ASK FATHER: Will all be saved?

From a reader…


Is there a reasonable hope that all souls will be saved since it is a part of our liturgy?

No.  That is not reasonable.  It is wishful thinking.

Many will be lost.

The feel good of translations and other aspects in our sacred -or not so sacred – worship have given many more than a rosy prospect.

There is no part of our authentic liturgy as Catholics which suggests that “all” will be saved.

It is time to sober up.

We can lose the gift of membership in the Kingdom of God which Christ opened for us.

We can and we do… when we sin.




About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Huber says:

    Matthew 22:14 comes to mind:

    [11] And the king went in to see the guests: and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment. [12] And he saith to him: Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? But he was silent. [13] Then the king said to the waiters: Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. [14] For many are called, but few are chosen.

  2. JabbaPapa says:

    Confusion on this question has arisen among some in the English-speaking Church, in part because Lumen Gentium 16’s “et Salvator velit omnes homines salvos fieri” was rendered into English as “and [God] as Saviour wills that all men be saved“, whereas “velit” here is closer to the meaning “desires” than wills — whereas whatever God actually does “will” simply is.

    So that the English text of Lumen Gentium 16 could be (falsely) interpreted as meaning that God has decided that all men shall be saved, even though elsewhere the text makes it clear that this is not so : ex. 14 Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved. & etc.

  3. robtbrown says:

    I don’t think it matters how velit is translated.

    God is omnipotent.
    He wants all to be saved.
    It is possible that not all are saved.

    The mystery of Predestination. I once read an article on the death of Garrigou LaGrange by one of his former students who had visited GL when he was a very old man. The old Dominican told him that if he had it to do over again, he would have concentrated more on the terrifying mystery of Predestination.

  4. PhilipNeri says:

    God wills that all be saved.
    God also wills that we freely receive our salvation.
    Therefore, it is possible that all will be saved.
    However, it is improbable that all will be saved (given free will and sin).

    I find that discussion of this topic usually glosses over the distinction btw “what’s possible” and “what’s probable.”

    Since hell is the “definitive self-exclusion” of oneself from heaven, we cannot fault God for the souls who choose not to abide with Him in eternity.

    Fr. Philip Neri, OP

  5. Bosco says:

    Our Lord Himself said:

    “Enter in through the narrow gate, for wide the gate and broad the way that leads to destruction, and many are they who enter in through it.” Matthew 7:13 (ref. Luke 13:24)

    Hell, the place in which Our Lord assures us, “… the worm dieth not, and the fire is not extinguished.” Mark 9:48

    On the other hand, perhaps Our Lord was only trying to frighten His disciples by ‘pretending’ there is a Hell, as one might conclude were one to ascribe to the intimation of a certain religious leader offered on 29 November 2013 at Santa Marta:

    “In the Gospel, Jesus does not become angry, but pretends to when the disciples do not understand him.”

  6. robtbrown says:

    PhilipNeri says:

    God wills that all be saved.
    God also wills that we freely receive our salvation.
    Therefore, it is possible that all will be saved.
    However, it is improbable that all will be saved (given free will and sin).

    Grace perfects nature, therefore, it also perfects freedom.

    St Thomas, following St Augustine, is not optimistic about the number saved (rather few: pauciores), but his reasons are neither sin nor free will. In fact, he is often criticized for being too optimistic about human nature. His argument is that man’s last end exceeds his nature.

    ST, I, 23, 7, ad 3.

    Cum igitur beatitudo aeterna, in visione Dei consistens, excedat communem statum naturae, et praecipue secundum quod est gratia destituta per corruptionem originalis peccati, pauciores sunt qui salvantur.

    I find that discussion of this topic usually glosses over the distinction btw “what’s possible” and “what’s probable.”

    What is probable is a species of what is possible.

  7. Maximillian says:

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned Origen so far. Origen never, contrary to what many think, propounded exclusive salvation or universal salvation; but I think he hoped all could be saved.

  8. APX says:

    Origen indicated that being in Hell was not permanent, and as a result was denounced a heretic.

  9. Stephen Matthew says:

    There is a certain sense in which we should hope, in charity, for the salvation of any given individual. We should never cosign anyone to hell, never abandon any to the devil.

    We don’t know what the relative populations of heaven and hell work out to be. Certainly there are many in danger of damnation due to grave sin. However, we don’t know the subjective guilt of anyone, nor do we know what grace of final repentance may be offered. So, while many certainly seem to be on the highway to hell, it is hypothetically possible that God “cheats” the devil of even the most malicious men by granting some extraordinary grace at the end.

    The trouble with hoping that all are saved, is that hope and faith are so closely linked. If you start holding to the hope that ALL are saved, it is rather easy to start BELIEVING that all are saved, and next thing you know you are off to redefining God in such a way as to require Him to save everyone to pass some test of goodness you dreamed up.

    What we do know is that: the saints are in heaven with God, the devil is in hell, and we should probably pray for all the rest.

