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How did we forget about hell?

Two theologians bear much of the blame, as a new book shows

By on Wednesday, 16 January 2013

El Greco depicts hell as an animal’s mouth (c 1570s)

El Greco depicts hell as an animal’s mouth (c 1570s)

In the late 1990s I wrote a history of the Knights Templar and, after a year or two immersed in the Crusades, was struck by how real was the fear of hell among Catholics at the time, and by what extreme measures they were prepared to take to save their souls. So central to their faith was this fear of damnation that present-day post-Vatican II Catholicism seemed in this respect like a different religion.

Six years later, I expressed my perplexity on the subject in an essay published together with other collected writings by Darton, Longman and Todd as Hell and Other Destinations. I asked how it was that the clear teaching of the Church (and of the monks at Ampleforth where I went to school) that those who die in a state of mortal sin would be damned, that many were called but few chosen, that the hard and narrow path leads to salvation and the broad and easy road to damnation, all now seemed to have been replaced by an assumption that salvation is a universal entitlement with hell either empty or reserved for world-historical monsters like Genghis Khan, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and, possibly, General Pinochet and Mrs Thatcher.

My essay was an amateur effort and the question I put received no answer. That is, until now. Dr Ralph Martin is an associate professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, director of graduate theology programmes in the new evangelisation and a consultor for the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelisation. He is, in other words, a man at the cutting edge of the current drive to convert non-Catholics to the Catholic Faith. In this endeavour, however, he has clearly faced a problem. What is Catholicism’s unique selling point, other than the conviction of Catholics that what they believe happens to be true? What makes up for its inconveniences such as its strictures on sex and the obloquy Catholics must endure for their perceived misogyny, homophobia, indifference to Aids in Africa and so on if, in the long run, as we now seem to believe, everyone will end up in heaven?

Dr Martin’s book is called Will Many Be Saved? What Vatican II Actually Teaches and its Implications for the New Evangelisation. Theological cognoscenti will recognise the reference to Dare we Hope “That All Men Be Saved”? by Hans Urs von Balthasar, a book in which the Swiss theologian claims not just that we dare hope that no one is in hell but that we should hope that no one is in hell and, in fact, can assume that no one is in hell.

Dr Martin treads carefully with von Balthasar, said to be the favourite theologian of Blessed John Paul II, but his critique of his writing on the subject is devastating. In his book Balthasar “departs from the content of revelation and the mainstream theological tradition of the Church in a way that undermines the call to holiness and evangelisation and is pastorally damaging”. Martin is equally critical of the teaching of Karl Rahner, whose heavy tomes of theology, impenetrable to the lay Catholic, have done much to change our beliefs on the question of salvation. It is Rahner’s concept of the “anonymous Christian” that put the final nail in the coffin of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus – outside the Church there is no salvation.

Both Rahner and Balthasar make much of paragraph 16 of Gaudium et Spes, which teaches that members of other religions, and even atheists, may be saved; but here, says Martin, there is some cherry-picking and sleight of hand. “Rahner’s completely optimistic description of the conciliar teaching on the salvation of non-Christians is only possible when the complete text is ignored…” With great delicacy and repeated protestation of respect Martin shows how both Rahner and von Balthasar have allowed their wishful thinking to distort, even pervert, the teaching of the gospels and the Church.

Paragraph 16 of Lumen Gentium states that non-believers who “seek God with a sincere heart” and “do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience” will be saved. So far so good. But, as Martin points out (with the aid of other commentators), both theologians wilfully ignore what follows: “But very often, deceived by the Evil One, men have become vain in their reasonings, have exchanged the truth of God for a lie…” Note the “very often”. Note, too, Lumen Gentium’s reference at this point to St Paul’s First Letter to the Romans, in which he uses “unnatural intercourse” as an instance of where such vain reasoning can lead: “men doing shameless things with men and getting an appropriate reward for their perversion”.

