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Bishop Davies of Shrewsbury says we need to face the reality of hell during Lent. It’s such an unusual thing for a bishop to say that it made a Herald headline

And yet, without understanding this reality, what is left?

By on Friday, 2 March 2012

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury (Photo: Mazur)

Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury (Photo: Mazur)

Fr Ignatius of St Paul (1799–1864), otherwise the Hon George Spencer, was a son of the 2nd Earl Spencer, and became (like many younger sons of the aristocracy) an Anglican clergyman. He was converted to the Catholic faith and entered the Passionist Order in 1847. He spent the rest of his life working for the conversion of England. In March 2007, the Church announced that the first stage of Fr Ignatius’s Cause for beatification had been completed and that all the necessary documents had been forwarded to Rome.

The story of his conversion vividly illustrates the extent to which what used to be considered an essential part of the Catholic faith has become virtually phased out of Catholic docrine as it is taught in our schools or preached about in our pulpits. At a performance of Mozart’s opera Don Giovanni at the Paris Opera, he was so terrified by the final scene, in which the serial seducer Don Giovanni is dragged off to Hell, he was so terrified by this vision of the consequences of final impenitence that he had to become a Catholic. In other words, the Catholic faith was the only religion in which this nightmare was not only understood but convincingly addressed : becoming a Catholic was consequently the only alternative open to him.

It used to be customary for sermons on the four Sundays of Advent to be preached on the four last things: Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell. It was still the custom in the Catholic-inclined parish in which as an Anglican I served my curacy (“Last week, the vicar gave you ‘Heaven’. This week, it falls to me to give you ‘Hell’.”) “Well, really,” said one lady to me as she came out of Church; “that wasn’t a very suitable subject, so close to Christmas.” But what could have been more suitable? Our Lord became Man for our salvation; he died and rose again so that none of us need go to Hell.

But the possibility still exists if we die refusing his grace. Hell exists all right: how anyone who has lived during the hellish 20th century can disbelieve it, is beyond me. But that, I suppose, is one reason we can’t face the idea: in a world in which we have so repeatedly shown our capacity to create Hell on Earth, we have recast our religion to be one of entire warmth and consolation, and our doctrine of salvation as one in which all are saved and none lost.

And, in doing so, we have surely emasculated it almost out of existence. The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes it quite clear why this is:

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. (1 John 3:15)” 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. 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.”

This is something we need to understand, if we are to receive the faith in its fullness. And yet, how rarely it is preached from our pulpits or taught in our schools. How often do our bishops remind us of it? We no longer expect it. So I was greatly struck by the Lenten message to his people this year of Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury (who else?), who in a pastoral letter read at Masses in his diocese on the first Sunday of Lent suggested that meditation on the four Last Things might help the faithful to accept the invitation to conversion in their lives:

In his letter, the Bishop noted the observation of Blessed John Paul II in his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, that many people today have lost the sense of the “Last Things”, the body of teaching that deals with death, judgement, the destination of our immortal souls and the bodily resurrection.

“Being aware of this limited time on earth and all that is to follow – our judgment, our purgatory, heaven or hell forever – becomes an urgent invitation to conversion in our lives,” the Bishop said.

“This is the urgency to which Lent and Easter now recalls us with the poignant mark of ashes. “It is the realisation of what the Psalmist calls ‘the shortness of lives’ which helps shape our priorities and gives each day a new urgency in the light of all eternity before us.”

Bishop Davies … also explained why the Catholic Church resists the temptation to simply look back in a “celebration of life” at funerals, saying that the focus is instead the final destination of the soul of the deceased in view of the pledge of eternal life promised by Our Lord.

“The Church always prays as she believes and so it is not because we disapprove of the lyrics of Frank Sinatra or the chants of the football terraces that we insist that secular songs find no place in the prayer of the Christian funeral,” the Bishop said. “It is that the Church prays only as she believes.”

Bishop Davies also reminded Catholics that besides the great hope of heaven, there is also the “terrifying reality” of hell of which the Gospel repeatedly speaks. Purgatory, the Bishop adds, is a “consoling hope” for us because it offers the assurance of salvation, that the soul might finally “rest in peace”.

