“Welcome to Hell! Here’s your ice cream!”

It has been sometime since I posted anything from Savage Chickens.  (I wonder where the Masked Chicken” got himself off to, anyway.  You don’t suppose The Colonel finally caught up to him, do you?)

New Hell!  How jolly.

While we, as a preaching teaching Church, shouldn’t be incessantly pushing the Four Last Things in a dire and threatening way, we should be pushing the Four Last Things clearly and often.

Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell.  These are not options.   Everyone of us will face three out of the four.

We have a say about which three.

But let’s be clear about something: Hell is not nice.  It isn’t nice for those in Hell now and it won’t be nice for anyone in Hell in the future.

There won’t be ice cream.

Hell is eternal… eternal … separation from God with no hope… no hope… of that state ever changing.

The eternal agony of the damned will come from the eternal and irrevocable loss of the Beatific Vision, the happiness of heaven, the bliss of being with God and experiencing that glorified state with the saints and angels.  That is the “pain of loss” to we refer in the classic Act of Contrition when we say we are sorry for our sins because we “dread the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell”.

But loss of Heaven is not the only painful aspect of Hell.  We are creatures of both soul and body.  Pain of loss is to be felt in the soul.  Pain of the senses will be felt in the senses.   Imagery from Scripture suggests “fire”.  We don’t know for sure what the pain of senses will be, but “fire” doesn’t sound good at all.  Whatever it may be, let’s avoid it, shall we?

How can we avoid the loss of Heaven and the pains of Hell?

First, let’s not candy-quote what Hell is.

Let’s talk about Hell and think about it often, if not daily.

Let’s use well all the means of salvation (from Hell, by the way) that Our Lord has given us in the Church.  We have the sacraments and the Church’s sure teaching about faith and morals.

Let’s give good examples and encouragement to others, to help keep as many people out of Hell as we can.

Let’s also present and reflect on the joy and the beauty of Heaven, for which we were made if we only will cooperate with God who desires our eternal happiness with Him.   The glories of heaven are even more vague, in some ways, than the torments of Hell.  And yet we know that we shall be able to see God!  We cannot see Him in this life.  We see now only foreshadowings and suggestions.  Even if we consider just Rev. 24:4, Heaven sounds like a great option: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”

So, I think you know where I am driving this.

Examine your consciences, consider the Four Last Things and…


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Four Last Things, GO TO CONFESSION, Lighter fare and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. VexillaRegis says:

    Yes, I have also wondered where the Masked Chicken has been perching. Hopefully he’s just very busy at work. Chirrrp! Chicky? We miss you!

    Sorry for the derailing, Father, back to hell :-)

  2. J Kusske says:

    If a devil offered me ice cream, I’d think twice about eating it. A Far Side cartoon comes to mind though: a soul is confronted with two gates, Damned If You Do, and Damned If You Don’t. He’s paused wondering which one to take, and the devil behind him impatiently tells him “Come on, come on–it’s one or the other!” God forbid anyone is ever in that position in the first place–repent, and do the will of the Lord!

  3. Gregg the Obscure says:

    Confession is a magnificent gift even – perhaps especially – when it is difficult.

  4. YoungLatinMassGuy says:

    Call me old fashioned (Or maybe I’m just nuts…), but the idea of dying in a hospital bed, drugged out of my mind, in a room that’s trying too hard to be “sterile” and everyone knows that it’s failing at being “sterile” but everyone has agreed to not talk about it, surrounded by extended-family-vultures waiting to pull the plug on me, and divide up my worldly possessions sounds… Wrong. It sounds Icky to me.

    After seeing that very scene with a priest who I had tagged along with on an emergency trip to a local hospital, I was left with the thought: “What was the point of all that?”

    Out of all the perfectly fine (and more dignified) ways to die, that’s how too many people exit stage left in this modern world of ours.

    Gimme a crazed gunman (or several gunmen) attacking people to die fighting against, taking a few down with me and I’ll call it a life well ended!

    That honestly sounds like a lot of fun and a cure for the ever-present ennui of life to be honest.

  5. acardnal says:

    The Very Rev. Fr. Robert Barron wrote a blog post on Hell recently that was controversial. He reiterated the fact that it is Church teaching and Christ’s teaching that hell exists. After referring to Origen and Augustine and Barth and von Balthasar and Aquinas, Fr. Barron seems to question whether any one is there because “the Church has never claimed to know if any human being is actually in Hell.”

    HERE is his video on the subject and HERE is his essay.

    As for the Masked Chicken, I was wondering about his whereabouts, too. Perhaps he has flown the coop.

  6. majuscule says:

    I know we are not required to believe in approved apparitions…but I can’t get the image of Hell out of my mind that the Fatima seers claim Our Lady showed them. Seems like there were human forms there, not just demons! And then there is the reason for many of them being there that Our Lady gave…

  7. benedetta says:

    acardnal, I appreciate your comments here. I have read this about Fr. Barron, however, I have read his columns and watched the videos and it seems to me that he has always devoted quite a lot of attention to the Last Things. Perhaps it is so that he is not a trad priest, however I have never heard anything remotely unorthodox from him, and certainly never ever any dissent. Quite the contrary, I think he magnifies and elucidates tradition beautifully.

