Friday, October 20, 2017


I will give the benefit of the doubt to whoever taught the class on this because it might have been speculative theology. But of course, theologians back then saw themselves as a parallel magisterium and as the so-called "loyal opposition" to the authentic magisterium of the Church. So who knows?

But I learened with my classmates a more sophisticated understanding of salvation and damnation. We were taught that in ages past, using pagan philosophy, the soul was immortal. Not so, though. It is immortal only because of the will of God.

Thus heaven is where the soul find immortality and eternal bliss contemplating the presence of the Most Holy Trinity and in the company of all the angels and saints.

Hell on the other hand is "nothingness" that is, the soul dies. There is no suffering or anguish except for the moment when the soul dies one realizes what one misses if one had been good enough for heaven.

I like that concept of hell, don't you? Nothingness is quite pleasing and it reminds me when I am put under for surgery how falling asleep in that circumstance is like becoming nothing.

We were also taught that God is so merciful that in His love God would not let anyone go to hell. That is a lovely sentiment too.

But are both of these teachings, these speculations heresy?

In addition to this, we were taught about an eschatology that brought about the Kingdom of God here on earth and that like the Jews of old, the Promise Land is now and that we should be content with the here and now and not fret about the hereafter because this might be all there is and we should make the world the best place it can be in the here and now especially for the poor and marginalized.

Nice no?


Gene said...

We were taught the same crap at Vandy and Chicago Divinity Schools. Fortunately, there were a few actual believing teachers and you could carefully choose your classes in most instances. Let the heathen rage...

TJM said...

I think Pope Leo XIII was a prophet in forecasting a certain successor's "papacy" in the 21st century! hint: not St. John Paul II or Benedict the XVI.

Anonymous said...

I can fairly clearly remember a lecture by a Catholic priest in 1997 when I was studying for a theology degree.
An accurate summary of what he said at length was:
What happens after death is really such a big mystery and we really have so very little knowledge of what happens and the only logical and sensible thing to do is fully focus on the life we have this side of the grave.
What he said was so different to what I was taught as a boy by my devout Catholic father and a number of Catholic school teachers, who had a strong faith in and clear understanding of death, judgement, heaven and hell.

Gerbert d' Aurillac said...

Sounds like some theologians are reading the Apocalypse of Peter and using it as an authoritative text. While it was debated in the early church it never made the cannon. This revelation to Peter was to be kept a secret because it would cause sinners to become even more sinful because they will enter heaven by the prayers of those in heaven and no other reason. Have your cake and eat it to theology!

Robert Kumpel said...

It's kind of ironic to find myself reading this today, because last night I was reading several quotes from various saints of the Church regarding how few will actually be saved and how terrible the sufferings of Hell are. I think we've all experienced at one time or another the "canonization funeral" where the officiating priest, hoping to console the bereaved, assure us that the soul of the deceased is with Jesus. However, if we contrast that with what so many saints had to say, especially St. Alphonsus Liguori, it would appear that we should maybe not take God's mercy so much for granted. But as unsettling as these quotes are, the most disturbing quote that continues to haunt me regarding my salvation is from Lucia dos Santos--likely a saint. The Blessed Mother appeared to her once and warned about World War II and how many millions would die, remarking with great sadness that the vast majority of those killed would go to Hell.

This is one of the reasons that I prefer the Traditional Rite of the Mass: Its prayers convey the gravity of our debt to God in a way that the Novus Ordo simply falls short of.

Father, I'm no theologian, but I don't take too much stock in the novel ideas some professors gave you in the seminary, especially when comparing those ideas with what the Church has always taught.

Anonymous said...

What the Church has always taught.

CCC 1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: "He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."612 (612 1 Jn 3:14-15) Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.613 (613 Cf. Mt 25:31-46) To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell."

Not what saints have said about suffering.

Not what visionaries have experienced.

Definitive self-exclusion from communion with God is the worst possible suffering.

Henry said...

"Not what saints have said about suffering.
Not what visionaries have experienced."

So if the saints and visionaries accounts are to be credited, this is another instance where the CCC admits of (or perhaps even encourages) a "false, ambiguous, or misleading" interpretation.

Anonymous said...

The CCC deal with doctrine, not visions.

James J. said...

"The CCC deal with doctrine, not visions.'

If any saint had written or said anything contrary to doctrine, that person would not be a saint, now would they? Many of them knew Scripture quite well.
Your homework is to go and read everything in the New Testament where Hell is spoken of.

Anonymous said...

Pope Francis teaches like this also. See Rorate posting a couple of days ago.

Anonymous said...

"If any saint had written or said anything contrary to doctrine, that person would not be a saint, now would they?"

No, they would not.

But keep in mind that not everything a saint says or writes is doctrine.

