You think Holy Redeemer Parish is busy at Holy Week. We can only imagine how active it must be at the Vatican. As if it wasn’t hectic enough planning for all the pope’s activities during the Triduum. Last week the left leaning Italian newspaper La Repubblica published a front-page essay by its founder 94-year-old Eugeni Scalfari. In the essay, Salfari claimed that in a discussion Pope Francis denied the existence of Hell. The La Repubblica article gave the impression that Scalfari was quoting the pope verbatim and at length. According to the Crux Catholic News Website Scalfari, a self-professed non-believer, is notorious for not recording nor taking notes during his discussions. He writes from his recollected memories. A dangerous practice for a journalist one third his age never mind a 94 year old.
Scalfari alleged in his article that Francis had said of unrepentant souls, “They’re not punished. Those who repent obtain forgiveness and enter the ranks of those who contemplate him, but those who don’t repent and can’t be forgiven disappear. A Hell doesn’t exist, what exists is the disappearance of sinning souls.”
Vatican spokesman Greg Burke denied that Pope Francis had given Scalfari an interview. Burke said it was a private meeting on the occasion of Easter and not a formal interview. Burke was quoted by the Zenit News Agency, “What the author refers to in today’s article is the fruit of his reconstruction, in which the textual words pronounced by the Pope are not quoted.”
It is really quite unrealistic to believe that Pope Francis would deny the existence of Hell became of Popes of recent memory hi is the one to speak of it most often. Francis speaks of Hell as being a real option for one’s eternal soul on frequent occasions. At the celebration of the Centennial of the Fatima apparitions Francis said, “Our Lady foretold, and warned us about, a way of life that is godless and indeed profanes and imposed-risk leading to Hell.”
According to an article written by John Allen for Crux a Catholic News Website. The Catechism of the Catholic Church upholds a belief in Hell and the possibility of unrepentant souls suffering eternal damnation. He quoted the catechism, “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 punishment of Hell, “eternal fire.”
In a May 23, 2017, Crux article written by Fr. Dwight Longenecker, eternal damnation is the fate of those who fail to meet the serious needs of the poor. It is the fate of those whose souls are in the state of mortal sin and refuse to seek or accept God’s mercy. Hell is a state to which the wicked are condemned, and in which they are deprived of the sight of God for all eternity and are in dreadful torment.
C.S. Lewis the great 20th Century author and Christian apologist wrote a book called The Great Divorce. It is his imaginations impression of Hell and those who dwell there. He said, “Those destine to hell reject everything that is beautiful, good and true. They have come to hate what is beautiful, good and true. Heaven would therefore be a place of torment for them.” They chose Hell themselves and aren’t damned to it. Lewis also claims that “the doors of hell are locked from the inside.”
Another noted 20th Century Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar said of hell, “We must see that Hell is not…not created by God but by the free individuals who choose it.” He also says it is our, “Christian duty to hope that all might one day be saved,” but the gospels must be heeded.
While the Catholic Church acknowledges that there are saints in heaven it has never claimed to have determined that any soul is in hell. Not even an Adolf Hitler has been consigned by the Church as undoubtedly being in hell. As St. Augustine said about the suicidal person. “Between the bridge and the water, the mercy of God can get in.” Repentance takes less than a split second and has the power to penetrate even the hardest of souls. We should seek reconciliation with God often.
As Catholics we don’t renounce the existence of Hell. We must recognize its existence and be careful to live always in the presence of God grace. We must pray for souls that we recognize are living in mortal sin and guide them back gently so that they can overcome temptations and accept the gift of God’s forgiveness.