawn to the Catholic Church than would be drawn should we adopt a more severe pastoral model that at times tries to move people out of fear of hell into a deeper relationship with God. I think the statistics since Vatican II give clear witness to the fact, however, that this pastoral model of hope has not lead greater numbers of people to enter the Catholic Church. Further, within the Church itself it has spawned a tragic lack of awareness of sin and an apathy towards its consequences.

    If my priestly experience has any merit, then I believe that from a pedagogical standpoint it is unrealistic to think that by preaching in such a way that highlights God’s love and mercy while downplaying hell we will instantly create converts that are operating at the level of perfect contrition. Unless some extraordinary grace is given by God to the soul, such a hope is unrealistic. In the majority of cases one must begin at the level of imperfect contrition and then with time and great effort as he or she grows in the spiritual life, then he or she will begin to develop at the level of perfect contrition.

    Lastly, I’d like to ask those who have such a visceral reaction to a priest preaching about the realities of sin and hell, What harm is being done by preaching these truths of our faith? Is this pastoral model which has been used by the Church for many centuries detrimental to the mission of the Church to save souls? It seems to me that some take up the false assumption that if I preach about hell and my preaching moves someone to conversion via fear of hell I’ve practically done no good because the person is still lacking in love of God and operating at a shallow level of faith. But should we not rejoice that such a soul is at least now operating at the level of imperfect contrition and has faith? At least such a person will be motivated by fear of hell to avoid mortal sin, a prerequisite for developing in the spiritual life and a pedagogical step in movement towards perfect contrition and love of God. I don’t believe that any of us priests who preach about the reality of sin and hell would suggest stopping at the level of imperfect contrition. The goal is always to reach perfect love of God. But you’ve got to start somewhere with a soul and I think history bears witness to the fact that imperfect contrition is a logical place to start.

  29. Terra says:

    At least I know what the Catechism says is true.
    The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which Pope John Paul II stated is “a sure and authentic reference text for teaching Catholic doctrine.” says in paragraph 1446 that, “Christ instituted the sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the sacrament of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification. The Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as “the second plank [of salvation] after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace.”"

  30. Steve says:

    Salvation comes through Christ and Him alone.
    Repenting of our sins, trusting in His final work done on the cross, and we must go directly to Him not by any other means. 1Tim 2-5 For there is one God and one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. There needs to be a turning away from self and things of this world. A turning away from sin and living a Holy life. It comes from submission to God and knowing Him. The closer you are to Him the more you want what He desires. Take your eyes off of Him and live your life as you want, that’s turning your back on Him and there needs to be repentance, but to our mediator and Him alone. A sure way to go to hell is a life of sin and no repentance. Repentance needs to be sincere, and Honest. Christ knows our hearts, just praying to be forgiven but continue the sin isn’t true repentance. Go through the Lamb the only true mediator, author and finisher of our faith, the first and the last, the Alpha and Omega, the only one who is worthy to forgive and remove blemish. Seek to Love Him with all of your heart, soul and mind continually, Heaven is there for such as these.

    • Well, Salvation DOES come from Christ alone, however, the Same Christ said to his apostles, “Whose sins YOU forgive they are forgiven.” Do you think this mandate has no real meaning and if so, are you not vacating the Word of the Lord? Absolution is surely a work of the Lord but he does use human means to accomplish MANY things, for example faith. Faith comes by hearing…hearing from the Word of God…..But how can they hear…unless someone preach? I have no doubt that God saves and absolves me and Jesus is the mediator, but he does send forth human beings to speak and minister for him. So, I think in quoting 1 Tim you are setting forth a false dichotomy. That Christ is sole Mediator and that he has set forth apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers to build up the body and that, as Paul says, the apostles had among other tasks the ministry of reconciliation, ….all of these are true and do not exclude but rather include and balance the picture.

  31. dom. Noah Moerbeek CPMO says:

    This statement was condemned by Bl Pius IX

    17. Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ. — Encyclical “Quanto conficiamur,” Aug. 10, 1863, etc.

    http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius09/p9syll.htm

    The majority of the world is not Catholic nor has it ever been, we are not allowed to have a good hope that those who died outside the Church are saved.

  32. [...] opinions very troubling, such as Msgr. Charles Pope of the Archdiocese of Washington (see here) as well as Dr. Scott Hahn, who once stated that Balthasar’s theory was absolutely without [...]

  33. kmo says:

    “CCC 1821 We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere “to the end” and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for “all men to be saved.” She longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of heaven:

    Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end.”

    Pay close attention that the hope that all are saved is conditioned to “those who love him and do his will.” And that we should hope for the grace to persevere to the end.

    Fr. Barrons simple “it is reasonable to hope that all are saved” is not conditioned by these things. In his video he does not mention that the writings of Origen were condemned by the Church at the time, and the writings of Balthazar are equally controversial. Voris said that Barrons conclusion was misleading, and he was correct.

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