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Hurts and Hopes Regarding the Recent Debates on Hell

December 9, 2012 314 Comments

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.

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  1. Matthew_Roth says:

    I actually don’t think that the video from the Vortex was useful. What we needed is exactly what you provided, namely something that isn’t condescending. I emailed them to tell them that. There’s charity which is what we are called to. Not happy-clappy or all fire-and-brimstone which is what some in Fr Z’s comments did, and it caused despair. We need to encourage people to become saints, not avoid Hell. Though those are the same, the message and its presentation are different. I think that the rector position at Mundelein is a testament to Fr Barron and his work, but I wonder if he needs step further aside from Word on Fire. Maybe it’s gotten to him a little too much.
    Also, I wish people would keep in mind that Fr Barron is not deliberately dissenting (as far as I can see it, he is articulating something that he wishes, something that the Church Fathers on down have hoped for; perhaps I’m wrong, and he is dissenting) and that saints- even the greatest theologians and Drs of the Church- have their uncharitable disputes. St Jerome for one had a fiery temper.

    • Yes, I realize that Mr. Vorris can be strident in his tone, I generally find his videos informative but the tone loses me, you might say I get caught in the vortex and whirlwond of prophetic anger and lose the message :-) . But I do appreciate here his ray of hope that we are even discussing this more widely. Further I like his analysis here that we like to blame God for Hell and and put all the focus on God’s role, practically ignoring our own role or decisions.

      • Scott W. says:

        When I was a kid I saw a billboard from a fundamentalist church which in this case got it right. It said, “Heaven or Hell, not a chance but a choice.

      • Brad says:

        I’m reminded of the foolish heart who complained to his master’s Face that this Master was a “hard man”: souls in hell blame God for being there, eternally blame Him. While they were enfleshed they began this very sad habit.

        If we look at a crucifix we will know that our Master is the kindest, most loving, most humble. He came down and suffered horribly for us and even now accepts constant slander and reproaches. Sometimes I have astonishing thoughts that perhaps at the particular judgment, it is Christ who has the trepidation about meeting us — real trepidation, the kind which his still very much physical heart pounds awash with fear hormones. He is Rex, yes. But He is meekness itself and perhaps even now is nervous about meeting such a hard-hearted creature as some of us are, the hardness of which astonishes angels. Does He fear approaching us in that twilight only to see us roll our eyes and attempt to talk over Him, to then angrily shake our fists at Him, then to turn our backs to Him? It hurts Him. He is True Man. It hurts Him. The beloved wields all power to wound, even if the lover is objectively greater. When meekness meets un-meekness, which receives the bruise? This is the nature of Christ: love that obliterates itself even to receive one kind look from the beloved. The beloved is a dove and the lover rips Himself open to make a home for her, many homes to choose from, many wounds, even if the dove rejects Him. Then He just stands there ripped open. Is there any sorrow like My sorrow? You who pass by the way, will you come make a home in these wounds? How about you? Or you?

        But men turn away, blaming Him for their own mistakes, even at that moment when He has assured them of His peace and forgiveness. I wonder if He swallows His pride, of which He permitted Himself none, and runs after them as they exit, for a little while, trying to beg, say anything, all the way to the gates of hell, even having His fingers slammed in the door as He tried to keep it open, through His tears. Tears! The Father scandalously ran out into the road as the prodigal came home. The Holy Spirit exhausts Himself here on earth.

        “Behold the Heart which has so loved men that it has spared nothing, even to exhausting and consuming Itself, in order to testify Its love; and in return, I receive from the greater part only ingratitude, by their irreverence and sacrilege, and by the coldness and contempt they have for Me in this Sacrament of Love.”

        May God bless you, Monsignor!

        • lost 'n found says:

          Brad: methinks the answer to your wondering (regarding the “as they exit”) can be found in John 6. Jesus chases us in life (“the hound of heaven”), sends messengers, sends His Mother and, possibly, even gives a last chance at the last moment (see St. Faustina’s diary) but begging would not be respectful of free choice, as it’s a form of coercion.

    • Tess says:

      we do know there are people in hell. just ask lucia. jacinta and Francesco

  2. Crowhill says:

    Very good post, Monsignor.

    The weak-kneed, clearly unbiblical and unhistorical stuff we usually hear from Catholics on this topic — even, or perhaps I should say especially — from influential and high-ranking Catholics, has been a major factor in my loss of respect for the Catholic Church.

    A prophet who says “peace, peace” when there is no peace is a false prophet.

  3. Dismas says:

    TOO COOL! This conversation and the players involved fascinate and enthrall me as well, especially in light of the recent comments by the Prefect of the CDF, Archbishop Muller:

    http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2012/11/30/prefect-of-the-cdf-says-seeing-vatican-ii-as-a-rupture-is-heresy/

    To quote another favorite priest, Fr. Z, “the road has a ditch on both sides.” I have to admit I haven’t read Ralph Martin’s new book, but I have read both blog article’s of Fr. Barron and Ralph Martin’s reply. I suppose it’s not fair to comment since I haven’t yet read Ralph Martin’s book but this was my initial thought:

    I was thrilled with Ralph Martin’s take on Hell because until now I had only, unfairly, dismissed him as a stuck in the ditch on the side of the road ‘Judge not lest ye be judged’ dyed in the wool Charismatic. (I know, I’m a hypocrite!), However, he has now changed my paradigm, and although I found his remarks astute, I wonder if Ralph hasn’t over steered and is careening into the other ditch on the opposite side of the road? Where is his view regarding Purgatory?

    Fr. Barron’s remarks didn’t alarm me. I found his view gently pointing out the center lane and maybe a lack of consideration of Purgatory in Ralph’s remarks. Personally, right or wrong, I’ve always thought that at least a third are doomed to Hell:

    And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to be delivered; that, when she should be delivered, he might devour her son. [Apocalypse (Revelation) 12:4]

    [12] And the fourth angel sounded the trumpet, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars, so that the third part of them was darkened, and the day did not shine for a third part of it, and the night in like manner. [Apocalypse (Revelation) 8:12]

    At any rate, Michael Voris’s opinions didn’t have much effect on my opinion, I always find his opinions and views quite easy to dismiss for whatever reason.

  4. Dismas says:

    At any rate, Michael Voris’s opinions didn’t have much effect on my opinion, I always find his opinions and views quite easy to dismiss for whatever reason. ….

    To be more specific, I find him easy to dismiss because I perceive him to be obstinately stuck in a ditch.

    • Yes, I do understand the tone problem when it comes to the vortex. I have often wished that someone could get to him and try to moderate it a bit. For, to some extent I think we (clergy especially) need Catholics like Vorris to speak to issues where there are real problems, in the Church that need addressing, and lay people have a right and need to be heard regarding their frustrations. But the tone is very off putting and the message gets lost. But again here I think he makes two important points, as I mention in a comment above.

      • Steve says:

        I have been Catholic for three years. If it was not for Mr Voris’s, and those like hims direct style I would still be dismissing the Catholic faith as a wishy washy faithless bunch of rubes.

          • Mrs. Works says:

            Mr. Voris is What you call a Down To Earth , no nonesense Brother of Truth in This Effeminized Modern Church Of today,We need More MEN like him tospeak the TRUTH without Fear of human Respect,,,,,oh that a handful of Bishops would have his courage!!! The World Would Be Changed!

  5. Annette Strachan says:

    A view of eternal ‘searching, but not finding,’ is terrifying.

  6. Bender says:

    Martin writes in his book that he hopes that the Pope can further clarify his remarks at some point in the future

    But is that really necessary? For curiousity sake it is an interesting question. But beyond that, should we put such questions in the “does it really matter? what’s it to you? worry about yourself first” category? That certainly was Jesus response to Peter when he asked about John at the end of the Gospel. (he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about him?” . . . “What concern is it of yours? You follow me.”)

    The answer to the question of “how many will be saved (or damned)?” is likely some will and some won’t. If we say that “many” are in hell or on their way there, does that mean 50 percent, 60 percent, 80 percent? Does it mean 10 percent? If about 10 billion people who have been born throughout human history, 10 percent would mean a population of hell of one billion people — that is “many” by any definition. (Even one percent would be many – 100 million in hell.) Is it closer to universal salvation or universal damnation? I don’t know (and I’m pretty sure that Pope Benedict has rejected the idea of universal salvation, that everyone eventually goes to heaven, and that he did not mean in Spe Salvi that only a handful go). Does anyone really need to know? If even one person is in hell that is one too many, so we should not have the attitude of looking at all the sin and evil of the world and being eager for hell to be packed full of people, else that attitude be the standard by which we end up there as well.

    It seems to me that the more important the thing to keep in mind is that heaven is not automatic. The important thing to keep in mind is the sins of presumption and despair. We need to cooperate with Jesus and His grace if we want to go to heaven AND we also have to help other people get there. We cannot be satisfied with our sorry selves being saved — we won’t be if we don’t work to help other people come to know Jesus as well.

    As such, even if we later find that 99.9 percent are in heaven, we should presume here and now that 100 percent will not be going there without a severe constant conversion toward the Lord and a lot of help, both our help and grace and cooperating with that grace. That is, we should err on the side of caution and reject the idea of universal salvation — we should certainly profess that it is God’s will that all be saved and therefore desire that His will be done, that all will come to accept God’s invitation, but not take it for granted that everyone will automatically do so. We should presume that the embers of an “interior openness to truth, to love, to God” (Spe Salvi 46) – whether in ourselves or others – are not enough because they will die out completely unless we help them grow into a flame.

    If Pope Benedict were to clarify and say definitively that only 25 percent will be saved, we still do not know who that 25 percent is, or that 75 percent will be saved, we still do not know who that is – so we still need to evangelize all 100 percent (including ourselves). Reading both Ralph Martin and Fr. Barron, I think they are on agreement on that.

    Where they disagree, I would agree that Fr. Barron probably goes too far in saying that this is analogous to the dissent over Humanae Vitae, but then Martin does himself no favors in his rebuttal taking a few steps precisely in that direction with his discussion on what is authoritative and what is not authoritative, thereby suggesting that maybe Fr. Barron has a point here and giving ammunition to dissenters to do the same thing. Martin would have been on firmer ground avoiding the authoritativeness question altogether and simply pointing out that the wording itself “we may suppose” was a supposition and leave it at that (or simply not respond to the point at all) without undercutting his main point, which was “to reveal the urgency of evangelization.”

    • I realize that we cannot speak in terms of percentages. But the Lord used the terms many and few and we cannot, it seems to me wholly dismiss his use of these terms, even if we cannot specify numbers, percentages or membership rolls of those in Hell.

  7. edracruz says:

    Humbly, I see no contradictions. Neither claim know that Hell is densely populated. Both are suppositions. I believe even the Church can not claim that Judas Iscariot is in hell, categorically. Only GOD know this. I believe this too is a mystery unfathomable by flesh. Of course, it would feel comforting that those who do not accept the Love of GOD to be separated to those who do. I would not want anybody oppose to my belief to be with forever, either side. I would refer every one to the vision of hell shown to the children of Fatima, of which, afterwards, Jacinta, in her tender young age began to offer her sufferings for salvation of souls. They must have seen the horrible repercussion of not accepting the Love of GOD and they must have seen multitudes for this young girl to impel her self the way she did. But again this is a supposition on my part.
    As usual, a good article. GOD bless you, Monsignor.

  8. Ellis says:

    I find this catholic talk about hell completely… well, I don’t know which word to use – hollow? unnecessary? misplaced? pointless? Yeah, pointless is maybe the best word. I mean what is the point of talking to people about hell, what’s more – scarring people with it, if it is definite teaching of the church that the salvation of the soul is wholly of the grace of god, and such grace is undeserved and undeservable? If there is nothing I can do, than there is nothing I can do. Be there hell or not, if I can do nothing about it, then it is completely pointless to dwell on it. If I am going to end up there, then I am going to end up there, there is nothing I can do about it, since I can not deserve the grace of god necessary not to go there. So, it will be what will be, better not to think about it and enjoy while you can. Also, in the light of the same doctrine of grace necessary for salvation, I find this Jesus’s sadness which is often mentioned… well… hypocritical. He is God, so he is the only one who can do something about that, who *is* doing something about that and deciding who gets to get the grace, and now he is sad that some people do not get that grace and go to hell. Well, sorry, but that is the very definition of hypocrisy.

    • Avoid using terms like hollow, unnecessary, misplaced, pointless. Or at least grant some of the rest of us poor slobs a little room to discuss what we (pointlessly?) think is an important topic. I will note that a certain individual named Jesus happened to discuss this “pointless” topic a good bit and maybe he had more in mind “scarring” (I think you mean scaring?) people. Perhaps as a non-Catholic you have a tinge of predestination in the remainder of your remarks (i.e. “nothing I can do about it etc) and thus you fail to understand who some of the rest of us might actually think (along with Jesus and Paul) that there is something we can do about (in the non-Pelagian sense of cooperating with Grace and evangelizing others). At any rate please agian, I beg your gracious indulgence if a few us poor slobs engage in a “hollow, unnecessary, misplaced, pointless” discussion.

    • Steve M says:

      I am very confused by your post. Of course I cannot on my own determine whether I end up in Heaven or Hell but if I deny Christ and the HOly Ghost I can insure I end up in Hell. Faith and Works. Christ through His Passion has obtained for me the chance at Heaven so I can screw it up. If the Church fails to follow Christ and teach about Hell then they have failed miserably in their primary job: getting souls to Heaven.

  9. David says:

    Thank you for your wonderful article, Father. I believe your words deserve much attention!

    I haven’t seen much of the talk…but if there is debate over how many people are in hell, I at least hope there isn’t any debate among Catholics on WHAT sends a person there. Unforgiven mortal sin sends you to hell, right?

    In His Holiness’ words in Spe Salvi, wouldn’t “people who have totally destroyed their desire for truth and readiness to love” match the catechism’s words “Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man”? And so wouldn’t His Holiness’ words “much filth covers purity,” match up more with venial sin? Or is there another way (within the “hermeneutic of continuity”) that we could read His Holiness’ words?

    Thanks for all you do, Father!

  10. Ellis says:

    Geeeeez, I just listened to this Vorris video, and I was… well… astonished. What a selective reading of saint Augustine and saint Thomas!! What’s more, Vorris states an outright pelagian heresy when he says that God gives grace and then we of ourselves cooperate with it. Since he mentions catholic heavyweights like saint Augustine, maybe he might read a little about Augustine’s explanation of the phrase ‘grace on grace’. It is the constant teaching of the catholic church that *everything* good comes wholly from God, so even accepting the grace comes of the grace. That is, the much I remember, what Augustine taught this phrase ‘grace on grace’ meant. Well, I don’t even have to retell Augustine here, I can merely put link to his Enchiridion, and point to Chapter 98. It is all summed up there in a so fine manner. I really would like Michael Vorris’s words explained in light of this teaching of saint Augustine, as he says – catholic heavyweight. Frankly, to me the sound outright silly.

    • Barron and Martin agree on Augustine and Thomas. As to Mr. Vorris, the video is not placed there affirm every detail. i used the video because I think he is right that it is good we are discussing this topic and because he well states that we often focus solely on what God does in terms of judgment and almost never on what we do. I think that is a good insight. But really Ellis, as you said above, aren’t you now engaging in a pointless discussion?

      • yan says:

        It seems pointlessness is to a great degree in the eye of the beholder. Having asked [pleaded, begged] for indulgence to discuss what you think is important perhaps you ought to give some to others who think the same of what they themselves have to say.

  11. John says:

    Rather strident, but who can doubt that Voris is correct? Jesus wouldn’t have come to live among us and face total humiliation and an agonising death if the majority of us were already saved!

    • Yes the whole Crucifixion, even the incarnation starts to look a little like an over-reaction if the vast majority of us are in pretty good shape. Though perhaps the doctrine of Purgatory is only available due to that. But it seems pretty clear from the scriptural evidence that Jesus was far less sanguine than most of us moderns about our condition or the percentages of the saved

      • Jason says:

        This comment is a bit problematic. Fr. Barron’s position, and one cannot help but hear Von Balthasar here, is that Christ is what makes “hope possible” (neither are promoting Apocatastasis as in Origen) The historical fact of the Incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Christ is the defininitive divine act of love that conquers sin. Christ does not only take on the sins of the few, but the entirety of sin. This then is the foundation of Fr. Barron’s position. The Incarnation does not “start to look a little like an over-reaction”, rather it is the only way salvation for anyone is possible. None of us are in pretty “good” shape outside of Christ.

  12. David Craig says:

    Love Lewis’s idea that there are no gates in hell. People can leave anytime they want to; but, of course, they choose not to because they want to be there. That serves a two-fold purpose: they merit the state, and their doing so does no damage to the concept of God’s mercy.

    Also, as it literature, perhaps this tension is good. Jesus says many–trust the omniscient one as my wife says–the Pope wonders what that means. What it means, for all of us, is that we’ve got to do better.

  13. Carolyn says:

    Thank you, Monsignor, for an excellent and timely piece on the topic of hell. Lest anyone have any doubt as to the veracity of Christ’s description of hell, one need look no further than the vision of St. Faustina, a contemporary saint: “I, Sister Faustina Kowalska, by the order of God, have visited the Abysses of Hell so that I might tell souls about it and testify to its existence…the devils were full of hatred for me, but they had to obey me at the command of God, What I have written is but a pale shadow of the things I saw. But I noticed one thing: That most of the souls there are those who disbelieved that there is a hell.” (Diary 741)
    Full Description: http://www.divinemercysunday.com/vision.htm

  14. Steve M says:

    I am not a theologian so this is amateur night for me. I assume that God would like to see Hell unpopulated but having given us the chance of Salvation through His Son He seems to be leaving it up to us. It doesn’t matter so much how full or empty it is but that for each individual there will be a place in either Heaven or Hell where we will spend eternity. Jesus wants us to know it is very real and without radical change in our lives and minds we are racing toward Hell. Equally important is God’s Mercy. If God will forgive Peter and turn him instead to the Rock of His Church then anyone has a real possibility of finding Heaven in the end. A focus on how full or empty Hell is seems to be off balance. Maybe it is necessary to make individuals look to their own soul that they have a real fear of Hell but it seems like we get off in a corner arguing about the population and not focused on what this means to an individual. This seems to help the anti-theists who run off on a loop about God sending my wife to Hell for her actions and how can I see that as justice or some such silliness. Each moment we each make decisions to accept Grace and act according to God’s desires or to reject and commit sin. God sees all of this and uses His Church and His people to try and turn us back. We each face the very real possibility of Hell if we do not listen. It seems like Hell would be really bad if I were the only one there. Hopefully most souls make it to Heaven and eternal Peace. Hopefully hell is empty but most especially hopefully I don’t get a chance to find out how crowded hell is. Lord have Mercy.

  15. Deacon Tom says:

    Msgr. Pope:
    “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 FatherBarron.” I too, am a longtime admirer of Father Barron and his wonderful work. However, I found his treatment of Mr. Martin’s thoughtful analysis to be flippant and unfair, especially the comparison to a “dissenter of Humanae Vitae” as you note. Father Barron’s cavalier dismissal of Mr. Martin’s conclusions on such important matters fell way short of the type of thorough and thoughtful analysis we are all used to seeing from Father Barron. Perhaps you can use your good offices to suggest to Father Barron that he reconsider his unkind remarks toward Mr. Martin and engage Martin in a helpful discussion of the important topic of hell.

  16. Deacon John M. Bresnahan says:

    When I was in college many years ago to study to become a high school history teacher I read and was strongly influenced buy William L. Shirer’s “Rise and Fall of The Third Reich.” Consequently I read dozens of histories and biographies of the evil, evil people behind the Holocaust and other horrendous butchery, savagery, and bloodshed of that era from Stalin’s Gulags to Mao’s deadly brutality.
    And, I suppose I should not feel this way, but I have felt since then that those who water down or weaken Christ’s words about Hell and the Church’s constant teaching on it, are virtual accomplices of those who gassed and incinerated millions of innocent people.
    I have no trouble with even the worst human beings being forgiven if they repent and seek God’s forgiveness. But the public historical record shows such repentance as being very rare. Beyond that it is between God and Eichmann, and Dr. Mengele, and Goering, and Goebbels and all the millions of dedicated, enthusiastic, cheerleaders of death Nazis, etc.,… and Hitler— as well as the heartless custodians of the Soviet Gulags.

    • yan says:

      Shirer’s book was very interesting because of the personal access he had to so many of the people he writes about. In my copy of the book, there are also many fotos. What I found most striking about them is the love I saw on the faces of the German people in their personal encounters with Hitler, and vice-versa. I’ve never seen anything like it, except perhaps, in very small measure, in the case of Obama.

      Good point about the public record and what that implies about the psychology of repentance. It leads me to wonder if the grace of holy contrition can be simply infused at the last moment of death when most of one’s life has been opposed to it up to that moment?

      Assuming that were possible, the situation seems to make a bit of a mockery of moral choices made during this life. On the other hand, some could say it shows how much God loves each and every one of us.

  17. Nathan says:

    Great to see the doctrine of Hell, so long neglected, getting so much attention. It seems to me, a non-theologian and unequal to debating either Fr Barron or Dr. Martin, that the Holy Father, by saying “we may suppose,” was deliberately leaving the question of the comparative number of people in Hell and Heaven on the table as a matter of legitimate debate. I could be wrong.

    As to the use of Christ’s words of “many” and “few,” Dr. Peter Kreeft interestingly points out that the same Christ who says there are “many” on the way to destruction and “few” who are on the way to salvation also felt the 99 sheep to be too “few” and the one lost sheep to be too “many.” Perhaps the important part of the teaching is for each of us to “strive to enter in.”

  18. I Like the Church Fathers says:

    I agree that Fr. Barron was rather cavalier in equating disagreement with Benedict’s obiter dicta in Spe Salvi with open dissent from Humanae Vitae. However, it’s not hard to see where Fr. Barron is coming from. Fr. Barron is concerned with the fundamental issues that are raised by the view that many will not be saved. I referred to these fundamental issues in the comments to Msgr. Pope’s last post on Ralph Martin’s book.
    The fundamental issues raised are what is the nature of hell, whether purgatory is more expansive than traditional Catholic doctrine has heretofore allowed, and what is the nature of God Himself.

