Search This Blog


Monday, September 19, 2016

The Reality of Hell

    by Rudolph Lohse      

            The doctrine of hell is not just some dusty, theological holdover from the unenlightened Middle Ages. It has significant consequences. Without ultimate justice, people’s sense of moral obligation dissolves; social bonds are broken. People who have no fear of God soon have no fear of man.

Hell itself is a glorification of divine justice. The pain of hell consists in the recognition of perpetual separation from God, just as the joy of heaven is in union with Him forever. Contrary to what many liberal dissenters and Modernists think, hell is real and the Church continues to teach that there are “two classes” in humankind, “the saved and the damned”. Avery Cardinal Dulles, RIP, once the most renowned Catholic theologian in the United States, emphasized that theme in a major speech at Fordham University in New York. The Cardinal criticized today’s thoughtless optimism about salvation, stating “Popular piety has become saccharine and many Christians take it almost for granted that everyone, or almost everyone, will be saved.” He also noted that this prevalent misconception has led to a sharp drop in people’s frequency of confession. “More education is needed to convince people that they ought to fear God Who, as Jesus taught, can punish soul and body together in hell,” he said, citing Matthew 10:28.

          Angelo Roncalli, who became Pope John XXIII, as a youth memorized a poem that became a motto for the rest of his life, entitled Four Future Things:       
Death, than which nothing is more certain.
Judgment, than which nothing is more strict. 
Hell, than which nothing is more terrible.
Paradise, than which nothing is more delightful.

The Last Judgement by Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel
            This attitude of the Pope is also the attitude of the Church, which bases its teaching about the eternal punishment of hell directly on the words of Christ Himself, where, at the Last Judgment, He compares the reward of the just with the condemnation of the wicked, saying “Come, you whom My Father has blessed, take for your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world.” But to the unjust, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels” and “the damned will go into everlasting punishment, but the virtuous to everlasting life” (Matthew 25:34, 41, 46).

What is significant here is that Christ balances the two judgments in exactly the same way so that the endless duration of heaven is absolutely equalized with the endless duration of hell.  Thus, if heaven exists for eternity, so must the sufferings of hell exist without end. If it is argued that the punishment of hell eventually ceases, then one must accept the fact that heaven itself will end, seeing that Christ spoke of both as eternal in the same place and in one and the same sentence. (St. Augustine, The City of God).

Those who go to Hell, however, do so by their own free-will choice of breaking God’s moral law (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Edition 1997, par.1033).

Ultimately, Love will not conquer all, but Justice will be served.

Printed with permission from The Educated Catholic: Forever Catholic by Rudolph Lohse -

No comments: