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Father Guy Pagès has done Christendom a service by publishing this essay on the existence, rationale and population of Hell. Indeed, why work out your own salvation "in fear and trembling" [Ph 2:12], if Hell doesn't exist? "If faith in the existence of Hell is the other side of the coin giving access to Paradise, then where the other side is missing, the coin itself is also missing" (p. 15) Moreover, "if even Judas is in Paradise, then who won't be? Don't worry so much about your salvation! Continue to sin, my dear friends, the devil will take care of everything!" (p. 16)
I'm sorry for the many shortcomings of this summary. Among others, there is a wealth of quotes from the Magisterium, the Church Fathers and the saints in this 220 page book, which I simply cannot compress into my short article. Also, in my opinion, the book has a few imperfections, but I imagine they'll disappear in a second edition.
"Watch me dance on the line between heresy and Catholicism!"
(Septimus Edwin Scott. Ballet. [Source])
Balthasar (1905-1988), Swiss Priest and theologian, almost became a cardinal under John Paul II. He is considered by many as one of the great theologians of the XXth Century. Father Pagès scrutinizes two of this last books, Hope For All and Hell, A Question. Many passages of those books "dance on the line" between the Catholic Faith and heresy. Balthasar would really like Hell not to exist, or at least for it to be empty, or "empty-able"!
Is Balthasar a heretic? I haven't read his books, and I'm not the Pope. On the other hand, while reading Father Pagès' careful analysis, I can't help think about all those maddening theologians I've studied. Maddening because they're always ready to call themselves "Catholics", always too busy to list the Magisterium's declarations which contradict them, always filled with nice fashionable feelings (which just happen to be opposed to the truth of Faith which bothers them), never ashamed to quote the Bible selectively, and especially, always very confortable in a tutu and ballet slippers, when comes time to be on one side and/or on the other side of the line, at the same time and in the same respect!
Basically, Balthasar doesn't like the distinction between objective Redemption, and subjective Redemption. Let's take a metaphor. A boat is sinking in the middle of the ocean, and all passengers will therefore drown. They are doomed. Then, a good lifeboat arrives, solid, comfortable and big enough for all. Bingo, all passengers can avoid death! It's "objective Redemption". But each passenger must then want to climb on board the lifeboat ("subjective Redemption"). A passenger who freely refuses to get on will drown, even if the lifeboat is there, right in front of him.
Because of this distinction, you can find in the Bible two kinds of passages on Salvation, those that talk of "all" men (objective Redemption, [Tt 2:11; 1Tm 2:1; Jn 12:32; Rm 5:18; etc.]), and those that say "some, not all" (subjective Redemption, [Mt 22:14; Mt 13:49-50; etc.]).
Was Balthasar contaminated with the popular philosphical error of pragmatism? In any case, he seems to distrust knowledge (especially that of Saint Augustin, Saint Thomas Aquinas and the Magisterium), and seems to grant a lot of importance to his own goodness and his emotions of compassion for the damned. Moreover, does Balthasar really realize that since Faith comes from God, who cannot deceive or be deceived, if a single part of the Catholic Faith is false, then the whole Catholic Faith is false?
I won't go into more details about Father Pagès' solid critique of Balthasar. (You can also read a similar critique of Balthasar made by Fr. Regis Scanlon, OFM Cap., called The Inflated Reputation of Hans Urs von Balthasar). Remember at least that this Balthasar isn't the Word of God, and that the Word of God contradicts this Balthasar. (Insofar as he stops dancing!)
"Divine life (to which we are called and for which we have been created) is not the necessary extension of our earthly existence. It's not our due... We are not God!" (p. 71)
"Dogmatic development will better and better show that the hope of a retribution, a reward, is the act of an authentically supernatural and theologal virtue, and that, even in a perfect Christian, there is still a legitimate place not only for the desire for Heaven but also for the fear of Hell." (p. 73, "Pass the time of your sojourning here in fear" [1P 1:17])
"Neither the religions of Paganism, nor mythologies, nor philosophies" have known the existence of Hell. "Even in Christianity, all attempts to rationalize the dogma have ended up denying it. Unable to discover Hell, reason cannot understand it. We only know the existence of Hell through Revelation. That God has created not only the larger part of men, but even a single one of them knowing he will damn himself, is a profound mystery - which must not make us doubt God's absolute goodness, but only lead us to recognize the gravity, the seriousness, the reality of His love for all", and the reality of our freedom. (p. 75)
"Hell is sin unatoned and unatonable in the other life. The efficient cause, loosely speaking, which has produced the state of things which requires Hell, is the sinner through his sin and him only... Sin is the disregard and the rejection of God and His law of love (Natural Law of which the Ten Commandments are an overview, and the Gospel which is its perfection), the rejection of infinite Love giving Itself to us." (p. 84)
"While the Elect endlessly rejoice in being the happy recipients of an undeserved mercy, the damned, who didn't care for it, eternally lament themselves of being justly deprived of it. Thus the Scriptures are fulfilled: "The fear of the wicked shall come upon him; but the desire of the righteous shall be granted". [Pr 10:24]" (p. 87)
"We must understand that Hell is not something like Paradise, like blueberry ice cream is similar to chocolate ice cream. As is true of all negative realities, Hell doesn't have being in itself: it is the loss of Paradise! What is something is Paradise. Hell only exists since the father of Lies succeeded in convincing us that just as we can legitimately choose between blueberry ice cream and chocolate ice cream, we can choose just as legitimately between Paradise and Hell... Except, choosing Hell is choosing not to choose Paradise! Fatal error!... Nothing else! Whence the weeping spoken of by Jesus, about the permanent loss of the only infinitely valuable good, and the gnashing of teeth caused by the rage of having been deceived." (p. 89)
"The principle of the inequality of infernal sufferings is related to the fact Hell follows sin, as the order to be re-established follows the disorder and is obviously proportioned to it. Therefore such a sin: such a Hell! And this whether for the pain of loss [exclusion from the Creator] or for the pain of the senses [for the disordered use of creatures]." (p. 93)
"Since Hell is eternal, praying for the damned is not only vain, but impious. The damned are not unfortunate unhappy people, but enemies of God, filled with the darkest hate, ingratitude, and all the most horrible vices, and all this through their own will! They just have the lot which they themselves wanted in their unjustifiable depravation and their final obstination. The Blessed, like God himself, have for the damned no compassion, since true compassion supposes a curable ill, which in their case is no longer possible. They are only there as eternal witnesses to the graces which God has filled us with and the evil which Christ has delivered us from... To Him be praise and glory, thanksgivings and love, forever and ever! Amen!" (p. 94)
"Men who refuse God and His infinite love see already on earth their existence being transformed little by little into a hell. The limits of their existence deprived of communion with divine Transcendance, like the rings of a snake compressing them, end up choking them..." (p. 94)
"Struggling in the black horror where shines only, at the streetlamp of the burning mind, the name of the sin that caused them to be submerged in such a horror! To find no help in this commotion of mutually hateful and harmful souls, if only in the despair that drives them mad and always more damned. To feed on it, to support oneself with it, to kill oneself with it. Death will feed death, it is said. Despair is dead and will feed these dead for eternity."
