Tuesday, June 26, 2012

THE HELL YOU SAY? THE NEED TO RECOVER THE HERMENEUTIC OF CONTINUITY CONCERNING THE ETERNAL FIRES OF HELL

My Comment (UPDATED): A study of the propers and orations of the Extraordinary Form Mass versus the Ordinary Form Mass reveals a underemphasis on hell and damnation. The traditional Missal contains 1182 orations. About 760 of those were dropped entirely from the New Mass. Of the approximately 36% which remained, the revisers altered over half of them before introducing them into the new Missal. Thus, only some 17% of the orations from the Traditional Mass made it untouched into the New Mass. What’s also striking is the content of the revisions that were made to the orations. The Traditional Orations which described the following concepts were specifically modified from the New Missal: the depravity of sin; the snares of wickedness; the grave offense of sin; the way to perdition; terror in the face of God’s fury; God’s indignation; the blows of His wrath; the burden of evil; temptations; wicked thoughts; dangers to the soul; enemies of soul and body. Also eliminated were orations which described: the hour of death; the loss of heaven; everlasting death; eternal punishment; the pains of Hell and its fire. Special emphasis was made to abolish from the New Mass the orations which described detachment from the world; prayers for the departed; the true Faith and the existence of heresy; the references to the Church militant, the merits of the saints, miracles and Hell.

The loss of the fear of damnation, can this account for Catholics gone wild both clergy and laity? I report, you decide!




The study, appearing in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS ONE, found that criminal activity is lower in societies where people's religious beliefs contain a strong punitive component than in places where religious beliefs are more benevolent.

A country where many more people believe in heaven than in hell, for example, is likely to have a much higher crime rate than one where these beliefs are about equal.

The finding surfaced from a comprehensive analysis of 26 years of data involving 143,197 people in 67 countries.

'The key finding is that, controlling for each other, a nation's rate of belief in hell predicts lower crime rates, but the nation's rate of belief in heaven predicts higher crime rates, and these are strong effects,' said Azim F. Shariff, professor of psychology and director of the Culture and Morality Lab at the UO.

'I think it's an important clue about the differential effects of supernatural punishment and supernatural benevolence. The finding is consistent with controlled research we've done in the lab, but here shows a powerful 'real world' effect on something that really affects people - crime.'

Last year, in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, Shariff reported that undergraduate students were more likely to cheat when they believe in a forgiving God than a punishing God.


20 comments:

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Well, duh...so, we needed the lab boys to tell us this? Of course, they just see it as a sociological phenomenon...they find "religion" merely useful as a social/moral restraint. Christians understand the theological truth behind such social observations...or, at least, some still do. Hey, you mean judgement might really be real...seriously? Damn...

Henry Edwards said...

Talk about correlations. Has any behavioral phenomenon in human history exhibited a higher correlation between cause and effect, than when in the 1970s priests and religious went wild (sexually, liturgically, and other wise) when suddenly they thought they were released from previous strictures under pain of damnation.

Anonymous said...

Just look at all the modern Bible translations... "gates of hell" is removed and replaced with "jaws of death", "powers of death", "gates of the netherworld", "gates of (pagan) hades". In the NAB, "hell" is removed completely, and replaced with gehenna. So, if hell is removed from the Bible, what do you expect will happen?

Anonymous 5 said...

Point 1: A few years I saw a study documenting how many people think they're going to heaven versus how many think they're going to hell. The former are up around 70%; the latter amount to 1%.

Point 2: In my experience, those of a kumbaya, God-doesn't-judge-but-only-forgives persuasion who hadn't ever been taught about hell and evil (not seriously, that is) aren't equipped to handle evil when it confronts them. On 11 September, my wife and I both independently saw co-workers of this sort nearly have a breakdown (in my case a co-worker literally--literally--went into hysterics). My conclusion is that a faith that doesn't seriously discuss the possibility of evil, and its corollary hell, does its adherents a grave disservice, preparing them neither for this world nor the world to come. And modern so-called Catholicism has followed this course in ignoring two of the four last things (judgment and hell), while society at large does its best to downplay a third (death).

Point 3: Yet modernists--at least some of the rage-filled ones, such as feminist nuns--definitely do believe in hell, since my guess is that many of them wish orthodox Catholics to go there.

Shelly said...

In my largely unsuccessful attempts to build a group to pray the Rosary regularly, I have encountered this phenomenon. Perhaps I am sheltered, because I was quite shocked to hear one person didn't want to pray the Fatima Prayer because they didn't believe in hell, and one other person said she believed people who were in hell would eventually be allowed into Heaven because God is merciful. I stood there with my mouth open, speechless, wondering if maybe I had entered some alternate reality version of the Church!

Anonymous said...

Oh, hell. I forgot what I was going to say...

Henry Edwards said...

Here's the specific correlation for you. The ancient Mass--not catechetics, not seminaries and religious education, not the Bible, not wonderful priests, not great sermons--sustained Catholic faith and culture for hundreds of years. By 1966 or 1967 in many or most places, the usus antiquor was only a memory. As was Catholic faith and culture, within a decade or less. And those of us who lived through that decade as attentive Catholic adults know that among ordinary pew-sitters, there was no hint of a collapse of the faith until after the collapse of the liturgy that had been its bulwark. Cardinal Ratzinger knew this when he said that the crisis in the faith is a result of the disintegration of the liturgy.