The point is, I suppose, that the great decline in belief in the reality of hell has also brought a decline of belief in the reality and urgent necessity of salvation and in a faith which exists only sub specie aeternitatis, in the context of eternity. And if we have lost that, what is there left? This is the time of year the Church has given us to renew that belief within ourselves – and to our pastors to remind us of it.

  • Anonymous

    I always find this area quite troubling. But then, maybe I’m meant to!

    My own doubts led me years ago to study the biblical and Traditional (capital ‘T’) teaching on this area, as well as the case for Universalism. I remain unconvinced by either. On the one hand, Universalism, though lovely, seems a little too easy, but on the other hand, I’ve never ever found a convincing answer to the age old question of ‘how could a loving God do this…’

    And, yes, I’ve heard them all. Yes, that one too!

    One of the best things I’ve ever read about the Hell vs Universalism debate is that there are two distinct voices in scripture, in tradition, in theology, in natural law, and in everything else that matters… one says that God is love, and the other reminds us that sin is something that matters a great deal.

    The man who wrote this said that, like me, he remained unconvinced by either argument but that he felt strongly that we needed both voices in our lives. We need the message that the love of God is powerful, and we also need the message that sin has devastating consequences. We need to hold both of these ideas, even if at times that means holding them in tension with one another.

    And when we do feel a tension, we should perhaps take our lead from Julian of Norwich, and leave the tension to God to figure out.

    We shouldn’t be so full of the ‘sin matters’ message that we live in paralysed fear, but on the other hand we shouldn’t become complacent.

  • Anonymous

    Oh Dr Oddie – for Hell to exist would imply there’s a reality to the rest of everything ; and that really wouldn’t do at all…

    Belief has been replaced with milk-and-water platitudes to veil the depression, despondency, despair, dismissal, denial and descent into desuetude…

    In so many aspects of the Faith we’re left with a sedentary ‘comedy of manners’ where belief and authentic, sincere responses in light of that belief are so ‘terribly vulgar’ and awkwardly insensitive and inappropriate.

    I’ve spent most of the past nine days trying to work out what His Grace Archbishop Nichols meant in those final few paragraphs of his Guardian interview…I don’t understand a mind that could utter something like that.

    C.S. Lewis described hell as thousands of similar lonely, oppressive, smoggy, drizzly grey urban streets filled with bookshops only selling decaying copies of Aristotle…

    Look at the way people write, the words they speak, the light vanishing from behind their eyes, the trite, passive, nonchalant contempt and disbelief, the patronising smug appeals to pragmatism….the fervour consigned to engaging in vanity exercises or secular interactions, aspirations almost pornographically earthly…

    Faith the size of a mustard seed could light a spark which could set the world on fire…but regrettably  most of our pastors, ministers, educators, commentators and disaffected journalists appear to be fire-wardens proferring only buckets of sand….

    Let everyone have their little sneering giggle at the Bishop who mentions hell, then they can tell the anachronistic ‘social embarrassment’ to be nice and get back in his box

  • Anonymous

     One could drive a chieftain tank through that open mind of yours Jack; but don’t you worry that it’s rusted open?

  • Brother Burrito

    Sin poisons love

  • Anonymous

    Sorry Paul… Until you learn some manners I’m not playing with you :)

    I will pray for you though, and ask you to do the same for me.

  • Anonymous

    I do pray for you Sir ; because I realise most of your ‘pragmatic indifference’ is peer-induced and you’re a victim of yoof-ministry indoctrination.

    I’m not sure if you’ll ever understand just how downright offensive your dismissal of the beauty and wonder of a Loving Creator who could produce such a mind-shattering grace as free-will which could lead to the existence of hell.

    You proffered your opinions on whether hell did or did not exist…

     [as if it wasn’t dogmatically mandatory to believe in it???!]

    …so nonchalantly as if you were discussing whether the dining-room curtains were more fawn than beige than taupe!!!!

  • South Saxon

    Far too few priests mention purgatory these days. There is always the cosy, unspoken, assumption at requiem Masses that the deceased is in Heaven. I, for one, know that, although I strive to be able to die in a state of grace, I will not have fully paid for my transgressions and that purgatory probably awaits. I will not be among the Venerable or the Blessed who go straight to glory.

