I want you to stop for a moment and do something: Right now… try to imagine what goes through the mind of a soul during her first 15 seconds in Hell. The realization of where you are…
“This can’t … be happening… to ME….”
But. It. Has.
Let’s get a couple things clear.
We should never wish Hell for a person out of malice. We must pray that both God’s mercy and God’s justice place people exactly where they ought to be. If that place is Hell, so be it, but we should prefer and pray that all find the means to attain heaven, even after an unfathomably long time of purgation. We especially pray for God’s mercy on all obvious sinners, just as we pray for mercy for ourselves, for wee, too, are sinners. We should desire that even the most horrible of sinners, in their last moments at least, repent and throw themselves on God’s loving mercy.
Secondly, excommunication is not a sentence to Hell. Excommunication means that you may not receive the sacraments. But think about how much harder it is to get to heaven without the sacraments! The sacraments are the ordinary means of our salvation. Christ Himself willed that we receive sacraments. He gave them to us. When you are excommunicated, you cannot receive Communion or go to confession.
How much harder is it to reach Heaven without the sacraments? Lots. How much easier is it to go to Hell? Lots.
This is something that the divorced and civilly remarried had better start thinking about, especially if they are going about their business as if they haven’t placed themselves in real spiritual peril. For example, every time they would go to Holy Communion, they would be committing the sin of sacrilege. “Sacrilege”… the improper or irreverent treatment of something sacred… in this case the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ, God. If that isn’t seriously bad, I don’t know what is.
Does that sound like something that you can do over and over again and still get to heaven? Really?
The above goes for all of you who are in the state of mortal sin for any reason and are still trooping up for Communion as if nothing were wrong.
Having a great day yet? Let’s make it even better. You are all going to die someday and you don’t know when that will be. When you die, you will go to your judgment and the verdict is eternal. Get that? Once given, it can never change.
Are you ready, or are there some things you need to get straightened out?
I turn now to something I saw at Fishwrap, where they shamelessly and scandalously promote the ordination of women. Get this headline:
First woman priest ordained in New Jersey dies
First, she wasn’t a priest, wasn’t ordained.
Newton, N.J. Mary Ann McCarthy Schoettly was not known to brag, but many among the more than 150 who attended her memorial service Monday at Newton Presbyterian Church [How sad is that? But remember… she was excommunicated.] said she had plenty to boast about.
One thing she could have trumpeted was that she had received all seven Catholic sacraments. [No. She hadn’t. It is a matter of wonder that Fishwrap publishes this rubbish without hesitation.] From her baptism in 1942 to her more recent reception of the anointing of the sick, she had made her first confession, first Communion and been confirmed in her youth. Later, she entered into matrimony.
But what set her apart from the others in the church was her ordination to the priesthood. [No, she wasn’t. She attempted something that was impossible and then simulated the celebration of the Eucharist, publicly, which is a horrible sin.] Schoettly was the first Roman Catholic Womenpriest from New Jersey to be ordained. [No.] Her [fake] ordination took place for the St. Mary Magdalene Community in Philadelphia in 2009.
Schoettly died July 22, the feast of Mary Magdalene. At the time of her passing, she had been co-presiding over the Sophia Inclusive Catholic Community, [sheesh] which meets every Sunday for worship and faith sharing in Sparta, N.J., and once a month in Morristown, N.J.
The assembly was encouraged to participate in the Eucharist by joining the celebrant in the words of consecration. Following the opening hymn, “All Are Welcome,” Corso repeated the welcome when it was time “for all” to come forward and receive the gluten-free bread and alcohol-free wine.
If you have the stomach to, read the rest of this goofy but tragic business over there.
Remember: Those who attempt ordination like this, to the diaconate or priesthood, incur the censure of excommunication. Any attempt to celebrate the Eucharistic Sacrifice, Mass, by someone not truly ordained to the priesthood commits a delictum gravius. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith 2008 decree confirms that these “attempted ordinations” are invalid. Cann. 1378 and 1443 apply to those who participate in these fake ordinations. Those involved are automatically excommunicated.