    The quote that you included above, I may be wrong, but I see that to mean him to say that the Church does not purport to act in the stead of, or set herself up to be on par with, the final judge, who is God, as to who is or is not in hell. Hell exists as the Church teaches, as we of course know. But may we know for certainty if one may be in hell or in purgatory, for instance? I suppose we have the assurance of the saints, of the communion of saints, but, the fact that Our Creator in His Providence gave us the capability to recognize pristine goodness and heroic sanctity in our midst upon the earth does not to me seem to be the same thing as being able to deem other lives in other places…? Perhaps others with better knowledge than mine could chime in as to this.

  8. Southern Baron says:

    Fr Z, I know you don’t like rap, and with good reason; but I wonder if the flip side of your frequent suggestion to imagine the first few seconds in hell would be, in heaven, the song “I woke up in a new Bugatti.” A very, very weak imitation, of course. But in any case it makes me think of you.

    Thank you as always for your reminding us to be mindful of these things. We live in a culture that isolates itself from death in too many ways, much less considers what comes after. It is almost taboo to mention it. We shouldn’t be morbid but it is good to remember our own mortality. We always assume we will accomplish tomorrow what we may not have a chance to do.

  9. acardnal says:

    According to the Encyclopedia of Catholic Doctrine (OSV), the Church has no information about who is in Hell and is “forbidden even to speculate.” So that is why the Church has never “claimed to know” who is there or how many. The Church knows neither the number nor the names. God has given us no list of names, “only the knowledge that Hell and damnation are possible and that we need to fear them.” Having said that, in my opinion, I think it’s irresponsible to say or imply that no one or few are there. That can endanger one’s salvation especially when one dies suddenly without benefit of the sacraments. (An “unprovided death” is something Fr.Z writes about frequently.) I would have preferred to hear Fr. Barron say “only God knows” if anyone or how many are in Hell.

    I often recall Mt 7:13-14:

    13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

  10. Bea says:

    I think that yes, indeed, Ice Cream is part of Hell.
    Before you can get a lick in, IT MELTS!

    I’d read about Fr. Robert Baron’s views. The scariest part is that he’s in charge of the training of future priests at the seminary of Mundelein.
    No Hell
    No need for Christ’s dying on the cross
    No need for confession
    No need of Sacraments
    No need of Church

    And yet?………….
    Our Lord spoke more of Hell than He did of Heaven.
    Our Lady showed the children of Fatima glimpses of Hell
    May Heaven help us and save us DESPITE the Hierarchy.

  11. Imrahil says:

    Our Lord spoke more of Hell than He did of Heaven.

    I don’t think counting mentionings is of much use here. One reason is how often something is been spoken of need not be correlate to the importance of the topic. Another is that the Evangelists, by their own account, chose something Our Lord said and omitted others He said too. They did so because otherwise the world would not be enough to be filled with all the books that would have to be written.

    They gave an accurate picture, of course; in its entirety, taken as a whole.

    And in fact, the image I at least get is that the warning sort of preaching is a necessary thing as a preparation, and was thus specifically stressed upon by the Precursor, St. John. As for our Lord himself, St. Mark narrates Him preaching the following, which appears as a sort of program:

    “The time is fulfilled, the Kingdom of God is near. Do penance, and believe in the Good News.”

    There’s penance all right; but there’s not only penance, and a shortening of an already short formula may be omitting essential parts.

    By the occasion, there’s a little Chesterton quote:
    His pathos was natural, almost casual. The Stoics, ancient and modern, were proud of concealing their tears. He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of His native city. Yet He concealed something. Solemn supermen and imperial diplomatists are proud of restraining their anger. He never restrained His anger. He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected
    to escape the damnation of Hell. Yet He restrained something. I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness. There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His

  12. benedetta says:

    acardnal, Thanks for that, yes I understand the preference that people not presume against the reality of Hell. I think more should preach on these realities of the Last Things generally. However the article from 2011 you posted, I think it quite good and interesting still on the whole. I am no theologian myself but of course I do recognize that von Balthasar influenced Pope Emeritus Benedict’s thinking in some respects. What I think is intriguing is the notion that the cross is powerful enough to overcome sin and death. I believe this is reflected in the liturgy, in the letters of St. Paul, and also in tradition. It seems to me that the position of predestined damnation is a more or less Calvinist position which has always been rejected by Holy Mother Church. Further, if we hope in Christ, then, of course, our neighbor’s salvation becomes important to us. We may not feel fully satisfied to keep our faith private or to ourselves. It seems that zeal and evangelism are rooted in the hope created by the cross, that none are predestined to hell, or that the majority will indeed go, using that as some type of working certainty with which we order our lives and go about our interactions with our fellows. Finally, I have always been a big fan of ancient iconography depicting Christ’s Harrowing of Hell.

  13. Imrahil says:

    (Sorry about the paragraphing mess above.)

    And though I do not like to disagree with our reverend host, I do specifically not think that we, either clergy or laity, should talk or thing about Hell very often if not daily. That’s precisely what we should not do, almost as little as we ought to do it w.r.t. the Devil.

    It must of course be made clear against any of those assuming the contrary that the teaching about Hell is still the Catholic teaching and that it is the Truth.