  • Anonymous

    Good point.

  • AidanCoyle

    What a useful contribution that confronts the complexity of the issues raised.

  • maryp

    This is why it is more important than ever to pray for the souls in purgatory – since people nowadays assume everyone goes straight up! We can gain a plenary indulgence for a soul in purgatory (or our own!) each time we receive Holy Communion if we have recently been to Confessions and fulfill certain other (easy) duties, such as reading the Bible for at least half an hour, or praying the rosary in church. We will also be gaining powerful intercessors in heaven.

  • Parasum

    Hell is one doctrine I have hardly ever had problems with – thanks to a number of authors. Julian of Norwich states a difficulty, without resolving it: maybe that is, in some ways, the best approach. Except that “all is well” already.

    God is Love, but man is sinful – therefore, there is a possibility of Hell. As one of the mediaevals puts it, the fire of Hell, Purgatory & Paradise is the same one: what differs, is how the same fire is received. There would be no Hell, if people were received God on the right “wavelength”. They don’t, and God cannot un-God Himself for their convenience, because they are the problem. We have to be adapted to God – not God to us, still less to the evil that is in every last one of us.  

    The same sun warms some people – and gives others sun-burn. Allergies work in the same way: there is nothing wrong in the milk that is an enjoyable drink for most, but is bad for those who are lactose intolerant. If nature itself works like this, it should not be difficult that people are capable of perceiving Divine Goodness, Righteousness & Holiness only as hideous, cruel & evil. To perceive God in that way, and to die like that, is Hell.

    If people ignore sin and guilt & the Wrath of God & His Righteousness, and the evil that is in all men, they will never understand why Hell must be taught. Becase they will have no standard by which to see that the damnation of the impenitent is just and good and deserved. This is why it is fatal to make Jesus into a mere man or merely human prophet – only the God-man can reveal what sin deserves; otherwise He is a mere human martyr at best. STM that ignorance of the character and sinfulness of sin has a lot to do with lack of appreciation of Hell.

    About Universalism: STM there is no contradiction between finally rejecting God, and experiencing Divine Love as Divine Judgement on what has freely made oneself.

  • Parasum

    A very good article

  • Johannes Faber

    Surely it’s not up to us to be convinced one way or another? It has been revealed by God and defined definitively by the Church, with anathemas to those who reject it. If faith is the supernatural gift from God by which we believe everything that he has revealed without doubting, we are required to believe in Hell. It’s not a question, it’s not up to us to decide or be convinced. When a council defines something (ie does more than just teach it) it is infallible, and when it is the consistent teaching of the Church it is infallible (even if undefined).


    From the Athanasian Creed: Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly.

    The Council of Lyons II: “The souls of those who die in mortal sin, or with original sin only, however, immediately descend to hell, yet to be punished with different punishments.”

    Benedict XII “Benedictus Deus,” Jan. 29, 1336: Moreover, we declare that according to the common arrangement of God, the souls of those who depart in actual mortal sin immediately after their death descend to hell where they are tortured by infernal punishments, and that nevertheless on the day of judgment all men with their bodies will make themselves ready to render an account of their own deeds before the tribunal of Christ, “so that everyone may receive the proper things of the body according as he has done whether it be good or evil” [ 2 Cor. 5:10]

    Pope Innocent III: “The punishment of actual sin is the torments of everlasting Hell….”

    Council of Florence (“Laetentur coeli,” July 6, 1439): Moreover, the souls of those who depart in actual mortal sin or in original sin only, descend immediately into hell but to undergo punishments of different kinds.


    There are a few magisterial comments on the matter – and only one definition from the extraordinary magisterium (ie proposed for the whole Church) is sufficient for the matter to be closed, and for anything to the contrary to be wrong. I also add into the argument the consistent witness of the saints, especially those like St Alphonsus who spent a LOT of time preaching about Hell. 

    What exactly do we need a saviour to be saved from, if not Hell?

  • Anonymous

    People seem to be replying to me as if what I posted was a Universalist position, denying the dogma of Hell. Rather, I said that ultimately I cannot bring myself to reject it.

