Did Pope St. John Paul II Teach Universalism? No . . .

Did Pope St. John Paul II Teach Universalism? No . . . September 25, 2015
Original title: Refutation of Robert Sungenis’ Charge that Pope John Paul II Denied the Reality of Hell and Taught Universalism
[public domain / Pixabay]

[most — if not all — links from Sungenis’ statements are defunct because he later took down his entire massive website. I have retained them, in case some can be searched on Internet Archive]


His words will be in blue.
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Psalm 50:20 (RSV) You sit and speak against your brother; you slander your own mother’s son.
Wisdom 1:11 Beware then of useless murmuring, and keep your tongue from slander; because no secret word is without result, and a lying mouth destroys the soul.
Sirach 5:14 Do not be called a slanderer, and do not lie in ambush with your tongue; for shame comes to the thief, and severe condemnation to the double-tongued.
Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice,
Colossians 3:8 But now put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth.
1 Peter 2:1 So put away all malice and all guile and insincerity and envy and all slander.
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From recent disgraceful radical Catholic reactionary polemical rantings of barely-an-apologist-anymore Robert Sungenis:

. . . ambiguous statements in certain encyclicals that seem to lean toward universal salvation . . . (from: Santo Non Ancora! Saint John Paul II: published in the notorious RadCathR rag, The Remnant on 5 February 2011)

. . . the universal salvation that John Paul II so often promoted in his addresses and encyclicals. (Response to Dr. Donald DeMarco re the article in the Remnant titled “Santo Non Ancora: St John Paul II?” — 4 April 2011)

. . . making ambiguous statements that could be interpreted such that all men will be saved or that humans may not be involved with hell . . . In fact, he suggested that hell may not even exist. That was “the faith” of John Paul II. (Another Failed Attempt to Defend Assisi and Other Scandalous Events in the Pontificate of John Paul II — 25 April 2011)

Pope St. John Paul II


A second characteristic of St Leonard Murialdo was pedagogical concern. He was unquestionably a great educator, like Don Bosco, and dedicated his whole life to the education of children and young people, convinced of the value of the preventive method and of Christocentric guidance.

Let us meditate together on what he wrote to confreres gathered in the Spiritual Exercises of 1898: “May love of God bring forth zeal for the salvation of the young: “ne perdantur”, St John Chrysostom says, “so that they may not be lost”, not be damned, and therefore … real zeal to save them, to instruct them well in religion, to instil in them love of God, of Jesus Christ, and of Mary, and zeal to save themselves. But all this will not be obtained unless one has humility of heart”.
It is an exhortation which the Pope wishes to echo this morning. let this be your spur: educate to save! From the “pedagogy of eternal salvation” there springs logically the “pedagogy of love”. Commit your lives completely to edifying, to forming children and young people, behaving in such a way that your life will be a continual example of virtue for them: it is necessary to become a child with children and everything to everyone in order to win all to Christ(Address to the Congregation of St. Joseph1 December 1978; section 2)
And this we must all remember: that it is not lawful for any of us to deserve the name of “hireling”, that is to say, the name of one “to whom the sheep do not belong”, one who, “since he is not the shepherd and the sheep do not belong to him, abandons the sheep and runs away as soon as he sees the wolf coming, and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep; this is because he is only a hired man and has no concern for the sheep” (Jn 10:12-13). The solicitude of every good shepherd is that all people “may have life and have it to the full”, (Jn 10:10) so that none of them may be lost, (cf. Jn 17:12) but should have eternal life. (Letter to All Priests on the Occasion of Holy Thursday, 8 April 1979; section 7)
Nor can the church omit, without serious mutilation of her essential message, a constant catechesis on what the traditional Christian language calls the four last things of man: death, judgment (universal and particular), hell and heaven. In a culture which tends to imprison man in the earthly life at which he is more or less successful, the pastors of the church are asked to provide a catechesis which will reveal and illustrate with the certainties of faith what comes after the present life: beyond the mysterious gates of death, an eternity of joy in communion with God or the punishment of separation from him. Only in this eschatological vision can one realize the exact nature of sin and feel decisively moved to penance and reconciliation. (POST-SYNODAL APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION RECONCILIATION AND PENANCE  TO THE BISHOPS CLERGY AND FAITHFUL ON RECONCILIATION AND PENANCE IN THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH TODAY; 2 December 1984; section 26)