    For the rest, now assuming a Catholic speaking and a Catholic being talked to, warning about Hell is a a sharp sword and a strong medicine, and must be used just as sharp swords are used, as chemotherapies are used, etc. Not only conversion can be the outcome, but indifference and despair as well, if e. g. people think: “so now I stopped the habit of mortal sin, I regularly go to Confession, and still the preacher keeps on and on thundering at me, what in all the world does he want me to do? I suppose I won’t escape Hell anyway. Oh and while we’re at it, supposing as I realistically have to that I do come into Hell, why should I take care not to sin anyway?”

    I don’t know whether I’m alone with it, but I have an instinctive reaction “I’m meant too” if someone accuses a multitude I belong to of something. The bold Christian should, of course, check rationally whether he is meant, or not, and take humbly exception in the one case just as he should humbly do penance in the other… But it’s the doing that’s the problem.

    First aid is of course in this case simply this: not to listen, even to the preacher. But we’re mostly too courteous and well-behaved to do that.

    That said, if speaking of Hell, please say “Hell”. Do not sneak around like the cat around the bush with saying “unavoidable consequences” a great many of times without mentioning what these are. When we do need that sort of threat, it will be both more effective and even easier to bear if it comes in plain words.

  14. Nicholas says:


    You mentioned Christ’s harrowing of Hell. I do not have a full understanding of this, so could someone explain it to me?



  15. lmgilbert says:

    It would not be at all difficult to establish that eliciting servile fear has ever been the practice of the greatest evangelists in the Church:
    St. Paul of the Cross: “In Hell, never to see God, ever to be deprived of God! O what a dreadful necessity, to hate Him eternally who has loved us from all eternity!” 27
    St. Bernardine of Siena: “He giveth unto thee that part which thou dost choose in thine own way, or life everlasting, or hell. Dost thoii choose hell? Take thou the penalty thereof. Either to paradise or to hell thou must go; if thou didst not wish paradise, the worse for thee.”
    St. Vincent Ferrer: “Therefore, the Church in the person of every Christian makes petition in the Office for the Dead: ‘Deliver me, O Lord, from everlasting death, in that
    tremendous day when the heavens and the earth are moved, when Thou shalt come to judge the world by fire.'” 29
    St. Paul: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6: 9-10; see also Gal 5: 19; Eph 5:5).
    John the Baptist: “His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the granary, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Matt 3:12).
    Our Lord: “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” Also, Matt 7:23; 10:28; 13: 40-41, 50; 25:41; Lk 14:24; Jn 3:36.
    Of our Lord’s method St. John Chrysostom writes,
     “But why does He dwell so constantly on these subjects; judgment, resurrection and life? Because these are the most powerful arguments for bringing men over to the faith, and the most likely ones to prevail with obstinate hearers.  For one who is persuaded he shall rise again, and be called by the Son to account for his misdeeds, will, though he know nothing more than this, be anxious to propitiate his judge.”

  16. benedetta says:

    Nicholas, I have no theology background so I don’t think I would be your best presenter on the topic, but the icons for me have helped in prayer. The icons of the harrowing have never, to me, conflicted with tradition but only enlarged it. I have noticed over the years many Catholics, on blogs and elsewhere posting these icons at Eastertide. I find the prayers of the EF Mass during Easter to be consonant with the iconographic tradition.

  17. benedetta says:

    I guess that I have always found some comfort, at least, in the tradition that says that Adam and Eve were brought out of hell. To me, if Christ’s cross and resurrection could overcome that Happy Fault, as it is said, then, I believe, the notion that we or some of us are predestined or irrevocably lost or depraved is completely refuted for all times. For me, this knowledge adds to the reality of the Last Things the obligation to not give up on anyone or any group of human beings as hopeless or lost or irretrievably condemned. To me, it puts a greater responsibility on us as far as the great commission, to give others access to the same Gospel we currently enjoy. The knowledge of the very same hope. I am no theologian but I have read a good deal of Pope Emeritus Benedict and the Church Father, fwiw.

  18. benedetta says:

    Imrahil, that’s a lovely quotation indeed! Joseph Pearce has a talk available on youtube along those lines which is quite good.

  19. philosoph0123 says:

    A question that is related to this topic…is the “pain of sense” for those punished in Hell necessarily eternal, or only the “pain of sorrow”?

    Obviously, if the Church has ruled that both are eternal, I would change my position…but it seems (at least to me) that there are two very different issues involved here. The “pain of sense” is punishment for evils done in this life. The “pain of sorrow”, however, does not necessarily arise through punishment. The sorrow of separation from God is the sorrow of lack of communion with God. But such communion is a gift that relies on God’s grace; it is beyond even untainted human nature (unlike the possibility of perfect justice, which was possible for Adam and Eve). Those who die apart from such grace, if such persons were not to blame…might they not still suffer the pain of sorrow but not the pain of sense? (Obviously, this can be tied to questions of those dying who had never known the Gospel as well as the question of the fate of unbaptized infants…)

    Also, it seems to me (oh, that’s a dangerous phrase!) that human nature (tainted or no) cannot sin with the perfect will of the angels. If this is true, then might it not be the case that the pain of sense (for humans) is limited in duration? It is expiation for an “imperfect crime”, so to speak. But as union with God is a gift and nothing earned, then it makes perfect sense that God, in honoring free will (even when misused) does not enter into intellectual union with those who do not will it…and such endure, eternally, the pain of sorrow.

