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Bishop urges faithful to face ‘the reality of hell’ in Lent

By on Friday, 24 February 2012

Bishop Mark Davies says the shortness of our lives should shape our priorities (Photo: Mazur/

Bishop Mark Davies says the shortness of our lives should shape our priorities (Photo: Mazur/

The Bishop of Shrewsbury will urge Catholics to confront the “terrifying reality” of hell in a Lenten pastoral letter this Sunday.

Quoting from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Bishop Mark Davies will remind his flock of the “terrifying reality of which the Gospel repeatedly speaks: ‘immediate and everlasting damnation’”.

“For ‘to die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love,’ the Catechism explains, ‘means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice.’ Yes, this is the real and everlasting choice of our lives,” he will say.

Bishop Davies will also encourage the faithful to regain their “perspective of eternity” during Lent.

He will say: “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 will also note the observation of Blessed Pope John Paul II in his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, that many have lost a sense of the “Last Things”, the body of teaching that deals with death, judgment, the destination of immortal souls and bodily resurrection.

“This is the urgency to which Lent and Easter now recalls us with the poignant mark of ashes,” he will say. “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.”

  • Adam

    Fantastic! Bishop Davies is the future of the Church in this country!

  • A75664

    Is that man wearing a dress?

  • Tony

     I think he was talking to you.

  • sclerotic

    I am quite incapable of understanding God, and therefore quite incapable of making a fully informed free decision to separate myself from Him. Does God love a murderer less after he has murdered someone? If I seek to do the will of God it is solely out of such love as I can manage to have for Him. To paralyse myself in this guilt obsessed frenzy of Bishop Davies is to be as a cringing beast, not a free and responsible person seeking a relationship with the source of all relationships who is relationship himself.

  • Anonymous

    Mark Davies’s pastoral letter sounds ok to me. 
    No new doctrines there but just a restatement of what the Catholic Church has taught all these centuries

  • Adam

     Of course God doesn’t love them any less. However if a child chooses to stray away from their parent then they are quite clearly seperated from their parent.

  • Anonymous

    Immature spiritual development will seek to obey out of fear, mature spirituality will seek to obey out of love. God loves us regardless of our choices, but by our choices we are choosing our eternity, to which many have lost sight of.  Satan is the master of deception, and he strives to pull us off the path gradually, to deaden the heart and soul slowly so as to not be noticed.  At death, there is nothing more we can do to prepare us for eternity.  If we don’t know how to love God, live in obedience, we won’t be ready for heaven.

    It is loving God with our whole heart, mind, body, soul, strength that we increase our capacity of love.  In God’s economy, the more true love we give, the more we have.  If we live life occupied with our self interest, self-reasoning (being what we think is nice and good), perhaps one will merit heaven if we were limited by our circumstance (God will know), but we’d make it to heaven with a little heart.  God will fill each heart there, but wouldn’t you want to have a large capacity to receive God’s love and joy rather than little?  He does respect free will, and if one doesn’t live for heaven, that is our choice.

    I am grateful for the courage of this Bishop to speak the truth and be a light in the darkness!

  • Honeybadger

    Bring it on!
    I dare ANY priest in the Shrewsbury Diocese to read out this letter to the faithful in the manner of an American cattlemarket auctioneer. 

  • Honeybadger

    Sorry, bubs – wrong topic of discussion.

    Go to a famous High Street Opticians to sort your eyes out!

  • Honeybadger

    I am so blessed and so fortunate that Bishop Mark Davies is my bishop. He’s hit the ground running. What a treasure we have, thanks to our wise Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI! With this holy bishop, there is more than a glimmer of hope for our Church.

    The ‘problem’ with the subject of Hell and the consequences of sin is that, over the years, it has been diluted and some priests are reluctant to let the message hit home, to harmonise the messages of the consequences of sin and the reality of penitence and absolution.

    I recently re-read the story of Fatima. The children who saw Our Lady of Fatima were shown visions of Hell. A photo was taken of them before they were granted the horrific vision and another one taken shortly afterwards – their faces still vivdly convey the reality of their vision in those photos.

    We may not be granted that vision in our lives but Bishop Mark Davies is giving us a reality check this Lent.

    Society has become desensitised to the realities of evil and wrongdoing. The news is full of it.