In her motherly concern, the Blessed Virgin came here to Fátima to ask men and women “to stop offending God, Our Lord, who is already very offended”. It is a mother’s sorrow that compels her to speak; the destiny of her children is at stake. For this reason she asks the little shepherds:  “Pray, pray much and make sacrifices for sinners; many souls go to hell because they have no one to pray and make sacrifices for them”.  . . . And when the time came for Francisco to leave, the little girl tells him:  “Give my greetings to Our Lord and to Our Lady and tell them that I am enduring everything they want for the conversion of sinners”. Jacinta had been so deeply moved by the vision of hell during the apparition of 13 July that no mortification or penance seemed too great to save sinners. (HOMILY: BEATIFICATION OF FRANCISCO AND JACINTA MARTO SHEPHERDS OF FATIMA;13 May 2000, Fátima; sections 3 and 4)

May this appeal of mine not go unheard! At the start of the twenty-fifth year of my Pontificate, I entrust this Apostolic Letter to the loving hands of the Virgin Mary, prostrating myself in spirit before her image in the splendid Shrine built for her by Blessed Bartolo Longo, the apostle of the Rosary. I willingly make my own the touching words with which he concluded his well-known Supplication to the Queen of the Holy Rosary: “O Blessed Rosary of Mary, sweet chain which unites us to God, bond of love which unites us to the angels, tower of salvation against the assaults of Hell, safe port in our universal shipwreck, we will never abandon you.  (APOSTOLIC LETTER ROSARIUM VIRGINIS MARIAE; 16 October 2002; section 43 [concluding paragraph] )
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Moreover, as my friend Paul Hoffer noted in this combox (and as I also mentioned on my Facebook page), the reality of hell for the devil and his demons and for damned human beings is expressly taught in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (produced during Pope St. John Paul II’s pontificate)

IV. HELL 1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: “He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren. 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.”

1034 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!”

1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.” The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where “men will weep and gnash their teeth.”

1037 God predestines no one to go to hell for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance” Father, accept this offering from your whole family. Grant us your peace in this life, save us from final damnation, and count us among those you have chosen.

1861 Mortal sin is a radical possibility of human freedom, as is love itself. It results in the loss of charity and the privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom and the eternal death of hell, for our freedom has the power to make choices for ever, with no turning back. However, although we can judge that an act is in itself a grave offense, we must entrust judgment of persons to the justice and mercy of God.

Pope St. John Paul II expressly “ratified” and approved of the Catechism in his Apostolic Letter, Laetamur Magnopere on (15 August 1997). Here are some excerpts:

. . . it faithfully repeats the doctrinal content which I officially presented to the Church and to the world in December 1992. . . . 

The Church now has at her disposal this new, authoritative exposition of the one and perennial apostolic faith, and it will serve as a “valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion” and as a “sure norm for teaching the faith,” as well as a “sure and authentic reference text” for preparing local catechisms (cf. Apostolic Constitution Fidei Depositum, no. 4).

Catechesis will find in this genuine, systematic presentation of the faith and of Catholic doctrine a totally reliable way to present, with renewed fervor, each and every part of the Christian message to the people of our time. This text will provide every catechist with sound help for communicating the one, perennial deposit of faith within the local Church, while seeking, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to link the wondrous unity of the Christian mystery with the varied needs and conditions of those to whom this message is addressed.

