Skip to comments.Papal Infallibility: A Symbolic, Yet Problematic, Term
Posted on 04/29/2012 3:06:06 PM PDT by NYer
Although papal infallibility is commonly found in popular conversation, how well the term is understood is another matter.
“Christ giving Peter the keys of the kingdom” by Pietro Perugino
As Danny Garland, Jr., pointed out in his recent article on The Development of the Dogma of Papal Infallibility, the term papal infallibility has a centuries-old history that stretches from Peter John Olivi, in the thirteenth century, through John Henry Newman, in the nineteenth century, and down to the present. 1
In addition to being a well-known term with a lengthy history, papal infallibility is also highly symbolic: for Roman Catholics, it has often been a badge of self-identitya way of distinguishing themselves from Anglicans, Orthodox and Protestants. Simultaneously, the popes infallibility has been a counter-symbol to those Christians who do not recognize the authority of the Bishop of Rome. Indeed, for many non-Catholic Christians, the term symbolizes everything that is wrong with Roman Catholicism.
Although papal infallibility is commonly found in popular conversation, how well the term is understood is another matter. One of the most entertaining discussions of the issue is found in a pub-scene in James Joyces Dubliners, where a group is stoutly discussing and strenuously defending the infallible teaching of the pope. In Joyces story, Mr. Cunningham summarized the doctrine with Hibernian exuberance: But the astonishing thing is this: Not one of them (the popes), not the biggest drunkard, not the most . . . out-and-out ruffian, not one of them ever preached ex cathedra a word of false doctrine. Now isnt that an astonishing thing? 2
Cunningham went on to claim that one of the two prelates who voted against Pastor Aeternus at the Council was a German Cardinal, by the name of Dowlingpresumably meaning Johann Joseph Ignaz von Döllinger (1799-1890), a German priest-professor at the University of Munich, who was not at Vatican I, but was excommunicated in 1871 for refusing to accept its teachings about infallibility. 3 Although Cunningham and companions can be credited for knowing the essentials of the doctrine, their theological method makes historians and theologians winceat least if they know anything concerning the history and teaching of the First Vatican Council (1869-1870) about infallibility. As John Tracy Ellis once remarked: It is doubtful that any event in the history of the modern Church ever gave rise to a greater flow of misinformation than the [First] Vatican Council. 4
Unfortunately, Ellis was all too right. First of all, contrary to popular belief, Vatican I did not really define infallibility, at least, not in the sense of stating precisely what infallibility is. Rather, the Council described how infallibility is operative. What the Council actually did was to specify the conditions required for pope to exercise this authority of infallibility. He must: (1) Rely on the divine assistance promised to Peter; (2) Act as pastor and teacher of all Christians; and, (3) Invoke his supreme apostolic authority. In addition, the Council limited the type of teachings that can be taught infallibly to matters of faith and morals, held by the whole Church. Only if all these conditions are fulfilled, does the pope enjoy the infallibility given by Christ to the Church. Then, and only then, can such papal definitions be deemed irreformable. 5
Although the First Vatican Council did not give a precise definition of the nature of infallibility, its operative description suggests that the Council understood it to be an endowment or charism given by Christ to the Church, which can only be exercised by the pope under specific conditions. A charism ensures that the teaching of the pope, in a particular instance, is immune from error. In describing this divinely given gift of infallibility, the Councils list of conditions serves a double purpose. First, the list specifies the conditions which must be fulfilled (i.e., if a pope truly wants to mandate a particular doctrine by using the charism of infallibility). Secondly, the list of conditions enables Christians to recognize when a particular teaching is being infallibly taught.
The fact that the vast majority of Church teachings are not taught under this charism does not mean that such teachings are unimportant. They do not have the same importance as teachings deemed infallible, which have a greater binding force, precisely because they are closely connected with the essentials of revelation. 6 Moreover, while teaching the Gospel is a daily responsibility of the Church, only rarely has the Church invoked infallibility in fulfilling its teaching mission. In fact, since Vatican Is declaration on infallibility in 1870, there is only one clear-cut instance where a pope has taught infallibly: Pope Pius XII’s 1950 proclamation of Our Lady’s assumption. 7
Meaning of Infallibilitas
What is absolutely crucial to any discussion about infallibilitybut all too often overlookedis what the term actually means. In English, infallibility has simply been taken from the Latin, infallibilitas, without specifying its meaning. 8 As a result, many people use the term in a rather elastic senseoften meaning immunity from error or inability of making fundamental mistakes in religious matters. While such casual explanations may suffice for popular understandings, they have the potential for creating misunderstandings, among Catholics and other Christians.