Dr Martin is a specialist on evangelisation and at first sight his book is a merely a scholarly contribution to his area of expertise. But, of course, it is much more than that. Evangelising is at the heart of what it means to be a Catholic. Presenting the Catholic faith as “an optional enrichment opportunity”, instead of “a precious and urgent opportunity to find salvation and escape damnation”, is to distort both the gospels and the teaching of the Catholic Church.

A riddle remains. Why, if Martin’s critique is correct, has the teaching on salvation of Rahner and Balthasar not been condemned by the Church? Cardinal Avery Dulles described Balthasar’s position as “adventurous” and the then Cardinal Ratzinger talked of Rahner’s “astonishing optimism”: he also warned Catholics against reading Scripture “contrary to its own intentions”. But these are mild criticisms if the two theologians have got things so wrong. Dr Martin’s book is now endorsed by four cardinals and two archbishops but, given that the subject is of such paramount importance, should there not be a clear statement by Pope Benedict or Archbishop Gerhard Müller, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, about what we must do, or not do, to be saved?

Piers Paul Read is a novelist, historian and biographer

  • Pamela Copley

    Whatever do you know about General Pinochet? Apparently, not enough!

  • Danny

    If you have been loved, and loved; would you condemn them to eternal punishment if they disobeyed you?   Therefore remember God Loves with an Infinite Love.

  • tim

    Often  when people don’t like doctrines they claim that St Paul invented them.  But hell is dominical (as CS Lewis points out).  Maybe Hell is more like Broadmoor than Pentonville – people go there partly for their own good and partly for the good of the rest of us.

  • tim

    … I should have said, ‘for the good of everyone else’.

  • UniversiMoveturAbAngelis

    While I agree this is a regrettable development, I think we have to recognize that perhaps this optimism is an overreaction to a very equally real crisis theologically – that is, a tendency in the past to forget the Gospel is, in fact, Good News and the mercy of God extending for more generations than does His just anger.  Furthermore, the Early Middle Ages (and I have deep respect for its accomplishments) tended to focus on Christ as Unapproachable Judge so much that the saints and Blessed Virgin Mary tended to become seen as human buffers who could be more easily, mercifully approached.  Now, without denying the efficacy of the cults of the holy saints, it does seem a regrettable development that Our Savior Himself had to be depicted so extraordinarily wrathful.  However, I do not deny God possesses wrath.  I would attribute some of this to the Germanic warrior ethos of Western Christendom.  I guess what I am saying is that we must be careful before mistaking culture with doctrine.  

      What I am suggesting is that we must not confuse Western theology for the only Christian theology.  Orthodox, Syriac, Egyptian, and Assyrian Fathers and theologians must also be included.  Now, the Eastern ascetics were by far some of the strictest and most disciplined Christians, but I think we also see more eschatological optimism on their end.  Also, I think some of the Eastern conceptions of Hell – and as far as I am aware these are not condemned by the Catholic Church (Catholic apologist Peter Kreeft also has some support for this view) – have also truth in them.  I am talking about specifically a “River of Fire” theology wherein Hell and Heaven are both subjective experiences of God’s consummate holiness.

    At the same time, I am glad Balthasar was addressed because I, too, think his odd hybrid of semi-Calvinist substitutionary atonement soteriology and universal reconciliation deserves unqualified condemnation.

    As for “anonymous Christian,” I find this to be a conclusion based on the belated reflection that the world has had some many more souls pass through it – historically and geographically – who never had experience with missionaries as well as an attempt to deal with – rightly or wrongly – the rise of anti-imperialism, post-colonialist movement as, unfortunately, missionaries were too frequently associated with imperialist powers.  St. Alcuin of York said in one of his letters that too often missionaries of his own time were plunderers (praedones) rather than preachers (praedicatores) (Sullivan, The Coronation of Charlemagne, pg. 54).  I think one thing to keep in mind is this was not a sudden development.  Even Dante Aligheri experienced deep qualms about this issue – which was why he posited the a kind of pagan Elysian Fields in Hades alongside Abraham’s Bosom.  One of the frequent laments of medieval Christian philosophers such as William of Malmesbury is that their beloved philosophers had everything right except being Christian.  St. Clement of Alexandria even found a place for them in Abraham’s Bosom and believed that Christ’s freeing of the Patriarchs also included them.  I am not sure Rahner, while definitely walking on the fringes of theological speculation on other issues (angels, for example), is actually entering heterodoxy with this belief.

    I apologize for the long response.  Peace and God Bless.

  • UniversiMoveturAbAngelis

    Reminds me very much of a quote from, I believe, either St. Teresa of Avila or St. Catherine of Siena.  I forget which.

  • Parasum

    In view of Von Balthasar’s repeated comments in his book, it is a bit much to pillory him like this – to put it mildly. And it is not easy to believe that two theologians – whether those named, or others – can be saddled with the sole responsibility here assigned to them. There are plenty of other causes that could have the same effect.

    It’s remarkable that among Catholics Luther seems to attract much more favourable notice than Calvin.

  • Parasum

     Would you like to expand on that a bit ?

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Because of Von Balthasar and other heterodox theologians whose views the Vatican has not disciplined nor condemned but has co-opted as its own. 

    Modernism, neo-Modernism triumphed at the theological level. And now many Catholics think that the Church is simply an NGO for being nice to slum dwellers in Africa or drug addicts in London. 

    The highest law is the law of SALVATION OF SOULS. 

    If the Church forgets this, She has lost Her entire reason for being, given to her by Her Divine Founder.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Edit

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    A great man, who stopped the Marxist takeover of Chile. 

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/PWZKI7JBARE4DDT3NQ22RWMOJE Benedict Carter

    Early Church Fathers:

    Ignatius of AntiochCorrupters of families will not inherit the kingdom of God. And if they who do these things according to the flesh suffer death, how much more if a man corrupt by evil reaching the faith of God for the sake of which Jesus Christ was crucified? A man become so foul will depart into unquenchable fire, and so will anyone who listens to him (Letter to the Ephesians 16:1-2 [A.D. 110]).Second ClementIf we do the will of Christ, we shall obtain rest; but if not, if we neglect his commandments, nothing will rescue us from eternal punishment (Second Clement 5:5 [A.D. 150]).Justin MartyrNo more is it possible for the evildoer, the avaricious, and the treacherous to hide from God than it is for the virtuous. Every man will receive the eternal punishment or reward which his actions deserve. Indeed, if all men recognized this, no one would choose evil even for a short time, knowing that he would incur the eternal sentence of fire. On the contrary, he would take every means to control himself and to adorn himself in virtue, so that he might obtain the good gifts of God and escape the punishments (First Apology 12 [A.D. 151]).[Jesus] shall come from the heavens in glory with his angelic host, when he shall raise the bodies of all the men who ever lived. Then he will clothe the worthy in immortality; but the wicked, clothed in eternal sensibility, he will commit to the eternal fire, along with the evil demons (ibid. 52).The Martyrdom of PolycarpFixing their minds on the grace of Christ, [the martyrs] despised worldly tortures and purchased eternal life with but a single hour. To them, the fire of their cruel torturers was cold. They kept before their eyes their escape from the eternal and unquenchable fire (Martyrdom of Polycarp 2:3 [A.D. 155]).AthenagorasWe [Christians] are persuaded that when we are removed from this present life we shall live another life, better than the present one. . . . Then we shall abide near God and with God, changeless and free from suffering in the soul . . . or if we fall with the rest [of mankind], a worse one and in fire; for God has not made us as sheep or beasts of burden, a mere incidental work, that we should perish and be annihilated (Plea for the Christians 31 [A.D. 177]).Theophilus of AntiochGive studious attention to the prophetic writings [the Bible] and they will lead you on a clearer path to escape the eternal punishments and to obtain the eternal good things of God…. [God] will examine everything and will judge justly, granting recompense to each according to merit. To those who seek immortality by the patient exercise of good works, he will give everlasting life, joy, peace, rest, and all good things. . . , For the unbelievers and for the contemptuous and for those who do not submit to the truth but assent to iniquity, when they have been involved in adulteries, and