For a guy who allegedly denies the possibility of Hell…

Fr. Barron sure seems to make a pretty clear case for Hell:

Of course, he very sensibly declines to speculate on who, if anybody, is there for the simple reason that you have to be God to know that since you have to know the interior disposition of a human heart and no human can do that. But remaining agnostic on who, if anybody, is in hell is not saying “hell is empty” or “hell doesn’t exist”. If he wanted to say “Hell doesn’t exist”, he chose a pretty funny way of doing it. Like the Tradition, he says, “The possibility of choosing to definitively exclude yourself from the life of God is real. Don’t make that choice.”

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  • Mark S. (not for Shea)

    God is both Just and Merciful. No one is in Hell who doesn’t absolutely deserve to be there. And there’s only One Man in Heaven who does absolutely deserve to be there. Anyone else gets there by His Grace.

    • Julian Barkin

      And what about those who commit mortal sins like masturbation and pornography or consume the Eucharist after divorcing and remarrying without annulment in the Church? Those people may not want to go to hell but last time I checked the Magisterium and/or my Catechism, those acts qualify as mortal sins killing sanctifying grace. So no ticket to enter heaven.

      • Rebecca Fuentes

        Part of the requirement for something to be a mortal sin is for the person to KNOW (or strongly suspect) it is mortal and choose to commit it anyway. It’s likely that some people in these situations consider these things a sin, but believe they are venial.
        However, I get the impression from you comment that you consider masturbation, pornography and receiving the Eucharist while not in a state of grace are silly, minor things that we really shouldn’t concern ourselves with. It’s impossible to read emphasis or intent on-screen, so I may be wrong about that.
        God is all-just. When we stand in judgement, we will not have anything to hide behind. No justifications, no lying to ourselves about how something is okay because we really love him, or couldn’t resist, or it didn’t hurt anyone else, or we were the injured party. There also won’t be anyone else’s voice accusing us without knowing the facts. God will know our whole heart, our petty little motivations and excuses, the depth of our hurts.
        The good news is that he is also all-merciful, and we can humble ourselves and throw ourselves upon his mercy, and he will joyfully grant it. I think nothing in the world gives him more joy than to mercifully forgive when we come to him for that mercy.

        • Mark S. (not for Shea)

          What Rebecca said.

          • Julian Barkin

            Alright. For minute I thought that Rebecca was making the same error as Fr Barron. Then Shea’s doppelgänger put it out simply. Mark S well said and understood.

      • Athelstane

        …those acts qualify as mortal sins killing sanctifying grace.

        That’s correct – you have it right. They are.

        Culpability does factor in. But the one way, the only way, to be sure that the stain of these mortal sins is removed is by repenting of them. And the Church provides the Sacrament of Penance as means to this end.

  • Matthew

    If he had ended that video a minute earlier I would have had no complaint. Tim Staples ( or maybe it was Patrick Madrid) had a great column answering this agnosticism a few weeks ago at Catholic Answers. Obviously we do not know WHO may be in Hell, but THAT there are souls in Hell, as far as I can see from Scripture, the Doctors, the Councils, the mystics and private revelation is a certainty.

    • Athelstane

      If he had ended that video a minute earlier I would have had no complaint.

      Agreed. It was a solid piece of apologetics all the way up until that very last part. And then…I was disappointed. I thought that Fr. Barron had moved away from his previous Balthasarian position (see here, where he says, “I think Balthasar is pretty much in the right of it”) on hell. But now, it seems, he is at least still open to it – that is, open to the possibility that, while we should say there *is* a hell, we can hope that no one is actually in it.

      Unfortunately, that’s a proposition that is also condemned by the Church, dogmatically. Trent (25th session) condemns the Balthasarian position; so does the Syllabus of Errors (#17) (the proposition “”Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ” is anathematized). Indeed, it is virtually impossible to read Christ’s words in Matthew 7:13 or Luke 13: 23-24 any other way. And then there is even, yes, Vatican II, which in Lumen Gentium 18 stated: “”Some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair.”

      Unfortunately, as Alyssa Pitstick and Ralph Martin (among others – including Scott Hahn!) have shown, Balthasar fairly tortures the tiny handful of patristic or other sources (such as St. Cyprian and Edith Stein) he can find to support a hope of an empty hell, and ignores the clear condemnations of the Church and the overwhelming weight of the rest of the tradition in doing so.

      We don’t know the population of hell, or of heaven. Fr. Barron is right about that. We may even hope that most souls do not go to hell (though the weight of Scripture and tradition is on the side of a heavily populated hell). But to the extent that Fr. Barron claims here that we may hope that NO ONE is in hell, he is directly at odds with the teaching of the Church, as is Balthasar, however admirable these men may be otherwise.

    • HornOrSilk

      No, the Church does NOT say any soul is in hell, the councils don’t say that, some fathers do but others give other speculations. As for Scripture, I can tell you Protestants who will also say what is “clear” in it. However, Scripture is not so clear, when you read the full record of Scripture. There is a reason why Jesus called the cross and resurrection the sign of Jonah. I won’t debate this further with you, because I know you will pick and choose quotes, ignoring others, but I would highly recommend you get beyond making claims the church does not!

  • http://goo.gl/XAVmAA Joshua S. A. Solomon

    The common criticism of Fr. Barron is that he advances the possibility of an unpopulated Hell, not that he denies the possibility of Hell itself; that criticism is entirely applicable to this video.

    • chezami

      What Fr. Barron does is repeat exactly the same speculations as Pope Benedict XVI. The Greatest Catholics of All Time then attack him because they are too chicken to attack the Pope.

      • HornOrSilk

        Also St John Paul II, and others

      • Athelstane

        Hello Mark,

        What Fr. Barron says is this: “And by the way, the Church does not oblige anyone to believe that a human being is in hell. But if there is anyone who is in it…”

        If indeed Fr. Barron means that the Church does not oblige anyone to believe that any particular human being is in hell, this would be a defensible proposition (though the teaching tradition comes near enough to affirming that at least Judas Iscariot is in hell, and there isn’t a single Doctor of the Church who would say otherwise). The Church can tell us of a small number it knows to be in heaven (when it recognizes saints), but it is silent on the identity of individuals who go to hell.

        But if he means that the Church does not oblige anyone to believe that any soul is in hell, that may be a “speculation,” but it’s a one that runs straight into any number of dogmatic statements of the Church. And, unfortunately, we appear to see some Balthasar slipping out in his very next words: “But IF there is anyone who is in it…” But there is no “if” about it. If there is, then Pius IX was in error when he declared anathema (Syllabus of Errors #17) the proposition that “We should at least have good hopes for the eternal salvation of those who are in no way in the true Church of Christ.” We would also have to say that three general councils of the Church (Lyons I, 1245; Lyons II, 1274; and Florence, 1439) and Pope Benedict XII’s bull Benedictus Deus (1336) were also wrong, and any number of local councils of the Middle Ages. Balthasar is simply wrong on this question, and if Fr. Barron is going back to his position, held as recently as 2011 when he said “I think Balthasar is pretty much in the right of it” (see link in post above), then that position is not reconcilable with Church teaching. But there is a small degree of doubt, and I am hoping that Fr. Barron simply was being careless in his discourse, which was otherwise creditable.

        In any event, as Ralph Martin was trying to point out in his book, what Benedict XVI was speculating about in Spe Salvi (45-47), was NOT whether we may hope that ALL men may be saved, but whether we may hope that MOST men will be saved, and this is NOT the same proposition. I at least am not too chicken to question the Pope (and I admire this Pope more than any another in recent memory) on a speculation like this, but happily it is not necessary, because, whatever recklessness Michael Voris may have perpetrated here, what Fr. Barron was speculating about was not the same thing as what Pope Benedict was speculating about.

        And, as Prof. Martin says, this is a passage that stands in need of clarification, because Pope Benedict unfortunately never clarifies whether he is speaking of most Christians, or most human beings. And for this observation, unfortunately, Fr. Barron in 2012 departed from his customary charity and care to accuse Ralph Martin of engaging in doctrinal dissent on the level of Charles Curran and other foes of Humanae Vitae. And that was simply unjust.

        • chezami

          I think this is picking nits. At the end of the day, there is no point to his making a video arguing for (and warning against) the possibility of hell if he believes nobody will go there. Why must we Catholics *always* insist on bayonetting our best troops?

          • Athelstane

            I think this is picking nits.

            Well, the question of whether hell is empty or not is more than a nit, because as you know as well as anyone, the great eschatalogical danger of our error of our time is universalism, not a prurient and fearful insistence that the number of the saved is miniscule. If everyone is saved, and Fr. Barron is unwittingly feeding that belief, it’s more or less lethal to evangelization efforts. Which was the whole point of Ralph Martin’s book.

            Fr. Barron is quite right to say we can’t know whether an individual is in hell – and that it is unhealthy to speculate about it (let alone hope for it!). But he *has* made statements in the past, linked in this combox, that he more or less agrees with Balthasar’s position that, while hell exists, we may hope that it is empty. And that’s just not consistent with the Church’s teaching. It’s not a small point, and I’m hoping that his closing statement was just careless, rather than a reversion to this Balthasarian position – because otherwise, it was a good apologetic video clip.

            What Michael Voris does is on his head. Too often he shoots first and asks questions later. But I think those of us with concerns about Fr. Barron’s position on this who have posted here today (so far) are not being vicious about this, but raising the concern in a thoughtful way.

            Why must we Catholics *always* insist on bayonetting our best troops?

            A worthy observation, Mark. But it could be asked (with all due respect) why Fr. Barron decided to bayonet, as it were, Prof. Martin, when he made a perfectly reasonable observation that Pope Benedict’s point in Spe Salvi stood in some need of clarification, rather than lumping him in with Humanae Vitae dissenters.

            • http://commonsensecatholicism.blogspot.com/ Kevin Tierney

              And in my take on the last question:

              When did being a “best troop” mean you were above criticism? If Fr. Barron can’t take the criticism, then let’s be honest: he probably doesn’t deserve to be doing what he is doing.

              If he can take the criticism (and he’s not in diapers, he’s a big boy who can handle himself more than capably), then asking “why must we always insist on bayonetting our best troops?” is an attempt to distract from the matter at hand.

          • John

            Why is it “picking nits” (I like the expression :-) to distingush between Question A, whether *anyone* is in hell, and Question B, “whether *most people* are in hell?

            They are different questions, and they may have different answers. Making and observing such distinctions is one of the first marks of clear thought and discourse.

            Athelstane is correct in pointing out that Pope Benedict in Spe Salvi was dealing with B while Fr. Barron was clearly dealing with A.

            Logically speaking, one could very easily agree with the Pope that most people (or perhaps just most Christians) are in heaven while simultaneously disagreeing with Fr. Barron as to whether anyone is hell.

            Thus I cannot see any justice in the charge of cowardice against those who disagree with Fr. Barron, but not Pope Benedict. Nor can I see any sense in defending Fr. Barron with the claim that he is “just saying what Pope Benedict said.”

            Yours in Christ,

            • Athelstane

              Athelstane is correct in pointing out that Pope Benedict in Spe Salvi was dealing with B while Fr. Barron was clearly dealing with A.

              Exactly so.

              Fr. Barron is usually a careful exegete, which is why it is perplexing that he so badly misreads what Benedict XVI is speculating about in Spe Salvi 45-47 – and, indeed, that he is only speculating in the first place.

              • http://commonsensecatholicism.blogspot.com/ Kevin Tierney

                Simple: Ideology. Fr. Barron has had a lot invested in this particular theory, and the temptation to conform facts to ideology is a strong one indeed, even for (and especially for) learned men like Fr. Barron.

                He’s a great priest. Just on this one area….. he’s wrong.

      • Brian

        What Fr. Barron does is suggest that we may reasonablly hope that all people will be saved; or conversely, we may hope that Hell is empty. He says it over and over again here:

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmsa0sg4Od4

        In defense of Fr. Barron, Mark wrote this:

        “It [the Church] has only forbidden claims of knowledge that all or most will be saved. If you are not claiming knowledge, but only expressing hope, that many will be saved you are as orthodox as, you know, Pope Benedict.”

        Mark’s full article on that matter can be found here:

        http://www.ncregister.com/blog/mark-shea/a-reader-has-a-question-about-hell

        In his article he quotes Pope Benedict XVI at length, though it is unclear precisely where the Pope endorses the ideas outlined above. Instead, upon speaking of the demands of justice, namely, that we must work out our salvation with fear and trembling, Benedict concludes as follows:

        “Nevertheless grace allows us all to hope, and to go trustfully to meet the Judge whom we know as our “advocate”, or parakletos (cf. 1 Jn 2:1).

        Fine and well. Justice demands that we work out our salvation, and grace allows us to hope and trust in the Judge. But to hope that He will do what. exactly? Pope Benedict doesn’t say. Mark concludes that what the Pope means is that we may therefore hope that many or all will be saved; but that’s just his interpolation, and as we shall see, it’s very likely an incorrect interpolation.
        Based on what the Church has already taught on this matter, my take would be that Pope Benedict means that all of us may hope and trust only that the Judge will judge each person perfectly.

        Now, having clarified that, let’s return to what Mark teaches:

        “It [the Church] has only forbidden claims of knowledge that all or most will be saved. If you are not claiming knowledge, but only expressing hope, that many will be saved you are as orthodox as, you know, Pope Benedict.”

        By way of comparison, then, let’s examine a clear papal teaching rather than Mark’s interpolation of Benedict:

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

        This affirmative statement was written by Pope Pius IX to demonstrate a belief that is to be categorically and unequivocally condemened by faithful Catholics.

