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Hurts and Hopes Regarding the Recent Debates on Hell
Archdiocese of Washington ^ | December 9, 2012 | Msgr. Charles Pope

Posted on 12/10/2012 7:52:39 AM PST by NYer

As most of you know, there has been a rather vivid discussion recently in the blogosphere on the subject of hell. As one who has written rather substantially, on the topic of hell, and our need to recover a more biblical notion regarding judgment and hell, I pray that you will tolerate me adding my own voice to the recent discussions.

Those who read this blog regularly, will know that I have spoken on the topic of Hell on any number of occasions. For example:

The Hell of It ——–Hell Has to Be——Will Many Be Saved? ——–Sinner Please Don’t Let this Harvest Pass ——–The Fire Next Time ——–The Mystery of Iniquity ——–Ignoring Two Words Devastates Evangelization

In all these posts, over the past several years I have argued, that our modern notion that Hell is a remote possibility, and a sentence likely incurred by only a very tiny number, is an unbiblical notion, and one that also runs contrary to almost the whole of Christian Tradition, beginning with the early Fathers of the Church, all the way forward until about 50 years ago.

I was thus very excited and pleased when Dr. Ralph Martin, a great teacher of mine over the years, published his recent book, Will Many be Saved? In this book, as I have already detailed, there is a great survey of the Church’s teaching, and traditional understanding of the topic of judgment and Hell. Ralph Martin also details in a respectful way recent trends, which have influenced a great many Catholics, and others to discount the biblical teaching, as well as the Christian Tradition of over 1900 years, prior to modern reconsideration.

I will not rewrite all the articles that I have referenced above, and re-defend the teaching on Hell, as I have done before, and Ralph Martin has done ably and thoroughly in his book.

But permit just a few summary bullet points:

  1. The biblical teaching, that there is a Hell, and that many go there is in no way ambiguous. When asked directly whether many would be saved Jesus answers soberly, and I would suppose with great sadness, that “many” were on the wide road that led to perdition, and that the road that led to salvation, was narrow, and difficult and that “few” found it.
  2. Jesus the main source – No one loves us more than Jesus Christ, and no one has worked more to save us than Jesus Christ. Yet no one spoke of Hell more than Jesus Christ, or warned of judgment with greater sobriety.
  3. Words mean things – However one may wish to interpret the biblical data, “many” does not mean few, and “few” does not mean many.
  4. Hell is, in a sense, necessary if human freedom is to have any meaning. All while Hell has mysterious aspects, understanding its existence must be rooted in the fact that God respects the freedom he has given us, even if he may regret the choices we make. But we are summoned to love, and love requires freedom, and freedom requires that our choices be about real things.
  5. That hell is an eternal reality is also mysterious, but is caught up in the mystery of the eternity itself. It would seem that as we move from this temporal world toward eternity, our decisions become forever fixed and final.
  6. Devastating – It does not require an advanced degree in sociology to understand that, to remove the unambiguous biblical teaching on the very real and possible outcome of Hell, is to remove strong motivation to seek a Savior and salvation. It is therefore no surprise that as the teaching on Hell has been largely set aside by the modern world, that recourse to the sacraments, prayer, Church attendance and any number of spiritual remedies have suffered significant declines during the same period.
  7. More can be read, if you wish, in the articles I have written elsewhere, referenced above.

In the current discussion taking place in the blog is here, I have this particular regret. Namely, that a man and a priest I admire greatly, Father Robert Barron holds the position he currently does on this topic.

To some extent, I have seen an evolution, on the part of Father Barron, on this topic in the past few years. One of my early blog posts on the topic of Hell, and why it is a reasonable teaching, actually made use of a video by Father Barron wherein he articulates quite well the reasonableness of the Biblical teaching. It is true, that at the end of the video he does brook the notion that we don’t know if anyone is specifically in Hell, but he does not dismiss the notion either, and leaves the matter sufficiently vague, such that his vigorous defense of the reasonableness of Hell is not undermined. (I have posted that earlier video below).