fornications, and homosexualities, and avarice, and in lawless idolatries, there will be wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish; and in the end, such men as these will be detained in everlasting fire (To Autolycus 1:14 [A.D. 181]).IrenaeusThe penalty increases for those who do not believe the Word of God and despise his coming. . . . It is not merely temporal, but eternal. To whomsoever the Lord shall say, “Depart from me, accursed ones, into the everlasting fire,” they will be damned forever (Against Heresies 4:28:2 [A.D. 189]).HippolytusStanding before [Christ's] judgment, all of them, men, angels, and demons, crying out in one voice, shall say: “Just is your judgment!” And the righteousness of that cry will be apparent in the recompense made to each. To those who have done well, everlasting enjoyment shall be given; while to the lovers of evil shall be given eternal punishment. The unquenchable and unending fire awaits these latter, and a certain fiery worm which does not die and which does not waste the body but continually bursts forth from the body with unceasing pain. No sleep will give them rest; no night will soothe them; no death will deliver them from punishment; no appeal of interceding friends will profit them (Against the Greeks 3 [A.D. 212]).Minucius FelixI am not ignorant of the fact that many, in the consciousness of what they deserve, would rather hope than actually believe that there is nothing for them after death. They would prefer to be annihilated rather than be restored for punishment. . . . Nor is there measure nor end to these torments. That clever fire burns the limbs and restores them, wears them away and yet sustains them, just as fiery thunderbolts strike bodies but do not consume them (Octavius 34:12-5:3 [A.D. 226]).Cyprian of CarthageAn ever-burning Gehenna and the punishment of being devoured by living flames will consume the condemned; nor will there be any way in which the tormented can ever have respite or be at an end. Souls along with their bodies will be preserved for suffering in unlimited agonies. . . . The grief at punishment will then be without the fruit of repentance; weeping will be useless, and prayer ineffectual. Too late will they believe in eternal punishment, who would not believe in eternal life (To Demetrian 24 [A.D. 252]).Cyril of JerusalemWe shall be raised therefore, all with our bodies eternal, but not all with bodies alike; For if a man is righteous, he will receive a heavenly body, that he may be able worthily to hold converse with angels; but if a man is a sinner, he shall receive an eternal body, fitted to endure the penalties of sins, that he may burn eternally in fire, nor ever be consumed. And righteously will God assign this portion to either company; for we do nothing without the body. We blaspheme with the mouth, and with the mouth we pray. With the body we commit fornication, and with the body we keep chastity. With the hand we rob, and by the hand we bestow alms; and the rest in like manner. Since then the body has been our minister in all things, it shall also share with us in the future the fruits of the past (Catechetical Lectures 18:19 [A.D. 350]).

  • tim

    Good idea!  While I do not say that failure to divide a long post into readable paragraphs is a mortal sin, culpable and unrepented failure to do so will undoubtedly earn a few extra minutes in Purgatory.

  • Macolvin

    I am no theologian but I don’t accept the wrath of God as an explanation of hell. The threat of hell comes from our being unable to confront the reality of our sins. Pride or cowardice will stop us getting to heaven.

  • JabbaPapa

    It is Rahner’s concept of the “anonymous Christian” that put the final
    nail in the coffin of extra Ecclesiam nulla salus – outside the Church
    there is no salvation.

    hmmmm, when the doctrine in question was promulgated, that is to say in Antiquity, it was described by the Church Fathers and early Conciliar Fathers (and IIRC the Pope) as being similar to a truism — that is to say, that the Church is the Assembly of the Saved.

    Therefore, all of the saved are by **definition** in the Church, therefore no salvation exists outside it.

    What many people continually fail to realise is that it was a teaching against a very specific heresy, that was claiming that those saved among the righteous Jews (for example) would go to one heaven, Christians to another, and so on and so forth.

