Hell is for real: A reminder of what we’re dealing with
April 5, 2018 (Rorate Caeli) – The purpose of the Church is the glory of God and the salvation of souls. Salvation from what? Eternal damnation, which is the destiny awaiting those who die in mortal sin. For the salvation of men Our Lord offered His Redeeming Passion. Our Lady reminded us of this at Fatima: the first secret, conveyed to the three little shepherds on July 13th 1917, began with the terrifying vision of a sea of hell-fires. If it hadn't been for Our Lady's promise to take them to Heaven – writes Sister Lucy – the visionaries would have died of shock and fright. Our Lady's words are upsetting and severe: "You have seen Hell where the souls of poor sinners go. To save them God wishes to establish in the world devotion to My Immaculate Heart." A year before, the Angel of Fatima had taught the three little shepherds this prayer: "O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls into Heaven especially those in most need of Thy mercy."
Jesus speaks repeatedly of "Gehenna" and the "unquenchable fire" (Mt. 5, 22; 13, 42;Mk. 9, 43-49) which is reserved for those who refuse to convert even at the end of their lives. This first fire, the spiritual one, is the dispossession of God. This is the most terrible punishment and what basically constitutes hell, since death loosens the earthly ties of the soul, which yearns with all its strength to reach God, but cannot do so, if it has freely chosen to separate itself from Him through sin.
The second punishment is that mysterious one where the soul suffers not metaphorical, but real fire, which is inextinguishably accompanied by the spiritual one of the loss of God. Furthermore, since the soul is immortal, the due punishment of mortal sin without repentance, lasts as long as the life of the soul lasts, i.e., forever, for eternity. This doctrine is defined by the IV Lateran Council, II and those of Lyons, Florence and Trent. In the constitution Benedictus Deus of January 29th 1336, Pope Benedict XII condemns the errors of his predecessor John XXII on the Beatific Vision, affirming: "We define that according to the general disposition of God, the souls of those who die in actual mortal sin go down into hell immediately after death and there suffer the pain of hell" (Denz-H 1002).
On March 29th 2018, Holy Thursday, an interview given by Pope Francis to the daily La Repubblica appeared in that newspaper. His usual interviewer, Eugenio Scalfari, asks him: "You have never spoken to me about the souls who died in sin and will go to hell to suffer it for eternity. You have however spoken to me of good souls, admitted to the contemplation of God. But what about bad souls? Where are they punished?"
Pope Francis responds thus: "They are not punished, those who repent obtain the forgiveness of God and enter the rank of souls who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and cannot therefore be forgiven disappear. There is no hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls."
The way these words sound, constitutes a heresy. The commotion [they caused] had already started spreading [around the world] when the Vatican Press Office intervened with a communiqué in which we read: Pope Francis "recently received the founder of the newspaper La Repubblica in a private meeting on the occasion of Easter, without, however, granting him an interview. What is reported by the author in today's article is the fruit of his reconstruction, in which the precise words uttered by the Pope are not cited. No quotations in the aforementioned article, then, should be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father."
It is not then about an interview, but a private conversation which nonetheless the Pope knew well would have been transformed into an interview, as this had happened in his four previous meetings with Scalfari. And if – despite the controversies caused by the previous interviews to the journalist from La Repubblica – the Pope persists in considering him his favorite interlocutor, it means that the Pope through these interviews intends to exercise a sort of Catholic Magisterium by way of the mass-media, leading to inevitable consequences.
No sentence – says the Holy See – has to be considered a faithful transcription, but no specific content of the interview is denied; in this way we don't know whether or what aspect of the Bergoglian thought is being misinterpreted. In the five years of Francis's pontificate, he has never once mentioned hell as eternal punishment for the souls who die in sin. In order to clarify his thought, the Pope or the Holy See ought to confirm the doctrine of the Church publically, covering all the points of the interview in which it was denied. This unfortunately has not happened and we have been left with the impression that the news of La Repubblica is not fake news, but a deliberate scheme, to increase confusion in the faithful.
The thesis in which eternal life is reserved for the just while the wicked disappear, is an ancient heresy, denying not only the existence of hell, but the immortally of the soul defined as a truth of the Faith by the V Lateran Council (Denz-H, n. 1440). This bizarre opinion was espoused by the Socinians, the liberal Protestants, by some Adventist sects and in Italy, by the Waldensian Pastor, Ugo Janni (1865-1938), theorist of "Pan-Christianity" and Grand Master of the Mazzini Masonic Lodge in Sanremo.
For these authors, immortality is a privilege conceded by God only to the souls of the just. The destiny of souls obstinate in sin is not eternal punishment, but the total loss of being. This doctrine is also known as "optional immortality" or "conditionalism" as it retains that immortality is conditioned by moral conduct. The end of a virtuous life is the perpetuity of being; the end of a guilty life is self-annihilation.
'Conditionalism' goes well with evolutionism since it sustains that immortality is the soul's conquest, in a sort of human ascent, similar to "natural selection", which causes inferior organisms to transform into superior organisms. We find ourselves faced with an at least implicitly materialist idea, since the reason for the immortality of the soul is its spirituality: that which is spiritual cannot dissolve and those asserting the possibility of its decomposition impute a material nature to the soul. A simple and spiritual substance like the soul could not but be lost except for the intervention of God, but this is denied by the 'conditionalists', as that would mean admitting the sanction of a just God who rewards and punishes in time and eternity.
Their idea of a solely merciful God instead, accredits the will of man with the faculty of self-determination, by choosing to become a spark that loses itself in the divine fire or be extinguished into absolute nothingness. Pantheism or nihilism are the options left to man in this cosmology which has nothing whatever to do with the Catholic Faith and common sense. Further, for an atheist, already convinced that there is nothing after death, 'conditionalism' removes that possibility of conversion which is given throughTimor Domini: the principle of Wisdom (Psalm 110, v.10 ) the Fear of the Lord, whose Judgment no-one will escape. Only by believing in the infallible justice of God will we be able to abandon ourselves to His immense mercy.
The preaching of the final destination of souls which the Church encases in the Four Last Things (Death, Judgment, Hell and Heaven) has never been more necessary than at the present time. Our Lady Herself, wanted to remind us of it at Fatima, foreseeing the defection of Pastors, but also assuring us that we will never be bereft of assistance from Heaven.
Translation: contributor Francesca Romana
Published with permission from Rorate Caeli.