    We are dogmatically obliged to believe that Hell is a possibility, and believe me, I do.

    Let me return your quotes with a more recent one. More recent magisterial teachings seem to be sneered at by many people, but those who wrote them can be expected to have read the earlier ones! This is from YouCat, which is signed off by the CDF, by 3 other Vatican departments, and by the Pope, and I think it sums up my position on the matter perfectly:

    “Someone who consciously and with full consent dies in serious sin, without repenting, and refuses God’s merciful, forgiving love forever, excludes himself from communion with God and the saints. We do not know whether anyone at the moment of death can look absolute love in the face and still say No. But our freedom makes that decision possible.”

    I still find a contradiction in my own heart between hell and love and none of the standard arguments (the free will argument, the justice argument, the ‘fire of love’ argument, the ‘its-in-the-bible-so-just-accept-it argument) work on me.

    The tension I find is probably the same as that tension that Julian of Norwich found. She had a leaning toward Universalism but was also aware of the warnings of hell. She asked God about this tension and was told to trust in him to resolve it in the right way, and she did. And so do I.

    Love & Prayers :)

  • Anonymous

    The doctrine of Hell certainly is a difficult one for many to accept now, but the Bishop is right to raise the issue; unless we are to expect God to force himself into our lives and force us to accept him (and thus become the basest tyrant) then we must have the same choice open to us as did Adam and Eve and have the choice to reject God, thus, though the existence of Hell may seem to some to impune the lovingness and goodness of God, a Universalist view destroys it altogether.

    That said, one cannot blame anybody for having difficulties, given the rarity of people such as the Bishop who are willing to speak out about it. There are, however numerous intelligent men who have written about this for those who find Hell an impossible concept to accept; I would personally recommend C.S Lewis’ The Problem of Pain.

  • Gt105

    The bishop, that is the Holy Father, is the only bishop to pay heed to, in these very dangerous times many souls are misguided by our bishops lack of teaching on very much at all. This is only a Scottish experience, I have to add..

  • Ikedi

    For plenary indulgences it’s pivotal to know that it is further required that all attachment to sin, even venial sin, be absent. This is not the case for the vast majority of people and requires a substantial amount of sustained effort to achieve and maintain.

  • David Devinish

    You do not have to suffer anything. If you make out a standing order to the Vatican bank for 1000 dollars every week this will buy you continuous computer generated virtual reality masses. The messages are recorded in the heavenly website and the indulgences calculated with interest. This is what the rich have done (using other peoples money) since indulgences began. Mind you this doctrine of indulgences, exploiting the gullible and the ignorant has cost the Catholic Church dearly with Martin Luther, Henry VIII, and the Reformation that would not have happened had it not been for Papal greed. The Church have learned nothing from their stupidity.

  • Carol Chilson

    I suggest Dante’s” Inferno” to give you such a graphic view of hell you
    can taste the sulphur as you close the book!
    But please continue on to Dante’s ‘Purgatorio” its all about the ‘poor souls’
    asking not only Dante for prayers but return to their families and ask the same.
    It makes you cry and hope you never go there either!

  • Davedeuce

    It is not that a “council” defines something as truth, but that he who is the successor of Peter defines as truth.

  • Anonymous

    Here is a devotion to the poor souls in Purgatory (Includes how to make the Heroic Act of Charity).  It’s called “The Daily Pilgrimage to Purgatory” which include prayers for each day of the week, citing a particular soul who languishes there (most abandoned, most destitute of spiritual aid, our duty and obligation to pray for those souls whom we are most bound to pray for, etc.).

  • Benedict Carter

    “The doctrine of Hell certainly is a difficult one for many to accept now ..” says someone below.

    Christ spoke about the devil, his demons and hell more than any other subject bar none. 

    What has happened to the Catholic Church for the eternal destination of each and every soul to have been forgotten?

    Remember the Fours Last Things: we shall all face them.

    Heaven or

  • jacinta


  • William_Redeemer

    Bravo Mr. Oddie, In this age of fast food and instant gratification, we need a moral compass to remind us of what can happen when we get lost. Eternal death cannot be sugarcoated. There is nothing sweet about hell and we should be reminded of this often. Just as we start getting too comfortable in our skin and thinking that we have it all figured out, we are reminded that without God we are nothing but specs of dust in his universe.