    The doctrine teaches that there is ONE Heaven for ALL of the Saved, and that the nature of this salvation is to enter the Church (Ekklesia — Assembly, Gathering, Community) of our Christ in the Afterlife.

    ONE God, ONE Heaven, ONE Salvation, ONE Eternal Church in the Afterlife.

    Those claiming that salvation is only available to those who enter the Earthly Church are actually teaching contrary to Catholic doctrine — the true doctrine is that all earthly work towards salvation leads necessarily (and spiritually, and mystically) towards Full Communion with the Catholic Church, because the Church of our Christ subsists in the Roman Catholic Church.

  • Peter

    In the end we will be judged not on faith but on love.

    Even non-believers who makes serious sacrifices in their life for the desperately poor and needy out of a deep and genuine compassion for them will find salvation.    They may not know it, they may not be aware of it, but the unconditional love they have for the poor and needy is love for Christ himself. 

    As St James says:  “Pure, unspoilt religion, in the eyes of God our Father, is this: coming to the help of orphans and widows in their hardships, and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world” (James 1:27)

  • Breff

    I think you are wrong to include Stalin, Pol Pot (men of the ‘left’ and therefore safe) and even Genghis Khan (culture, turban, horses, misunderstood, modern scholarship etc). That leaves Hitler, Pinochet with space reserved for the great lady. On Reagan the jury is undecided but still considering its verdict.

  • Scyptical Chymist

     Very good! I suspect I know of some clergy who would approve of Margaret Thatcher’s placing while allowing leeway to those you mention first!  Be careful though, irony is lost on many and you may well be targeted in the commentary.

  • JabbaPapa

    Missed this point earlier :

    world-historical monsters like Genghis Khan, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and, possibly, General Pinochet and Mrs Thatcher

    It is a mortal sin to engage in these sorts of claims concerning the souls of others.

  • JabbaPapa

    A worldly tyrant.

  • Macolvin

    But not necessarily in hell.
    Are you Allowed to speculate if they’re not dead yet?

  • JabbaPapa

    I have pointed out the exact opposite in a different comment.

    Do keep up !!!

    Not only am I not allowed to do so, but I haven’t.

  • Cestius

    C.S. Lewis in my opinion wrote the best book on hell ever (The Screwtape Letters.)  It may not be a theological textbook, but to me it is the clearest explanation of what hell is about and how to avoid going there. For Catholics, Fr. Dwight Longnecker has written a sort of sequel in the same tradition which is also worth a read. (The Gargoyle Code.)

  • Solante777

    “How did we forget about Hell?”

    “For there shall be a time, when they will not endure sound doctrine; but, according to their own desires, they will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” 2 Tim 4:3

    They say to the seers, ‘See no more visions!’ and to the prophets, ‘Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions’.” Is 30:10

    They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” Jude 1:18

    (NOTE: peoples seek such kind of preaching as will accord with their carnal desires; or such as will palliate their evil propensities, and deal gently with their vices)
    How many souls have been lost to the fires of hell due to the erroneous belief that “everyone goes to heaven”?

    Thanks for the article it provided more insight into why priests and parishioners exhibited such a  nonchalant attitude in every parish I’ve visited in Europe and North America (i.e. no sense of sin and no effort at evangelizing or making reparation for sin and no concern about hell, purgatory, holy souls etc…even oblivious to the spiritual, moral, and economic collapse unfolding around us).

  • Scyptical Chymist

     I ave re-read the article and I think you are mistaken in interpreting the quote about Hitler et al to which you take exception. It seems obvious that this is NOT a claim being made by the writer but his view of how the world at large views these people as deserving of hell. I am sure a Catholic scholar of Piers Paul Read’s calibre knows Catholic teaching as well as you and has not made the error of which you accuse him.

  • Macolvin

    Sorry. I meant “Is one…,”…obviously not.

