In October 2017, papal critic Sandro Magister wrote an article in L’Ezpresso Magazine (reprinted at the reactionary LifesiteNews site on 10-27-17 and the reactionary One Peter Five site on 10-20-17). He noted that the atheist Eugenio Scalfari, with whom the pope (inexplicably) keeps granting interviews, stated that the pope allegedly “has abolished the places where souls were supposed to go after death: hell, purgatory, heaven.” Recognizing the essential silliness and absurdity of such a claim, Magister writes: “It is seriously doubtful that Pope Francis really wants to get rid of the ‘last things’ in the terms described by Scalfari.” But, true to form for the papal critics, he has to go on to make further ridiculous claims of his own:
There is in his preaching, however, something that tends toward a practical overshadowing of the final judgment and of the opposite destinies of blessed and damned.
On Wednesday, October 11, at the general audience in Saint Peter’s Square, Francis said that such a judgment is not to be feared, because “at the end of our history there is the merciful Jesus,” and therefore “everything will be saved. Everything.”
In the text distributed to the journalists accredited to the Holy See, this last word, “everything,” was emphasized in boldface. [all emphases in original]
In a series of exchanges, one “Chris C.” wrote in a combox on my website, underneath my article, “Pope Francis, Hell, Phil Lawler, Lies, Damned Lies, . . .” (his words in green henceforth):
You had no trouble finding quotes to show the Pope believes in Hell but though you linked to a Magister article you failed to quote from it regarding a public comment by His Holiness:-
On Wednesday, October 11, at the general audience in Saint Peter’s Square, Francis said that such a [judgment] is not to be feared, because “at the end of our history there is the merciful Jesus,” and therefore “everything will be saved. Everything.”
This could at least raise a legitimate question regarding eternal damnation and Hell. In discussing the numerous comments of the Pope on Hell, for the sake of a balanced presentation, one could ask why didn’t you see fit to quote this?
My friend Jim Scott then chimed in, saying, “He is not talking about the salvation of everyone (since when are people things?).”
Chris C. then replied rather remarkably (he edited it to remove his more embarrassing portions, but luckily I retrieved it from my gmail inbox):
I find your interpretation of the “everything will be saved . Everything” quote to be bizarre. Since when are things “saved”? Salvation is for people [and] not things. Other than those steeped in Teilhard de Chardin goofiness, who doesn’t know that? Christ, and His Church save souls. Not things. You have it totally backwards.
You need to learn your Scripture and Catholic theology (it’ll make you a lot less pompous and condescending):
Romans 8:19-25 (RSV) For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God;  for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope;  because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.  We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now;  and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
1 Corinthians 15:26-28 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.  “For God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “All things are put in subjection under him,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things under him.  When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things under him, that God may be everything to every one.
[Pope Francis cited part of 15:28 in the General Audience discussed above, and also the “return of Christ”: when these wonderful things regarding all of creation will occur]
Ephesians 1:10, 22-23 as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. . . .  and he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church,  which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all.
Philippians 3:21 who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself.
Colossians 1:19-20 For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell,  and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Catechism of the Catholic Church:
1042 At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. After the universal judgment, the righteous will reign for ever with Christ, glorified in body and soul. The universe itself will be renewed:
“The Church . . . will receive her perfection only in the glory of heaven, when will come the time of the renewal of all things. At that time, together with the human race, the universe itself, which is so closely related to man and which attains its destiny through him, will be perfectly re-established in Christ.”
1043 Sacred Scripture calls this mysterious renewal, which will transform humanity and the world, “new heavens and a new earth.”632 It will be the definitive realization of God’s plan to bring under a single head “all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth.”
1046 For the cosmos, Revelation affirms the profound common destiny of the material world and man:
“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God . . . in hope because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay. . . . We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
1047 The visible universe, then, is itself destined to be transformed, “so that the world itself, restored to its original state, facing no further obstacles, should be at the service of the just,” sharing their glorification in the risen Jesus Christ.
1048 “We know neither the moment of the consummation of the earth and of man, nor the way in which the universe will be transformed. The form of this world, distorted by sin, is passing away, and we are taught that God is preparing a new dwelling and a new earth in which righteousness dwells, in which happiness will fill and surpass all the desires of peace arising in the hearts of men.”
1060 At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. Then the just will reign with Christ for ever, glorified in body and soul, and the material universe itself will be transformed. God will then be “all in all” (1 Cor 15:28), in eternal life.