    Fr. Barron’s concern is entirely legitimate. He is concerned [as I am] that if many people go to hell instead of heaven, then how can we square this with the notion that God is inherently just, merciful and loving. As Barron himself noted, some theological “heavyweights” such as Augustine and, apparently, Christ Himself, appear to be on Martin’s side.

    But, it must be noted that Augustine had some views that fundamentally conflict with the view of God as just, merciful and loving. For example, he took the view that unbaptized babies who die actually experience some form of pain in limbo. I would say that a God who allows babies to experience an eternity of pain for no other reason than the negligence of their parents is neither just, nor merciful, nor worthy of love and respect. And yet, this is apparently the God that Augustine, one of the four great doctors of the western Church, believed in. It should also be noted that this was the mainstream view of the Church on the subject of limbo for centuries. It is hardly surprising that later theologians, including Aquinas and Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI rejected Augustine’s harsh view. Indeed, Benedict XVI has stated that it is not beyond the pale for theologians to teach that unbaptized babies may find a path to salvation in the afterlife. This view is obviously more consistent with the concept of a just and loving God.

    Again, the fundamental issue is really whether it is a just outcome for people who are basically good, decent people, but who have one or more significant character flaws to spend an eternity of pain and suffering in hell. The answer may be that more people actually get a second chance in purgatory, or it may be that hell is not as bad as we think, or that God is not really as loving and just as we would like to believe. I cannot believe the latter, so it must be one of the other two.

    If we try to evangelize people by telling them that their mortal soul is in peril and that they risk facing a lifetime of pain and suffering in hell, we are unlikely to be successful. Besides the fact that many will argue that hell does not exist, others will say that an inherently just, loving God would hardly allow basically good people with a few character flaws to suffer eternity in hell. This will be a hard issue for evangelizers to deal with.

    Surely, more people who are basically good but with some character flaws wind up in purgatory than in hell. Perhaps we should emphasize to people we are trying to evangelize that they need to try to be as good as they possibly can in this life so as to open themselves to the possibility of going straight to heaven or at least reducing their time in purgatory.

    • But I don’t think Fr. Barron has the concerns you raise about how to square the reality of hell with the matters you raise. Did you see his video? I don’t have time to answer all your concerns which I answered in all my previous posts. But the reality of hell is not deployed as a mere evangelical tool to scare people straight. The point is more to our zeal, having once come to faith to work out our salvation in holy fear and trembling, as St. Paul says.

    • I Like the Church Fathers says:

      Yes, I have watched both videos. I understand the traditional argument [made by both Barron and Voris] that God does not send people to hell; rather, people choose hell. However, this traditional argument is problematic.

      For one thing, there are many references in the Bible to God’s role as a judge. He is the supreme judge and He decides who is saved and who is not [hence the phrases “Last Judgment” and “General Judgment”]. The preoccupation in the Bible with the concept of divine “judgment” undercuts the view that people simply choose their fate. If people simply chose their fate, then God would not judge; He wouldn’t have to.

      There is another more fundamental problem with the traditional personal choice argument: the person making the argument always makes it appear that the choice is an easy one [I think this is true of both Barron and Voris]. Of course, in the real world, it’s not easy at all and the reason it’s not easy is human weakness and the corresponding human susceptibility to temptation. It takes enormous spiritual and emotional strength to be a saint. And, of course, most people, in their natural weakness, simply don’t possess the requisite strength, even if they pray for it.

      The logical outcome of the personal choice argument is that only the spiritually/emotionally strong go to heaven because only they have the strength to make the choice. The wide road to hell is thus populated by the truly evil as well as the merely weak – those who prayed, tried to be faithful and wanted to do the right thing but who were often too weak to resist temptation. Obviously, this conflicts with the view [which is asserted throughout the Gospels] that God cares more for the weak than for the strong. Again, we return to the fundamental issues I mentioned: how does a just and loving God allow basically good, but weak, people to suffer eternal damnation, while only the spiritually strong get to go to heaven?

      With regard to the broder issue of evangelization, I think it is worth highlighting the last words of Fr. Barron’s article: i.e. that Benedict XVI’s apparent suggestion in Spe Salvi that most people do not go to hell and go instead to purgatory for purification is more “evangelically promising” than asserting that most people go to hell.

      Fr. Barron is right. If an evangelizer tells someone: “you better get your act together or you’re going to hell; after all, most people go to hell”, the evangelizee will likely say, “well, if most people go to hell, then there’s not much chance for me, so I might as well enjoy life as I see fit”. This brings to mind the recent film The American, in which an Italian priest befriends an American professional hitman, played by George Clooney. In one scene involving the two, the priest mentions God’s possible plan for Mr. Clooney’s character, who replies “I don’t think God’s very interested me in Father”. If most people go to hell, then a large number of would-be converts are likely to say, well, if only the truly good go to heaven, then, clearly, God doesn’t care about habitual sinners like me, so what’s the point in even trying?

      It’s easy to see why the purgatory option is more “evangelically promising”. Purgatory gives people a second chance. People are more likely to “bite” at a second chance in purgatory than to convert to Catholicism on the faint hope that they might be spared the sorry fate of the great majority of souls. This, of course, should not let people think that they can do as they wish in this life. Surely purgatory is hard and some will spend more time there than others. I, for one, would rather try to be good in this life and spend a hundred years in purgatory than do as I like in this life and spend one million years in purgatory.

  19. RichardC says:

    Curtis Mayfield once wrote a song with this sentiment: “If there is a hell below, we are all going to go.” I can understand that sentiment, though, as a Catholic, I am assured that some people are in heaven.

    One time the Apostles expressed an opinion similar to that of Curtis Mayfield: When our Lord explained how difficult it is for a rich man to get to heaven, they asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus told them, “With men this is impossible: but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19: 25 and 26)

    One instance of “all things” would be everyone going to heaven. So, Jesus puts forth both “all” and “few”.

    If I misrepresent His words, then I would be happy to be corrected.

    To me, the best evidence that some humans are in hell, is that some of the angels fell and are in hell, which is itself shocking.

    Mary pray for us.

  20. Lorraine says:

    Well…we will all find out one day,. won’t we? In the meantime, get busy at working out your salvation in “fear and trembling.”

  21. Romulus says:

    I keep coming back to Flannery O’Connor’s observation that “hell is what God’s love becomes to those who refuse it”. We would like to suppose that no one would do that — further, that no one wants to be unhappy. I regret to say I know many people who do want to be unhappy, who positively insist upon it, who have rejected joy and chosen misery, and increasingly structure their lives so as to exclude the possibility of happiness. These people exist, and I fear for them.

  22. J. E. Johnston says:

    Thank you for another wonderful article, Msgr.! I too am an admirer of Fr. Barron. I saw his video the other day called “Fr. Barron Comments on Is Hell Crowded or Empty?” In it he asserts that we can reasonably hope that all will be saved. I have been a bit disturbed by this since then. Your article was just what I needed!

    While I do hope and pray that the Lord will “lead all souls to heaven,” I think this is an extremely dangerous assertion. In my mind, the idea reduces the Church and the Sacraments to mere “extra credit.” Though I am certain that the good and faithful people like Fr. Barron who hold this view are able to reconcile it somehow with the problems I see, I still believe it is dangerous to simple-minded non-theologians like myself. Someone could hear this assertion and use it to justify to themselves all manners of behavior that can put their soul in danger.

    In my humble opinion, this view that ‘we can reasonably hope that all will be saved’ is a good interior hope and a good prayer, but it is a dangerous teaching.

  23. Aloysius Duque says:

    Holy Church must do everything, communicating with each other most especially, to resolve differences. DO NOT CONFUSE THE CATHOLIC MIND

  24. fr. damian says:

    First, in Crossing the Threshold of Hope, John Paul II writes, “In Matthew’s Gospel (Jesus) clearly speaks of those who will go to eternal punishment (Mt 25:46). Who will these be? The Church has never made any pronouncement in this regard. This is a mystery, truly inscrutable, which embraces the holiness of God and the conscience of man. The silence of the Church is, therefore, the only appropriate position for Christian faith. Even when Jesus says of Judas, the traitor, ‘It would be better for that man if he had never been born’ (Mt 26:24), His words do not allude for certain to damnation.” (p. 186) John Paul’s point is the point of von Balthasar and Barron as well – there is a hell, people can go there, but the Church has never said who is in hell or how many people are actually there.
    Second, Cardinal Dulles wrote an excellent piece in First Things a while back entitled, “The Population of Hell.” Dulles writes, “The search for numbers in the demography of hell is futile. . . . All told, it is good that God has left us without exact information.” Perhaps a careful reading of Dulles’ article might help Msgr. and Mr. Vorris better appreciate the positions of von Balthasar and Barron, which are orthodox. You can find Dulles’ piece here: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/08/the-population-of-hell-23

  25. Dave says:

    It seems to me that perhaps both sides can be right. Most probably are on the “path” to Hell. Few walk the path to Heaven. But, there is also Purgatory. I tend to think that if Our Lord can find a glimmer of love in a soul; that will be enough to ignite the soul to choose Heaven (via Purgatory) rather than Hell, since Our Lord wishes to save all, and presumably will pull out all the stops to save as many as He can. I think that this is what Pope Benedict was trying to say.

    However, as many have pointed out already, we cannot presume anything. Certainly, we need to be all about “maximizing” the chances of every human being, and that means evangelizing, catechizing, and connecting every human soul with the graces and communion available in the Catholic Church. Put it this way: if one is consciously aiming for Heaven, they are likely to at least achieve Purgatory. But if they are not aiming for anything, don’t know that there is something to aim for, or feel that Heaven is for everyone but Hitler, Stalin, and a few Satanists, where will they end up then?

    At this time in history, I feel that many are in grave danger of Hell, due to presumption.

  26. Tess says:

    Msgr,

    I’ll go with defending Christ’s WORD (who is GOD) against Father Barron’s any day!

    I have a great love and hope for you as a priest, too many other sacred servants seem to bask in celebrity lately and have been blinded by Satan himself , thus it is easy for them to espouse exactly what Satan wants them to say- LIES!

    Michael Vortex IS not a priest nor is SCOTT HAHN or MARK SHEA. Their theological wisdom has been allowed to become the voice of the church to the point that they know better because they have an international platform to do so. It is wiser that they let the Holy priests speak and they kept silence.

    • Scott W. says:

      I think this is too rash. Lay apologetics is encouraged by the Church. When MV, SH, or MS make errors, there is usually a number of other laity ready to point out the error.

      • Tess says:

        Are you serious….LAITY will point out the ERRORS

        • Cassandra says:

          Unfortunately, Tess, the shepherds are not feeding the flock with the Word so the sheep are desperate for anythiing they can find especially when simply being a priest or bishop is a guarantee of orthodoxy. Most if not all of the great heresies were promoted by ordained men.

          OTH, when the laity get involved in preaching the Word it gets messy, too. I think it is instructive to point out that St. Francis was an ordained deacon, but not a priest. My conclusion is that he was too humble to accept the priesthood, but convinced by others that it was not fitting for him to preach as a mere layman. Thus, he sacrificed the lesser good of humility as a layman for the greater good of humbly submitting to ecclesiatical propriety by accepting the diaconate.

          We’ve had a number of celebrity priests fall in the last few years. Hopefully that won’t happen to Fr. Barron, but getting out on shaky ground like this is not a good sign. We’ll know more if he responds publicly. Maybe it would be better for him spiritually to fade from the spotlight and concentrate on his primary responsibility as Rector of Mundelein Seminary. Forming good priests there will have a much greater longterm impact than any personal productions of his. Mundelein has been nortorious in the past; hard to imagine there are not enough problems there to keep him busy fulltime.

        • Scott W. says:

          Yes. I am quite serious. When Scott Hahn went a bit off the rails about is feminine features of God (or something like that I don’t remember the details) there were a number of both religious and laity that took him to task. My point is that while yes, some lay apologists have celebrity and that can cause serious problems, it is not like they have a free hand. My larger point here is that there is no ecclesiastical command (or even counsel branded as “wisom”) for laity to keep their mouths shut about theology and in fact the Church encourages lay apologetics. Yes, with ecclesiastical oversight, but still we all have a duty as Paul says, to give a ready defense of the faith to any that ask for it.

  27. ANNE P. says:

    This is what happens when Bishops do not require Priests, Deacons, Brothers, Nuns and Laity to frequently read (or review) the “CATECHISM of the CATHOLIC CHURCH, Second Edition”.

    There are 16 separate paragraphs about Hell in the CCC (along with Bible footnotes) including but not limited to:

    CCC: ” 1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.” The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs. ”
    and
    CCC: ” 1037 God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance “.
    and
    CCC: ” 1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny.
    They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.
    For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
    Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where “men will weep and gnash their teeth.” ”

    For quotes from Pope John Paul II, and Pope Benedict about the CCC on the net search: “What Catholics REALLY Believe SOURCE”.

    It is sad that many Seminaries do not use the CCC as one of their required texts, because many times the average reading Catholic knows more about the Faith than his/her Priest.

    • Yes, this is good. And the term many is used here by way of a Scripture quote. And while it does not resolve the central debate here, (since we are back to debating what the Lord means by many) I like the way the Catechism does not attempt to “spin” the Lords words so that the plain meaning of many is obscured. We need not presume many=most but neither would many seem to be negligible especially when paired with the Lord’s use of the word “few”

      • ANNE P. says:

        Exactly. “Many” is not an exact number; and neither is “few”.
        However “many” would be more than “few” both in Christ’s time and ours.
        Christ does not lie.

        We must each take responsibility for our own actions and repentance,
        and help educate others to take responsibility for their actions and their repentance.
        We can not pray anyone out of Hell.
        This is what needs to be stressed.

        I also love the CCC – no spin, no personal opinions, no need to interpret other’s words and possibily taking them out of context, and very clear.
        As we know, Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict) were deeply involved with the CCC.

  28. Tom Mulcahy says:

    In Pope JP II’s encyclical, The Gospel of Life, we have a great example of a clear doctrinal statement. In # 57 he states:

    “Therefore, by the authority which Christ conferred upon Peter and his Successors, and in communion with the Bishops of the Catholic Church, I confirm that the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral. This doctrine, based upon that unwritten law which man, in the light of reason, finds in his own heart (cf. Rom 2:14-15), is reaffirmed by Sacred Scripture, transmitted by the Tradition of the Church and taught by the ordinary and universal Magisterium.”

    By contrast, Pope Benedict’s comment on the number of those who are saved though the purification of Purgatory is admitted by him to be a supposition (one he believes to be reasonable), and thus his comment is more akin to a reasoned opinion rather than a formal doctrinal statement.

    By contrast, Humane Vitae was a clear and unambiguous doctrinal statement about the immorality of artificial birth control. As such, I believe the distinction made by Mr. Martin on the Humanae Vitae comment is fair and accurate.

    Since we do not know the number of the elect is 100%, we have a tremendous obligation to evangelize.

  29. Bruno Gasparin says:

    I find this condescension towards Michael Vorris to be disgraceful. Did St. Leonard of Port Maurice (http://www.olrl.org/snt_docs/fewness.shtml) or St. John Chrysostom meet with such contempt. Don’t we have enough of this false “kindness” and “charity” in our midst?

    • Tess says:

      Rather

      Michael Voris is disgraceful – assuming the role of a priest and speaking in a realm that only a priest should preach to the flock,

      It’s about time some real sacred servants started telling the lay people they are DEAD WRONG about preaching topics they really have no idea about. I think Mr Voris is really walking dangerous paths as is Scott Hahn and Mark Shea ( saying sodomy was the sin of inhospitality!! WHAT BUNKUM!) and haughtily at that! Mark Shea had the audacity to say if anyone didn’t agree then they were liars,,,,what a proud bully.
      We need real good priests more than ever to be Christ’s soldiers….when will you stop these modern speakers promoting all these LIES…..

      • Disgraceful is too strong a word. Prhaps to quote Moses I would say as a clergyman are you jealous for my sake? Would that all Gods people were prohets….that said, I do agree that M. Vorris comes on a lttle too strong and his message often gets lost in the attitude

        • Tess says:

          I stand corrected- BUT time is running out Msgr. Me and SO MANY can feel His coming – and I mean His actual coming where the skies will open, and for those who are not in the state of grace it could be too late and yes HELL does exist. I have witnessed the youth influenced by Michael Voris and Scott Hahn and it has no authentic truth or holiness- just this movement that they are great because they follow Mr POPULAR!! The youth are so green and like sheep in thought, it will make things worse.Why aren’t they being inspired by priests instead-our seminaries would fill, the pews would fill, the Grace of God would make the nation STRONG again. And we also would be living the commandments according to God as He wants.

          Too many universities are propounding these guest speakers and it is impossible to gauge the the errors that are be taught. Out of wilful disobedience Mr Voris went against the Bishops wishes and spoke out accvording to Mr Voris’ opinions -THIS IS WRONG

      • ANNE P. says:

        Tess, on the net search “What Catholics REALLY Believe SOURCE” it will give you quotes from the most two current Popes on the “CATECHISM of the CATHOLIC CHURCH, Second Edition” on what the Church really teaches.
        Just because someone is a Priest does not make him right or wrong. (Luther was a Priest too.) This is why the CCC is such a great gift from the Magisterium. So we will know the TRUTH.

        The web site gives you the teaching from the CCC on homosexuality and official Vatican links to the CCC for your verification and documentation. Sodomy is a mortal sin, no matter what anyone calls it.
        (I don’t know for sure since I did not hear it, but in the way you reference it, I think people you referenced may have been discussing the Old Testament, Genesis 19:5-8 which in those days did have to do with the hospitality of giving protection to those invited under your roof as was the custom.
        Dr. Hahn and Michael Voris are Theologians by education. Voris holds an STB – The Bachelor of Sacred Theology (Latin: Sacrae Theologiae Baccalaureus; abbreviated S.T.B.) is a graduate-level academic degree in theology.

        Also Code of Canon Law requires the Laity to be involved. Under Obligations and Rights of all the Christian Faithful – –
        Can ” 212 §3. According to the knowledge, competence, and prestige which they possess, they have the right and even at times the duty to manifest to the sacred pastors their opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church and to make their opinion known to the rest of the Christian faithful, without prejudice to the integrity of faith and morals, with reverence toward their pastors, and attentive to common advantage and the dignity of persons. ”

        Stay close to the CCC and use it frequently as a reference, then you will not be lead astray by anyone.

        If any Priest or Bishop – contradicts Jesus, he is wrong. It’s that simple.
        Again – We must never deny the words of “Christ”.
        The following are QUOTES from Our Lord, Jesus Christ about Hell – –
        Mt 13:41-42; Mt 25:41; Mt 7:13-14; Mt 22:13-14; Mt 25:31-46.

  30. Greg Hessel says:

    Why do we trust Fr Barron versus the absolute, unanimous voice of the Church Fathers? The Church Fathers are unanimous that most will be damned. Even down to St Thomas Aquinas who held the same opinion.

    We would be wise to trust the unanimity of the Church Fathers versus Fr Barron or Fr Balthasar.

  31. Fr. Gabriel OP (Gabriel de Chadarévian) says:

    What is great is that Ralph Martin’s thesis has at long last started to stir up a healthy debate in the Church and bring some balance between the extreme of “universalism” on the one hand and the augustinian “massa damnata” on the other hand. Historically, there have been two positions in Catholic Tradition on the question of “Will Many Be Saved”: the minority view represented by St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Maximus the Confessor, both influenced by the all-inclusive (including ultimate salvation of Satan and the demons) ”apokatastasis” of Origen (condemned by the Church), and the majority position of the other Church Fathers and Doctors including Chrysostom, Augustine and Thomas Aquinas who believe that only a few will be saved. It seems also that Pope Benedict XVI in his encyclical Spe Salvi has seemingly adopted the minority view in our Catholic Tradition. We cannot therefore dismiss lightly this latter position. Both views on this essential issue of salvation are orthodox and to be considered as “theologoumena”, i.e. theological hypothetical interpretations that the Church embraces in her accumulated wisdom, guided by the Holy Spirit. Both Matthew 7:13-14 and 1Timothy 2:4 are what the Church holds as true. ultimately, only God knows who is in Hell. It would tragic though that in this debate one side demonized the other! As long as Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell are preserved intact in the doctrine of the Church, we can speculate both positions as theological possibilities. It is true however that the devastating consequences on the Mission of the Church of the partial and incomplete interpretation of Lumen Gentium 16 for the past 45 years that Martin clearly analyses in his book are evident.

    • Rick DeLano says:

      ” we can speculate both positions as theological possibilities. ”

      >> Thank you for a pretty amazingly concise treatment, Father.

      “It is true however that the devastating consequences on the Mission of the Church of the partial and incomplete interpretation of Lumen Gentium 16 for the past 45 years that Martin clearly analyses in his book are evident.”

      >>Bravo.

  32. ANNE P. says:

    When any Catholic deviates from the teaching of the Church as stated in the “Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition” in a public manner, they can cause scandal and lose Souls.
    This is an added responsibility on Priests, Nuns or Bishops since they are supposed to represent the Church in teaching.
    The CCC covers use of the Media, and our responsibility. (See your CCC.)

    “ The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved … and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church’s faith and of catholic doctrine,
    attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition, and the Church’s Magisterium.
    I declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion. “ – Pope John Paul II. (CCC pg 5)

    CCC: ” 2089
    INCREDULITY is the neglect of revealed truth or the willful refusal to assent to it.
    HERESY is the obstinate post-baptismal denial of some truth which must be believed with divine and catholic faith, or it is likewise an obstinate doubt concerning the same;
    APOSTACY is the total repudiation of the Christian faith;
    SCHISM is the refusal of submission to the Roman Pontiff or of communion with the members of the Church subject to him.”

    We must never deny the words of “Christ”.
    The following are QUOTES from Our Lord, Jesus Christ – –
    Mt 13:41-42; Mt 25:41; Mt 7:13-14; Mt 22:13-14; Mt 25:31-46.

  33. Chase Faucheux says:

    Father, if all the good we do comes from God alone, and if we can do no good at all apart from him, even think good thoughts, and if even the choice to accept his grace is a grace, and if even the opportunity to accept it is a grace, how then can we be rewarded or punished for anything we do?