As faithful Catholics we hope for the salvation of this poor deluded soul and for the conversion of all those who are set on that same path. It is a horrible thing to be excommunicated and to die excommunicated.
Now that you have, hopefully, been frightened about Hell, stop and say a prayer for the soul of poor Mary Ann, who died recently.
Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord…
Fishwrap closed the combox on that entry. Wisely. I shall turn on the moderation queue.
“I want you to stop for a moment and do something: Right now… try to imagine what goes through the mind of a soul during her first 15 seconds in Hell.”
And thinking that 15 seconds is a very, very, very tiny portion of FOREVER is very, very sobering. Great motivation to go to confession often, to strive to please the Lord every day, and to pray for the grace of perseverance.
Lord, our sister Mary Ann may not have opened her eyes to the error of her ways in this life; but I humbly ask that You grant her Your mercy and not condemn her to eternal hellfire and damnation.
Thank you Father for preaching about Hell. I have not heard any mention of hell at Church in many moons.
Is this not the problem with Holy Church in the current time? When Holy Mother Church declares that there can never be, de fide and in fact, a female priest in the New Covenant of Jesus Christ – which means that one has lost the faith if they persist in the hope and belief thereof – and hundreds of priests, bishops, cardinals, laity ignore and press on, telling others to ignore the faith, is this not symptomatic of a loss of faith in the reality of hell?
Though Father recommends a prayer for this soul, does not the Apostolic practice forbid us from praying for obstinate and public apostates? I ask not faceciously – I recall a tradition that the Church would refuse funerals and prayers for departed who committed suicide for example.
Sophia Inclusive Catholic Community? Ah, of course, SICC.
One has to wonder if the words non serviam will be echoing in a condemned soul.
In the Divine Comedy those who are headed for Hell are eager to arrive. Their intellects are so darkened that they cannot comprehend that eternal punishment awaits on the other side of the Acheron.
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I was having a conversation with somebody who just knew enough theology to be dangerous and he actually stumped me! His theory is that very few of the people committing these sins (i.e., most of the sexual ones, female “ordination”, etc.) will end up in Hell even if they don’t take Fr. Z’s suggestion to hit the Confessional. Unfortunately, he uses the standard Catholic requirements for mortal sin as his basis. Using shorthand, these are 1) the act is intrinsically grave, 2) you know it is, and 3) you do it anyway. So many people believe that these sins are that bad (“well, it’s not MURDER!”), so they don’t hit the #2 requirement….so basically Hell is reserved for practicing, well-trained Catholics, who sin. Therefore, readers of the blog might have a higher need of Confession than others….
Now, I know this isn’t right, but my brain isn’t coming up with the answer.
[I think they all, deep down, know its wrong.]
I have no doubt in my mind that Mary Ann McCarthy Schoettly was likely well versed in theology. Unfortunately, pride is a very strong demon to overcome. Pride led to the reformation. Pride has led many to atheism and promoted modernist schism. I pray for anyone who has had difficulties overcoming “self”. Certainly, I need prayers in this area too.
I know a woman who is also a “womanpriest”, but not well, just to say hello to when our paths cross. She has lots of passion and I keep wishing she would direct it toward something helpful, but it probably won’t happen. She fits the template of religious sister, married, DRE (heaven help those kids), and finally “ordained”. Having no authority to do anything, I am cordial and pray for her and those she has influenced. I am told several real priests from our area attended her faux ordination, which I am sure gave credibility to her action, sadly.
Prayers for her soul (and all souls like these), that in that last moment, she saw the light, repented and asked God for forgiveness.
I’m often reminded of that joke by the Presbyterian minister about the soul on its way to Hell.
It said ” Lord, Lord a didna ken. Aye said the Lord, well yi ken noo. Doon ye go!
“the gluten-free bread and alcohol-free wine” – HEY! The Fishwrap got something exactly right… gluten or no gluten, alcohol or no, this stuff remained ordinary bread and wine for those people, because there was nobody qualified to consecrate it. So thanks to NSR for this moment of truth in an otherwise scandalous puff piece.