Anonymous 2 said...

Anon. 5: A rhetorical question -- How can anyone with the slightest familiarity with human history, or even contemporary events, not believe in the reality of evil? September 11 was certainly a terrible shock but hardly atypical of the horrific things humans can do to one another.

Shelly: The notion that a merciful God would so arrange matters that eventually even those in Hell might be saved is perhaps not quite so outlandish when one recalls (assuming I am indeed recalling correctly) that, even though it is not orthodoxy, such a view was held by certain Church Fathers such as Origen.

I have a general question: Is it also possible that there has been a decline in the belief in Hell partly because the traditional portrayals of that state no longer seemed credible (see, e.g., the painting)? And, if so, is there a way of communicating its meaning in way that is more credible to modern ears?

Personally, I would like to be able to think there is no Hell, but am afraid there is, and thank God for Purgatory.

ytc said...

The Church has no one to blame but its own priests and prelates.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Uh, Origen is hardly the person to consult on matters of orthodoxy...

Shelly said...

Anon 2: Thanks for the correction; I didn't know this belief was once held by Origen - I'll look it up. A large part of my disbelief may have been from whom it came: they of the "Gather us In" group.

As a child of Vatican II, I freely admit to not knowing much of what I probably should know; but as a rather strange child, I picked up and loved and learned from my Mother's 1962 Missal. So much of what I remember and "know" is from that beloved book. It is still on my bookshelf.

Anonymous 2 said...

Hello, Gene. Well, of course, I didn’t mean to suggest that he was. Hence: “even though it is not orthodoxy. . .”

My point is that many views seem outlandish when regarded with the kind of 20/20 hindsight that results from many centuries of orthodox belief and practice. At the time Origen formulated his views, however, I believe that Christianity was in a phase when certain positions had not yet been established as orthodoxy. Thus certain views would not necessarily have been regarded as heretical at the time, only later.

If I am not mistaken, Saint Thomas ran into a similar problem several centuries later, when some leading Churchmen condemned some of his views as heretical. But Church history has been kinder to Saint Thomas than to Origen. And, of course, as Catholics we believe that the distillation of views (sorting out the chaff views from the wheat views, so to speak) occurs under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

As always, please provide any correction that may be necessary.

So, Kelly, as you can tell, I am also a child of Vatican II, with huge gaps in my knowledge and understanding, but it is exciting to try to fill them.

Anonymous 2 said...

P.S. My apologies -- Shelly, not Kelly. Perhaps I should first learn to read =).

Marc said...

Yeah, there is a fine line on these things - those in hell cannot be saved. Is anyone in hell? We don't know and let's hope not, but hell is real. And if there is anyone there, they are beyond the assistance of our prayers.

Perhaps we should discuss the reality of limbo of the infants in this connection - a truth of faith so readily disregarded by the enemies of the Church who propose there is no hell. They hold a position not supported by Catholic thought and easily refuted by recourse to Catholic logic. It is a dangerous position that undermines the existence of hell and the reality of original sin... Yet, many, even priests, do not believe in this reality because they have not been properly instructed in Catholic philosophy.

Anonymous 5 said...

anon2: It's been a long day but I'll try my best to answer your rhetorical question with what I've got left. :-)

My guess is that the "evil" that the 1960's generation was most familiar with was a type of depersonalized, institutional evil, such as "war" or "world hunger" or "the military-industrial complex." This sort of evil has two characteristics that immediately occur to me. First, it tends to be more diffuse and thus less experientially "real." To paraphrase Stalin, one starving child is a tragedy, but a million are a statistic. Second, it encourages someone to hate evil divorced from people. While it's true that we should hate the sin and not the sinner, it's also true that sinners--i.e., human beings--are at least the conduit if not the cause of evil. Even in cases of demonic possession, a human being is a crucial instrument in the process. The "social gospel" idea of the institution as the evil either intentionally or negligently obscures that fact, glossing over ideas such as original sin, concupiscence, material cooperation with evil, and ultimately sin itself. And without sin, of course, there's no need for judgment or hell. Instead we're all victims or hospital patients, if you will, and not criminals.

Thus, when confronted not by an abstraction or a (for lack of a better term) run of the mill image of starving children, but by an anomalous graphic image of an airplane flown by a human being into a building, building burning and falling down, etc., these 1960s folks confront a notion of evil with which which their social gospel theology hasn't acquainted them and for which it hasn't prepared them.

I recall from my own youth the discontinuity between the kumbaya stuff I was told in church about God and love at church and the graphic scenes of violence I saw on the evening news, such as a naked Cambodian girl running down the road while on fire from a US napalm strike.

As a result of this I learned early on not to trust kumbaya theology. To this day, consequently, I revile the word "love" in any context, since I find it to be groovy, squishy, etc. I much prefer the word "caritas," since unlike "love" it hasn't been co-opted and bastardized by the groovy generation.