        Based on this, why is it okay to Fr. Barron to teach that we may reasonablly hope that all people will be saved?

        • chezami

          It’s perfectly true that nobody outside the Church can be saved. What we don’t know, however, is whether anybody is outside.

          Dude. Why would the guy make a video defending the doctrine of hell and warning against going there if he thinks it impossible. Have you *nothing* better to do than bayonet our best troops in the back?

          • Brian

            To clarify, is it your postion that we may reasonablly hope that everyone will ultimately end up inside the Church? Not just, “I hope everyone will someday really be in the Church”, but rather “The hope that everyone ultimately ends up in the Church has a legitimate chance of being true”?

            • chezami

              It is my position that such speculations are a waste of time.

              • http://commonsensecatholicism.blogspot.com/ Kevin Tierney

                See this is where I think Mark is just trolling ya’al and you are reacting like a bunch of puppets.
                On the one hand, mark puts out a link begging people to get angry. Then when pressed “it is my position that such speculations are a waste of time.’
                But apparently not a waste of blog traffic. ;)

                • Athelstane

                  You may be on to something, there, Kevin…

              • http://goo.gl/XAVmAA Joshua S. A. Solomon

                “…Jesus often speaks of ‘Gehenna’ of ‘the unquenchable fire’ reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost. Jesus solemnly proclaims that he ‘will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,’ and that he will pronounce the condemnation: ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!’” (CCC 1034)

                http://goo.gl/rZtSRO

                Jesus will send his angels, they will gather all evil doers, and he will pronounce the condemnation…

                • HornOrSilk

                  Jonah spoke of the destruction of Nineveh, and yet, it was saved, and Jonah almost went, “huh?” with it all. Yet Jesus said that is the sign he is giving. As John of the Cross often points out, prophecy is rarely so “obvious” as simplistic readings make them out to be. The prophets themselves often misunderstood them. Jesus, of course, did not, but he pointed to Jonah.

                  • http://goo.gl/XAVmAA Joshua S. A. Solomon

                    And yet the Church teaches that Jesus will “pronounce the condemnation.”

                    • Athelstane

                      “And yet the Church teaches that Jesus will “pronounce the condemnation.”

                      Apparently, it gets overturned on appeal.

          • Brian

            1. Why is respectfully correcting an error with no further condemnation “bayoneting” someone?

            2. Interesting sleight of hand, but Pius IX’s condemnation clearly implies that there ARE people outside the Church. And incidentally, so does Christ – albeit more directly – in His instruction on the ultimate fate of the sheep and the goats: “Then they [the goats] WILL go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matt 25:46).

            3. I never claimed Fr. Barron thinks it’s impossible for someone to go to Hell. Someone’s interpolating again.

            4. Since you don’t believe that the Church holds any definitive position on “whether anybody is outside the Church” have you stopped using terms like non-Catholic or unbeliever?

  • Kevin J. Bartell

    I can’t help feeling there’s more right that wrong here. After all, if God saves everyone (apart from the devil and his angels), that only accomplishes His will and manifests His glory more abundantly. That said, however, I can’t find it as simple as only those who want to go to hell will go to hell. What about the presumptuous? What about those crying out, “Lord, Lord?” In Matthew 25, the goats ask, “when did we not help you?” as though they believed themselves righteous. I’m not calling anyone a heretic. If the Church defined Balthazar’s position tomorrow, I wouldn’t dissent, but I would have serious difficulties with it.

    • HornOrSilk

      Balthasar’s position is NOT an empty hell.

      • Athelstane

        Balthasar’s position in Dare We Hope is that not only may we hope that all men are saved, but that we have an obligation to hope for as much.

        Balthasar was not saying that we can affirm that no one is in hell, but he was saying that it is a real possibility that we can hope for. And that is simply not consistent with the tradition, a tradition which, at numerous points, he seems to willfully misread, as he does when he uses St. Cyprian and Origen to support his position.

        • HornOrSilk

          Hoping all are saved is not saying hell is empty, nor says that people will not go to hell. And yes it is a real possibility that no human will be lost; but even that does not say hell is empty. Oh, and just because he disagrees with your reading of tradition doesn’t mean he is misreading (trust me, Balthasar’s position is complex, and few people really know it; they know a strawman based upon a poor reading of ONE book of his, which is not the only place he deals with the issue of hell).

          Nonetheless, let me make this clear: Balthasar denies an empty hell. His reading of Holy Saturday should make that clear.

          • Athelstane

            And yes it is a real possibility that no human will be lost.

            No, it isn’t.

            We might wish it were; we might pray to the Lord to save everyone; but the Church’s teaching is clear on this point, as are the words of Christ Himself, as the Church has always understood them. Hell is a real place, and souls really do go there, and are there.

            Universalism, even of the “hopeful” kind, has no place in Church dogma. You risk shipwrecking evangelization with such claims.

            • HornOrSilk

              The Catechism teaches it is possible. You still confuse your reading of Jesus’ words as the meaning behind them (as Protestants do), as well as your reading of tradition as _the_ reading of tradition (ignoring that within tradition, there are multiple, divergent lines of thought, which are all possible). But again, the Catechism, when talking about God desiring the salvation of all ALSO says with God, all things are possible. You deny this with your theology.

              Moreover, you risk shipwrecking evangelism by removing the hope which allows for such evangelism. Hoping for the salvation of all while fearing the possibility of hell are both necessary components of evangelism. Removing the hope loses a lot of people. This is what is wrong-headed with this “practical” line of criticism of Balthasar: it is ALSO false. It tells people who have such a heart, for example, they are wrong, making them reject God because they can’t see God as a God of love if he doesn’t work for the salvation of all and give the possibility it could happen. It’s presumption, this side of judgment, to say someone is damned, and this is again what Jesus warned against.

              So, again, I will give the Church’s teaching: all things are possible with God. It is possible all will be saved. We don’t know if it will happen (universalism’s error is because it turns into necessity; however, those who reject the hope also fall into the same error!). So with God all things are possible. It’s why we pray for the salvation of all!

              1058 The Church prays that no one should be lost: “Lord, let me never be parted from you.” If it is true that no one
              can save himself, it is also true that God “desires all men to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4), and that for him “all things are possible” (Mt 19:26).

              • Athelstane

                HornOrSilk,

                The Catechism teaches it is possible.

                OK. Show me where.

                Removing the hope loses a lot of people.

                This “hope” was never even a live possibility in Church catechesis or mission work until the mid-20th century. Not a single Church Father (save Origen) or Doctor subscribed to it. Yet, somehow, over that time frame, the Church grew from a dozen disciples to a third of mankind. I’m perplexed why you think this torpedoes evangelization.

                Yes, God desires that all men be saved, as I Timothy says. But He gives them free will – and that means the freedom to act on their own desires, not His.

                I’ll say it again: Balthasar’s “hope” is universalism by the back door.

                • HornOrSilk

                  I did show it, and you ignore it. And Balthasar’s hope is not universalism, to keep saying that, is to ignore Balthasar’s own words.

                  • Athelstane

                    Show me the citation, HoS – that’s what I asked for.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      I did. Look up. Read it. When talking about God desires the salvation of all, it continues and says with God all things are possible. It says possible right there. That’s the hope right there. Read it. It’s in the catechism. Right up there. I gave the reference. Please. Stop playing this game.

                    • Benjamin2.0

                      Two posts ago, it’s at the bottom below the divide:

                      1058 The Church prays that no one should be lost: “Lord, let me never be parted from you.” If it is true that no one can save himself, it is also true that God “desires all men to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4), and that for him “all things are possible” (Mt 19:26).

                      It takes a bit of interpretation to get to Horn’s point, but it’s there.

                      I did. Look up. Read it.

                      Borrowed some of my rhetoric, did we? I’m flattered. I owe you a high-five.

                      Be sure to address his distinction between ‘hope’ the theological virtue and ‘hope’ in its modern colloquial use. And keep this up. I’d like to see where this discussion goes.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      I did make a brief comment on the “distinction point,” but if you want, I will make a few more comments on it.

                      First, it really is a red herring. However, if we want to find theological virtue of hope, it connects to

                      Second: that catechism point. The hope for our salvation is one and the same as our hope for the possibility that all can be saved, because it is a hope in the great loving power of God to do all things. It realizes we don’t save ourselves, that we all need God’s help to be saved, and God can save everyone. It’s possible. It’s why it is hope: it is the same hope for ourselves as for the salvation of all (and why, again, we pray for the worst of sinners, for those who need God’s mercy the most, for the salvation of all, etc). That prayer for the salvation of all comes from the theological virtue of hope, a hope which merges with the virtue of charity (love), for it is because of love we, like God, desire for the salvation of all. But if we can’t hope for its possibility, then something is wrong with love and hope.

                      Third, people need to stop confusing hope for as knowledge of. That’s the problem. Again, for Balthasar (and those who follow him) one of the issues (there are many; his theology of hell is complex and I know no one else who has explored it in depth as I have — that’s a side point) is presumption. Presumption for salvation for oneself or presumption of damnation of another. Both suffer from the same problem, the same error; for Balthasar, this side of the eschaton (judgment) we don’t know the outcome, we know there is the possibility of hell (and fear it, and so do everything we can not to be damned, nor for others to be damned — hence evangelism!), but we hope for salvation due to the work of Christ, the loving nature of God, and how God interacts with us. It’s not saying people can’t reject God, indeed, it is only because of Christ hell can even exist according to Balthasar (ultimate rejection of God can only come after the incarnation), but, as Scripture shows, often what acceptance is, is a surprise (those who are saved thinking they rejected Christ, when did we do this for you?). But we can’t count on it, either; it’s for God to judge not us, for us to offer hope (Christ) and warning (hell). Without that hope, either for ourselves or for the whole world, then presumption comes in, and free will actually is put into question (which is also the problem with universalism, it is lack of free will, it is determinism as well). This is what critics of Balthasar do not get because they really have not explored his theology of hell, but only seen he hopes for the salvation of all; that is 1/2 of his picture, and taking 1/2 of his picture and making it all, distorts everything.

                    • Benjamin2.0

                      Look at us, our past relationship inverted. Here, you have drawn fine distinctions, which your opponent has arguably ignored in his condemnation, and have earned my tentative support. “[T]aking 1/2 of his picture and making it all, distorts everything.” If truer words existed, I’d love to hear them.

                      I’d still like to see if Athelstane can parry those distinctions. Openmindedness is a hard thing to sustain. I’d like to be able to clamp down on something wholesome.

                    • Athelstane

                      Hello Benjamin – and I direct this at HornOrSilk as well:

                      I think there’s a danger at work in prooftexting the Catechism. CCC 1058 cannot be read in isolation, any more than 1 Timothy can, either. It can’t be read in isolation from the rest of the magisterial teaching on this, and it can’t be read in isolation from…the rest of the Catechism itself. (And as an aside: for that matter, let’s not forget that the Catechism itself has no dogmatic authority – it has authority to the extent that it quotes from past dogmatic statements of the Church.) So let’s start with:

                      1022
                      Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven-through a purification or immediately, — or immediate and everlasting damnation.

                      1033: …To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called “hell.”

                      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.”

                      There are no “ifs” there, however desperately you might wish there to be. As Fr., O’Connor rightly points out, the Church, like her Master, does not use the conditional but the future indicative mode when speaking of the outcome of human history in respect to the damnation of some. There is no getting around that.

                      You insist on pointing me to your references elsewhere in this thread, but you seem oblivious to the ones I’ve provided, from Pius IX, Benedict XII, Florence, Lyons, Trent…the list goes on and on. Balthasar has for his authority only Origen and a tiny handful of mystics (yes, he actually cites Adrienne von Speyr), and on the other side the vast sweep of every Doctor and Church Father. And Balthasar often has to torture and willfully misread his sources (like he does poor St. Cyprian) to get what little support he can find, as numerous scholars have pointed out.

                      The statement that “all things are possible” with God can’t bear the theological weight you’re putting on it. Yes, God has the power to save everyone. God also gave every human free will. Some choose to exercise that free will to reject Him and His love, and God respects that freedom. That’s the plain reading of Christ’s own words at numerous points (Matt 25:41, Matt 7:13, et al), and that is how the Church has always read them, as one noteworthy Pope of recent memory has pointed out. “And yet the words of Christ are unequivocal. In Matthew’s Gospel he speaks clearly of those who will go to eternal punishment (cf. Matthew 25:46).” – Pope St. John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope

                      I don’t wish anyone in hell, and neither should anyone else. I pray the Fatima prayer in my Rosary just like most Catholics do. But I am not the determinant of how and when my prayers are answered, nor is anyone else. And the Church, like her Master, has spoken on this. Hell is a real place, and souls really do go there.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      I am not going to go around in circles. You ignore the actual discussion, you ignore what has been said, you keep misrepresenting the argument as if people are saying everyone will be saved and they have rejected the possibility of eternal perdition, thus bringing up texts which discuss it. Again, read Balthasar where he talks about judgment and hell. You could make Balthasar fight Balthasar that way, too.

                    • Athelstane

                      This is becoming pointless, HoS. You’re becoming insulting, abusive, and engaging in relentless ad hominems. You’re clearly not open to any serious discourse on any of this.

                      I’ve engaged as many points directly as I can. I can’t help if if you choose to ignore it.

                      I could be flippant and say that, forced to choose between Balthasar and Speyr on the hand and Augustine, Gregory the Great, Anselm, Bonaventure, Aquinas, John Henry Newman on the other, I know which I would choose. Fortunately, I have a much better source of authority: the Magisterium itself. Balthasar has many valuable theological insights, but on the question of hell (and Christ’s journey there on Holy Saturday) the whole weight of the tradition stands against Balthasar.

                    • Benjamin2.0

                      If this is the end of the discussion, I have one request.

                      you keep misrepresenting the argument as if people are saying everyone will be saved and they have rejected the possibility of eternal perdition

                      For the uninformed blockheads in the audience, how would you address this complaint in its particularity?

                    • Athelstane

                      I don’t know why this is difficult. Yes: I get that you are making a distinction – that Balthasar tried to make a distinction – between 1) the proposition that all men WILL be saved, and 2) the proposition that all men MIGHT be saved. Balthasar said he rejected the former. He admits that it is possible that some souls go to hell.

                      But this is not sufficient: it is not sufficient to accord with what the Magisterium has said on this; it is not sufficient to accord with what every Church Father (save Origen at one point) has said on this; it is not sufficient to accord with the words of Christ, in the future indicative, without torturing those words out of recognition. It is, as I have said, a universalism by the back door. And if I am to have to face universalism, or quasi-universalism, I would rather face it through Rahner and Barth, where it stands uninhibitedly in the broad light of day.

                      I don’t question that you’ve read Balthasar more carefully than I have. But what I have read is damning enough; and the scholarly criticisms of him are compelling.

                      But let’s turn this around with a question for you. Balthasar does not simply say that all men *might* be saved; he also claims (Dare We Hope, p. 219) that it is “infinitely improbable” that anyone is damned. As Fr. O’Connor puts it: “While explicitly and repeatedly stating that a synthesis cannot be made which will give us certitude on this matter, he appears to make one in practice, not in theory.” If Balthasar is rejecting sure knowledge that all men are saved, he’s certainly approaching it here like an asymptotic curve. How can that point of view be justified by the teaching of the Church?

                    • Benjamin2.0

                      I don’t question that you’ve read Balthasar more carefully than I have. But what I have read…

                      Ha! If you’ve read Balthasar at all, you’ve read him more carefully than I have. That’s probably directed to Mr. Silk, so I’ll let him field that. I’m concerned with an arguably more proximate extreme’s orthodoxy. If the Church holds “hope” (of a weaker sense than the theological virtue) for the salvation of Judas Iscariot, a suicide guilty of deicide, on the grounds that he may have repented somehow at the point of death, then the Church may hold that same “hope” for any man and, by extension, every man. This puts the salvation of all, with some admitted degree of strain, within the bounds of reason without some explicit pronouncement otherwise in revelation.

                      Would you please show me some explicit pronouncement that there is certainly somebody (any human in the abstract, of course, as we both know no pronouncement specific to any such person has or even can be made) in Hell? This is certainly the burning question, if you’ll forgive my hilarious pun.

                      I do not hold to this position, but I would love to know if it can soundly be rejected.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      And they need to do more than visionaries seeing people in hell — because of the nature of vision often being non-literal (as per John of the Cross). Balthasar, indeed, believes such visions, but thinks they represent the residue of sin which is cast into hell, creating simulacra of the person that the sin is taken from, sort of like statue representations of their sins (or, as he puts it, effigies put up in flame)

                    • Benjamin2.0

                      Private revelations would certainly fall short of the sort of evidence which might define the line between orthodoxy and heterodoxy, to boot. It seems to me, increasingly, that the differences here are smaller than they seem. I think Athelstane wouldn’t dismiss the speculation “Hell might be empty” so long as it remains a mere speculation, but I’d like to seem him say so. I think the disagreement lies in whether or not Balthasar’s position is so measured. He seems to have reasons to doubt that, but you’ve addressed them so far.

                      A satisfying conversation if it stays on the rails. Good sport in the coliseum of ideas.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      The problem is, Balthasar in so many of his other works, talks about hell, warns about hell. He makes it clear in DWH that the concern we should have first is hell for ourselves, and that he finds it odd that focus is often ignored by those who like to presume the damnation of others. He is very clear, we must be concerned about our own possible perdition. And in other works, he talks about hell quite strongly. Like Augustine (and others) who often wrote a discourse apologetically in response to a smaller point of criticism, if people take one Balthasar work and use it to express the whole of his theology, they will get him wrong (hence, Augustine against the Donatists will focus more on issues like free will, which he will not when dealing with Pelagians, not because he rejected his earlier position, but he is dealing with a micro-point in relation to it). So, when Balthasar warned about hell, talked about it as being a necessary component of Christian theology, that has to be take into account when he is dealing with his hope for the salvation of all.

                      I actually have places where I find Balthasar weak, and in my work with him, believe the best place to complement him is to deal with the theology of habits. But that is neither here nor there. My main point is that there is a strawman being made of Balthasar, which, if one read his works, would be clear does not reflect his view. And of course, in comments boxes, it’s hard to put it all out because, really, it takes a book length study on Balthasar on hell to even begin to represent his view (I know, I’ve written it; working on editing it some more and still looking for a publisher, but yes, I have done the work).

                    • Athelstane

                      Would you please show me some explicit pronouncement that there is certainly somebody in Hell?

                      I would say that it’s really impossible to assert that Judas Iscariot is not in hell. One needn’t rely on Matt 26:24 (“It would be better for that man if he had never been born”), though that seems to leave little room for other interpretation. Christ is even plainer elsewhere: “Those that thou gavest me, I have kept, and none of them is lost, but [i.e., except] the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (Jn. 17:12), a reference, of course, to Psalm 109. Patristic affirmations of that, as can those of medieval doctors, including St. Thomas (I, q.6, a. 2), can be multiplied (which, while not magisterial, clearly show that the overwhelming weight of the tradition supports this interpretation, not Balthasar’s, as even Cardinal Dulles conceded in his famous 2003 essay on this question). So yes, we can say that at least one particular person is in hell. The implication elsewhere in Scripture that Judas repented as part of his suicide (and thus might be saved), averted to by Balthasar, cannot overcome that; we are left with only the conclusion that if there was any repentance, it was not an adequate one.

                      Beyond that: I have noted elsewhere some specific magisterial statements. There is Benedictus Deus of Innocent XII; Syllabus #17 of Pius IX; Florence (“Letentur coeli,” Sess. 6, July 6, 1439), Lyons, and Trent speak to this (sorry, I’m in a hurry for all of thespecific cites just now); The Council of Quiersy in 853 stated that, “not all will be saved” (Denz. No. 318); the Third Council of Valence in 855 referred to those “who from the beginning of the world even up to the passion of our Lord, have died in their wickedness and have been punished by eternal damnation” (Denz. No. 323); and Pius II in 1459 even condemned the opinion “That all Christians are to be saved” (Denz. No. 717[b]). To accept Balthasar’s position on this means to conclude that just about everything you can find on this topic in Denzinger must be rejected; that the Church authorities have been getting this wrong for our entire history.

                      All that said, I think it is striking to consider what Christ says on the one occasion when he is directly asked about the possible number of the saved and the damned in Luke 13:23-24. Luke states: “But someone said to him, ‘Lord, are only a few to be saved?’ But he said to them, ‘Strive to enter by the narrow gate; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”‘ Now, Balthasar seems to suggest that Luke 13:23-24 is part of a passage which is meant as an exhortation, not as a theological discourse or a fact statement. Which leaves us to wonder if *anything* that Christ says can be taken as a theological discourse, or why he would expect his disciples to interpret this as anything other a statement of fact, and not mere exhortation.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      St John Paul II, among others, said we don’t know if Judas is in hell. Again, it is a forced reading of the text to make it read he was damned to hell; the Fathers, for example, make it clear his act didn’t force him to be damned, because his act was compared to Peter, who also betrayed Christ. They make it clear, his act could be forgiven, as even Christ said — even what is done to him can be forgiven, the only unforgiveable sin being blasphemy of the Holy Spirit– so this reading as saying he is predestined to damnation and couldn’t find salvation is contrary to what Christ himself said in other places. Giving some of the tradition and opinion and making it universal, is again, a problem you have, and shows you fail to understand the plurality allowed in Catholic thought. This is a basic problem I think with many of Balthasar’s critics, they beg the question, see only one side, cherry pick to make only one side, ignore anything contrary (then say nothing else exists, after they ignore it; or if they finally are pushed to admit it is there, say it is a “minority” position as if that proves it is wrong: minority doesn’t mean wrong — ask Athanasius!).

                      Seriously, there is presumption and Calvinism behind those who force a filled hell. I will leave it at that. We are going around in circles, but it is clear, you beg the question, ignore what Balthasar himself says, and just enjoy strawmen.

                    • Athelstane

                      St John Paul II, among others, said we don’t know if Judas is in hell.

                      I’ve not read that document, and I can’t find it online, so I am going to have to limit myself to saying that, if St. John Paul II said that, I have real trouble squaring that with the tradition; which I may say, since I feel pretty confident he was not exercising any magisterial authority, ordinary or universal, in saying whatever he said. At all events, as I noted above, John Paul II elsewhere *does* say plainly that some souls go to hell – regardless of whether it turns out he didn’t know for sure whether Judas was among them. I am not sure how much you want to resort to JPII here.

                      Giving some of the tradition and opinion and making it universal, is again, a problem you have, and shows you fail to understand the plurality allowed in Catholic thought.

                      With respect, it’s not just *some* of the tradition; it’s the overwhelming weight of it.

                      I recognize that speculative theology is not just an exercise in multiplying references from Denzinger or Migne. But there are, in fact, some clear statements where the question of whether hell is populated *are* made; and you have failed to address any of them in this thread.

                      I don’t see that Athanasius contra mundum is on point here. Athanasius’s position was an affirmation of a clear anti-Arian formula at Nicea; and it was already being vindicated in his lifetime; and whatever majority of Arians or semi-Arians existed among bishops of the East, the evidence is that most Christians remained anti-Arian throughout. On the question of hell we have two millennia of tradition to address, not just a few generations of Arian theologians running amock. You are going to have to explain how we can now say, in accepting Balthasar’s position, that pretty much every single Church Father who wrote on this theological subject…got it wrong. How Pius II, Innocent XII, and Pius IX, speaking in dogmatic statements, got it wrong. There is tremendous scandal on that.

                      Seriously, there is presumption and Calvinism behind those who force a filled hell. I will leave it at that.

                      Are we to conclude that Ss. Irenaeus, Basil, Jerome, Augustine, Chrysostom, Gregory the Great, Anselm, Aquinas, St. Alphonsus Liguori, St John of the Cross . . . are all crypto-Calvinists?

                      The problem with Calvinism is not how it counts who is in hell, but in how it claims that they end up there.

                    • Benjamin2.0

                      You have a strong but just shy of closed case, as I see it. You’re a bit beyond my depth with many of your references, but they seem to be to be rejections of Universalism per se (i.e. the positive position that Hell is empty rather than “Hell may be empty” (e.g. “Pius II in 1459 even condemned the opinion ‘That all Christians are to be saved’”)) or just shy of Magisterial pronouncement (something said in the context of a pronouncement on faith rather than a pronouncement as such). Your Biblical exegesis is sound, but also just short of disproving the alternative interpretation, which merely claims “This verse could be interpreted:” rather than “The proper interpretation is:”.

                      “Those that thou gavest me, I have
                      kept, and none of them is lost…”

                      I’m far more sympathetic to the “there are humans in Hell” position, but I have to acknowledge the possible play in “is lost” which might not appeal to the ultimate sense of the terms rather than a present status (likewise, “son of perdition”).

                      But, as I said, the position is admittedly strained. I just think someone ought to reject it on these less drastic grounds rather than calling it certainly false without some concrete positive statement of this certainty. “Almost certainly wrong” is just short of “certainly wrong,” and The Man Himself has relied on unlikely interpretations in the past.

                      I’m looking at you, “born of a virgin”!

                      Not an example of degree but prinicple, of course.
                      Imagine, though, within prechristian Judaism, if someone had asserted that the Messiah would certainly (or, for the sake of the comparison “probably”) be Jesus, as we all know Him to be in hindsight, on the basis of the sum of His prophetic depictions. He would’ve been ontologically rather than ostensibly orthodox.

                      Which leaves us to wonder if *anything* that Christ says can be taken as a theological discourse

                      All I mean to say on this point is that we should be careful. He may have left a particular speculative hole unplugged for a reason, but if it is plugged, it’s plugged.

                      Show me a firm, definitive plug. I wouldn’t even give
                      the opponent the “benefit of the doubt”, but conscience forbids me to rule the possibility out entirely for the sake of the unlikely but present loopholes. “Heretical” is a strong adjective requiring strong evidence, and the space between ‘certainly false’ and ‘certainly true’ is huge.

                    • John

                      If I could just add another reference to Athelstane’s excellent list:

                      Catechism of the Catholic Church 605: “At the end of the parable of the lost sheep Jesus recalled that God’s love excludes no one: ‘So it is not the will of your Father who
                      is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.’ He affirms that he came ‘to give his life as a ransom for many’; this last term is not restrictive, but contrasts the whole of humanity with the unique person of the redeemer who hands himself over to save us. *The Church*, following the apostles, teaches that Christ died for all men without exception: ‘There is not, never has been, and never will be a single human being for whom Christ did not suffer.’ [412]”

                      Now that footnote #412 references the Council of Quiercy (853), DS 624, which says: “Christ Jesus our Lord,
                      as no man who is or has been or ever will be whose nature will not have been assumed in Him, so there is, has been, or will be no man, for whom He has not suffered- *although not all will be saved by the mystery of His passion.*

                      So according to the CCC, when the Council of Quiercy teaches that Christ died for all men, this is “the Church” teaching. Wouldn’t it follow that when the same Council also teaches (in the same sentence) that not all men will be saved, that we can say “the Church” teaches that not all men will be saved?