But in more recent years Father Barron has seem to move more steadily toward the notion, that Hell is largely unpopulated and that the Lord’s teaching that many go there is largely to be set aside in favor of other notions relating to His mercy.

In his recent critique of Ralph Martin’s book, Fr. Barron states his fundamental objection to Martin’s reiteration of Church teaching and of Lumen Gentium 16. In effect Barron references Spe Salvi, 45-47 wherein Pope Benedict seems to suppose that few are in Hell and that the great majority of humanity will ultimately be saved.

Father Barron concludes,

It seems to me that Pope Benedict’s position — affirming the reality of Hell but seriously questioning whether that the vast majority of human beings end up there — is the most tenable and actually the most evangelically promising.

Ralph Martin ably answers father Barron’s critique, HERE, but the heart of his answer is that the Pope’s reflections are in the form of a supposition. Pope Benedict says in effect, that we “may suppose” that the great majority of people end up eventually in heaven. Hence, the Holy Father does not formally or solemnly teach contrary to either the biblical teaching, or to Lumen Gentium 16, but simply permits us to suppose that many in fact will be ultimately saved. In this context, Martin writes in his book that he hopes that the Pope can further clarify his remarks at some point in the future. But Martin in no way simply sets aside the Pope’s remarks.

But Here’s the Problem: In this regard, the fact that Father Barron then consigns Ralph Martins position as analogous to dissent directed against Humanae Vitae, is, I would argue, unnecessary, excessive and hurtful. It is far from the kind of balanced and careful analysis I have come to admire about Father Barron. Father Barron’s exact quote that most troubles me is,

….but one of the most theologically accomplished popes in history, writing at a very high level of authority, has declared that we oughtn’t to hold that Hell is densely populated. To write this off as “remarks” that require “clarification” is precisely analogous to a liberal theologian saying the same thing about Paul VI’s teaching on artificial contraception in the encyclical Humanae Vitae.

I don’t think this is a carefully thought-out quote by Father Barron. And it surprises me greatly. I personally hope the Father Barron would consider the excessiveness of his judgment here, and issue his own clarification. Ralph Martin is merely requesting clarification regarding the “supposition” of the Pope. He is not a dissenter and to suggest that he is this such, is unjust

Frankly, it pains me to have to write this. I have been, and remain a great fan of Father Barron. I have used almost every one of his video productions, and I podcast his homilies. I hope for a more balanced critique, and clarification of his remarks in the near future.

Ralph Martin is a good Catholic, a great man of the Church. His book, written many years ago, entitled Crisis of Truth, was a great instrument of my own rediscovery of the need for orthodoxy and clarity in an age of confusion and true dissent.

I realize that I am not of the caliber of either one of these men, and perhaps my remarks here should, and will go largely unobserved. I write more as a great admirer of both these men.

Perhaps, in the end, Michael Vorris has the best take on this Internet debate. In his view is that, thanks be to God that Catholics are even talking about Hell anymore. The topic, even the word, has largely been off the Catholic radar for far too long. As one who was written more than a few times on the topic in the past four years, a common response I get, is, “Are you crazy? No one believes in hell anymore.” And thus, that we can even be discussing the topic is, of itself, some progress. I have included forces video below as well.

I do pray for clarification, from Father Barron. I also, with Ralph Martin, hope for greater clarification from the Pope, regarding his “supposition” in Spe Salvi 45–47. I with Martin, ask this only in greatest respect. I too am a loyal son of the Church and I seek to be taught, that I may come to greater understanding of what the Pope’s supposition means in the light of Scripture, Tradition, and Lumen Gentium 16.


TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; Ministry/Outreach; Moral Issues; Theology
KEYWORDS: devil; frbarron; hades; hell; jesus; msgrcharlespope; perdition; ralphmartin; roadtoperdition; satan
Fr. Barron comments on Hell

To watch the Michael Vorris video, follow the link at the top of the thread.

1 posted on 12/10/2012 7:52:46 AM PST by NYer
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To: netmilsmom; thefrankbaum; Tax-chick; GregB; saradippity; Berlin_Freeper; Litany; SumProVita; ...
Of course, one need look no further than the words of St. Faustina.