    If all the good we do comes from God alone, then doesn’t this mean, in a way, all that God sees in us is our sinfulness? But then why are we told to not judge other people, because we do not know what is going on in their heart, or we do not see the hidden good they do? I once knew a homosexual who was murdered – the reason he was murdered was because he constantly gave money to poor folks in his neighborhood, and two of the guys he helped decided to kill the proverbial goose that laid the golden egg. In many ways, he was a better man than I, and certainly more charitable. But if we say perhaps God will look at the good he did and ignore his sins, aren’t we saying his works could save him?

    More importantly, if all we can do on our own is sin (which seems to be a Protestant heresy, yet also seems to be what the church teaches), then what can God love in us? If we can do no good on our own, isn’t he just loving Himself then when he loves the good in us? And what about the good done by people who are living in sin, or who do not in any way belong to the church. All of us have met worldly people who put us to shame in the practice of charity or some other virtue – surely we cannot say with Luther that all of this is accounted as vice.

    • I Like the Church Fathers says:

      You raise important issues, Chase, and I don’t think the Church has easy answers.

    • Rick DeLano says:

      “if all the good we do comes from God alone, and if we can do no good at all apart from him, even think good thoughts, and if even the choice to accept his grace is a grace, and if even the opportunity to accept it is a grace, how then can we be rewarded or punished for anything we do?”

      >> It is very simple. Everything good we do is grace, including the choice to co-operate with offered grace. Notice that there exists a *choice* to co-operate with offered grace. This choice merits punishment or reward. That is the answer to your question.

      “If all the good we do comes from God alone, then doesn’t this mean, in a way, all that God sees in us is our sinfulness?”

      >> All the good we do comes from our decision to co-operate with the freely offered grace of God. All God sees in us is our freedom. He sees it very well. He infallibly provides us all with the necessary graces for salvation, and He infallibly knows whether we have offered the only thing we can: our co-operartion. Freely given.

      “But then why are we told to not judge other people, because we do not know what is going on in their heart, or we do not see the hidden good they do?”

      >> We are told this because God can see what we cannot.

      “I once knew a homosexual who was murdered – the reason he was murdered was because he constantly gave money to poor folks in his neighborhood, and two of the guys he helped decided to kill the proverbial goose that laid the golden egg.”

      >> A most interesting story. Since this murder would presumably have been covered in your local media, I request a link to the coverage. I note first that it seems illogical that the fellow was murdered precisely *because* he gave money to the poor. Is there any evidence to corroborate this?

      “In many ways, he was a better man than I, and certainly more charitable. But if we say perhaps God will look at the good he did and ignore his sins, aren’t we saying his works could save him?”

      >> Salvation is available only to those joined to the Catholic Church. Charity done, say, by a homosexual in hopes that he might escape the certain judgement due one of the four sins that cry out to heaven for judgement, is not charity at all, since it has no supernatural foundation.

      The Church has already infallibly addressed all such “charity”:

      ““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)

      “More importantly, if all we can do on our own is sin (which seems to be a Protestant heresy, yet also seems to be what the church teaches),”

      >> You are correct that this is Protestant heresy. You are incorrect that this is what the Church teaches. The Church teaches that every human being is imbued with the capacity to respond to God’s grace unto salvation.

      Every human being has the free choice to accept the necessary, freely-chosen co-operation with God’s grace unto salvation.

      There is not a single exception.

      “then what can God love in us?”

      >> Our free decision to love Him.

      “If we can do no good on our own, isn’t he just loving Himself then when he loves the good in us?”

      >> The premise of your question is Protestant heresy.

      “And what about the good done by people who are living in sin, or who do not in any way belong to the church. All of us have met worldly people who put us to shame in the practice of charity or some other virtue – surely we cannot say with Luther that all of this is accounted as vice.”

      >> See above:

      “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)”

  34. MikefromED says:

    Here’s a video from Fr Barron which was uploaded onto YouTube in March 2011 so predates his latest contribution. The title is: Is Hell Crowded or Empty?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmsa0sg4Od4

    • ANNE P. says:

      Thank you for the link.

      Although Fr Barron clearly states that Jesus talked about “Hell” the most in the Bible, then he says we must accept the “possibility” of Hell.

      He is bascally calling Jesus a liar.
      Jesus said there is a Hell.

      Fr. Barron should stick to quoting the CCC because heresy and schism are just a step away. What he or we think is not important. The teachings of the Church are important.

  35. Darren O. says:

    Hi Msgr. Pope:
    I have been following this debate on your blog and the other relevant places. The thought it has stimulated in me is: What has changed in our society to that has lead to the repudiation of the concept of Hell? Why has what was once so obvious and easy to understand become incomprehensible?

    My answer: pain killers.

    Just as the Pill has disrupted the cognitive unconscious models for sexual ethics, the wide spread use of pain killers has disrupted our ideas of suffering. In short, we don’t really suffer pain any more. CLARIFICATION: I fully acknowledge that there are many people that still suffer from constant tormenting pain. Let us pray for them. I am also not so sure I’d like to live without pain killers, never the less when most people do not know what it is like to endure unrelieved pain with no prospects of ending save in death, the primary source domain for understanding everlasting torment is disrupted or lost. If you read a more detailed account of the lives of any of our great saints, the suffering they endured on the way to their crown of glory is frankly disturbing to the modern mind.

    • Nate says:

      Nonsense. It probably has more to do with the pictures of death camps and the other horrors of the world. People are questioning whether a just and loving God sentences people to an eternal Auschwitz because they made mistakes.

      • Darren O. says:

        Dear Nate:

        I’ll put your hypothesis on my list of possibilities. Thank you. I also like your second sentence because it really brings to light how people reach the questioning stage and then just throw up their hands and give up attempting to find the answers to their questions, even when such a simple misunderstanding as you illustrate could have been cleared up with a few minutes consultation with their Catholic priest or a bit longer reading some books on the subject. Some people are just in the habit of quickly dismissing unfamiliar ideas without taking the time to think them through.

        Yours,
        Darren O.

      • Brad says:

        That is the old problem of people judging our dear Lord: He was a “hard man” here on Earth, and when the soul who has so long suffered at His hands dies, she then will surely suffer more, qualitatively and quantitatively, at His hands. Thus our fallen nature reveals itself: wary of God, our only lover, our only friend in a yawning, gaping, free-fall universe, the demon exploits us and sows lies that He will hurt us if we turn to Him. This is the mindset that will sweep in dark victory during the last hour of death: if we continue to accuse God, that is, be His adversary, as satan is ours, we will refuse God’s only sentence He will try to pass down upon us: that of Mercy. He will say to us “peace be with you, my mercy upon you even now, come to this banquet I have paid for so dearly to prepare for you” and we will not hear Him, we will already be leaping away from His presence because we disdain Him now, alone with Him finally, and look back upon earth and find reasons to disdain Him then, reasons to confirm our memory of how He supposedly mistreated us. In hell we will complain how He passed down a cruel judgment upon us and sent us away. Thus in hell the lies of the damned join with the lies of the fallen angels. Never in hell will you hear “”I made mistakes” but then I saw His bled-out wounds and knew He had paid all my debts to everyone and even to Himself. So I accepted His mercy and went with Him, after He picked me up from where I had collapsed at His feet.”

        May God bless you all.

        • Nate says:

          I think you are right that Hell is probably populated by those unwilling to admit their mistakes.(and why pride really is the most terrible of sins). That really isn’t what I’m referring to, however. I think people’s concern (mine included) is that a person may not get a chance to reflect upon the sum of their life when shown for what it was and be given a chance to repent. How many of us are even self aware enough to realize how many sins we have on our soul? What about those who were never given an opportunity to properly form their conscience? In other words, do we get that moment alone with God that you describe where we get to think things through with perfect information and decide if we will accept His mercy (and purgation) or if we will reject it and continue along a selfish road to perdition? For my own sanity, I have to think so.

        • Rick DeLano says:

          Post of the day right here :-)

  36. Dee Gray says:

    Thank you, Monsignor. I am a BIG fan of both Fr. Robert Barron and Dr. Ralph Martin. Both of these men had a great deal to do with my return to the Church, after 35 years of separation. I have an extensive library which contains all of their books and DVD teaching series. I am a lay person who spends many hours each day studying the Bible, the Catechism, Aquinas, the Early Church Fathers, and Papal documents (most especially the four Constitutions of Vatican II). That said, I was extremely disappointed in Fr. Barron’s review of Dr. Martin’s book. Frankly, I was so taken aback by the article that I was speechless for almost an hour as I puzzled through the article trying understand Father’s comments. I believe and trust in God’s mercy, and I know that God wants everyone to be saved; however, based on Jesus’ own teachings, that does not appear to be a heavenly reality.

    • Dee Gray says:

      All that said – I very much appreciate the debate, as we are finally discussing a subject that I rarely hear being discussed.

  37. Kathy says:

    I believe that a lot of people don’t want to believe in Hell is because the thought of it is terrifying. When I was a child, I was afraid at night that the floor would open up and I would drop down into Hell. I decided I didn’t want to be terrified into doing the will of God and following Jesus. I want to follow Jesus because I believe He is my Lord and Saviour. Perhaps we need to focus more on God’s Mercy and not His punishment, and then maybe more Catholics would come back to church. NO ONE wants to be frightened into doing good. It just doesn’t work. If it did, there would be a lot less sinners out there.

  38. MGL says:

    Msgr. Pope,

    Thanks for your commentary on this debate. I, too, have great admiration for Fr. Barron, so I was astonished to see him deploy such weak argumentation in his review of Martin’s book, then cap it off by attempting to rule Martin’s position outside the bounds of orthodoxy.

    I’ve started to read Martin’s book, but haven’t gotten very far into it yet. Those who accuse Martin off trying to enumerate the damned or of trying to scare people into belief are mistaken. His main purpose, as I see it, is to correct several decades of universalist presumptions among many Catholics, resulting from serious misinterpretations of LG16. This has had disastrous consequences for catechesis.

    As an example, my sons are in Grade 9 at a Catholic high school, and the Religion curriculum (a CCCB publication) is just awful in its bland, unthreatening, schmaltzy niceness. It presents the Catholic faith as mere “humanitarianism flavored with religiosity” (to quote Arnold Lunn), and as a result, many of the kids are falling away out of boredom and rebellion against “childish things”. Why are they being taught this weak-tea version of the Faith? Because their teachers have entirely ceased to believe in the “fewness” of the saved.

    Think about it: if you had to teach religion to schoolchildren, and you were aware that their salvation would depend, in substantial part, on what they learned from you, wouldn’t you teach them the fullness of the Faith to the very best of your abilities, in the hope that none would be lost? If, on the other hand, you believed that pretty much everybody goes to Heaven (save for the Hitler-class villains), why would you bother with all those hard teachings and difficult concepts? You’d just teach them to be good citizens instead. And that’s why Ralph Martin’s book is such a welcome corrective.

    • E O'Reilly says:

      How complex can we make it?
      Heaven is the eternal Beatific Vision, Hell is seeing that vision but once, and the awareness of never seeing it again. In the light of eternity, what does it matter how many or how few are wherever? That is for God’s judgement, not for our speculations.

      • MGL says:

        I’m not quite sure what I wrote that you’re responding to, but just to make it clear: I have no interest in enumerating the saved vs. the damned, and think it is very dangerous even to attempt to do so. However, it is my experience that nice, soft-pedalling universalists make for terrible catechists, since they do not truly believe that anything important is at stake. And unfortunately, they appear to make up a great number (perhaps the majority) of modern Catholics.

  39. Lorraine says:

    “That said, I think he elevates too much much what the Pope suggests rather than solemnly teaches.”

    That’s part of our problem today. Too many Catholics elevate every word the pope says or writes to doctrine and dogma.

    I often get the impression that perhaps they are trying to overcompensate for the disobedience of dissenters the past fifty years by going to the other extreme.

  40. Nate says:

    Isn’t the underlying question behind this debate ‘what condemns a man to Hell?’ The modern drift towards universalism is misguided but I do think it is fair to ask whether a just God would condemn a person who struggled but failed to live a Christian life to the same fate as someone like Hitler and Stalin. I think that sense of injustice and/or a sense of despair over the issue has made many people leave the Church. Getting to Heaven isn’t supposed to be easy but maybe the narrow path ought to be wheelchair accessible…

  41. Rick DeLano says:

    Fr. Barron is not only wrong, he is dangerously wrong.

    Msgr. Pope has gently pointed out what is actually a very, very serious error here.

    Fr. Barron intends to impose upon Catholic conscience the *obligation* to deny a dogma of the Catholic Faith, based on a “supposition” in a papal encyclical which *explicitly does not intend to teach dogma*.

    The Holy Spirit has already acted in the Church, to divinely protect from all error the dogmatic 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)”

    It is utterly impossible for any Catholic to deny the above definition, and it is the duty and unshirkable obligation of every Catholic to resist any and all attempts which might be made by theologians, priests, bishops, or Popes speaking at less than an ex cathedra definition, to enforce a denial of this dogma.

    Fr. Barron has also made very troubling remarks concerning original sin in his video series, and I simply do not trust him. He will not be a teacher of my children or a source of instruction for myself.

  42. Pedro Erik says:

    Excellent post, monsignor.

    ICXC NIKA,

  43. Terry Carroll says:

    Msgr. Pope:

    You said concerning Michael Voris: “I have often wished that someone could get to him and try to moderate it a bit,” referring, of course, to “M. Voris comes on a little too strong and his message often gets lost in the attitude.”

    I’m sure you can speak for yourself concerning his message being lost in “attitude” but there is a mountain of evidence to the contrary, which means that some find his message actually enhanced by his “attitude” while others do not. There are countless, documented examples of people who have entered or returned to the Church precisely because of Michael’s “content” and “style” (or “attitude”). See last Thursday’s (December 6) episode of the Vortex titled “Prodigal Son Comes Home” for a recent but by no means unusual example (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLu6c-pprkg&feature=plcp).

    Concerning your belief that someone needs to “get to him and try to moderate it a bit,” on what do you base your belief that no one has, can or does? Michael meets regularly with priests and bishops from all over the world and, when in Rome, with Cardinals. He is under spiritual direction. Michael is almost embarrassingly easy to “get to” — just call call Bridget Gallagher at the studio 248-545-5716 and schedule any amount of time that you want on the phone or in person. Michael goes out of way to talk and meet with priests and bishops.

    It would probably shock many to know how many emails from priests and bishops support and encourage Michael Voris to “keep telling the truth” and to stay strong. Yes, some don’t like his “style,” or his hair, or his militancy, but enough do that he keeps getting invited to speak all over the world. He has a startling amount of support from orders of contemplative nuns. He never invites himself anywhere, so there are clearly “some” for whom it is not true that “his message often gets lost in the attitude.”

    I invite you or anyone else to call him. You’ll be surprised at just how approachable he is.

    Terry Carroll
    Executive Producer
    ChurchMilitant,TV

    • Well, I guess I mean they haven’t been successful in moderating his on air demeanor. But look, what you say is fair enough. I do think Michael does important work and there is a need and a place for what he does. But I am sympathetic to people who strongly object to his tone as well as to the fact that he seems to portray only the really bad stuff. There is renewal going on in the Church and things to praise as well. But bottom line I like Michael Vorris and appreciate his zeal. I did not initiate the “tone” content on this thread but have attempted to respond to it in ways that respect Mr. Vorris but also acknowledge that there are a good number who object to his style. But I think you are doing good work over at Church militant and I also like the news roundups. I realize the difficulty of being “out there” in the media and that no matter what we say or how, there will always be critics. Believe me I get a lot of it too. Please be encouraged and know of my fundamental respect for your work and that of Mr. Vorris.

      • Rick DeLano says:

        It is a source of great consolation to learn that Michael is receiving spiritual direction, and that he is receiving the support of priests, bishops, and cardinals.

        God knows it is exactly the militancy of Michael Voris that is in vanishingly short supply in this disoriented,…Church of our time.

        The fact that he finds a very large audience is a matter worthy of note as well.

        As one of the other contributors noted, we could do with a whiff of St. Jerome at this point.

        More than a whiff.

    • Tess says:

      Hey Terry,

      you have made it really scary now that you have told everyone that Rome and the Cardinals and priests think it is good how Voris promotes this type of Catholicism, and even encourages him. Oh well, God has the last say.

      • Cassandra says:

        @Tess, You’re falling into clericalism. Ironically, you’re even violating your own stated standard of having holy priests do the public proclaiming by doing your own public proclaiming.

        “Oh well, God has the last say.” — This tone is a far harsher type of Catholicism than Voris ever uses.

        I can personally attest to the reachability of Voris as I have been able to reach him by phone.

    • Mrs. Works says:

      Mr. Voris is a MAN,and He Tells The TRUTH ,Straight Up No Chasers. I am Thankful To Have HIM in Our Holy Catholic Church ,AMEN!

  44. Bill Thompson says:

    Then, there were those rather heated discussions between Augustine and Jerome: both survived.

  45. Erin says:

    I respect both Fr Barron and Ralph Martin… I think Fr Barron is sincere in wanting to protect the respect due to Papal writings. And I think Ralph Martin ably answers Fr Barron’s concerns .

    Reflecting on Fr Barron’s commentary, though, I am brought back to my own questions about whether it is seemly, even for highly placed theologians, to directly point such things out in a public work like a book or article (or blog!)—as opposed to making private contact with the Magisterium to request clarification, or perhaps writing a book or article that makes the theological point without naming the source of concern. I am not sure.

    Thoughts, Monsignor?

    Anyway, Ralph Martin is obviously motivated by love and concern for souls and for the Church and her mission, and fully intends to be faithful to the Magisterium. And we can say the same about Fr Barron as well. That is more than we can say for a lot of theologians, who intentionally dissent and try to pretend they aren’t. Neither of these two are like that, and thank God.

  46. Bob Baker says:

    I posted this in the NCR last December: From Fr. Barron’s book, Catholicism, page 268…
    “Satan is not the “dark side” that faces the light of God in a terrible cosmic struggle. He is a fallen creature whom God allows, for God’s own inscrutable purposes, to work woe in the world. We should take the devil with requisite seriousness, but we shouldn’t give this finally uninteresting and pathetic creature too much attention.”
    I was going to buy the book until I read this quote. Seems to me that the good Father should brush up on his catechism and what Pope Benedict XVI, et al, have said about the devil – “too much attention” indeed!

  47. TaillerHuws says:

    I take no issue with Pope Benedict’s statement in Spe salvi 45-47. He does not say there is no Hell; nor does he say that only a few go to Hell. “Many” can mean a majority or a number short of a majority. He didn’t say “most” or “few.”

    Also, it may actually be that in today’s “generation,” it is exactly as the Pope thinks. He may think with hope in his heart that the people he sees most often TODAY are a representative sample of the entire world TODAY. But remember, today’s generation is only a very small fraction of all of the generations of humanity. How many generations really were made up of a majority of hateful, human-sacrificing murderers or cannibals (for example)? Only 5 centuries ago, human sacrifice was mainstream business in the southern Americas.

    Let us not presume and let us not despair. Let us stay on course with the Holy Spirit.

    • TaillerHuws says:

      It’s not good to “cherry pick” what the Pope writes and then twist it in a way which is counter to what the Pope teaches – suggesting that we are a “modernist” instituation (when we most certainly are not.) Thanks Monsignor Pope for staying “on top of things.”

  48. Lee says:

    Many years ago in response both to my atheistic bad life and to my parents’ fervent prayers, the Lord confronted me with the reality of Hell. On my return to the faith, it was the first article of the Creed that I believed, because I had had a whiff of it. I believed in it with all my heart, with a truly visceral faith. From there logic kicked in. If there is a Hell, there must be Heaven. I did an immediate about-face and began running in the opposite direction as fast as my little legs would carry me. Within fifteen months I was a novice in a Cistercian monastery. Of course, I wasn’t ready for that, but surely the direction of my life was radically altered.

    That is why the current lack of belief in Hell does not really trouble me, because we will have PLENTY of evidence for its existence soon enough-overwhelming evidence. Can’t you smell it coming?. Life is humming along normally, and then from out of nowhere comes a thunderbolt that brings life crashing down around one’s ears. In consequence, I believe with all my heart that we are standing on the very verge of a great age of faith.

    Our churches, monasteries and convents will be full to overflowing with a civilization that has had a taste of fear and trembling, repentant, remorseful, deeply and thoroughly renewed in mind and heart. There are many in the blogsphere now who extrapolate from current events into an age of persecution for the Church. I don’t believe it for a minute. Rather I believe Haggai the prophet who says “Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? Does it not seem like nothing in your eyes? . .Greater will be the future glory of this house than the former, says the Lord of hosts, and in this place I will give peace, says the Lord of hosts.”

    Such are some of the many benefits of a renewed belief in eternal damnation.

  49. Father Canu says:

    “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He (Jesus) answered them: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough” (Luke 13: 23-24). Everyone may enter eternal life, but the gate is “narrow” for all, because it is demanding: it requires commitment, self-denial, and the mortification of one’s selfishness.
    (cf. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/benedict_xvi/angelus/2007/documents/hf_ben-xvi_ang_20070826_en.html)

  50. Barbara says:

    Fatima, Fatima, Fatima, pray, pray, pray, “Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, especially those most in need of your mercy.”
    St. Therese, St. John Vianney, pray for us.

  51. Barbara says:

    Fatima, Fatima, Fatima, pray, pray, pray, “Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls into Heaven, especially those most in need of Your mercy.”
    St. Therese, St. John Vianney, pray for us.

  52. David says:

    Christ is in our midst!

    The best I have ever read on this topic is Archbishop Hilarion Alfeyev. I encourage everyone to read his book on this topic which is linked in the post below.

    Hell – Barron, Voris, Martin, Jersak, Dart, Lazar and Alfeyev

    • Irenaeus of New York says:

      David,

      Hilarion Alfeyev is not a Catholic and his books are not from a Catholic theological perspective.

      • Petrarch says:

        And yet, he and other Orthodox theologians should not be disregarded either. So long as nothing explicitly contradicts Catholic teaching in their writings, I do think their writings have great value for the Church Universal. The East and West cannot conflict as both fully have the Apostolic Tradition and Deposit of Faith although their interpretations may indeed. On this topic in particular I think the East has valuable insight to offer that is at least as ancient and tradition as our own – particularly, soteriology. The same is true of our own theological traditions in the West, especially Christology.

  53. Fr. W. M. Gardner says:

    Thank you for this discussion. The reality of hell is too terrible to consider even for one person. Yet we know with certainty that myriads of fallen angelic persons populate hell together with Satan himself.
    So, yes Msgr. Pope… faith compels us to work out our salvation in fear and trembling… and to pray for the supernatural virtue of hope. Supernatural hope does not vacate the Catholic Faith of its severity. Rather, it moves us to act generously, courageously, and joyfully against what would be insurmountable odds on the merely human level.
    I think it’s interesting that despite his rather pessimistic views on salvation, St. Augustine was a strong promoter of fruitfulness in marriage.
    Indeed, parents of large families tend to be people of great faith, hope and charity!

    • Dianne Dawson says:

      Thank you Fr. Gardner. When I was reading this article I had the same thought as your first paragraph.

      The following is my understanding and I beg to be corrected wher I’m wrong:
      1. We know Hell definitely exists.
      2. Minimally it is populated by Satan and all other fallen angels.
      3. Unlike with persons who are canonized, by which the Church confirms they are in Heaven, the Church has not confirmed that a particular person is, in fact in Hell. We believe that at the Particular Judgement (i.e. moment of death) God gives us one last opportunity to turn towards Him. If we don’t we commit the one unforgivable sin (blasphemy of the Holy Spirit). Since there is no definitive, tangible evidence to prove a negative Particular Judgement there is no way to declare someone has gone to Hell. We rely on Sacred Scripture and Tradition (which point to God’s Justice) to know Hell is populated but also rely on God’s Mercy to hope and pray for all departed souls.

      Humbly submitted

  54. Manny says:

    The argument that if no one goes to hell, then why be good also has a complementary argument. If very few are saved then why bother trying? The odds are overwhelming that one will not be saved, so why not party it up while alive? I need God’s grace. I cannot do it on my own, and if it’s left completely up to me, I doubt I will be in heaven given the odds.

    I am no theologian, but there have been several church fathers that were supposed Universalists. See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Universal_reconciliation. Yes, I understand Jesus clearly speaks of eternal damnation. But it is possible that we do not understand His definitions. The question seems to fall on whether our natures are fixed when we cross over into the other world. Can we still make choices regarding the acceptance of God’s love? If so, then it is conceivable that people will be drawn out of hell given eternal time. Will God’s love stop after we have died and damned? I can’t imagine it, otherwise God’s love is not infinite. Yes, as Father Baron states we choose to be in hell, but given eternal time and given God’s eternal love, Universalists propose that God will coax even the most hardened souls.

    So in this conception of Universalism, hell exists, but to paraphrase a famous man, there are more things in heaven and hell than have been revealed.

    • The Logic of your opening two sentences is flawed. This is not an either/or proposition. Confodence and hope can coexist with sobriety and vigilance.

      • Manny says:

        That’s fair. I was just trying to outline a course of logic that one might take if you’re told it’s unlikely you’ll make it to heaven. Strict adherence to a pass/fail grade might actually push the general person away from God.

        To amplify my second paragraph, can someone tell us what is the nature of our existence after we have passed from earthly life? Are we just programmed, mechanical beings with no free will? And if so then what is so great about heaven? The issue rests on that, and given we have no specific knowledge of life after death that I can see, then we have to use a rather complicated line of inductive reasoning. Universalist’s reasoning rests on whether God’s love is infinite or not. Is it?

        • Rick DeLano says:

          After death we are what we are.

          We no longer shift about, our will is set in its condition at death for all eternity.

          If our will is to do the will of God, then that is our joy and our freedom.

          If our will is to reject the will of God then that is our misery and pride for all eternity.

          We are given very clear indications of life after death, notably in the book of Revelation.

          The heavenly liturgy is beyond the conception of the human mind to imagine in its glory, its beauty, its perfection.

          In it we find, for the very first time, what the word “happiness” points toward.

          Lord, I want to be in *that* number :-)

          • Manny says:

            Can you please site some specific refereence that indicates our natures are fixed post earthly life? I have never seen that.

          • Well to begin, I think the teaching is implicit simply in the fact that God speaks of our destinies as eternal and this implies a fixity to our decision in the impossibility of repentance. Further there is the story of the Rich man and Lazarus, wherein the rich man though regretful of his state, does not seem willing or able to change. It is interesting that he does not ask to come ot heaven but insists that Lazarus be dispatched to Hell. Further, he still does not seem Lazarus’ dignity since he regards him as a errand boy, not a saint in heaven. etc. Further Jesus describes the state of those in Hell as being: “Where their worm does not and the fire is never extinguished. And this speaks of the inner state of man, not just some external condition. Thus their negative drives of fiery wrath, indignation at God and being “told what to do” etc and the worm self dissipating drives and cancerous sinfulness now are beyond remedy. St. Thomas takes up this theme in the Summa and other places but I can’t look it up now. Perhaps some intrepid readers will be able to add to this answer by supplying those citations or other data. Finally, there is the image from the sermon of an anonymous 2nd Century North African Father of the Church wherein he equates our life here with being on the potters wheel, For now the clay of our life can be molded and shaped. But there comes a time when the potter takes the clay and subjects it to the the fire of the kiln and now its shape is forever fixed. Here too, I don’t have time to give the exact reference (it is in the breviary) but perhaps another reader can help.

          • Manny says:

            Good enough. Thanks.

  55. Linus says:

    I think we can take Jesus at his word and that is pretty clear.

  56. Deacon Tom says:

    Ralph Martin or Pope Benedict XVI? I’m pretty certain I know who I’m siding with! That’s really all that Father Barron is saying too. The Pope offered what Ralph Martin refers to as a “supposition.” The very definition of a “supposition” is an “uncertain belief.” And so with that in mind, using Ralph Martin’s own description of what the Holy Father stated, who is Ralph Martin to suggest that the Holy Father might one day want to further clarify that which he cannot ever be certain about until revealed to him one day in heaven? It is an uncertain belief. Lumen Gentium 16 is just as uncertain. It doesn’t name names of those who the Church has judged to be in hell, much like she does when she judges that certain souls have attained heaven. LG 16 merely states that some are “exposed to final despair.” Can we truly say that Jesus Christ does not offer a final chance to repent in that final “instant,” however “long” that might be in God’s “time?” The question of who goes to hell is simply not subject to further clarification at this time, just like Pope Paul VI’s very clear teaching on artificial contraception was not subject to further clarification. Therefore, it was inappropriate for some bishops and theologians to request further clarification from Pope Paul VI on that matter. That was the point that Father Barron was making! He never called Ralph Martin a “dissenter” as is alleged here. That’s quite a stretch from what was actually stated by Father Barron. This is much ado about nothing and has been blown WAY out of proportion! Let’s get back to the business of saving souls from hell instead of pointing fingers and placing blame on one another based upon misinterpretations. Peace to all involved in this debate!

    • Pope Benedict said, “We may suppose” Hence his reflection seems not to be binding. Lumen Gentium is far more definitive in is language however, as is the Catechism. I therefore think you are far too sweeping in your conclusions Rev Deacon. You are surely free to suppose, but try not to sit in such judgment of those of us who request clarification with humility and docility. Fr. Barron should clarify his remarks for it seems to this reader and to many others here who love him that he did just what you deny he has done.

      • yan says:

        Msgr I think you are right. Based on what you have presented here, analogizing Martin to a dissenter from VII is indeed overkill and furthermore the effect is to marginalize the man. That is not only wrong from the standpoint of justice, but also from the standpoint of encouraging discussion about the topic of hell–discussion which, to me, seems to be very beneficial to the development of the theology of this topic at this time. Fr. Barron should apologize if the context of what he said was really to compare Martin’s view with that of a dissenter in any way more than by a very weak analogy.

        However I think Deacon Tom has a point in that asking the Pope for clarification seems to be out of place. The matter of the density of the population of hell is far from settled and it probably won’t be settled for a long time yet, if ever. In the meantime we should keep the discussions going and keep the hyperbole and impulse to ‘win’ over the other guy strictly in check. Charity and all that….There won’t be progress when debaters alienate each other with their anger and self-assuredness. If we want the truth, we need patience and charity…and I for one want the truth….so cool it dudes :)

    • Irenaeus of New York says:

      Deacon Tom,

      If it is an “uncertain belief” as expressed by the pope, than it is open to discussion for theologians. Period. You are trying to add certitude where none exists. The plain meaning of the word betrays your argument.

      Secondly, asking for clarification is not a an affront to a teacher, whether it be the pope or a regular priest.

      Furthermore, the teaching on contraception in Humane Vitae was not a supposition. It was crystal clear. However, this teaching was not. It cannot be compared at all.

      I would also add that 20 centuries of Church teaching cannot be undone by an uncertain opinion in an encyclical.

  57. Irenaeus of New York says:

    Thank you Fr. Pope. I am also an admirer of Fr Barron’s work, but i was greatly surprised and disturbed by his critique.

  58. Merengue says:

    For the most part I like Fr. Barron, but there are definitely some problems that I have with his talks. He throws out names of several 20th century thinkers in a praiseworthy tone, and quotes their writings, without a warning to the audience that the likes of Joseph Campbell, William James, et al, have very unCatholic philosophies. His view on the horror and reality of hell is wanting. My greatest concern is the hint of self-aggrandizement evident when he talks.

  59. David U. says:

    Msgr. Pope,
    Thanks for jumping into this discussion. When I wasn’t Catholic and very much an evangelical fundamentalist, my view of hell was growing cooler in hopes of the narrow way just taking a little longer for everyone to get through. However, becoming Cathoic and learning from the Saints opened my eyes. Some of them like Blessed Anna Maria Tiege could see people’s souls going to hell. Then, to start praying that Jesus would “save us from the fires of hell” is a huge wake up call. Catholics of ALL Christians should be most aware of their peril, especially in regards to I Cor. 11:29. “For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord.” Fathers will be held responsible for not making their children aware. I am very concerned for the vast majority of Catholics I see “not discerning the body of the LORD. Someone may say that I am judging, but I would bet that person would think I was undiscerning if I showed up at their wedding in shorts or jeans and a t-shirt.

  60. Patricia says:

    This is disturbing. I find catagorically blasphemous. That Jesus died a horrible death on the cross to save us from sin and allowed to be forgiven….because of this pit of hell…and now having this new age contradiction in our midst, is certainly from Hell itself. If there is no hell…there would be no need of Christ to die for our sins. The loss of the idea that sin is evil, and has evolved into a trifle is Hell itself. The insult to Jesus is devastating.
    Fr. Barron is an intellect and effective in many realms. I find his theology dangerous to those needing just the right words to reject the meaning of hell altogether…feeling better about themselves and not having to worry about such a place. After all, what would we teach our children. My protestant friends ‘know’ there’s a hell..and so do I.

  61. Shin says:

    If I may. . .

    101 Quotations from Holy Scripture & the Saints on the Fewness of the Saved
    102 Quotations from Holy Scripture & the Saints on Hell

    I always think of the priesthood and its very reason for existence, its purpose.. when I think of sacrifice for the sake of salvation of souls..

  62. Luis says:

    Just one man in Hell is too many and too sad for our Saviour. Even if there was just one man left on Earth, he would still die again for his salvation. This is the right meaning of many, for a loving God.

    • Yes I have heard this view before. And while I would not wholly discredit such a view, I would struggle reckon it with the many other places where Jesus speaks of judgement etc. and I am not sure if we want to presume the Lord was speaking in riddles about such a central question.

  63. Deacon Ed Peitler says:

    The disparate emphases on “many” or “few” has some real consequences.

    If I choose to suppose that many will be saved and few lost, the risk of losing my soul in supposing that I am going to be among those who are saved and, as a result, am heedless about how I go about ‘working out my salvation’ is great indeed.

    If, one the other hand, I choose to suppose that many are lost and few saved, the risk of losing my soul in supposing that I will be among those who are saved will greatly lessened because I will conduct my life with much more care. I will take working out my salvation that much more seriously.

    This notion that most will be saved is a dangerous one indeed for it lacks charity and truth. I am surpised, because of the lack of charity in that notion, that Fr. Barron chooses to place the emphasis here. I am also surprised since he is big into evangelization. He, more than most, should know that it’s in calling people away from their sin and into the salvific arms of Jesus that draws people to Christ and His Church. If many will be saved, there’s little need for Jesus.

    I, too, have relied greatly on Fr. Barron’s homilies for my own preparation in this regard. But I have to admit that I have done so cautiously because of what i have perceived in the past as a bit too much of the “wide road’ theology. Let’s preach Christ Jesus and not what is PC!

    • yan says:

      One problem with your view, in justice, is that it makes the damnation of many a type of moral necessity for the salvation of the few, since the fear of damnation leading to salvation in the few is increased by the supposition that most are damned; and without that fear, even the few may not be saved.

      That causes problems of theodicy–God created many knowing they would be damned, for the sake of few which He knew would be saved in part by virtue of the many being damned–which may be obstacles to the gospel, too.

      So there are obstacles to salvation on either side of this argument. They should all be considered but I don’t yet see how any such arguments yet can be definitive of the reality of whether many or few are actually saved.

  64. Supertradmum says:

    The problem with Fr. Barron partly is that is he is keen on von Balthasar, who also fudges on the hell issue. I had studied this phenomenologist for seven years, before giving up on him, so I am writing from first-hand interpretation.

    I like Voris in so far as he pushes the debate to a large, obviously, audience and more people will read Martin’s book now. His statements are not Pelagian, by the way, as one can check easily on my blog, Voris’ own comments in the past on heresies, etc. He is probably trying to say too much in a short period of time.

    As to Fatima, the saints, and other visionaries, we cannot make apologetic or dogmatic statements based on those. A Marian apparition may be approved without all the vision being approved. It is not good apologetics to appeal to visionary statements. We have 2,000 years of teaching on hell and punishment, from Christ Himself up to the present day, and, we have, of course, the Creed. I may believe in these, but they do not belong as part of rational discourse.

    As to misquoting the footnote in Martin, that is just plain sloppiness on the part of Barron. Scholars need to be very careful.

    The heresy of universal salvation is the most common among Catholics, who do not understand the sacrament of baptism or who do not believe in Original Sin. We only become heirs of heaven and adopted children of God in baptism. That could be a clarification needed here as well. Without that sacrament, many do not have the graces for salvation and will go to hell. There is a mystery about God’s grace which we cannot understand, but only see in gratitude for the opportunity for salvation..

    Those of you, many of whom I respect in your comments, who think Voris is strident, should recall Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezechiel, and Christ Himself, who did not mince words or always use a tactful tone. There is such a thing as righteous anger. We have all become way too nice.

    • Rouxfus says:

      Private Revelations may not make for good apologetics, when one is defending the teachings of Christ to those outside the faith, but this doesn’t seem to me to be at sort of an argument. This is a discussion among faithful Catholics who “accept these and all the truths that Holy Church proposes for our belief because Thousand has revealed them, who can neither deceive nor be deceived.” Among such Catholics, I reckon, we can look to these revelations to shed further light on shadowy questions such as this. No one is denying the doctrine of Hell here.

      That God felt there was clarification needed on this subject, that He felt it necessary to reveal aspect of it to his good friends in the faith is reason enough to pay attention to those revelations to guide the faithful. To dismiss them out of hand on matters where they may shed light is to be ungrateful to Him, it seems to me.

  65. A reader says:

    For me it seems enough to consider that God has given me the ability to choose freely whether to love Him or reject him, and that God will respect my choice in eternity. What comfort would it give me to know that there are few in hell, if I myself am there? What does the population of hell matter, if I myself choose to make it my eternal home? The reality of hell, and the very real possibility of freely choosing to reject God, and so become one of it’s eternal inhabitants, is enough for me.

  66. Nick says:

    What Jesus meant:

    Matthew 7:13 in Ancient Greek

    πολλοί (polloi) = the many or the majority (Wikipedia)

    Now, compare that “many” to all the over times that Jesus uses it: Polloi

    Jesus was saying that many would not serve Him, would be told “I do not know you” by Him, would go down the wide road to Hell, etc.

    Some false teachers twist Jesus’ words, though. They claim “Jesus condemned non-Christians to Hell”, “Christians put their narrow-minded beliefs on Jesus’ lips”, “Jesus is misunderstood, the Aramaic is different”. That last claim is false because the Aramaic used today in the Eastern Churches is not the Aramaic used in the First Century: It’s a dialect – Syriac – based on the Greek translation of the Bible. If I’m not mistaken.

  67. Supertradmum says:

    sorry about typos, was rushing off to Mass…Also, want to add that being rector of one of the largest seminaries in America, Mundelein, Fr. Barron should be a bit more in keeping with the Teaching Magisterium of the Church, doncha’ think?

  68. Jennifer Olson says:

    Msgr. – I seem to remember JPII making a similar supposition as Pope B16 regarding this matter as well. Do you recall this at all?

  69. Pete says:

    Jesus said that many will go on the wide road to Hell, while the Gates to Paradise are narrow. There are also Rites of Excorcism in the Catholic Church. They are not going away anytime soon. Hell doesn’t change because of man’s history, but man’s history changes because of Hell.

  70. Pete says:

    Jesus said that many will go on the wide road to Hell, while the Gates to Paradise are narrow. There are also Rites of Excorcism in the Catholic Church. They are not going away anytime soon. Hell doesn’t change because of man’s history, but man’s history changes because of Hell.

  71. Matt says:

    As a fan of Fr. Barron’s and yours, I couldn’t look past the post — and thanks be to God for the discourse. As I found in this series of posts as well as Fr. Barron’s work, the struggle or dissent seems to be tied to a general resistance in our society for Catholics to return to a more orthodox faith (not an accusation of either side here). Despite his comments, I still think Fr. Barron a great proponent of moving us all closer to the source of our faith; and regardless of the outcome in this debate, each of us is still personally responsible and required to work out our faith in fear and trembling — not by adhering to one theologian or another. I applaud your approach and actions in enlightening us!

  72. Deacon Tom (not11:58 pm Dcn Tom above) says:

    Msgr. Pope: it seems there are 2 issues here. First, the uncharitable tone used by Father Barron when critiquing Mr. Martin’s conclusions. This in my view was unlike Father Barron’s usually thoughtful engagement of such theological issues. I hope Father Barron might reconsider his lack of charity he showed by comparing Martin to a “dissenter” as I.mentioned in my earlier post. The second point is the substance of Fr. Barron’s quippy conclusion that few will be dammed to hell based on the Holy Father’s comments in Spe Salvo. I find your thoughts, along with those of other blotters, Mr. Martin, the discussion in the Cathechism, much more persuasive than Fr. Barron’s near knee-jerk response to an apparent non-authoritative teaching in Spe Salvi. We certainly cannot presume the Holy Father to be overriding the express words of Christ and the CCC. Let us hope the Holy Father does clarify this important matter, and in the meantime, I also hope Father Barron and others will engage Mr. Martin without the demeaning characterizations of Martin’s good faith attempts to address an important issue for our time.

  73. Russell says:

    Monsignor Pope,

    I have thoroughly read your article, Fr. Barron’s critique, Ralph Martin’s reply to Fr. Barron, and the paragraphs of Spe Salvi and Lumen Gentium that are in question (and Michael Voris’ joke of a fair and balanced video). To begin, I find it necessary to refer to Romans 2:14-15 as many other commenters have already noted, and to paraphrase: those who do not know the law are subject to the nature law for it is written on their hearts, and they will be guided and judged by their consciences. This scriptural reference helps us understand the passages at hand from Lumen Gentium and Spe Salvi in addressing the question of the possibility of salvation without hearing the Gospel.

    I think Father Barron, Pope Benedict, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Augustine, Monsignor Pope, and Ralph Martin (and many others) would all agree that there appears to be a majority of people who outright reject both the truth of the Gospel and the natural law; however, in many people remains the possibility of salvation, the adherence to the natural law written in their hearts, and despite the confusion and darkness of sin, there remains the subtle attraction to Light, Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

    My argument is as follows: Pope Benedict inserts the line “we may suppose” in Spe Salvi, not simply as a supposition as to how many are saved or damn (and we may tend to think this because “we may suppose” is placed directly after “the great majority of people”), but as follows: 1) that we are not the Judge and only the Judge knows who is saved and damned in this lifetime, and 2) we cannot fully know and appreciate the depths, the mysteries, and final perseverance of the human heart and soul; and therefore, Pope Benedict inserts “we may suppose” as an act of humility: we may never know, in this lifetime, the outcome and judgement of any individual soul because that is for Christ, not us, to know as Judge (until the final judgement — to which we are all subjected). Pope Benedict’s message is one of Hope humbly places his final Hope in Christ Jesus and the Holy Spirit; he does not rely on his own (nor should we rely on our own) presumptions. When I first read the words, “we may suppose,” my immediate thought was, perhaps, Pope Benedict is questioning, “How can I know how many are damned? Am I the Judge, or the one subject to judgement?” I also thought about of the rebuke of Job [38]: “Where were you when I laid the foundations?” What I find most profound in Pope Benedict is the hope that the Advocate, the Paraclete, will be at our side as Attorney General, on the day of judgement, in defense of our salvation (end of paragraph 47, Spe Salvi).

    In my own family, I see the rejection of repentance and rejection of the truths of Christ’s Revelation and the Catholic faith. Almost every person in my family appears to outrightly reject the truth and refuses to acknowledge that Jesus Christ and the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church is at the very center of the lives of my wife, my newborn, and myself. But I refuse to count their souls lost and will pray for them at every moment with every ounce of my effort because I see something in them worth fighting for, worth dying for. I see in them confusion, pain, suffering, unhappiness. I see in them the blessings they are missing. But in the depths of the hearts, in a way that I cannot bring out of them fully, “there remains in the depths of their being an ultimate interior openness to truth, to love, to God, (Spe Salvi, 46),” or at least I hope so! I fear their judgement, as I do my own, but I must have hope (not presumption) in their salvation.

    In my opinion, Ralph Martin missed this crucial point of the phrase, “we may suppose,” that Pope Benedict stated most simply, most humbly, and utterly saintly. I see the point Ralph Martin is trying to make, and he’s not wrong in questioning whether a majority of people are in Hell instead of Heaven (and that’s not the point of contention in my view), but he’s wrong for cherry picking Pope Benedict’s statement, mischaracterizing and drawing criticism to it. I believe Father Barron saw this. Why should anyone expect Pope Benedict [“one of the most theologically accomplished popes in history, writing at a very high level of authority (Father Barron)”] to ever answer to Ralph Martin’s criticism (and yours, Monsignor), “to weigh more in,” on a single statement? I believe Father Barron is rightly and justly defending a criticism of Pope Benedict.

    So, who will save the many? How about the few? Who will save the theologians and philosophers? Who will save me? Ralph Martin? Monsignor Charles Pope? Pope Benedict? Father Robert Barron? Not me, that’s for sure — but the God-Man, Jesus. “For man, this is impossible; but for God all things are possible (Matthew 19:26).” Let is not lose sight of “His gaze, the touch of his heart [that] heals us through an undeniably painful transformation ‘as through fire.’ [A] blessed pain, in which the holy power of his love sears through us like a flame, enabling us to become totally ourselves and thus totally of God (Spe Salvi, paragraph 47).” So, how many people are in Hell? Only God know’s. I hope as many souls as possible are saved, but I will cling to the narrow path with fear and trembling.

    • I Like the Church Fathers says:

      “Almost every person in my family appears to outrightly reject the truth and refuses to acknowledge that Jesus Christ and the One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church is at the very center of the lives of my wife, my newborn, and myself.”

      Russell, this is a poignant comment. I think a lot of us understand from personal experience where you’re coming from. How does this play itself out in the afterlife? Can a person who has been saved really be happy and content in heaven knowing that some loved members of his own family are burning for eternity in hell with no further chance of redemption? I have my doubts.

      • Shin says:

        Actually, when family or relatives are in Hell, and one is in Heaven, the one in Heaven are contented and even rejoice in God’s will in this fact, and in His Justice. They are the family of God — the others are not.

        In this life it might help to appreciate how black a single mortal sin is, and how terrible the souls of people in it actually appear, both in this life and immeasurably more so after judgement. The people who are damned hate God, hate, you and hate everyone, forever.

        Justice is one of the forgotten virtues today. This is very harmful. It is always harmful when any virtue is forgotten, but this is too a cardinal virtue. There are so many virtues that are its children.

        Because the emotional life is put above the intellectual life in these times, one of the entire serious of upside down evils of this age, we have a hard time adjusting to these things, but part of conversion is that of the emotional life.

        And embracing God’s will whatever it may be. :)

        ‘Mercy or compassion may be in a person in two ways: first by way of passion, secondly by way of choice.

        In the blessed there will be no passion in the lower powers except as a result of the reason’s choice.

        Hence compassion or mercy will not be in them, except by the choice of reason . . . so long as sinners are in this world they are in such a state that without prejudice to the Divine justice they can be taken away from a state of unhappiness and sin to a state of happiness. Consequently it is possible to have compassion on them both by the choice of the will — in which sense God, the angels and the blessed are said to pity them by desiring their salvation — and by passion, in which way they are pitied by the good men who are in the state of wayfarers.

        But in the future state it will be impossible for them to be taken away from their unhappiness: and consequently it will not be possible to pity their sufferings according to right reason. Therefore the blessed in glory will have no pity on the damned.’

        St. Thomas Aquinas

      • John says:

        My wife and I were blessed with four children. All were raised Catholic but did not attend Catholic schools. Where ever we were stationed during a 30-year military career, they were always enrolled in CCD programs. As in all things, some programs were good, some were not. My wife and I both were active CCD teachers in many of the Catholic communities around the world where we were stationed. We believed that we had sufficiently catechized our children through our own example and through their CCD education, such as it was over the years.

        When our children were sent out into the world on their own, their faith went with them for a while. It didn’t take long, however, for secular influences to eat away at the things they had lived with and had been taught during their formative years. So, when they began to eschew the tenets of our faith in favor of the wide, silver-lined path of worldly life, my soul grieved for theirs.

        While stationed on Okinawa in the mid-80s, non-Catholic high school friends convinced one of our kids that our Marian ways constituted “worship” of our Blessed Mother. That Catholic community lacked a youth program similar to the very active protestant youth group on the island. So, absent a counter-punch to such protestant teaching within her peer group, our daughter left the Church in favor of a Baptist church, in spite of her Mom and I, and very credible and moving importunes by our Catholic Chaplain Pastor, explaining in great deal the intent and philosophy of the Catholic Church’s Marian doctrines. Peer pressure being what it is at that age, her friends’ arguments carried more weight, and the Baptists were successful in picking off another Catholic. To this day, I grieve on a spiritual level for her soul and the lies for which she fell. Admittedly, she is a good person, praying often in praise, supplication, and sincere thanksgiving to God Our Father and His Beloved Son, Jesus. They have good children who have a love of God unmatched by many Catholic kids I have observed. That said, she left “Truth” behind and will suffer for it. The other three kids have their own issues; but two of them are raising their own kids in the Church, working hard to ensure that their children are at least armed with the truth as taught by the Church. Their kids, our grandchildren, will face an even more hostile world, however. Fearing the consequences once they are set free in the evil surroundings of our secular society, my wife and I pray hard that they will hang on to at least a bit of their spiritual training. Our fourth child is a work in progress, having been turned away from a path back to his Catholic roots by an ill-informed and off-putting priest.

        What does any of that have to do with the post to which I am adding this note? Everything. We love our children dearly; each is a precious cooperative effort with Almighty God in their creation. While I pray that my wife and I did the right things for our own children as they were growing up, the question remains, “Did we do enough?” If, as my spiritual advisor counsels, the answer is “yes”, then the ultimate responsibility for their own choices rests with them, regardless of how faithful we might have been in trying to teach them the “right” things. The path(s) they ultimately choose, they, and they alone, must walk. And if, in spite of our St Monica-like prayers, they choose not the “narrow path” to salvation, they, and they alone, must answer to the Divine Judge. I will have enough problems trying to answer for my own offenses. Upon my own death, IF Jesus favors me with the longed-for words “…well done, good and faithful servant…” and I am granted the privilege of His Divine Presence, it is very unlikely (and most likely, impossible) that I CANNOT “be happy and content in heaven knowing that some loved members of (my) own family are burning for eternity in hell with no further chance of redemption”. Doesn’t mean that I won’t love them since being in the presence of LOVE itself, it will be impossible NOT to love. And, given that Jesus Himself wept at the prospect of losing so many souls to sin and perdition, it is certain that, even though I am consumed within the Beatific Vision, I will likely own a kind of “compassion” or “sadness” for loved ones lost who made the wrong choices, as God Himself can have “sorrow” over someone’s rejection of His perfect and bountiful love.

        It is hard for many to understand that mercy (love) and justice are not dichotomous realities. God IS Love. God IS Mercy. God IS justice. He loves ALL. In His Infinite Mercy, He forgives us our trespasses when we accept His offer to follow the narrow way to His eternal blessings and, ultimately, to His Heavenly Kingdom. That Mercy is offered to ALL. In perfect Mercy to those of us who accept His ways, He metes out perfect Justice to those who absolutely reject His Infinite Love and Mercy. The beauty of everlasting life is open to all to accept or reject. As with most things in life, there are a few conditions that must be met to attain the desired objective. IF I accept and execute the conditions and attain the salvation for which I accepted God’s generous terms, then I believe that I will probably have little concern for those, even beloved family and friends, who have rejected God–and by extension me–and suffer the consequences of wrong(headed) choices. Obviously, that is as cold-hearted as one can be regarding those whom we love dearly. However, in our secular lives, my wife and I always taught our kids that there are consequences, sometimes tragic, to every decision. As you own the decision, you also OWN the consequences. The same absolutely MUST apply in terms of the “conditions” our God has laid down for the saving of our souls.

        Choosing wrongly in the spiritual life can indeed mean that the consequences involve being cast into the pit of Hell where we will roast for eternity in the everlasting fires. Not a nice thought. But I, for one, am glad to see the re-initiation of conversations on the reality and severity of Hell. I grew up with it in the 50s and 60s. It helped me understand some of the “why” of trying to live a good life, even IF the prospect of a “Beatific Vision” was a complexity far beyond my ken at times. Yeah, God IS Love; but a little bit of fear of consequences of being on the wrong side of His Infinite Justice just might urge a few more Catholics to queue up in the Confession line before they swarm to the communion rail to receive Jesus in the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar, the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus, ever present in the Eucharist.

        While some believe that Fr Barron was disrespectful to Mr. Martin or that the Pope is suggesting something he shouldn’t, I don’t believe for a second that Fr Barron himself believes that there are NO, or few, people in Hell. The truth is that we don’t know. Best witness is Dismas, the good thief, “Truly I say to you that this day thou shalt be with me in Paradise.” Just proves that there can be “last-minute” conversions. How many? The beauty and reality is that “ONLY God knows.” Let’s ratchet up the discussions of Hell, as Michael Voris is doing, all the while remembering that we had better clean up our own back yards before calling in the code enforcement guys on your neighbors’ to clean up theirs.

    • Bill Guentner says:

      Of all the comments here Russell’s is the most balanced. Thank you.

  74. Gene says:

    In his video Father Barron claims that we do not know if anyone is in hell yet Jude 1:6-7 says, “And the angels…..have been kept in eternal chains….just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities which likewise acted immorally and indulged in unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.”

  75. John C. Hathaway, OCDS says:

    Now one need read only the ancient rhetoricians or the Founding Fathers to see that debates have always been heated and the Internet doesn’t do anything to make things more “heated” other than widening the range of people involved in any given discussion, and watching videos online of WFB in his heyday show that TV political talk shows haven’t changed much either. However, I am frustrated with the way that we Catholics have adopted an “all or none” attitude towards our brethren.

    So if someone expresses one opinion that we disagree with or that may even be objectively wrong, we throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. “I can’t believe [Fr. Groeschel/Fr. Barron/Peter Kreeft/Mark Shea/Christopher West/whomever] said that, so I’m going to label him a heretic and never listen to anything else he has to say.” I’m really sick of that mentality, a mentality I used to have myself till I realized how insulating it is. We ought to be able, as Fr. Barron says somewhere in the _Catholicism_ series, to have a “good, clean debate” without insisting that those who are 90-99% in agreement with us must be 100% our enemies over topics where the Church gives room to debate. And again, this is nothing new: Scotus’s insistence on the Immaculate Conception was seen as a personal affront to the legacies of Aquinas and Bonaventure. Jerome was known for writing nasty letters.

    Only the Holy Father is infallible, and technically he’s only infallible when either a) restating previously defined dogma, b) speaking ex cathedra, or c) speaking definitively at a Council.

    We need to stop expecting infallibility of our favored theologians and philosophers. All of us our capable of committing intellectual mistakes, or in Fr. Barron’s case, perhaps erring a bit too much on the side of mercy (or in other people’s cases, erring too much on the side of judgement).

    We also need to stop confusing personal holiness and teaching. Fr. X may be a fantastic preacher who hits the nail on the head, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t commit sins–especially if he often observes in his own preaching that we should recognize that priests are sinners, too. Fr. Y may be personally holy and the most close-to-sinless person you ever meet, and his teaching may sometimes have flaws because he lets his personal compassion for sinners infect his teaching. It would be nice if all our priests followed the model of St. Louis de Montfort–a lion from the pulpit and a lamb from the Confessional.

    But let’s try to be more merciful in our view of one another.

    • I Like the Church Fathers says:

      “if someone expresses one opinion that we disagree with or that may even be objectively wrong, we throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak. “I can’t believe [Fr. Groeschel/Fr. Barron/Peter Kreeft/Mark Shea/Christopher West/whomever] said that, so I’m going to label him a heretic and never listen to anything else he has to say.” I’m really sick of that mentality,”

      Well said, John. Fundamental issues like how many will be saved need to be debated openly. There can be no effective evangelization if priests, theologians, prelates and the faithful do not bother engaging with those who raise doubts.

    • Zen says:

      Thank you for your piece on this discussion. I totally agree with your Fr. X and Y examples. Thank God, my faith rests on Him and Him alone.

      A lively and respectful discussion of church teachings is healthy and disproves what some outside the catholic church opines that catholics do not think in accepting/following their faith. Let’s just keep it that way – lively and respectful.

  76. Supertradmum says:

    By the way, Fr. Barron has a few others areas where he is soft and mushy on areas of Church teaching. One merely has to listen to his series on Catholicism and look at some of his comments on his earlier video series. This problem with an orthodox definition of hell is one of several problems. Again, look at the systemic fault of following not-quite-solid philosophers of theologians. And, two, becoming enamoured with one’s own ideas, a pitfall for many, is too common among our priests.. Anyone can do this too easily, which is why we have the Church’s Teaching Magisterium, and the Chair of Peter for our protection in these matters.

    http://supertradmum-etheldredasplace.blogspot.ie/2012/12/on-refusing-ring-of-power.html

  77. Burton says:

    Outsider looking in, here. I’m a Protestant who has long been sticking my toe in the waters of the Catholic Church, wondering if it really could be what it claims to be. One issue that has led me to keep my distance is what I perceive to be a slow slide toward universalism within the Catholic Church. I have been watching with interest to see where the dust will settle on these matters (I may be waiting awhile): what are the normal requirements for salvation (how can I be saved?), how will Catholics evangelize if they don’t really believe in the explicit necessity of faith in Jesus, reception of the Sacraments, and becoming visibly bound to His body – the Church. This issue of hell and who populates it is obviously connected. If it is likely that very few will end up there, why share the gospel?

    Will the real Catholic Church please stand up, for a poor bloke like me who would like to know what she actually teaches on these matters?

    • Rick DeLano says:

      This is an infallible definition of the Church.

      It is true until the end of the world.

      It is certain.

      It can never be denied, and any theological “interpretation” of it which has the effect of turning it into its opposite is heretical:

      ““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)”

    • Catechist Kev says:

      Welcome, Burton!

      Recommend you get a hold of a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, second edition, Burton.

      JPII said in his Apostolic Letter, Fidei Depositum, at the beginning of the Catechism:

      “This is the faith in its entirety” and it is “a sure norm for teaching the faith”.

      Start there and happy studying.

      I will pray for you.

      CK

    • ThomasL says:

      As another Protestant that has been investigating the Church, I have to concur.

      There are things I believe–such as that Hell exists, and that a man’s free will can consign him to it–that I find have a loose grasp in the modern Catholic Church. It is disturbing to think that a future pope might authoritatively declare differently, in the face of the plain meaning of Scripture and 2,000 years of Church history, and that all Catholics are bound to believe it.

      If you say I have gone too far, well, I would say not so far as Fr. Barron, who takes it that Pope Benedict XVI has already done that very thing (I don’t think he has).

      At least as a Protestant I can read the Bible, listen to Jesus’ teaching on Hell, read St. Paul, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas Aquinas, and all the other Doctors of the Church, and believe something now, instead of waiting in a constant state of suspension for the latest news to be released by the Vatican on what I must believe on Hell and Salvation… until the next release.

      The uncertainty is hard to convey to anyone that isn’t a convert, I suspect. People raised in the Church seem to think of the Church as stable. Those coming to her see the most wildly rocking boat you can imagine, “disturbed and carried about by every wind of doctrine”, saying first one thing and then another. Even requiring assent to one thing, and then requiring assent to its opposite–usually with carefully worded phrases so that first position is vitiated in content, but not flatly contradicted.

      2,000 years in and the Church seems–and to a large part even proudly proclaims–to know LESS about everything than it ever has. It is quite unsettling.

      • Rick DeLano says:

        “t is disturbing to think that a future pope might authoritatively declare differently, in the face of the plain meaning of Scripture and 2,000 years of Church history, and that all Catholics are bound to believe it.”

        >> Utterly impossible. Has never happened. Can never happen. Will never happen:

        “I say to you that you are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. I give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Whatsoever you bind on earh *shall have been bound in heaven*.”

        “At least as a Protestant I can read the Bible, listen to Jesus’ teaching on Hell, read St. Paul, St. Augustine, and St. Thomas Aquinas, and all the other Doctors of the Church, and believe something now, instead of waiting in a constant state of suspension for the latest news to be released by the Vatican on what I must believe on Hell and Salvation… until the next release.”

        >> As a Protestant you are the recipient of a fundamental principle of private interpretation which has, lawfully, splintered and spintered and re-splintered thousands upon thousands of times, and will continue to do so, since that is the nature of the Protestant heresy.

        The Catholic Church has never denied a dogma of the Faith and never will until the end of the world.

        The devil will, of course, take advantage of that time foretold when men will no longer endure sound doctrine, but we have been warned of this.

        We have the dogmas of the Faith.

        They can never, will never be taken from us.

        • ThomasL says:

          I want to believe that. It is a hard road to come to, not just because of the inherent difficulty, which is significant, but because of so many well-meaning Catholics that ascribe infallibility and dogmatic character to things that don’t have it.

          I don’t want to pick on Fr. Barron too much, but here he seems to be assigning if not quite explicit dogmatism, a kind of implicit dogmatism here, as if we should take that paragraph as a dogma even though it is not. That is rampant. Here it is on Hell, but I’ve heard it done also on the death penalty, Social Teaching, immigration, God’s relationship to Islam, the new liturgy, whether one can even question the timing of a council, the /why/ of Immaculate Conception (I know IC is a dogma, but the exact reason /why/ is not a dogma), &c.

          The CCC, as great a resource as it is, doesn’t really differentiate between what is dogmatic and what is not, and can get rather squishy and vague at times. I am concerned that it, the bishops generally, and many priests like the confusion. They seem to encourage people treating whatever they have to say as dogma, rather than differentiating clearly between dogma, fallible teachings, and mere opinion. A lot of people like that as well, I have heard it said more than once, again by well-meaning Catholics, when backed into a corner that XYZ was not infallible or authoritative say essentially, “Well, even if it is not, stop being disobedient and and just treat it as if it is.” As if being a proper Catholic means binding ourselves to no fixed opinions or beliefs, but simply to repeat (with religious assent) whatever the latest and greatest document says.

          The person trying to find the truth in all this–the person that doesn’t already know which are authentically dogmatic and which are not–has to become a true expert in theology, philosophy, and Church history to get to the bottom of it all, because the Church seems hardly able, and I think distinctly unwilling, to tell him.

          • ThomasL says:

            It may not be clear, that I’m not trying to assert private judgment or subjectivism. Private judgment can, and often is, wrong judgment, and there is nothing like true for you, but not true for me.

            I am talking about a personal responsibility to believe the truth. It cannot be farmed out… you cannot outsource your beliefs to someone else and then just sign your name to the bottom.

            What I am trying to get at is that true beliefs are things that you cling to no matter what. You don’t change them like a garment, no matter who tells you to. You say things like, “But if anyone, even we ourselves or an Angel from Heaven, were to preach to you a gospel other than the one that we have preached to you, let him be anathema.”

            And every Christian from the lowest to the highest should not only believe that, but SAY that. St. Paul doesn’t get to say that just because he is St. Paul; he gets to say that because he told them the truth the first time, and if anyone comes back saying anything different we must not “exchange the truth of God for a lie.”

          • Richard says:

            To THOMAS L: The first thing about Protestantism is defining which teaching you embrace. Protestantism and what I call Anti-Protestantism (The modern American church, mega church movement—-Nothing close to Lutherism at all.) has so many different dogmas and teachings you can change churches weekly and thus your belief changes. Simply find the Pastor or feeling that fits you best.

            Peace

            Richard

          • yan says:

            I think you are so right in your observations here. Both as a Catholic and prior to becoming Catholic I have experienced what you mention here in many and various ways, and have done some of those things myself too.

            However, I think the catechism is an excellent start for your search. You should also check out other Catholic catechisms. You will not need to become an expert in the topics you mentioned, but in my experience, getting into them to some degree will be helpful to you. And most of all of course, you must submit your will to the truth, when you find it. It may be a difficult process.

            I disagree with your last sentence: that the Church is ‘unwilling to tell,’ or unable. I think it is more that we are human and like other humans we don’t like to admit our occasional ignorance. That is especially the case when we feel that the revelation of our ignorance may bring the truths we hold to be certain and dear into disrepute. So please be merciful in your judgment towards us.

            Perhaps the sticking point for you is the trust issue. Can you trust that the Church is your mother, loves you, and will provide you with whatever you need–knowledge, grace, and sacraments–to be saved? [In this regard, learning more about Church history was personally helpful to me.] These things, I think, are more important than the answer to every question that we have, and which is in our minds, of pre-eminent importance. The Church may know better than we which questions are important, if She is who She claims to be.

            Good luck and God bless.

  78. Pasisozi says:

    Whether anyone is actually in hell presently, I don’t know. We DO know from scripture that at least two–the Antichrist and False Prophet–will wind up there.

    But as St. John Chrysostom said, “You ask where hell is, but why do you want to know? In my opinion, it’s nowhere in this created universe at all. But let’s not find out where it lies hidden. Let us learn how to avoid it.”

  79. Ray says:

    Thanks, Monsignor. I am completely on your side of this controversy. With all due respect, Father Barron has been unduly influenced by a leader who put forth the “seamless garment” theory. Suppose the Chicago water system should be checked for anti Catholic microbes.

  80. Mary says:

    Are we to suppose that God loved His Angels any less than He loves us….that He was less merciful towards them than He would be towards us? And yet, did not 1/3 of them end up in Hell? Keep up the good work Msgr. Pope. Thank you.

  81. Patt says:

    I too was mystified by Fr. Barron’s comment. Instead of explaining or clarifying– he made the issue more confusing. I am grateful to you and Voris for wading into this argument. For me–I will side with Doctors of the Church and especially Our Lord and His many warnings about Hell and the many that are lost. Common sense should tell us that to reach any goal it takes WORK!! If you ignore God in this life how could you expect to be with Him in the next? THANK YOU Monsignor Pope and God bless your work!

  82. Patt says:

    One more thing–several saints have noted that those who think that Hell does not exist, nor that anyone goes there–are usually the ones that end up in that place of woe.

