Pope Francis’ alleged remarks about Hell. Fr. Z says, “Let not your heart be troubled.”

Today is Holy Thursday, which I had hoped might be a little quiet, giving me some time in silence.  It was not to be.

His Holiness Pope Francis inexplicably met once again with Eugenio Scalfari, the 90+ year old atheist Communist of the Italian daily La Repubblica.  Unless Scalfari simply made it up (which I don’t rule out), Pope Francis said something confusing about the existence of Hell and that unrepentant souls go into nothingness, a kind of annihilation.

Citing Dorothy Parker, “What fresh hell is this?”, quoth I.

The papal spokesman put out a statement that doesn’t necessarily deny what Scarfari said the Pope said.  However, the statement did say:

“Nessun virgolettato del succitato articolo deve essere considerato quindi come una fedele trascrizione delle parole del Santo Padre. … Not a single quoted word of the above-mentioned article should, therefore, be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father.” HERE

We have that to go on.  It ain’t much, but it’s not nothing.

Because I am getting lots of email, and because my phone sounds like a pinball machine with texts coming in from every corner of the globe and from people of all Christian vocations (including some media people), I’ll say this:

First, try to keep in perspective some of the confusing things the Holy Father says and go immediately to your catechisms and review.  We have multiple catechisms at our disposal.   Chief among them are these.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church.
US HERE – UK HERE (There are many editions.  Look around.)

 The Catechism of the Council of Trent for Parish Priests.
US HERE – UK HERE (There are many editions.  Look around.)

Also, the Baltimore Catechism, which has different volumes for different ages (US HERE – UK HERE).  It’s so useful, in its Q&A format.   And the Catechism of Pius X is also great.  (US HERE – UK HERE).  There are many good resources available.

Second, the Pope and the Church do not and cannot change the Church’s doctrine through unrecorded chats with Communist newspapermen.

Third, I think there is no person on Earth more beset by the Enemy of the Soul and the Enemy’s many earthly agents than the Vicar of Christ.  Think about the timing of this… HOLY THURSDAY?   Old Scratch and his bootlicking Communist journalist pawn chose well.  Look at the confusion they caused.  Hence, as a Catholic, understand that the Devil and Hell really exist, and that people really can go to Hell – which is eternal and not nothingness – we must – again, as believing Catholics – get down on our knees and pray for the Pope, especially with the time honored Pro Pontifice prayer.

Fourth, if news from Rome upsets you all the time, stop reading news from Rome all the time.  Cui bono?  Not everyone has the stomach for this trench warfare that we are in with the forces of evil and their journalist collaborators.  So, pay attention to your vocations and dedicate yourselves to what is good, true and beautiful in them.

Fifth, keep the Devil at bay with all available means.  Avail yourselves of (truly) blessed objects and sacramentals.  Ask your angel guardian to help you.  Also, say short exclamatory prayers all during the day as you work or when you read the confusing stuff.  Perhaps the prayer of Job could be useful.  When he was beset he cried out what we must cry out:

Then Job rose up, and rent his garments, and having shaven his head fell down upon the ground and worshipped, and said: Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away: as it hath pleased the Lord so is it done: blessed be the name of the Lord. In all these things Job sinned not by his lips, nor spoke he any foolish thing against God.

You read the confusing headline.  You peruse the article.  You get mad.  Shake it off and say “Blessed be the name of the Lord!” and then get back to the duties of your vocation.

Friends, here is the straight stuff.

Your soul, once created by God, as an image of God, is eternal.  Once created, it cannot cease to be.  Eh-vur.  The Lord Himself opined about the Lord’s betrayer: “It would be better for him if he had not been born.”  Why would He say that?  His betrayer was indeed born and his soul is not ever going to be nothing.  His fate will be eternal, and not just for a time.

At the end of your life (or if the Lord returns) you will face judgment.

Once your soul separates from your body, you will not be able to change your mind or repent in a salvific way.  You will be “baked in” and “locked on” to your life choices without any appetites to pull you onto another choice vector.  That’s it.

Then you will be assigned as you have chosen.

If you have died in God’s friendship, you will go to Heaven, either immediately or after a time of purification in Purgatory.

If you don’t die in God’s friendship, you will be immediately separated from God and all that is good, true and beautiful to spend the rest of eternity in Hell.

Hell will involve the horrific pain of loss of what you could have had.  It will also, after the bodily resurrection, necessarily involve the pain of sense.  Just as spiritual sins are worse than carnal sins, so too the pain of loss will be worse than the pain of sense.  However, that doesn’t mean that the pain of sense will be painless.   Carnal sins may be less serious than spiritual sins, but they are still enough to damn you.  Sin is death and pain is bad.

Throughout the centuries the pains of Hell have been described as “fire”.  The other day I took something out of a toaster oven and my finger tip contacted the metal rack.  Not good.  I’ve also experienced, as you have, loss and betrayal and abandonment in life.  Those are worse than physical suffering and, in fact, they can cause physical suffering.

But these earthly pains and losses are nothing compared to the unending, hopeless agony of eternal Hell.

Heaven will be more amazing than Hell is hideous.  We will see God.  In seeing God we will eternally be drawn to the Trinity in a glorious spiral of joy that involves also learning more about ourselves as His images and seeking ever more His transforming glory, which He will share.  It will never be anything less than ecstatic and filled with amazement and joy.

We can make choices in this life.  We must practice dying, so that when we do die – and we will – we will be locked on to the right choice.  Barring extraordinary graces and circumstances, people tend to die as they lived.

How are YOU living?

Hell is REAL.  