"I, Sister Faustina Kowalska, by the order of God, have visited the Abysses of Hell so that I might tell souls about it and testify to its existence...the devils were full of hatred for me, but they had to obey me at the command of God, What I have written is but a pale shadow of the things I saw. But I noticed one thing: That most of the souls there are those who disbelieved that there is a hell." (Diary 741)
FULL TEXT - Sister Faustina's Vision of Hell

2 posted on 12/10/2012 7:55:07 AM PST by NYer ("Before I formed you in the womb I knew you." --Jeremiah 1:5)
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To: NYer
“Are you crazy? No one believes in hell anymore.”

Guess I'm finally a one-percenter.

3 posted on 12/10/2012 8:05:18 AM PST by steve86 (Acerbic by Nature, not NurtureĀ™)
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To: steve86
I notice that in the post, Hell is sometimes capitalized and sometimes not. I read that in one of his novels, John Updike capitalized it. The copy editor turned it to lower case. Updike allegedly wrote back, "Hell is a place. Like Scarsdale."
4 posted on 12/10/2012 8:10:36 AM PST by JoeFromSidney ( New book: RESISTANCE TO TYRANNY. Buy from Amazon.)
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To: NYer

Am I missing something here? I am a baby Catholic (though not a baby Christian) so I’m very amenable to correction.

In the debate about whether souls are presently in hell or not, both sides appear to be referring to a completely earthly notion of time. But constructs like time and space (= particular defined places) exist only within the Universe. God, heaven, and hell are not in the Universe. It’s not useful to think about those eternal places and Persons in terms that were devised for the convenience of humans’ limited little earth-bound biological brains.

Yes, there is a hell, but we probably can’t circumscribe how things outside of time and space work in practical terms. I just trust the Lord, and with fear and trembling contemplate the visions of hell we have been vouchsafed.


5 posted on 12/10/2012 8:11:44 AM PST by ottbmare (The OTTB Mare)
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To: NYer

“That most of the souls there are those who disbelieved that there is a hell.” (Diary 741)” If this is true, guess I’ll see you in hell. How can man, who is but a blip on the continuum of time, be so arrogant as to think there is a heaven or a hell just for him/her, what utter nonsense. But for those who believe don’t let me rain on your parade, keep believing and maybe, just maybe, tinker bell will live.


6 posted on 12/10/2012 8:21:26 AM PST by greyfox (If I were a Democrat I'd be pushing for the fairness doctrine too.)
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To: ottbmare

At last, someone who has the answers. Did you get them directly from some supreme being or did you just make them up. When theorizing about time, space, heaven, hell, God and angels, the imagination is not constrained to anything in particular and therefore may wander into untold areas of assumption and conjecture. My own version of these things is: What if this life is all there is? Would that be so bad?
I was not, I was, I am not. Clear consice and easy to follow. From darkness, through life, to darkness. Put it in any terms you wish but you won’t change the simplicity of it all. You may not want to accept it but you won’t change it.


7 posted on 12/10/2012 8:35:27 AM PST by greyfox (If I were a Democrat I'd be pushing for the fairness doctrine too.)
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To: ottbmare
I just trust the Lord, and with fear and trembling contemplate the visions of hell we have been vouchsafed.

Ditto! Even simpler - if Christ says Hell exists, it exists -period.

8 posted on 12/10/2012 8:39:39 AM PST by NYer ("Before I formed you in the womb I knew you." --Jeremiah 1:5)
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To: greyfox

So...there is supposed to be a God who sends those who disbelieve in him/she/it (or whatever label or name) to be tortured FOREVER in a pit of fire along with evil/insane humans who kill and torture their victims here on Earth. Doesn’t that make God an insanely cruel being and WORSE than the most evil human on Earth? And then he/she/it is known as LOVE? Love can’t do that.

This false belief comes from a Bible translated in 1600AD by Italians for the government religion in power at the time from Greek and Hebrew writings and people STILL take it for truth. Amazing.