    • Petrarch says:

      Certainly. Presumption is never a good thing since we always have room to become more holy. Stopping at any point is a sign of pride. On the other hand, I think that using – as an imperfect human being, of course (and not as Christ speaking) – Hell as a way to browbeat without charity, sympathy, or mercy (as if to gain pleasure out of others’ fear or damned state) is reprehensible. I cannot remember whom, but I think it was St. Ignatius who said to always assume the best about others and the worst about yourself. I think this is good to apply to Hell. Always assume the person most unready for Heaven is yourself and extend hope for others – leaving them to the judgment of God.

  83. Richard says:

    MONSIGNOR, you and FATHER Barron are both my HEROES. I’m a great fan of both of you two. It is exciting to see so many posts on this topic.

    TO BURTON: “Will the real Catholic Church please stand up…” If you have stuck your toes in the waters of the Catholic Church, certainly you have heard of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. All your questions can be answered there. Definitively.

    Peace and unity in Christ to all

    Richard

    • ThomasL says:

      The Catechism refers to statements written at differing levels of authority, without distinguishing which level of authority each reference is at (and of course differing levels of authority can exist withing a single document).

      From experience with the CCC, I can say that it is quite a muddle trying to figure out what one *must* believe vs may believe, and what the Church has always taught vs. what it has now started teaching.

      For example you could never tell from reading the CCC alone that the Church’s current position on the death penalty was not authoritatively binding (even Pope Benedict XVI has mentioned that it is not) or that it is a recent innovation. I don’t mean to start any disagreement on the merits of fault of the death penalty, only to use it as an easily demonstrated example of the difficulty of using the CCC in this way.

      • Richard says:

        RE: Thomas L…please see comment a few posts above.

        Peace

      • Rouxfus says:

        What the Church teaches on the death penalty is binding, but what the Church teaches on the death penalty has been misportrayed. The Catechism says that individuals and communities of individuals have a right to defend themselves against violent aggressors, and a *duty* to defend others under their care from violent aggressors, and that includes killing a violent aggressor. The Church proposes, however, that where communities have the luxury of recourse to other means of defending themselves, such as incarceration, they should strive to do so. Notice that the church has not condemned the death penalty. It proposes a more humane way of fulfilling that duty, i.e., protecting society, without killing the violent aggressor in situations where that is possible and practical. So, whether it is possible and practical to find other means of self defense is a prudential judgment left to the conscience of individuals in society and community leaders. The death penalty is not sinful behavior. It seems to me to be more like an evangelical counsel: “if thou wouldst be perfect…” — fitting for some, but not for all.

        • ThomasL says:

          It is not quite so simple. In previous Catholic teaching, execution was treated as a matter of justice, not of societal protection.

          The idea that the point of execution is to protect society from the criminal is itself a very new–and disturbing–teaching. In history, any protection was at best a side-benefit, while the main point was just punishment–“thou shalt give life for life.” (Ex. 21:23)

          The problem I have with that line of argument (though it is not necessarily a problem with the conclusion), is that authorizes execution in the prevention of some speculative uncommitted crime (ie, the murder’s *next* murder), while disallowing deadly force in punishment of the crime already committed. This is precisely backward, and would lead to truly unjust outcomes applied as a general principle, since one could lock up or execute anyone that society had good reason to speculate would commit a crime, even if they have not committed it yet. To be consistent, one would also have to release any murderers who were manifestly unlikely (for whatever reason) to murder again, since they were no longer any danger to the [remaining] members of society.

          • yan says:

            I have to say for clarity’s sake that the idea that the execution of a criminal protects society is not in any way new. What is new is the attempt to limit the rationale for executing criminals to that idea alone. Why that limitation should promote the misuse of the rationale, I can’t understand from what you have written here, nor do I see any basis in reason that it should do so.

            Second, the rationale acting alone is already active in support of many things that we do–for instance, putting crazy people in mental institutions, or in permitting someone to use self defense even to the point of using deadly force when he believes he is in imminent danger of serious bodily harm.

            Of course, there is a threat to human freedom if this rationale is unjustly applied. But that is hardly a consequence of the recent Catholic limiting of rationales to allow this rationale alone to support capital punishment.

            The danger of the rationale–a danger, I hasten to add, which has always existed, and which has not been increased by this new Catholic argument, so far as I can see–has to be countered by strict use of due process. As a society I think we do an excellent job, on the whole, of making sure that individuals get that before their lives, freedom or property is taken from them. So I don’t think your fears are sound given the facts on the ground nor from the fact of the rationale itself.

            As to the argument itself in respect to capital punishment, I think it only makes sense in the context of the promotion of the ‘civilization of love.’ Certainly repentance is better than death, and Catholics want [or should want] criminals to repent and be saved as much as anyone else. There still exists great potentiality for criminals to do good, good which they cannot do when they are dead.

            Their deaths would seem to strictly expiate their sin and that is undoubtedly a crucial point. But sin may also be expiated by a changed life. I think that is what the recent change in teaching is getting at.

            Just some thoughts…

    • Burton says:

      I have read portions of the Catechism, but certain sections of Lumen Gentium and even Dominus Iesus by Joseph Ratzinger seem to suggest a soft universalism, so I don’t know that the CCC can be rested upon as the definitive answer to this question.

      I guess specifically what I’m wondering, does the Church officially teach that the usual means of salvation is repentance, faith in Jesus as Savior, and reception into the Church via baptism? Does the CCC teach this?

      • Rick DeLano says:

        The Church teaches that the *only* means of salvation, since the promulgation of the Gospel, is baptism or the desire for it, and final perseverance.

        The Church teaches *no* other means of salvation, because She has received no revelation from God that any other such means exist.

        The CCC, heavily influenced by Rahner and, let’s face it, most of the periti at the Council including Father Ratzinger, insists upon the power of God to act apart from His sacraments.

        Theologically, this is bullet proof, since “with God all things are possible”.

        Let us admit that yes, it is possible for God to save in some way unknown to us.

        It follows that we can *never know* of even *one* such instance, apart from a private revelation.

        It is quite plausible that the number of those who “through no fault of their own”, do not receive baptism, or do not at the very least desire to receive it, and who nonetheless are joined in some unknowable way to the Catholic Church, is zero.

        Perhaps it is greater than zero.

        We will never know.

        What we *do* know is that God, while certainly able to save some souls apart from the Ark (which is a type of the Catholic Church), *He did not do so*.

        It therefore seems to be a matter for which many modern theologians and prelates will be called to answer for some day, that these notions of unknown ways of salvation, have, whether by intent or no, resulted in the collapse of the Church’s missionary zeal.

        By their fruits you shall know them.

        What is *certain*, is that there is absolutely no salvation at all outside the Catholic Church.

        • yan says:

          ‘It is quite plausible that the number of those who “through no fault of their own”, do not receive baptism, or do not at the very least desire to receive it, and who nonetheless are joined in some unknowable way to the Catholic Church, is zero.’

          Given the teachings of Dominus Iesus I’m not sure how plausible it is that the number joined to the Church in some unknowable way is zero. In that case Dominus Iesus would after a fashion be much ado about, well, zero…

          For example: ‘The hypothesis of the inspired value of the sacred writings of other religions is also put forward. Certainly, it must be recognized that there are some elements in these texts which may be de facto instruments by which countless people throughout the centuries have been and still are able today to nourish and maintain their life-relationship with God……

          Nevertheless, God, who desires to call all peoples to himself in Christ and to communicate to them the fullness of his revelation and love, “does not fail to make himself present in many ways, not only to individuals, but also to entire peoples through their spiritual riches, of which their religions are the main and essential expression even when they contain ‘gaps, insufficiencies and errors’”.27 Therefore, the sacred books of other religions, which in actual fact direct and nourish the existence of their followers, receive from the mystery of Christ the elements of goodness and grace which they contain. ‘ DI, 8.

          and

          ‘Furthermore, the salvific action of Jesus Christ, with and through his Spirit, extends beyond the visible boundaries of the Church to all humanity. Speaking of the paschal mystery, in which Christ even now associates the believer to himself in a living manner in the Spirit and gives him the hope of resurrection, the Council states: “All this holds true not only for Christians but also for all men of good will in whose hearts grace is active invisibly. For since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery”.37 Hence, the connection is clear between the salvific mystery of the Incarnate Word and that of the Spirit, who actualizes the salvific efficacy of the Son made man in the lives of all people, called by God to a single goal, both those who historically preceded the Word made man, and those who live after his coming in history: the Spirit of the Father, bestowed abundantly by the Son, is the animator of all (cf. Jn 3:34).

          Thus, the recent Magisterium of the Church has firmly and clearly recalled the truth of a single divine economy: “The Spirit’s presence and activity affect not only individuals but also society and history, peoples, cultures and religions… The Risen Christ ‘is now at work in human hearts through the strength of his Spirit’… Again, it is the Spirit who sows the ‘seeds of the word’ present in various customs and cultures, preparing them for full maturity in Christ”.38 While recognizing the historical-salvific function of the Spirit in the whole universe and in the entire history of humanity,39 the Magisterium states: “This is the same Spirit who was at work in the incarnation and in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and who is at work in the Church. He is therefore not an alternative to Christ nor does he fill a sort of void which is sometimes suggested as existing between Christ and the Logos. Whatever the Spirit brings about in human hearts and in the history of peoples, in cultures and religions, serves as a preparation for the Gospel and can only be understood in reference to Christ, the Word who took flesh by the power of the Spirit ‘so that as perfectly human he would save all human beings and sum up all things’”.40

          In conclusion, the action of the Spirit is not outside or parallel to the action of Christ. There is only one salvific economy of the One and Triune God, realized in the mystery of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, actualized with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, and extended in its salvific value to all humanity and to the entire universe: “No one, therefore, can enter into communion with God except through Christ, by the working of the Holy Spirit”.41 ibid, 12

          and

          4. It must therefore be firmly believed as a truth of Catholic faith that the universal salvific will of the One and Triune God is offered and accomplished once for all in the mystery of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Son of God.

          Bearing in mind this article of faith, theology today, in its reflection on the existence of other religious experiences and on their meaning in God’s salvific plan, is invited to explore if and in what way the historical figures and positive elements of these religions may fall within the divine plan of salvation. In this undertaking, theological research has a vast field of work under the guidance of the Church’s Magisterium. The Second Vatican Council, in fact, has stated that: “the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude, but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a participation in this one source”.43 The content of this participated mediation should be explored more deeply, but must remain always consistent with the principle of Christ’s unique mediation: “Although participated forms of mediation of different kinds and degrees are not excluded, they acquire meaning and value only from Christ’s own mediation, and they cannot be understood as parallel or complementary to his”.44 Hence, those solutions that propose a salvific action of God beyond the unique mediation of Christ would be contrary to Christian and Catholic faith.

          and

          ‘In fact, “the elements of this already-given Church exist, joined together in their fullness in the Catholic Church and, without this fullness, in the other communities”.65 “Therefore, these separated Churches and communities as such, though we believe they suffer from defects, have by no means been deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church”.66′ ibid, 17

          • Rick DeLano says:

            “Given the teachings of Dominus Iesus I’m not sure how plausible it is that the number joined to the Church in some unknowable way is zero. In that case Dominus Iesus would after a fashion be much ado about, well, zero…”

            >> The challenge that I face in forming my conscience is that I can never allow any level of teaching less than a solemn definition, to reverse a solemn definition.

            “Dominus Iesu” is not a solemn definition.

            It does not define any dogma.

            “Cantate Domino” is a solemn definition.

            It does define a dogma.

            Therefore, any interpretation of “Dominus Iesu” which has the effect of reversing the solemn definition of Cantate Domino is false. It is the duty of a Catholic to refuse, even unto death, to be persuaded to deny a solemnly defined dogma of the Faith, for any reason whatsoever, no matter who is doing the persuading.

            The Holy Spirit has promised that the Church will never bind me to error in matters of Faith or morals; therefore Dominus Iesu *must* be understood in such a way as to render its meaning non-contradictory to the solemnly defined dogma “no salvation outside the Church”.

            To the extent that Dominus Iesu” is alleged to contradict this dogma, “Dominus Iesu” is to be disregarded on that specific point, since it will have been alleged to contradict a solemn definition definition of dogma.

            The assent of Faith is required for dogma.

            The assent of Faith is *not* required for “Dominus Iesu”.

          • yan says:

            I’m sorry, I am not familiar with Cantate Domino. Which portion of it defines a dogma which Dominus Iesus might be construed to have contradicted?

            Certainly you give some kind of assent to the ordinary magesterium, yes? Isn’t DI part of that? And the catechism?

            Is this portion of DI difficult to reconcile with CD:

            ‘In fact, “the elements of this already-given Church exist, joined together in their fullness in the Catholic Church and, without this fullness, in the other communities”.65 “Therefore, these separated Churches and communities as such, though we believe they suffer from defects, have by no means been deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the spirit of Christ HAS NOT REFRAINED FROM USING THEM AS MEANS OF SALVATION which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church”.66′ ibid, 17

            If this passage of DI is true, must it not be more than plausible that some outside the visible boundaries of the Roman Catholic Church have been actually saved?

          • Rick DeLano says:

            Cantate Domino’s 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)

            DI states:

            “Therefore, these separated Churches and communities as such, though we believe they suffer from defects, have by no means been deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the spirit of Christ HAS NOT REFRAINED FROM USING THEM AS MEANS OF SALVATION which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church”

            >> “significance and importance in the mystery of salvation”? Certainly. Every validly baptized Protestant or Orthodox is a Catholic at that moment, and remains a Catholic unless and until they willfully deny a dogma of the Faith. There might be very many of these Catholics in heaven, there might be very few, there might be zero, but *all* of them have been joined to the Catholic Church at the moment of their baptism.

            I personally can attest that Christ does indeed use these separated communities as means of salvation- I became a Catholic many years after first encountering the Scriptures in just such a separated community.

            The means of salvation include baptism, Scripture, prayer, and certainly all of these are to be found in the separated communities.

            But salvation itself is found only in the Catholic Church- that is an irreversible and solemn definition.

          • Rick DeLano says:

            Cantate Domino’s 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)

            DI states:

            “Therefore, these separated Churches and communities as such, though we believe they suffer from defects, have by no means been deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the spirit of Christ HAS NOT REFRAINED FROM USING THEM AS MEANS OF SALVATION which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church”

            >> “significance and importance in the mystery of salvation”? Certainly. Every validly baptized Protestant or Orthodox is a Catholic at that moment, and remains a Catholic unless and until they willfully deny a dogma of the Faith. There might be very many of these Catholics in heaven, there might be very few, there might be zero, but *all* of them have been joined to the Catholic Church at the moment of their baptism.

            I personally can attest that Christ does indeed use these separated communities as means of salvation- I became a Catholic many years after first encountering the Scriptures in just such a separated community.

            Certainly certain of the the *means* of salvation (baptism, Scripture, prayer) are to be found in the separated communities.

            But salvation *itself is found only in the Catholic Church- that is an irreversible and solemn definition.

            All the truth they have comes from the Catholic Church, and all the truths they have serve to lead to the Catholic Church.

            In this way the language of DI can be understood in continuity with the vastly higher level of authority taught in Cantate Domino- we must give the assent of Faith to the solemn definition, and must never imagine that such an assent of Faith is subject to reversal by any level of teaching at a lower level, such as DI.

          • yan says:

            I think you may be misinterpreting DI as saying that the means of salvation in those communities exists solely as a means of salvation insofar as they bring people into visible unity with the Roman Catholic Church. It seems to me that a fair reading would be that these elements, which are salvific only because they are Catholic, do indeed effect salvation in individuals who are not visible members of the Roman Catholic church.

            I don’t think that such a reading is opposed to DC’s definition-which you have obligingly posted-if we understand the phrase ‘Catholic Church’ in that document to mean more than simply the visible Roman Catholic Church.

            I think also that my interpretation of those words is not too far a stretch if we consider the reality that not all of our separated brethren are schismatics or heretics simply by virtue of their membership in objectively schismatic and heretical bodies, since a schismatic or a heretic must be so willfully and not solely because of the fact of their possessing erroneous beliefs. If it were the case that simply possessing an erroneous belief made one a heretic, then St Thomas Aquinas would be a heretic, which would of course be impossible, absurd and blasphemous to suggest as I’m sure you would agree, simply because he was mistaken about the Immaculate Conception.

            Your thoughts?

          • Rick DeLano says:

            yan:

            Thank you for this exchange, it is very helpful.

            I must respond to you with clarity: if you understand DI to teach that there is salvation outside the Catholic Church; if you understand DI to deny 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”……

            Then I do not receive your doctrine, and warn you fraternally that you have allowed your misunderstanding of a lower-level teaching to reverse a solemn dogma to which the assent of Faith is necessary.

            Because you are an honest person, and because I would resist you to your face at every opportunity should you deny this dogma for any reason whatever, or try and teach others to do so, I am afraid we are at loggerheads.

            My Bishop His Grace Jose Gomez of Los Angeles, and it would be a service to the Body of Christ were you to denounce me to him, if you are convinced in conscience that you are right and I am wrong.

            May God be glorified, and may He judge between me and thee.

            In Christ,

            Rick

          • yan says:

            Hi Rick,

            From what you have wrote I would not dare to denounce you. What we have going on here, I hope, is merely an example of faith seeking understanding. I hope you would not denounce me either but you must of course do what your conscience bids.

            I think the key to reconciling the two documents is of course to first understand each of them as best as we can. I think there is wiggle room in the CD definition to permit the salvation of those outside the visible unity of the Roman Catholic church, because I think it is reasonable to understand the definition as being applicable to condemn only those that, with a correct understanding of Catholic teaching, deny it willfully. That is, I think, the correct definition of a formal heretic. Material heretics would not be included, if they desired to know the truth and would accept it if it were proposed to them in a way that they could reasonably accept. Of course, only God knows the difference between the 2 for sure.

            That would leave open the possibility for those outside the visible unity of the Church to be saved by virtue of their participation in various salvific elements which are Catholic. Of course, only God would know who that would be. Strictly speaking, they could not be saved outside the Roman Catholic Church. But they would not be visibly within the body of the Roman Catholic church, just as unbaptized martyrs would not be either, though the Church says that such as those are absolutely within the Roman Catholic Church as a matter of fact.

            If you think I am reversing CD in any way, please explain to me how, because I quite agree with you that it is dogma that cannot be reversed or contradicted in any way, with the proviso that the scope of its authority must be limited to its original and true intended meaning, correctly understood. So with the help of God let us do our best to understand it within its true Catholic meaning.

          • Rick DeLano says:

            Thank you, yan, I will attempt to further address the problems I presently perceive in your understanding of DI.

            “I think the key to reconciling the two documents is of course to first understand each of them as best as we can”

            >> Completely agreed. The first, imperative step in that process is to recognize the degree of magisterial authority attached to them. It is crucial to clearly state and acknowledge that “Cantata Domino” is a solemn definition of dogma. It is a matter of De Fide definite. It represents an instance of the very highest form of magisterial teaching, an exercise of the extraordinary magisterium, a definition of doctrine “ex cathedra”.

            “Dominus Iesu”, by comparison, is a document of a Vatican dicastery, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and no such document has the slightest power to reverse any solemn definition.

            Any understanding of “Dominus Iesu”, therefore, which has the effect of denying, reversing, or turning into its opposite, the solemn definition of “Cantate Domino”, *must* be a false understanding of the former document.

            It is my belief that you presently labor under a false understanding of “Dominus Iesu”, exactly because you understand it to reverse, deny, and turn into its opposite, the solemnly defined dogma of Cantate Domino.

            This dogma, “nulla salus extra ecclesiam” is quite unusual in that it has been solemnly defined on no less than three occasions. In addition to the solemn definition of Cantata Domino, there are two other irreformable definitions:

            “There is one universal Church of the faithful, outside of which no one at all can be saved. Pope Innocent III, ex cathedra, (Fourth Lateran Council, 1215).

            “We declare, say , define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” Pope Boniface VIII, (Unam Sanctam, 1302).

            “Dominus Iesu”, since it does not rise to the level of these three infallible definitions, *must* either be understood in such a way as to render it compatible with the definitions, or else it *must* be held to be heretical, and rejected utterly by every Catholic.

            I argue that “Dominus Iesu” can, and must, be understood so as to render it compatible with the three definitions.

            You argue that it supplants, replaces, or corrects the three solemn definitions.

            I reply that this is impossible.

            Y: “I think there is wiggle room in the CD definition to permit the salvation of those outside the visible unity of the Roman Catholic church

            >> The definition explicitly contradicts you.

            “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”

            What is even much worse for you, the additional solemn definition of Boniface VIII explicitly addresses submission to the Pope:

            “”We declare, say , define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff.” Pope Boniface VIII, (Unam Sanctam, 1302).

            Y: “because I think it is reasonable to understand the definition as being applicable to condemn only those that, with a correct understanding of Catholic teaching, deny it willfully.”

            >> So, then, the only persons capable of being outside the Church, are those who deny Her with a correct understanding of Her teaching?

            My, my my.

            The word “none”, in Cantate Domino, has been constrained down to a very tiny subset indeed.

            The truth is that the word “none”, in the solemn definition, has been transformed into its opposite, in your understanding of a CDF document of greatly lesser authority. Your understanding requires us to ascribe the meaning “many”, to the word “none”.

            This is a direct assault on Truth and the Logos Himself.

            No Catholic could ever possibly be inveigled in such a way.

            I invite you to examine my alternative understanding of DI.

          • Rick DeLano says:

            Serendipitously, Yan, I returned to my recreational reading of Umberto Ecco’s “Foucault’s Pendulum” (a terrifying excursion into the nightmare world of Kabalistic insanity), only to find myself instantly confronted with these words, which I believe bear directly on our discussion:

            “If two things don’t fit, but you believe both of them, thinking that somewhere, hidden, there must be a third thing that connects them, that’s credulity.”

          • yan says:

            Hi Rick,

            I am replying to your post of Dec. 14, 11:59 p.m. below.

            I am not averring that I am correct here, but I think it is more likely that I am correct than that you are. Please allow me to explain.

