Thursday, October 11, 2018

Can Hell Be Empty?



I stumbled across a response to an article I wrote back on January 19, 2014, The Matter of Hell. A person who normally opposes my articles (goes by the nickname of TurretinFan, I have no idea of his true identity) actually came out in support of what I said! Now, of course, he still found a way to spin that into an attack on me and/or the Catholic Church - which is why I write this response today. It's nearly 5 years later, but that is mostly because I was not aware of "TurretinFan's" posting. A simple comment stating he responded, preferably with a link, would have been nice and would have likely drawn a more prompt response from me. That being said, let us get into what he said and my responses....

Scott Windsor has a post, "The Matter of Hell," in which he sides with unordained Michael Voris against ordained priest Robert Barron. By contrast, Mark Shea has a post, "Michael Voris Again Smears an Innocent Catholic," in which he sides with Barron against Voris.

Well, let's take TurretinFan's statements in order. First he makes a point of the "unordained" Michael Voris, and that I sided with him in opposing (then) Fr. Barron (he is now a bishop), as if lay people must remain silent with regard to ordained priests. I truly hope that is not TurretinFan's position because often it is precisely the un-ordained who draw back in the ordained. We even have a responsibility to stand up for the traditions we have been taught if we believe any Catholic, ordained or otherwise, is publicly stating something contrary to consistent Catholic teaching. 

TurretinFan also mentions an article by Mark Shea, calling out Michael Voris. I must say, until reading TurretinFan's response to me, I was not aware of Mark Shea's article. Shea wrote, 
Michael Voris sets about the task of ginning up a mob against none other than Fr. Robert Barron as a heretic for his views on hell... 
Well, let us be clear here - Michael Voris - in the short video he posted about Fr. Barron's statements on Hell - NEVER stated Fr. Barron was a heretic. Yes, he clearly stated Fr. Barron was wrong - but not once did he state Fr. Barron was a heretic.

Shea argues that Barron is saying almost exactly what Pope Benedict XVI said on the topic, whereas Windsor argues that Barron's position comes close to falling under the condemnation of the Second Council of Constantinople. Per Windsor, Barron's view is "scandalous at best and perhaps even heretical" whereas Shea thinks "Barron is guilty of no heresy, has said nothing “wrong” and is perfectly within the pale of orthodox speculation."

Interesting how TurretinFan is pitting all these Catholics against each other, as if Catholics can never disagree with each other - even though throughout history we often do and until something is defined as dogma, prior to such a definition, we could even be opposed to the doctrine and still remain a faithful Catholic.

Shea goes on to say: 
You will note that what he has to say is basically identical to what Pope Benedict has to say in Spe Salvi. It is, as it is with Benedict, a speculation, not a forecast or a doctrine. Voris, to his credit cannot bring himself to declare Benedict “wrong” but does not hesitate to bring up Barron on heresy charges for his audience. The problem is, Barron is guilty of no heresy, has said nothing “wrong” and is perfectly within the pale of orthodox speculation.

Let us note, Voris didn't mention Pope Benedict at all, much less make any implication that he was "wrong." Shea submits that Bp. (then Fr.) Barron "is guilty of no heresy..." but as my original article points out, the 2nd Council of Constantinople, the 5th Ecumenical Council, states in the Anathemas Against Origen:
I  If anyone asserts the fabulous pre-existence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it:  let him be anathema.
and
XIV - If anyone shall say that all reasonable beings will one day be united in one, when the hypostases as well as the numbers and the bodies shall have disappeared, and that the knowledge of the world to come will carry with it the ruin of the worlds, and the rejection of bodies as also the abolition of [all] names, and that there shall be finally an identity of the gnosis and of the hypostasis; moreover, that in this pretended apocatastasis, spirits only will continue to exist, as it was in the feigned pre-existence:  let him be anathema.
The "monstrous restoration" and the statement that "all reasonable beings will one day be united..." are both statements nearly identical to what Bp. (then Fr.) Barron asserted - and are flatly condemned with the penalty of anathema from the 5th Ecumenical Council. So to assert there is "no heresy" and "nothing wrong" - is wrong. My initial article, as well as this one, does not go so far as to condemn Bp. Barron as a heretic - but I did, and still do, call for him to publicly retract those statements on Hell - and I would add he should remove that video from YouTube.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: 
The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, ‘eternal fire.’ The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs (CCC 1035).
Catholic Answers posts a whole article on The Hell There Is!  Their article also references many of the Early Church Fathers, demonstrating the consistent teaching of the Church throughout the ages.