                    • Brian

                      It follows precisely, John, very nice work.

                      Oh wait I forgot about the axiom: If at any point you read a Church teaching that clearly states that not all will be saved, you must immediately complicate the text to the point of obscurity or else you’re a Protestant.

                    • John

                      Perhaps one more reference:

                      Pope St. Pius X, Encyclical Letter Acerbo nimis (1905), 2:

                      “And so Our Predecessor, Benedict XIV, had just cause to write: “We declare that a great number of those who are condemned to eternal punishment suffer that
                      everlasting calamity because of ignorance of those mysteries of faith which must be known and believed in order to be numbered among the elect.”

                      Note that this counts as two papal pronouncements.

                    • Athelstane

                      Excellent, John. I confess I had missed that one.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      See, this is the typical approach by “trads,” who take texts out of context, and don’t engage theological discussions based upon what they read, to understand how the Church interprets these texts. For example, the “simple” reading suggested by this text would deny invincible ignorance, and many “trads” go that route, despite the history of that teaching in the church. For it says they are condemned due merely to ignorance, and so would say that there is therefore no invincible ignorance.

                      But that is not what is being said here. Pope St Pius X is saying his predecessor had just cause to worry about evangelism, to worry about those who have not been given the fullness of the truth. We do have just cause to worry. But we do not know the judgment. We know that our mission is to 1) proclaim Christ and 2) to the world and that through 3) the Church salvation spreads. There is just fear that if we do not get to people, they might go further and further into sin, and easily reject any level of grace around them — which is another reason why evangelism is good, to help prevent that, but we do not know if that will happen, or has happened. The fear is just. It’s a leap to go further than that and say “therefore, some are damned.” We fear some might be damned. We fear WE might be damned. But we hope. AT THE SAME TIME. The two work together.

                      Now, I’m not going to go around in circles. It’s quite clear some people read into texts, and assume conclusions which are not there. They COULD be the end result which we hope not, but WE DO NOT KNOW .That is the key. This side of the judgment we do not know. Claiming any judgment of anyone is rejected by Christ (judge not! which is exactly what Jesus said about judging eternal fates of sinners, but this is exactly what many people want to do).

                      I highly recommend people to actually read contexts, and many sources — instead of lists they find online. Again, Protestants (Luther) and Jansenists (among others) did this kind of cherry picking as well. The Catholic Church however is wider; it allows people to make theological speculations (and so if you want to believe it as a speculation, go ahead) but when you say other speculations which are accepted by the Church are condemned because of your reading of the Church, you confuse yourself for the Church (like Protestants with the Bible confuse their reading of the Bible as the Bible). This is why it is “yes, you can believe it, but Balthasar and his followers can believe their hope, too, both.” That’s the whole point.

                    • John

                      Benjamin2.0 requested to see some explicit pronouncements. Athelstane obliged. I added a few. That’s not cherry-picking. That’s responding to a specific request.

                      As an aside, have you ever considered that you fall under your own condemnation of Protestantism when you confidently provide us all with the *true* (i.e. your) interpretation of what, in this case, Pope St Pius X is *really* saying? I mean, seriously: look in the mirror. People here are engaged in disputing the proper interpretation of texts. You think your reading is the right one; others think theirs is right. Argue your case, yes; but don’t accuse others of being Protestant for arguing theirs. In this thread alone, I think I have seen you offer your interpretation of the meaning of the words founds in the Catechism, St JPII, St Pius X, Leo XIII, the Council of Trent, etc. Why is it not *private interpretation* when you do it? Is it becaue you assume you are the only one here with a wide reading in theology?

                      More to the point, it is in fact a rule of Catholic Biblical interpretation, laid down by St. Augustine and reiterated by Pope Leo XIII in Prov. Deus, “not to depart from the literal and obvious sense, except only where reason makes it untenable or necessity requires.”

                      Now if the literal and obvious sense contradicts right reason or the rule of faith (which appears from the context to be what constitutes a requirement of necessity), as in your example of God repenting, then it would indeed be Protestant-like to insist on such a reading against the authority of the Church who interprets it otherwise. But in order to justify your accusations of Protestantism against those who hold to the literal and obvious sense of a text (such as, in this case, Lk 13:23ff. or Mt 7:13f.), the burden of proof is on you to show why that literal and obvious meaning is contrary to right reason or the rule of faith.

                      I think the discussion could make more progress, and we could all avoid the circles that you so dislike going around in, if you would tackle this issue instead of resorting to ad hominems.

                      Yours in Christ,

                    • John

                      Really? How it is relevant to the present discussion whether or not some “trads” misinterpret this statement as excluding invincible ignorance? That’s a red herring if I ever saw one. The point in this context is that he says that many of those who go to hell go there on account of their ignorance (yes, of course, presumably vincible) of the faith. Now the REASON WHY (emphasis; not yelling;) he mentions this fact is surely to stress the importance of evangelization. That’s one half of the picture. Yet THE FACT that he mentions in order to accomplish this purpose is that there are a great number of souls who are damned because of their ignorance. This is the other half of the picture. The Catholic principle of interpretation is to hold both halves together. Negecting the latter in favor of the former is the system “not to be tolerated” (Leo XIII, Prov. Deus).

                      Yours in Christ,

                    • John

                      Well done, Athelstane. If you might just permit me to bolster your interpretation of Luke 13:

                      Leo XIII, in Prov. Deus, has this to say about how to interpret Scripture:

                      “It is absolutely wrong and forbidden, either to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of Holy Scripture, or to admit that the sacred writer has erred. For the system of those who, in order to rid themselves of these difficulties, do not hesitate to concede that divine inspiration regards the things of faith and morals, and nothing beyond, because (as they wrongly think) in a question of the truth or falsehood of a passage, *we should consider not so much what God has said as the reason and purpose which He had in mind in saying it*-this system cannot be tolerated.”

                      Now it seems to me (in my indubitably imperfect reading of his HUvBness) that HUvB uses exactly this “not to be tolerated” system of exegesis in order to evade the plain meaning (oh no, am I a Protestant?) of Christ’s words in Luke’s Gospel.That is, he stresses the reason and purpose Christ had in mind (which is plausibly taken to be exhorting the apostles to care for their own salvation) at the expense of what he actually said (that many will not be able to enter). The proper Catholic approach, of course, is BOTH to accept what he said as true (and thus to defend the proposition that many will not be saved) AND to take to heart the salutary purpose of this doctrine (by working out our own salvation with fear and trembling).

                    • Athelstane

                      Now it seems to me (in my indubitably imperfect reading of his HUvBness) that HUvB uses exactly this “not to be tolerated” system of exegesis in order to evade the plain meaning (oh no, am I a Protestant?) of Christ’s words in Luke’s Gospel.

                      A good point, John.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      Once again, yes, you are demonstrating a rather Protestant understanding of 1) Scripture (saying it is just simply what it says in the most literal level, which is what God intended from it) and of 2) the Pope. The Pope is not saying Scripture is written just simply, but rather, there is no err. This does not mean there is no interpretation, that the text “as is” is the intended meaning (Protestants look at the “as is” of “all have sinned” and follow the same exegetical methodology to deny Mary’s immaculate nature). The Pope has said, and Balthasar would not disagree, the text does not err. But that is not the same as saying “our interpretation does not err” nor the way it initially appears to us is what God intends from the verse (again, that is poor exegesis, and is exactly what Protestants say and do). If you study the history of interpretation, you will see the Fathers admit many verses CANNOT be the literal, simple reading (example: God does not repent, though Scripture says he does; this is not an err, however, in Scripture). This again is the problem, and you demonstrate it in your rather simplistic reading of JPII. I could take out quotes from Balthasar who talks about people will be damned as well, and say “voila, he says people will be damned.” But hermeneutics requires more, as the Jansenists found out.

                      What is funny is Balthasar is very strong on Scripture and its meaning and value, following the Pope along with what the Pope has said, so much so, he has had Biblical scholars writing against him for his traditional use of Scripture.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      You still take one quote out of context, and ignore the rest of his works which discuss hell in more depth. Focusing on one work alone, and taking one quote out of context, is not helpful. If you continue to the next page, he then returns to the way people can fight of grace, that grace will provoke a greater negative response, leading to a greater response to grace, which can continue on and on in a circle. Moreover, 219 isn’t in itself talking about damnation (that is a misreading). Here is the full quote:

                      “All-merciful love can thus descend to everyone. We believe that it does so. And now, can we assume that there are souls that remain perpetually closed to such love? As as possibility in principle, this cannot be rejected . In reality, it can become infinitely improbable — precisely through what preparatory grace is capable of effecting in the soul. It can do no more than knock at the door, and there are souls that are already open themselves to it upon hearing this unobtrusive call. Others allow it to go unheeded.” Etc.

                      He didn’t mention probability of damnation, just that it is nearly impossible to see the soul not affected by grace. This is correct; even if someone is damned, we know they are affected by grace (resurrection, for example, shows this). Indeed, some fathers make it clear that the fire of hell is the fire of grace, which is also what Balthasar also suggests if you read him on hell. So of course they are not unaffected, however, how it affects them is the question.

                      It’s quite clear you have not read Balthasar in detail, and i suspect you got that quote from someone else’s reading of him. But if you read him, and not just one book, which is more on hope, but his Theo-Drama IV and V, his Mysterium Paschale, and others, you will see he discusses hell in more depth

                    • Athelstane

                      Focusing on one work alone, and taking one quote out of context, is not helpful.

                      No, I see the context of that chapter; but I don’t see how it does more than reaffirm that Balthasar remains open to the possibility that souls go to hell. Note: “it can become” as opposed to “will become” – yes, it’s a conditional, but it remains a profoundly problematic conditional. What he is saying here is clear enough: that it can be “infinitely improbable” that some souls “remain perpetually closed” to merciful [divine] love. So why does that not equate, for all intents and purposes, to damnation?

                      It’s quite clear you have not read Balthasar in detail, and i suspect you got that quote from someone else’s reading of him.

                      No, I had to read Dare We Hope in my MA Theology course, along with Moment of Christian Witness (which I quite liked), Love Alone Is Credible, and some parts of Theo-Drama. No, that’s not comprehensive. But Dare We Hope must in some way stand on its own feet, as it were, because it is the most direct and explicit treatment of this question by Balthasar. More to the point, it is one of his last works, and represents the final stage of his thought. I should not have to read the entire Balthasar Opera Omnia (or, to be less snarky, large swaths of it) from Ignatius to be able to offer any criticism of one particular work or argument. That’s certainly not how the Holy Office worked back in the day, nor how the CDF does today, when examining problematic theological works.

                    • Guest

                      DWH does NOT stand alone, it was written as an apologetic response assuming what he wrote elsewhere. Indeed, the English translation is based upon separate works, not one text. And yes, you need to know what he said on a subject, if you want to criticize him; it is clear you have not really worked with him in depth, and indeed, your reading of him completely distorts what he says. Color me unimpressed, and it is rather typical of a certain mindset (similar to Jack Chick picking and choosing quotes).

                      So, it’s like some Lutheran selectively quoting Augustine, saying “see, that’s what he said, he agrees with us” ignoring the style of Augustine’s writings, and how unsystematic they were, because they were topical in function and dealing with a smaller portion of a whole, not the whole, because he wrote to deal with the neglect, not what was already understood.

                      And actually, DWH was not

                    • Benjamin2.0

                      it can be “infinitely improbable” that some souls “remain perpetually closed” to merciful [divine] love. So why does that not equate, for all intents and purposes, to damnation?

                      In this case, I think your argument has a number of potential holes, but I can’t speak for a Balthasarian with regard to which is damning to the point (I’m such a riot!). From my speculative point of view, it seems most noteworthy that your criticism depends on an interpretation of “merciful [divine] love” which is sufficient rather than merely necessary for ultimate salvation. A single step toward repentance is certainly the result of actual rather than sanctifying (NB: “saving”) grace, whereas both are products of “merciful [divine] love”.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      Exactly. Balthasar is very clear, there is a change and effect on all of us because of divine grace and merciful love. However, the effect is not always positive — as I stated, the other effect is to create a heightened rejection of love. That is an effect. So they are not closed to the love, in the sense of it not affecting them, but as Balthasar went further on in the passage, they would have to respond with greater and greater intensity in rejection of God. Which is also one way he uses to describe hell (there are other aspects; but again, like many fathers, this means that the loving fire of God is the same grace experience by the damned and the saved alike, but those who unite with it will experience it in glory, while those who reject it, fight against it, will be affected by it and feel the depths of hell emerge from it — cf Maximus the Confessor) .

        • chezami

          Correct. And since the Church commands us to pray for the salvation of all and God does not command us to pray for the impossible, it therefore follows that we can hope for the salvation of all.

          • Athelstane

            “…it therefore follows that we can hope for the salvation of all.”

            Perhaps our problem here is what each of us mean by the word “hope.” There are different kinds of hope in play.

            I think Fr. James T. O’Connor, in his critique of Balthasar on this point, makes the distinction best: We must, he says “presume that (in numbers completely unknown to us) humans will be included in “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt. 25:41), and that we ourselves could be among that number. It is such a presumption that the words of Jesus and the teaching of the Church would appear to have as their own, and better guides in this matter we cannot have. Against such a presumption one cannot have what is properly defined as theological hope, but one can and must have a human hope, a wish which expresses itself in prayer and zealous efforts, for the salvation of all. For we do and must pray: “Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those who have most need of your mercy.”