            We are agreed that CD possesses greater dogmatic authority than DI. But that is not the beginning and ending of understanding the actual meaning of the words in each of the documents. Nevertheless, I also completely agree that DI can in no way reverse or contradict the definition put forward in CD. This is now the second time I am writing this, so I think we can put that issue to rest.

            Where we differ is 1] in understanding both the meaning of the definition, and its resultant scope. Then, we disagree about 2] whether the definition and scope which I attribute to CD is contradicted or reversed by my understanding of DI.

            I think you are slightly wrong on the first point, and very wrong on the second point.

            In order to address the second point first, let me respond to your statement, ‘So, then, the only persons capable of being outside the Church, are those who deny Her with a correct understanding of Her teaching?

            My, my my.’

            You commit a logical fallacy here in creating 2 categories of persons from what I said, when actually there are 3. I was saying that those to which the definition applies insofar as stating positively that they absolutely could not be saved, would be limited to those who either willfully reject Catholic teaching [including, of course, the necessity of submission to the Roman pontiff, and every other teaching which we must believe], or who would willfully reject it if it were presented to them. Such as they are in a category I will call ‘category 1.’ I don’t know the size of that category of human beings, but I imagine that it is, unfortunately, probably much greater than a ‘tiny subset’ of humanity. In any event, I think that it is both reasonable and correct to interpret CD as referring solely to such as they. More on that in a minute.

            That leaves the rest of humanity, some of which are within the visible unity of the Church–category 2–and some which are not–category 3. Those within the visible unity of the Church–category 2–have the best chance to be saved. Those without, in category 3, have a chance to be saved as well, through the means explained in DI, even though it is objectively much more difficult for them to be saved than those within the visible Roman Catholic Church. Nevertheless, it is plausible, rather than possible, that many more than zero of such have been saved, if we read DI fairly, in my opinion.

            Now, to take up where I left off in the paragraph before this one: why is my categorization correct, rather than yours? First of all, because if you don’t leave wiggle room within the pronouncement of CD, there could not be a baptism of blood nor of desire, and the Church has always affirmed that these are indeed saved Roman Catholics, even though they are outside the visible Roman Catholic Church. If I were to read CD the way you do, unbaptized martyrs would not be saved.

            Second, because what DI does, in my opinion, is to explicity address the possibility of salvation, and its possible means, in respect to people, whoever they may be, in category 3.

            Addressing the eternal fate of such people is important as a matter of moral necessity to many people, including me, and also apparently to the author of DI, because a failure to address it well, makes it difficult to explain the justice of God. According to your understanding, anyone that has not committed a mortal sin, and who through no fault of their own, live and die outside the Church, and who, if they had been presented with the truth during their lives, would have submitted to it, are subject to the definition of CD in being consigned to eternal torment because they are still outside the Church. In justice, I don’t think CD can be read to mean that.

            Thus, I think my readings of DI and CD are entirely consistent, since they must address the lives and fates of different kinds of people.

          • Rick DeLano says:

            Thanks, Yan, I will make this short and sweet, it is possible we have come to the logical conclusion of our discussion, although if you care to address the contradiction in your argument, I would be happy to proceed further.

            Up to you.

            But your argument suffers from a fatal self-contradiction which I will point out, and leave it there unless and until you remedy it.

            “We are agreed that CD possesses greater dogmatic authority than DI. But that is not the beginning and ending of understanding the actual meaning of the words in each of the documents. Nevertheless, I also completely agree that DI can in no way reverse or contradict the definition put forward in CD.”

            >> Therefore, any part of your argument which does not conform to these agreed-upon truths would conclusively self-falsify your argument.

            “I was saying that those to which the definition applies insofar as stating positively that they absolutely could not be saved, would be limited to those who either willfully reject Catholic teaching”

            >> There is no such language in the dogmatic definition. You have added these words: ” limited to those who either willfully reject Catholic teaching”.

            You have done this, exactly, because you have decided to apply the lower level teaching of DI, to reverse, correct, or set aside the dogmatic definition.

            This is exactly what you agreed above could not be done.

            This is a fatal self-contradiction, and brings us to the logical conclusion of our discussion.

            If you wish to proceed further, you must remedy this contradiction, though of course in remedying it you refute your own argument.

            Please advise.

          • Rick DeLano says:

            While your argument concerning “nulla salus extra ecclesiam” stands refuted, you raise a distinct, but closely related, issue here:

            “According to your understanding, anyone that has not committed a mortal sin,”

            >> All have sinned in Adam, and absent baptism are deprived of the beatific vision. This is also a dogma of the Faith, de Fide definita.

            and who through no fault of their own, live and die outside the Church, and who, if they had been presented with the truth during their lives, would have submitted to it,

            >> These are still Adam’s children, they are still untranslated from the condition of child of Adam to child of God, and it is a dogmatic definition of the Catholic Faith (Trent, Decree on Justification) that, since the promulgation of the Gospel, this translation *cannot be effectuated apart from baptism or the desire for it*.

            “are subject to the definition of CD in being consigned to eternal torment”

            >> No. An unbaptized person, guilty of no personal sin, is *not* subject to the torments (suppliciis) of the damned, but they *are* subject to the punishment (poena) of the deprivation of the beatific vision, due to original sin. (Pius IX)

          • yan says:

            Hi Rick,

            I am replying to your posts at 8:26 and 9:45 on December 15.

            I guess we are about done here, since I don’t agree at all that my understanding of extra ecclesia nulla salus has been refuted. You have merely restated your interpretation of CD without showing why it is properly Catholic, and based on this have restated your opinion that my understanding of DI contradicts CD and is therefore not Catholic. If you want to tell me why my understanding of CD must be incorrect, and why yours is correct, we can continue the discussion. Otherwise, I suppose we can both ‘declare victory’ and go home.

            You say that I have added words to the definition and that therefore have engaged in an impermissible contradiction of my own assertions. But I have not added any words; I have simply added the context of the understanding of the Church in interpreting the words. We are not going to get at what the proper interpretation of CD is simply by re-asserting your interpretation, since it poses a problem which you haven’t addressed yet: specifically, you have not addressed at all what I said about those that have obtained a baptism by desire or by blood, so I will repeat it one more time, in case you would like to address it: IF WE READ THE DEFINITION THE WAY YOU WANT TO, THESE CANNOT BE SAVED, since CD does not state these exceptions. They are outside the Roman Catholic Church, if we read CD the way you say it must be read. However obviously, despite the strict sense of the words, CD cannot be read that way, because that would be to contradict the Catholic truth that these are within the Roman Catholic Church. Thus, it seems to me that your reading of CD is incorrect, and your saying that I have added words, and therefore contradicted CD, is incorrect. I am merely speculating that CD could quite likely also not be including in its apparent, but not actual, blanket condemnation, those that DI says, on a fair reading, will be saved.

            As DI explains, it is extremely plausible to do so, and consistent with the Church’s understanding of other areas of theology having to do with God’s justice and His actions and love towards those outside the visible Roman Catholic Church.

            As I see it there are 2 options: to say that DI is heresy, or that it is reconcilable with CD in a manner reasonable with the way it claims to be reconcilable. You think there is a third way, which is to interpret DI, wherever possible, in a manner that does not contradict WHAT YOU BELIEVE TO BE THE PROPER INTERPRETATION OF CD, and to ignore the rest of it. But your interpretation of CD is incorrect, and your treatment of DI is insufficiently Catholic, in my opinion, because you don’t seem to want to take it seriously as having the authority of the ordinary magisterium.

            We are not talking about unbaptized infants here. We are talking about people that have committed lots of venial sins in all likelihood, and even mortal sins. They would indeed be subject to eternal fire, if we interpret CD the way you say it must be interpreted. Even if my interpretation is right, most of these may very likely be going to hell, since being outside the Church, they are objectively at a distinct disadvantage, as DI makes clear.

            Finally, your Trent observation is to the point. It is precisely an extension of the concept of baptism by desire, for one thing, that DI seems to be getting at, though without using that phrase.

          • Rick DeLano says:

            Thanks, Yan, I have addressed all of your points, and it is clear that we will have to agree to disagree.

            “……an extension of the concept of baptism by desire, for one thing, that DI seems to be getting at, though without using that phrase.”

            Seems to be getting at?

            But without using that phrase?

            I do not receive your doctrine, Yan.

            You think like a modernist, please forgive me for having to say so.

            God be with you.

          • yan says:

            Hi Rick,

            I am replying to your post of Dec. 16 at 6:45.

            I don’t think I think like a modernist, since modernists want to change the substance of accepted Catholic teaching. I merely want to understand it better. That endeavor implies giving careful attention to what has already been said in the context of all the truths taught by the Church. What follows from that endeavor is a more careful delineation of the scope and application of what has been said in such historical times when it becomes necessary to do so. That is how I understand Catholic doctrine to evolve, and how I understand that it has actually evolved through the centuries. DI seems to me to be a step in this process. I believe it behooves us as children of the Church to pay close attention to what She is trying to do and to follow her, especially if we think we believe ourselves to be teachers of others.

            My intention is to follow Newman on this topic. The Pope does as well. However some have accused Newman of being a modernist too. The Church however declares him to be a saint.

            If a modernist wants to more carefully delineate the truths of the Church so that they are more readily reconcilable intellectually with each other, and so that they may be more readily understood and accepted by all, then St Thomas was a modernist too. But I don’t think that he was.

            If you have a different conception of what I am writing that smacks of modernist to you, please let me know if you would care to discuss it.

            May God enlighten us all, my friend.

          • yan says:

            Hi Rick,

            I admit you hit a nerve there with the word ‘modernist’ and I do forgive you. But I think that all the Popes since VII have been called ‘modernist’ by some people. I once myself thought that perhaps that criticism was correct, but after considering the matter more carefully, I have changed my opinion. They have simply tried to make Church teaching more accessible to a world that, knowingly or not, is greatly under the spell of modernism.

            Of course, some within the Church are modernists, and wanted VII to be a step towards making Church teaching conformable with modernist philosophy and theology. Pope St Pius X wrote brilliantly of them and with stunning precision. It is, in my opinion, the combination of the openness to the modern world in VII combined with the desire of some in the Church and even in the Council to truly revolutionize the Church along modernist lines that makes VII so suspect to many good Catholics. But you and I can surely agree that it would be against the nature of the Church itself to ever do such a thing. I think we also agree that we must do our best as faithful Catholics to understand VII and past teaching as being in continuity with each other. Our disagreement I think is on how best to do that.

            Merry Christmas….

          • Rick DeLano says:

            Thank you, Yan.

            I think both our points have been made with sufficient repetition at this stage.

            Dogma is not to be interpreted.

            Dogma is to be believed.

            Here is an excellent way to know when one has ceased to believe a dogma, and started instead to get about the business of “interpreting” it:

            “It is precisely an extension of the concept of baptism by desire, for one thing, that DI seems to be getting at, though without using that phrase.”

            “Seems” to be “getting at”?

            Without using that phrase?

            No.

            That is not how the Catholic Church defines dogmas which are to be believed with divine and catholic Faith, even unto death.

            You have not remedied the contradiction in your argument, and so we must agree to disagree.

            I do not receive your doctrine, Yan.

            God be with you.

          • Rick DeLano says:

            Sorry, Yan, I think we are cross-posting, I would like to acknowledge something very important which you have said above:

            “It is, in my opinion, the combination of the openness to the modern world in VII combined with the desire of some in the Church and even in the Council to truly revolutionize the Church along modernist lines that makes VII so suspect to many good Catholics.”

            >> It is, for me, the fruits of the Council which are most disturbing. The fruits are so inexpressibly awful, that one must seek an answer for how this objective outcome can be reconciled with the indefectibility of the Church.

            I conclude that the modernists have decided to embark upon a program of changing the meaning of the words in solemn definitions, in order to deny the dogma “nulla sales extra ecclesiam”, whilst at the very same time denying that they deny it.

            This is modernism.

            Its only remedy is a completely obdurate refusal to ever deny a dogma of the Faith, no matter what, please God.

            “But you and I can surely agree that it would be against the nature of the Church itself to ever do such a thing.”

            >> The Church is infallible in her solemn definitions, and indefectible in Her nature.

            We know, since we are explicitly warned in Scripture by the Holy Ghost, that a time will come when men will no longer endure sound doctrine.

            I believe we are living in that time.

            This is a matter of personal conviction- it is not in any way suggested that anyone else must believe this.

            But I do believe it.

            “I think we also agree that we must do our best as faithful Catholics to understand VII and past teaching as being in continuity with each other. Our disagreement I think is on how best to do that.”

            >> That is precisely and exactly the nature of our disagreement.

            We approach the question in diametrically opposite ways.

            I begin with what I consider to be an absolute certain initial point of departure:

            Solemnly defined dogmas are irreformable.

            They can never be reversed, set aside, re-interpreted, or equivocated by any lower level of magisterial teaching.

            You begin with your intuition of what a given teaching “seems” to be “getting at”.

            I do not mean to condemn you.

            Your approach is very mainstream.

            It is also, at its root, drastically wrong.

            It is in fact the opposite of the Catholic Church’s Traditional teaching concerning dogmatic definitions.

            Dogmatic definitions are to be *believed*.

            In exactly the sense in which the Church expressed them in the definition.

            DI must be understood as I have suggested in our discussion.

            The only alternative is to recognize it as heretical, which is not necessary.

            But the fruits of the Council are horrifying.

            May God deliver us.

            Merry Christmas….

          • yan says:

            “A. Dogmatic definitions are to be *believed*.

            B. In exactly the sense in which the Church expressed them in the definition.

            C. DI must be understood as I have suggested in our discussion.”

            I certainly agree with A. and B. The issue is that you think “B=YOUR understanding of the definition,” and that YOUR understanding alone controls. Rick, you must be open to the understanding of the Church, and not only to what you think or what I think. DI either helps us to understand that definition, since it is in a certain sense its raison d’etre, or it is largely heretical. Therefore it follows that C., supra, cannot be true.

            It seems evident that you have permitted your horror at some things which have happened since VII–things which you, I think erroneously, and revealingly, call its fruits–to close your mind to understanding VII and indeed Catholic doctrine, especially CD, in a manner consistent with ALL the revealed truths of our faith.

            You are insisting that CD be interpreted in a way that would deny membership to the Church of unbaptized martyrs, those that would have received baptism by desire, and the Holy Innocents. I say, THAT MUCH IS CERTAIN, FOR CD READ WITHOUT THE CONTEXT OF OTHER TEACHINGS OF THE CHURCH DOES NOT ADMIT OF ANY EXCEPTIONS. Having created such an interpretation, WHICH IS A FALSE INTERPRETATION, SINCE IT WOULD DENY ALREADY CLEARLY DEFINED CATHOLIC TRUTHS, it is a small matter for you to assert that the number of others outside the Church which DI on a fair reading indicates have been and will be saved, neither are, nor will be saved.

            Think about it, my friend. I think your emotions have gotten the better of you.

            I quite agree we must obdurately refuse to allow definitions, PROPERLY UNDERSTOOD, to be redefined. But it is the Church which provides the proper understanding; not you, my friend.

            It’s quite obvious you want to be a good and faithful Catholic. But in your attempt to be faithful you have lost faith in the magesterium to understand the deposit of faith in any way contrary to what you believe is the correct way to understand it. The magesterium, as it were, is something that smells bad to you, and that you view with suspicion. And I believe firmly it is the work of the devil to have made that happen, because he hates the church, and wants no man to either love it or trust it.

            I hope I would be the last person to say that you should surrender your critical faculties. I am often confronted by a Catholic that thinks if the Pope says it, it must be true. These people laugh at the sedevacantists and traditionalists. I respond, ‘what if tomorrow, the Pope denied the Holy Trinity? Would you accept that because the Pope said it?’ There is perhaps a danger in that kind of mindset.

            But there is also a danger in the mindset which you embody, which is this: “nothing the Pope says that contradicts how I understand the deposit of faith needs to be given any credence.” This is a subtle temptation which has as its basis spiritual pride. This is always a temptation to those who are truly attempting to be good Christians. It also appears to have a certain amount of wisdom, because it seems safe to hold on tightly to that which the Church has taught clearly–or seems to have taught clearly–in the past, when what is happening in the present seems to reflect poorly upon what it is teaching now. But the logic of your thinking is to cut yourself off from the influence and teaching of the Holy Spirit, Who is still with the Church, and the magesterium, to guide it into all truth, until the end of time.

            Catholic doctrine evolves. Every ecumenical council taught truths which were, just as in the case we are discussing, a crystallization and purification of already received truths, showing more clearly their proper boundaries, at the same time showing more clearly also what is not true. It is no different today, and DI is a synopsis of what has been developing for the sake of clarity, and charity, over the course of the last 70 years or so.

            You say the fruits of the council are horrifying. I have seen that idea proposed before. I have felt that before. But I no longer believe that to be true. Child sex abuse was happening before the Council was convened. It is not a fruit of the Council.

            And I have even felt precisely as you do, that the indefectability of the Church would be at stake in light of these ‘bad fruits,’ if I could not find some way to marginalize Church teaching since VII, including by finding ways to reduce the need for me to submit to the ordinary magesterium–just as you are doing.

            At the time of the Council a softness was coming over the whole world. It is out of this world that God calls the Church. So it is no wonder that this softness would also affect members of the Church. We have become morally lax, soft, overfed; it is for these reasons that fewer men and women want to endure the rigors of purity and self sacrifice required by vocations, not because of the Council.

            There have been times of moral laxity in Church history before. They always lead to some people reacting by shutting themselves off in some degree from the influence of the Church, whether through schismatic movements like Protestantism or Catharism or theological impulses which are an attempt to preserve good things, but which are erroneous, like Jansenism. Since the Church is the ark of heaven and gate of salvation, anything which brings the Church’s authority into disrepute is always a great victory for the devil.

            Ok, have to go now. Let us keep one another in prayer, shall we?

          • Rick DeLano says:

            “Catholic doctrine evolves.”—Yan

            “If anyone says that it is possible that at some time, given the advancement of knowledge, a sense may be assigned to the dogmas propounded by the church which is different from that which the church has understood and understands: let him be anathema.”– Vatican Council I, solemn and infallible definition

            So, it is really very simple, Yan.

            Do you believe this dogma has, given the advancement of knowledge, a sense which is different from that which the church has understood it?

            I think it is very clear that you do.

            It is very clear that you would deny the dogma, and replace it with an understanding which assigns the meaning “many”, to the word “none”, and that you would do this based on your understanding of lower level teaching; what you think it seems to be getting at.

            Thanks for the exchange.

            I do not receive your doctrine, it has been anathematized.

            “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)

          • Rick DeLano says:

            “Catholic doctrine evolves.”—Yan

            “If anyone says that it is possible that at some time, given the advancement of knowledge, a sense may be assigned to the dogmas propounded by the church which is different from that which the church has understood and understands: let him be anathema.”– Vatican Council I, solemn and infallible definition

            So, it is really very simple, Yan.

            Do you believe this dogma has, given the advancement of knowledge, a sense which is different from that which the church has understood it?

            I think it is very clear that you do.

            You believe that many of those existing outside the Catholic Church can partake of eternal life- in fact all of them can, unless they “willfully reject” Catholic teaching.

            This is a lie.

            It denies, among other things, the dogma of original sin, and the necessity for justification, which, since the promulgation of the Gospel, cannot be effected apart from baptism or the desire for it.

            It is very clear that you intend to tell me that, in order to be faithful to the magisterium, I must assign the meaning “many, if not all” to the word “none”.

            This is not of the Church, and not of the Holy Ghost.

            Thanks for the exchange.

            I do not receive your doctrine, it has been anathematized.

            “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)

          • yan says:

            OK Rick; I don’t think what I am writing is really registering with you. I have written numerous times that I am in complete agreement with the Vatican I definition:

            “If anyone says that it is possible that at some time, given the advancement of knowledge, a sense may be assigned to the dogmas propounded by the church which is different from that which the church has understood and understands: let him be anathema.”

            The issue is that you think I understand CD in a way that is different from that which the church has understood and understands it, whereas I think I understand it in a way simply that is different than how YOU, not the church, understood and understands it. I believe I do understand it the way the Church has understood and understands it, and I have tried to show you how the Church must have understood and must understand it if it is to be consistent with itself, and why this reason of internal consistency requires that your understanding of CD must be incorrect. You have not responded to what I have laid out several times now except by asserting that a hyper literal reading must be correct, because what I am saying would change the definition. But it would not change the definition in a way that the church previously understood the definition in the first place, which is what is important. So I think we are done for now.

            Best of luck, my friend. May God give us all wisdom and true knowledge.

          • Rick DeLano says:

            Cantate Domino’s 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)

            DI states:

            “Therefore, these separated Churches and communities as such, though we believe they suffer from defects, have by no means been deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the spirit of Christ HAS NOT REFRAINED FROM USING THEM AS MEANS OF SALVATION which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church”

            >> “significance and importance in the mystery of salvation”? Certainly. Every validly baptized Protestant or Orthodox is a Catholic at that moment, and remains a Catholic unless and until they willfully deny a dogma of the Faith. There might be very many of these Catholics in heaven, there might be very few, there might be zero, but *all* of them have been joined to the Catholic Church at the moment of their baptism.

            I personally can attest that Christ does indeed use these separated communities as means of salvation- I became a Catholic many years after first encountering the Scriptures in just such a separated community.

            Certain of the the *means* of salvation (baptism, Scripture, prayer) are to be found in the separated communities.

            But salvation *itself* is found only in the Catholic Church- that is an irreversible and solemn definition.

            All the truth the separated communities have comes from the Catholic Church, and all the truths they have serve to lead souls to the Catholic Church.

            In this way the language of DI can be understood in continuity with the vastly higher level of authority taught in Cantate Domino- we must give the assent of Faith to the solemn definition, and must never imagine that such an assent of Faith is subject to reversal by any level of teaching at a lower level, such as DI.

          • yan says:

            Hi Rick,

            I just want to add one more thought: I think the problem for you is in accepting the reality that others not specifically mentioned in CD can be saved. In that regard, what comes to mind is that the Holy Innocents were never part of the Church by baptism by desire nor by blood, since their sacrifice was not willed. Yet, they are considered to by martyrs in the Roman Catholic Church. According to your hyper-literal reading of CD, they could not be saved either, since they are not mentioned as being an exception.

