Is Hell Highly Populated?

Having just finished Ralph Martin’s excellent study on universalism, Will Many Be Saved?  it leads me to wonder about this thing we call speculative theology. It seems to me that theologians may well speculate when sacred Scripture and church teaching is unclear about something, but in the matter of heaven, hell and salvation there is not really very much room for speculation. The Scriptures are clear in their teaching that many will be damned and few will be saved.  Furthermore, Ralph Martin shows that it has been the unanimous teaching of the church and the witness of saints and mystics that many are damned and few are saved.

Of course this is a “hard saying”. We don’t like the idea that anyone should be consigned to everlasting torment, but that’s what the Word of God teaches. Nevertheless, there is room for speculation. The problem I have with wannabe universalists like Balthasar and Rahner is not that they speculate, but that they do not speculate enough. They are busy speculating in ways that undermine the clear meaning of Scripture and contradict the timeless message of the gospel and the traditions of the church. To soften the harsh reality that many people will reject God’s love and go to hell forever they try to imagine how this might not be true and how God’s love will overcome all obstacles and reach down and save people even if they don’t want to be saved.

In their desire to uphold the universal redemption of the world and the everlasting love of God they over rule human freedom and the reality of human depravity and rebellion against God. In their naive sentimentality they can’t imagine that anyone would reject God’s love, and yet every verifiable bit of evidence from history and yesterday’s newspaper reveal the total depravity of many men’s hearts and their spitting hatred of all that is beautiful, good and true.

Instead of speculating the truth of God away with their own imaginings why not speculate as to how people might be saved through unconventional ways of choosing God or what might happen to souls who reject God.

C.S.Lewis’ final Narnia book The Great Battle has a great scene where a pagan who always worshiped the God Tash–but did so in nobility, honor and virtue sees the Christ figure Aslan and recognizes him as the “Tash” he always worshipped whereas the follower of Aslan who was corrupt and deceitful sees Aslan and it is Tash who devours him. In other words, at the judgement all shall be revealed. All impediments will be taken away and perhaps each soul will see Christ and know him clearly and fully for who he is and what he has done. All doubt and misunderstanding will be erased. All true motives will be revealed and at that moment the summary of the soul’s choice will be finalized. We can speculate along those lines because it allows that many who have never known the gospel, but have followed the light they have been given may see Christ and be saved by him who is the only Way, Truth and Life.

But simply to speculate that hell is not real or that if it is real there is nobody there is to defy Scripture, tradition, the magisterium of the church, the witness of the saints and common sense, for do we really honestly believe that the most wicked souls on earth will desire to enter heaven?

We must accept hell and we must accept that many go there. But even then there is room for speculation. We know that hell exists and we must accept that it is a place of punishment and torment. Not because God is a sadistic monster, but because hell is separation from God and that must be torment for anyone. What are we to make of the torment? It may be fire and brimstone and monsters and pitchforks, but it may also be the torment of loneliness, the torment of regret, the torment of grief and loss, the torment of alienation from God forever. It may be darkness and fire and ice and all these things and more.

We can also speculate about the number who go to hell. Will there really be great multitudes who reject God’s love and hate him to the bitter end? My own opinion is that this is so because I see so many people in this life who hate all that is beautiful, good and true. It is so easy to suggest that the vast majority are poor, lost lemmings who don’t really know God or reject God and that they are good at heart and mean well and when they see Christ they will accept him joyfully. But is this the case? To be sure there are many who have just impediments to faith. They were shown a bad example, or they were abused by a Christian or they were never taught the true faith.

However, there are also a vast number of people who have no impediments. They live in a Christian society. There is a church on every street corner. There are signs of faith all around them. They are surrounded by Christian friends, family and neighbors. They have been to Sunday School and been catechized. They have Christian radio shows and television programs. They have religious books and websites. They have had plenty of time and plenty of chances to seek the truth, to find the Lord and to pursue their soul’s salvation and they have done nothing at all. They have not sought the Lord. They have not sought eternal life and they have not responded to any sign of religion or faith. Shall they not be held accountable for the fact that they did nothing? They did not care enough for their soul to even begin asking the questions? Read More

  • Erika Reece

    I’ve heard Catholics entertain the thought that, in the end, everyone will probably be saved. It may make some feel warm and fuzzy, and admittedly I feel immense sadness at the thought of people – including possibly my own loved ones – forever lost to the despair of Hell…however, I find this argument much more compelling. If in the end it doesn’t really matter how we lived this life, what’s the point of the Church, the Sacraments, the testimony of the Saints…?

    • 4loveOfJesus

      I am a Catholic, and I can tell you that Catholics don’t believe that. We believe that if you reject Jesus as your Lord and saviour, then you shall be damned. I myself was a lost soul, but now I have been created a new in Jesus. Someone must have been praying for me. My parents were deceased, my other brothers and sisters don’t believe. My wife however is a devout believer… Who ever it was I’d love to have the opportunity to thank them. Keep praying for them, and above all put trust in the Lord that your prayers will be answered. It may not be on your timeline however as the Lord has a way of doing everything according to his own divine will and timeline.

      God Bless and keep the faith.

    • Hernán J. González

      You need to know that (say) more than ten billions of chinese go to hell, because otherwise the Church and the Sacraments have “no point”?

    • Daniel Brooks

      Agreed. Many saints and doctors of the Church stressed the fewness of the saved… doesn’t sound too pleasing to my ears but you can’t deny the Church’s long-standing teaching tradition of the fewness of the saved.

      Saint Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church “There are a select few who are saved.”

      Saint Teresa of Avila “I had the greatest sorrow for the many souls that condemned themselves to Hell, especially those ‘lutherans’ … I saw souls falling into hell like snowflakes.”

      Blessed Louis Marie de Montfort “Do not be deceived; there are only two roads: one that leads to life and is narrow; the other that leads to death and is wide. There is no middle way.”

      Saint Alphonsus Maria Liguori, Doctor of the Church “The greater number of men still say to God: “Lord, we would rather be slaves of the devil and condemned to Hell than be Thy servants. Alas, the greatest number – we may say nearly all – offend and despise Thee, my Jesus. How many countries there are in which there are scarcely any Catholics, and all the rest either infidels or heretics. And all of them are certainly on the way to being lost.”

      Saint John of the Cross “Behold how many there are who are called, and how few who are chosen. And, if you have no care for yourself, your perdition is more certain than your amendment, especially since the way which leads to eternal life is so narrow.”

      Saint Veronica Giuliani “The number of the damned is incalculable.”

      Saint Justin the Martyr “The majority of men shall not see God, excepting those who live justly, purified by righteousness and by every other virtue.”

      Pope Saint Gregory the Great “The Ark, which in the midst of the Flood was a symbol of the Church, was wide below and narrow above; and, at the summit, measured only a single cubit. [...] It was wide where the animals were, narrow where men lived: for the Holy Church is indeed wide in the number of those who are carnal minded, narrow in the number of those who are spiritual.”

    • New Springtime

      Amen, Erika.

    • Laura Gray

      I will be the first to admit the I am a fairly new Catholic, but the idea that “all will go to heaven” is news to me. attending mass, partaking in the sacraments etc. is only a part of the journey. It is imperative to admit our pitiful state and turn to Jesus for healing and regeneration. It is imperative that once having done that, we also make regular confessions, take active part in the Mass and approach the gift of taking part in the sharing the Body and Blood of Christ with a clean heart. there will always be those who will surprise us by their presence in heaven, but I’m positive there will be even more that are shocked by me being there.

  • Slocum Moe

    I don’t think anybody is guaranteed Heaven for any specific act or belief. I don’t think priests or the very devout necessarily go to Heaven at any higher rates than anybody else. I don’t think a death bed confession makes everything right with God after a long and evil life.

    • Dave Zelenka

      It is important that we have the ‘knowledge’ of our own salvation. This is a ‘Faith knowledge’ that can’t be known beyond faith. While at the same time, we must work out our salvation in fear and trembling, knowing that our eye of the body must stay with Jesus, or else we will end up in a real and actual Hell for eternity. But we must “know” that we are “guaranteed” through the blood of Christ. What Paul calls the “New Man” knows this through faith and is fully assured of the guarantee.

      There is no other alternative.

    • Nathan718

      Of course “a death bed confession makes everything right with God after a long and evil life” because we are not saved by any good things we do (we can’t, in fact do anything good apart from God). Rather we are saved through the saving act of Christ’s death on the Cross, which is powerful enough, “worth” enough, to outweigh any sin we can commit. Of course to accept the forgiveness won on the Cross by Christ, we must truly be sorry, we must truly repent – i.e. we can’t “scam” God by offering a half-hearted apology on our deathbed, but must truly accept Him and repent of our sins. See the example of the Good Thief for the classic “death-bed” conversion.