Don’t give even 5 seconds of thought to the absurd notion that there is no Hell.

Instead, try to imagine the first 5 seconds of realization that strikes the soul just consigned to Hell.

It is not a bad thing to review this on such a day as Holy Thursday.  After all, this day sacramentally makes the mystery of Christ’s Passion present to us and we to it.  Christ underwent the Passion so that we could be saved from … WHAT?   An eternity in HELL which our sins merit.

In instituting the priesthood and giving us the Eucharist in the context of His Passion, He saves us for Himself in Heaven.

In John 14 the Lord said:

Let not your heart be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many mansions. If not, I would have told you: because I go to prepare a place for you. And if I shall go, and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and will take you to myself; that where I am, you also may be. And whither I go you know, and the way you know.  Thomas saith to him: Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith to him: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Verygrateful1 says:

    Fr Z,

    1) What are we suppose to say to others who point to Bergoglio as a reason to stay in mortal sin?

    [To them you say, “Here’s a gift. A copy of the Catechism. Check out numbers…”]

    2) What are we to say to Protestants who ridicule us because of Bergoglio?

    [That even Renaissance Popes are a demonstration of God’s love for the Church. The fact that we clerics can’t bring it down is a proof that this is the one Church Christ founded and that they aren’t even in a church at all, since they don’t have apostolic succession. The Church is for sinners, from the top down, not for the perfect.]

    3) What do we say to ourselves to quite doubts when we encounter heretic Church officials at every turn?

    [“Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.'”
    Attacks such as these are the work of the Devil.
    Man up, put on your armor, and be about your business.]

  2. LeeGilbert says:

    When I came back to the Church 54 yrs ago on Holy Saturday, it was precisely because of a very vivid, visceral belief in Hell. I had had a glimpse, and with that I did an about-face and ran as fast I could in the opposite direction, away from my sensuous atheism. Since that time I have often thought that the Church has been missing the boat in not talking much more about Hell and trying to awaken servile fear in her people, first of all, so that they would at least begin to be serious Catholics. But no, servile fear has a bad rap, Hell has disappeared from the pulpit and is now under threat from the papacy. Certainly Satan must be very amused.

    Yet, since God wills the salvation of all, and can communicate not only with words but with deeds, I fear that Pope Francis has just thrown the switch that will set in motion the events that will give us hell on earth, and so bring many people to the repentance they could have had without living through plague, famine and war. If the Church will not speak of Hell, then God will. In this circumstance, it is the most loving thing He can do, the most effective way he can persuade us to give up the world, the flesh and the devil and to pursue the sanctity that will open the doors of Heaven to us.

    Stay awake and watch! Our doom is most surely afoot.

    [All the more reason to redouble your commitment to the Faith and your Catholic identity.]

  3. majuscule says:

    I concur with the advice to stay away from the minute by minute “news”if it upsets you. I gave up Facebook for Lent. It was hard because most of my connection there is to the Catholic world. However, with that comes the bad news as well as the good.

    I have felt quite peaceful during Lent—plus I have kept in touch with worthwhile news by reading only a few blogs that I trust (like this one).

    Yes Hell is real. (Look at the faces in the pictures of Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta who saw it.) In my life I am tormented by demons but overcome them with prayer and frequent confession. They are not “in your face” so much as prowling around looking for an opportunity.

    Follow Father’s excellent advice.

    (About the cartoon: since the chicken is not masked, I take it that it’s one of the brethren or sistern of our beloved feathered combox compadre? And boy oh boy, that Horned Chicken is pretty unsettling!)

  4. teomatteo says:

    my moderated contribution:

    Prayer For The Silence of A Pope.

    Dear loving and merciful Father,
    We pray for your Son’s earthly guardian
      of the deposit of faith.
    Grant to your humble servant N. __________
    that he may reserve and decline both speech and writing so as to safeguard your tradition that you so lovingly have bestowed on us for thousands years.
    May you grant our Vicar the peace and courage needed for earthly solitude and contemplation.
    Eternal and loving giver of all that is good, we beseech thee, to guide Him in his duties in living the gospel without words.
    We ask this thru Christ Our Lord.

  5. chantgirl says:

    This is not the first interview that Francis has had with Scalfari in which the annihilation of souls has come up. The longer this specific idea is not refuted word for word, the more likely I think that Francis really said it. If that is the case, Amoris Laetitia makes so much more sense.

    Meanwhile, while we know that the gates of Hell will not prevail, reports like this are going to lead innumerable souls down a dark path.

    The Cardinals absolutely must do something, though I don’t expect they will.

  6. AndyMo says:

    I’m that guy:

    Regarding the comic, presentation of a stimulus, whether reward or punishment, IS positive reinforcement. So yes, fire and brimstone were already positive reinforcement.

    Now, taking something away (in this case, life in the presence of the Almighty)? That’s one hell of a negative reinforcement.

  7. TonyO says:

    Last comment before I head out to pick up kids and start the Triduum ceremonies, but:

    Let not your heart be troubled… Yes, Father Z, you are right. If the Pope says there is no permanent hell, well, so much the worse for the Pope. If he chooses not to say what the Church has always taught, he isn’t speaking for the Church, is he? [Now when he has a private chat with a Communist set against the Church who misquotes him.]

    But I ask you, Fr. Z: can we the faithful ask our pastors and bishops to do something? The Pope has been more and more brazen in saying things incompatible with Catholic teaching over the past 5 years. At first it was little slips, and the Vatican spokesman took the time to “retract” the little slips and say words to the effect of “of course the Pope didn’t really mean that. Now the slips are little, and the Vatican is no longer bothering to correct him ex post facto any more.

