Knowing the Words But Not the Tune

So last week, Jimmy Akin writes a little post on the question of what we know about heaven/hell population statistics. (Short answer: nothing, so while recognizing and warning of the real possibility of Hell, we should hope in Christ Jesus and get on with the business of being his disciples and witnesses.) In the course of it, he mentions Benedict’s speculation in Spe Salvi:

45. With death, our life-choice becomes definitive—our life stands before the judge. Our choice, which in the course of an entire life takes on a certain shape, can have a variety of forms.

There can be people who have totally destroyed their desire for truth and readiness to love, people for whom everything has become a lie, people who have lived for hatred and have suppressed all love within themselves.

This is a terrifying thought, but alarming profiles of this type can be seen in certain figures of our own history.

In such people all would be beyond remedy and the destruction of good would be irrevocable: this is what we mean by the word Hell.

On the other hand there can be people who are utterly pure, completely permeated by God, and thus fully open to their neighbours—people for whom communion with God even now gives direction to their entire being and whose journey towards God only brings to fulfilment what they already are.

46. Yet we know from experience that neither case is normal in human life.

For the great majority of people—we may suppose—there remains in the depths of their being an ultimate interior openness to truth, to love, to God.

In the concrete choices of life, however, it is covered over by ever new compromises with evil—much filth covers purity, but the thirst for purity remains and it still constantly re-emerges from all that is base and remains present in the soul.

Result: An explosion of panic and outrage from a crowd of people who regard both Jimmy and Benedict as quasi-heretics for expressing the Hope that the bulk of people might be saved and who are quite certain that doing so constitutes an assault on both the Teaching of the Church and on the Church’s evangelistic project (since, apparently, only the fear of hell is what attracts people to Jesus and without the lash of terror driving us on we will never evangelize).

I told Jimmy I thought he did a good job and was immediately met with sneers from people who obviously regarded Jimmy and me (and, truth to tell, Benedict) as quasi-heretics, so I made a couple of attempts to talk people down off the ledge of panic over Benedict’s and Jimmy’s alleged betrayal of the Tradition.

What is overlooked here is that the same Jesus [who talks about the narrow way] also says he will “draw all men to me” and Paul says stuff like God has handed all over to sin so that he may have mercy on all and so forth. People who want to can, as here, construct confident scenarios from selected texts of Scripture which have The End all figured out and roughly estimate of the percentages of damned (lots of Them) and saved (themselves typically among the Few). The Calvinist impulse is ever with us. It’s technical name is Despair.

Meanwhile, Universalists can do the same thing, pretending they too know the End of the story and that there is nothing to worry about since God is going to save us all. The technical name for this is Presumption.

In reality, we are mortals who do not know the End of the Story, even for ourselves. So all we have is what the Faith recommends: Hope (note that the encyclical Jimmy quotes is Spe Salvi—from St. Paul’s remark “In hope we were saved.” Despair and presumption are both sins against hope. And despair tends to regard hope as the sin of presumption (since it says “We don’t know the End, so let’s hope!”) while presumption tends to regard hope as the sin of despair (since hope refuses to say, “I know for certain that all will be saved.”)

On this particular thread, most of the commentary comes from people inclined toward Calvinist despair, so Jimmy and I get it in the neck for saying “We don’t know the End, so let’s hope.”) But the reality remains, we don’t know the end. So I hope. Mysteriously, some people take my statement of hope as some sort of rejection of the Faith, declaring, “One could literally bury Akin and Shea with patristic quotes on this topic. I love you guys… But your just way wrong on this one.”

I’m wrong to say that I do not have divine foreknowledge of the End and therefore live in hope and refuse both presumption and despair? Because that, in the end, is all I’m saying.

It seems to me that, in the end, the *real* quarrel here is not with Jimmy or me, but with that passage from Pope Benedict’s encyclical that expresses hope. The subtext of an awful lot of the commentary here is that Pope Benedict went all squishy and universalist there, so we need to go grab a lot of commentary from the Fathers and various other theologians and saints to rebut him and get everybody back on track with the sure and certain knowledge that, you know, most people are most certainly damned (like we know that). In reality, Pope Benedict speaks from within the Tradition, just as the people being cited by the “Hell is packed” crowd do. Only, Pope Benedict is, you know, pope while us people in comboxes are just dudes with keyboards and big mouths.