In contrast, German-speaking theologians have tried to translate the term. The most common translation has been Unfehlbarkeitinability of erring. However, this term is not completely satisfactory, since it can have a pejorative connotation. Unfehlbar can describe a person who thinks that he is incapable of making mistakes, which is obviously not the case here. Accordingly, unfehlbar can make the not-too-subtle suggestion that it is humanly impossible for anyone, including the pope, to claim to exercise infallibility. Such a dismissive connotation underpinned Hans Küngs attack on infallibility on the centennial of Vatican I in 1970. 9
Some German-speaking theologians, such as Hans Urs von Balthasar, have opted for other understandings of infallibilitas, such as Letzverbindlichkeit, implying that a definitive response can be given to a specific doctrinal question. He states:
Heinrich Fries suggestion of Verbindlichkeit (binding power), which at the highest level can become an ultimate binding power (Letzverbindlichkeit) seems to me certainly worth considering. 10
The merit of interpreting infallibility as ultimate binding power or judicial finality is that a doctrinal decision pronounced under infallibility is finalat least, here and now, for this specific question, unless, and until, new questions are raised.
The understanding of infallibility as judicial finality has sometimes been popularized in American catechetics, comparing doctrinal declarations to decisions of the Supreme Court: whose decisions are judicially final as there is no higher court to which an appeal can be made. So, too, decisions under infallibility are ecclesially final, as a pope, or an ecumenical council, teaching with infallibility, has the definitive word about the specific doctrinal matter under discussion, with no further appeal possible. Nonetheless, change is possible in the future, that is, a new legal question may arise, resulting in the Supreme Court modifying a previous decision. Similarly, a new doctrinal question may be posed, resulting in a new doctrinal decisionnot one contradicting the previous teaching, but one amplifying and developing it.11
In other words, just as judicial finality does not preclude the possibility of the Supreme Court modifying a previous Supreme Court decision, infallibility does not exclude the possibility that a later pope, or later council, might amplify and develop it further, and in that sense, change the doctrinal decisions of their predecessors. In this respect, the answer to one doctrinal question sets the stage for further questions, and for further doctrinal decisions in the future. For example, the responses of the ecumenical councils of the early church to a series of Trinitarian and Christological controversies may be seen as instances of this continual dynamic of definitive decisions, followed by new doctrinal developments and consequent clarifications. 12
While papal infallibility is routinely used, not only in common conversation, but also among theologians, it should be emphasized that the First Vatican Council did not use the term. In fact, Vatican I deliberately changed the heading of the fourth chapter of Pastor Aeternus. The original draft read: the infallibility of the Roman Pontiff, which was changed to: the infallible magisterium of the Roman Pontiff. The importance of this terminological shift is two-fold. First, it avoided the implication that the pope possesses infallibility in such a personal way that all his statements come under infallibility. While Catholics generally take this for granted today, at the time of the First Vatican Council, there were people who felt that any and every doctrinal statement by the pope was a matter of infallibility. The English theologian, W. G. Ward (1812-1882), for example, was famously reported as desiring a daily exercise of infallibility by the pope: I should like a new Papal Bull every morning with my Times at breakfast. 13
Secondly, the reason for preferring the term infallible magisterium is that infallibility can be exercised not only by the pope, but also by the college of bishops in union with him; as the Second Vatican Council taught:
Although the individual bishops do not enjoy the prerogative of infallibility, they nevertheless proclaim Christs doctrine infallibly whenever, even though dispersed through the world, but still maintaining the bond of communion among themselves and with the successor of Peter, and authentically teaching matters of faith and morals, they are in agreement on one position as definitively to be held. 14
Accordingly, just as Vatican I specified a list of conditions that the pope must follow in order to exercise the Churchs infallible magisterium, Vatican II indicated the conditions that the bishops must follow if their teaching is to be considered a collegial exercise of the Churchs infallible magisterium.
Another term, routinely used in discussions about infallibility, is the expression: infallible statements. Again, one must emphasize that this term was not used by Vatican I; rather, the Council used the term irreformable definitions. Many commentators on infallibility have ignored the difference, or have even claimed that the two expressions are equivalent. However, in addition to the need to respect the Churchs official terminology, a casual mixing of terms entails a number of philosophical and theological difficulties. For example, to speak of infallible statements suggests that such statements are absolute. In contrast, most philosophers insist that all statements are historically and culturally conditionedexpressions delimited by a particular time and place, and so not absolute, but relative. Similarly, many theologians today do not want to speak of infallible statements in order to avoid the doctrinal equivalent of biblical literalism: if God did not dictate the Bible word for word, why should one suggest that God dictates doctrinal decisions word for word?