    When does it become an ACTUAL DUTY of our bishops and cardinals to (a) teach their own flock “the Pope has mis-stated Church teaching there, the truth is”, and then (b) tell the Pope straight out “you appear to be teaching error, in a, b, and c statements. You should either correct your errors or step down in favor of a pope who can teach correctly.” If Pope Francis had 1000 or 1500 bishops in his face with declarations like that when he says foolish and wrong-minded things (like the one about hell), maybe he would stop? Don’t the bishops have SOME kind of responsibility to speak up to him? To invite him to correct his errors? To alert others not to accept the Pope’s errors at face value?

    [I think you have something sideways here. Bishops and priests don’t have a responsibility to correct the Pope’s odd remarks. Bishops and priests have the responsibility of preaching the truth every day, everywhere, and to everyone.]

  8. TonyO says:

    Sorry: “Now the slips are NOT little…”

  9. AA Cunningham says:

    The fact that the Pontiff continues to willingly put himself into these situations confirms, yet again, that all members of the Society of Jesus are not intellectuals.

  10. Imrahil says:

    Every thing naturally loves its own existence.

    No quote, but common general philosophical principle.

    Hence, God, in punishing the damned (may their number be small) by eternal hell, is content with the lesser penalty, compared to the idea of annihilating these souls (which some seem to prefer).

  11. Imrahil says:

    Reverend Father, I appreciate your intentions at all…

    and obviously there still is the possibility of fake news and the like around.

    That being said, if what is reported is true – I do not say that this is the end of the world, but I do say I’d rather wish the Pope confine himself to have mistresses, play political games, and on occasion poison an enemy, as the Renaissance Popes did (though the latter is probably slander).

  12. YoungLatinMassGuy says:

    There is one bright side to all this!!

    This Pope will leave behind the following legacy:

    An entire generation of the most devout, hard-core, Rosary-Reciting Catholics, knowledgable in the Faith like never before, Fluent in Conversational Latin, and armed with polemical and apologetical arguments that would make Sts. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas blush with envy.

    Like a kidney stone, this Papacy will pass. I am going to just let this fuel me in being more devout in my faith, and renew my long-term goals of saving up money, going back to school for a STEM degree, convincing other like-minded Catholics that we need to set up a Catholic Colony on Mars.

  13. JustaSinner says:

    I have always thought/been taught/made it up that Hell is the absence of God’s Love. That being the case, then God doesn’t send us to Hell, by our own choices we CHOOSE Hell.
    The commie journalist seems to be opting for the really DEEP levels! While not a fan of berGOglio, is he not Pope, the Vicar of Christ? Indeed; that’s proof enough for me that scalFARCI made it up.

  14. bobbird says:

    The problem with some of our parishes is that the priests have been preaching heresy about hell in this same general vein. A visiting deacon seminarian once explicitly laid it out about the reality and permanence of hell, only a week later to have the pastor counter it: “People are not sent to hell, they choose it … and can leave any time that they want.” The same pastor repeats often: “The Catechism of the Catholic Church is merely one opinion among many.” There is no recourse to the local ordinary, who ignores the complaints. Now, of course, they have PF covering their back. Most Catholics have an intentionally mushy faith formation.

  15. Kathleen10 says:

    My spouse said “He just hopes there isn’t”.
    Thank you for your spiritual fatherhood, Fr. Z. You are a consolation in these days.
    Nobody should be seriously unsettled by the man. We should already know what he is and what he’s doing. Once you have that sorted out you can more or less be at peace, as much as you can in this disordered world. One day we’ll get to say we held on to sheer faith when there was nothing else. We know what we know, no one can take what we know away.

  16. jaykay says:

    LeeGilbert: “When I came back to the Church 54 yrs ago on Holy Saturday…”

    Wow! Holy Saturday 1964? Which means that you swam back to the Barque just as She was already torpedoed and taking in water!! And you climbed back abord, and stayed, manning (sorry to the snowflakes for that) the pumps. Hero!

    God bless you, LeeG. Pity we didn’t have many more of yah, especially in that decade and the septic ones to come.

  17. Clinton R. says:

    Father Zuhlsdorf: “Once your soul separates from your body, you will not be able to change your mind or repent in a salvific way. You will be “baked in” and “locked on” to your life choices without any appetites to pull you onto another choice vector. That’s it.”

    Or as Father often encourages us: “GO TO CONFESSION”. Thanks be to Our Lord for this Sacrament.

  18. Malta says:

    It annoys me when prelates deny hell (Gehenna)–this is not an attack on Francis, since I don’t cast judgement on current Popes–but Jesus spoke of hell at least 54 times–to deny hell is to call Christ a liar. Hell is a place of eternal separation from God, which is freely chosen by atheists. I don’t like this wishy-washy talk that a person who denies the existence of God can somehow when he dies go to heaven. It’s not a part of the dogma of our Church.

  19. mburn16 says:

    We live in a world that hangs onto every word of the Pope. An offhand comment, forgive the pun, is viewed as having the power to move Heaven and Earth. Catholic and Non-Catholic alike very commonly hold that the power of the Papacy and the entire Church itself is built around a very expansive view of infallibility. This Pope puts all of that in very grave danger. In doing so, he greatly undermines the power of the Church and shakes the faith of its members.

    Its basically impossible to come up with a defense of that; even saying “don’t get worked up about every headline” seems to fall short; because whether we pay attention or not, the world does.

  20. (X)MCCLXIII says:

    How can our hearts not be troubled, Father? Souls are being misled, being lost. I mean our friends. Our children. I can’t help but find that troubling.