My general recommendation on such matters is not to waste a lot of time doing the Protestant trick of harvesting proof texts for your Calvinist despair or Universalist presumption, but to try to understand what the Church says about hope, which boils down to “You’re not God and don’t know anything about the End, so keep your eyes on Jesus and not on some imaginary future, obey him, and do the commandments and the beatitudes. He’ll take care of the future.”

But the majority would have none of it and so, after much back and forth and copious quoting of the speculations of Fathers, saints, and theologians, we eventually wound up being treated to sublime acts of divine judgment like:

Now to answer the question. In my estimate, if everybody in America was to die today (God forbid such sudden death!) about 10% of all Catholics in America will go straight to heaven to the Lord Jesus. These are people that have united themselves to the Cross of Christ and were seeking perfection.

Then between 23% to 66% of Catholics in American will be headed for Purgatory. These are people not seeking perfection in their life time on earth but who when the push comes to the shove will always choose the Lord Jesus everytime. Then the remaining people (do the math) will be heading for where no Catholic should be. Now if that is the stastictics for Catholics your guess is as good as mine with regards to that for non-Christian Pagans.

I’m sorry, but after a spectacle like that (and there’s plenty more where that came from), I have to wonder: if heaven means spending eternity with people who talk this coolly about the eternal damnation of most of their friends, neighbors and family, what could possibly induce a non-believer to desire it? The reaction of the saints to the proposition that souls are falling like snowflakes into hell is to shout, “No! We have to stop that! We must pray harder and do more penance to save them!” The reaction in those comboxes is basically, “Oh well.” and even a sort of gloating sense of triumph that more or less leaves an impression of “See! Look at all these awesome speculative quotes from Father and saints about mass damnation!  So Benedict’s speculative hope is foolish. In your face, Akin! You lose! Most people are going to hell! Booyah!”

That’s what I call knowing the words, but not the tune. When God saw the terrible possibility of damnation for a single human being, he ran to undergo the cross rather than see it happen. The impression you get from most of the commentary is that the damnation of most of the human race is greeted with a sentiment that pretty much boils down to “Kinda sad but whaddaya gonna do? And look, we are talking about a bunch of abortion supporters and other vermin, so no big loss really“. There’s no emotional energy, no passion for those lost souls. Why waste the effort since most of ’em are doomed. Instead, what does really bring out the passion and fury that something must be stopped at all costs?: The hope that salvation might in the end find most of the human race.

And that’s what troubles me about that thread: the combination of obvious and casual confidence about the damnation of most people, coupled with the strongly emotional repulsion at the “foolishness” of hope. Particularly since, despite the claimed fear that hoping for salvation for the bulk of our neighbors will harm evangelization, all the energy of the “Hell is packed” crowd goes into attacking three of the most devoted evangelists of our time–Jimmy, Fr. Barron, and Benedict–as “bad evangelists” while the attackers do absolutely no evangelism themselves but instead present a gospel no unbeliever would touch with a barge pole.

Why would anybody in their right mind find such a gospel as the one presented in those comboxes attractive and hopeful? The thread becomes one massive exercise that soon morphs into “I thank you O Lord that I am not like those doomed abortion supporters, contraceptors, liberals, and pagans”–a gigantic self-congratulation fest for the Elect to stand in judgmental prognostication about one’s neighbors while attacking those who have done most to try to reach them.  And if you say that (as some attempted to do) you get told that you are among the Impure who compromise the gospel (you know, like Pope Benedict) while the people attacking Benedict are among the Few who refuse to compromise.  A perfectly hermetically sealed system.

Look. I get that indifferentism and denial of the possibility of Hell is a problem. I get that an awful lot of Catholics are de facto universalists who assume everybody will make it. But what happened in that combox thread is emphatically not the solution to that problem. No unbeliever–heck, no believer–in his right mind would wish to embrace such a gospel of judgmental despair. I’ll take Benedict’s, Jimmy’s, and Fr. Barron’s hope–and their attractive call to discipleship and evangelization–any day over the “Let’s do nothing, attack those who are doing something, and say that Hope is foolish” approach to evangelization.