    Anyways, just a short meditation, and my question is: Does the Church teach that the pain of sense in Hell is necessarily eternal?

  20. benedetta says:

    I will say speaking personally that the incitement to servile fear for me has been a much greater motivator — to conceptualize Christ the Pantocrator and His words relating to “You did it to me…” and the parables — than descriptors of Hell by saints and the like.

  21. Luvadoxi says:

    Benedetta–thank you so much for your post at 7:25. I’ve been suffering from scrupulosity, and you don’t know how much that post has blessed me. It’s a keeper! I need to remind myself frequently that He is Mercy and too much focus on hell can possibly obscure the Gospel. Not to deny any truths, and not to say I have the answers. But I love how Christian hope is described as a “sure and certain hope.”

  22. benedetta says:

    Luvadoxi, I am very glad to hear it!

  23. stephen c says:

    Imrahil, that is a nice quote, but lets remember that Chesterton, as smart and witty as he was, will Never be a Doctor of the Church. For example, the statement that Christ never showed his mirth is willfully ignorant (although also partly brilliantly misleading)- for example, people who have suffered from a difficult disease can only imagine the face of Christ looking in their eyes just after healing them of such a disease – an occurrence recorded many many times in the Bible – and an occurrence that has happened many times since, I believe – as being perhaps the most mirthful sight in the world. Like the end of “A Christmas Carol” but multiplied a few times over. So of course He showed mirth in the Bible. What more did Chesterton expect the Gospel writers to do, throw in some vaudeville patter or a theatrical witticism? By the way, I still think it is a good quote, but only because it brilliantly makes me think of Jesus in a different light, not because it is in any way accurate …

  24. lmgilbert says:

    Stephen, You write: “For example, the statement that Christ never showed his mirth is willfully ignorant . . .” Well, it can only be willfully ignorant if we have certain knowledge that he did show his mirth. Your inference that he did show his mirth does not constitute willful ignorance on our part! In fact, this morning’s Gospel reading from Luke 6 contain the only two instances of the Greek word for “to laugh” ( ?????) in the entire New Testament. These instances, however, hardly establish rollicking good humor in Our Lord: “Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh” (Luke 6:21), though this surely does establish that there will be laughter in Heaven. And then there is Luke 6:25, “Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall weep and mourn.” While this clearly indicates there will be weeping in Hell, it hardly encourages a superabundance of merriment in this life. Where in Scripture is there anything that indicated the Our Lord thought of this life as anything other than very serious business indeed, a vale of tears? You can infer it, you can wish it as much as you like, but without any warrant whatever. Our Lord often spoke of this life as a time of extreme peril, a fact that he evidently found extremely sobering.

  25. lmgilbert says:

    Father, I see that the site will not accept ancient Greek text, for I had the Greek word for laughter in parentheses after “to laugh,” but this effort only yielded question marks. Perdonami. A transliteration of that word would be gelao, phonetically ghel-ah’-o. [It will if you use unicode.]

  26. anilwang says:


    I think part of your problem is that Adam and Eve were never in the Hell of the Dammed. Modern English conflates The Hell of the Dammed and Sheol, which is the place where the souls of the dead went before Heaven was opened by Christ. It corresponds approximately to Limbo. Limbo was further broken down into the Limbo of the Just (Abraham’s Bosom) and Limbo of the Dammed. So Adam and Eve being freed from the Limbo of the Just says nothing about the population of Hell.

    As for whether Christ’s Christ was sufficient to save all men, you need to consider two things. For almost 2000 years, all Saints of the Church when commenting on Hell say that many are dammed. Also, the Church has ruled that the demons are in Hell. If Christ’s death is not sufficient to save the demons, the prospect that we can hope that all humanity will be saved is dubious.

    God is a gentleman. God predestines no-one to Hell, but if we choose to reject him, he will not force himself upon us — he’s not a spiritual rapist. And he is so merciful that he even prepares a place for people who want to be away from him.

    As a side note, that comic is so diabolical that it might actually be true. Even if Hell consisted in having all our earthly desires, after a few billion years, we’d grow so sick of them that we’d prefer death and eternal torture to be distracted. That desire of death would be worse than if you were merely tortured for eternity since with torture, you can be comforted that ice cream exists fall back on your memories. But if you have all you want and it makes you sick, you don’t even have the hope of even mental escape since there is nothing to escape to.

  27. Gratias says:

    Sadly no mention of Hell in the 29 years we have attended our ordinary parish.

  28. Imrahil says:

    Dear Stephen C,

    thanks for the answer…

    Anyway the quote is literature, and as you say nice, of the exhortative-sermon sort, of course. Much as I am (and by coincidence as Chesterton was) of schlatic exactness, not every phrase ever uttered needs to be scholastically exact. I do think that the image of our Lord as filled with joy and mirth is in the Gospel. The second thing is that it is perhaps difficult to locate (though the miracle with the four dollars in the fish’s belly to pay for His own and St. Peter’s tax might be good to begin). A third thing is that the most obviously present need not be most important (just as sin is less important, but more talked about, in Church than grace). And I happen to think that something along these lines was what Chesterton meant.

    Dear lmgilbert, indeed; but that does not say anything about the practical aspects, the “how often” etc.