            I admire your desire to be faithful but I think you have erred in your understanding of Church teaching.

          • Rick DeLano says:

            The Holy Innocents were Jews, and were saved, like all the saints of the Old Covenant, by their initiation into the covenant with Abraham, through circumcision.

            The decree on justification (infallible) of Trent explicitly addresses this.

            Since the promulgation of the Gospel, justification can only be attained through baptism or the desire for it.

          • yan says:

            Can you refer me to the part of the decree on justification that you believe addresses the issue of the Holy Innocents?

            It is my understanding that circumcision has never been a proper means of salvation per se; it is merely a sign of God’s covenant with the seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Certainly you wouldn’t assert that every circumcised individual before Christ came is a saint? [And of course no woman was circumcised.] If not, then it seems to me there had to be something in addition that would make the Holy Innocents to be holy martyrs for Christ. What that thing could be, I don’t know, since they had neither a baptism of desire nor a baptism by blood, since they had no will to be sacrificed for Christ. I could be wrong, but it seems to me, that the Church celebrates them, nevertheless, as CHRISTIAN, not Jewish, martyrs.

            Therefore one has to ask what the basis of their martyrdom would be. And it furthermore leads me to think that if there could be a basis for them to be saved, that others outside the Church could also be saved as DI says. In fact some of those that DI says could be saved would have a better chance to be saved in some ways, since they have more means of salvation available to them in many cases than the Holy Innocents.

            I pray regularly with Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, a ministry of Msgr. Reilly. One of the prayers, Prayer for Life, includes these words:

            “O Mary, we implore you to ask Our Divine Savior to find a special place in His Heart for these infants as he did for the Holy Innocents. We come to you, Immaculate Mary, with complete confidence that you will answer our prayer. Amen.”

            True, pious speculation, or error? What do you think?

          • Rick DeLano says:

            Trent, Session VI, Chapter IV.

            “…the Justification of the impious is indicated,-as being a translation, from that state wherein man is born a child of the first Adam, to the state of grace, and of the adoption of the sons of God, through the second Adam, Jesus Christ, our Saviour. And this translation, since the promulgation of the Gospel, cannot be effected, without the laver of regeneration, or the desire thereof, as it is written; unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God.”

            It is apparently necessary to point out again that the Holy Innocents were martyred *before* the promulgation of the Gospel; that is, they were saved by Faith in the coming Messiah, just as *all* Old Covenant saints were saved.

            Circumcision was the Sign of the Old Covenant, whose sacraments and ceremonies were not efficacious unto salvation, but were *necessary for salvation*, see God to Abraham, Genesis 15.

          • Rick DeLano says:

            ” ‘The hypothesis of the inspired value of the sacred writings of other religions is also put forward. Certainly, it must be recognized that there are some elements in these texts which may be de facto instruments by which countless people throughout the centuries have been and still are able today to nourish and maintain their life-relationship with God……”

            >> This is an hypothesis. “Life relationship with God” is a very ambiguous phrase, and if it is alleged that its meaning is “salvation”, then this allegation must be rejected as heretical, since it would teach an heresy- religious texts of false religions are sufficient for salvation.

            One kust die before acquiescing to such a falsehood, but thankfully “maintaining life relationship with God” is ambiguous enough to allow us to interpret this as a movement toward salvation, which of course is only available in the Catholic Church.

            “Nevertheless, God, who desires to call all peoples to himself in Christ and to communicate to them the fullness of his revelation and love, “does not fail to make himself present in many ways, not only to individuals, but also to entire peoples through their spiritual riches, of which their religions are the main and essential expression even when they contain ‘gaps, insufficiencies and errors’”.

            >> Insuficiencies and errors?

            Exactly so.

            “27 Therefore, the sacred books of other religions, which in actual fact direct and nourish the existence of their followers, receive from the mystery of Christ the elements of goodness and grace which they contain. ‘ DI, 8.

            >> Absolutely correct. Whatever truth exists in any false religion exists because of Christ, the Truth Himself.
            Nothing here to cause any difficulty at all for the Catholic who refuses to deny the dogma “nulla salus extra ecclesiam”.

            “‘Furthermore, the salvific action of Jesus Christ, with and through his Spirit, extends beyond the visible boundaries of the Church to all humanity.”

            >> But of course it does. Else how should anyone ever convert in the first place?

            “Speaking of the paschal mystery, in which Christ even now associates the believer to himself in a living manner in the Spirit and gives him the hope of resurrection, the Council states: “All this holds true not only for Christians but also for all men of good will in whose hearts grace is active invisibly. For since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery”

            >> This is certain. The *possibility* is necessarily present, given that with God all things are *possible*.
            But since the Church has never been given any revelation from heaven concerning means of salvation, other than baptism or the desire for it, we can *never know* whether this “possibility” is actualized in fact.

            For example, the very same *possibility* existed when God told Noah to build the Aerk. It is entirely *possible* that God might have decided to offer some possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the Ark, without actually boarding the Ark.

            It is very relevant to consider the fact that in reality, *He did not do so*, and every soul that did not board the Ark perished.

            Baptism is the means of salvation for us, just as the Ark was the means of salvation for the men of Noah’s time.

            Let us grant the possibility, of course.

            It really doesn’t concern us at all, not in any way, since *even if God did this we should have no way to know of it, ever, under any circumstance.

            The theological point truly *is* a matter of tautology.

            If the tautology is employed to reverse a solemnly defined dogma, then that would be heresy.

            Nothing that you have posted here obligates us to deny the dogma, and therefore nothing requires us to dismiss DI as heresy.

            Its value, its fruitfulness…..

            That is another question entirely.

        • yan says:

          and

          19. To state the inseparable relationship between Christ and the kingdom is not to overlook the fact that the kingdom of God — even if considered in its historical phase — is not identified with the Church in her visible and social reality. In fact, “the action of Christ and the Spirit outside the Church’s visible boundaries” must not be excluded.74 ibid

          and

          20. From what has been stated above, some points follow that are necessary for theological reflection as it explores the relationship of the Church and the other religions to salvation.

          Above all else, it must be firmly believed that “the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5), and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door”.77 This doctrine must not be set against the universal salvific will of God (cf. 1 Tim 2:4); “it is necessary to keep these two truths together, namely, the real possibility of salvation in Christ for all mankind and the necessity of the Church for this salvation”.78
          The Church is the “universal sacrament of salvation”,79 since, united always in a mysterious way to the Saviour Jesus Christ, her Head, and subordinated to him, she has, in God’s plan, an indispensable relationship with the salvation of every human being.80 For those who are not formally and visibly members of the Church, “salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church, but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit”;81 it has a relationship with the Church, which “according to the plan of the Father, has her origin in the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit”.82

          21. With respect to the way in which the salvific grace of God — which is always given by means of Christ in the Spirit and has a mysterious relationship to the Church — comes to individual non-Christians, the Second Vatican Council limited itself to the statement that God bestows it “in ways known to himself”.83 Theologians are seeking to understand this question more fully. Their work is to be encouraged, since it is certainly useful for understanding better God’s salvific plan and the ways in which it is accomplished….
          Certainly, the various religious traditions contain and offer religious elements which come from God,85 and which are part of what “the Spirit brings about in human hearts and in the history of peoples, in cultures, and religions”.86 Indeed, some prayers and rituals of the other religions may assume a role of preparation for the Gospel, in that they are occasions or pedagogical helps in which the human heart is prompted to be open to the action of God.87 One cannot attribute to these, however, a divine origin or an ex opere operato salvific efficacy, which is proper to the Christian sacraments.88

          • Rick DeLano says:

            “To state the inseparable relationship between Christ and the kingdom is not to overlook the fact that the kingdom of God — even if considered in its historical phase — is not identified with the Church in her visible and social reality.”

            >> It is not exactly breaking any new theological ground to say, even if in a very flowery way, that the Kingdom of God existed on Earth before the Catholic Church. Anyone who has read the Old Testament knew this already.

            ” In fact, “the action of Christ and the Spirit outside the Church’s visible boundaries” must not be excluded.74 ibid”

            >> Obviously, since, again, how else should anyone convert in the first place?

            “it must be firmly believed that “the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5), and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door”.77 This doctrine must not be set against the universal salvific will of God (cf. 1 Tim 2:4); “it is necessary to keep these two truths together, namely, the real possibility of salvation in Christ for all mankind and the necessity of the Church for this salvation”.78

            >> Exactly as I have said. We must affirm that there is no salvation outside the Catholic Church, and we must affirm the *possibility* that God might act in some unknowable way to save souls not visibly in communion with the Church, by joining them to the Church.

            Now.

            This being established, it is logically necessary to note that the *possibility* is just that- a *possibility*. Things that are possible are not necessarily things that are actual.

            It remains quite plausible that the number of persons saved in such unknowable ways is zero.

            Perhaps it is more than zero.

            In any event, we shall never know of even one such case, even should it happen.

            The theological point establ;ished, can we get back to the mission of the Church now?

            Or shall we spend another generation elaborating tautologies?

          • yan says:

            ‘The theological point established, can we get back to the mission of the Church now?’

            When have we ever done anything else?

            ‘Or shall we spend another generation elaborating tautologies?’

            It doesn’t hurt to talk and think about these things, in my opinion. The work of DI is, to me, about as perfect an elaboration of the ecumenical relationships as is possible in a document of its size.

  84. walt says:

    I am in over my head reading these comments. I can’t understand why the Pope would make a “supposition” that would support a heresy (universal salvation). Is this why some folks believe that the post conciliar popes are not popes at all???

    • ThomasL says:

      +1,

      Well phrased. The whole climate of the Church in the last 60 years is very confusing. Studying Church history, there are many times that Church has been grossly corrupt… but in a very hypocritical way. It preached truth, but failed to practice it. But at least the truth was there.

      Now it isn’t the practice that is worrying (though it is) it is the preaching. It isn’t clear the Church knows what the truth is. Modernism has set it in, and all the old truths aren’t good enough anymore; sometimes it seems for no other reason than that they happen to be old… which apparently seems old-fashioned. “It will never be known what acts of cowardice have been committed for fear of not looking sufficiently progressive…”

      • yan says:

        No, I think you are quite wrong. The Church has rephrased some things, re-emphasized some things, and de-emphasized some other things, all in the service of trying to preach the whole truth of the gospel, and the deposit of faith, more effectively, to the end that more souls might be saved, and that all mankind would derive benefit.

        Certainly the Church has had to come to terms with the influence of modernism, since modernism has affected how men of our time understand and communicate concepts, especially philosophical concepts; and philosophical concepts have always been at the service of theological ones, throughout Church history. It was only reasonable of the Church to do so.

        Whether it was prudent is I suppose open to question; though I myself would not dare to presume I knew better than the Church. If anyone fancies himself to be St Irenaeus re-incarnate he certainly has the right to pose that question.

        Many have asserted that some members of the Church were or are modernists, and that therefore, the changes in the expressions of some teachings were intended to change the substance of meanings so that they should now mean what they did not previously mean.

        I believe there are and were modernists in the Church. I believe I have met one or two. [In fact they always seem to show up around Lent for the parish mission. I think that is why the Church awards an indulgence for those that attend these missions :).] It seems to me that they very much want the dogmas of the Church to have a modernist meaning, and not the traditional Catholic meaning. But these individuals do not speak for the Church; they speak for themselves.

        I do not think the Church has changed anything which could not be changed in expressing what is within the deposit of faith. What dogmas or teachings, or expressions of them, do you think have changed, that shouldn’t have been able to change?

    • yan says:

      Just because it is consistent with heresy doesn’t mean it supports heresy. Heresies are consistent with many truths. They are heresies nevertheless because of their failure to be consistent with all the truth.

      I think you are quite right that the logical error of assuming that since a truth is consistent with a heresy, that therefore the person that states that truth secretly or outrightly supports heresy, is common to most sedevacantists.

      The universal love of God is consistent with the heresy of universal salvation. Shall we therefore anull the revelation of God’s revealed love, in order that heresy not be supported?

      Whether a supposition is wise or ill-founded, time will tell. In his day, St Thomas was viewed as a very dangerous radical by many important people because of his innovative use of philosophy. The newness of his entire theology was based on the supposition that a pagan philosopher whose ideas were foreign to Western thinking and which moreover up to that time were used only by theologians of a competing religion–Islam–could help us to understand Christian theology and philosophy more profoundly. For the previous 1000 years the Church had used philosophies which were quite different–and in many ways, opposed to the Aristotelian–in order to understand the deposit of faith with which She had been entrusted.

  85. Lorraine says:

    Monsignor Pope, you sure did open up a can of worms.

  86. MikeT says:

    Msgr. Pope,

    With all due respect in particular to Pope Benedict XVI, would you say that Pope Benedict’s logic in Spe Salvi 46 [Paraphrased: As long as one retains “an ultimate interior openness to . . . God,” despite the “concrete choices of life,” that person may be saved through the fires of Purgatory] comes very close to the Fundamental Option theory rejected by Pope John Paul II in Veritatis Splendor 65-70 ? [e.g. #68: “Man does not suffer perdition only by being unfaithful to that fundamental option whereby he has made ‘a free self-commitment to God.’ With every freely committed mortal sin, he offends God as the giver of the law and as a result becomes guilty with regard to the entire law; even if he perseveres in faith, he loses ‘sanctifying grace,’ ‘charity,’ and ‘eternal happiness.’ “]

    • Well, again, clarifications may be necessary here. I am too far removed form my Seminary days to recall all the aspects of fundamental option theory to answer your question but let me say that my starting point would be to assume that the Pope in no way is advocating this. But, I would then have to demonstrate that and I cannot go any further since my grasp of the theory is poor. Lets just say that the Pope is speaking form the standpoint of optimism regarding God’s mercy for all sinners. SO the question would center on requesting clarification as to how that pastoral insight is best balanced with other teachings that emphasize the Biblical teaching on hell, man’s freedom and our tendency to be obstinate in refusing God’s advances.

    • yan says:

      Spe Salvi 46 does not say, and I wouldn’t presume it refers to, a person that has committed, among his ‘concrete choices of life’ and ‘compromises with evil,’ any unforgiven mortal sins at the time of his death. If it did, I would think your concern would be quite valid.

  87. CS says:

    Wow. Just, wow. Now Fr. Barron is a bad guy? Pope Benedict too, we can suppose, because he’s optimistic about the number of the saved. Unreal. I rescind my apology Father, you and the rest of the radical traditionalists here are the older brother, bitter about the grace offered to all of the prodigals. You are stuck in the sacrificial mentality that demands more in order to appease the angry god who watches over your desolate sinfulness. God is Love. There is nothing of human vengeance, spite, anger, indignation, impatience, or anything of that order in him. His Justice is Mercy, His Truth is Love, and you scare away the simple sheep who would kneel before our Lord in his Church buildings by preaching hatred and fear.

    Does our Lord speak of the road that is wide to destruction, that many go down? Of course he does. We all get caught up in scapegoating and into the trap of sinfulness on a habitual basis. Few indeed are those who are able to stay always on the straight and narrow.

    Get out of the Middle Ages, and back to the Father’s and into the true liberation of hope and love offered by our Lord.

    Unbelievable.

    • Petrarch says:

      I do not necessarily disagree with your sentiment but only how it seems to suggest a discontinuity between the patristic/medieval Church and our own. I guess I just get uncomfortable when “medieval” is used as a criticism, especially in a theological context – especially, given the full range of teachers and theologians, their positions are more nuanced than it might appear. Anti-medievalism began as an “Enlightenment” denigration, after all, of the Church (not that I am saying that the Church at time or any time was perfect).

      Peace.

    • I Like the Church Fathers says:

      Kudos to Msgr. Pope for allowing this comment to go through. CS, your tone is confrontational, but I certainly sympathize with your viewpoint. You have a right to be heard.

      Your main point appears to be: how can a just and loving God allow only a few people to be saved? The traditional Catholic answer to this question [as evidenced in many of the comments here] is that people choose their fate; God doesn’t send anyone to hell. People choose to go to hell by rejecting Christ.

      This explanation is, of course, too simple. It’s hard to apply in the real world because it fails to account for human weakness. Most people don’t have the emotional and spiritual strength to be saints here on earth. They say “yes” to Christ, but, because of human frailty, they sometimes fall into temptation and sin notwithstanding. Surely people who sin out of weakness rather than malevolent rejection of grace should have a chance at purification in purgatory. Surely there is a place in heaven not just for the strong, but the weak.

      During the waves of persecutions in the third century, many Christians became apostates; they did not have the stomach to be martyrs and so they renounced Christianity and made sacrifices to the Roman gods. Some Christian hardliners at the time believed that such Christians could never return to the Church; they were anathema. However, popes such as Callistus I, Cornelius and Sixtus II took a different view: the apostates should be treated with compassion and welcomed back to the Church after appropriate contrition and penance. From that time onwards, our Church has always been a Church of sinners as well as saints. Humans are inherently weak. The popes I mentioned understood this and so, of course, does God Himself.

    • Lorraine says:

      Radical traditionalists???? Well. It is an opinion.

  88. susanna says:

    It is quite clear to me from scripture that there is a hell.
    This reminds me of “let your speech be yes yes, and no no. That which is over and above these is of evil.”
    Yes there is a hell. No debate.

  89. Davis says:

    From the catechism: “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.”

    Why would the Church pray for all men to be saved? In other words, why would the Church pray for something it has supposedly declared can’t happen?

    • Rick DeLano says:

      The Church prays for the peace of the world, knowing it shall never come until the return of the Lord. The Church prays for the relief of the poor, knowing that the poor will always be with us.

      The Church prays for the salvation of every soul, knowing that none of those who die separated from the Catholic Church will be saved.

  90. Patricia says:

    As Catholic Christians, we all have the daily responsibility and struggle to stay out of hell. We never know when we will be taken. I think most of this subject lies with the connectedness with Jesus, almost every minute of the day. We cannot forget how wretched we can be at times. The human condition is still human and we have the responsibility to pray for those who have never known Jesus, the Lover of mankind. The world is as rotten as I’ve seen it in my, over 70 yrs. We must remember those awful Capital sins….leading us into that Hell. Anger, Sloth, Lust, Scandal, Envy, Gluttony ….PRIDE, the chief sin. Then we have the Ten Commandments…to ponder as a tool and a tune-up. Can we truly observe the world as it stands today and not fully understand its depravity? Will postulating help the human soul? Our ‘responsibility’ lies in prayer, fasting, and good works for those who don’t know better. Please pray for our Pope Benedict and all the clergy.

  91. wife of many years with many children says:

    I believe Fr. Barron is correct.
    .
    “comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God.”
    .
    Yes, there is a hell. Hell is for people consumed by hate.
    .
    Any Mother or Father that has loved their fallen child, knows they would literally go to hell and back to save the child of their body. This is but a faint glimmer of what the true Father of their souls would do for them; that they might dwell in His heavenly household with Him, for eternity.
    .
    This debate makes me stop short and ask myself with alarm, “but how is it that they don’t understand the Beloved?”
    .
    How sad that they say they serve Him every day, and yet don’t fathom the consuming fire in His heart.

    • Rick DeLano says:

      “This debate makes me stop short and ask myself with alarm, “but how is it that they don’t understand the Beloved?”

      >> Here is the voice of the Beloved:

      “And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: and if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire”.

      Do you hear His voice?

  92. Deacon John M. Bresnahan says:

    When Catholics (or other Christians) water down Christ and the Church’s teaching on Hell do they not realize that they are ALSO taking the side of those who say horrors like the Holocaust of the Jews, the Gulags, the Ukrainian famine, the Armenian Holocaust, Mao’s Step Forward were no big deal. No repentence needed. Heaven awaits.

  93. Kathleen says:

    Reading your post and quotes, I think there is plateau for all parties cited to speak from. For people to profoundly declare Hell is densely populated does not remind us to pray for the souls of the faithfully departed and that it is our place on earth to pray for any soul specifically we are concerned about and the poor souls in general. If you follow the messages to St. Faustina, we must have every hope for every soul for we do not know the ways of God. Our work is to pray for souls, while acknowledging in a bold statement that Hell exists to help people understand what we are here for.

  94. wife of many years with many children says:

    Purgatory is very real too. “They will not be released from this prison until the last penny is paid.” *Any* state that separates us from God is a form of Hell, including on this Earth.

  95. Patricia says:

    “..Trust in the Lord with all your heart (mind)
    and lean NOT on your own understanding;
    in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will
    make your paths straight…” Proverbs 3:56

  96. Patrick Thornton says:

    Voris’ treatment of Fr. Barron is grossly unfair. He claims Fr. Barron espouses the same position as Rahner and Balthasar, even though, in his article, Barron sets Martin on one extreme and Rahner/Balthasar on the other. Barron then places Pope Benedict between the two as the most evangelically promising approach. Voris ignores this in his video and never even mentions Pope Benedict’s position or Barron’s agreement with it.

  97. JD says:

    After reading the referenced paragraphs from Spe Salvi in context, not sure what the fuss is about. I do not find that it conflicts with Scripture or Tradition in the least.

  98. Matt says:

    As always, Peter Kreeft provides us with the middle way through a thorny and divisive debate: http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/hell.htm

    Here, Kreeft draws up the positives of both the Aquinas/Martin position and the von Balthasar/Barron position, while avoiding the theological and practical pitfalls of both. This more “agnostic” position on how many are saved bears both a healthy hope for heaven (and a healthy fear of hell, emphasizing NOT the relative probability of our salvation, but the more important question: “what roads lead there, and what roads don’t”?

    Both sides make great points of emphasis – but both sides, at their worst, lead us astray by not giving the full picture.

  99. Humble and Awake says:

    Thank you for another great article, Msgr Pope.

  100. 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.

  101. 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!

  102. 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 😀 REALITY CHECK !!!

  103. 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.

  104. 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.

  105. 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

  106. 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.

  107. 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

  108. 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.

  109. 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.

  110. 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?

  111. 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.

  112. 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

  113. 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..”

  114. 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.

  115. 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

  116. 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.

  117. 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?

  118. 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

  119. 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?

  120. 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…

  121. 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?”,

  122. 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.

  123. Cvp says:

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

  124. 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.

  125. 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.

  126. 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.

  127. 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.””

  128. 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.

  129. 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.

  130. 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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