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  • Guest

    Well, if you avoid hell, but have to spend 10 billion years in purgatory, you really didn’t get away with anything, did you?

    • Joseph

      Sure you did. If you are in Purgatory, it means you will be in Heaven. Time, as we know it, is irrelevant to eternity, so the *length of time* one spends in eternity is not something someone hear on earth can quantify or even fathom. Not to mention, Purgatory is not a *punishment*, but a final cleansing before fully seeing God. It’s the last round of stripping off the paint of pride, that’s why it hurts; that’s why it can appear to be like torture. Just like when you marry and have kids, that struggle dealing with the fact that, if you want to be a proper husband and father, you must be at the full service of others instead of always serving yourself. It can be painful stripping yourself free of chronic self-love (which is the main reason some men will avoid serious relationships).

    • Guest

      Yeah you got away with a lot. Even 10 billion years weighed next to eternity is nothing.

  • Joseph

    I think you summed it all up with “the Calvinist impulse is ever with us”. It’s almost as if modern Christians *want* most people to be damned to hell. It makes them feel special as it coincides with their presumption that they are one of the few who will most definitely be spared from it. Sort of like the End Times people who become animated and begin to drool like Wormtongue when speaking of the horrors and torments those *left behind* will face.

    • Guest

      Just because you hold with a traditional view of the majority will be damned, doesn’t mean you want that to happen. I don’t see any way around it from what I read of the Bible, the Saints, Our Lady of Fatima, etc. Personally, I can’t be intellectually honest and say that I don’t think the majority will be damned. I guess others can and they see a way around it. It certainly doesn’t make them more charitable than the Saints who held that the majority will go to hell or the people who agree with them.

      • S Dunn

        Rather than a way around, I think it’s a way through. Surely it is Gods wish that all men see heaven since He provided such a clear road to get there. The way is indeed narrow. It is also spectacularly well lit!

    • Dave G.

      That’s a stereotype more at home on an atheist blog. Most Christians I’ve known never *want* people to go to hell (though sin being what it is, I have no doubt there are some). What they want is something real that we were saved from, and what they don’t want is the faith turned inside out and upside down as has happened in so many traditions. It never starts with ‘OK we’re throwing 2000 years out the window’. It didn’t start that way with Luther. But if you’re not careful, it ends up with ‘well, Jesus didn’t really mean that’, or worse ‘Jesus never said that, it was just added by a later redactor’. That’s probably what people worry about.

      • Shane

        You’d be surprised how much “traditionalist” theology is done on the premise that since salvation is a gratuitous gift it requires the salvation of the few in order to show it.

        Can’t let the riff raff in, don’t you see?

        • Dave G.

          Some. But most, again, were rather passionate about saving those they thought were lost. I’m sure there are some who fit the stereotype. That’s true with anything – Catholicism included. But most Protestants I knew and worked with thought no such thing. Catholics I can’t say, since to this day I’ve not heard the term *hell* mentioned more than once in a homily since I came into the Church. So I’m at a loss there.

      • Joseph

        I’m a former Protestant with a mixed (Reformed/Evangelical) exposure from my youth. It may be a stereotype, but it fits like a glove.

        • Dave G.

          I can’t account for the group you hung about with, but on the whole, the Protestants I knew didn’t sit around and say ‘yeah baby, I love the smell of burning non-believers in the morning.’ Quite the opposite. Most saw the reality of hell as motivation for getting out to the world with the Gospel. Their desire was to save those they believed to be in danger of damnation. Again, I’m sure there are exceptions – and they are often the best arguments for any stereotype.

    • Newp Ort

      Yeah, people who are bullish on hell I think generally believe themselves to be going to heaven.

      Please allow me to do the opposite.

      I have no idea how many are going down, but I’m almost certainly among them. The porn, the lust, the selfishness, the angry doubt, gluttony…ugh. and the list goes on.

      if you occasionally when your busy schedule allows spend 15 minutes in adoration of the blessed sacrament, but you haven’t been to church or confession or taken communion in months, you’re basically a lying piece of shit, right?