            Which is of course a prayer I myself pray every time I pray the Rosary. But this human hope is not inconsistent with the clear teaching of the Church (“Decree on Justification”, ch. 3, Council of Trent; Council of Florence, Session 11, et al), with what we know to be theologically true. Hell is a real place, and souls really do go there, probably even in vast numbers if most Doctors and saints are to be credited. We still pray for mercy; I still pray for mercy; but God is not bound to answer our prayers in the way in which we wish.

            And all that said: however badly he speciously used the handful of Church authorities he could find, even Balthasar himself recognized that on this question he was setting himself against virtually all of the great teachers of the Church (Augustine, Gregory the Great, Anselm, Bonaventure, Aquinas, John Henry Newman, etc.).

            Balthasar is simply wrong on this point, and however much care and nuance he uses to distinguish himself from out-and-out universalists, he’s done no good service to a Church caught in the throes of an Age of Moral Therapuetic Deism, where vast numbers of her own flock plainly do subscribe to universalism. And I really do hope that Fr. Barron does not propound this view in his apologetics, because he reaches a good deal more people directly now that Balthasar does.

            • Guest

              The presumption is in error. We can’t presume anyone is damned. That is for God. God is judge. Presumption of salvation and presumption of damnation is the same error.

              • Athelstane

                We can’t presume anyone is damned.

                I agree, Mark – if by that you mean any particular human being. For example, none of us can know whether Humphrey Bogart is in hell. (Although I think it is rather difficult to argue that at least one person, Judas Iscariot, is not).

                The presumption Fr. O’Connor prescribes is an aggregate one. We must presume, as Matthew 25 clearly states, that *some* humans go to hell. We do not know their names, or their number, and it is unwise to speculate on either. But hell is not empty. The Church has never taught that it is. With the qualified exception of Origen (already condemned on other heresies), you cannot find one Church Father who has taught that it is empty, or could be empty.

                The Catechism CCC 1035, citing numerous teachings, states clearly: “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.”” If you are prepared to say that it is an actual, live possibility that not one single soul has ever or will ever die in a state of mortal sin…well, that would be a remarkable assertion. It would also be, I fear, universalism by the back door.

          • Brian

            Let’s take a closer look at Mark’s syllogism:

            Premise 1: The Church commands us to pray for the salvation of all.

            Premise 2: God does not command us to pray for the impossible.

            Conclusion: Therefore we can hope for the salvation of all (i.e. believe that there’s a legitimate chance that all people will go to Heaven).

            The difficulty, here, is that Mark has overlooked two additional premises, which not only invalidate his conclusion, but also call his second premise into considerable question. To wit.

            Premise 3: God has stated that some people WILL go away into Hell.

            In His instruction on the ultimate fate of the sheep and the goats Christ says quite clearly: “Then they [the goats] WILL go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matt 25:46).

            Premise 4: The Council of Trent (Session 6, Ch 3) has declared: “But, though He died for all,[1990] yet all do not receive the benefit of His death, but those only unto whom the merit of His passion is communicated.”[1991]

            This is a clear statement that some do NOT receive the benefit of Christ’s death, and unless you want to argue that a person can be saved without the merits of the same, it is an error to entertain good hope that everyone will end up in Heaven.

            In light of these additional premises, it therefore does NOT follow that we may believe in the legitimate possibility that all people will go to Heaven. In short, it is an error to hold a belief which directly contradicts something that Jesus has said both in Sacred Scripture and in Sacred Tradition.

            However, against this, Horn of Silk quotes the CCC following that admonition in Matthew 19:26 that for God “all things are possible”. Sorry, but no trump care here; obviously what is possible for God excludes any action which would cause Him to contradict Himself. Therefore if God says X will happen, He is bound by His word, and as such cannot then substitute Y for X.

            So what then of Mark’s second premise? Why would God command us to pray for the salvation of all, if this is in fact impossible? Well, certainly there are any number of meritorious effects of prayer which are independent from actually obtaining the object being prayed for. And in this case, foremost among them is the salutary effect of keeping us focused on our mission; namely, to proclaim the Gospel to all nations.

            Thus, not knowing who will be saved we pray that all might respond to the free gift of God’s saving grace. Yet at the same time, just as Christ prayed for what he knew was not ultimately going to happen (“Father, if it be possible, let this chalice pass from Me”), we recognize – based on Jesus’ words in Scripture, the Council of Trent, and the papal teaching of Pius IX as outlined in previous comments – that despite our prayers, some people ARE nevertheless going to reject God’s gift and ultimately go to Hell.

            By way of conclusion, then, despite what Mark’s tidy syllogism would have us believe – that there is no point in praying for what we know can never ultimately be – it is only necessary to entertain such a simplistic conclusion if (1) we hold to the curious notion that prayer is only valuable insofar as there’s a real chance of getting what we ask for, and (2) we refuse to follow Christ who, knowing full well the necessity of His Passion, nevertheless asked His Father for the impossible; namely, to let it pass.

            Both Fr. Barron and Mark are right on a good many things, but on this they’re wrong.

            • HornOrSilk

              Your presumption starts with #3, with your reading of prophetic warnings, ignoring Jesus himself saying he was giving he sign of Jonah (which was a warning of destruction that led to salvation for those given the warning). Again, it is very much like a Protestant who confuses their one reading of Scripture and beg the question given to them because “God said so,” even if Catholic tradition reads Scripture otherwise.

              The council of Trent doesn’t say what you think it says, either — this has been discussed before in these threads; God, through Christ, works for the salvation of all, and on the ontological level, has restored creation; the application of it is individual and this, of course, the Church is right in saying. The Trent text is against a simple universalism which forces everyone to be saved — that is the point of the text, which is not disputed by those hoping for the salvation of all; we hope that they will receive the work of Christ as well, but we don’t know. It’s not a clear statement of eschatology, but rather, says we can’t just presume salvation.

              And you don’t trump the catechism by your Protestantism. Sorry doesn’t work. And you ignore others Popes, like Pope Saint John Paul II, in your response. Again, limiting tradition, begging the question, all so typical. I would recommend you actually read the authors you reject to get to grasp other ways to read the same texts, to note, the Church has no “one way” required here.

              • Athelstane

                The council of Trent doesn’t say what you think it says.

                Actually it does. Its meaning is plain. We don’t have to torture the text or deconstruct it. It’s always been read to have the obvious meaning, and I can drag dozens of moral manuals from the Tridentine period off my bookshelf to show it. Were we to take our proverbial time machine back to Trent, there’s not a single Council Father who would understand it in any other way. There’s no conditional there. It’s a future indicative.

                And I don’t think it is very helpful in this context to start slinging around accusations of “Protestantism.”

                • HornOrSilk

                  “The meaning is plain, it’s what I force it to mean.” All Protestants go “the meaning is plain” to things which are not so plain. The meaning of Trent is that we can’t assume universal salvation; there has to be an application, cooperation with grace, communicated by Christ. That everyone agrees in the debate, and so it is a red herring. It doesn’t say “anyone will necessarily be in hell.” It doesn’t. That is an interpretation which is not said.

                  And that you can dig some people saying it – well – I can dig up people talking about limbo as well. Yes, theological speculation allows it to be a possible interpretation, but not a necessary one. You still confuse YOUR reading as “the reading.”

                  Reminds me of Dioscorus with St Cyril of Alexandria.

                  • Athelstane

                    The meaning of Trent is that we can’t assume universal salvation

                    That’s ONE conclusion that follows. It is not the only one.

                    Upon what do you even base your conclusion that this is the only thing the Council Fathers meant in writing and approving this canon? What is your source?

                    Read the Catechism of the Council of Trent – the Catechism actually issued to explain the Council’s teachings.

                • Alma Peregrina

                  @Athelstane:

                  If I may budge in, I would like to say something to you. I don’t know if you’re right, I don’t know if HornOrSilk is right. Maybe he is, maybe you’re wrong. I don’t know, my theological knowledge doesn’t allow me to make have an opinion.

                  But there is one thing I DO know. It’s a waste of time to argue with HornOrSilk. He has a set of ideas that he defends passionately (which, in itself, is not bad) but he is passive-agressively hostile to anyone that doesn’t agree with him 100%. Everyone else is a protestant, a Luther, whatever. Most of the times he doesn’t even care about your actual position, he just cares in being the defender of catholic orthodoxy against “protestant” catholics that commit the protestant sin of holding orthodox positions that disagree with him.

                  You seem like a swell guy. Maybe you’re wrong, but at least you seem intellectualy honest. Don’t waste your time. I’ve been there, it’s not worth it.

              • Brian

                1. Where have I ignored Jesus discussing the sign of Jonah in the context of the parable of the sheep and the goats, or any of the other examples in Matthew 25 of people ultimately being cut off from Christ; i.e. the foolish maidens or the worthless servant?

                2. So in Matthew 25, when Jesus says these things WILL happen, He’s really just saying they might happen? “When the Son of Man comes…He WILL sit on His glorious throne. Before Him WILL be gathered all the nations, and He WILL separate the sheep and the goats…Then He WILL say to those on His left hand, ‘Depart from me you cursed into the eternal fire etc, etc, etc…”

                3. When the Council of Trent says that “not all receive the benefit of His death” it nevertheless means that it is possible for all to receive the benefit of His death?

                • HornOrSilk

                  The warning of destruction is not the same thing as the necessity of destruction. Jonah’s warning saved Nineveh. Prophetic discussion of what WILL happen was also from Jonah who said Nineveh WILL be destroyed. The failure is to misunderstand prophetic utterances.

                  And the Trent discussion has been discussed. It is denying an automatic universal assimilation of grace. Not everyone will receive the benefit, from the fact of nature, but there will have to be a personal assimilation of it as well. If there is not, they will be condemned. That’s all. Again, I am trying to keep this simple, and will not go around in circles more.

                  • Brian

                    Okay, I see where you’re coming from with Jonah. In Jonah 3:4 the warning he delivered to Nineveh reads as
                    follows:

                    “Yet forty days, and Nineveh WILL be overthrown!”

                    Nevertheless, after the Ninevites repent, we go on to read in verse 10 that “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God repented of the evil
                    which He said He WOULD do to them; and He did not do it.”

                    As such, if I follow your point, this provides us with an example of a prophecy where God said something WOULD happen, but then in actuality something else happened.

                    I appreciate this example because it makes clear the nature of a conditional prophecy, which I failed to account for before. Mea culpa. In short, as you say, a conditional
                    prophecy would be one where what is predicted will necessarily occur only in the absence of some intervening event.

                    Okay, so let’s continue with the comparison. Interestingly, Jonah’s prophecy when spoken does not appear conditional; that is, he does not say “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be destroyed unless you repent.” Instead, the prophecy is stated as if the people have no recourse. Simply put, forty days, and then it’s endgame!

                    Yet despite Jonah’s formulation, since we know that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, we are still able to discern the conditional nature of his prophecy -
                    even before the end of the story – inasmuch as God does not pronounce impending threats of destruction without concomitant offers of salvation vis-a-vis repentance; even if only implicitly as in we see with Jonah.

                    Now at this point you may be saying “Bingo! And that is precisely what Jesus is doing in Matthew 25; namely, the integrity of His word remains because He’s making
                    conditional prophecies; that is, the things He says WILL happen, do not actually have to occur, provided that everyone takes sufficient heed of His warning.

                    Very good.

                    Yet with that said, I do not think the example of Nineveh is altogether analogous with the parable of sheep and the goats. To begin with, unlike Jonah, the prophetic utterance of Jesus cannot be described as an entirely conditional pronouncement; that is to say, the fact that Jesus will come in glory with His angels, that He will sit upon His glorious throne, and that all nations will be
                    gathered before Him IS going to happen regardless of whatever else may occur.

                    As such, when a prophecy begins with this kind of clear unconditional character (contra Jonah), it is inappropriate to suggest – without sufficient explanation – that it should suddenly change in midstream and be understood as conditional.

                    To this point, positing a fulfillment of this prophecy, in which there are no goats to be found whatsoever, not only seems to needlessly complicate the text, but also
                    makes rather a lot of nonsense out of both Hebrews 6:4-6 as well as the overt and persistent malice that so many demonstrate toward Christ even unto death. Of course, I make no judgment on the ultimate fate of any particular individual, but neither I am so sanguine about the professed enemies of Christ (to say nothing of admittedly unrepentant sinners) as to conclude, “Those things
                    notwithstanding, there’s still good hope that all people will go to Heaven.”

                    Moreover, the comparison also fails to account for the fact that, in Jonah, the Ninevites had never been properly admonished in what God expected of them. And while I
                    maintain that the call to repentance is implicit vis-à-vis the unchanging character of God, the fact remains that even when their destruction was first pronounced, the prophet still did not explicitly inform them of the means by which they might be saved. In light of this reality, it is especially fitting, that upon taking the initiative to repent, the Ninevites should discover that the Divine threat of destruction was in fact conditional – that the prediction was a warning rather than an absolute. Thus, having been given no direct explanation of what God required of them, it was only just, upon discerning it for themselves, that their prophesied doom should go unfulfilled.

                    But with this in mind, we can see at once that we cannot plead the same ignorance for those described by Our Lord in Matthew 25: the maidens know beforehand that they need to fill their lamps, the servants know beforehand that they need to increase their talents, and both the sheep and the goats know beforehand that they need to care for the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner. Accordingly, given their manifest culpability, there is no reason to conclude that Christ was prophesying conditionally (as a mere possibility) when He predicted that some of them would be damned.