  • Jamesy

    How timely! I Tweeted last night about a sermon (the first) I heard on hell. If God is love, how can hell NOT exist. No hell = no freedom; no freedom = no love. The Good God is not a Puppet Master, if we don’t want to share His Divine Life for all eternity, we don’t have to.

  • JMJ

    In 1973 Dr. Karl Menniger, a non-Catholic, wrote a very special book: WHATEVER BECAME OF SIN? and it is only one of a few non-Catholic books that I keep. Despite what some know-it-all says, we need to hear more of fire and brimstone, so to speak, and to get back to the four last things. We want to live as if there are no dues to pay and that God is so loving that He won’t punish us. Actually, He won’t as we will know when we face Jesus that it is too late to repent and we will send ourselves down into hell.  Thank you Bishop, we need to know the truth and not some fuzzy-wuzzy feel good garbage that we are being spoon fed with.  +JMJ+

  • JMJ

    David, it is too bad that you are such an empty headed fool that has one foot already in the gate of hell. Yes, there was some horrible things going on and Luther at first was right on the mark; but, as we know, he, himself fell and took almost three million Catholics with him away from God. We have no idea of how many more millions or even billions more that have been mislead and misfed because they are not in the one and only Church. It is your stupidity and outright lies that will lead you right into the pits of hell, where you will be with all of your like-minded friends.  You have made a very outlandish statement; so now PROVE IT!!   +JMJ+

  • Robb76

    David if you wish to place your eternal security on man made constructs (protestantism) you need spiritual help and lots of it.

  • chi

    The Holy Bible has stated clearly on several occasions that hell exists! Christ Himself made mention of hellfire; and if we believe in Jesus Christ then we must HAVE to believe his revelations about hell. Read also the Book of Revelations to see its statements on hell. Finally, we should understand that the Catholic Church is a Living Church whose teachings and lifestyle have not been stagnant. The Holy Spirit guides the Church in fulfillment of what Jesus Christ said: ‘and the gates of Hell shall never prevail against it (the Catholic Church).’ Accordingly, there have been post-Biblical times revelations in the Catholic Church by Saints throughout the ages. For example the revelation by St. Catherine of Emmerich stated that Christ, in his Divine Nature foresaw both saved souls and souls of the damned (reprobates) as the latter continued to plunge in great numbers into hell! And this vision startled Christ Himself; and He complained about this; and probably this complaint generated the prayer He said in the Garden of Gethsemane: ‘Father, if it is Thy Will let this cup pass me by; not my Will but Thine be done.’ The Blessed Virgin Mary, as a contributor has pointed out, warned the world, through the three innocent children of Fatima. In fact She showed them the vision of Hell, a vision that Lucy herself acknowledged and confirmed.

    So, no amount of human discourse, arguments, treatises, philosophies can succeed in denying the existence of hell. Human mind, no matter how sharp and endowed, cannot fathom or comprehend things that are outside its own realm of perception. Hell is something belonging to an afterlife situation in which case the human body is shed onto this earth only for his soul to fully comprehend the happenings in that other plane of existence. Hell is real; and so we should really try as much as possible to avoid going there. And, the Catholic Church is the ONLY Church that can lead the human being into Heaven. I can repeat this last statement a thousand times without getting tired. All other Churches are products of man’s disobedience to God and disobedience is the highest sin a human being could commit since it is at the root of all other sins. For example, protestantism and the so-called evangelical churches think that they know better than Jesus Christ Himself who founded His Church (Catholic Church) on St. Peter whose successors (the popes) continue to carry this charge. Man CANNOT be saved outside the Catholic Church!

  • Robb76

    Well said chi.

    Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus!

  • James R. Rellihan

    Thank you Mr. Oddie for this reminder that might save us from the fires of Hell and call us back to the path of holiness. God bless you in your ministry of journalism and broadcasting. I’m the one who was so grateful to you about the Charles Dickens’ piece. You’ve been a double blessing to me. Thank you. Jim

  • Robb76

    Much truth in what you write.  But Deo Gratia our bishops here in the colonies are waking up.
    Obamas attack on the One Holy, Apostolic and Catholic Church has awaken them. They are standing as a man against his attack.  Interesting times, these.