    • JB

      “I don’t think a death bed confession makes everything right with God after a long and evil life.”

      No confession makes everything right with god, however every confession made with authentic contrition – including death bed confessions – do reconcile the soul with God. That applies even to death bed confessions of genocide. As for the argument that it’s an easy pass, the Church’s answers include Purgatory (inter alia) – but even then, we’re obliged to pray for mercy those in Purgatory, not to mention mercy for our fellow sinners still in this world.

      In other words, the answer to the Church’s teaching of the reality of Hell, is its greater teaching about God’s inexhaustible mercy, which is always more than anyone deserves.

      • Angel of Life

        I told you this guy was a Master Theologian!

    • 4loveOfJesus

      Your right. A deathbed confession gets you forgiveness, however you still have to pay justice to the Lord. Your salvation is gauranteed for your having accepted Jesus as your Lord and saviour, but you still must suffer in purgatory while your sins that have accumulated in your life are purified.

      God Bless.

  • Lorraine

    The loss of souls has been a burden I carry, of late. What might I do to save souls? My prayers seem to be of no avail.

    • santorumfan

      Prayer of St. Gertrude The Great: “Eternal Father, I offer Thee the Most Precious Blood of Thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy Souls in Purgatory. Amen.”

    • 4loveOfJesus

      Hi Lorraine:
      The best way to save souls is to pray the divine mercy chaplet for them. It can be prayed beside them out loud, or from your own home without their knowledge. It is best however if you can get that soul to pray it themselves.

      Also in the Pieta prayer book(a little blue book) there is a prayer that consists of 3 parts that is also prayed for the dieing, and can save that persons soul.



    • JohnnyVoxx

      St. Monica prayed for St. Augustine for decades. Keep it up. Show by your life the fruits of your Faith. Introduce people to Eucharistic Adoration, the Rosary, the Tridentine Mass. Invite people to do some charitable work through a Catholic Charity…don’t give up!

    • James Patton

      If only you had a mustard seed of faith, you could save everyone through prayer…:)

    • Maria

      Pray the chaplet of Divine Mercy EVERYDAY and also to Padre Pio a Great and most powerful and helpful saint for Today! There have only been two great saints that have felt the full fury of Satan because of their prayers in saving the “damned” and that is 1. Cure of Ars (patron saint of priests and exorcists) and 2. Padre Pio, who just passed away in the late or early 1970′s. He was the world’s most renown stigmatist, other than St. Francis of Assisi and in his confessions admitted to being beaten up by Satan on many occasions. Try this! Also TALK to the Holy Spirit Daily on what HE wants YOU to do! AND ask him for HIS help and grace. It sounds like that YOU are trying to accomplish this on YOUR own strength which will lead to despair and defeat……exactly WHAT the devil is planning for YOU! Ask the Holy Spirit for prayers of deliverance (you can find them on the internet) and pray in HIS strength. Remember….It is God’s battle (Exodus 14:14) and it , the spiritual battle should be in HIS strength, NOT YOURS!

    • The Truth Will Set You Free

      To make a reparation for the sins (ours and other people), Our Lord asked for nine Fridays dedicated to His Most Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Fatime asked for five Saturdays dedicated to her Immaculate Heart. The Alliance of the Two Hearts make it possible. Firstly, dedicate your house to the Two Hearts (Enthronement), then follow the steps of the Communion of Reparation. It works miracles, but it is not easy way.!/pages/Alliance-of-the-Two-Hearts-of-Jesus-and-Mary/124343774292939?fref=ts

    • pete salveinini

      The MASS, THE MASS, THE MASS. Have Masses said for the poor souls and offer your the Masses you attend for them.

  • Vladyk

    I think that Christianity paints itself into a corner when it insists that everything is intrinsically good and that evil does not exist in itself. It means that no matter how horribly someone acts he/she can never destroy the goodness that is within them in virtue of being created. There can never be a human being so closed to truth, goodness and beauty that this capacity disappears in them, ever. How could a loving God close the door in the face of even a glimmer of hope in the soul turning towards love?

    • Artur Sebastian Rosman

      What’s the alternative? Gnosticism?

    • Nathan718

      Your logic doesn’t follow. Every person (even Satan) is good in so far as he exists (to exist is good, to not exist is not good). That doesn’t logically entail that a person can never be closed to truth, goodness, and beauty. The souls and devils in Hell are just that, closed to truth, goodness, and beauty, while still being created good. The will can be totally corrupted, but being is always good. Lastly, God doesn’t “close the door” on a soul, the soul “closes the door” on God. CS Lewis, I believe in The Great Divorce, put it so well, “there are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God,
      “Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be
      done.’ All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there
      could be no Hell.”

      • Vladyk

        I don’t deny that a person can close himself to goodness truth and beauty. I’m merely pointing out that such a person still retains the capacity to be open to those things in virtue of being a person, since evil is a lack, a privation of something. Darkness exists only because light exists and can be present or absent in a space. Just because a space is devoid of light does not mean that it loses the capacity to be filled with light. A person is evil only because it belongs to the nature of the person to be good. It is the natural end of a person to be good, and since an evil person is still a person, he still is capable of being good. It is natural for a person to be good, hence as long as the person exists, he is the sort of thing that can be good.

    • JB

      1. “no matter how horribly someone acts he/she can never destroy the goodness that is within them in virtue of being created”

      The Church does teach that existence is good per se, including the existence of the damned; even Satan retains some goodness in his existence, because that comes from God. However, a spirit with free will can choose to repudiate all goodness within him, after which the only goodness about him is God’s creation of him, but it is no longer any goodness within himself, since he chooses eternally to regard all goodness (God) as entirely other than himself. The obvious (and mysteriously iniquitous) madness of doing so is the torment of Hell.

      2. “There can never be a human being so closed to truth, goodness and beauty that this capacity disappears in them, ever.”

      Says who? To say so is to deny free will.

      3. “How could a loving God close the door in the face of even a glimmer of hope in the soul turning towards love?”

      He doesn’t.

      • Angel of Life

        Ladies and Gentlemen, A MASTER THEOLOGIAN is among us!

    • 4loveOfJesus

      Hi Vladyk:
      I don’t know where you heard that Christianity believes evil does not exist. This is inaccurate.. In the Bible, the devil is referenced in numerous places, as well as the existence of evil. Christ himself exorcised demons from people.

  • Artur Sebastian Rosman

    There are many things happening in the world around us that should require the earnest return of hellfire sermons. When was the last time anyone heard one at a Catholic church? I’ve written about this here:

  • cathblax

    wow-do I wish a number of people I know would read this.

    • Angel of Life

      Email it! or Facebook it or something. Yeah I’m not good with those stuff. I don’t even know what Twitter is. LOL!

  • Gail Finke

    A couple of years ago i read “Original Sin” by Alan Jacobs (not a Catholic), which really made me see for the first time that there IS original sin — a very sobering thought if one explores what that means. I assume this book does something similar. It really is pretty clear in Scripture — few are saved, and the way is narrow. See this Sunday’s Gospel reading and explain why so many people don’t think it’s possible to sin or not to go to Heaven.

    • Thomas

      Numbers play no role here. For a God that is Love, just one man is too many. Remember Abraham bargaining with God for the sake of Sodom’s. It was finally destroyed because NONE as found innocent. Remember also what our Lord said about Capernaum: Sodom will in the end fare better because of Capernaum’s unbelief.

  • Augustine

    This doesn’t seem to as much as a speculative exercise in theology as wishing really, really hard that hell doesn’t exist. The only surprise is that both Balthasar and Rahner lived through the horrors of WWII, which is ample evidence of man’s wickedness.

  • Elaine S.

    “Many” does not necessarily equal “a majority” or even “a large percentage”. If, for example, “only” 1 of every 10 souls were lost, out of a current world population of 7 billion, that’s 700 million lost souls, which is still “many” by any definition. Even if only 1 percent of souls were ultimately lost, that’s still 70 million — which is 70 million too many. (And that’s not counting up all the people who have ever lived on Earth in the past.)

    However, just because a relatively small or non-majority overall percentage of people may be affected doesn’t mean the problem can be ignored or dismissed. If 1 of every 10 or even 1 of every 100 people in your state or country, for instance, contracted a deadly disease that would be considered an epidemic demanding immediate attention. If a disaster struck the city in which I live, with a population of about 120,000, and killed just 1 of every 100 people, that would mean 1,200 people would die, and it would be considered immensely devastating. So even if the majority of people are ultimately saved, there is still an “epidemic” of souls in danger of being lost that demands attention.

    • bill bannon

      Very good ideas.

    • AnneG

      Jesus says, 13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
      90% is not few. Btw Fr D nor the Church say who will go through the wide gate, just “many”.