    By the way, ourd Lord’s quote you give shows perhaps an interesting light on why we need to fear God: among other things, we may need a greater fear to overcome all fear of anyone else.

    Dear Benedetta,
    if there is anyone in Hell, or will come there, the he is predestined to go there.

    The thing is that reprobation is not ante praevisa merita, as Calvin teaches, but praevisis meritis causa. God, after all, knows our future.

  29. Imrahil says:

    much as I am… fond of scholastic exactness. Sorry.

  30. benedetta says:

    aniwlang, Indeed, “my problem”?? I have no problem. I never believed or implied that Adam and Eve were “of the damned”. However the Calvinist theology says that what we regard as the Happy Fault descending from their sin irretrievably condemns, in fact, for some predestines them, to Hell.

    However it is worth noting that tradition does actually speculate (and of course as Fr. Barron states it is all speculation on our part) that in the Harrowing of Hell, those who had been as you say “damned” are redeemed by Christ’s cross and resurrection.

    Personally the theology that seems to imply that Christ’s cross and resurrection were not powerful enough, to me, is found wanting, and has a lot to do with why ultimately I am happy to be a Catholic.

  31. Imrahil says:

    Dear benedetta,

    there is the speculation around that Hell contains no human beings. It is not a very probable speculation (I personally would hold that there are phrases in the Bible and the Magisterium which in all logically possible interpretations mean that Hell is not entirely empty of human beings); but what I intend to say here is that it has little to do with the Harrowing of Hell.

    In Harrowing of Hell, our Lord fully underwent death. In addition, he came to the limbo and freed the forefathers, i. e. those who were just, or whose purgatory was already over, but who (perhaps with the exceptions of Elijah, Henoch, and Moses) could not have come to Heaven before as Heaven was not opened.

    What, other than being a part of the salvational work just as the crucifixion was, has the Harrowing of Hell to do with the final outcome of us aftercomers? I do not know. I must say, here, though, that I have not yet occupied myself with v. Balthasar’s work where, as I have heard, he does draw on the Harrowing of Hell. (No, I will not say he is “one of those” unorthodox here… But he is certainly not “tradition”, either.)

    Personally the theology that seems to imply that Christ’s cross and resurrection were not powerful enough, to me, is found wanting

    Indeed, Christ’s cross and resurrection are powerful enough to save the ugliest criminal and sinner, except of course those who refuse salvation. The problem is that this refusal is inherent in any mortal sin (because, if for no other reason, you cannot receive salvation and decidedly offend the Saviour – without which there is no mortal sin, not even one of weakness, though in that case the decision is a reluctant one – in the same instant). With the precautionary note that this is strictly personal speculation, I’d assume that for a great many of those “lesser among the mortal” sinners, the gap between what seems an everyday sin but is a mortal sin may be overcome by a grace to still repent of them when the everyday is gone.

    For I have yet to see a person (other than perhaps a theologian…) who says “Hell is as hard that it is untrue” or “Hell may be true, but God is too hard if so” and really means it. Noone means that mortal sins do deserve to be punished with eternal loss and also eternal pains. Noone doubts that Adolf Hitler, for instance, (may the Lord have mercy upon him) did deserve such a punishment. (If anything it is unacceptable to them that he could possibly still have been saved, and that Arthur Seyß-Inquart, Hans Frank, Rudolf Höß – to all outward appearance at any rate – did die in God’s peace.)

    What people do mean when they express such sentiments is something else: they mean that the commonly known mortal sins, the sins they imagine when thinking of mortal sins, are not mortal. They don’t deny that mortal sinners deserve eternal punishment. They deny that fornicators deserve eternal punishment, and thus – if we add the precision for them – what they actually deny is that fornication is a mortal sin.

  32. benedetta says:

    Imrahil, Well said. Quite an interesting topic. Brings to mind that an awesome pastor is leading a large number of his parishioners, in an unlikely place of the world for such a study, on a walk through Dante’s Inferno which began as a series this very week!

    I first read the Ciardi side by side translation in high school, but I would love to read the Esolen one!

  33. Defender of Truth says:

    Bea you remarked: “I’d read about Fr. Robert Baron’s views” and then go on to make accusations that Fr. Barron is essentially a heretic [“essentially” a heretic? What does that mean?]
    by listing what I assume you believe to be his beliefs (No Hell, No need for Christ’s dying on the cross, No need for confession, No need of Sacraments, No need of Church). I have listened to Fr. Barron’s talks, and have his video of the Eucharist. I have never heard him say, or infer, any of which you state. Perhaps is you would actually read what he writes and listen to what he says, instead of what you have “read about” him, you would have a more informed opinion of him. He is a great priest.

  34. benedetta says:

    Defender of Truth and others: I think we need to beware of those who would divide those who love tradition from the solid and orthodoxy of the Faith. The notion that Fr. Barron’s work is nothing other than orthodox is preposterous! Fr. Barron preaches holiness and nothing less. All of this scurrilous accusation which is unfounded, to me, points to a woeful possibility: that opportunists who hate the Church are looking to divide those who love her. EF Catholics need to be in solidarity with orthodoxy including different rites and devotions, saints, etc., in order that the Church united may overcome what is truly evil and does not mean well for any of us. I think the only people who benefit from traditional Catholics ridiculing orthodoxy in our midst and withdrawing support for it are dissenters who would deconstruct everything Christians have always believed in all places and times. For example, the small but elite and resourced and empowered group of faketivists using issues of divorced to usher in the blessing of gay marriage in the Church. If we shadow box against orthodoxy while the enemy prowls about this very moment, we all lose and most especially traditional Catholicism.