"Throughout the ages, there have been so-called ‘private’ revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium[collective sense of the faithful] knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church. Christian faith cannot accept ‘revelations’ that claim to surpass or correct the revelation of which Christ is the fulfillment, as is the case in certain non-Christian religions and also in certain recent sects which base themselves on such ‘revelations’" (Catechism of the Catholic Church 67). 

Henry said...

"Your homework is to go and read everything in the New Testament where Hell is spoken of."

For a brief statement of the Church’s perennial teaching on Hell, he or she might also consult a reliable source such as the “Modern Catholic Dictionary” by Fr. John Hardon, SJ whose entry on Hell reads as follows:

HELL. The place and state of eternal punishment for the fallen angels and human beings who die deliberately estranged from the love of God. There is a twofold punishment in hell: the pain of loss, which consists in the deprivation of the vision of God, and the pain of sense, which consists in the suffering caused by outside material things. The punishment of hell is eternal, as declared by Christ in his prediction of the last day (Matthew 25:46), and as defined by the Fourth Lateran Council, stating that the wicked will "receive a perpetual punishment with the devil" (Denzinger 801). The existence of hell is consistent with divine justice, since God respects human freedom and those who are lost actually condemn themselves by their resistance to the grace of God.

Thus the punishment in hell consists of both (1)the pain of loss and (2)the pain of sense. CCC 1033 refers only (and rather vaguely) to the pain of loss, and thus perhaps is so cursory as to admit the “false, ambiguous, or misleading” interpretations that are sometimes heard from pulpits.

Even the old Baltimore Catechism gets it right:

Q. 1379. What is Hell?
A. Hell is a state to which the wicked are condemned, and in which they are deprived of the sight of God for all eternity, and are in dreadful torments.

Q. 1380. Will the damned suffer in both mind and body?
A. The damned will suffer in both mind and body, because both mind and body had a share in their sins. The mind suffers the "pain of loss" in which it is tortured by the thought of having lost God forever, and the body suffers the "pain of sense" by which it is tortured in all its members and senses.

Gene said...

When you get to Hell, your first thousand years will be spent listening to continuous Kavanaugh homilies with folk guitar playing "On Wings of Eagles" in the background. Man, if the possibility of that does not get you to Confession you are lost, indeed.

Anonymous said...

Bee here:

Luckily we have the words of Jesus Himself to rely upon in this instance: "But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!"

Why would we have to fear "Him who has authority to cast into hell" if there was no immortality of the soul, and we simply cease to exist if we are not saintly enough to make it to heaven? As Fr. McD suggests, there is no fear in lack of awareness and nothingness. It is a sweet thought to think you can commit mortal sin your whole life, and then when you die only a moment of fear, and then nothing. What's the penalty? There is none. So why not sin?

The same words of Jesus' also contradict the idea that God is so merciful everyone goes to heaven. Why would you have to "fear Him who has authority to cast into hell" if He's letting everyone in anyway? So God's like a bad parent who makes rules and won't enforce them?

So I guess Jesus' teaching for 3 years, then suffering and His death on the cross was an exercise in futility and a huge waste of time, since God isn't going to hold anyone accountable for living according to His decrees anyway. The way it's said now, you don't even have to repent. God "gets" you. He loves you. And so no worries...

The force and truth of Jesus' words? Oh, I forgot...the self-same theologians who taught what Fr. McD learned in seminary have parsed and cut and shredded the words of the Gospel itself, claiming much in it can not be trust-worthily attributed to Jesus anyway.

But that begs the question: If Jesus did not say such things, why would the Gospel writers write them, and why would people who were still living and knew what Jesus said not discredit it, so that the Gospel was then ignored by people who knew Jesus never said such things?

I was in my late teens in the early 1970's. It was so hard to live during those times. Droves of young people were being led to hell by priests and nuns. I tried to listen to them for a while, and accept their version of the truth, but what they were saying was not what the nuns in grade school taught me. It was not what my mother and father taught me. So I turned back, and found old books (published before 1950) and learned the truth on an adult level.

I believe I have an immortal soul right now. From the moment I was conceived I was going to exist forever. I will exist here on earth for a while, and then either exist forever in hell, or spend some time in purgatory and eventually go to heaven, and exist forever to glorify God with the angels and saints. And I choose which it is by either choosing to love God and obey Him now, or defy Him now. There is no other choice.

To accept the Faith, one must step out over a chasm and believe you will not fall. There are lots of people in religious life, both men and women, who found they could not do so. And they spread their lies and false teachings around the whole Catholic Church. But just because they are so influential does not make them right.

God bless.

TJM said...

Gene, comedy gold!!!

Anonymous said...

"Hell" can seem like being stuck in the ultra-liberal 5th Cong District of John Lewis up here in Atlanta---an 84 percent Clinton district last year. Lewis is hailed as a civil rights leader (think, 1965 Selma), ironically as he maintains a perfect 100 percent pro-abortion voting record. But on the positive side, at least that type of hell you can escape (move out of)---unlike the one in the great beyond!