                    In short, these are people who know what is expected of them, fail to do it, and therefore suffer the consequences. And in the end, their knowledge of their duty before God, coupled with a predicted fate that immediately follows pronouncements that are so obviously unconditional, not only sufficiently distinguishes them from the Ninevites, but also demonstrates that Christ is describing, not conditional possibilities, but a definitive future.

                    • HornOrSilk

                      Brian

                      You are getting closer. However, discussion of what will happen at the judgment is conditional. We know he will come again to judge the living at the dead. We know hell is a real possibility. But he himself never listed one person, said one name, of anyone who would be condemned.

                      Secondly, Jonah’s himself felt his prophecy was clearly unconditional. It’s a part of the whole story.

                      This goes with St John of the Cross, when talking about prophecy. Even what “will” take place is not so easy to interpret beforehand. That is the problem with relying upon prophecies and how they appear. God often works with them in ways unexpected, as Jesus’ whole life, death and resurrection shows.

                      And as I said, Jesus said the Sign of Jonah is the ONLY sign he will give. That is what he represents. This must be used in understanding him, his mission, and his parables (which, btw, as the fathers are clear, are not so clear by themselves, and we are talking about prophecies within parables, which often contain elements you wouldn’t look at literally anyway).

                      So, I will leave it at that, instead of going around in circles. I am glad you see prophecy can be stated unconditionally and yet be conditional. That is a key clue. John of the Cross goes into this in more detail when he discusses interpreting prophecies, as do other writers. And you will find authors agree, when you begin to explore Jesus and his words, the simple reading is often NOT the right one, and indeed, often contradicts the very point being made. This is why Protestants go far astray, because they confuse simple literalism as the only way to read Scripture, ignoring rhetoric and how it is done (such as when they quote Paul saying all have sinned as a way to deny Mary’s sinlessness — it’s the same kind of simple reading vs misunderstanding of rhetoric).

  • BHG

    Apropos the population of Hell: Our Lord’s words on the subject of Hell, though many, are not exactly crystal clear when you put them all together—lots of hope, lots of caution. Most importantly, the Church has made no definitive declaration concerning the population of Hell and it is not a matter of obligation (salvation) to hold one opinion concerning the inhabitants thereof over the other—though universalism, the belief that all will (not may) eventually be saved is a heresy.

    Those who vociferously argue both sides do great damage, depending on the audience. Too much emphasis on mercy ignores the reality of sin and separation for God and its devastating effects. Too much emphasis on sin and judgment has turned many a soul from the Church out of fear. My family manifests both: my daughter has yet to overcome a hell-fire and brimstone Sunday School teacher who told her that if she didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus (something that seemed rather elusive to a fourth-grader) she’d better get one fast or she was going to hell (and this in an orthodox, Anglo-Catholic church). An in-law, exposed only to the mercy school of thought, sees nothing in Christianity to commend it over any other path, including his own mixture of Eastern spirituality laced with some New Age belief and lately, a little Native American thought thrown in for good measure. And, of course, as long as we are arguing with each other we are not out saving souls…the Scatterer likes that.

    And really, the question—is anyone in hell—is rather beside the point. The better question—the one I’d ask back—is this: Why is this of concern to you?

    Because Hell is real and people need to know that sin is real and separation from God is serious and can lead to eternal suffering. True enough—go spread the word! You don’t need the example of anyone in hell to prove your point.

    Because Christ came to redeem the whole world—and it is critical people know then can return to His mercy without being frightened away. Hell is a teaching, but it’s not the only teaching. Lead with Mercy. We may still hope for the salvation of all, and pray to that end. Great, good point. Go spread the word, pray long and hard. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that everyone automatically gets to Heaven.

    Because I want to know which group I am in. Sorry. The Church teaches that we cannot know the state of any living human soul, not even our own….so learn to live in the paradox, and have faith in Jesus, who redeems you.

    Just, please, as another commenter put it–stop bayonetting each other in the back over something we cannot, in the end, know for sure at all….

    • Athelstane

      Hello BHG,

      With all due respect, who is bayonetting anyone in this thread?

      Some of us are respectfully raising a question about what Fr. Barron believes on a particular point. There’s no wholesale condemnations here (and frankly, I still can’t be fully certain what Fr. Barron is actually teaching on this point now). Can we even *discuss* this question without being accused of the rhetorical equivalent of stabbing each other in the back?

  • Jem

    I’ve written a story where one character, an immortal being, has built a big camp, with torture chambers and lots of room for prisoners, and established an organization of men in uniform who stand up on a weekly basis for two thousand years and proclaim that this immortal character was very benevolent and did lots of good things, and if you did as you were told, you wouldn’t be sent to his camp.

    Some of the people reading my story objected that this immortal character doesn’t sound very benevolent. So I’ve come up with this: one of the immortal’s uniformed officials now says that actually no one knows how many people are in the camp, and it might be no one at all.

    So, what do people think – if this immortal character builds a giant torture camp and threatens people with it, but never actually sends anyone there, that means he’s a good guy, yeah?

    • chezami

      Sigh. Cartoon fundamentalism. Did you even bother to watch the video?

      • Jem

        The party analogy at the end, I think, is the problem. Have you enjoyed every party you’ve ever been to? If you haven’t, was it always your fault? When someone saw you in the corner and they said ‘hey, where’s your party spirit?’, did your reserves of party spirit increase? I mean, my idea of Hell is a party I find dreary but am obligated to stay at, so perhaps that’s a way to square the circle.

        Meh. I don’t believe in an afterlife. It’s one of those things I’m always surprised to realize there are people who genuinely do. It’s like praying. People who think that way seem to imagine that if you don’t pray or think there’s a Heaven that this registers as some great absence. As in the video, it’s always glossed as loneliness or anti social behavior, as a sort of constant, restless struggle to maintain non belief. That atheists sit on their hands all day trying very hard not to pray. And that’s just so far from my thoughts and lived experience that it’s very easy to call it wrong.

        How does it affect your day? How often do you think ‘I must act differently or I won’t get invited to the party?’. What’s the last thing you did to alter your afterlife outcome? An empty Hell sounds very generous of God, but if you were in Heaven and someone said ‘yeah, I’m amazed I got in after my abortion and that time I desecrated a Eucharist and married another woman and bought health care that if you checked the small print included among its provisions coverage for some forms of contraception’, wouldn’t you feel a bit gypped? You’ve spent your whole life cramming for an entrance exam, and it turns out there’s more places than applicants.

        What about Aquinas and his assertion that the pleasures of Heaven would be all the sweeter because the saved can look down and see the damned being tortured? For me, I think that’s the telling one, for so many reasons. Not because I think I’ll be down below, just because I think anyone who’d want to be up there must be pretty vile. How is Aquinas’ Hell in any way compatible with Father Barron’s?

        • chezami

          Severe analogy impairment. And, of course, an eagerness to attack a straw man. And finally, capped off with “I don’t really care about this thing that I just attacked and ridiculed.”

          Jesus’ warning about hell are like the oncologist’s warnings about smoking. Only an idiot thinks the oncologist is “threatening” people by warning about the consequences of their own choices or *sending* them cancer. Obviously his goal is to stop and prevent cancer, not inflict it. But you never ever miss an attempt to land a punch. Because you don’t care about it or anything. Right.

          • Athelstane

            Yes, and more to the point, this citation of Aquinas is problematic in two ways: 1) in the first place, it’s not even clear that we can attribute this fully to him, since it appears in the Supplement, completed after his death; 2) Aquinas (or his editor) draws some careful distinctions in Supp. III q.94 a3, to wit: the saints do not rejoice in the punishment of the wicked, but rather in their own deliverance, and in the order of Divine justice. Indeed, this objection is explicitly addressed in the answer to the first objection.

            • Jem

              (1) Ah, yes. Aquinas is the definitive exposition of Catholic theology except for all the bits that may or may not count.

              (2) I phrased what I said carefully. Aquinas – or, as you say, a fraud posing as Aquinas – says Heaven is sweeter for the saved because they see the damned being punished.

              No, they don’t get off on seeing people tortured. But they see people being tortured and get off.

              • Athelstane

                (1) To be perfectly fair, you were the one who brought up Aquinas, not me or Mark.

                (2) As to whether that question accurately represents Aquinas’s thought – it likely does. My only point was that, unlike the rest of the Summa, there’s always some kind of small qualifier with the Supplement, because it was generated by his assistants after his death from notes and memory.

                If you’re going to trash a theologian, it helps to have actually read what he said. And the respondeo q. 94 a.3 says this: “A thing may be a matter of rejoicing in two ways. First directly, when one rejoices in a thing as such: and thus the saints will not rejoice in the punishment of the wicked. Secondly, indirectly, by reason namely of something annexed to it: and in this way the saints will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked, by considering therein the order of Divine justice and their own deliverance, which will fill them with joy. And thus the Divine justice and their own deliverance will be the direct cause of the joy of the blessed: while the punishment of the damned will cause it indirectly. And in response to Objection 1, he further clarifies: To rejoice in another’s evil as such belongs to hatred, but not to rejoice in another’s evil by reason of something annexed to it. The saved are not, in his view, rejoicing in the punishment of the damned as such, but in their comprehension of divine justice, and their own deliverance. He is making a distinction here, though perhaps it’s not sufficient for you.

                In any event, the Church has not defined Aquinas’s proposition here as dogmatic – though it has a real logic behind it.

                • Jem

                  “In any event, the Church has not defined Aquinas’s proposition here as dogmatic – though it has a real logic behind it.”

                  Urban V – “It is our will, which We hereby enjoin upon you, that ye follow the teaching of Blessed Thomas as the true and Catholic doctrine and that ye labor with all your force to profit by the same.”. Innocent VI – “His teaching above that of others, the canonical writings alone excepted, enjoys such a precision of language, an order of matters, a truth of conclusions, that those who hold to it are never found swerving from the path of truth, and he who dare assail it will always be suspected of error.”

                  Those quotations cited by Leo XIII who goes on to endorse Aquinas even more strongly, and there’s nothing anywhere about ‘except some bits that might not be him’.

                  Whether it’s dogma or not, it’s doctrine, and there’s no wriggle room at all: it’s Catholic teaching. Now, is it *taught* teaching? No, because it may well be ‘logical’, but it’s also utterly horrible.

                  And it is, obviously, utterly incompatible with the idea that Hell is unpopulated.

                  Look, I’m not wrong here. Aquinas asks ‘do the blessed rejoice in the punishment of the wicked?’ and the answer is ‘yes’. The answer is ‘yes’ a little indirectly because he’s trying to navigate a way through some of the more sadistic bits of scripture while being conscious that taking pleasure from the misfortunes of others isn’t a nice thing to do, but his answer is still ‘yes’. As per scripture, the saved can see sinners being punished in Hell, and this adds to their rejoicing, it does not detract from it.

                  • Athelstane

                    No, because it may well be ‘logical’, but it’s also utterly horrible.

                    Not to me.

                    • Jem

                      I would not want to be in Heaven if a single person was in Hell. It’s a high school level moral debate: would a utopia be utopia if it depended on the suffering of a single being? And the answer is that no, it wouldn’t.

                      If it is a necessary part of the system that a being or beings suffer eternal agony so that others may enjoy eternal bliss, then I will be one of the beings who endures eternal agony, please. It is preferable to spending eternity with a set of people who could enjoy eternal bliss on those terms.

                    • chezami

                      This is like saying you would not want to be good to anybody if a single person was a Nazi. You’re still thinking of hell as something God does *to* people rather than realizing it’s something people choose to do to themselves.

                    • Jem

                      “This is like saying you would not want to be good to anybody if a single person was a Nazi.”

                      I was going to use an analogy about a country club run by a torturer, but why even bother with analogy, here? Are you happy with the idea you could be in Heaven and be content to know people were being tortured in Hell? That, as scripture has it, you’d be able to take a look and ‘rejoice’ at the sight of them being tortured? How much of Mark Shea would have to be removed before you’d be a person capable of that?

                      “You’re still thinking of hell as something God does *to* people rather than realizing it’s something people choose to do to themselves.”
                      Again, you’re fundamentally misunderstanding what it feels like to be free of gods.

                    • chezami

                      I’m not interested in your feelings. I’m interested in the fact that you are arguing with a phantom and you have no idea what you are talking about as you try to get people to stop believing something they don’t believe.

                    • Jem

                      “you try to get people to stop believing something they don’t believe”
                      Would you be able to be fully happy in Heaven if you knew that the damned were suffering?

                      I would not.

                      There’s no ‘phantom’ here. The abstract knowledge that those in Hell were suffering would trouble me.

                      Aquinas goes further, he argues that the saved are *more* happy after *actually seeing* the damned suffer. That’s the Catholic teaching on the subject.

                      I think the idea of one of the smartest men who ever lived sitting down and writing a passage in which he used his gifts to twist out a justification for why eternal suffering was cause for rejoicing to be utterly appalling.

                      Now, perhaps those in Heaven are granted extra wisdom and insight. But I do not want the sort of insight that would compel me to ‘rejoice’ when seeing another human being suffer.

                      I would rather be one of the ones suffering than one of the ones rejoicing at the sight of others suffering.

                    • chezami

                      So you’re saying that as long as one person somewhere is choosing to be miserable, you would choose to reject all happiness? Do you really think that’s wise?

                    • Jem

                      Again, you’re at Father Barron’s analogy, the idea that Heaven’s a party and that the only reason to feel uneasy is if you’re ‘choosing to be miserable’.