  • Dave Zelenka

    True enough, Fr. L.

    The issue I have with the subject is about “who” will go to hell. There is always a lot of speculation in that regard outwardly and inwardly. “Man, that guy on drugs is going to Hell.” “Look at the way she’s dressing, she’s going to Hell.” And that is something we should never speculate about. We know there will be a lot of gnashing of teeth and Lazarus’ Rich Man will be ever pleading for some water for his tongue, but we don’t know who is going there and we should never speculate him or her because the other three fingers point back at us. There is a reason that the Church canonizes Saints, but does not canonizes opposite!

    Jesus explains that we can loose or bind. Yes, it’s in the role of Peter’s Chair, but elsewhere Jesus clearly points out that it is all of our role also as Christians. When we loose we free another from bondage from sin. The most simple is through forgiveness. This helps free both parties and puts them and us on the path toward Christ Jesus. Jesus also explains that we can bind here on earth, and that which is bound here on earth is also bound in heaven. He doesn’t mean bound for Glory either. He means bound in Hell. This is a dangerous path. Because when bind here, we usually end up binding ourselves to that which we bind, which is very bad news. When we say him or her is going to Hell, we bind ourselves to that person. This is why we walk on the same ruler that we apply to others.

    The Gospel is about loosing–freeing ourselves and others into the love of Christ.

  • Seraphim

    Imagine for me a man holding his hand to a hot stove that rips into his flesh, causing excruciating pain. Would you assume that this individual is acting freely, or that there is something else going on? My assumption would be the latter. Perhaps he is an insane person. Perhaps he burns his hand because someone is holding a gun to his head. Either way, I think it is commonly assumed that an individual only chooses horrendous suffering when they are compelled to do so by a force that restricts their free will.

    This example can be applied to the idea that many will be damned. It seems that, like any normal person, the instant an individual finds his or herself in Hell they will look for a way out, whatever the cost. Do you think that God would leave this poor soul to be eternally tormented when they are willing to change? Perhaps the individual is no longer capable of choosing God, as they have become so deranged that it is an impossibility. Would God really leave a poor soul in their insanity.

    Feel free to keep believing as you do, but it makes no sense to me that a rational, free soul would choose eternal torment, and the God I believe in isn’t a God that leaves people to suffer the eternal torments of Hell against their will.

    • Angel of Life

      What do you say about people like Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot? They were not insane, they knew what they were doing. They were evil. What do you say about the drug lords in Mexico who cut people’s heads and hands off?

      These Evil clowns DON’T WANT eternal torment, they want to kill people and later go to Fantasy Island with Ricardo Montalbán and Tatoo. You see your thinking is not very logical. You see these EVIL people don’t believe in Hell, but they will when they get there.

    • Phil Steinacker

      Sounds like you’ve got a designer God all made out according to your specs. Nice deal if you can make it stick.
      Good luck with that.
      If you think God is so fair – according to YOUR idea of what fair SHOULD be – then how fair is it that those who live their lives not rejecting how He asks them to live will get to spend eternity in bliss while those who reject Him over their lifetimes – even though they get as many chances to change and accept him before death – are given the exact same consequence because they don’t like pain (now that they realize Jesus wasn’t kidding)?
      Besides, you pose the wrong question. The doors to Hell are locked from the inside. The reality is (reflected in my question above) is that you get to chose every day of your life what you’re going to do. If by your life choices you separate yourself from God then it is not God but YOU who makes your bed.
      But you want to have your cake and eat it, too, as the saying goes. You imagine a God who gives you the free will to reject Him over your lifetime but then when the consequences are due you want Him to be loving and kind and pretend you didn’t tell Him to butt out.
      It has been suggested that real hell is to be separated from God for eternity.
      It has also been suggested that when you say in so many words to God, “My will be done,” then the hairs on the back of your neck should stiffen and rise when He says in agreement, “Thy will be done!”

    • Oldscore

      They don’t choose eternal torment. They choose “not-God”. They hate God more than they hate Hell.

    • pete salveinini

      As pointed out by someone above BEFORE a souls SENDS HIMSELF to hell, he meets Our Lord who reveals to him his whole life WITH SUPERNATURAL LOVE. some will not accept this because of pride. Perhaps a third will not (that’s what is indicated in Scripture about Lucifer and the fallen angels following him. Once there they will be in everlasting despair and remorse KNOWING WHAT THEY THREW AWAY OF THEIR OWN FREE CHOICE. It is to gain for them A GRACE TO PRAY FOR MERCY when they see their lives that we the faithful are to intercede, as St. Faustyna relayed Jesus revealed to her, and as Fatima urged for sinners before they die.

  • Phyllis

    Your speculation on the growth of the saved and the shrinking of the damned reminds me of C.S. Lewis’ very influential book, The Great Divorce. Can you recommend any other reading that would explore the topic further?

  • JB

    1. re: “I am more than happy to be corrected by those whose learning and wisdom is greater than mine”:

    Good, but shouldn’t we also be open to being corrected – occasionally – by those whose learning and wisdom are less than ours? I’ve got three university degrees and St Therese of Liseaux had none, but she’s a Doctor of the Church, not me.

    2. “St Faustina saw that each soul would see Christ and he will ask each one
    three times if they love him and only those who reject his love three
    times will depart from him.”

    I like that, but my honest answer to Jesus would have to be, “Yes, but poorly.”

    • oregon catholic

      I think the key is in the original scripture. Each time Peter said yes to Jesus, Jesus asked him to do something.

      I believe there will be a final choice to be made once all is revealed. The closer we live in union with God’s Will here on earth the easier I think it will be to say yes to Jesus. I suspect that like all things of value our “yes” will come at great cost. I think the people who will go to hell will be the ones unable or unwilling to ‘pay’ the balance of the ‘cost’ they did not pay on earth – the shedding of all our sinful nature.

  • Lynn

    That set of scenes from The Last Battle has been very helpful to me over the years as I meet more and more deeply faithful people from other religious traditions. They do the best they can with what they have (don’t we all), and back when I was a Protestant evangelical, I was required to consign them to Hell, and leave Heaven for all the awful people who had deathbed conversions or bought “fire insurance.” I’m sure Hell exists, but I bet we will be surprised how things shake out in the end.

    • Nan

      What’s fire insurance? Indulgences? How ironic if so as Martin Luther left the Church in part due to sales of indulgences.

    • Lynn

      “Fire insurance” is a very Protestant term, for people who “ask Jesus into their hearts” and then go off on their merry way. They prayed the “sinners’ prayer,” so they have total assurance of salvation, regardless of what they do with the rest of their lives. So we’re talking Hell rather than Purgatory (which fire-insurance-purchasers don’t believe in anyway!)

  • Online72

    To say that GOD can NOT forgive a soul even on their deathbed would put restrictions on what GOD can and cannot do. We cannot begin to measure the redemption in His passion on the cross.

    • Jamie

      It’s a gift not an entitlement. God will not give the entitlement to these people. We do not change what God can do with our teachings. We just don’t keep our head in the ground about sad stuff.

    • Oldscore

      Wrong. God does not send people to Hell. People CHOOSE to go there. They hate God. They are filled with rage (motivated by selfishness) against God. So, given the choice, they choose “not-God” (i.e. Hell). To them Hell is BETTER than God. Hell is filled with people that think THEY are right, that they are the arbitrators of right and wrong. Those people prefer the “freedom” of defining right and wrong. The problem is, they are also in company with inferior creatures (i.e. fallen angels) that have master over them. They are in company with their fellow Children of God that have chosen themselves as “god”. Imagine a place like that…horrible! And, that place is called Hell.

    • Phil Steinacker

      Well, your last sentence is correct insofar as it is available to us during our lifetime, but your first sentence contradicts what Jesus said repeatedly and makes Him a liar.
      Don’t do that, Lucy.

    • Chesire11

      It is not a question of God’s capacity to forgive, but of man’s capacity to receive the grace which is showered upon him by our Merciful Father. Persistent habits of sin may render a soul indifferent to grace however bountifully pored out. If you’ll pardon the clumsy analogy, once a plant has died, it ceases to benefit from being watered.

      • IrishEddieOHara

        I think that’s a rather fine analogy. That’s why we have to be so careful about sin, even venial sins, and frequent the confessional often.

  • Romulus

    I think some people really want to be unhappy. One of the ways they cultivate their unhappiness is by inflicting it on others.

    • Billiamo

      Word for word, the best comment here.