  • God-fucker

    I’d rather spend an eternity in Hell than one day in Heaven with idiots like you.

  • Karencrabtree-smith

    Hell must be living in the diocese of Shrewsbury with this nutcase Mark Davies. Little wonder that at college he was nicknamed Dark Mavies!

  • Karencrabtree-smith

    Hell does exist. Sadly in the Diocese of Shrewsbury since the sad loss of the well loved Bishop Brian Noble. A true follower of Christ. Has not the present Bishop read the scriptures “They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long”,

  • Paul-cannon

    I believe that God is all forgiving. Indeed because God is divine we can not as humans begin to comprehend such love and forgiveness. As for purgatory I do not believe this really exists. Except perhaps in the diocese of Shrewsbury under the dictatorship of Bishop Davies.

  • Bac3864

    Oh dear I cannot believe that there are people who still think this way. God must look down at us sometimes and wonder how we’ve missed the point!!!

  • Bac3864

    Oh dear JMJ I’m afraid that the tone and content of your message are indicative of a strange and unchristian belief. What right have you to say anyone has a foot in the gate of hell.

  • Tieh Ard

    you make it too complicated… God doesnt have a universalism debate.. its anthromorhism…God has made it simple….pray, read scripture, read the catechism.. be obedient to Church teaching….not to  some wobbly academic or ideology…

  • Mary@42

    I will not even bother to read the Responses on this Post.  Suffice it for me to state that Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, (1095 – 1938), the Secretary and Eucharistic Apostle of His Divine Mercy Message, was shown the Vision of Hell by Jesus Christ Himself.  She was also instructed to write about it in her Diary – Divine Mercy in My Soul.  And the reason Jesus gave is because most of the people who end in Hell are those who continue to contradict the Teachings of the Catholic Church – and his Own Words in the Gospels – that HELL EXISTS….and most of those who end there are those who – to the very end of their lives – persist to vehemently deny it exists.  Most of the reasons they give are sad if not down right pathetic…”A merciful God cannot send one to Hell”.  True, God sends no one to Hell… chooses to go to Hell when one decides to live a life where God has no place in it. One uses one’s Free Will to decide one’s Eternal Destiny and at the moment of their death all God can say to one is “Thy Will Be Done”. 

  • Imakaca

    Let me start by this simple build up of argument: we are Christians by virtue of the fact that we are followers of Jesus Christ. Then why did Jesus even decide to come to this world? Answer: because He wanted to reconcile us with His Father so that we shall again inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. If it were not possible for us to acquire this inheritance then we would have been separated from God eternally; and not even a prospect of Purgatory. So the only place every human would have merited would be hell. Jesus Christ had spoken variously and on different occasions about hell. The Apostles whose duty was to bear witness of Christ and explain further Jesus’s teaching spoke about hell. Jesus said He would live with His Church, The Catholic Church till the end of time. Therefore the presence of Christ and His revelations did not end with His Death and Resurrection. Rather, Jesus’s presence continued till this day and shall remain so forever. That is why Jesus had appeared to some saints and told them about hell. Jesus has allowed His Blessed Mother to reveal hell to the three children of Fatima, etc. So all these should be a reminder that hell is real and we must always bear this in mind. When someone dies and at the funeral what should be in our minds is whether this person has made Heaven or Purgatory, failing which the obvious place is hell. It is an awakening call!

  • Kevin Corbett

    The opposite side of the coin can’t be ignored. Hell can very very easily be seen in a behaviorist context – that we should only be good so we won’t be punished for being bad. This is the perception many people have of Fundamentalist protestant sects and it is almost certain to drive a great deal of people directly into the hands of the New Atheists and their thousands of blogs and articles on the Huffington Post. I understand how much people like to frame themselves as being the good and true Catholic and everyone else as a cafeteria Catholic (I do so myself sometimes), but driving such people off by evoking John Edwards or Jerry Falwell is not doing them or us any favors. Hell is certainly real, but note the way the Lord addresses the issue – through parables, through stories, not through images of people being roasted alive in fire.