                      I am not, in life, satisfied with the answer ‘because God, that’s why, shut up’. In the afterlife, if I was satisfied with that answer it would only be because a faculty has been removed, not enhanced.

                      Conversely, if Heaven’s real, there must be people in this life who believe with all their heart that they’ve ‘chosen Heaven’ who are in for a shock.

                    • chezami

                      What’s striking, Jem, is that while saying this, you reject entirely the fact that joining with the suffering of the most miserable and forsaken is exactly what Jesus did on the Cross. It’s what lies at the heart of “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” and “God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us”. Somehow, you remain blind to that humility and imagine, in your pride, that you are humbler than God.

                    • Jem

                      Your ‘humble’ position is one where the Sorting Hat has allocated you to an afterlife of eternal bliss and you’ve said ‘yeah, I agree. That’s what I deserve’.

                      I like asking questions. The idea of a resolved afterlife horrifies me, seems inhuman. Especially when the resolution is ‘shut up, God’s decided, that’s why’.

                    • chezami

                      So then, you lay awake at night weeping bitter tears of pity for Hitler and will spend all eternity shaking fist of rage at his victims for being glad of his downfall. Because its something like that that St. Thomas is talking about when he speaks of the happiness of the blessed. It’s not (obviously) the notion of gloating over watching people in some cosmic Out Group getting it in the neck while some cosmic In Group all slaps each other on the back. That’s ridiculous. But in your massive pride, you really do think that, don’t you? Because you are sooooo much better and humbler and smarter.

                    • An Aaron, not The Aaron

                      Exactly. There is no schadenfreude in Heaven. Aquinas is pointing out the obvious: people understand their situation more fully when they have a frame of reference. By allowing the Saints to know the sufferings of the [self] damned, He is affirming for the benefit of the Saints that they made the right choice.

                    • Jem

                      Well, OK. In which case there’s a problem of agency. We are asked to want to go to Heaven but not given all the information we need. ‘You’ll see when we get there’.

                      You’re happy to go to Heaven *before* you knew who God had consigned to Hell and why? You’re happy that there’s no question in Heaven where the complete answer isn’t ‘because God wants it that way’?

                      If you were to see, say, your mother suffering eternal torments in Hell, you’re confident that you would ‘rejoice’ and not ask questions?

                    • Jem

                      Well, no. First of all, you’ve said yourself you’ve no idea who’s in Hell. Some versions of Christianity have it as a sort of space Guantanamo with only a few super criminals like Hitler, Pol Pot and Garth of Izar. But there are others where you’re there if you’re devout but you masturbated or danced with someone you weren’t married to.

                      Would you be happy to consign someone to infinite torment for … well, pick one. If you arrive in Heaven, look down into the Abyss and see someone in infinite torment because they used a condom once, would that set your Spidey-Sense tingling that something wasn’t quite right? Instead of thinking of an empty Hell, imagine an almost empty Heaven. Imagine that of all the people you know, all your friends, family, kids, colleagues, acquaintances, you’re the only one who made it to Heaven. Would you think that seemed right?

                      As a curious, intelligent human being, wouldn’t you, in any event, want to see the working? Or would you just accept God’s judgment, end of discussion?

                      I don’t think I could be me and just accept something that blindly.

                      Do I think even Hitler deserves *infinite* suffering? No, honestly. His crimes were indisputable and vast, but finite. A week ago, you were, quite rightly, saying how wrong torture is. If torture is wrong, it’s wrong when it’s done in God’s name, if it’s wrong when it’s done in God’s name then surely it’s wrong if God does it. In your terms, it’s either a moral absolute or it isn’t. In mine, on Earth inflicting suffering is something a sadist does to demonstrate the power imbalance. And ‘on Earth as it is in Heaven’.

                      Aquinas wriggles, but his meaning is plain. The saved ‘rejoice’ when they see the damned suffering because they believe it shows God is justice. The fact he asks the question shows that people back then were uncomfortable, too. We’re 800 years further along in terms of thinking about the morality of judicial punishment, and we have become a kinder people. Aquinas is from an age of putting people in the stocks for minor offenders and branding the more serious ones, and crowds baying at hangings. I’m not.

                      The modern version isn’t ‘gloating’. It’s worse than that. It’s taking an absolutely unambiguous bad thing, ‘eternal suffering’, and then saying it’s a good thing by invoking ‘God’. How is that any different, morally, than taking waterboarding and saying it’s a good thing by invoking ‘America’?

                • Jem

                  “To be perfectly fair, you were the one who brought up Aquinas, not me or Mark.”

                  If we’re discussing the Catholic theology of Hell and morality, I’d rather read Aquinas than watch a YouTube video by a priest from the Chicago diocese.

                  • Athelstane

                    If we’re discussing the Catholic theology of Hell and morality, I’d rather read Aquinas than watch a YouTube video by a priest from the Chicago diocese.

                    And so would I.

                    But you were the one who introduced Aquinas into the discussion, only to disparage him. I attempted to clarify what Aquinas said. Your response was to drop some snark on me as if I were citing him as an initial authority.

          • Jem

            Stupid analogy.

            And I’m not ridiculing. Had you but eyes to see it, you’d see I’m saying I find it alien and baffling. And I asked a question of you, which was basically how seriously do you take Hell? Does it impinge on your day to day life?

            You need to let go of the idea that atheists are angry or restless or missing something. It’s what your priests tell you, but what would they know about the atheist mindset? I am curious about something that’s foreign to me.

            Wouldn’t you be at least a bit grumpy if you got to Heaven and everyone had got in?

            • Jem

              OK, sorry. Scratch ‘stupid analogy’.

              Instead: how do you see analogy working? Here and with the Hamlet one, you seem to think it means ‘a vague simile which we shouldn’t examine too hard’. Father Barron is saying absolutely nothing more than ‘people who don’t want to get into Heaven are like party poopers’.

              Whereas I see analogy as being a simple model that illustrates different aspects of a complex system, and the whole point is that we can interrogate it. The Analogy of the Sun, say, doesn’t begin and end with ‘Goodness is like sunshine’. You take something familiar and use it to show how something less familiar works.

            • freddy

              I hope you don’t mind me answering a question you asked someone else! “How seriously do you take Hell?” Very. “Does it impinge on your day to day life. Absolutely. Now mind, I don’t go around in abject terror; rather, I try to order my life toward heaven as I understand from my Catholic worldview, and avoid those things that my faith teaches me will lead me to hell. But as a Catholic, my life is supposed to revolve around Christ: I must know who He is and what He wants from me, and follow Him.
              .
              “Wouldn’t you be at least a bit grumpy if you got to Heaven and everyone had got in?” Why would I? I find that attitude just a bit childish. I suppose there are some who, after spending many years working and saving, have made a large amount of money, and then would be angry or upset if their dull cousin won the lottery, but Jesus pretty much teaches the opposite.

              • Jem

                Thanks for your answer, Freddy. The last paragraph in particular shows a generosity of spirit that I think’s rather refreshing.

                • HornOrSilk

                  It’s also the kind of spirit within the Gospels themselves (the workers in the vineyard parable is against those who would be upset, while his discussion of the last judgment is a warning against presumption — both of our own salvation, but also the damnation of others). Interestingly enough, Balthasar’s discussion of purgatory includes the idea that we won’t get out of purgatory until we have that spirit, as well.

  • John

    As far as I know, “Crossing the Threshold of Hope” by St. John Paul II does not count as magisterial teaching, but perhaps his words are worth quoting anyways. He writes:

    “Can God, who has loved man so much, permit the man who rejects him to be condemned to eternal torment? And yet, the words of Christ are unequivocal. In Matthew’s Gospel he speaks clearly of those who WILL go to eternal punishment (cf. 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.”

    Note that he says that the words of Christ are unequivocal – that they can’t legitimately be interpreted in more than one way. I wonder if anyone here would accuse St. JPII of being a Protestant for appealing to the plain sense of Scripture?

    Notice also this distinction: St JPII says that the Church has never pronounced on the question of *who* will be in hell; not that the Church has never pronounced on *whether* there will be some people in hell. My impression is that the Balthasarian argument gets most of its traction from a blurring of this distinction.

    Yours in Christ,

    • HornOrSilk

      Poor interpretation of JPII. As Mark himself pointed out, the warning is legit. Those who fall under the warning will suffer the consequences. The question is if anyone is in that category. This is, once again, a forced reading. But quite typical.

      I could do something similar. I could use this cherry picked collection of quotes, where he constantly talks about universal salvation, and say “see, he says universal salvation” and leave it at that. But that is poor hermeneutics if I did it, just as it is when you do it.

      http://www.romancatholicism.org/jpii-quotes.html is this list.

      The point is, we have to understand the meaning, and not do eisigesis. The universal salvation quotes are legit, but they are not saying everyone will be saved, but he affected the whole of creation. Yet, the simplistic reading you engage could be used to go further. Again, as Mark said, Christ is like a doctor giving a warning: these people will get cancer. He is not saying if he warning is given, there will remain anyone in that category of people who get cancer.

      • Charlie Griffey

        Eisigesis is a term used frequently in Protestant circles, and always used against others and *their* interpretations. The notion that Christ was only just ‘firing across the bow’ is one commonly used by those who embrace universalism in some form to explain the multiple passages that speak of those who will not be saved. It’s also used by Protestants who believe in ‘once saved always saved.’ The accepted historical stance of the faith has always been that Hell is real, that at least someone will end up there, and that’s what we are saved from – an eternity separated from God. Once we move from that, we are left with other difficulties, not the least of which is the role of suffering in this world and God not ending suffering. If we all go to heaven, why allow the suffering, which is usually explained in the sense of suffering now is better than suffering in eternity. If no suffering in eternity, then why allow it now? Other questions begin to be raised as well. That’s understandable, since the real and unfortunate existence of hell and those who will go there is one of the bedrocks of historical Christianity. Remove those, and there is no way other classic teachings won’t begin to be challenged.

        It’s also worth noting that among those Christian traditions that embrace Universalism in some form, the omnipotence of God is often the next doctrine to undergo a major revision. That answers the question of evil in this world with no possibility of salvation in the next, often following the Kushner approach that God might want to eliminate the suffering, He is just powerless to do so. In its more radical forms, it becomes an openness theology if not full blown Process Theology. Again, when you alter the plain and clear teaching of the Faith for almost 2000 years, expect other clear and plain teachings to follow.

        • HornOrSilk

          Another strawman discussion presuming universalism when no universalism is had. Moreover, it is a sour grapes, “if everyone is saved” comment which goes to the heart of the problem: clearly not desiring for the salvation of all, which is a problem, because we should follow God and desire all will be saved. The “what about justice” comment can also be used to explain any conversion late in life (St Dismas) as “unjust,” but it neglects grace. And finally, suffering in this life is seen as a part of our own personal purification, so there is a role for it even if everyone is saved, it doesn’t mean it will be a short, easy process.

          But I just can’t but feel that the parable of the workers in the vineyard applies as well. The “we have worked so long, hard, why do they get the same reward?” is exactly the question you asked. Of course, we don’t know if all will be saved, we hope all will, but fear many will be lost both. To keep ignoring that and make this as simple universalism, as is constantly being done, is just an attempt to actually sidestep the whole discussion.

          Seriously, you just are not engaging the issue, and just continue (with many others) with the strawman, and the univocal assumption that your interpretation of tradition is indeed THE tradition. Tradition is wide, and allows diversity of possibility here. Always has — St Gregory of Nyssa was no St Augustine, for example.

          Oh, and eisigesis is a problem, to deny it, and to want to continue to presume one approach to Scripture (which runs contrary to the schoolmen and what they said of exegesis) is again, very Protestant. It is the over-simplification which is what Protestants do to divide themselves constantly from each other.

          • Charlie Griffey

            If you believe everyone will be saved, it’s universalism, no matter how you package it. If at this point in history not one person has lived in such a way to not be saved, then the bar is so low the possibility is irrelevant. And the parable of the vineyard does not apply to this doctrine, but to those who think they are alone worthy of salvation, and nobody else. it was, of course, applied to the Jews of the day, but has been understood as applying to anyone who thinks they – and not them – are the ones who have first dibs on God’s graces. Again, change the clear and obvious accepted teaching of almost 2000 years, and expect consequences to other doctrines as well. Yes we ask for all to be saved, as we ask for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. But it isn’t until the New Heaven and New Earth, and unless Jesus was great at pulling our legs (a kindly interpretation), some will not be saved though we pray and ask otherwise.

            • Jem

              If:

              1. It’s possible that there’s an empty Hell.
              2. The optimal outcome is that as many people as possible are spared Hell.

              Then wouldn’t it follow that Hell *has* to be empty? Otherwise God is not optimal.

              It seems like the objection people have is with (2), not (1). They believe that the optimal outcome is that Hell is populated. That would mean there are benefits to that which outweigh the cost. Aquinas lists what he believes those benefits to be.

              • Charlie Griffey

                The reason they believe in 2 is because otherwise: 2000 years of presenting Catholic Doctrine: Epic Fail. That’s not some splitting of hairs. That is the essence of what the Faith is all about. The debate isn’t new of course. The great debate in Protestant circles has recently been ‘was karl Barth’ a universalist. Many conclude it is incompatible with God’s love for anyone to be left out of eternity in His presence. The problem begins to emerge – what does that say about God’s permitting of suffering now? Barth, of course, had his own approach which ironically reached back to a more Reformed tradition in explaining God’s sovereignty and love in the face of universal reconciliation and the presence of human suffering. Nonetheless, the debate rages because few can pinpoint Barth’s own perspectives, and furthermore, even fewer are sure traditional understandings of God can be reconciled with a universalist approach to salvation. It isn’t easy. But those who embrace a universalist approach are often those who have little concern about challenging traditional teachings of the Faith in other topics. And that, alone, is what gives me pause. Beyond the idea of what does right and wrong ultimately matter, if no consequences for our actions, then what does causing suffering ultimately matter. A long list.