I will not stay around on this thread long enough to hear from all the religious group, but know that I love you all and hope you will come to understand that the true Source of All, our Creator lives in all of us and we each decide to let that LOVE manifest or to live apart from it in various degrees, but you can see Love in others; you can see God in others by looking for Unconditional love in them.


9 posted on 12/10/2012 9:11:12 AM PST by omegabea
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To: NYer
Will Christians in heaven pity those in hell?

Or will they delight in seeing their suffering, as Aquinas and Jonathan Edwards (among others) have claimed?

I'm having a hard time imagining myself seeing both my loving, atheist parents in eternal torment and being moved to transports of joy at the sight.

10 posted on 12/10/2012 9:31:46 AM PST by Notary Sojac (Only liberals believe that people can be made virtuous via legislative enactment.)
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To: NYer

Considering that this topic represents a debate between Catholics, do you think you might want to make this a Catholic Forum post? It seems to be inviting a lot of anger and bitterness from the non-Catholics, heat without light. I’ll pray for them but can’t argue with them this afternoon from work.


11 posted on 12/10/2012 9:38:21 AM PST by ottbmare (The OTTB Mare)
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To: omegabea
"This false belief comes from a Bible translated in 1600AD by Italians for the government religion in power at the time from Greek and Hebrew writings and people STILL take it for truth. Amazing."

Could you expand a bit more on this? Any sources to cite, etc?

12 posted on 12/10/2012 9:42:45 AM PST by Sam's Army
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To: NYer

One needs to look just a bit further to the Scriptures to see Faustina’s vision conflicts with the Bible and is false.


13 posted on 12/10/2012 9:53:17 AM PST by count-your-change (You don't have to be brilliant, not being stupid is enough.)
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To: greyfox
"How can man, who is but a blip on the continuum of time, be so arrogant as to think there is a heaven or a hell just for him/her, what utter nonsense"

Apart from God, man is the only being who can concieve of the concept of "time" aso that's a pretty significate "blip". The universe itself contemplates nothing. So, given the lessons of scripture, I don't see the reality of hell as being "arrogant" or "nonsense" at all. No matter how may times you say it without offering any evidence or objective argument to back the assertion up.

14 posted on 12/10/2012 10:10:29 AM PST by circlecity
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To: count-your-change
One needs to look just a bit further to the Scriptures to see Faustina’s vision conflicts with the Bible and is false.

How so? Rev. 20:10

15 posted on 12/10/2012 1:39:25 PM PST by NYer ("Before I formed you in the womb I knew you." --Jeremiah 1:5)
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To: NYer

No, Acts 2:31. Rev. 20:10 is by its very language figurative and hence the lake of fire is not hell where Jesus was for three days.


16 posted on 12/10/2012 2:25:56 PM PST by count-your-change (You don't have to be brilliant, not being stupid is enough.)
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To: count-your-change
Fine ...

In Matt. 25:41, Jesus says, "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels." He reinforces this statement in Matt. 25:46, when He say "they will go away into eternal punishment" which is in reference to this eternal fire.

In Mark 9:47-48 - Jesus refers to hell as where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. It lasts forever. This terminology is originally found in Isaiah 66:24 - their worm shall not die and their fire shall not be quenched. We cannot fathom the pain of this eternal separation from God.

Hell is a real place. Worse yet, those condemned will spend eternity there.

17 posted on 12/10/2012 3:43:36 PM PST by NYer ("Before I formed you in the womb I knew you." --Jeremiah 1:5)
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To: NYer
Hurts and Hopes Regarding the Recent Debates on Hell
The Hell of It. A Short Teaching on Hell
Dream of Saint John Bosco: to Hell and Back

Archbishop Chaput addresses the reality of Satan
Letter from Beyond
Catholic Word of the Day: GEHENNA (Hinnom, 10-17-11
To hell with Hell?
Gehenna
Hell Has to Be
The eternity of hell
Hell Is Not Empty and Pedophile Priests Will Go There" (Why Preaching on Hell is Salutary)
The Eternity of Hell
The Four Last Things: Hell