Then Chris responded to Jim after I posted the above material (having learned not a thing, or else, too prideful to admit that he was dead-wrong): “I disagree with your appraisal since salvation pertains to people not things. Perhaps the Pope was using imprecise language.”
He continued on: I would urge any interested readers to read that exchange.
They always could by simply following the link to the combox that I provided.
Dave is correct that I edited the very small portion of the comments of mine that he chose to post, though his characterization of my reasons are of his own imagining. I decided that that paragraph introduced matters such as Teilhardism into the discussion that simply didn’t need to be there. Anyway I would add here a couple of responsive points that I made earlier but that Dave didn’t see fit to post but which in the interest of accuracy I submit, should have been included.
This overall article was not intended as a comprehensive dialogue with Chris, but rather, an examination of how some folks interpret one particular phrase of Pope Francis. I used portions of his comments that fit into my purpose. The rest of his comments can be read by anyone in the combox where they were posted.
Dave in his article had linked to a Sandra Magister piece which quoted a portion of that same papal address, and not the address itself, and my point in quoting from Magister was to ask Dave why he didn’t use that particular quote when assessing Lawler’s supposedly selective usage of papal pronouncements. It was but one example from an excellent article by a well respected Vatican reporter. It contains multiple examples in case you don’t think the one I noted was adequate.
I didn’t cite that portion because my exclusive purpose in citing the Magister piece was to document that Scalfari thinks the pope also denies the existence of heaven and purgatory. If I deal with different “controversial” papal quotes that are bandied about, I do it in depth, as I did in this present article — about the very quote that Chris so wanted to see me address, and also with the “No one can be condemned for ever” words that were wildly butchered, because completely removed from context.
I did precisely “say so” in the last thirteen paragraphs of the post of mine (3-30-18) under which you commented. I said Scalfari “has no credibility” and “is off his rocker” and is a “wingnut.” I said it was “bad policy” for the pope to do it and that “it is stupid and unwise PR.” And I went into even more depth in a Facebook post (3-31-18) devoted to the topic of interviews with Scalfari.*
I didn’t see where you called Scalafai a “liar” i.e. one who deliberately manipulates and/or denies the truth, only that you called him “incompetent as a journalist”, “no credibility” and “off his rocker”, none of which equates with deliberate untruth as you accused Lawler of doing.
Nice try. My Facebook post is called, “I Supposedly Think No One Can Criticize a Pope Ever, for Any Reason Whatever? Nope. I Respectfully Criticize the Prudence of His Repeated Interviews with an Atheist Who Lies About Him (Scalfari)”. In it I also write: ” He’s on record not only ‘recording’ that the pope denies hell (which is an outrageous lie and easily refuted), . . .” and “a guy who keeps misrepresenting him in public . . .”
In my Amazon review of Lost Shepherd, I wrote about Scalfari: “Apparently, he has terrible lapses of memory or is deliberately deceiving his readers, since (again) the pope’s utterances elsewhere show that he believes the contrary of what he supposedly ‘expressed.'” I cited those words of mine again in my paper, “Pope Francis, Hell, Phil Lawler, Lies, Damned Lies, . . .”
As I have said over and over, if I was so unfair to Lawler in my five reviews and the condensed Amazon review, then someone ought to be able to demonstrate this by refuting them. But thus far, no one has been willing to touch them with a ten-foot pole. It’s been over three months since the original five were done. I provided documented proof how Lawler lied about the pope and how he was utterly unable to substantiate the grandiose and conspiratorial claims that he makes regarding him. Here are the six papers:
Phil Lawler’s Lost Shepherd: My One-Star Amazon Review [2-26-18]
I submit that perhaps the interpretation of Pope Francis’ words was (as so often) imprecise. And it was because context was utterly neglected, just as it was (in an amazingly dense way) regarding his phrase, “No one can be condemned for ever.” I documented at length that this was butchered by dozens of Catholics and many well-known venues (even including the reputable canonist, Edward Peters), because it was taken wildly out of context: a context that had nothing to do with hell or salvation at all, but rather, with receiving repentant sinners back into full communion with the Church community.
Now we have the same thing again: ignoring of context: the redemption of creation, which is a scriptural concept, too, as shown above. It gets maddeningly frustrating and wearisome, as an apologist, to have to deal again and again with this sort of vapid, inane interpretation, that I had previously thought was confined to fundamentalist Protestants and atheists, in their interpretation of Scripture. Now we find the same unworthy, anti-intellectual tactics applied by Catholics to Pope Francis’ words (reader: please pray for my patience: it hangs by a string).
Once again, we see a violation of a cardinal rule of citing other people’s words (well-known to all 9th grade debating teams): “check the context and determine the writer’s intent.” Other writers and venues that cite Pope Francis’ words, “everything will be saved. Everything” and imply that it means he is teaching universalism and denying hell include gloria.tv (10-21-17), akaCatholic (Louie Verrecchio: reactionary: 10-20-17), and Novus Ordo Watch (sedevacantist: 10-20-17).
We might also note that the Holy Father is addressing Christians in this message. This is actually much more in play than the creation theme. It’s presupposed that Christians are the subject: not all of humanity (i.e., universalism). It’s not an evangelistic message, but an exhortation to Christians (like most of the material in St. Paul’s epistles). This is obvious in its opening:
Today I would like to pause on that dimension of hope that is vigilant waiting. The theme of vigilance is one of the guiding threads of the New Testament. Jesus preaches to his disciples: “Let your loins be girded and your lamps burning, and be like men who are waiting for their master to come home from the marriage feast, so that they may open to him at once when he comes and knocks” (Lk 12:35-36). In this time that follows the Resurrection of Jesus, in which peaceful moments continually alternate with painful moments, a Christian never rests. The Gospel recommends being as servants who never go to sleep until their master has returned.
He continues the theme of Christian discipleship throughout:
Every morning is a blank page on which a Christian begins to write with good works. We have already been saved by Jesus’ redemption, . . . Nothing is more certain, in the faith of Christians, than this “appointment”, this appointment with the Lord, when he shall come. And when this day arrives, we Christians want to be like those servants . . . We must live in anticipation of this encounter! Christians are not made for boredom; if anything, for patience. . . . no situation in which a Christian finds himself is completely resistant to love. . . . If we remain united with Jesus . . . a Christian knows that in that same future there will be Christ’s return. [the lines cited out of context occur in this section] . . . Resignation is not a Christian virtue. . . . it is not Christian to shrug one’s shoulders . . . a Christian is a peacemaker . . . the good which Jesus has given us . . . It is the refrain of every Christian life: in our world we need nothing other than Christ’s caress.
Pope Francis also touched upon the quite scriptural theme of the redemption of creation in his encyclical Laudato si (24 May 2015):
99. In the Christian understanding of the world, the destiny of all creation is bound up with the mystery of Christ, present from the beginning: “All things have been created though him and for him” (Col 1:16). The prologue of the Gospel of John (1:1-18) reveals Christ’s creative work as the Divine Word (Logos). But then, unexpectedly, the prologue goes on to say that this same Word “became flesh” (Jn 1:14). One Person of the Trinity entered into the created cosmos, throwing in his lot with it, even to the cross. From the beginning of the world, but particularly through the incarnation, the mystery of Christ is at work in a hidden manner in the natural world as a whole, without thereby impinging on its autonomy.
100. The New Testament does not only tell us of the earthly Jesus and his tangible and loving relationship with the world. It also shows him risen and glorious, present throughout creation by his universal Lordship: “For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross” (Col 1:19-20). This leads us to direct our gaze to the end of time, when the Son will deliver all things to the Father, so that “God may be everything to every one” (1 Cor 15:28). Thus, the creatures of this world no longer appear to us under merely natural guise because the risen One is mysteriously holding them to himself and directing them towards fullness as their end. The very flowers of the field and the birds which his human eyes contemplated and admired are now imbued with his radiant presence.
I noted above that he cites 1 Corinthians 15:28 in the General Audience now being questioned.
Once again, then — as so often — it’s not the pope’s words that are so massively unclear (though sometimes they are, as with all of us). The problem lies much more so with dim-witted, half-witted, irresponsible, intellectually reckless interpretations of what Pope Francis states: according to prior biases (often, reactionary ones at that). If a person already thinks (based on false premises and disinformation) that Pope Francis denies hell, or is a universalist (as part of being a supposed modernist dissident and subversive), then they will seize upon a word here, a phrase there, that appears at first glance to support their preconceived view, and make hay of it. This is the common effect of strong bias on any topic: be it political or ethical or social or theological.
We all have biases. But we must try our best to be as objective and fair as possible in these matters. There is no reason to believe that Pope Francis has denied hell in the first place (as I have shown), or has asserted universalism, or even denied heaven and purgatory (as the infallible font of wisdom: atheist Scalfari claims he has). Thus, it’s absurd (and unconscionable) to grab a few words out of context, when the overall context and his own previous teaching proves otherwise.