  • Marc

    Excellent article Father the only thing that i thought was missing is St. Faustinas vision of hell.
    from Saint Faustinas Diary entry 741:
    Today, I was led by an angel to the chasm of hell. It is a place of great torture; how awesomely large and extensive it is! The kinds of tortures that I saw; the first torture that constitutes hell is the loss of God; the second is perpetual remorse of conscience; the third is that one’s condition will never change; the fourth is the fire that will penetrate the soul without destroying it — a terrible suffering, since it is a purely spiritual fire, lit by God’s anger; the fifth torture is continual darkness, and a terrible, suffocating smell, and despite the darkness, the devil and the souls of the damned see each other and all the evil, both of others and of their own; the sixth torture is the constant company of Satan; the seventh torture is horrible despair, hatred of God, vile words, curses and blasphemies. These are the tortures suffered by all the damned together, but that is not the end of their sufferings. There are special tortures destined for particular souls. These are the torments of the senses. Each soul undergoes terrible and indescribable sufferings, related to the manner in which it has sinned. There are caverns and pits of torture where one form of agony differs from another. I would have died at the very sight of these tortures if the omnipotence of God had not supported me. Let the sinner know that he will be tortured throughout all eternity, in those senses which he made use of to sin. I am writing this at the command of God, so that no soul may find an excuse by saying there is no hell, or that nobody has ever been there, and so no one can say what it is like.

  • Michael Thiel

    Hell is usually translated from the Hebrew word, ‘Sheol’. Sheol seems to have morphed into the concept of purgatory. Hell is sometimes translated from the Hebrew word, ‘Gehenna’.
    What do we do with this teaching of Jesus? “Fear not him who is able to destroy the body, rather fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in Gehenna fire.”
    Gehenna fire seems to be the second death mentioned in the book of Revelation.

  • Joe

    ALL theology is speculative in the highest degree.

    • Angel of Life

      Why are you here? The god of “random mutation” is also a very speculative “theory”, don’t YA KNOW?

      Here you go Sweetheart, I hope this brighten your day:

      “Meyer (Darwin’s Doubt) demonstrates, based on cutting-edge molecular biology, why explaining the origin of animals is now not just a problem of MISSING FOSSILS, but an even greater engineering problem at the molecular level….An excellent book and a must read.” (Dr. Russell Carlson, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at the University of Georgia and technical director of the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center)

  • JohnnyVoxx

    Everyone should read that famous sermon by Saint Leonard of Port Maurice on “the Fewness of the Saved” before forming any lasting opinions on the subject. Given what’s at stake, it makes sense to take the most restrictive view.

  • pete salveinini

    Both Fatima and Divine Mercy point to another possibility: INTERCESSION BY THE FAITHFUL FOR THE SALVATION OF SOULS SHOULD INCREASE LEST LEGIONS GO TO HELL. There seems practically to be three possibilities1) God definitely predestines some to heaven in a way of giving so much grace that they are actually saved; 2) others are NOT predestined because they DEFINITELY AND FREELY WILL REBEL AGAINST THE GRACES GIVEN; others, are definitely violating even natural law in a serious way, BUT WILL BE SAVED ONLY IF THE FAITHFUL INTERCEDE WITH PRAYER, PENANCE, SACRAMENTS AND EVANGELIZATION, SUCH THAT IF THEY DIDN’T HUGE NUMBERS WOULD BE LOST. Another point is, that God’s grace is always sufficient for everybody to be saved, but God may grant MORE GRACE IN DIFFERENT PERIODS OF HISTORY. According to Fatima the third option (amplified by evangelization) was revealed to us as a pressing need the faithful should respond to. Divine Mercy went EVEN FURTHER IN OPENNING THE FLOODGATES OF DIVINE MERCY FOR OUR TIMES. So when our Lord spoke of few being saved, perhaps he was speaking of His own times on earth? and of similar periods. But we know that after the Chastisement ONLY GOOD HEARTED PEOPLE WILL BE LEFT ON EARTH, WITH THE DEMONS IN HELL, SO AN ERA OF PEACE CAN EXIST FOR A SIGNIFICANT LENGTH WITH MUCH, MUCH GRACE. In that Era of Peace ALL MIGHT BE SAVED.

  • Truth Seeker

    Why be stupid and have children if most will be going into torment? Jesus was nice to kids (apparently) but why have them if later He will condemn most of his former little friends? It would be better to render sterile all humans so the people going to hell will be a finite number, and as soon as the human race becomes extinct God can make a brand new human race. Of course God cannot do evil, so He is really doing “good” to the damned. Does this make sense? It sort of makes a joke out of “love” which few humans experience anyway. If there was just one chance in a million that any of my kids would go to hell I would have to be a monster to have any. Eternal Auschwitz here we come!

    • Nan

      It is your children’s choice whether they turn toward God or away from Him. Those who follow Him will be saved; those who turn away will not. Salvation isn’t up to you.

    • Angel of Life

      “If there was just one chance in a million that any of my kids would go to hell..”. Okay, well there a chance that they might go to heaven too. -SO- Why Should You Deprive Them Of That Chance?

      God justice is perfect, and He knows which one is rotten to the core (e.g., the drug lords in Mexico who cut people’s heads and hands off) and which one is confused. God knows all of that, you worry too much.

    • Hendo

      God does not do evil. God allows His children to choose evil.

      He also allows — indeed, demands — that His children share their love and faith with others. We are called to be bearers of God’s mercy and hope, not to resign ourselves to the despair that you categorize in such hateful terms.

    • Lee Johnson

      I have entertained this line of thinking more times than I want to admit. When I converted and joined the Catholic Church, the last thing I had to address was the idea of Hell, specifically, that we didn’t receive assurance of salvation.

      I simply cannot live with the idea that many are damned, except those who are the most reprobate. I cannot live with the idea I will be damned, either.

      I don’t know.

    • Oldscore

      I missed the part where Jesus condemns innocent people to Hell. Your problem is that you think people are not responsible for their actions. They are. And, thus, they CHOOSE to go to Hell. Jesus just validates their choice. Make sense now?

      • Natalie

        What you say is true, but as a parent to two children I can understand Truth Seeker’s comment. There is NOTHING in this world that scares me so much as a thought that my children might end up in hell. Nothing. I understand that if that happens it will be because of their choices and their rejection of God. But the love that I have for them makes this thought unbearable. So this line of thinking is not illogical or crazy. Why, indeed, would anyone have children when there is a possibility that they might end up in hell? I know this is against what the church teaches (I am a practicing Catholic) and I know this smacks of the sin of despair. But as a parent, I can’t help it but wonder about this.

        • Oldscore

          I have eight children. It is a DUTY of parents to worry about this very thing. But, I would suggest that you are not suffering from the sin of despair. Instead, I would suggest that you want to deny your children free will. But, free will is the foundation of true Love. They cannot have true Love without free will. To deny them free will, is to deny them Love. To grant them free will (as God has done for all of us) permits them to attain Love, but it also gives them the choice – which neither you nor God has a right to deny.

        • Jhawk77

          Natalie, I have a daughter who talked to me recently about a decision she has made that devastated me. She was worried about my reaction. I told her that nothing she has done or would do would ever change how much I love her. A few days later at Mass I realized how my explanation to my daughter related to God’s love for me. My daughter can do nothing to sever my love for her. She can make a decision, though, to cease to “love” me by the decisions she makes in her life. I think it’s the same with God. Those who go to hell go there because they do not choose God. I understand that every parent understands my situation, hypothetically, but that understanding is truly strengthened when tested.

    • Elaine S.

      “Why be stupid and have children if most will be going into torment?”

      Why did God bother creating us if He was all knowing and knew most of us would end up in hell? Apparently, He thought it was worth the risk in order to create beings capable of love and of holiness. You have more than a “one in a million” chance of being killed or permanently disabled, or inflicting death or injury on someone else, every time you drive your car; does that mean anyone who drives a car is stupid or some kind of “monster” for doing so? Anything good in this life comes with some degree of risk.

      That’s one reason, by the way, I think exercises in attempting to discern exactly or even approximately how many or how few people end up in hell are counterproductive. If you assume most people are saved it leads to presumption, but if you presume most people are damned it leads straight into despair and ultimately an anti-life attitude as expressed above. Messages, locutions, etc. to visionaries and saints regarding the numbers of lost souls are private revelations that Catholics MAY accept but are not obligated to accept as matters of faith.

      The best approach as I see it is simply this. Hell exists and as long as one lives there is a chance you could end up there. Heaven also exists, and as long as you live there is a chance you could end up THERE. Only God knows for sure who will end up where.

  • Joe

    Let’s paraphrase a sentence from your article: “But simply to speculate that it is Earth that orbits the Sun and not vice versa is to defy Scripture, tradition, the magisterium
    of the church, the witness of the saints and common sense, for do we
    really honestly believe that the most wicked souls on earth will desire
    to enter heaven?”