        • Jem

          “That’s understandable, since the real and unfortunate existence of hell
          and those who will go there is one of the bedrocks of historical
          Christianity. Remove those, and there is no way other classic teachings
          won’t begin to be challenged.”

          There are some libertarian loons who believe that all laws are ultimately not enforced by consent, but by force. That we obey the law not because we want to live in a society of laws but because ultimately we’ll be dragged to prison at gunpoint if we don’t.
          Your argument here really does seem to be the same: that we should obey God’s laws not because they are right or just, but ultimately because otherwise we’ll end up in prison.

          • Charlie Griffey

            Hardly. Just the opposite, the removal of any ultimate punishments brings to question anyone’s understanding of justice. Take away justice in the ‘social justice’ sense, and there really is no notion of justice left if we can run amok, butchering and slaughtering, torturing and aborting, defecating on God’s name and anything else – all without ultimate consequences. Where is justice then? Why allow it to happen now? There are many questions that come from this if one departs from a traditional understanding of the Gospel, not in the modern understanding of authority versus the superiority of my own autonomy.

            • Jem

              “Take away justice in the ‘social justice’ sense, and there really is no
              notion of justice left if we can run amok, butchering and slaughtering,
              torturing and aborting”

              You’re confusing ‘justice’ with ‘punishment’, and you also seem to be defining ‘good’ as ‘not evil’. Most people don’t butcher or torture. Do you get to Heaven merely for not being egregiously bad?

              The good get to Heaven either way, in this scheme. They don’t miss out, the torturer doesn’t get a seat on the lifeboat that could have been someone else’s. So what’s the objection, exactly?

              The only way this objection can make sense is if, as Aquinas says, it’s sweeter for the saved to know that there are damned.

              Or, turning it around, that Heaven would be spoiled for people if they thought there were non believers there.

              And you don’t need to speculate about God, or the exact nature of Hell, or anything like that. We can confine our discussion entirely to human psychology. Clearly there’s a nasty power fantasy at work here: Catholics want non-Catholics to be disadvantaged in some way in the afterlife. Stories of Hell don’t just warn the believers, they’re there to provide a sadistic pleasure at the thought that non-believers will be punished.

              • Charlie Griffey

                Apparently to some, you get to heaven no matter what: blaspheme the Holy Spirit, murder, rape, slaughter six million Jews, reject Christ – it doesn’t matter. And that seems to be confusing both justice and punishment.

                Not to mention the unpleasant task of taking multiple cases where Jesus makes it clear that some (perhaps many) will in fact end up along that path that leads to destruction. If that doesn’t happen, then what of Jesus’ own words? If it turns out it was just a lie, or Jesus simply had no clue, either of those have ramifications. If we have to appeal to ‘it only looks like the obvious meaning is the case’, or ‘he was just being radical (and false) to put the fear into us’, then what of the Eucharist? If Jesus said ‘I will say depart from me’, and turns out He didn’t mean it, then perhaps He didn’t mean it when He said ‘this is my Body.’ See the path? A lot is at stake to change the clear and consistent teaching of the Orthodox Faith for almost two thousand years. The fact that *some* have speculated? Sure, some have speculated on almost any doctrine taught by the Church. That’s why we have the helpful term orthodoxy.

                • Jem

                  “See the path?”

                  Oh, yes. It would be as if Catholicism was just a story told by people with vested interests in maintaining their own status here on earth.

  • Jem

    Is the Catholic position that we get a choice about going to Heaven? In your story, if I am somehow deemed worthy of Heaven, do I get any say in the matter?

    Because I can settle this now: if I’m offered a place in Heaven and I’m allowed to exercise this ‘free will’ I hear so much about, I will say ‘no’. Hell will not be unpopulated.

    If that means there’s a place in Heaven going free, I would ask that a sinner in Hell who believed in whichever specific brand of what I thought was nonsense turned out to be true get my place, and that I’ll happily take on his or her punishments as well as mine. Seems only fair.

    Now, I make this offer in the expectation that it’s about as likely as being run over by the Batmobile, but it’s a sincere offer. I’m happy to put my atheist money where my mouth is. If it turns out that Catholicism’s true, I’ll accept the consequences.

    It strikes me as I type this, that if we’re talking about Christian charity, then what greater charitable act could there be than someone who does believe making the same pledge? There can, by definition, be no greater sacrifice than forfeiting eternal bliss in favor of a sinner, to take that sinner out of Hell.

    So, is any Christian here willing to make the same pledge that this atheist is, that they’ll refuse Heaven and take Hell, if it means the salvation of a single sinner who is in Hell at the moment?

    • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

      You can’t take someone’s place in hell (or heaven) any more than someone else can make love to your husband for you. God doesn’t call for anyone, he’s calling you by name, Jem. No one else gets (or could get) your spot.

      • Jem

        But I can refuse Heaven? And while doing so, offer a counterproposal that would prevent the eternal suffering of another human being?

        That, please.

        • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

          You’re not playing a game with God, Jem. He’s asking you to love him with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. God doesn’t (can’t) make deals with people who refuse his friendship. You’re essentially asking something like, “If three was an even number, would it be divisible by two?” The words are understandable, but the question makes no sense.

          • Jem

            No, it’s more like a question like ‘is Superman faster than the Flash?’.

            But, in your story, do people get the choice to refuse to enter Heaven? If God deems someone worthy, is that someone allowed to turn Him down? Not ‘would it be sensible’ to do that, not ‘why would anyone’ do that, not ‘is it likely anyone would’ do that.

            Do people get to exercise their free will over this?

            • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

              Fine. In your terms, every single one of us is “worthy” to enter heaven, since God extends the offer to every one of us. So you can turn him down, but you can’t “offer your place” to someone else, since that person is offered heaven on the exact same terms and is just as “worthy” as you are.

              • Jem

                “So you can turn him down”

                Then this argument is settled: if there’s a Hell, it will have at least me in it.

                And rather that place, than share one with Father Barron, who claims the child abuse scandal involved ‘a handful of people’, while working in the Chicago diocese so raddled with pedophile priests that it has a separate wikipedia page covering the abuse scandal there. He had eighty child rapists as colleagues, so forgive me if I don’t see him as a particularly perceptive person or as representing a source of moral authority.

                • chezami

                  80, heck, let’s make it 80,000 out of a communion of a billion people does, in fact, qualify as a handful. His point, of course, is that the sin, which he has frequently and virulently condemned, is heinous, but is an aberration from, not an expression of, the Faith.

                  Meanwhile, for somebody who was, just the other day, declaring your disbelief in good and evil, you seem mighty convinced about good and evil in this case. Not a bad thing. I’d worry about you if you were a moral relativist on this. But it does demonstrate how full of inadvertent truth you are when you forget your sophistical bullshit and speak from your heart.

                  • Jem

                    “80, heck, let’s make it 80,000 out of a communion of a billion people does, in fact, qualify as a handful.”

                    OK, no, and good grief, Mark, this rivals the time you claimed that there were 7000% more Catholics in the world than there were a hundred years ago.

                    First of all, my information was a little out of date – it’s now 118, not 80.

                    http://app.bishop-accountability.org/member/psearch.jsp?diocese=CHICAGOIL&lastName=&msearch1=View&op=doSearch&section=a-z&sortBy=&state

                    And that’s not 118 out of every Catholic in the world, it’s 118 abusive priests acknowledged by the Church in *one diocese*, a diocese that currently has 850 priests.

                    Just do a tiny amount of research into the situation in Chicago, which is ongoing, with new cases this decade, and reaches every level of leadership. It’s a *particularly* bad diocese, the complicity of the leadership is also particularly notable.

                    Anyone who says that *worldwide* that there were merely a ‘handful’ of abusive priests is not addressing the issue, ‘virulently’ or otherwise. Anyone saying that from within the hierarchy of the Chicago diocese is, best case scenario, astonishingly incurious about the place he works.

                    As for the ‘billion Catholics’ claim … does ‘communion’ there mean that you think there are a billion Catholics regularly attending Mass?

                    • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

                      Then this argument is settled: if there’s a Hell, it will have at least me in it.

                      Jem, thou temptest me to sarcasm. I’m sorry, but this is BS. You obviously have a respect for the truth, since you so rightly hound us about our misuse of statistics, etc. That love of the truth is a love of heaven.

                    • Jem

                      As I say, I think all of this is nonsense, that I’m at more risk of catching myxomatosis from the Easter Bunny. But, no, ‘truth’ here is that I have to be true to myself. It would be dishonest of me to go to Heaven. I wouldn’t enjoy it, for serious and trivial reasons.

                      It’s not something that interests me. The idea that life is an afterlife entrance exam is actively offensive. The idea of rejoicing at the fate of the damned is monstrous.

                      So, if I have a choice, Hell please.

                    • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

                      You obviously don’t think all this is nonsense, since you waste too much of your life on it. ;-) I mean, seriously, you waste a lot of your time arguing with us. I don’t resent it. I like that you’re here. But … eyeroll at you for being wicked un-self-aware.

                      Jem, either being “true to yourself” is a good that you strive for because it’s good in itself or it’s a random end you’ve chosen by a coin flip, no more significant than collecting stamps, prevaricating about abusive priests, pushpin, feeding homeless people, playing Parcheesi, or gassing Jews.

                      If you love the good because it’s good, then you love heaven.

                    • Jem

                      It’s not random, it’s motivated by wanting to live in a particular type of society. I want to live in a place where people are honest, stop at Stop signs and don’t – to use your example – gas Jews. So I behave in a way consistent with that without needing to imbue that with cosmic significance. By behaving this way, I’m not looking to earn Disney money in this world that I’ll be able to spend in Heaven.

                    • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

                      I know it’s not random. Because you love goodness. So you love heaven. Cool.

                    • Jem

                      There are not only two possibilities, ‘random’ or ‘as decreed by the Catholic God’. It is not ‘random’ that I think that people stopping at Stop signs is desirable. And it’s absurd to think that the only possible motivation for stopping at Stop signs because you’re worried that God’s assessing you like life’s a driving test. Or to invoke a broader morality at all.

                    • chezami

                      Still trying to figure out a way to hold to your very definite views of good and evil while pretending you don’t believe in good and evil, eh? I can see why if you are silly enough to believe in you pride, that believers are so silly as to be worried that God’s assessing you like life’s a driving test. That’s the thing about your pride: it fills with a deep sense of superiority, dunnit?

                    • Jem

                      “Still trying to figure out a way to hold to your very definite views of
                      good and evil while pretending you don’t believe in good and evil, eh?”

                      Still thinking that the choice is between ‘random’ and ‘cherrypicked bits of Catholicism’? Or that if a person doesn’t happen to believe in Catholicism they’ve ‘rejected’ it?

                      What you call ‘evil’ is pretty much synonymous with what I’d call ‘suffering’. I think ‘suffering’ is something we can talk about meaningfully, ‘evil’ just invests it all with a sort of ludicrous Harry Potter baggage, like ‘evil’ is black smoke drifting around the world latching onto to actions. It defers responsibility to some supernatural force.

                    • http://www.likelierthings.com/ Jon W

                      What you call ‘evil’ is pretty much synonymous with what I’d call ‘suffering’.

                      So predator priests and their episcopal enablers are … suffering?

                      I mean, seriously, the reaction to someone who is suffering and the reaction to someone doing something evil are completely different.

                    • chezami

                      What on earth are you talking about? Black smoke? What? What an utterly silly thing to say.

                    • wineinthewater

                      “The idea that life is an afterlife entrance exam is actively offensive.
                      The idea of rejoicing at the fate of the damned is monstrous.”

                      Those who believe the former or commit the latter deviate from Catholic theology, they don’t represent it.

                      Life is not just an “afterlife entrance exam.” God desires communion with us, a relationship with us, to love us and for us to accept that love. He wants it so much that not even death will make Him give up. We are called to the Kingdom of Heaven *now*. We are called to communion with God, holiness, joy, all in this life, here and now. This life isn’t about gaining heaven. Heaven isn’t even the point considering that we believe in the resurrection. The whole point is life eternal, a life that God desires us to begin now, and with a desire so strong that it will transcend and conquer physical death.

                      Hell is not the gleeful punishment of the baddies. It is the mournful consequence of a free agent choosing to reject God, it is God honoring our choice, even if that choice means that we reject Him. Those who take joy in the thought of others in hell risk hell themselves.

                • An Aaron, not The Aaron

                  So… to avoid sharing space with Fr. Barron, you’ll risk sharing space with 80 child rapists. Smart move. Do you really think you’ll find a better class of people in hell?

                  • Jem

                    As Mark Twain says, Heaven for the climate, Hell for the company.

    • wineinthewater

      Ontological impossibility. If you would reject heaven, you are a priori “unworthy” of heaven.

      Heaven is not just some reward, it is a relationship. It is the eternal bliss of one who has sought and, through God’s freely given Grace, attained a relationship, a communion, with God. It is not a ticket to an awesome concert. You cannot give someone else the joy of your marriage. You cannot give someone else the contentment of holding your child. You cannot give someone else your place in heaven, because it is not really a “place.”

      And every soul in hell chose their place. They could no more receive your “place” in heaven, having already rejected their own, than you can give it. They have already rejected what you proposed to offer.


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