Thank you Father Z for preaching about hell on a regular basis. In my home parish, I have not heard a sermon on hell in over 50 years! We need to be reminded that every day could be our last. I do not understand how someone can be so ambivalent about their eternal salvation. Perhaps that is why so many drink to excess, take illegal drugs, and engage in other sinful behaviors to dull the pain. Lord have mercy on us all!
@Lepidus They know it’s wrong. If they refuse to admit it to themselves that is a completely different story. Father is right: they all (or 99% of them at least) know at some level exactly what they are doing and they want to do it usually for precisely that reason.
On occasion, I find I’m wondering if someone must go through military PT or something equally physically demanding before they truly understand the agony that Hell must be. I recall, on occasion, mentioning something about somebody “going to hell”, as we do sometimes in these days. When I wound up reading something–I forget what or where–that discussed how Hell was worse torment than anything we could imagine, for every moment of our existence, for the rest of time, I recall rethinking that kind of comment.
I recall thinking that I’ve been in pretty ugly pain from undergoing a test of some sort, then realizing that Hell could be several times worse even than that. … And constant …And forever.
That’s a pretty sobering thought, I must say!
“In the Divine Comedy those who are headed for Hell are eager to arrive. Their intellects are so darkened that they cannot comprehend that eternal punishment awaits on the other side of the Acheron.”
An interpretation that has made more sense to me is not that they’re eager to arrive in Hell, but eager to stay away from that which they’ve defined their lives by fostering an aversion to.
This seems to me to fit what we know about God’s justice – if someone would in their earthly lives flee God’s love and redemption to the very end, He will not force them to accept it for eternity after their passing.
But it is painful to think about, in those first 15 seconds, the realization of what they have spurned. Not just a recognition that they’re missing out on a good time playing the harp, but the very deep realization that they have rejected the ultimate source of all fulfillment, hope, and joy. Peter Kreeft speculated that this full realization of the loss of God would actually be worse than any of the physical tortures we traditionally ascribe to hell.
I think Dr. Kreeft’s article on hell is worth a read:
@ Cafea Fruor
As you said:
I suspect 15 seconds in hell would seem like forever, and then the 16th second would get there . . . .
Now here’s the “but Father, but Father: “
If a person who is excommunicated can’t receive the sacraments, how do they get the excommunication lifted? My guess would be to start in the confessional, on the lines of “I committed public heresy and am here to repent and get my excommunicationn lifted. . . .”
[It starts in the confessional, but the confessor has to determine if he has or must obtain the faculty to lift the censure. So, having learned the necessary elements of the case, he then makes an appoint to meet with the penitent again and, in the meantime, requests the faculty from the proper authority.]
I have to agree with Fr. Z here; I think that deep down inside the folks committing these sins know that they’re wrong. They may say “I don’t agree” or “I don’t believe that”, but they know deep down that it doesn’t change anything. A negative emotional reaction to being told that what they are doing doesn’t either. They’re all forms of “non serviam”. Now, I am not a moral theologian, but I reckon that truly invincible ignorance is hard to come by, even in this time of moral confusion. And even if, in a particular case, you could argue that a man would not be worthy of Hell because he genuinely did not know this or that action was mortally sinful, there is still the matter of venial sin, isn’t there? In any case, I wouldn’t be gambling with my soul’s eternal salvation by banking on my ignorance to get me out of a jam!
Additionally, there is the question of Purgatory. Even if God in His mercy would not condemn a particular soul to Hell because the man were ignorant of the seriousness of the sin he was committing, I would assume his soul is not at all prepared to spend eternity in the presence of God. I think people underestimate just how painful the purification the soul undergoes in Purgatory is, and how much we should want to do everything possible to limit the time we have to spend there.