    Yet a few hundred years later, reality has borne out that very ‘blasphemy.’ It will be the same with ‘hell’. Will anyone even remember such a vile and sadistic sick fantasy was ever an integral part of the church’s taeching? It will be looked back upon as an idea born in era of violence and despair, alive and well in our own era of violence and despair.

    • wineinthewater

      I do not doubt that many Catholics, including Churchmen, believed those things. But there are two problems with your assertion. The first is that I cannot think of anywhere that the Church has actually taught those things with her teaching authority. The other is more important and actually related: that whether the earth orbits the sun or the universe orbits the earth is not a matter of faith or morals, but hell is. The Church is infallible only on the latter, so the latter cannot be changed, and so the Church’s teaching on hell might develop, but it cannot change to something contradictory to what it once was.

    • Dan

      That’s not really an argument, as the fact the earth orbits the sun has never been an issue of salvation. I assume you are referring to Galileo; there is a lot of misinformation around him. its world discovering the truth of the matter. In any case, I would be careful not to believe in Hell because Jesus did, and He told us a lot about it. Careful that you desire for peace does not leave you blind to the hell around you and the possibility of Hell as an eternal future. Such a serious matter must not be taken likely.

    • yorkshirebruce

      A truly vile and sick fantasy would be that earthly justice is all there is and that those who escape it will forever be happy whether they killed millions, or stole billions, or raped others, especially children. Hell is a logical consequence of an authentic understanding of justice as different from mercy, since the latter entails a conversion of one’s will.

    • Dave in NC

      Ever read the Gospels?

    • Angel of Life

      Ah you chose God’s mercy but reject His justice. God’s mercy and justice go hand in hand.

    • Joel Everett

      Perhaps there is a certain wisdom in that the Catechism utilizes the term ‘state’ rather than ‘place’ in the definition of Hell: it is the state of being in exclusion from God – and that, I might add, will be of our own choice. The reality of Hell is due to the reality of freedom that we have in either choosing to accept God’s love or reject it. God does not force anybody to be in ‘Heaven’ – neither does He force them to be in ‘Hell’ – we are allowed to freely choose.

    • Phil Steinacker

      Clever, Joe, but your assumption is not only stupidly wrong but very risky.
      The Bible doesn’t pretend to be a science or even a history textbook as we understand them today. There are parts of the Bible that are not to be taken literally but as figurative expressions of larger truths. However, there are many others one would dismiss as figurative or even erroneous at one’s great peril.

    • FAM22

      Joe- If you don’t believe the Church’s teaching on hell, I suggest you go back and read the Gospels. Christ was quite explicit on the subject many different times. Unless, of course, you don’t feel bound by those texts as well- which would not surprise me given your post above. Our problem today in understanding and accepting our faith is the same as it has always been since the beginning: we all want to be our own “gods” and define for ourselves who God is and how eternity should work. The problem is that when we go down this road, we utter the same words as Lucifer himself, “non servium.”

    • Oldscore

      If there is no Hell, there is no need for a Savior. If there is no need for a Savior, men are already gods. Think it through (and make an attempt to get your history correct as well).

    • tim

      That’s not a paraphrase, that’s an argument by false analogy. But your last two sentences carry weight.

  • David Zampino

    I have a certain issue with Balthasar being compared with Rahner — especially after reading what Balthasar actually said. To identify Cardinal von Balthasar as as a “neo-universalist” is inaccurate at best.

  • wineinthewater

    “However, there are also a vast number of people who have no impediments. They live in a Christian society. …”

    I think this is actually a contradictory statement. Our Christian society is a society of very poor Christianity. I would say that for very many people, our “Christian” society is actually one of the larger impediments to encountering Jesus. How that factor impacts the culpability and the vincibility of the ignorance of individual people, I do not know. But I do think the net effect of our Christian society just may be negative, not positive.

    I think that when we Christians face our judgement, many of us will find that our “Christian lives” were actually some of our most profound sins.

  • bill bannon

    Hell probably has many inhabitants but Rahner and Von Balthazar were not alone in obscuring this but were aided by Popes John Paul II and Benedict who both held that we don’t know about Judas for sure ( “Crossing the Threshold of Hope” and General Audience of Oct.18,2006 respectively). We do know for sure not by Church declaration which She never makes unless it becomes a Church wide controversy (and it never was) but we know by Christ using past tense prophecy about Judas perishing and being a son of perdition PRIOR to Judas sinning when Christ was praying to His Father in John 17:12….”those whom thou gave me I guarded and not one of them perished except the son of perdition…”
    Justin Martyr noted that past tense prophecies are certain not conditional as are the past tense prophecies concerning Christ in Isaiah 53…” he was pierced for our sins”…53:5. Conditional prophecies like Jonah giving Ninevah 40 days are not done in past tense…” Forty more days and Ninevah WILL BE overthrown”…it wasn’t because they repented.

    Heaven is so highly populated, you won’t be ale to count them so the only way Aquinas et al were correct about few in heaven is if they were using “few” relative to the billions of people who came after them. Let’s go to the video tape and see if
    there is an uncountable number in heaven….Revelation 7:9…”After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue. They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches* in their hands.”

  • 1x2y3z

    the Fewness of the Saved

    “The greater part of men choose to be damned rather than to love
    Almighty God.”

    -Saint Alphonsus Maria Liguori, Doctor of the Church

    “The common opinion is that the greater part of adults is lost.”

    Saint Alphonsus Maria Liguori, Doctor of the Church

    “The greater number of men still say to God: Lord we will not serve Thee; we
    would rather be slaves of the devil, and condemned to Hell, than be Thy
    servants. Alas! The greatest number, my Jesus – we may say nearly all – not
    only do not love Thee, but offend Thee and despise Thee.”

    -Saint Alphonsus Maria Liguori, Doctor of the Church

    “In the Great Deluge in the days of Noah, nearly all mankind perished, eight
    persons alone being saved in the Ark.
    In our days a deluge, not of water but of sins, continually inundates the
    earth, and out of this deluge very few escape. Scarcely anyone is saved.”

    -Saint Alphonsus Maria Liguori, Doctor of the Church

    “Saint Teresa, as the Roman Rota attests, never fell into any mortal sin; but
    still Our Lord showed her the place prepared for her in Hell; not because she
    deserved Hell, but because, had she not risen from the state of lukewarmness in
    which she lived, she would in the end have lost the grace of God and been

    -Saint Alphonsus Maria Liguori, Doctor of the Church

    “The saints are few, but we must live with the few if we would be saved with
    the few. O God, too few indeed they are; yet among those few I wish to be!”

    -Saint Alphonsus Maria Liguori, Doctor of the Church

    “All persons desire to be saved, but the greater part, because they will not
    adopt the means of being saved, fall into sin and are lost. [...] In fact, the
    Elect are much fewer than the damned, for the reprobate are much more numerous
    than the Elect.”

    -Saint Alphonsus Maria Liguori, Doctor of the Church

    “There are many who arrive at the faith, but few who are led into the heavenly
    kingdom. Behold how many are gathered here for today’s Feast-Day: we fill the
    church from wall to wall. Yet who knows how few they are who shall be numbered
    in that chosen company of the Elect?”

    -Pope Saint Gregory the Great, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “The more the wicked abound, so much the more must we suffer with them in
    patience; for on the threshing floor few are the grains carried into the barns,
    but high are the piles of chaff burned with fire.”

    -Pope Saint Gregory the Great, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “The Ark, which in the midst of the Flood was a symbol of the Church, was wide
    below and narrow above; and, at the summit, measured only a single cubit. [...]
    It was wide where the animals were, narrow where men lived: for the Holy Church
    is indeed wide in the number of those who are carnal-minded, narrow in the
    number of those who are spiritual.”

    -Pope Saint Gregory the Great, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “They who are to be saved as Saints, and wish to be saved as imperfect souls,
    shall not be saved.”

    -Pope Saint Gregory the Great, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “As a man lives, so shall he die.”

    -Saint Augustine,
    Father and Doctor of the Church

    “It is certain that few are saved.”

    -Saint Augustine,
    Father and Doctor of the Church

    “The Lord called the world a ‘field’ and all the faithful who draw near to him
    ‘wheat.’ All through the field, and around the threshing-floor, there is both
    wheat and chaff. But the greater part is chaff; the lesser part is wheat, for
    which is prepared a barn not a fire. [...] The good also are many, but in
    comparison with the wicked the good are few. Many are the grains of wheat, but
    compared with the chaff, the grains are few.”

    -Saint Augustine,
    Father and Doctor of the Church

    “If you wish to imitate the multitude, then you shall not be among the few who
    shall enter in by the narrow gate.”

    -Saint Augustine,
    Father and Doctor of the Church

    “Out of one hundred thousand sinners who continue in sin until death, scarcely
    one will be saved.”