  10. billy15 says:

    A timely question for Fr. Z to post right now; I’m in the middle of reading a great book by Ralph amrtin entitled “Will Many Be Saved?: What Vatican II Really Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization.

    Mr. Martin actually addressed Bishop Barron’s view on an almost empty hell on EWTN not too long ago, and he has some good answers there:

    But in reading this book (I’m on the section of Fr. von Balthasar now), it’s really disturbing to see some of the things that Balthasar proposed. He suggests that Jesus’ warnings in the Gospels about hell are just empty threats. He also, as Martin points out, “posits the possibility of other “chances” after death for those who die unrepentant and those condemned to hell (where Christ then “meets them”), to which another author is quoted as saying “We cannot accede to Balthasar’s way of conceiving the possibility of eternal salvation and remain orthodox”. He may have written well on other areas, as St. John Paull II and Benedict XVI have pointed out, but on this topic… he’s way off and Mr. Martin does a great job of dissecting Balthasar’s (and Rahner’s) arguments by showing how they don’t square up to what Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium have always taught. Also from Martin’s book (p. 138-139):

    “Despite the weight of Scripture and the authoritative interpetation of the magisterial and theological tradition, Balthasar claims that we should not try to harmonize the two streams of Scripture, one of which speaks clearly of the twofold judgement, and the other of which seems to speak of universal salvation. ‘We shall not try here to press these biblically irreconciable statements into a speculative system’ (Balthasar, Dare We Hope, p. 236). He counsels the abandonment of such efforts in favor of an ‘agnosticism’ about the results of judgement.

    “‘Let us cast aside what leads to such dead-ends and limit ourselves to the truth that we all stand under God’s absolute judgement’ (Balthasar, Dare We Hope, p. 253). Casting aside two thousand years of profound theological reflection on the unity and harmony of these ‘conflicting’ streams of Scripture seems a bit radical.

    “…despite his admonition, in fact Balthasar does try to reconcile these two streams of passages but precisely in a universalist direction.”

    I do like most of Bishop Barron’s work, but this topic is not something I completely agree with him on. I’ll rather listen to the recommendations of Mr. Martin’s excellent book first, which include Cardinal Francis George, Cardinal Dolan, Cardinal Turkson, and Scott Hahn.

  11. cowboyengineer says:

    Do Catholics believe only Catholics will be saved or will Protestant Christians also be save?

  12. un-ionized says:

    I know there was someone named Feeney who said only Catholics could be saved but that doesn’t seem to be what the Catechism says.

  13. stuartal79 says:

    He who has ears, let him hear.

  14. iamlucky13 says:

    “Do Catholics believe only Catholics will be saved or will Protestant Christians also be save?”

    Catholics believe that there is no salvation outside the Church, but we also believe we have no ability to determine who is in hell. These two statements can both be believed because while we believe the Catholic Church is Christ’s visible Church on earth, we do not know that others, by virtue of an earnest desire to learn what is right and act accordingly do not share membership in the Church, even though not visibly.

    So Catholics can hold out hope for non-Catholics, but it still would clearly be best for them to be part of the visible Church, where they have the Church’s teachings to guide them and the grace of the sacraments to fortify them to choose what is right.

  15. FXR2 says:

    cowboyengineer said:
    25 September 2016 at 7:49 PM
    Do Catholics believe only Catholics will be saved or will Protestant Christians also be save?

    My take on this, and any with more knowledge on the subject please feel free to correct me, is that all valid sacraments are Catholic. If a protestant was validly baptized or desired to be baptized and died before reaching the age of reason or otherwise in a state of grace than they will be saved. I can only use my own miserable record to approximate the likelihood of remaining in a state of grace without recourse to confession. Perfect contrition would suffice, but in my fallen state it seems like quite a hurdle. Invincible ignorance is another path, however in these days of the internet I think one would have to work pretty hard at remaining ignorant and you can not fool God.

    As for others monotheistic or pagan, I simply ask why would God the Son become man, suffer and die and instruct us “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man cometh to the Father but by me”.

    We may hope that the all merciful God may save others, but that would be outside of the guide given to us by the Church.

    Just my, hopefully not too simplistic, understanding.

  16. JabbaPapa says:

    Regarding Cardinal von Balthasar, at one point in an argument with a Traditionalist, he mentioned the detail of the argument against him — so I looked up the original language text as I am wont to, to find that whilst Balthasar certainly examined the question “can we hope that all men are saved ?” in a classical Pro et Contra manner, the actual conclusion that he came to was that no, it is not reasonable to hope that all men are saved.

    Some of the arguments in his “Pro” section are simply lifted out of context by certain of our contemporary “liberal” theologians, as if the Cardinal supported the ideas that they wish to promote, whereas in fact he didn’t.

    The same sort of people have a tendency to misuse Aquinas’ or Augustine’s work in a similar manner.

  17. Phil_NL says:

    The original question has been answered, but the question of degree (is ‘many’ nearly all, or in fact still very few compared to those who lived) will not be answered till the ver End.