A couple of issues with this piece. First, there is no time after death; purgatory must surely involve intensity, not time, and the purgation can only be a beneficial one. Second, all this hell talk is unlikely to win the Church any new members. Have priests forgotten about Jesus’ love and compassion, or does the clergy enjoy gloating over people’s damnation? It’s quite pharisaical. [Happily, many of us can keep in mind both the Jesus’ love and compassion (who beat people with a whip of cords and preached about the worm that dies not) and also the Four Last Things… all four, not just the Last One Thing. Being Christian is more than fluffy bunnies and hugs. I am going to continue to try to keep YOU out of Hell, by mentioning it with regularity.]
rollingrj: I’ve long been inclined to imagine the chambers of Hell echoing with a mixture of the Bee Gees singing “We belong to you and me” and the Grass Roots singing “Sha la lalalala, live for today!”
Father Z, I’ll say a prayer for Mary Ann McCarthy Schoettly, but Fr. Gregory is STILL ex-communicated! [That’s right!]
@Lepidus You said you discussed Hell with a person who knew just enough theology to be dangerous. I had the same discussion with a Jesuit professor of Moral Theology at Boston College. He used the same argument — the three requirements of mortal sin — to excuse two men in a same-sex marriage receiving communion at a local parish. “If they truly believe they are married” then they are not committing a sin. Really.
O my Jesus, forgive us our sins;
save us from the fires of Hell.
Lead all souls to Heaven;
especially those in most need of Your mercy. Amen
May Jesus, in His Divine Mercy, take pity on all of us at time of death!
Thank you, Father, for regularly reminding us, “MEMENTO MORI”.
Obedience is the main virtue which underlines all the other ones. Those who choose to be disobedient in any way leave the path of salvation. It does not matter what the sin is. Satan does not care how we go to hell, just that we go there.
It could be a sin of disobedience to the Church as public and clear as this poor woman. It can be a sin like being rich and not helping the poor, or a sin of receiving Communion is an irregular marriage. It can be a daily sin of pride or anger or gluttony.
Excommunication should scare all of us. I pity those who do not pay attention to being obedient to the laws of the Church.
May I share a Mummy-story? When my son was twelve, I was going through a hard time. He was as well, in a minor way. I corrected him one day saying that he had to be obedient about small things as well as big ones, like cleaning his room. Underlining my point, I said that obedience was an important virtue. Young son answered, “Of course, Mummy, all the other virtues come from obedience. It is the first one.”
I meditated on this and went back to the writings of St. Bernard who is big on obedience. If one looks at all the public sins of fallen away Catholics, one can see the root sin. “I will not….obey.”
People may blind themselves for awhile, but here and there they get hints. But, having to deal with Obama Catholics close up in the past eight months, I can say that blindness increases the more we sin.
Sin makes people stupid. Poor woman. I hope at one point in her life she asked Mary Our Mother for help. Maybe, maybe Mary was there at the hour of her death.
@ profling – We don’t know how or whether we will experience “time” in the eternity after death, although that’s not a question with significant theological implications, so I see little wrong with discussing the experience in the time-driven manner we currently know.
Secondly, “all this hell talk” isn’t that much. Take a browse back through the blog and see how much Fr. Z talks about hell compared to other topics. I also don’t see the gloating you mention.
More importantly, all this hell talk isn’t intended to win converts. It’s intended to educate and reinforce that education those who already believe in God and that the Catholic church is His instrument in the world.
You are very much right that to convert people we must emphasize the love and compassion of Jesus, but at some point in their journey of conversion, they have to learn the other option they’re offered besides heaven, and for the sake of existing Catholics also, we can’t refuse to discuss what is at stake when we reject that love and compassion in favor of self or the world either.
I have been fortunate enough to hear sin and hell preached from the pulpit on a regular basis. I have also heard the misunderstood argument about culpability for mortal sin trotted out by a deacon who should know better.
Navarricano has it right. Its a matter of whether the person involved is a victim of invincible ignorance or not. I suspect that at the present time invincible ignorance is very hard to come by anywhere in the western world. Despite efforts by swishy left leaning theologians and priests what the Church teaches has been quite amply stated by numerous people. I do admit that there are exceptions. I can think of a fairly devote couple I know who got caught up in the IVF mess because they discussed the possibility of using the procedure with their pastor who told them the Church had no moral problem with it. Imagine their later (post birth) surprise when they found out they had been lied to. Said pastor was later removed by the bishop, but only after a visitor from another diocese complained to his bishop because the priest had denied the virgin birth in a homily.