Using terms, like infallible statements or infallible teaching, risks making the doctrine of infallibility both philosophically, and theologically, indefensible. It becomes an easy target for rejection. In effect, defenders of infallible statements, with the best of intentions, can inadvertently become the doctrines enemies, just as defenders of biblical literalism can unwittingly destroy the credibility of the Bible. In contrast, the expression irreformable definitions harmonizes readily with interpreting infallibility as judicial finality or ultimate binding power (Leztverbindlichkeit), as proposed by Hans Urs von Balthazar. 15 Key to this interpretation, however, is the meaning of irreformable definitionswhich, at first glance, would seem to have the same meaning as infallible statements and, therefore, sharing the same philosophical and theological problems.
Why did the First Vatican Council use the term irreformable definitions? Apparently, the Council used this term as a way of rejecting Gallicanismthe seventeenth century doctrinal claim that all papal decisions are subject to the approval of local churches. According to the its proponents, no Vatican ecclesiastical decision could be considered authoritatively final unless, and until, it received the official approval of the Church in France. When Pastor Aeternus is read in the context of Gallicanisman ecclesiological position well-known to the participants at Vatican I, though not so familiar todaythe Council is effectively stating that definitions enunciated by the pope, when exercising infallibility, are not subject to any further approval or appeal. 16 In sum, irreformable definitions are not definitions that are philosophically immutable or theologically unchangeable, but decisions that are judicially final.
Lessons from History
The axiom that: Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it, has been repeatedly exemplified in the numerous discussions about infallibility in the half-century since Vatican II. There is not only a vast amount of material on the teaching of the two Vatican Councils about infallibility, but, unfortunately, many writers on infallibility have discussed what they presume the Church teaches, rather than carefully examining what the Church actually taught. 17 Sadly, there is a great deal that has been written about infallibility showing little or no familiarity with, much less critical analysis of, the texts of the two Vatican councils. Surprising as it may seem, some commentators have proposed interpretations about infallibility without analyzing the conciliar texts, much less studying the history of the Councils.
This failure to do the essential historical-theological homework means that many discussions of infallibility are like the conversation in Dublinerseloquent and entertaining but exaggerated and often erroneousleading some people to find infallible statements everywhere, while leading others to reject infallibility out of hand. Neither an outright denial of infallibility, nor an exaggerated extension of it to all church teachings, really serves anyone well. In effect, the many misconceptions about infallibility effectively distort the Churchs teaching, confuse believers, repel prospective converts, and create unnecessary ecumenical difficulties. 18
Admittedly, changing terminology is always a difficult task. Like overcoming an addiction, one keeps falling back into accustomed habits of speech. Yet papal infallibility is one of those theological terms that has been misinterpreted so often that it might well be worth the effort to replace it with the terminology that Vatican I actually used: the infallible magisterium of the pope. Admittedly, this substitution requires a few more words, and people might be puzzled by the seemingly new terminology, but that reaction might be beneficial. This historical version might succeed in drawing peoples attention to what the two Vatican Councils actually taught, rather than what many people presume the Councils taught.
In addition, terms like infallible statements and infallible teaching might well be replaced with terms like irreformable definitions or teachings of the Churchs infallible magisterium. Again, such substitutions involve a few more words, but their use might prompt people to reflect on what the Churchs teaching really is. Last but not least, in explaining the doctrine of infallibility, it would seem not only appropriate, but extremely beneficial to use the short and succinct description of infallibility found in the Glossary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: The gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church whereby the pastors of the Church, the pope and bishops in union with him, can definitively proclaim a doctrine of faith or morals for the belief of the faithful. 19
I never said that grace is not a free gift from God. It is. But once that gift is received you must use it, not sit on it.
Rom 11:6 And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
Eph 2:5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)
Eph 2:7 That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
Eph 2:9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Eph 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works,
Seems as your understanding of grace is a bit skewed...
Grace is kindness...Grace is favor... Grace has been given to all men...Not just Christians...
The Gift is not grace...The Gift is salvation evidenced by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit...You can not be indwelt with the Holy Spirit unless you are a Christian, born again from above and belong to Jesus Christ, ergo, salvation...
Rom 5:15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
Act 2:38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
The 'Gift' is the Holy Ghost...
Rom 5:15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
The Gift is not grace...The Gift is BY grace, thru faith...
And we will not be able to provide works good enough for God but the Spirit within us will provide the works for us...
Not so difficult to get if you just read and believe God...
If God desires a man to have grace, that man will have grace.
RCs presume they are stronger than the will of God and the actions of the Holy Spirit.