      I’m married and faithful and I’ve confessed previous fornication (hey, I went to college), yet I still remember it fondly. what an asshole.

      When youre this wretched, it seems pretty goddam hopeless.

      and then I have you bloggers and comboxers constantly reminding me of how hard you’re trying to be sooooo good, and making sure I am aware just how grave my sins are.

      Lord Jesus is merciful, but there’s limits. He’s gonna see me and say I didn’t die horribly for this weak shit.

      it’s enough to give a fella a case of the fuckits

      • Newp Ort

        And yeah I might be a bit flip here, but its all true.

        I have a 5 yr old son n I don’t take him to church because I’m to lazy and selfish. something about a millstone…

  • Lee Johnson

    It’s a question that weighs on my mind, a lot. Fewness of saved or nearly universal salvation or something in between? Hell itself is a problem … how can a good God damn people. Yet if you were picking eternal roommates, you’d have to admit that there are some people you wouldn’t allow in until they really learned a few things about love and getting along with others.

    • Dan F.

      My understanding is not that “God damns people” so much as God allows people to damn themselves. Hell, properly understood is eternal separation from God (from Truth, Beauty, Goodness, Light, Love, Life, etc.) hence the weeping and nashing of teeth in the darkness.

    • Jared Clark

      Better question…how could a good God force you to spend eternity with Him? If a parent had a child with a drug problem, would you advice them to offer programs for healing, refusing to enable the problem, etc….or would you advice them to chain their child up in the house?

      Hell is allowed because we are not God’s prisoners.

  • Guest

    I don’t get what you’re trying to say here. Just because people take the words of Jesus at face value that most people are going to hell, then we are somehow rooting for that to happen and don’t care? When Jesus said these things, was He unloving? I really don’t get it. Why would you say that these same people don’t evangelize? What proof do you have of that? Just because they can’t be super evangelizers like Father Barron and Jimmy Akin? You ask, why would these people find this gospel attractive? How about the part where the gospel says no divorce and remarriage…do people find that particularly attractive in this day and age? Don’t they say, oh, that’s not a merciful, loving teaching! Is attractiveness really the benchmark for evangelizing to people, or is it uncompromising truth?

    I love, read, listen to, watch, Jimmy Akin and Father Barron and I think they do awesome work that I could never do. At the same time, I think they are mistaken in telling these things to an already deeply confused and poorly catechized culture. The Saints were warning people who already believed in Hell pretty much, and now we’re preaching to people who don’t really believe in Hell much and we’re supposed to say don’t worry about it or hey, ya know, all that stuff isn’t really as bad as you think it is? How does that make any sense? Jesus warned against Hell the most and we should follow what He did.

    “since, apparently, only the fear of hell is what attracts people to
    Jesus and without the lash of terror driving us on we will never
    evangelize” I don’t say only the fear of hell, but it is an essential part of it, otherwise, why would Jesus say the things He said about Hell??

    I have a real problem with Father Barron especially, the way he states it in his Catholicism series and in his Youtube videos, it is totally irresponsible. It’s one thing to say that we don’t know exactly how many people are going to Hell or who is there, it’s quite another thing to say that we don’t know if anyone is in Hell as he says explicitly in his Catholicism series. That is a blatant lie. Jimmy Akin himself makes a good case for saying that Judas is in Hell since Jesus said it would have been better for him not to have been born. Not only that, but no matter how many mental contortions you do to get around it Jesus said the road to destruction is broad and many choose it. He said there are goats. He said there are tares among the wheat that will be burned.

    • Dan F.

      Yes, Jesus said all of those things. However, who was he talking to and who was he talking about? And then what do we do about it? The sheep and the goats is a particularly good one to meditate on – what was it about the sheep that saw them enter heaven again? It wasn’t meditation on who was going to hell, it was loving their neighbor. What was it that got the goats condemned even though they thought they were saved?