"Note that for a damned Christian, the sacramental characters of Baptism, Confirmation and Order remain in him as eternal signs of the heights from which he was, through his fault, thrown down... as the mark of his disgrace, and the proofs of his greater wickedness." (p. 97)
"To understand the reason for the eternity of Hell, for a sin which lasted only an instant, would require to understand what is the infinite evil of sin and the infinite Love of which it is the rejection." (p. 105)
"The small number of the saved in Noah's Ark of Alliance is the figure of the small number of those saved through the waters of Baptism in the Church, and also of the Hebrews who followed Moses through the waters of the Red Sea. Revelation teaches the unvarnished truth that all will not be saved, and even that it will only be the lot of a "remnant" [Mt 7:13; Lc 13:24; Rm 9:27; Rm 11:5; [...] etc.], a "small flock"... "Thus saith YHWH: As the shepherd taketh out of the mouth of the lion two legs, or a piece of an ear; so shall the children of Israel be saved" [Am 3:12] [...] "For many are called, but few are chosen" [Mt 22:14]. "For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction" [Ph 3:18]" (p. 107)
There are many modern theologians who canonize Judas, by using techniques even less subtle than those of Balthasar. "Thus, even though Jesus reminds us that "the Scripture cannot be broken" [Jn 10:35], Hans-Joseph Klauck nevertheless feels authorized "not to take at face value the New Testament's narratives"." (p. 122)
To that, Benedict XVI, in his book Jesus of Nazareth, could answer: "The worst books which destroy the figure of Jesus, which demolish Faith, have been written with the supposed results of exegesis. [...] The interpretation of the Bible can effectively become an instrument of the Anti-Christ." (p. 127).
"For an assertion to be recognized of divine and Catholic Faith, it must receive the testimonial of the three sources of Faith which are Scripture, Tradition of the Church and the teaching of its Magisterium." (p. 131)
"A) In Holy Scripture, Jesus has - and three times, formally announced the damnation of Judas. [Jn 6: 70; Mt 26:24; Jn 17:12]" (p. 131)
"B) Tradition of the Church's Faith bears witness to the damnation of Judas. (1) The Church celebrates each Apostle's feast, but She never celebrated Judas'... That proves She has always believed he was not in Heaven. (2) Knowing Judas was not in Heaven, neither did Church ever pray for him to get there... that's the proof She has always believed he wasn't in Purgatory either." (p. 134)
"C) The Church's Magisterium also teaches that Judas is in Hell. Saint Peter, the first Pope, in the exercise of his universal and infallible Magisterium, during the first synod of Bishops gathered by and under his supreme authority, teaches that Judas "has gone to his own place". [Ac 1:25]" (p. 134) Moreover, in three places the Catechism of the Council of Trent (the ordinary Magisterium) says that "Judas has not profited from Redemption and that he has lost his soul" (p. 135)
"Because of the false interpretation of which are capable the Church's dogmatic assertions on Hell, it has not been difficult for a spirit of carelessness, of wild presumption, and soon of total unbelief and then impiousness, to develop itself... for the greater harm done to so many souls! How can we not see that we're in a typical case where a change in attitudes calls for an adapted teaching? Today, the opinion of universal salvation is so widespread, even in the Church (think for example of the systematic canonizations during burials!) that only a Magisterial intervention could stem the tide! Aren't most of the definitions born following such crises of orthodoxy, anyway?"
"It's to stop this absolute evil of the damnation of too many souls that, in conformity with the constant teaching of Holy Scripture, of the Fathers of the Church, and of the Magisterium, we ask the supreme Magisterium of the Church to proclaim a new dogma asserting the actual presence of numerous souls in Hell, Judas' among them." (p. 139)
"In our times where more and more persons, contaminated by New-Age, go on a quest for their own Divinity, while others still think that there's nothing after death, and that many Christians (convinced that sin isn't that bad, since God is so good that He'll make sure "we'll all go to Paradise"), live as if God didn't exist, wouldn't the proposed dogmatic definition be a real favor offered to them?" (p. 143)
Correspondence related to this article (mostly from fans of Hans Urs von Balthasar):
Many more quotes about the large number of souls in Hell referenced here [Irons-nous tous au Paradis?]. (French only).
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