    (I don’t mean what I write to be critical of you personally; I realise it might be read as such.)

    This is at least the second time that the Holy Father has been reported by Mr Scalfari as having denied the existence of hell. I am pretty sure there was no correction issued to Scalfari’s first report, and here there is what seems to be a confirmation.

    [Confirmation, you say? Let’s talk about confirmation. What are effects of the SACRAMENT of Confirmation? Among other things Confirmation imparts to us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and to defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross. CCC. I have to say, who cares what the Pope said to Scarfari? Be strong in the Faith in which you have been CONFIRMED.]

  21. Malta says:

    Or to be a little more accurate, we have a short time on this earth–shorter than any of us really realize. At the moment of death the game is over. It’s scary to think about, but at that moment the soul of, say, an atheist doesn’t “disappear” but goes into eternal “torment.” I don’t know if it’s the Jesuit “compassion” of the Pope that makes him not teach sound doctrine, or what. But I miss the days of Pope Benedict, because he was a very good theologian. The problem with bad doctrine is souls can be imperiled.

  22. Akita says:

    Oh, but Father, I am not an automaton (person who acts in an unemotional or mechanical way) and knowing (using my God given intellect) that our pope very likely denied the existence of hell on several occasions now (no explicit denial from the Vatican forthcoming) on this, one of the holiest days of the year, the day before our Lord died in the Cross and descended into Hell (as taught in our Creed), I am in mental torment. Adding to my suffering is that there is not an outpouring of alarm, yes alarm, by our shepherds
    (call a press conference if you must!), proclaiming on this Holy Thursday, 2018, that Our Lord, transcendent of time, opens those gates yet again this very weekend! The silence of our shepherds in this dark hour on the world stage is deafening.

  23. Benedict Joseph says:

    Pope Francis’ obsession with mercy and forgiveness, his “devil” talk and simultaneous denial of Hell is itself symptomatic of cognitive dissonance and an emotional imbalance. Jorge Mario Bergoglio is terrified of Hell and Satan and he should be. We all should have a healthy fear of that reality. But I sense in him an unhealthy fear – so what better course than to deny it.
    Born in the thirties he is likely afflicted by unresolved scrupulousness – a spiritual malady not so familiar to those born after the Council. It is a painful obsessive-compulsive preoccupation with personal sin and many found relief from it in the absurdities of the “spirit” of Vatican II. That same “spirit” has become their new obsession because it represents their “release” from the neurotic cycle which subsumed their emotional and spiritual lives. A concurrent reaction against what is perceived as “rigidity” would seem to be reasonable in such a personality.
    But unless you deal with the root problem within yourself and in the light of Grace the neurotic cycle just morphs into another neurotic cycle. Unfortunately all of us, and indeed history, are witness to it playing out in him and the overcompensation of the multiple cases in his cabal.
    Apparently his antiquity and the trappings of the office have ignited within him the idea that he is a genuine wisdom figure.
    He is rather more frequently appearing a basket case.
    His need to speak with this bizarre atheist Scalfari is absurd.
    He is a dangerous obstacle to his own salvation and that of others.
    “The Holy Spirit was not given to the Roman Pontiffs so that they might disclose new doctrine, but so that they might guard and set forth the Deposit of Faith handed down from the Apostles.”
    – Pastor Aeternus, July 18, 1870.
    He needs to absent himself.

  24. Julia_Augusta says:

    Father Z, you are right to advise us to stop reading news from Rome if all that does is upset us and take time away from prayer. We should regularly pray for the clergy (especially the Pope). If you believe in Hell, that last thing you will wish for someone, is for him to go to Hell.

    Pray the Rosary everyday.

  25. Kent Wendler says:

    AA Cunningham said:
    “… all members of the Society of Jesus are not intellectuals.”

    Be careful of this kind of generalization. I would counter with the examples of Fr. Mitch Pacwa and Fr. Robert Spitzer, both rather apparently quite orthodox and Jesuit, and very intellectual. Did you perhaps mean “…not all members…”?

    bobbird said:
    ” only a week later to have the pastor counter it: ‘People are not sent to hell, they choose it … and can leave any time that they want.’”
    Father Z said:
    “…you will not be able to change your mind or repent in a salvific way. You will be ‘baked in’ and ‘locked on’ to your life choices without any appetites to pull you onto another choice vector.”‘

    Indeed. Such an “appetite” would be a “good”, all of which come from God, and the damned have completely and absolutely cut themselves off from God, totally rejecting everything from and of God. If they hadn’t, then (dare I say?) would they not be receiving a possibly quite severe Purgation?

  26. Amerikaner says:

    “They’ll believe in hell when they get there!”
    ~ St. Padre Pio

  27. Amerikaner says:

    And I do not believe that the Holy Father said this… because on many ocassions he has spoken about the existence of the devil… ergo, hell must exist as well… Scalfari has an agenda to sow confusion.

  28. maternalView says:

    Is anyone praying for Scalfari? The man is over 90 years old and still writing. The good Lord is giving him plenty of time and opportunities to amend his ways. He needs prayers.

  29. Pingback: GOOD FRIDAY MORNING EDITION – Big Pulpit

  30. Erick Ybarra says:

    Fr. Z,

    Thank you for your blog post. I see you have been answering some of the questions that the faithful have put to you, and so I hope you don’t mine I have some of my own.