[see also his earlier Apostolic Constitution, Fidei Depositum, of 11 October 1992]

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Critics of the late pope have produced a list of supposed statements of his that teach (so they say) “universal salvation” (i.e., all men actually being saved and none going to hell). Upon looking over all these, it is clear that they refer to 1) universal atonement (as opposed to the Calvinist limited atonement), and 2) God’s desire that all men be saved. Neither thing is the same thing as all men actually being saved in the end (or universalism: the denial of all reprobation and the existence of hell for human beings). The pope was merely using the language that Scripture often uses. Robert Sungenis — using the cynical and ultra-uncharitable supposed “logic” that he applies to Pope St. John Paul II — would have to consistently regard as “universalistic” the following Bible passages:

Wisdom 16:12 (RSV) For neither herb nor poultice cured them, but it was thy word, O Lord, which heals all men.

Luke 3:6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

John 3:17 For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

John 4:42 “. . . we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.”

John 6:33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world. (cf. 6:51 and 8:12 / 9:5: “light of the world“)

John 12:32 and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.

John 12:47 . . . I did not come to judge the world but to save the world.

Romans 5:18 Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.

2 Corinthians 5:19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.

Ephesians 1:9-10 For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ [10] as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Ephesians 3:9 and to make all men see what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things;

1 Timothy 2:3-6 . . . God our Savior, [4] who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. [5] For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, [6] who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time.

1 Timothy 4:10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of those who believe.

Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared for the salvation of all men,

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow about his promise as some count slowness, but is forbearing toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

1 John 4:14 And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world.

If we adopt Sungenis’ relentless fundamentalistic woodenly literal interpretation, then the Bible is clearly as outrageous as he thinks Pope St. John Paul II was. We might as well throw out Holy Scripture along with Pope St. John Paul II’s canonization, and be done with it. Maybe Bob can deliver us a new, better revelation, and play Moses as well as Jeremiah (and Elijah: calling fire down on all the false prophets of “neo-Catholicism”). It’s quite clear that Pope St. John Paul II intended his statements to be understood in this light of “God desires all to be saved” / universal atonement sufficient but not efficient for the salvation for all, once we examine several of his statements in context, and how he presents them in the context of some of the biblical passages noted above:

“we are obliged to hold that the Holy Spirit offers everyone the possibility of sharing in the Paschal Mystery in a manner known to God.” God’s plan is “to unite all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph 1:10) [Encyclical, Redemptoris Missio]

as St. Paul explains when he writes: “One died for all” (2 Cor 5:14; cf. Rom 5:18). Christ won universal salvation with the gift of his own life. [General Audience of 31 May 1995]

Paul himself expresses and fulfils the Church’s universal mission in a particular way. On the road to Damascus Christ associates him with the divine plan of universal salvation: “The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will … for you will be a witness for him to all men of what you have seen and heard” (Acts 22:14-16).” [Homily During Mass With His Holiness Aram I as Part Of Week Of Prayer For Christian Unity; Saturday, 25 January 1997]

“All are invited to “be reconciled to God” (2 Cor 5:20), to be saved and to work together for universal salvation, because God “wants all to be saved” (1 Tim 2:4).  [Jesus’ Earthly Life Is a Model for the Laity; General Audience — November 10, 1993]

Etc., etc. Therefore, it is yet another case of citing someone out of context and arriving at an incorrect conclusion as to what he actually believed and taught. Shame on Pope Bob-o-Link I and on anyone else who “prooftexts” in this shabby, ultimately dishonest, unscrupulous fashion.

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Update of 27 May 2011: Sungenis has now responded to this post and also to my earlier related one. His replies are far too absurd to waste any more time on: more of the same: yet more shameless and shameful, despicable, relentless attacks on Pope St. John Paul II (the Great) and on the current Holy Father as well . . . Pray for Bob. He is no longer functioning as a Catholic apologist; sad to say.  His most manifest and dominant mentality now hardly differs from that of Martin Luther and Catholic dissidents. He would rather attack Holy Mother Church with lies and falsehoods and distorted polemics, rather than defend her, as Catholic apologists and priests and religious and bishops and various other Catholics do on a daily basis.

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