Father, I am very confused as of late. Sadly, I pay attention to Pope Francis and what he says to Catholic and non-Catholics. It appears that he has been telling the non-Catholics not to bother converting since their religions is just fine. Would this not also apply to women priests in the Episcopalian Church. If this woman priest converted to Episcopalian Church, would she then be saved once again.
I am married to a non-Catholic who believes whole heartedly that Catholicism is of the devil and wrong. She is a good person who loves her god dearly. Given Pope Francis’s words, is there any reason I should even pray for her conversion. [Of course you should!] She obeys her conscience and is a good wife. Her religion is very dogmatic and she is not nearly as confused as I am. Her faith basically tells her that black is black and white is white. Yet as a Catholic, I read one thing on your blog (read the same thing in hundreds of years of Catholic teaching) and yet hear something different from most priests today and Pope Francis. In fact, the former head of the USCCB commended someone for his homosexuality. [We desire that people come to heaven. Christ gave us the Church and sacraments as the ordinary means of our salvation. Be joyful. Keep praying. Be inviting without being pushy. Who knows what will happen?]
If I may add that I am re-reading The Steps of Humility and Pride by St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and he writes this about those who are excommunicated:
“Is they would be warned of their terrible danger when they realize that the Church does not pray for them in her liturgy when she prays confidently even for Jews, heretics and pagans. For on Good Friday, when she prays for each class of sinners by name, she makes no mention of the excommunicated.”
“I want you to stop for a moment and do something: Right now… try to imagine what goes through the mind of a soul during her first 15 seconds in Hell.”
Funny, I was doing just this very thing on my way back from Adoration this evening.
I remember reading elsewhere, a discussion in comments between the wonderful “supertradmum” and some deluded fool who was arguing that “subjectivity” is a valid basis for argument; that it is an “objective fact” that subjectivity exists. It struck me at the time that Hell is probably awash with subjectivity, with not an iota of objectivity in sight.
Though not orthodox in its presentation of the subjects of Heaven and Hell, the film What Dreams May Come which I watched some years back, struck me in its portrayal of the personalities of people in Hell. C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce also provides a clever depiction of such. I definitely recommend the latter to anyone who doubts the reality of Hell, or the justification for its existence.
A thought occurred to me a few weeks back, in discussion with a friend, concerning the character in The Great Divorce who insists only on what it “rightfully his”. I suggested we take him at his word, and imagine that he is granted a glimpse of the full glory of God that he supposes is his by right. What would happen to him? I asked. My suggestion was that it would burn so much he would want to get as far away from it as possible, i.e. infinitely far, and that would surely be where he found himself within an instant.
They went the extra mile by using gluten-free bread and alcohol-free wine, both of which are invalid matter for the Eucharist. (Assuming the alcohol-free wine wasn’t mustum, but even that is fraught with problems).
Profling: ” Second, all this hell talk is unlikely to win the Church any new members.”
What’s funny is that my church is blessed with a zealous and gifted evangelist who only recently told a person they would surely go to hell if he didn’t change their ways. That person is now receiving catechesis and is well on their way to being received into the Church.
Sure, we “preach Christ, and Him Crucified”, but the other side of that is the result of rejecting Him and his mercy.
profling, the Lord spoke of Hell quite a bit Himself.
“First, there is no time after death; purgatory must surely involve intensity, not time…”
Strictly speaking, there are more sorts of time than only physical time — otherwise a soul separated from its body would enter the Eternal Now ascribed only to God. (It’s also worth noting that there’s physical time after the resurrection, although I am not certain if that was at issue here.)
“Second, all this hell talk is unlikely to win the Church any new members. Have priests forgotten about Jesus’ love and compassion…”
But it wouldn’t be much love if He forced it on us — otherwise it wouldn’t matter if we win anyone to Him as His members — and He won’t have many members if everyone thinks they can ignore Him because no harm will come of it.