    There are those Catholics with whom I engage in conversation who are truly stepping back and re-evaluating the veracity of the Catholic Church in light of the Pontificate of Pope Francis. The simple idea is this – How does Catholicism survive with a failed Papacy? And what we are speaking here of is not a Pope Alexander V, or a Pope John XII. We are not even considering the shilly-shallying of Pope Vigilius, nor even of the post-humous identification of a material “heresy” in Pope Honorius’s letter to the Patriarch Sergius of C’ple. What we are speaking of is a Pope who is committed to actively obstruct the dogmatic teaching of the Catholic Church (let’s just say hypothetically). The Vatican Council states in chapter four, paragraph six:

    “Indeed, their apostolic teaching was
    embraced by all the venerable fathers and reverenced and followed by all the holy orthodox doctors, for they knew very well that this see of St. Peter always remains unblemished by any error, in accordance with the divine promise of our Lord and Saviour to the prince of his disciples: I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren”

    And yet now, renowned theologians and Bishops are willing to say that we shouldn’t rely on Rome anymore at this moment. In fact, I’ve read by one very intelligent and learned priest who, citing Cardinal Newman, said that there is such a thing as a “sleeping Magisterium”, where its function as Teacher and Judge is inactive (historical appeal being to that of the post-Nicaean era where St. Athanasius was practically isolated to fend for himself).

    But how is it that a “fallen-Rome” is not a suicide moment for the veracity of Catholicism? Does not the epistemic situation of a fallen principle of unity entail the obvious effect of fragmentation?

    What we are often told is that there are narrow conditions for infallible and indefectible Teaching, and thus any teaching or ecclesial statements outside those conditions might fall prey to error. With this set of conditions and qualifications in mind, we are told that the “gates of hell have not prevailed against the Church” since the narrow condition of infallible teaching (ex cathedra and/or Ecumenical Councils) has not been processed.

    But does this really work? If you have a Pope who constantly utilizes his non-infallible magisterium to promote error, heresy, and false teaching, all of which allows for no freedom to dissent, what good is the promise of Papal infallibility if it can co-exist with a constantly erring Pope? Historically speaking, every single Bishop can get off the hook from being a herteic if we add the qualification “well, he was not speaking ex cathedra”. It used to be that the Church had no problem with striking the Pope’s name from the sacred Diptychs (Saints during the Acacian schism), suspending him from office (Constantinople II, 553), and even anathematizing a Pope (Constantinople II, 681). It would appear such movements are unthinkable in today’s ecclesiology. And yet, it is this much older sense, per Fr. Aidan Nichols, that the Church is in need of reconsidering in the stature of Canon Law, so as regards a Pope who tries to fight against Christ and destroy the holy temple of God (1 Cor 3:17).

    In short, many are coming to a point where they realize that they are committing intellectual suicide by maintaining their faith in the supreme Catholic magisterium, i.e. the Bishops united to the Pope, when they have seen the capacity of deviation from Apostolic teaching. What can you say to them, without having to refer to the “narrow condition of infallibility” explanation? It would seem that with this explanation, we are still left in a hypothetical situation where the Pope, who no man can judge (cf Canon 1014), holding the members of the Church hostage to heresy, i.e. that which can destroy the soul.

  31. Deacon Ed Peitler says:

    Here’s the only appropriate Catholic response to the statement, “There is no hell.”:
    “What an absurd idea!”

    I now return to my focus on the Triduum.

  32. Imrahil says:

    re Scalfari:

    I believe the information “atheist”, it’s specific enough. But “communist” is not a description but a case of calling names. He never (as far as I am aware), was either a member of the Partito communista nor a dogmatic Marxist-Leninist or Trotzkyite.

    He is a social democrat. That’s something different.

  33. Fr. Reader says:

    @Benedict Joseph
    Can you read the mind and the heart of others?

  34. Imrahil says:

    but at that moment the soul of, say, an atheist doesn’t “disappear” but goes into eternal “torment.”

    That is only true if the atheist in question knew he was obliged to be something other than an atheist and did not, or had some other unforgiven sin on his conscience.

    (And, as said above, very probably the torment is objectively the more compassionate thing as opposed to disappearance, only our understandable failure to grasp the ungraspable – we have an idea of “torment”, but noone has an idea of nonexistence – may dampen our reason so as to think otherwise.

    Note also that the worst verdict our Lord has for any man was “for him it were better, had he never been born”, which means the limbo of infants [or a loophole to Heaven, but that is another discussion]. Our Lord never says about any man “for him it were better, had he never been conceived.)

  35. Markus says:

    As I approach a birthday that will make me officially older than dirt, it appears to me that mankind has not really progressed. Socially or spiritually. History does repeat itself, perhaps at an accelerated pace due to modern communication. Why? Same sins, slightly altered, which we are all guilty of. No new sins, only new excuses.
    I can compare world events of my lifetime, historically, repeated over and over again. We should pray for the poor souls that suffered similar events, in the past. To contemplate how they must have suffered yet kept the Faith. And yet the Church did survive…and will.

  36. tskrobola says:

    My advice: shut the hell up. :)

  37. Ave Maria says:

    This is not the first time for this thing about no hell or that no one goes there, etc. Guess Our Lord either did not know what He was talking about or He was not the Lord and was a liar and deceiver….but we know He was not and thus who is. Many saints saw hell, are they to be discounted? Our Lady of Fatima showed the little children a vision of hell: are She and they to be discounted? We are in the age of an anti-pope so let us cling to the Good Shepherd and our Blessed Mother and the age old teachings of the true Magisterium. Somehow God will bring good out of this evil, from this time of sifting.

  38. While we always want the best for the pope — we should! — if we find in him human weakness, that should not surprise us. He is not the focus of our faith, and even when Peter falters, Christ supports him.