  • Lanfranc

    Jabba, please learn to read in context. PPR is not himself saying anything about the souls of those people – rather, their names are mentioned in connection with the “assumption that salvation is a universal entitlement”, with these individuals being among those few who are (by such unthinking misunderstanding) conventionally excluded from that mistaken assumption. PPR is pointing out the inherent (and common) absurdity of holding to such an assumption while at the same time saying it doesn’t apply to certain specific historic bogey(wo)men.

  • Guest383

    Is Jesus is all merciful and all forgiving, Hell should be almost empty

  • Scholar

    We forgot hell because the teaching went from a “God-fearing” stance to a God-loving stance. If God created man, which God would then put this man in Hell? a place of eternal damnation?

  • JabbaPapa

    He says “world-historical monsters like Genghis Khan, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and, possibly, General Pinochet and Mrs Thatcher”, using the word “monsters” as a descriptive.

    I admit that it’s more than a little ambiguous, but given (particularly) that Margaret Thatcher is not dead, I stand by my analysis.

  • Cestius

    Of course God loves us unconditionally, and created us to be happy with Him forever. But why would those people that choose to hate God, hate the idea of God and willfully disobey His commandments want to spend eternity with Him?  They wouldn’t like heaven, but eternal separation from Him, the source of all love, light and goodness is hell, a place of loss and suffering.  Hell is a choice that people make for themselves, and many theologians have said that the metaphorical gates of hell are bolted shut from the inside.

  • Danny

    Love is the Kingdom of God within yourself, going out to another person; it’s the nearest we finite people can get to experiencing the infinite love of God.

  • ALEXANDER VI

    Why, if Martin’s critique is correct, has the teaching on salvation of Rahner and Balthasar not been condemned by the Church?

    Because, Mr Read, unlike yourself, the Pope and Arch. Muller  are not theologically illiterate?
     

  • Deacon_Augustine

    With regards to Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus and the possibility of damnation, there are infallible decrees of the Church which have never been abrogated and which deal directly with this issue.  One such is from the Council of
    Florence (A.D. 1438-1445) in which was promulgated Cantate Domino — Papal Bull of Pope Eugene IV :

    “It (the
    sacrosanct Roman Church) firmly believes, professes, and proclaims that those
    not living within the Catholic Church, not only pagans, but also Jews and
    heretics and schismatics cannot become participants in eternal life, but will
    depart “into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his
    angels” [Matt. 25:41], unless before the end of life the same have been
    added to the flock; and that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is so strong
    that only to those remaining in it are the sacraments of the Church of benefit
    for salvation, and do fastings, almsgiving, and other functions of piety and
    exercises of Christian service produce eternal reward, and that no one,
    whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he has shed blood for the name of
    Christ, can be saved, unless he has remained in the bosom and unity of the
    Catholic Church.”

    Rahner and von Balthazar both played their role in the undermining of this teaching, but von Balthazar’s little book was perhaps more insidious because of the widespread belief in his orthodoxy.  A popular myth has grown up around it that the Church has never taught that there is anybody in hell.  But that is partly because he completely omitted to treat one verse from Scripture which tells us that there are definitely souls in hell suffering the punishment of eternal fire:

    Jude 7 “As Sodom and Gomorrha, and the neighbouring cities, in like manner having given themselves over to fornication, and going after other flesh, were made an example, suffering the punishment of eternal fire.”

    It is one thing to moderate the emphasis on hell-fire preaching so as not to snuff out the smouldering wick, but it is quite another to pretend or hope that hell is empty.  Choosing not to believe in the fate of the damned will not protect you from it – quite the reverse.  The Church might not have condemned von Balthazar’s ideas, but it certainly has condemned Origenism and it is very difficult to get a cigarette paper between the two.

  • Deacon_Augustine

    His mercy and forgiveness are gifts which He offers to all who would believe in Him – He doesn’t force anybody to accept those gifts, though.  He loves us as the beings He created, in that He created us with free will.  To impose forgiveness on us against our free will would not be an act of love, but an act of violence.