      • Rebecca Duncan

        If you read the saints they will tell you that it is beneficial to everyone to meditate on hell. St Teresa was shown her own place in hell that was waiting for her.

      • Dave G.

        The damnation parts are always tough, because neither Jesus nor the NT writers use ‘could’ happen, but tend to use ‘will’ happen when talking about eternal rewards and punishments. That’s been a trick for the universalist who holds to traditional biblical exegesis. For the modern who embraces liberal influenced theology, no problem. They didn’t say that, it was all added later. Those rascally redactors. But if you don’t have that to lean on, then there are passages where context doesn’t eliminate the choice of words that speak of ‘will’ happen, rather than ‘might’.

  • antigon

    Haven’t read the Akin thread, but…my father was a suicide. And I have always understood & agreed that suicide is objectively the gravest crime, worse not just in degree but kind from those of the Morgenthalers, Mengeles & other monsters infamous for their human depravity.

    Yet without at first pondering the theology of the thing, virtually the first impulse I had when I became a Catholic was to pray for the soul of my father. What little I knew of love I knew – because he loved me & always had. I even got a pair of fooking socks from him in the mail when I came home from the funeral.

    So I’ve been a Catholic for four decades and counting now – this happened after his death – & maybe sometime into the second or third one I mentioned to my godfather that, hope against hope if you will, my father had always been at the center of my prayers. And he said: seems odd that God would call you to those prayers to no purpose.

    That does seem odd. As does what looked not unlike a providential confirmation of the point when shortly afterward I realized he’d died on the feast of the holy rosary, which had of course been the chief means of my prayers for him.

    In the course of them I have pondered that just as eternity goes in one direction, so does it in the other – you can always in theory half a measure of time again, forever – which would or anyway could leave an infinity of time, between the pulling of a trigger and the explosion of a brain; which is to say not impossibly room for Grace, and repentance.

    Pondered too Chesterton’s remark that unless you’re hoping for something that’s hopeless, it isn’t hope. And noticed that whatever the commentary of better men than me, the Church, while formally proclaiming men are in heaven, has never formally proclaimed any to be in hell. Ultimately perhaps because that’s not even the Church’s business, much less mine or anybody else’s.

    God’s only, in whose justice you’ll be glad to hear I have no doubt or trouble, if not a little fear on more than occasion.

    Trusting in it, & in hope, I thus continue to pray for my own soul & others’, not least among them, despite his monstrous crime, that of my father. A Catholic thing to do, no?

    • chezami

      Thank you for bringing a note of actual warm humanity to this icy and bloodless academic discussion. One wonders how many of the people cooly consigning everybody to hell have really felt the pain of the loss of somebody dear to them. It’s the blitheness of the certitude that is so appalling;

      • antigon

        Dear Mr. Ami: Got around to reading the Akin thread. I think what I enjoyed most was the intensity of your prose striving to restrain itself in accordance with your June 4 apology. I found that apology most dismaying as I feared said prose would go all soggy. But lo, your striving actually to argue with (as you were wont to put it in the good old days) people suffering reading comprehension skills, brought forth unmined glories. Am most relieved, Despite the ulcer I can hear forming in Seattle even from this side of the country.

      • becca

        if all you want is an emotional display and telling stories here’s one for you. I grew up with no faith in a meaningless world. I started trying to kill myself when I was in elementary school. The only reason I stopped trying to commit suicide when I got older was because I got scared that maybe people who talked about hell were right. I didn’t want to believe that but the possibility held me back. That is my experience and it’s why I think warning people about hell is terribly important and a living thing to do. Fear is the beginning of wisdom. Maybe you’re a super Christian whose perfect love has cast out fear but most people aren’t there yet.

        • antigon

          Ah yes, to sleep, perchance to dream – but there’s the rub

    • ivan_the_mad

      God bless you. I will pray for your father too.

      • antigon

        Deeply appreciated Ivan. His name was Gerald. Our Lady of the Rosary of course, & I daresay St. Jude might be good to invoke for him; & speaking of hope, St. Nicholas of Tolentino, patron of the souls in purgatory.