  39. chantgirl says:

    Amerikaner- Scalfari has already ascribed this heretical view to Francis in a past interview. Francis never denied or clarified his thoughts on the matter. Why would Francis continue to allow this man to indict him? Attributing a heretical view to a pope is a huge deal, and something no friend would do, and yet these two keep chatting. At this point, if Francis does not specifically deny this belief, odds are that we are either dealing with a pope who espouses heretical beliefs, or has some kind of dementia.

    Either way, prayers for the Church are in order. Last night at Mass it occurred to me that we really do need to be praying as if our lives depended on it.

  40. ppb says:

    I highly doubt that Pope Francis really said the things Scalfari reports, for several reasons: a) We already know Scalfari is untrustworthy; b) Pope Francis has talked about the possibility of going to hell several times in public speeches; and c) the reported beliefs are just too weird to be credible. Most of those who deny the existence of hell either deny any sort of afterlife at all, or believe that everyone eventually goes to heaven. But to believe that the justified actually go to Heaven, while the sinners are simply annihilated? That isn’t exactly “merciful;” indeed, for an eternal soul, that’s a far worse punishment. It’s possible the Pope said some sort of vague confusing thing, but it seems more likely to me that Scalfari is pushing some sort of weird agenda of his own. As an atheist, he might think that being annihilated is more comforting. Let’s pray he converts before he finds out how false that whole idea is.

  41. Spinmamma says:

    Father Z,
    Some days I fear I am one of those not suited to trench warfare as I am frequently brought to tears and dismay at the blasphemies coming from various prelates, priests and institutions of higher learning operating under the Catholic name. Our Church is suffering as our Lady suffered on that Good Friday so long ago, and our Lord is being shamed and ridiculed by His own as He was then. (plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose) You are indeed a consolation, as another poster said, because while other websites merely report on these terrible things, you never fail to offer encouragement and exhortations along with learned and witty comments on the same. You are a true shepherd and do much to calm and direct your digital flock. I, and I am sure the majority of your readers, pray for you and our other good priests (and the misguided ones as well). Bless you.

  42. JabbaPapa says:

    Those claiming that the Pope might deny the existence of Hell are bearing false witness against their neighbour

  43. Carrie says:

    I don’t believe Pope Francis said these things. The Vatican says he didn’t. But I understand why people are easily convinced that he did. We have been lied to by leaders in our nation and our Church. Advisers and staff of these leaders spin and lie for them. Honesty and integrity, in those we should be able to trust, are in great peril. So, we are understandably doubtful.

    Fr. Z, I appreciate this advice you gave: “…pay attention to your vocations and dedicate yourselves to what is good, true and beautiful in them.” Good tonic for toxic times.

  44. Kevin says:

    It’s not all bad. This morning the Irish national news service, while happily reporting the controversy with a note of humour inadvertantly told the entire nation that the Catholic Church actually teaches the reality of hell and it’s eternity.
    Absolutely priceless, you wouldn’t hear this from hardly any of our Bishops.

  45. Benedict Joseph says:

    @Fr. Reader: Who constructed the problem under discussion?
    We can only work with what the individual choses to put before us. If I am wrong, I am wrong. Your passive-aggressive response is seriously disingenuous.
    What is your interest in defending the indefensible?
    Something that is undeniable is that Pope Francis choses to speak repetitively with a gentleman who continually causes trouble for him.
    Or is it trouble?
    Repetitive behavior is generally engaged in because it serves the actor’s purpose.

  46. DCMArg says:

    Perhaps all this is a subtle priestly pity comment to the ears of an unrecoverable, lost soul of a 93 years old man.

  47. chantgirl says:

    JabbaPapa- Far from spreading lies, we are asking for the truth. Some of us have been asking for the truth since 2015 when Scalfari first attributed this belief to Francis in a published interview.

    Francis could easily clear this up if he wanted to, just as he could easily answer the dubia if he wanted to.

  48. Grant M says:

    “Imagine there’s no heaven
    It’s easy if you try
    No hell below us
    Above us only sky…”

    At least Lennon was honest enough not to try and retain heaven while eliminating hell, as the sentimental do. C S Lewis observed that a belief in heaven which is more than a vague, pleasant sentiment coexists with a salutary belief in hell. Our Lord, whose compassion for individual sinners is infinite also speaks more than any other person in Scripture about hell. And our Holy Father has spoken about hell and the devil frequently, I take it that he has been misquoted here. I checked and paragraph 1035 of the CCC is still available at the Vatican’s website:

    “The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.” The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.”

    Remember Dante. His great poem about the afterlife devotes 34% to a vivid portrayal of hell. Clearly, Dante in his Commedia is inspired by the Scriptures, the life of our Lord and Lady, the great Saints and Doctors of the Church and even “good pagans” like Virgil. He has little time for the Pope and Curia of his day.

  49. Grant M says:

    PS: Although, when Boniface is arrested and assaulted by the French King, Dante compares his sufferings to those of Christ. For Dante, even Boniface is still Christ’s vicar.

  50. Charles E Flynn says:

    An update from the allegedly-atheist journalist who does not take notes (analogous to a plumber who eschews pipe wrenches):

    From https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/30/world/europe/pope-francis-hell-scalfari.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=second-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news :

    The pope, in fact, has often talked about hell as a very real final destination for the wicked, and the Vatican made clear that the “literal words pronounced by the pope are not quoted” and that “no quotation of the article should be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father.”

    Mr. Scalfari agreed.