    I once took part in an sales-training exercise which demonstrated how reluctant people can be to accept “free gifts”.  A group of us went out onto a busy high street with fists full of pound notes (as they were then) and offered them to passers by as if they were leaflets we were trying to give away.  None of us could get rid of them and some people who did take them just dropped them on the ground. . Maybe people thought they weren’t the real thing, maybe they thought there was a catch or maybe they were just too busy to pause and acknowledge another person’s existence.  Whatever the reasons, it turned out to be a very low cost and salutary training exercise.  You can’t force people to take something they don’t want, no matter how good it is for them.

  • Deacon_Augustine

    True doctrine would not teach that salvation is something that can be earned by earthly work – that is the heresy of Pelagianism.

  • Joe Zammit

    On July 13, 1917, the Virgin Mary appeared to the three children of Fatima and showed them hell. They say an immense crowd of people there in great rage and in a horrible depair.

    The Virgin Mary told them to say the following prayer:

    “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fire of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of your mercy.”

    It’s very effective if we pray it often, especially after each decade of the Rosary.

    Who are we to believe: Rahner and Balthasar or the Virgin Mary?

  • Sandy

    God is aching to forgive sinners, but his forgiveness can only be effective if the sinner repents and seeks forgiveness.

  • JabbaPapa

    I did not say that it could — I only said it could lead *towards* salvation, not that it could earn it.

    But your clarification is useful, so thank you !! :-)

  • Sweetjae

    I agree.

  • Sweetjae

    Faith/Grace is free, unmerited, undeserving gift to man, once he accepted it, he must cooperate with it by doing good works (love) to sanctify him more and thus “earn” Salvation. Without good works faith is dead. This is where Protestants got it all wrong by saying we are saved by faith ALONE.

  • Sweetjae

    Pinochet a great man????? He (Rightist) is no different than the Marxist (Leftist) he ousted, it’s like you are favorable to Hitler than Stalin. Your judgment is way off the radar.

  • Sweetjae

    Though I agree with you but how about teaching a catholic to disobey a legitimate Council of the Church (Acts of the Apostles) a part of Orthodoxy?

  • Sweetjae

    What do say about this, Christ Himself said in Matthew 18:16 about settling an offense and dispute amongst Christians:

    “But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the Church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

  • Sweetjae

    Catholics are not require to believe private revelation in order to be saved because all the means and requirements for Salvation are laid out by Public Revelation (Bible and the Church-Sacraments). I’m not saying I don’t believe in Our Lady of Fatima in fact I have total devotion and love for Her.

    Anyways, both Rahner and Balthasar are gravely mistaken in their belief that Hell is empty….(one reason was they can’t fathom or imagine human beings being grilled without end because of a deliberate mistake done in the past.)

  • JabbaPapa

    The messages of Fatima have been published by the Catholic Church — http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000626_message-fatima_en.html

    These are now (by very definition) public revelations, not private ones.

    Catholics should certainly be wary of any private revelations that they may receive themselves, and wary of any private revelations that others may communicate to them — but the above document from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith contains very good guidelines concerning these specific problems.

  • Joe Zammit

    Yes. We are bound only by Public Revelation. 

    But it would be imprudent not to believe some private revelations, especially like the Fatima one when God himself proved it by the miracle of the sun on October 13, 1917, in the presence of over 70,000 people. This account was widely reported also by Portuguese liberal newspapers of that time.

  • Paul

    JabbaPapa,  I understand that there are no new public revelations after apostolic times. 
      As the public revelations are the foundations of faith, isn’t it dangerous to fudge the distinction between public and private revelations?  For the record, I am in no doubt about the Fatima messages – but I can’t accept that they are public revelations.

  • Paul

    Well yes and no Peter.  If these good works are designed to honour false gods or to otherwise lead people away from the true one then they are not good works at all.  Faith and love are not so easily disentangled

  • Paul

    It’s sort of definitional Scholar.  To adhere to Christ is to be in the kingdom of heaven.  To reject him in favour of his enemies is to be in the kingdom ruled over by Satan.  The latter is not a good place to be.  In no way does it imply an unloving God, quite the opposite.