Anonymous 2 said...

Anon 5: As it was a rhetorical question, I was not necessarily expecting an answer. However, the answer you give is a good one I think. Thanks for taking the time at the end of a long day.

Perhaps one can add that when we_are_exposed to personally mediated evil nowadays, it is so often in a stylized form purveyed by Hollywood and thus once again depersonalized because fictitious. And I don’t suppose that the cultural phenomenon of “entertainment news” helps very much either.

In terms of my rhetorical question, then, perhaps the answer is that when evil is presented in all these ways, we are not really familiar with human history or contemporary events after all.

Gene W. (formerly Pin) said...

Anon 5, Very succinct and fine response.
Anon 2, I don't see that you and I have much disagreement here.

Anonymous 5 said...

Anon2 and Gene, many thanks.

A couple of other things occurred to me in this vein. First, a law school common reference for Anon2: the trial advocacy or moot court practice of framing the dispute in such a way as to depersonalize the opposition, e.g. the sweet little old lady v. the soulless corporation, etc. In war, the same process tends to take place since it makes killing easier (e.g. the Yanks, the Rebs, the Japs, the gooks, etc.).

The other point is the constant appeal to and prayer for (even in the intercessory prayers) to this thing called "social justice." This, too, is a depersonalized abstract that does away with each Mass attendant's responsibility. I would much rather pray that each person present act with caritas towards each person s/he meets in the following week as well as seeking out and helping poor, sick, and friendless people in the coming week.

By avoiding the term "social justice" we'd also have the advantage of realizing that 1) we're never going to achieve social justice (at least if that's what Christ was telling us when he said that the poor we also have with us) and 2) we're certainly not going to achieve it by our own human efforts (the social gospel equivalent of pelagianism).

Anonymous 2 said...

Thanks for those additional thoughts, Anon 5. I may have something to add on social justice, which I agree is an abstract slogan that, like so many other such abstractions flitting about on the wall of our Cave, often operates as a substitute for hard thinking, but I do not have time now to formulate my thoughts properly. Perhaps later on this evening. . .

Anonymous 2 said...

Here is one additional thought about “social justice.” Granted that the term is so often a short-cut for thinking, and granted that we can argue about the details (both with respect to ends and means), but again I have found John Finnis’s insights to be very helpful here (I have just referenced his classic work Natural Law and Natural Rights (1980) in a comment to another post on the Blog).

Thus, in responding to Robert Nozick, Finnis argues that our focus on state coercion is misleading because what is really at stake are the duties we_already_ owe to one another as a matter of distributive justice. Thus he says (at pp. 186-88):

"A primary concern of Nozick’s “Anarchy, State, and Utopia” is to argue that once anyone has justly acquired capacities, endowments, or holdings (property, etc.), it is unjust for anyone, including the State, to deprive him of any of those holdings, or to conscript any of his capacities, for the purpose of aiding other persons. Systems of taxation for purposes of redistribution and social welfare are therefore unjust; they amount to the imposition of forced labour, an unwarrantable infringement of a man’s rights over his own body, effort, and property, his rights not to be forced to do certain things. . . .

"[L]eave the state out of consideration for a moment, and ask instead whether a private property-holder has duties of (re)distributive justice . . . . Then we will find that Nozick has little indeed to say in favour of his assumption that what one has justly acquired one can justly hold without regard for the needs, deserts, or other claims of others (except such claims as one has actually created, e.g., by contract, which one has a duty to satisfy in what I, not Nozick, would call commutative justice). If we see no reason to adopt his assumption that the goods of the earth can reasonably be appropriated by a few to the substantial exclusion of all others, and if we prefer instead the principle that they are to be treated by all as for the benefit of all according to the principle of distributive justice though partly through the mediation of private holdings, then the question of State coercion, which dominated Nozick’s argument, becomes in principle of very secondary importance. For, in establishing a scheme of redistributive taxation, etc., the State need be doing no more than crystallize and enforce duties that the property-holder_already_had. Coercion, then, comes into play only in the event of recalcitrance that is wrongful not only in law but also in justice. Distributive justice is here, as in most contexts, a relation between citizens, or groups and associations within the community, and is the responsibility of those citizens and groups. The role of the governing authorities and the law in determining, for particular political communities, the particular requirements of distributive justice, is a decisive but subsidiary. . . role."

One assumes that caritas also plays a complementary role.

In determining the proper requirements of distributive justice as part of achieving the common good, don’t we need to find wise balance between responsibility for oneself and “one’s own” on the one hand and responsibility for others in the community on the other? And shouldn’t we again seek a point in the excluded middle of the continuum instead of setting up a false dichotomy in which we have to choose between two clear and distinct binary opposites -- Ayn Rand at one pole and social “leeching” at the other? I assume there was a reason why the Old Testament prophets spoke so passionately against the exploitation of the poor by the wealthy and why God instituted the sabbatical year and the Jubilee year (more honored in the breach than the observance though they may have been, and however perverted these ideas may have been by the likes of Karl Marx).