    -Saint Jerome,
    Father and Doctor of the Church

    “Many begin well, but there are few who persevere.”

    -Saint Jerome, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “So that you will better appreciate the meaning of Our Lord’s words, and
    perceive more clearly how few the Elect are, note that Christ did not say that
    those who walked in the path to Heaven are few in number, but that there were
    few who found that narrow way. It is as though the Saviour intended to say: The
    path leading to Heaven is so narrow and so rough, so overgrown, so dark and
    difficult to discern, that there are many who never find it their whole life
    long. And those who do find it are constantly exposed to the danger of
    deviating from it, of mistaking their way, and unwittingly wandering away from
    it, because it is so irregular and overgrown.”

    -Saint Jerome,
    Father and Doctor of the Church

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

    -Saint John Chrysostom, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “I do not speak rashly, but as I feel and think. I do not think that many
    priests are saved, but that those who perish are far more numerous.”

    -Saint John Chrysostom, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “If you want to be certain of being in the number of the Elect, strive to be
    one of the few, not one of the many. And if you would be quite sure of your
    salvation, strive to be among the fewest of the few; that is to say, do not
    follow the great majority of mankind, but follow those who enter upon the
    narrow way, who renounce the world, who give themselves to prayer, and who
    never relax their efforts by day or night, so that they may attain everlasting

    -Saint Anselm, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “Christ’s flock is called “little” (Luke 12:32) in comparison with
    the greater number of the reprobates.”

    -Saint Bede the Venerable, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “Nor should we think that it is enough for salvation that we are no worse off
    than the mass of the careless and indifferent, or that in our faith we are,
    like so many others, uninstructed.”

    -Saint Bede the Venerable, Father and Doctor of the Church

    “It is as though Jesus said: “O My Father, I am indeed going to clothe
    myself with human flesh, but the greater part of the world will set no value on
    my blood!”

    -Saint Isidore of Seville,
    Father and Doctor of the Church

    “The greater part of men will set no value on the blood of Christ, and will go
    on offending Him.”

    -Saint Isidore of Seville,
    Father and Doctor of the Church

    “How few the Elect are may be understood from the multitude being cast out.”

    -Saint Hilary of Poitiers,
    Father and Doctor of the Church

    “The majority of men shall not see God, excepting those who live justly,
    purified by righteousness and by every other virtue.”

    -Saint Justin the Martyr

    “There are a select few who are saved.”

    -Saint Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church

    “Those who are saved are in the minority.”

    -Saint Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church

    “It is granted to few to recognize the true Church amid the darkness of so many
    schisms and heresies, and to fewer still so to love the truth which they have
    seen as to fly to its embrace.”

    -Saint Robert Bellarmine, Doctor of the Church

    “Bad confessions damn the majority of Christians.”

    -Saint Teresa of Avila,
    Doctor of the Church

    “I had the greatest sorrow for the many souls that condemned themselves to
    Hell, especially those Lutherans. [...] I saw souls falling into hell like

    -Saint Teresa of Avila,
    Doctor of the Church

    “Behold how many there are who are called, and how few who are chosen! And
    behold, if you have no care for yourself, your perdition is more certain than
    your amendment, especially since the way that leads to eternal life is so

    -Saint John of the Cross, Doctor of the Church

    “The number of the elect is so small — so small — that, were we to know how
    small it is, we would faint away with grief: one here and there, scattered up
    and down the world!”

    -Saint Louis Marie de Montfort

    “Be one of the small number who find the way to life, and enter by the narrow
    gate into Heaven. Take care not to follow the majority and the common herd, so
    many of whom are lost. Do not be deceived; there are only two roads: one that
    leads to life and is narrow; the other that leads to death and is wide. There
    is no middle way.”

    -Saint Louis Marie de Montfort

    “A multitude of souls fall into the depths of Hell, and it is of the faith that
    all who die in mortal sin are condemned for ever and ever. According to statistics,
    approximately 80,000 persons die every day. How many of these will die in
    mortal sin, and how many will be condemned! For, as their lives have been, so
    also will be their end.”

    -Saint Anthony Mary Claret

    “Nothing afflicts the heart of Jesus so much as to see all His sufferings of no
    avail to so many.”

    -Saint John Mary Vianney

    “Shall we all be saved? Shall we go to Heaven? Alas, my children, we do not
    know at all! But I tremble when I see so many souls lost these days. See, they
    fall into Hell as leaves fall from the trees at the approach of winter.”

    -Saint John Mary Vianney

    “The number of the saved is as few as the number of grapes left after the
    vineyard-pickers have passed.”

    Saint John Mary Vianney

    “Notwithstanding assurances that God did not create any man for Hell, and that
    He wishes all men to be saved, it remains equally true that only few will be
    saved; that only few will go to Heaven; and that the greater part of mankind
    will be lost forever.”

    -Saint John Neumann

    “So vast a number of miserable souls perish, and so comparatively few are

    -Saint Philip Neri

    “Ah! How very small is the kingdom of Jesus Christ!
    So many nations have never had the faith!”

    -Saint Peter Julian Eymard

    “A great number of Christians are lost.”

    -Saint Leonard of
    Port Maurice

    “Ah, how many souls lose Heaven and are cast into Hell!”

    -Saint Francis Xavier

    “Ah! A great many persons live constantly in the state of damnation!”

    -Saint Vincent de Paul

    “Get out of the filth of the horrible torrent of this world, the torrent of
    thorns that is whirling you into the abyss of eternal perdition. [...] This
    torrent is the world, which resembles an impetuous torrent, full of garbage and
    evil odors, making a lot of noise but flowing swiftly passed, dragging the
    majority of men into the pit of perdition.”

    -Saint John Eudes

    “One day, I saw two roads. One was broad, covered with sand and flowers, full
    of joy, music and all sorts of pleasures. People walked along it, dancing and
    enjoying themselves. They reached the end of the road without realizing it. And
    at the end of the road there was a horrible precipice; that is, the abyss of
    hell. The souls fell blindly into it; as they walked, so they fell. And there
    numbers were so great that it was impossible to count them. And I saw the other
    road, or rather, a path, for it was narrow and strewn with thorns and rocks;
    and the people who walked along it had tears in their eyes, and all kinds of
    suffering befell them. Some fell down upon the rocks, but stood up immediately
    and went on. At the end of the road there was a magnificent garden filled with
    all sorts of happiness, and all these souls entered there. At the very first
    instant they forgot all their sufferings.”

    -Diary of Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, #153

    “Fear and honor, praise and bless, thank and adore the Lord God Almighty, in
    Trinity and Unity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Creator of all things. Do not
    put off any longer confessing all your sins, for death will soon come. Give and
    it will be given you; forgive and you will be forgiven. . . Blessed are they
    who die repentant, for they shall go to the Kingdom of Heaven!
    But woe to those who are not converted, for these children of the Devil will go
    with their father into everlasting fire. Be watchful, therefore. Shun evil, and
    persevere in well-doing until the end.”

    -Saint Francis of Assisi

    “Meditate on the horrors of Hell, which will last for eternity because of one
    easily-committed mortal sin. Try hard to be among the few who are chosen. Think
    of the eternal flames of Hell, and how few there are that are saved.”

    -Saint Benedict Joseph Labre

    “Yes, indeed, many will be damned; few will be saved.”

    -Saint Benedict Joseph Labre

    “The path to Heaven is narrow, rough and full of wearisome and trying ascents,
    nor can it be trodden without great toil; and therefore wrong is their way,
    gross their error, and assured their ruin who, after the testimony of so many
    thousands of saints, will not learn where to settle their footing.”

    -Saint Robert Southwell

    “Oh how much are the worldlings deceived that rejoice in the time of weeping,
    and make their place of imprisonment a palace of pleasure; that consider the
    examples of the saints as follies, and their end as dishonorable; that think to
    go to Heaven by the wide way that leadeth only to perdition!”

    -Saint Robert Southwell

    “Live with the few if you want to reign with the few.”

    -Saint John Climacus

    “The number of the damned is incalculable.”

    -Saint Veronica Giuliani

    “I see around me a multitude of those who, blindly persevering in error, despise
    the true God; but I am a Christian nevertheless, and I follow the instruction
    of the Apostles. If this deserves chastisement, reward it; for I am determined
    to suffer every torture rather then become the slave of the devil. Others may
    do as they please since they are [...] reckless of the future life, which is to
    be obtained only by sufferings. Scripture tells us that “narrow is the way
    that leads to life” [...] because it is one of affliction and of
    persecutions suffered for the sake of justice; but it is wide enough for those
    who walk upon it, because their faith and the hope of an eternal reward make it
    so for them. [...] On the contrary, the road of vice is in reality narrow, and
    it leads to an eternal precipice.”

    -Saint Leo of Patara

    “Brethren, the just man shall scarcely be saved. What, then, will become of the

    -Saint Arsenius

    “Among adults there are few saved because of sins of the flesh. [...] With the
    exception of those who die in childhood, most men will be damned.”

    -Saint Regimius or Rheims

    “How many among these uncivilized peoples do not yet know God, and are sunk in
    the darkest idolatry, superstition and ignorance! [...] Poor souls! These are
    they in whom Christ saw, in all the horror of His imminent Passion, the
    uselessness of His agony for so many souls!”

    -Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini

    “O Jesus! [...] Remember the sadness that Thou didst experience when,
    contemplating in the light of Thy divinity the predestination of those who
    would be saved by the merits of Thy sacred passion, thou didst see at the same
    time the great multitude of reprobates who would be damned for their sins, and
    Thou didst complain bitterly of those hopeless, lost, and unfortunate sinners.”

    -Saint Bridget of Sweden

    “The greater number of Christians today are damned. The destiny of those dying
    on one day is that very few – not as many as ten – went strait to Heaven; many
    remained in Purgatory; and those cast into Hell were as numerous as snowflakes
    in mid-winter.”

    -Blessed Anna Maria Taigi

    “They who are enlightened to walk in the way of perfection, and through
    lukewarmness wish to tread the ordinary path, shall be abandoned.”

    -Blessed Angela of Foligno

    “One day, Saint Macarius found a skull and asked it whose head it had been. ‘A
    pagan’s!’ it replied. ‘And where is your soul?’ he asked. ‘In Hell!’ came the
    reply. Macarius then asked the skull if its place was very deep in Hell. ‘As
    far down as the earth is lower than Heaven!’ ‘And are there any other souls
    lodged even lower?’ ‘Yes! The souls of the Jews!’ ‘And even lower than the
    Jews?’ ‘Yes! The souls of bad Christians who were redeemed with the blood of
    Christ and held there privilege so cheaply!’”

    -Blessed James of Voragine

    “I fear that Last Day, that day of tribulation and anguish, of calamity and
    misery, of mist and darkness, that Day on which, if the just have reason to
    fear, how much more should I: an impious, wretched, and ungrateful sinner!”

    -Blessed Sebastian Valfre

    “I was watching souls going down into the abyss as thick and fast as snowflakes
    falling in the winter mist.”

    -Blessed Benedict Joseph Labre

    “Take care not to resemble the multitude whose knowledge of God’s will only
    condemns them to more severe punishment.”

    -Blessed John of Avila

    “So many people are going to die, and almost all of them are going to Hell! So
    many people falling into hell!”

    –Blessed Jacinta of Fatima

    “Taking into account the behavior of mankind, only a small part of the human
    race will be saved.”

    -Lucy of Fatima

  • Jamie

    On August 8, 1949 the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office wrote a letter to Archbishop Cushing about salvation outside the church and Father Leonard Feeney. It said that to have salvation outside of the Catholic Church a person needs supernatural faith and perfect charity. And “it is not always required that he be incorporated into the Church actually as a member, but it is necessary that at least he be united to her by desire and longing.”

  • Ray

    If so many are damned — why the biblical injunction to “rejoice?”

  • Dan C

    I think your emphasis on Christian Churches and not Catholic Churches reveals your prejudice.

    If many will be damned, and we are embracing such, we need to go all the way back to “outside the Church, there is no salvation.” quite frankly, the Evangelical mindset and theology is pretty heretical and this “birn again” nonsense coupled with its Calvinism pollutes economics and peace in American though and particularly Catholic thought.

    The Evangelicals may even share a fate worse than the atheists, particularly since fundamentalist atheism seems to be reactionary to muscular Moral Majority Calvinims, the prevailing political power until recently.

    If we are all into many many in Hell, we should be planning on our saying farewell to our Baptist political confreres, for they are clearly outside the Church.

  • Robert Homan

    “However, there are also a vast number of people who have no impediments. They live in a Christian society. There is a church on every street corner. There are signs of faith all around them. They are surrounded by Christian friends, family and neighbors. They have been to Sunday School and been catechized. They have Christian radio shows and television programs. They have religious books and websites. They have had plenty of time and plenty of chances to seek the truth, to find the Lord and to pursue their soul’s salvation and they have done nothing at all.”

    The specifics of the theology can be debated and perhaps should be debated, but I have a problem with this sort of speculation, which seems to me veiled judgment. You make inferences about the population of hell based upon the “mediocre” people you see all around you, those who “have religious books and websites” and yet, somehow, do not seek their salvation. I remember reading in Mere Christianity how we can NEVER judge another soul because we NEVER know the fullness of their situation, of their upbringing, of their inner battles. We can judge their actions, but NEVER their entirety.

  • TeaPot562

    Faith alone is not sufficient; one must put belief into action. Both Matthew (parable of the last judgment – Ch. 25) and Luke (parable of the rich man and the beggar, sometimes called “Dives” and “Lazarus”) show that how we treat others controls where we go after death.
    Not being aware of the need of others is not a defense; the rich man in Luke’s gospel may have regarded the beggar at his front gate as merely part of the scenery.
    We are our brother’s (and sister’s) keeper.

  • Keith

    But I’ve read this quote from St. Padre Pio (if it’s not authentic someone please let us know):

    “I believe that not a great number of souls go to hell. God loves us so much. He formed us at his image. God loves us beyond understanding. And it is my belief that when we have passed from the consciousness of the world, when we appear to be dead, God, before He judges us, will give us a chance to see and understand what sin really is. And if we understand it properly, how could we fail to repent?”

    That being said, the danger is truly there–we have to do our best to humble ourselves and live holy lives: before each of us is a choice, and taking chances with that choice is a) presumption, b) ungrateful and unloving toward the good God, c) scandalous, and d) really stupid.

  • Keith

    Pope Benedict XVI on Von Balthasaar. This is the conclusion of a talk about him:

    “The example that von Balthasar has given us is, rather, that of a true theologian who in contemplation had discovered a consistent course of action for giving Christian witness in the world. We remember him on this important occasion as a man of faith, a priest who, in obedience and in a hidden life, never sought personal approval, but rather in the true Ignatian spirit always desired the greater glory of God.

    With these sentiments, I encourage all of you to continue, with interest and enthusiasm, your study of the writings of von Balthasar and to find ways of applying them practically and effectively. I implore the Lord to send abundant gifts of understanding upon you and upon the work of the Convention, and as a token of the same I impart to all of you a special Blessing.

    Vatican City, October 6, 2005


    To read the whole thing:

  • Mark Dohle

    I pray for the salvation of all. The Our Father is a Universal prayer,in the Hail Mary it also Universal, for the salvation of all. The fatima prayer, that is said between decades prays for the salvation of those in most need, then there is the chaplet of mercy, one of my favorite. After that, if the majority are dammned, why then these kinds of prayers at all? I have no idea who is in hell, however if someone is there, or many or the majority, it is there because there is no other place for them to be, it is a choice, so in the end, it is on us, not on God, who is all mercy and love and compassion.

  • Joe

    @ Erika Reece ; the point is that God wants us all is heaven. People chose hell. Its sad. The saints help us get to heaven. They are a perfect example on how we should be living or lives. I have seen heaven and hell. When I say this people may or may not believe me. But heaven is for real! hell is for real! God exists! he loves us very much. He is in the loving business not the punishment business. But people sometimes harden their hearts and want to do what THEY think is best for them. Remember ; GOD KNOWS what’s best always ! Trust in Jesus! I changed my life right away when I saw what hell is like! God is a loving father you can always go to him for all your needs. But in this life we need to choose. Choose life!