  35. robtbrown says:

    A few comments:

    1. Predestination only concerns the order of Grace. Thus, there is no negative predestination in St Augustine (as there is in Calvin), i.e., God does not predestine anyone to hell. There is, however, a human orientation toward it because of Original Sin. In so far as not only the punishment (poena mortis) but also the culpability (culpa) of Original Sin is inherited by all, mankind is to be considered massa damnata.

    2. I read Balthasar’s book some time ago and referred to it prejoratively when I was teaching Eschatology. The arguments he makes in favor of the possibility of an empty hell are simply not very good.

    3. There are Angels in hell–the everlasting fire. Why would there not be men?

  36. benedetta says:

    robtbrown, I think that is very fair, most of what you say. I do not hear Fr. Barron to say definitively of course any notion that no one could be in Hell. As I said from the beginning of this post, I read those comments, which are now quite dated, I wonder if he has said anything more or recent on this, I read Fr Barron’s essay to mean that we human beings cannot substitute for the Pankrator. In other words, we can be certain Hell exists, and we know that separating ourselves from the reality of God through various actions freely chosen by ourselves will seal that as our destiny. But the final judgement is not the province of men.

    As to your statement “mankind is to be considered massa damnata” would you have some references I could read up on? Thank you!

  37. benedetta says:

    Of course I would also add that inasmuch as Fr. Barron’s talks and videos are apparently bringing many back to the faith, we should prepare reverent liturgies offered in the OF as well as the EF, of course, so that those seekers who come to Christ through conversion may be helped along. If we denounce Fr. Barron and all who have been edified to return or convert, then, of course, we potentially alienate large numbers who may in fact be very inclined to the incredible beauty and awe to be found in the EF. N.B.

  38. benedetta says:

    Having seen the Catholicism videos, I would say that actually what Fr. Barron says is really very quite consistent with the very same aspects of tradition which draw EF worshippers. Both in beauty, reverence of the Holy Sacrifice, and, in doctrine. As I said, I have found it has only served to enrich my EF worship and the spiritual life undertaken with serious intention and an attempt to live a life of holiness. He truly has a gift for presenting both the comforting Truths as well as the “hard sayings” of our Faith to compel people to sacrifice and work to live it. In other words, his message is a challenge to all Catholics no matter what Rite of the Mass they may be affiliated with.

  39. benedetta says:

    Also robtbrown, I of course mean, with reference to Adam and Eve above, that they according to tradition were saved by the Harrowing of Hell, and that tradition further speculates (and it is speculation I suppose) that they were “not among the damned” meaning that they were “righteous”. Others have talked of limbo here.

    I did not mean to imply that they did not carry, or that any of us do not bear, the fact of original sin. Perhaps you are confusing that “not among the damned” to mean somehow lacking in original sin? I of course do not believe that or intend that connotation. I was replying to an earlier comment about the idea of the harrowing of Hell by Christ.

    Still, I think there are excellent distinctions which remain to be made between the Calvinist and Augustinian approaches. Pope Emeritus Benedict it seems to me tacked the proper course here. Father Z. himself is an Augustinian scholar.

  40. robtbrown says:


    I never mentioned you, whether Adam and Eve were finally saved, or Fr Barron. Nor did I accuse anyone, incl von Balthasar, of saying Hell is empty.

    I did, however, say, that his arguments that it is possible that Hell is empty are not very good.

    What would massa damnata refer to if it doesn’t refer to fallen man?

  41. benedetta says:

    robtbrown, Thanks I was just hoping for some references to read up on regarding massa damnata and the sense of it you are presenting here.

    Actually I didn’t read any arguments put forth by Fr. Barron to support the premise that Hell is presently empty. In fact, I don’t think that is what he said at all, and what he did say, I don’t interpret that way, inasmuch as that interpretation would represent a rupture and not a continuity with tradition, and in the context of his work, I see nothing to support that disembodied supposition. What do you see as his arguments?

  42. Supertradmum says:

    Interesting, before I saw this post, I put Fr. Chad Ripperger’s two talks on hell on my blog and labelled it Ripperger vs. Barron earlier today. I know for a fact that a video was taken off of YouTube when Barron did say hell was empty. Barron is a close student of von Balthasar, who basically says the same thing.

    For even long years, for my unfinished doctoral thesis, a long time ago now, I studied von Balthasar and finally realized he was heretical in at least two areas. Too bad some have not seen this.

  43. Supertradmum says:

    A few extra points: Barron’s book Catholicism has no imprimatur and no nihil obstat. I read it. Two, he has no footnotes and makes incorrect general statements. Three, basically, he references to the Doctors and Fathers of the Church as sloppy. Four, I found eleven errors regarding his misunderstandings regarding Church teaching when I read the book over a year ago.

    More importantly is this. Read Ralph Martin’s excellent book for answers to some of the questions brought up here. http://www.eerdmans.com/Products/6887/will-many-be-saved.aspx

    I reviewed it on my blog as well. In addition, I recommend Garriogou-Lagrange’s books Providence and Predestination for more discussions on justice, mercy, hell and heaven. Again, some parts are reviewed on my blog, but these books would answer some questions brought up here.

