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

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

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

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

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

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

But permit just a few summary bullet points:

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

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

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

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

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

Father Barron concludes,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

314 Responses

  1. 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)

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