Catholic Caucus: HELL EXISTS AND WE MIGHT GO THERE!
John Calvin’s Worst Heresy: That Christ Suffered in Hell
Natural Calamities Divine Threats & Four Gates of Hell The four Principal Gates of Hell : I Hatred
Pope speaks with priests from his diocese about Heaven and Hell
Whatever Became of Hell? (HAS THE UNQUENCHABLE FIRE BEEN QUENCHED )
One Man's Visit to Hell
A Brief Catechism for Adults - Lesson 11: Hell
A Question Of Hell (One Minister Questions Its Existence)
Pope says hell and damnation are real and eternal
The fires of Hell are real and eternal, Pope warns

The Early Church Fathers on Hell - Catholic/Orthodox Caucus
IS THE NEW MASS ‘SOFT ON HELL’?
Heaven and hell seem to be forgotten
Which circle of Hell do You belong in?
"To Hell with Hell!": The Spiritual Dumbing Down of the Generations
Reflecting on Hell: Sermon for the First Sunday in Advent
The Reality of Satan and the Victory of Jesus and Mary (an Exorcist speaks out)
Beware the Serpent’s Promises
Americans Describe Their Views About Life After Death(Only One 1/2 of 1% Think They Are Hell-Bound)
Sister Faustina's Vision of Hell

18 posted on 12/10/2012 3:47:33 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: count-your-change

Check your Bible — you will find that Christ mentions Hell much more than heaven.

Look for the words:
hell
Sheol
Gehenna
underworld
netherworld

This was verified with an internet search by my priest one flight when he had jet lag and could not sleep.

Yes, Christ talks about hell a lot!


19 posted on 12/10/2012 3:51:40 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: count-your-change

I just remembered another one:

Hades


20 posted on 12/10/2012 3:52:35 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: count-your-change
Some more references:

Scripture

Matt. 3:12; Luke 3:17 - John the Baptist said the Lord will burn the chaff with unquenchable fire. This unquenchable fire is the state of eternal separation from God, which the Church has called "hell" for 2,000 years. Some Protestant communities no longer acknowledge the reality of hell.

Matt. 25:41 - Jesus says, "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels."

Matt. 25:46 - Jesus says, "they will go away into eternal punishment" which is in reference to this eternal fire.

Mark 9:47-48 - Jesus refers to hell as where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. It lasts forever.

2 Thess. 1:6-9 - the angels will come with flaming fire and the disobedient will suffer punishment of eternal destruction. It is important to note that "destruction" does not mean "annihilation," as some Protestant denominations teach. It means eternal exclusion from the presence of God.

Jude 6-7 - the rebelling angels, and Sodom and Gomorrah, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

Rev. 14:11 - the worshipers of the beast suffer and the smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever.

Rev. 20:10 - they're tormented in the lake of fire and brimstone day and night forever and ever.

Isaiah 33:14 - "Who of us can dwell in the everlasting fire?" This is a reference to hell which is forever.

Isaiah 66:24 - their worm shall not die and their fire shall not be quenched. We cannot fathom the pain of this eternal separation from God.

Jer. 15:14 - in my anger a fire is kindled which shall burn forever. Hell is the proper compliment to the eternal bliss of heaven.

Judith 16:17 - in the day of judgment the Lord will take vengeance on the wicked and they shall weep in pain forever. Hell is a place that sinners have prepared for themselves by rejecting God, who desires all people to be saved in His Son Jesus Christ. God sends no one to hell.


21 posted on 12/10/2012 3:55:31 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

Jesus suffered all those things in hell? Peter left that out I guess.


22 posted on 12/10/2012 4:00:33 PM PST by count-your-change (You don't have to be brilliant, not being stupid is enough.)
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To: count-your-change

What do you mean?

In the Apostles’ Creed we say, “He descended into hell, and on the third day he arose again from the dead.”

The hell that Christ went to was more like the Purgatory/Paradise — a waiting place for those who were heaven-bound, but could not enter heaven, because Christ was the first one into heaven


23 posted on 12/10/2012 4:06:17 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
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To: Salvation

“The hell that Christ went to was more like the Purgatory/Paradise”

Nope. The Scriptures do not teach a purgatory and paradise is never associated with hell.