  44. Supertradmum says:

    Sorry, could not write all at once. But, an important point is that many people choose hell. They want to be immoral, violent, hateful, not following either natural law or the law of God, hating Christ, and His Church.

    We have to realize that one reason why the world is getting to look like hell is that people are choosing hell, and we live either in the life of virtues, cooperating with grace to be with God in heaven, or the opposite. There is no middle ground.

    I would like to share two personal things. Several years ago, a male friend of mine in Europe had an experience of his personal, particular judgment. Now, this man is a real man, if I could describe him, and not a wimp. He cried for three days seeing all his sins and how they offended God, even the venial sins.

    This happened to me, only over one venial sin, when I was in the Presence of Pure Innocence and Justice. This happened in 2011. I too cried for hours to see how I had offended God.

    We just do not understand justice and mercy. We do not understand God in His Total Goodness.

  45. benedetta says:

    Well, I do not think he is claiming to be a theologian. As to heretical? Like Elizabeth Johnson heretical or what? I mean just as a nihil conveys something, a pronouncement such as that is not something to be undertaken lightly by someone individually.

    It seems to me that his video Catholicism and the book are not intended to present finer points of theology for those already degreed in it but rather to help especially those who have been away from the faith, those who are seeking or inquiring, and those who have been duped into so many lies the culture burdens people with about the Faith.

    I certainly respect your conclusions and do not doubt that you have convinced yourself thoroughly of them. However, the faith is not something that one needs to be a theologian to grasp. Indeed one need not be literate. As Catholicism is presented, from the point of view of what is needed to begin the pursuit of holiness, everything is there. There certainly are not any statements contrary to the Faith. Are you impugning his Cardinal even? Why would he not be disciplined if the heresies were so immediately obvious.

    For my part however, I am a product of higher education, for better or worse, and, I like to be just as thoroughly convinced. If no one can offer a succinct presentation of his statements with contra from the catechism, I do not know how pointing these conclusions out, towards a respected Catholic priest, can be helpful.

    I will say that the distinction between Calvin’s error and the Catholic tradition does seem a fair one to raise. I am not convinced by the statements here that seem to support a Calvinist interpretation. Further, I choose to worship at the EF not merely because I appreciate the liturgy, but because I pray it in union with the Credo of our Faith. If one may invest in Calvinistic theology and thinking and yet choose the EF it seems to me to become an issue with respect to “lex orandi…”?

  46. benedetta says:

    I just would never want to interfere with the workings of the Holy Spirit in bringing people to the Faith in these times by discouraging people from watching quite a well made and thoughtful presentation on video by calling a Catholic priest in good standing a “heretic”.

  47. benedetta says:

    Supertradmum, Actually Fr. Barron talks extensively in his work of exactly the fact that people choose hell in exactly the ways you name. I have the feeling that people here have leapt on one statement as the be all and end all definition and do not really know what the content is about.

    Interestingly there is a video up on the Mundelein site from a couple days back wherein Fr. Barron discusses Original Sin quite thoughtfully.

    I think one of the main values in his work is his ability to apply these important doctrines to the notions that have captured the culture’s imagination, and then vividly steer them in the right direction. So if I were to try and start talking to someone about “hell” and “original sin” for the great majority, their eyes would immediately glaze over, or they would curse me out. Truly. Whereas his angles for introducing the discussion are quite clever and help to lay out the stakes for one’s salvation very quickly.

    I will also say, I already am living a “hard identity Catholicism” for myself and my household. However over the years I have picked up a good many additional ideas and concrete practices to incorporate to go with that, ones I haven’t seen anywhere else but are excellent suggestions.

    I fear we are alienating people who are on our side. The division will come at a cost.

  48. benedetta says:

    Ultimately, as we are not God, and we cannot judge others’ souls, and we cannot say with any certainty whether people are in hell, because we are not the Just Judge, I am not sure that if a person, watching a Fr. Barron video concluded that “who knows the number” in Hell, yet still affirming Hell exists, would be led astray or into a life of heresy from that alone.

    I certainly would agree that those who teach that all go to heaven and that there is no hell, and I know some who teach this, openly, in the Church, are dangerous to souls. But Fr. Barron is not in any way shape or form teaching such nonsense.

    Again I think that if orthodoxy and traditional Catholics alienate one another, the only ones who benefit are Obama secularists/anarchists and professional Catholic dissenters. Sometimes one and the same.

  49. Supertradmum says:

    bendetta, the Truth is divisive. One cannot have two opinions on the teachings of the Church. All the Church Doctors and Fathers maintained that people do go to hell. St. Augustine, is, of course, the writer who develops this idea to massa damnata. You can look up those arguments.

    Here is a wrong, wrong interpretation of judgment by Barron, if you have not seen it. There was another one, which was taken down. His “own view” is wrong, as is von Balthasar. Read Garrigou-Lagrange.


    There is no reasonable hope that all people will be saved. No–read Martin and listened to Ripperger.

  50. dans0622 says:

    Never would I have thought that a post about a savage chickens cartoon would have us end up in the combox octagon watching a match over Fr. Barron.