Scripture says grace is free and unmerited. Read Ephesians 1 and 2 and learn who is stronger — God or man.
"IF"? Again you are at odds with 99% of those who call themselves Christian. God gifts Grace to everyone sufficient for their Salvation. Irresistible grace is a fabrication of a French lawyer, not the Holy Spirit. It is a perversion of the concept of efficacious grace. I would encourage you to expand your knowledge beyond the musings of Calvin. Read your whole bible. Then, if you are still interested in the concept of Irresistible Grace read Congregatio de Auxiliis.
Peace be with you.
The RCC over-estimates man and under-estimates God. It is a foolish, anti-scriptural logic.
If God wanted all men to be saved, all men would be saved. He's God. You're not.
Yet you continue to argue that all one needs to do to be saved is to adopt tenets of Calvinism and then to declare themselves saved.
God does want us to be saved. A loving God does not damn anyone to hell, that is the consequence of rejection of Grace by the sinner. Being made in God's image, God gave us free will and the knowledge of the difference between good and evil so that we could freely choose to love him.
Excellently stated point! The gift is NOT grace, itself, but eternal life that God gifts to us by grace through faith. Where so many people go wrong is in thinking that grace is the gift and that, as said in this thread, that we must "use it" or "cooperate" with it in order to somehow merit eternal life. But we cannot ever merit or deserve or earn what God gives to us by His grace. It is on HIS terms, and HE says he gives to us eternal life THROUGH faith in Christ.
I often wonder if the reason so many people struggle with living for the Lord is because they are trying to do it with their own strength out of fear that failing to do "right" will cause them to lose the gift? It is only when we surrender to the indwelling Holy Spirit - recognizing that this is even how we can do the good works God has prepared for us - that we CAN live in holiness the life that brings glory to God. I life that is lived out of gratitude for His unspeakable gift! A gift that He promises He will NEVER rescind or let us lose. He will "in no wise cast us out" (John 6:37).
This is an unnecessary exercise in semantics brought about not by our theologies, but our dependence on English. Grace is a supernatural gift of God to intellectual creatures necessary for their eternal salvation. It is received as articulated in the Eucharistic Doxology' "Per ipsum, et cum ipso, et in ipso," (through Him, and with Him, and in Him).
Peace be to you.
Why "unnecessary"? There sure seems to be a huge gap between what is understood as the "gift" from God and the nature of God in how He deals with humanity. Everything ALL people have from God is because of His grace. It is because of His grace and mercy that we are not destroyed at our first sinful act. It is of Jehovah's lovingkindnesses that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. (Lamentations 3:22)
In Titus 2:11-14, Paul says:
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
But, we know that not all men will respond to this grace and receive the gift of eternal life. Unlike the Roman Catholic doctrine of "infused" grace, Scripture very clearly states that God GIVES to us eternal life, and this life is in His son, Jesus Christ. The righteousness necessary for eternal life in the all holy realm of God is not something humanly possible to achieve and MUST be "imputed" to us through faith. Faith is what is needed to receive the gift of everlasting life.
So, no, I do not agree that it is merely "semantics" brought about by our "dependence" on the English language. God is fully able to communicate the truth of the gospel to ANY person who seeks to know the truth regardless of language.
I'm getting pretty tired of you repeatedly misstating my position. It's a waste of my time.
There is only one criteria for salvation -- not baptism not communion, not a priestly invocation or the hundres of other pseudo requirements Rome concocked to keep men chained to its pretty dresses.
"Be not afraid; only believe." -- Mark 5:36
Belief in Christ as Lord, King, God and Savior is the only "requirement" for salvation. And the ability to comprehend that is God-given as the free gift of the Holy Spirit who renews a man's mind to know the the things of God.
Read the Bible. Leave the man-man hoops behind. Maybe you'll understand, God willing.
a loving God does not damn anyone to hell
lol. Once again we see the RCC is not only illogical, but Scripturally ignorant.
Is Judas in hell?
You believe in hell now?
Not as tired as I am of you misstating the positions of the Church or the meaning of Scripture, my dear sister. But your soul is worth saving so I will keep trying.
"Is Judas in hell?"
That is known only to God, but if he is it is the result of choices he freely made. (You do know that Dante's Divine Comedy is fiction don't you?)
Pax et Bonum.
Yes, but not the hell preached by the Reformation. I believe 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.
Luke 16:19-31 19 There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man's table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side.
24 And he called out, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame. 25 But Abraham said, Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.
27 And he said, Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house 28 for I have five brothersso that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment. 29 But Abraham said, They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them. 30 And he said, No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent. 31 He said to him, If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.
Revelation 20:11-15 11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.
13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.