  • John Siegmund

    Separation from God in eternity merely mirrors the choice the person made in this life to be separate from God. “The door to hell is locked from the inside”

  • David Bissonnette

    I’ve encountered many Protestants who say to me: “Ah! you Catholics believe you are all going to Heaven”. I respond back> Remember scripture: “To those for whom much has been given, much will be demanded”. And so it is with Catholics who have a greater access to graces, much will be demanded of them…of us. So I say to the Protestant, I am afraid that I have much greater concern about my judgement since the Lord showered me with the fullness of Truth as transmitted by the Catholic Church. What have I done with those graces? what was my prayer life like? Did I do penance and sacrifices in reparations for the offenses committed agains the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate of Mary? Jean-Paul-II’s “Salvifici dolores” speaks very clearly of that important business that we as Catholics must be engaging in:

    “that business of saving the world.”
    The pope clarified that salvation was only through the Catholic Church. I have come to interpret this to mean that through the prayers, penances, good works of the mystics, the convents, the monasteries, the martyrs, our own daily prayers and sacrifices, and the most holy mass, God will save many souls. My dear Protestant brother, I am afraid that your salvation is dependent on the Catholic Church and on my personal and our collective responses to Jesus’ calll to pray and do sacrifices on your behalf. But be scared…be very scared my Catholic brothers and sisters if you have not participated through the Catholic Church in salvitic activities of penance and sacrifices that call on God’s mercy for all. Saint Paul says very clearly that we should be working out our salvation in fear and trembling. It just may be that there are more Catholics in hell than any other religion! Sobering

  • Jordan

    Do you say that often in your homilies, Father? It seems to me it would only be fair to let your congregation know what you really think for almost all of them. If we’re all speculating, I don’t see how those with an extremely pessimistic view are inherently more logical than those with an extremely optimistic view. An excess of either is exactly that, an excess. Too much. But I think this view that most everyone will be damned is attractive to those who are inherently less able to see positive attributes in others. It makes sense, because you look around and see mostly evil in other people. I don’t understand how someone can be so on guard against the sin of presumption that they think NOTHING of despair. Some comment below stated something along the lines of “Given what’s at stake, it makes sense to take the most restricted view.” No, it doesn’t. It’s either a mistake, or it’s not. Make a better effort to figure out the correct view, don’t just go with “Well more people are probably going to hell then aren’t” because you’re lazy. And I agree with the commenter below who stated that if you really believed most are damned, what is the point of having children? I’m by no means a “hell doesn’t exist, and no one would honestly choose to live without God”, but if I honestly took a view like the one you describe, I would feel awful every time I held one of my children in my arms, because I most likely brought them into existence just so they could be separated from God forever, if the odds are really skewed so far that way.

  • Bill

    “—and perhaps each soul will see Christ and know him clearly and fully for who he is and what he has done.” I’ve often “hoped” that in order to enter the doorway into Hell one must pass Jesus on the Cross!

  • navyenduring

    After reading the dreams of St John Bosco I now understand that we choose hell. The soul on this earth has continually spurned God’s graces and opportunities for conversion. After death as God pursues the soul, it flees toward hell because the soul has full knowledge of its condition and cannot stand the sight of God. So it flees to hell where it knows it belongs. I now know that we choose hell and it begins here on earth. God continually offers us grace through the sacraments to return to him. How many now say, I don’t need to go to church, I don’t need the sacraments, basically I don’t need God. So when the soul departs it knows it has continually rejected God’s advances. It is now so clear to me. I highly recommend reading his book, because St John Bosco’s guardian angel answers all his questions on how a soul could end up in hell

  • Name

    the answer is yes it is heavily populated. the bible even states a 1/3 of the stars were thrown out of the skies by the swipe of the dragon’s tail and that doesn’t include the condemned angels disputing who is like unto to God. our lady in her apparitions complains that souls are falling into hell like snowflakes and goes on to say that the road to pedition is wide. the lord himself speaks of the road to heaven in narrow and difficult that one must pickup their cross and come follow him. so not only is this road to hell is crowded…the opportunities are many and present themselves deceptively as good. the new testament if full of warnings exhorting souls that the devil goes about roaring looking for souls to devour. the church is always exhorting prayer penance sacrifice fasting conversion confession mass eucharist for reparation of sins….stop concerning about numbers and losses in get into the business of saving souls: your own, those within your family, those in your household, and those within the church. start living a life pleasing to God that says amen and aligns to His Holy Will.

  • Chesire11

    I accept that there is such a thing as hell, and that it is the eternal fate of some souls, and understand that universalism is not only doctrinally false, but promotes deadly spiritual indifference.

    That said, I cannot help but suspect that God is not so inefficient a creator, or ineffective redeemer that His infinite Love should be so easily thwarted by the weakness of finite mortal wills.

  • Sir Mark

    I’m confused. Last I heard, Pope Benedict loves Balthasar. I’m going with the Pope on this one.

  • adn8

    The danger with these speculations is that they almost inevitably end in the judgment of individuals. When you say you see great numbers who hate the true and the beautiful, you are either make a kind of statistical judgment about certain ideological tribes or certain groups of people who are reported on in the news for this or that deed. And of course, such statistical cases don’t really provide good evidence, for God will judge individuals. Sorrow and penitence only exist in the hearts of individuals, not groups, and thus, these qualities–critical ingredients of salvation–are generally invisible to us.

    On the other hand, perhaps you are reflecting on a number, maybe even a great number, of specific individuals you have encountered. But here as well, you don’t really know what their culpability is. The faith obviously strikes many as utterly irrational–the invisible God, the disappeared messiah. They don’t come to this conclusion because they hate the truth. The simply do not have faith or they have personalities that perceive a distorted vision of the world–a function of law, but not of grace. Can you possibly pretend to understand how, confronted with the inescapable reality of Christ, such a person might respond?

    As for scripture, it is certainly unquestionable that damnation is represented as a clear and present danger. But it is done so in a way that is necessarily figurative (I’m sure that, like the beatitude, its total absence is not easily described in earthly terms). By contrast Jesus’ acts of redemption are quite clear and evocative. He grants sinners forgiveness, at times on the basis merely of an inchoate movement of the heart, absent even words. We do not know how these people lived subsequently, but it seems realistic to think that they did not suddenly become sinless, and may have continued to find their old sins appealing. But as Paul says, the law will save no one, however just. Only grace can.

    I’m sympathetic to your basic point that hell is not easily explained away as a bad scriptural dream, but the attempt to corral God’s grace, to point up its limits (even those seemingly inescapable limits of free will), to subjugate it to law and to our observed transgression of law, is fraught with peril, for both our attempt to discern the facts of the next life and for our spiritual health in this one.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    The older I get, the more convinced I am that hell exists and many want to go there.

  • Paul

    It seems like a large number of Catholics (especially post Vatican ll) subscribe to this ridiculous assertion that hell will be emptied at the end of time. I was in formation for the Diaconate in Kingston Ontario. We were ‘treated’ to a talk by a Priest who opined that perhaps God, in His mercy, will forgive the large portion of those who condemned themselves to everlasting fire. We were even given a book to study: “Good Goats…Bad Sheep” I should’ve known when we had to participate in the New Age practice of T’ai Chi! It was totally ridiculous!!! I’m not afraid to use my name.

  • Rebecca Duncan

    This is right on. Ralph Martin does great work on this subject. Fr. Robert Barron on the other hand says very irresponsible things on this subject and it is saddening. There is absolutely no reason to believe that many will be saved, since Jesus and the saints say the exact opposite.

  • Thomas Williams

    Yes, the Gospels are clear that not all will be saved. But to extrapolate from that to quantitative estimates isn’t correct. Our Holy Lord said, “Judge not …” and, “I came to save man not to condemn him.”

  • Spence Redford

    The confusion expressed in this article is evidence that we need more wisdom, more revelation, and more clarity on the subject from God himself. Although the Bible is true, there is obvious confusion among Christians. I believe that the Book of Mormon clarifies these doctrinal points and gives to men a better understanding of the nature of God, the afterlife, and why we are here on earth in the first place. Read it. It’s another Testament of Jesus Christ and it will bring you closer to God.

  • Eric

    Wrong, hell is not permanent, many of you didn’t understand about the nature of God, Jesus told us to forgive our enemies, and we will be like our Father in Heaven, Christianity is in Crisis and God is responsible for our sins, the doctrine of hell is
    the biggest mess of the Christianity, scripture is talking about the Universal reconciliation brothers and sisters, for as in Adam All die, and in Christ ALL will
    be made alive, not who is in Christ, all of them will be made alive, it has Parallelism. and Matthew 25:46 has mistranslation, why don’t you open your heart and eyes to see who is he. notice that gates of the city will never be shut, there are more to prove Universal reconciliation.

    • Oldscore

      If there is no Hell, there is no need for a Savior – i.e. there is no need for Christ. You also deny people the right to choose their fate. People that hate God do not want to be with God. You have no right to force God upon them. God has made this clear – He will not force Himself on anyone. But, without God there is no Hope, and that is Hell.

  • CorrieWis

    Favorite text on this topic — Clark Pinnock’s “A Wideness in God’s Mercy.”

  • Joseph Dylong

    Balthazar states that the Dogma of the Church is that Hell
    exists not that human beings are in it. German Bishops in the 1980s, stated neither Scripture not Catholic Tradition assert with certainty of that any man is in Hell. It is in front of us as a real possibility connected with
    conversion and life.

  • Nathan

    One way to answer this question is with another question: Can you name ONE saint that held optimistic views about the the number of people in hell? I didn’t think so. But then again, we’re enlightened, and we know better.

  • Marie Dean

    Thank you for this post. I have been writing similar things on my blog. There is much confusion on these points, and sadly, many priests have added to the confusion. Here is England, one of the most common heresies among Catholics is universal salvation, along with Pelagianism and Donatism, which I have written about.