    “They are perfectly right,” said Mr. Scalfari in an interview on Friday night, as the pope prepared for a ceremonial leading of the stations of the cross on Good Friday. “These are not interviews, these are meetings, I don’t take notes. It’s a chat.”

  51. Malta says:

    I spent a semester in college studying Dante, this is my favorite quote of his: “Through whom this realm reposes in such great love and in such great delight that no will dares for more, creating all the minds in His own glad aspect, endows with grace diversely according to His pleasure ; and here let the fact suffice.” It is from his Paradiso. Dante was not just focused on Hell; he had an amazing vision of heaven. I completely agree with what you say Grant M; I guess in my line of work I like to read funny, positive things. Another book I love is Hillaire Belloc’s “Path to Rome.” That man had a sense of humor incomparable to almost anyone I’ve ever read!

  52. Malta says:

    If you want a really good laugh, read Belloc’s “Path to Rome”! I think some people think Catholic’s are only dire and serious; actually my Catholic friends have the best sense of humor of any of my friends!


  53. seanmoylantd says:

    Would it be possible to put that prayer up as a permanent link along with the Morning Offering and Prayer for Priests? Go raibh maith agaibh/ thank you.

  54. Fr. Reader says:

    @Benedict Joseph.
    I was not trying to defend anything. I did not entered into that area on purpose. Perhaps that is why it looks like “passive-aggressive”.
    I was trying to be active-aggressively commenting on: “obsession”, “symptomatic of cognitive dissonance and an emotional imbalance”, “is terrified of Hell and Satan and he should be… unhealthy fear”, “he is likely afflicted by unresolved scrupulousness”, “painful obsessive-compulsive preoccupation with sin”, “neurotic cycle”, “the neurotic cycle just morphs into another neurotic cycle”, “have ignited within him the idea that he is a genuine wisdom figure”.
    Perhaps it is that I know little about psychology, and I do not understand this vocabulary.
    Happy Easter in advance.

  55. tzabiega says:

    There are a few comments that come to mind in response to this:
    1. By the writing of most great saints like St. Thomas Aquinas, MOST people end up in hell, and this includes most Christians. As the wonderful Msgr. Pope noted once in Catholic Answers: it is possible that non-Catholic Christians are saved, but it is not probable. Or as my young son before his Holy Communion logically figured it out: “how can someone go to Heaven who has never gone to confession?” This preaching of most people going to Heaven is simply the best tool the devil uses to send most people, including most Catholics, to hell.
    2. No orthodox Catholic by now will take Pope Francis’ words to seriously, so I highly doubt this will change the minds and heart of faithful Catholics who already know their faith.
    3. The lax, liberal, and non-practicing Catholics will simply be confirmed in what they believe anyhow, that they will go to Heaven no matter what they do, so nothing will change.
    4. The one at greatest risk in regards to his soul is Pope Francis, as preaching heresy that can lead souls to hell reminds me of that parable about the millstone. We need to pray for the sake of his own soul that Pope Francis at least has the common sense to correct the old Communist as firmly as he had no problem correcting orthodox Catholics like Cardinal Sarah.

  56. Jann says:

    “No one can be condemned for ever, because that is not the logic of the Gospel!” Amoris Laetitia (297)

    I also remember the Holy Father saying something similar to what was reported now, before, though I can’t remember the circumstances. And it seems to me that I’ve read in the past that he doesn’t believe in hell as something eternal. So, although he may speak of hell, he doesn’t understand it to mean what the Church has always understood it to mean.

  57. Andrew says:


    That is not fair. That sentence from Amoris laetitia no. 297 is an allusion to the present life, not to the afterlife.
    People ought to realize that the dignity of the office of the Supreme Pontiff demands that we tread very carefully. It is not good when everyone is foaming at the mouth. There are those whose duty it is to aid the Pope with constructive criticism, if necessary. And I am sure they know who they are and when and how to do it. For most of us, while we should be informed, it is best to keep quiet. And we should take note that thus far, Pope Francis has not denied any part of Catholic teaching. None! Zero! Yes, there are all sorts of troubling reports, all sorts of issues where it might be better to openly acknowledge a need for prudent defense, even at times pointing out some weakness on the part of the magisterium, but always with the utmost caution, taking into consideration when and why and to whom we are speaking. Because if the Church turns into a mudfest, we all lose. When I am troubled, I remind myself that it is still permitted to be faithful to your spouse. It is still praiseworthy to keep your vows. It is still presumed that priests are celibate and holy. We still have prayer, penance, the practice of virtues, good reading, spiritual exercises, almsgiving, friendship with likeminded individuals, study, participation in praiseworthy project. It is still understood that the Church teaches what it always taught, even while we hear of scandals coming from here and there, even from ranking churchmen. So what!?

  58. Jann says:

    I would add, in relation to the subject of hell, that Pope Francis has frequently mentioned Judas Iscariot in his homilies with much sympathy, judging him (?) not to have been the worst sinner — that all the Apostles were sinners, and that the worst sin is probably not to trust in the Mercy of God to save souls. And he says he feels sorry for Judas who did repent but was repulsed by “the Doctors of the Law” and so committed suicide (for which act he is seemingly not responsible).:

    ““It hurts when I read that small passage from the Gospel of Matthew, when Judas, who has repented, goes to the priests and says: ‘I have sinned’ and wants to give … and gives them the coins. ‘Who cares! – they say to him: it’s none of our business!’ They closed their hearts before this poor, repentant man, who did not know what to do. And he went and hanged himself. And what did they do when Judas hanged himself? They spoke amongst themselves and said: ‘Is he a poor man? No! These coins are the price of blood, they must not enter the temple… and they referred to this rule and to that… The doctors of the letter.” Homily: April 11, 2016, Casa Santa Marta

    [Judas said he was sorry, if he was sorry, to the wrong ones.]