    We must think about what we say when we recite our Creed when we attend Mass and when we say the Holy Rosary.

    The new English translation is Mass in HD. We must think about what we say to God and take it to heart.

  • Honeybadger

    ‘Guilt-obsessed frenzy’ of Bishop Mark Davies???? Oh, come on! Pur-leeeeeeze!

    Bishop Mark tells things like it is. He doesn’t do soft-soap, he doesn’t put his faith nor his words through a mincer or dilute to within an inch of its life.

    There are times I go ‘owch!’ when he speaks – it’s the teeth of reality biting me on the bum, making me think, being cruel to be kind. Y’see, no pain, no gain!

    I pray the Holy Spirit will give you peace.

  • sclerotic

     We have no concept of eternity – how then can we prepare for it? We cannot reject God absolutely for the simple reason that we cannot know sufficient of him in the first place to attempt to do so.

  • sclerotic

     But the parent does not forsake the child. Ever.

  • Anonymous

    True but in respecting free will there is no force

  • Anonymous

    A lot of people have thought otherwise… 

  • Parasum

    That would be more convincing if he were to preach hell-fire and damnation to bishops who endanger the faithful, especially minors.

  • Parasum

    Not a dress – it may be a combination chasuble-alb (a vestment introduced after Vatican 2); but is perhaps more likely to be a chasuble (from Latin *casula*, “little house”), which as its name suggests is a baggy garment, worn over other vestments such as the alb & cincture, without buttons, put on over the head (like a jersey) that stretches from the shoulders to the ankles. It’s not gathered in at the waist, and it hang along the arms loosely – two features that make it unlike a dress: because the arms of dresses, however wide, are gathered in.

    This BTW is why remarks about the Pope or cardinals “wearing dresses” are unfounded and misinformed.

  • sclerotic

     But fear of hell is coercive and therefore inappropriate as a consideration in determining the actions of a free agent.

  • sclerotic


  • Michael Kenny

    The Catholic view of salvation is confusing and most people including Catholics couldn’t explain it to you.

  • Macker

    Two basic questions for those who support the traditional image of hell -
    If time ceases with death, what does “eternity” in hell – or heaven – actually mean?
    Has the Church ever said that any named individual is in hell?
    What does life after death mean – surely not resuscitation of our human bodies and if not how would someone suffer and/or enjoy eternal life?
    Throughout history has not the Church used the concept of hell and punishment as a lazy way of  trying to get people to obey? In other words, instead of preaching God News  did they simply rely on bad news?


  • chrism
  • Recusant

    You are not incapable of understanding God. He has revealed Himself to us as a little baby in a manger, and told us to to love one another as He has loved us. True, you are incapable of understanding the entirety of God, but He has given us enough to get by.

    The rest of what you wrote is just blah, blah, blah.

  • Maria

    BRILLIANT!  At last a Bishop who will tell it how it really is!  The reality of hell is completely lost.  Even teachers (apart from me) will not mention hell or Satan in schools.  It’s as if he doesn’t exist.  The Father of lies is working damn hard to sustain this thinking within catholic schools and he is succeeding………….for now!

  • Anonymous

    If you mean inappropriate on the part of the bishop — I think he is acting in good faith on his sincere belief that hell actually exists. So he’s only advocating prudence in the face of real spiritual danger. You may disagree whether hell actually exists, but as a bishop he is more or less required to believe that it does.

    So then if you mean on God’s part — that hell itself shouldn’t exist — then what becomes of justice? Authentic freedom or liberty must also respect the freedom of others. It doesn’t simply mean you can do whatever you want. I’m sure you understand this, but perhaps you haven’t fully thought through the logical consequences. A God who truly respects freedom must destroy those who would take it away.

  • Anonymous

    Christians, Jews, etc. I don’t see prima facie why intelligent beings should not be able to have at least limited comprehension of God. We can of course concoct elaborate postmodern towers of theory in an attempt to explain why we can’t really explain anything. This is best avoided for reasons of common sense.

    Mathematics has quite precise ideas of infinity. It’s not something that is impossible to reason about.