    • oregon nurse

      Antigon, I think suicide for some is a way to run to God for mercy and protection, not a despairing rejection of Him. It’s misguided theologically but it’s hard to imagine that a merciful God would not understand.

  • Rebecca Duncan

    I don’t know what those people in the comboxes said. Personally, I think it is very foolish to say that we don’t know if anyone is in hell or that the vast majority will be saved. That doesn’t make me a hater and it doesn’t mean I am rooting for people to be damned. All it means is that I agree with what the Bible clearly states and what the majority of Saints have said on the matter.
    ‘. . . a greater number is lost through false confidence than through excessive fear.’
    Ven. Louis de Granada
    That’s my basic opinion of the matter especially in this day and age.

  • capaxdei

    When you find yourself talking about the statistics of salvation, you should stop.

    • Rebecca Duncan

      ‘What do you think? How many of the
      inhabitants of this city may perhaps be saved? What I am about to tell
      you is very terrible, yet I will not conceal it from you. Out of this
      thickly populated city with its thousands of inhabitants not one hundred
      people will be saved. I even doubt whether there will be as many as

      St. John Chrysostom, Doctor and Father of the Church

      • capaxdei

        From which you conclude what?

        • Rebecca Duncan

          I know it was a wakeup call. That’s what I’m saying. It should be said to wake people up.

      • Shane

        If you realize why Chrysostom preached that homily in Constantinople, you would probably realize it was less a theological exposition and more of a wake-up call.

        Chrysostom was very adept at adapting his preaching to the needs and circumstances of the time.

        I dislike quote mining the Fathers and Saints to support a viewpoint outside the theological form of their thought, because it exchanges actual theology for twitter theology.

        In reply to that article: Everyone who believes Hans Urs von Balthasar was a universalist never read that book he wrote on the matter. That becomes very, very clear when he gets compared to Karl Rahner.

        It’s also quite funny, because I remember listening to a few lectures given by Fr. Corapi on this topic, and he weighs in more on the side of Benedict than the massa damnatia that people are so breathless in proclaiming.

        • Char

          Mass damnatia and twitter theology…..excellent. I’m gonna use those.

      • Andy, Bad Person

        “St. John Chrysostom, Doctor and Father of the Church, yet still not Jesus himself and so having no inside information on His final judgment”

        Fixed that title for you.

      • capaxdei

        The full homily can be read here:

        Note that the linked translation has “likely to be saved,” not “may perhaps be saved” or “will be saved.” (The Greek seems to be ‘τοὺς σωζομένους’, for those it might help.)

  • Char

    Fantastic, Mark, just fantastic. I needed to read this, my soul needed to digest it. So glad I found you, so glad I’ve met you. These sorts of things you write are almost like a prayer of mercy for those who so desperately need it.

  • Man, this kind of rhetoric is why I read Mark Shea.[/boot-licking]

  • Lee Johnson

    Well, I consign people to hell all the time. Problem is, it’s not really hell. It’s more like office detention. Hell means completely cutting them off from any source of love and forgetting them. I consign people to a very severe judgmental examination where they must confess the complete truth and aren’t allowed to lie to themselves. It’s not very nice, but it’s not hell, either.

  • Kathy

    How about if all of us pray or perform an act of penance each day for the intention of the salvation of souls?

    • Linebyline

      It’s so crazy it just might work!

    • Newp Ort

      ain’t nobody got time for that!

  • ivan_the_mad

    This is why we are taught that faith, hope, and love remain, but the greatest of these is love. If you really think somebody courts damnation, would you not assault heaven with prayers and the person with good works and witness, risking even shame and persecution? Is this not concomitant to the Great Commission? To consign percentages to hell as if it’s some sales report …

    • Newp Ort

      projections for first quarter (of this century) earnings (for the evil one) are very high, what with gay marriage beta testing completed and the product now available in limited markets and poised for a nationwide release.

      abortion continues to be a big seller, of course, and now it has a spinoff boost from abortion opponents willing to lie about it.

      its hard to not be bullish on beelzebub!

      • ivan_the_mad

        LOL! Terrible … ly funny.