    [Never underestimate… overestimate….]

  51. robtbrown says:

    benedetta says:

    robtbrown, Thanks I was just hoping for some references to read up on regarding massa damnata and the sense of it you are presenting here.

    Once again: What other sense would there possibly be?

  52. acardnal says:

    Supertradmum, I posted the same Fr. Barron video above at the 10 Sept 2014, 4:05 pm mark.

    I agree with your comments and with your Ralph Martin book recommendation. The book is a study on Mt 7:13-14, which I mentioned above as well at the 5:42 pm mark. In the end, I agree with Christ’s statement that “many” are following the path to “destruction” through the “wide gate and easy way.” Why Fr. Barron made this video is beyond my understanding. Hell exists and there are souls there.

  53. This thread is no longer about Fr. Barron.

  54. robtbrown says:

    Supertradmum says,

    For even long years, for my unfinished doctoral thesis, a long time ago now, I studied von Balthasar and finally realized he was heretical in at least two areas. Too bad some have not seen this.

    What are the two areas?

  55. Luvadoxi says:

    dans0622–lol! This blog needs a little holy humor sometimes. :)

    What the Church teaches, she teaches. I think that the range of orthodox opinions allowed is much broader than some people think. I’m in the process of rediscovering a more healing image of God, which is at the same time exciting and confusing. Let me just throw this out there–I don’t see, I just don’t see how the justice and mercy of God can support the idea that someone is eternally physically suffering in hell. “Burning in hell.” Physically. Forever. I wouldn’t wish that on even my worst enemy, and I’m a sinner. It reminds me of a low mass I attended (which was amazing and awesome)–after the mass there was a table of goods for sale by the apostolate that sponsored the mass–and on it was a children’s coloring book showing the damned in the flames. That just isn’t right. There’s something just wrong about that. My two cents.

  56. Imrahil says:

    In my long comment above,

    Noone means that mortal sins do deserve

    I intended to say: do not deserve. Sorry.

  57. Imrahil says:

    Dear robtbrown,

    What would massa damnata refer to if it doesn’t refer to fallen man?

    Certainly no other sense. But massa damnata was never more than a theory.

    And as for its origin in the culpa of original sin, it is – at least w.r.t. adults – wrong.

    Though indeed probably, unbaptized infants do make up the majority of mankind; but we don’t seem to be referring to them. And whether or not they’re actually saved by extraordinary means (which we don’t know), at any rate the limbo too would be a state of happiness (though technically belonging to damnation).

    As for adults, the Church has always taught that no adult is damned for the culpa of original sin alone. They may be damned for mortal sins of their own. They are given grace if they decide to not commit mortal sin before having committed it. (And I should think by repentance such as awailable in their state.)

    Concupiscence may, for all we know, bring a lot of the unbaptized (and baptized for that matter) into Hell. Concupiscence would by logic seem to be generally stronger in the unbaptized, at least compared to actual practicing believers, though I’ve never seen anyone make that statement. So: May God prevent us from Hell.

    But culpa of original sin alone does not do it for adults; so much is certain.

  58. The Masked Chicken says:

    The rumors of my being fricasseed have been somewhat exaggerated.

    I haven’t been posting for the last few months, in part, because of some issues that have been causing me a great deal of stress and I have been, slowly, becoming like General Jack D. Ripper in the movie, Dr. Strangelove. It wouldn’t set a good example to be making comments at this time. So, for the good of the blog, in Christian charity, I have decided to not make comments, least I get carried away and make fine displays of the sorts of rants that do no one any good.

    Rest assured that I read the blog everyday and that I make mental comments. If there are any telepaths out there or aliens from another planet with telepathic abilities (you know who you are :) ), you have my permission to post my thought comments, should you pick them up out in the ether.

    In any case, I am praying for all of the prayer requests presented on the blog and offering my suffering, in part, for them.

    The Chicken

  59. VexillaRegis says:

    Dearest Chicken,

    lovely to hear that you are still alive :-)! Rest assured that we will pray for you in your suffering.


  60. robtbrown says:

    Imrahil says:

    Dear robtbrown,

    What would massa damnata refer to if it doesn’t refer to fallen man?

    Certainly no other sense. But massa damnata was never more than a theory.

    It’s hardly a theory. It is a description of the condition of fallen man. Because of Original Sin (Privatio Originalis Iustitiae), man has been condemned to be subject to sickness and death–and deprived of Grace. (As a Thomist, I think the cause Original Innocence was Sanctifying Grace–though not Christian).

    And as for its origin in the culpa of original sin, it is – at least w.r.t. adults – wrong.

    1. I never reduced it to culpa–I said culpa and poena mortis.

    2. And, yes, the culpa also pertains to adults.

  61. Imrahil says:

    Dear robtbrown,

    for the first thing:
    “damnatum”, as commonly understood, means that someone’s final outcome will be Hell. As such, “massa damnata” was a theory. – It is true, of course, that the result of the Fall is, in the ulterior sense, damnation, but that damnation does not need to be final.

    For the second thing:
    yes, the culpa or guilt of Original Sin does pertain to adults, in itself. However, not a single adult will be damned for this guilt alone – that is, if not some other guilt from a personal mortal sin is not present as well. This the Church has always taught, and this is why I said that no adult gets to Hell from that sin alone.

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