  • Anonymous

    So is calculus… doesn’t mean it’s not true…

  • buckingham88

     I tend to agree ,hopefully ,through the merits of Christ,no one has made it to hell.The movement of Divine Mercy is an authentic and modern expression of this.Mary,the mother of God is mediatrix of all graces,crushes “the enemy”.The overarching intellect,Lucifer,was loved from all eternity by God ‘his’ creator.Because God is changeless,He cannot now stop loving Lucifer,it is Lucifer who makes the decision and rejects God,placing Lucifer in a state of alienation from God,presumably Hell. The human state is not that of angels,but a ‘ little lower’ than them.But then,I suppose, the forthcoming Lenten program will illustrate the Divine Love and Mercy,and the trust with which we may approach our creator,our father.

  • sclerotic

     A limited comprehension of God – yes – but not an absolute one and if eternal damnation is the consequence of our rejection of God equity requires that we have a proportionate understanding of the importance of our actions. Mathematical concepts of the infinite are not relevant to an undifferentiated Being.

  • Bentley

    Oh dear are we really going backwards to this way of thinking? Where is the encouragement for us to know God as loving and merciful and ourselves as in His image and likeness? We are God’s people and He does not rule us with fear. We can choose to wander off from Him but He calls us back time and again. If there is a way of permanently separating us from God then let God be the judge of that. We need bishops to emphasise the goodness of God and stop the old way of emphasising sin and counting them and qualifying them – recognise sin by all means but please do not go back to the threats of mortal sin and damnation.

  • Bentley

    Oh dear

  • Bentley

    Oh no this is sad that we are back to emphasising sin and qualifying it as mortal and venial! I think God can be my judge of how serious my sin is as He and He alone knows what leads me to what I do. Confess and seek absolution but always keep at the forefront God’s love and mercy. Be fully human as God calls us to be and that will inevitably mean we stray away from His arms but always He calls us back. We are made in His image and likeness and therefore essentially good. Let our bishops and priests encourage us and lead us without the old fear of measuring the evil of our sin. I don’t think Bp Mark nor anyone can know whether our wandering away is such that God will say we have permanently chosen to be away from Him for ever.
    Let’s emphasise loving and gentleness and leave judgement to God.

  • Bentley

    Didn’t think first had been accepted

  • David B.McGinnity

    Here is a sickening and frightening story that I had to endure as a small boy at a Catholic school. By the time I had reached 11, it began to dawn on me that all of this could not be true, and was made up just to frighten people. I am glad that I began to question the feasibility of such a proposition. By 14, instead of being frightened by this, the boys became amused and began to parody the prospect of hell. The sermon goes on for about twenty minutes depicting the most outrageous and seemingly interminable feat of nonsense. Below is an extract from Father Arnell’s sermon on hell from: Portrait of an Artist Chapter 3 By James Joyce In the audio tape Jim Norton delivers this sermon and in the DVD Sir Arthur John Gielgud does the honours.– “Adam and Eve, my dear boys, were, as you know, our first parents, and you will remember that they were created by God in order that the seats in heaven left vacant by the fall of Lucifer and his rebellious angels might be filled again. Lucifer, we are told, was a son of the morning, a radiant and mighty angel; yet he fell: he fell and there fell with him a third part of the host of heaven: he fell and was hurled with his rebellious angels into hell. What his sin was we cannot say. Theologians consider that it was the sin of pride, the sinful thought conceived in an instant: non serviam: I will not serve. That instant was his ruin.He offended the majesty of God by the sinful thought of one instant and God cast him out of heaven into hell for ever.– Adam and Eve were then created by God and placed in Eden, in the plain of Damascus, that lovely garden resplendent with sunlight and colour, teeming with luxuriant vegetation. The fruitful earth gave them her bounty: beasts and birds were their willing servants: they knew not the ills our flesh is heir to, disease and poverty and death: all that a great and generous God could do for them was done. But there was one condition imposed on them by God: obedience to His word. They were not to eat of the fruit of the forbidden tree.– Alas, my dear little boys, they too fell. The devil, once a shining angel, a son of the morning, now a foul fiend came in the shape of a serpent, the subtlest of all the beasts of the field. He envied them. He, the fallen great one, could not bear to think that man, a being of clay, should possess the inheritance which he by his sin had forfeited for ever. He came to the woman, the weaker vessel, and poured the poison of his eloquence into her ear, promising her – O, the blasphemy of that promise! – that if she and Adam ate of the forbidden fruit they would become as gods, nay as God Himself. Eve yielded to the wiles of the archtempter. She ate the apple and gave it also to Adam who had not the moral courage to resist her. The poison tongue of Satan had done its work. They fell”The story continues ‘ad nausea’ with “Hammer Movies” type of (amusing) dialogue. Lesson and moral of the story: “There is one born every minute” Phineas Taylor Barnum.Reference: Portrait of an Artist By James Joyce (1992) ISBN 1-85326-006-1 Wordsworth Classics.