    And it seems for good reason, as this mystery touches upon both human nature, and God’s. Stephen Matthew above nails it why man would be in danger if too much assurance is given or believed. On the other hand, too bleak a picture would lead people into dispair. Both come in waves, painting with a very broad brush one could say some of the earlier Fathers were very pessimistic indeed, as were the protesants many centruries later, with periods of laxness at other points in history. I reckon that the burden man can bear in this respect, from a psychological point of view, probably isn’t constant. Modern man is much less comfortable with the idea of damnation, especially for many. (For reasons probably reflecting changes for the better, for once, but that aside). But the extremes lead to misery all the same.

    But the second point is God’s nature. I’d say that a position in which an immense number of souls is lost would be inconsistent with a merciful God. Yet saving everyone would be inconsistent with His justice; there is free will, and there have been terrifying abuses of that thoughout history. And then there’s God’s fidelity to His promises, especially through the Church, which has been given the tool of salvation, which can go a very long way of assuring Heaven indeed.

    From my perspective, all of this combined makes sense. God knows we cannot bear the burden of knowing the solution to this mystery, whatever the precise answer. But he has given of, besides justice, also mercy and therfore hope. Hope first and foremost through the Catholic Church, but as mentioned above, membership thereof is not limited to the visible, “card-carrying” members. How far it will extend is again unknown, but it seems reasonable to me that the denominational choices made many generations before, and honestly believed ever since by their descendants, would qualify for mercy. And perhaps more besides. It is surely something to be prayed for.

  18. APX says:

    With regards to are only Catholic saved, the Church teaches that there is no salvation outside the Church, meaning that if a non-Catholic is saved, it’s through the means of the Church and not their non-Catholic religion. In Heaven, everyone will be Catholic.

  19. Sonshine135 says:

    At Fatima, Lucy said the vision was of souls “falling to hell like snowflakes”. The second part of that was, “because there was nobody to pray for them”. But….. Our Lady also says, “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph”.

    This is telling. There is an intricate link between our prayer- for our enemies as well as our loved ones, the Immaculate Heart and, dare I also say, the Most Sacred Heart of Our Lord. I think this stresses the importance of prayer and points to the fact that even way back in 1917, men and women weren’t praying as they should. In today’s age, how many fewer are praying unceasingly? That should prompt us.

    As for Our Lady’s words: “In the end, my Immaculate Heart will triumph”. I think this is also telling. My understanding of Catholic Doctrine is that we go through two Judgements- the initial judgement when we die determines where we go based on our state in life, but the final judgement at the end of time happens because we are weighed and measured on how are lives impacted the world through all ages. If we are immediately judged, and our position is eternal, then why the need for a second judgement? Does it mean that there is a chance for a soul at the end of time? Catholic Doctrine seems to say- no, but I wonder if Our Lady indicates otherwise. My guess is we won’t know until that time.

  20. cowboyengineer says:

    Many thanks to those who answered my question.

  21. Rosary Rose says:

    Coboyengineer, the best answer I ever heard was from a conference where an exorcist spoke. He said,

    “Everyone who enters heaven is Catholic. They might not be Catholic when they die, but when they enter, they are Catholic.”

    That would make Purgatory a time of purification and understanding. For example, when a soul spends time in Purgatory, and the Blessed Mother visits them, (as we know she does from Fatima and St. Faustina) she has her crown of twelve stars and they see the power she has, they see she IS Queen of Heaven and Earth, voila, they believe….at least one Catholic teaching.

  22. norancor says:

    Why is this a discussion?

    Those who are not Baptized and have no desire for it are not saved, and there are long lists of those who will not inherit the Kingdom of God throughout the New Testament, both from the lips of Our Lord (moaning and gnashing, shake the dust from your feet, goats and lambs, etc).

    Those who partake of the Body and Blood of Christ unworthily bring damnation and condemnation upon themselves. St. Paul has two long lists. This tendency to false mercy that ignores justice is just so much falderal.

    Wishing and hoping brings dissipation. It says to the world, to the Church, and to yourself, that making the effort to evangelize or witness to those around you is pointless, because we are going to leave it up to God and let Him decide. God wills that all men be saved, but He knows full well most aren’t, because MOST DON’T WANT IT.

    Let’s make this simple. According to the Deposit of Faith, as a matter of Divine Truth and dogmatic pronouncement, many will be saved, but only “many.” This is determined by Our Lord, and the scriptures He inspired, that all men simple are not saved. End of discussion.

    Go to confession. Thank God for your faith. Make reparation for the conversion of sinners. And stop hoping that everyone is saved. They aren’t, because man has the ability to choose, and most choose the wide path of self, the world, the flesh, and the devil. Pray that you don’t enter the trial, and fall away, losing the race.

  23. papaefidelis says:

    It reminds me of an ICEL collect:

    Father, You want to make us happy. Fill us with the things that makes us happy. Make everyone happy for ever with you. We ask this through Christ, Our Lord. Amen

  24. acricketchirps says:

    Late. I was sick, but:

    Is it reasonable to pray Jesus lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of [His] mercy, five time every day?

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