At issue is Barron's apparent view (which he says agrees with Balthazar's view) we should believe that Hell is at least possible (as a metaphor for loneliness from divine love, not actually a place) but that we can reasonably hope that Hell is empty based on God's universal salvific desire. Barron concedes to the big tent nature of Roman Catholicism, pointing out that folks like Augustine and Thomas Aquinas would disagree with him.

Shea likewise balances his comment by pointing out:
Now those, such as Ralph Martin who speculate that few will be saved are also (obviously) also within the pale of orthodoxy and share their opinion with not a few Fathers and theologians. But at the end of the day, that’s all you have: two schools of opinion–both of which are allowed by the Church.

When the consistent Church teaching from the Early Church Fathers, to the Fifth Ecumenical Council to the current Catechism of the Catholic Church all affirm the existence of Hell and even anathamatize those who "speculate" on an "empty Hell" or some form of universal salvation, it is extremely difficult for anyone to claim it is "within the pale of orthodoxy" to even hope for an empty hell. It is just wrong, and to claim the "two schools of opinion" are "allowed by the Church" is false.

But it's not just Windsor and Voris vs. Shea and Barron. We could add that we have previously pointed out contemporary cardinals holding that hell may be empty (Cardinal George Pell and Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor).

So, what's the big deal? Well, on the one hand - the Scriptures are clear that there will be men in hell. For example:
Matthew 7:23
And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Matthew 25:41
Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
Revelation 20:14
And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.
Revelation 21:8
But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.
Matthew 22:14
For many are called, but few are chosen.
1 Corinthians 1:26
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
Matthew 26:28
For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Mark 14:24
And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.
Romans 9:22
What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
Matthew 8:12
But the children of the kingdom shall be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
And we could on and on.  Although the great Origen erred in hoping for the eventual restoration of all creation, such a view is not consistent with Scripture's teachings both that hell is real and that the punishment of hell is eternal punishment.

So, on the one hand, Windsor is right that people like Barron and a couple of Windsor's cardinals are wrong. 

TurrentinFan acknowledges, "Windsor is right..." and that others IN the Church are "wrong." 
On the other hand, such a problem is not resolvable on Roman Catholic grounds for basically the reasons that Shea and Barron enunciate: there has been no "official teaching" that anathematizes one or the other position, and consequently both contradictory positions are acceptable, even though both cannot be right.

Well, as I have pointed out - there really ARE teachings which put the statements of Bp. (then Fr.) Barron at odds with orthodox Catholic teaching.  Yes, some have claimed there is no definitive teaching from the Church - but clearly, there IS.

Worse yet for Windsor and Voris, the evidence is that the current hierarchy supports and teaches the erroneous view.  I have not confirmed whether Shea is accurate in characterizing the teachings of Benedict XVI, but it clearly extends at least up to the cardinals.

The encyclical from Pope Benedict, Spe Salvi, which has been alluded to as evidence of Benedict denying Hell barely mentions Hell - and never denies it. There was a bit of a controversy earlier in 2018 when Pope Francis gave an interview to an atheist "friend" of his - but that turned out to be a bit of a farce. Scalfari has a reputation of putting words into the mouth of Pope Francis and in his story recapping the interview he did not use quotes and it certainly appears this was another incident of him inserting his own words for the Pope's.  See my article Pope Francis on Hell from April 1, 2018. Again, I will not be surprised if you can trot out others IN the Church who believe as then Fr. Barron presented in the YouTube Vlog - but that doesn't change the Church's consistent teaching on this matter.
The most remarkably thing is that Windsor and Voris continue to trust in this church (which teaches and promotes errors that they themselves are able to identify) rather than trusting in God alone and His Word. They may be able to convince themselves that these same hierarchs would never commit their erroneous doctrines to an allegedly infallible document, but such thinking seems wishful indeed in view of the highly compromised documents of Vatican II, not to mention the victory of the ultramontanists in Vatican I.

The fact that some men IN the Church have embraced errors doesn't mean we should abandon THE Church which Jesus Christ Himself promised to build. During the time of St. Athanasius MOST of the hierarchy in the Church, including the pope for a while, embraced the heresy of Arianism, leaving St. Athanasius virtually alone in opposing the heresy (which got him exiled from the Church for a time too!). Eventually, however, the pope and the Church returned to orthodoxy and St. Athanasius was returned to the fold. So this sort of argument from TurretinFan does not really carry any weight. Trusting in His Word alone (sola scriptura, which is no where taught in Scripture) has led to literally thousands of "Bible-believing" sects which disagree with each other on many points - and many condemn other "Bible-believing" sects for not believing as THEY do on given topics (baptismal regeneration, to name one). The point is, just because some IN the Church may be venturing into scandal and even heretical territory - that doesn't make the Church wrong.

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