  • John Byrne

    The Bishop has been “Quoting from the Catechism”.

    And that must remind so many of their school days, and  the RC school, where Catholics of the Traditional type are actually made (and made in the traditional way).

    Telling young children that they are Catholics and that they will suffer eternal damnation if they do not follow all the instructions of the Catholic Church is a wicked abuse of the innocent young.
    They became Catholics when they were baptised as a baby and there is no going back, they are told; so they have no choice but to obey and avoid mortal sin (eg. eating meat on a Friday), as defined by the Church, if they are to avoid going to hell for all eternity.

    But, as we all know, this is why there are many more people in Catholic churches on a Sunday than in C of E churches. People are terrified of eternal damnation if they stay away.

    Well, the Bishop’s Sunday numbers are obviously falling again, and here he is deploying the Church’s nuclear weapon to stem the leakage.

    This is NOT the way to do it. It may even work, a bit ( and much less than it once did ). But it will not work for all time – and Bishops will eventually need a better way.
    The true tragedy is that there ARE those in the Church who understand this – and who know the better way. It’s about time they spoke!

  • Brendan

    I agree that Satan never sleeps and his works and prompts are always active. I recall one Sunday summer evening, I was faced with great conflict. I had to choose between attending the Stations of the Cross, the Rosary and Benediction in a darkened austere Church, or meeting a young woman down by the riverbank for hugs and kisses. If it was the devil who told me to choose the latter, then he cannot be all that bad, because I had a wonderful time. Incidentally, her name was Maria.

  • Warren

    Wow – still a lot of people living in denial. Obvious the “touchy-feely” hell-denying religion of the ’70s has done us a lot of good… not! You people who are too squeamish, embarrassed, neurotic, naive or otherwise to admit hell (…take a look around, folks, at the killing fields and the genocide against the unborn!) – you are probably just as likely to deny the reality of cancer or some other serious diseases to which humans are subject. 

    I suspect the same folk who deny a need for a reality check (examination of conscience and confession) are the ones who believe in universal salvation, i.e., that God saves all regardless of what anyone does or believes in this one life we have to live. Listen to the revised Canon of the Mass – “Take this, all of you, and drink from it: for this is the chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal covenant; which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Read that “for many” with due regard. All are called to salvation in Christ; “many”, as in not all, will accept God’s free gift. That deserves mentioning, don’t you think? God does not impose Himself. That little thing called freewill can land us in a heap of trouble, even after baptism. Concupiscence, remember?

    “I call heaven and earth to witness this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing. Choose therefore life, that both thou and thy seed may live: And that thou mayst love the Lord thy God, and obey his voice, and adhere to him (for he is thy life, and the length of thy days,) that thou mayst dwell in the land, for which the Lord swore to thy fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that he would give it them.” Deut. 19-20.

    And choose we must. Choose wrongly, and the consequence is eternal death. Choose Christ and live. It’s that simple. Black and white; no liberal shades of grey. No sugar coating the objective truth. Christ taught the reality of hell; he spoke about it constantly: e.g., “And these shall go away into EVERLASTING punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” Matthew 25:46. Deny hell and you deny Christ’s teaching.

    Perhaps if the terrorists, abortionists, pornographers and adulterers could hear from those of us in the Church about how their actions are putting their souls at risk, then perhaps there would be less contempt for life in the world. If the threat of hell deters one terrorist from killing his next victim, then so be it.

    The good news about a full recovery from a disease is always preceded by the bad news of a diagnosis of cancer. The Good News of the Gospel is always preceded by the bad news concerning the fallen condition of man.

    Kudos to Bishop Davies!

  • Jane Brady

    Oh dear, this sounds very much like the works of the devil, and is real fire and brimstone stuff. Were you not frightened that the earth would open up and swallow you, and that you would go down, down, down to the eternal fires of hell, with a big smile on your face? I hope you went to confession so that the priest could also have a smile on his face, or else a jealous smirk of malice and spite. Had it been me, I would have made the same choice as you did. Hugs and kisses sound great.

  • JHS

    Thank you Bishop Mark for recalling us to reality. Your pastoral is timely and much needed as we prepare to meet Almighty God

  • David M

    This is exactly the reason I’m not a Catholic – emphasis on sin and wrongdoing rather God’s love and mercy. Next you’ll be reintroducing indulgences…

  • Jason Clifford

     Which traditional image of Hell? There are many.

    To try and give an answer to your first question it would be necessary to first ask what time is and so what it would mean for time to end. Many people have died since Christ opened the doors (or gates) of the Kingdom and they are waiting for the End and the final Judgement and Resurrection. Time clearly has not ended – they are waiting.

    Jesus spoke very clearly about Hell as is passed to us in the Gospels. He descibed it as a place for those “cast out” where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth. He also spoke clearly about a final judgement and that there would be those who are welcomed into the Kingdom and those who are not – based upon their own lives and whether they have known Him.

    This means that Hell is real and that there will be those who, having rejected the mercy of God, end up there. Those who are cast out. It will be a place of regret and anger where those who are there can see the Heaven which is beyond them (See the gospel of the Rich man and Lazarus) but cannot or will not see beyond their own self justifications and self interest and who suffer deeply.

    The Church has never named any individual as being in Hell. The Church lives to announce that God’s love and mercy is greater than our sin. You cannot really believe that however unless you acknowledge the reality of sin and its consequences – nobody needs mercy who is not condemned!

    The Church does not proclaim resuscitation. It proclaims Resurrection. St. Paul wrote that we do not know what we are to be except that we shall be like Him (Jesus). The Gospels tell us some things about Jesus after he had entered into the Resurrection. His body was very real – the Apostles could touch Him and He ate with them. His body was however above what we know of the laws of physics – he could pass through solid mass and vanish from sight.

    In the Credo we clearly state that we believe in the resurrection of the body. This is an absolutely core part of our faith, given us by Christ. Those who are in Heaven and those who are in Hell will be there in a real body.

    The idea that the Church has used the concept of Hell and punishment as a lazy way of seeking obedience is in direct conflict with the fact that the Gospels clearly show that Jesus spoke clearly about Hell. This is not however bad news.

    It is good news precisely because it proclaims clearly, with full knowledge of the consequences of our sins and what it means to be condemned on account of our sins, that God’s love and mercy for us is greater and is offered to us freely in Jesus Christ through His Church. Offered freely does not however mean forced upon us.

  • Honeybadger

    Oh, for the love of All That Is Holy, GROW. UP!

  • Honeybadger

    … and that includes YOU! GROW. UP!

    The choices you and … er… McGinnity made is like the choice between the following:

    Quality brewed soy sauce OR Monosodium Glutamate
    Organic matured rump stake OR a basic-price packet of beefburgers
    Fairtrade Belgian Chocolates OR bog-standard ‘chocolate’

    Spending quality time in Our Lord’s Real Presence and contemplating his life, death and resurrection is longer lasting, tasteful, unforgettable – and worth the effort!

    A quick tumble in the mud and reeds would be not as long lasting… and leaves a rotten taste in the mouth, like monosodium glutamate (which also gives you a headache if you eat too much of it), cheapo beefburgers and bog-standard, vegetable oil rubbish called cheap ‘chocolate’!

  • Honeybadger


    ‘Organic, matured STEAK’

    Sorry for the typo!

  • Honeybadger


  • Honeybadger

    Oh, pur-lease!

  • Honeybadger

    Welcome to the reality of HELL, bub!

    Mortal Sin NEVER went away…

  • Jason Clifford

     Your claim that rejection of God requires absolute understanding is flawed. The nature of rejection of God is not based upon our understanding of God but rather upon our assumption that we can take God’s place in our own lives. That does not require a full knowledge of God at all.

    We need only have knowledge of ourselves and the ability to determine our own choices.

  • Adam

     We never got rid of them.

  • Michael Kenny

    My point is that it’s not obvious who goes to Heaven or Hell in the Catholic view of salvation … so merely preaching about Hell isn’t that helpful ….