  59. WVC says:

    Honestly, I just can’t see why folks have gotten themselves so worked up. We just heard, again, about how the first pope denied Christ Himself. So this pope has allegedly denied Hell. Haven’t we all learned that Christ, the Faith, and Life is bigger than a pope’s mistakes?

    Have a blessed Easter to everyone, especially Fr. Z and the many hard working and wonderful priests for which this time of year is particularly labor intensive. Give your good, local priest a nice Easter basket (with a bottle of preferred beverage included), and let him focus on his liturgy and, when that’s done, his rest. Don’t pester him about whether Hell exists. Of course it does, and everyone already knows it, no matter what the pope does or doesn’t say or whatever optimistic lie someone tries to fool his self with. At Judgment Day, your trip to (or hopefully your avoidance of) Hell will not depend on your opinion on whether or not someone else did or didn’t believe in it. It will be MUCH more personal questions you’ll after to answer for!

    God Bless!

  60. Jann says:

    Fr. Z commented: [Judas said he was sorry, if he was sorry, to the wrong ones.]
    Yes, exactly. The passage shows several confusions in thinking. It really seems to be driven by an animosity towards “Doctors of the Law”.

    [The problem is, when the Holy Father says, “Doctors of the Law”, he doesn’t say whom he means. That is… well… not really fair. I am pretty sure that what he means is – get ready – liberals, who are the worst rigid imposers of rules. Remember that the definition of “liberal”, which has its root, in Latin liber, is “one with whom you are free to agree.” As Neuhaus pointed out, what liberals demand as options eventually they demand be mandatory. So, even if the Holy Father didn’t immediately mean liberals, in effect he does mean liberals when he speaks of “doctors of the law”. Conservatives, however, are happy to be flexible within boundaries which are generally widely drawn. Libs draw ever tighter boundaries.]

  61. Gerard Plourde says:

    The existence of Hell is undeniable. A much more fraught question is how populated it is. Not possessing the ability to look into another’s soul and not being present at the moment of another’s individual judgment, we are left to speculate, a practice that leaves us vulnerable to judgment ourselves.

  62. Fr_Sotelo says:

    The advice from Fr. Z in this article is succinct and clear. Besides being applied to what Pope Francis allegedly said, it is also very useful for anytime when our faith is perturbed.

  63. stephen c says:

    I agree with Father Sotelo that the advice is good and clear. Such good advice is always appreciated.

    Well, senex loquax, as Cicero, who was about my age when he died, like to say, so I would like to ramble on a little about something that has been bothering me … I often wonder, having known many very, very evil people in my life, what they would be like if they had been born, as Jesus was, with parents like Mary and Joseph, aunts and uncles like Elizabeth and Zachary, and so on. I also wonder, less frequently, about the mystery of the history in the Bible – it seems like anyone fortunate to be born an Israelite was given a blessing denied, for no understandable reason, to the neighboring nations, the brutal Hittites, the carnal foolish Egyptians, the deplorable Philistines. And, to tell the truth, most of the people I care about were born more in the Hittite line than the Israelite line … through no initial fault of their own, of course ….

    I live in a part of America that was unpeopled until about 700 or so generations ago, and almost every child who was born here in those 700 generations was born into a family where violence, murder, and the brutal mistreatment of the weak was accepted. Then the Europeans came and they killed a lot of people, too. So there’s that. Kind gestures may have been frequent, now and then, but, more likely, those who could do harm to others basically did harm to others, day after day, and the evildoers often died, after many years, peacefully and with no regrets for the harm they had done. Meanwhile my Lord and my Savior decided that He would be born in a civilized nation, to parents who were remarkable saints.

    Well, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus obviously knew that he would be in Heaven in 4 days or so. I have known cancer patients, people with chronic illness, people whose children have been murdered and worse, and other “losers in life” (I hate to put it that way, but …): all of whom would rejoice if you told them that they only had two or three days of physical or emotional pain in front of them, followed by a sure entry to Heaven. And Yes I have known parents who would be willing to be crucified and to die on a cross a dozen times if that would keep their children from the suffering that – now, here in 2018 – has already happened and cannot be undone. (Trust me, you probably have known such parents too. And if you don’t, count yourself blessed). And I do not believe for a second that Jesus wept tears of blood from fear of physical pain – I think he had to have been, whether for the first time in his life or for the last time, clearly aware that he would be asked to suffer, and so I also believe he had no fear that he would reject that suffering. He was better than me, by so much that I can’t begin to understand – but I do understand this —- in the Garden of Gethsemane, if he was not afraid of his own personal suffering, he had to have been afraid of something, because the inerrant word of the scriptures says he was afraid of something. So he was not afraid of his own suffering, I believe, and I also believe he was not afraid of refusing to suffer for others. What was he afraid of? The Bible talks about his time in Gethsamene as if he were very very troubled about something. They say “cor ad for loquitur” but I for one would not be brave enough to try and know what was in His heart that night in that garden.

    Thanks for reading. Like I said, senex loquax. God loves us all, though, and nobody – even somebody who everybody thinks talks too much – does not, eventually, stop talking in order to listen. God loves us all.

  64. stephen c says:

    “Cicero liked to say”


    “They say “cor ad cor loquitur” but I for one would not be brave enough to try and know what was in His heart that night in that garden.”

    “Cicero like to say” was my fault and “cor ad for loquitur” was spellcheck’s fault. Spellcheck does not love Latin.

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