  • Claire

    Peter Kreeft had a good explanation for the narrow way (I’m paraphrasing). He said that we have to understand it in the context of an all-merciful, all-loving God for whom even one soul lost is too many. So it’s not impossible to think that most people will be saved, but that for Jesus, “most” is far too few, and that if a small minority ends up in Hell, then that’s far too many.

  • tj.nelson


  • Evan

    Did anyone point those commenters to troll ii’s post on laughing about people going to Hell?

  • Elmwood

    Either most end up in purgatory and the least in heaven, or most end in hell and the least in heaven. Technically all three states are the same in that it’s the burning fire of God’s love that causes either pain in hell, or purification in purgatory. It’s our disposition to God’s love that seals our fate. I don’t think we can rule out the possibility that most end up in hell, but knowing that most are sinners not completely evil, we hope in God’s mercy.

  • ivan_the_mad

    Heh, seems like the Pope weighed in the subject to some degree as well:

  • Kathleen M. Ritter

    “When God saw the terrible possibility of damnation for a single human
    being, he ran to undergo the cross rather than see it happen.”

    This — and the rest of this essay — is why I love you, Mark Shea. Live Forever.

  • Rebecca Fuentes

    Mr. Akin’s article will not load properly for me, but the comboxes load fine (it’s rather like sitting down for dinner and realizing that the only thing available is burned Brussels sprouts). It’s easy to feel helpless in the face the our culture, which is not just careening down the slippery slope, but apparently is enjoying the ride. It’s easy to succumb to anger and frustration in the face of visibly public Catholics who sneer at Church teaching and authority. It’s easy to feel impotent and that we are only responsible for our own salvation and that of our family. Easy, but not true.
    I was reading an excerpt from the life of St. Theresa the Little Flower earlier and was struck by how she set her heart on praying for someone’s repentance. She didn’t not give up on them, did not give into looking down on them or hating them, but loving them and offering to Father God Jesus’s love for her.

    We don’t get to just sit back and give up on all those people out there who might be going to Hell. Intercessory prayer is powerful and effective and we should be using it daily. Maybe many people are now in such a spiritual state that, if they died today, they might choose Hell. We can do something about that, and we should.

  • Darn. Missed a good row I see.

  • Dan C

    These folks assuring us of the mass of folks damned are really as wrong as a universalist. The theology and spirtuality that prompts such is deadly to the soul. Maybe more deadly than universalism.

    Also, The truth is that there is a chance that the universalist may be more accurate than the one assuring us of billions in Hell. Accuracy being a matter of numerics, not theology.

  • Marthe Lépine

    Reading all those comments, I wonder why nobody yet has mentioned the devotion to Divine Mercy promoted by JP II. When I finally learned about it, it seemed to be the answer to my own questions about the possibility of salvation of many of my non-christian friends. I think it would be an excellent direction to give to our prayers for the salvation of others. However I would suggest that people did their own research about this, since I do not think that I know enough yet to inform other people…

  • Elmwood

    I think that a large number of souls go to hell must be a real possibility, only because the scriptures are filled with such warnings. I just can’t believe most or nearly all do. But it’s completely pointless to speculate on such things even though I can’t help doing so. Maybe it’s even wrong to speculate that most go to purgatory.

  • Guest

    Y’know, Father Barron and others have repeatedly poin

  • Irksome1

    Father Barron and others have repeatedly referenced the post-Vatican II “balloons and rainbows” catechetics as producing many of our present societal ills. I wonder if some of the attitudes here don’t represent a backlash to that approach, to drain the Church of her beauty and compassion in favor of a grim and coarse legalism.

    • Andy, Bad Person

      Good observation. There is a reactionary vibe to the idea, that Rainbow and Butterfly Theology was seen to be toxic, but instead of finding an antidote in orthodoxy, some are trying to counter it with a different flavor of poison.

  • I keep going back on this subject to the Fatima Prayer of Divine Mercy: Oh my Jesus, save us from the fires of hell, and lead ALL souls to heaven, especially those MOST in need of thy Mercy. Amen.

  • Timothy Jones

    I’m always astonished and amused when people talk as if Pope Benedict or Pope Francis must be *unaware* of the writings of the Church Fathers!