“…or does the clergy enjoy gloating over people’s damnation?”
There was no gloating in the original post, so you can rule that out. However, your two suggested possibilities are not exhaustive.
“It’s quite pharisaical.”
Why worry about people being pharisaical if Jesus is compassionate and loving?
And in reply to an earlier comment…
“Peter Kreeft speculated that this full realization of the loss of God would actually be worse than any of the physical tortures we traditionally ascribe to hell.”
I was under the impression that traditional theology called this realization the “pain of loss” and held it to be the primary form of suffering constituting Hell — and, if I’m not mistaken, the only applicable one between death and the resurrection of the body — while maintaining the existence of the literal, physical fiery torments that are more easily portrayed or imagined.
And in reply to the original post…
“Right now… try to imagine what goes through the mind of a soul during her first 15 seconds in Hell.”
Everyone knows that by the first thirteen picoseconds the soul wants to die all over again (which is, in a sense, the very essence of the choice of damnation). What the fourteenth and then fifteenth picoseconds bear, I am not qualified to speculate. Any measurement of whole seconds is much too long.
I read this somewhere:
“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.”
“Just as weeds are collected and burned [up] with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
Out of curiosity, I looked up this womanpriestess’s organization, the Sophia Inclusive catholic Community. Needless to say, there is plenty there to disturb, but this one line on the welcome page tells anyone all they need to know:
“All gifts are honored and all gifts are offered in service to the People of God.”
If “all” gifts are offered to the people, what is left for God? All this people-centricity is as cumbersome as it is dangerous.
The gift of discernment is so necessary, yet so few seem to receive it or even ask for it. I pray that more people begin to recognize the abject stupidity of pleasant sounding lines like this one, and run away screaming.
First, I’ve forgotten what a terrific blog this is. Thank you, Fr. Z.
Secondly, please pray with me that my Anglican husband will fill out the necessary papers to annul his prior “marriage” so that I may start receiving the sacraments again. (It’s very simple, he’s a big procrastinator. Plus, he’s offended our Church doesn’t see our marriage as valid; we’ve been married almost 17 years, pretty happily.)
And no, I have not gone to Communion except one time when one priest gave me the wrong advice. But I sure want to go to again. (and to Confession)
A related question, Father, to something you said above in comments. What happens to an excommunicate who goes to confession and has to wait for the priest to receive faculties if they die before the appointment? [We can’t place limitations on God’s mercy. I hope that God will take the first step into account.]
Quidem nonnumquam eos easque audivi infidel?s,
te, nostrum patrem bonum, valde errare canent?s,
supra scribentem ac talia credentem un? cum
(id est, usque cum) e?s permult?s qui soleant tecum consentire
(eos fidel?s quidem opinor esse permultos et sentio tibi solum dissimil?s
fortasse ingeni? magnitudineque vocis).
Seramus ut servamur. Vale.
(nunc sine signis “apecibus”. Vale.)
Quidem nonnumquam eos easque audivi infideles,
te, nostrum patrem bonum, valde errare canentes,
supra scribentem ac talia credentem una cum
(id est, usque cum) eis permultis, qui soleant tecum consentire
(eos fideles quidem opinor esse permultos et sentio tibi solum dissimiles
fortasse ingenio magnitudineque vocis.
Seramus ut servamur. Vale.
Dear StDonatus, there is hope! I’ve seen the most unlikely converts during my life. One lady had a husband who was so staunchly ANTIcatholic, that he put on angry arguments with her catholic friends over dinner! He started to soften up about 20 years ago and even played the organ in her church for many years. He didn’t convert, (fell ill) but embraced all Catholic teachings.
Another friend was an atheist racist but happened to meet a pious girl, he converted and they are now raising a lovely Catholic family.
Yet another friend suddenly told his Catholic wife that he had to be Catholic! She was very surprised.
I could give you a dozen more examples from my circle of friends. Pray for your wife, be a good example and let God do his job ;-)!