24 posted on 12/10/2012 5:41:03 PM PST by count-your-change (You don't have to be brilliant, not being stupid is enough.)
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To: count-your-change
The first mention of Purgatory in the Bible is in 2 Maccabees 12:46: “Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from sin.”

n the New Testament In Matthew 5:26 Christ is condemning sin and speaks of liberation only after expiation. “Amen, I say to you, you will not be released until you have paid the last penny.” Now we know that no last penny needs to be paid in Heaven and from Hell there is no liberation at all; hence the reference must apply to a third place.


25 posted on 12/11/2012 5:36:07 AM PST by marine86297 (I'll never forgive Clinton for Somalia, my blood is on his hands)
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To: marine86297
Maccabees is not part of the Bible (a point adequately covered in past threads) and Matt. 5:26 is discussing settling differences with others not some purgatory.

Acts 2:31 says Christ was resurrected from hell.

26 posted on 12/11/2012 6:21:21 AM PST by count-your-change (You don't have to be brilliant, not being stupid is enough.)
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To: count-your-change

Just because you say Maccabees is not part of the Bible does not make it so, regardless of what past threads have covered. It is part of the Bible, maybe you don’t “recognize” Maccabees to justify your own non-belief in the concept of purgatory.


27 posted on 12/11/2012 10:39:19 AM PST by marine86297 (I'll never forgive Clinton for Somalia, my blood is on his hands)
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To: marine86297
What the Bible does teach is repentance, Christ's sacrifice and God's forgiveness removes sin not being “purged” somewhere.
Therefore Maccabees is false, therefore not part of the Bible.
The doctrine of purgatory is invention of those whose didn't and won't believe what the Bible teaches.

And you did say there was no liberation from hell. Changed your mind on that or have you forgotten?

28 posted on 12/11/2012 11:25:39 AM PST by count-your-change (You don't have to be brilliant, not being stupid is enough.)
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To: count-your-change
No mind changing here, you'll need to read my reply again to clarify my point.

Apparently we'll have to agree to dis-agree on this subject.
29 posted on 12/12/2012 5:06:16 AM PST by marine86297 (I'll never forgive Clinton for Somalia, my blood is on his hands)
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To: circlecity

“So, given the lessons of scripture, I don’t see the reality of hell as being “arrogant” or “nonsense” at all. No matter how may times you say it without offering any evidence or objective argument to back the assertion up”.

You ask me for evidence yet your only “evidence” is scripture, which is really no evidence at all, only words written by people who lived somewhere in the past. I stand by me assertion: “How can man, who is but a blip on the continuum of time, be so arrogant as to think there is a heaven or a hell just for him/her, what utter nonsense”


30 posted on 02/22/2013 6:50:34 AM PST by greyfox (If I were a Democrat I'd be pushing for the fairness doctrine too.)
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To: circlecity

“So, given the lessons of scripture, I don’t see the reality of hell as being “arrogant” or “nonsense” at all. No matter how may times you say it without offering any evidence or objective argument to back the assertion up”.

You ask me for evidence yet your only “evidence” is scripture, which is really no evidence at all, only words written by people who lived somewhere in the past. I stand by my assertion: “How can man, who is but a blip on the continuum of time, be so arrogant as to think there is a heaven or a hell just for him/her, what utter nonsense”


31 posted on 02/22/2013 6:51:09 AM PST by greyfox (If I were a Democrat I'd be pushing for the fairness doctrine too.)
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To: greyfox
"You ask me for evidence yet your only “evidence” is scripture, which is really no evidence at all, only words written by people who lived somewhere in the past."

So on that basis I gues we just reject the reality of any history at all? Yet there is more historical evidence of Jesus, Heaven and Hell than of Caesar, Alexander, Cleopatra or Hannibal. But is guess those are just "words written by someone in the past" too. Bwhahahaha.

32 posted on 02/22/2013 7:24:11 AM PST by circlecity
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