Revelation 21:8 8 But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.
If you don't believe that an eternal separation from God is far worse than any physical pain or deprivation then I suspect that you don't fully understand God and Heaven.
Peace be with you.
But can you deny that God went out of His way to warn us that hell is much, much more than just separation from Him for eternity? Guys like Christopher Hitchens - though he KNOWS the truth now - imagined that nothing could be worse than having to spend his time worshiping and singing praises to God for all eternity. Scripture most certainly says that there is torment and suffering for eternity and the torments ARE physical and not just spiritual. Though we can and do dread being eternally separated from God's presence, the hatred of God by atheists and the devil with his angels would make them prefer to never have to see Almighty God and such a hell would not be a deterrent at all. No, the example of the rich man and Lazarus shows us that there IS physical torment and suffering in hades and, ultimately, hell. It IS called the "second resurrection", after all.
Yup! Jesus spoke often about death and the eternal separation from God, but He was speaking to a Jewish audience who did not have a complete understanding and appreciation of heaven, hell and an afterlife. Much or Judaism remains this way today. He was trying to relate the consequences of sin and salvation in terms the average first century Jew could understand.
As for me, I cannot imagine anything being worse than an eternal separation from God, certainly not "far worse" and not even a little worse. I see those who fear and are motivated by the avoidance of eternal pain and suffering of valuing their personal well being too highly and failing to fulfill the basic definition of love; which is to will the good for another, completely and unselfishly for the other. Unless your love for Jesus is complete and unselfish, as His was for us, you are not truly loving Him as He commanded. Anything other than that is a disguised form of egotism.
Peace be with you.
NL- That is known only to God, but if he is it is the result of choices he freely made.
Of course it is a result of a choice he freely made. And that's the point. Left to our own devices we will always make the wrong choice. And one slip up is enough to be cast from the presence of God (as Adam found out).
The real question is whether we will make the right choices all the time. I believe Catholic doctrine would even say that Mary was incapable of doing that without God's grace.
Harley, we agree on this, I think. Our efforts to accept Grace and endeavor to not slip up is our cooperation with that Grace. And yes, Mary is full of Grace.
So, in your view, Jesus was bluffing"? All that talk about a "lake of fire and brimstone", "everlasting fire", "torment day and night forever and ever" "everlasting punishment", "everlasting destruction", where the "their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched", "suffering the vengeance of eternal fire", "a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth", "the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death", "being in torments", "place of torments", were just scare tactics to really compel people into being Christians?
You say Jesus "was speaking to a Jewish audience who did not have a complete understanding and appreciation of heaven, hell and an afterlife". That's an astounding admission when you have mocked and criticized people like Smvoice and others, who spoke about the audience of Jesus in the gospels being the Jews and the effect on the context of what he said. I'm pinging a few so they can note your change of mind about this.
Of course the Old Testament Jews did not have as complete an understanding that we do post New Testament writings about heaven and hell, but you would be wrong to claim they did not have a truthful understanding of what God had revealed to them through the Old Testament writings. There are ample verses that speak of both the presence with God and the place of torment. See Isaiah 66:24,
And they shall go forth, and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me: for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be abhorring unto all flesh.
See Isaiah 14:11,15 [referring to Lucifer],
Hell from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming: it stirreth up the dead for thee...all they shall speak and say unto thee, Art thou also become weak as we? art thou become like unto us? Thy pomp is brought down to the grave, and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under thee, and the worms cover thee...thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit.
and Daniel 12:2,
And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and EVERLASTING contempt.
There are many references to "sheol" in the Old Testament and it referred to the place of the dead. Jesus spoke of such a place and said it was two separate compartments. One was a place of torment and the other called "Paradise" or "Abraham's Bosom". Paradise was cleared out at the resurrection, when Jesus "led captivity captive" into heaven. The final hell does not yet exist but will be created at the final judgment and Satan with his angels along with the anti-christ and false prophet along with the all lost will be cast into it for eternity. But you should already know all that.
Are you saying you disagree with your church's teachings about hell? Your Catechism says:
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."617 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.
You have stated many times that your purpose for participating on these threads is to make sure Catholic doctrine is correctly stated. That's why I wonder why you seem to now be contradicting what your church states. I certainly agree that hell's chief punishment is eternity separated from God, and regardless what atheists boast about wanting to not be in God's presence, I fully believe that, once they come to know the truth, they WILL be tormented by forever and ever, never being in the presence of Almighty God nor ever changing their eternity. But, I do not agree that Scripture bluffs and blusters about hell being a REAL place of torment. To skip over that and pretend that it is not true, is to leave out an important factor in God's plan of salvation.