Is Hell Heavily Populated?
Father Dwight Longenecker - Having just finished Ralph Martin’s excellent study on universalism, Will Many Be Saved? it leads me to wonder about this thing we call speculative theology. It seems to me that theologians may well speculate when sacred Scripture and church teaching is unclear about something, but in the matter of heaven, hell and salvation there is not really very much room for speculation. The Scriptures are clear in their teaching that many will be damned and few will be saved. Furthermore, Ralph Martin shows that it has been the unanimous teaching of the church and the witness of saints and mystics that many are damned and few are saved.
Of course this is a “hard saying”. We don’t like the idea that anyone should be consigned to everlasting torment, but that’s what the Word of God teaches. Nevertheless, there is room for speculation. The problem I have with wannabe universalists like Balthasar and Rahner is not that they speculate, but that they do not speculate enough. They are busy speculating in ways that undermine the clear meaning of Scripture and contradict the timeless message of the gospel and the traditions of the church. To soften the harsh reality that many people will reject God’s love and go to hell forever they try to imagine how this might not be true and how God’s love will overcome all obstacles and reach down and save people even if they don’t want to be saved.
In their desire to uphold the universal redemption of the world and the everlasting love of God they over rule human freedom and the reality of human depravity and rebellion against God. In their naïve’ sentimentality they can’t imagine that anyone would reject God’s love, and yet every verifiable bit of evidence from history and yesterday’s newspaper reveal the total depravity of many men’s hearts and their spitting hatred of all that is beautiful, good and true.
Instead of speculating the truth of God away with their own imaginings why not speculate as to how people might be saved through unconventional ways of choosing God or what might happen to souls who reject God.
C.S.Lewis’ final Narnia book The Great Battle has a great scene where a pagan who always worshiped the God Tash–but did so in nobility, honor and virtue sees the Christ figure Aslan and recognizes him as the “Tash” he always worshipped whereas the follower of Aslan who was corrupt and deceitful sees Aslan and it is Tash who devours him. In other words, at the judgement all shall be revealed. All impediments will be taken away and perhaps each soul will see Christ and know him clearly and fully for who he is and what he has done. All doubt and misunderstanding will be erased. All true motives will be revealed and at that moment the summary of the soul’s choice will be finalized. We can speculate along those lines because it allows that many who have never known the gospel, but have followed the light they have been given may see Christ and be saved by him who is the only Way, Truth and Life.
But simply to speculate that hell is not real or that if it is real there is nobody there is to defy Scripture, tradition, the magisterium of the church, the witness of the saints and common sense, for do we really honestly believe that the most wicked souls on earth will desire to enter heaven?
We must accept hell and we must accept that many go there. But even then there is room for speculation. We know that hell exists and we must accept that it is a place of punishment and torment. Not because God is a sadistic monster, but because hell is separation from God and that must be torment for anyone. What are we to make of the torment? It may be fire and brimstone and monsters and pitchforks, but it may also be the torment of loneliness, the torment of regret, the torment of grief and loss, the torment of alienation from God forever. It may be darkness and fire and ice and all these things and more.
We can also speculate about the number who go to hell. Will there really be great multitudes who reject God’s love and hate him to the bitter end? My own opinion is that this is so because I see so many people in this life who hate all that is beautiful, good and true. It is so easy to suggest that the vast majority are poor, lost lemmings who don’t really know God or reject God and that they are good at heart and mean well and when they see Christ they will accept him joyfully. But is this the case? To be sure there are many who have just impediments to faith. They were shown a bad example, or they were abused by a Christian or they were never taught the true faith.
However, there are also a vast number of people who have no impediments. They live in a Christian society. There is a church on every street corner. There are signs of faith all around them. They are surrounded by Christian friends, family and neighbors. They have been to Sunday School and been catechized. They have Christian radio shows and television programs. They have religious books and websites. They have had plenty of time and plenty of chances to seek the truth, to find the Lord and to pursue their soul’s salvation and they have done nothing at all. They have not sought the Lord. They have not sought eternal life and they have not responded to any sign of religion or faith. Shall they not be held accountable for the fact that they did nothing? They did not care enough for their soul to even begin asking the questions?
Is it not patronizing and treating them with contempt to say, “Oh well, all you mediocre people–you will just be gathered up in God’s big loving embrace and welcomed home?” They have not done anything to respond to the love that was offered or the redemption won for them at great price. Shall we treat their choice with such disrespect and force them into a heaven they have no desire for and have done nothing to merit?
And what of the millions of pagan souls who have never heard of Christ? We hope that they may be saved by following faithfully the light they have been given, and we are taught that this is possible, but is there much evidence that many of those souls do, in fact, pursue the light they have been given with sincere hearts and with all their might? I hope that it is so, but I do not see evidence of such. It seems to me that most men are like me–they spend their lives thinking only of themselves and their pleasure and think very little about God and his Beauty and goodness. Furthermore, there is plenty of evidence that many of the pagans are not simply drifting in a haze of general niceness and goodness which will one day allow them to drift into heaven. Instead among the pagans we see true barbarism, cruelty, violence and the worship of demons.
The speculation can continue. Let us suppose that there are multitudes upon multitudes heading on the broad path to destruction. What becomes of them? We know that those who are saved are called to ‘grow up to the full humanity of Jesus Christ.’ They are called to be divinized. The redeemed become greater and greater in their growth in glory. Their progress to sanctification continues until they are full and completely radiant eternal beings. What if the damned are on an opposite trajectory? If the saved are getting bigger and bigger and being infused with more and more glory and goodness and the fullness of God in Christ Jesus in an ever widening gyre is it not logical to suppose that the damned are getting smaller and smaller and less and less significant and going down an ever decreasing spiral into the dark?
If the saved are becoming individual, radiant and unique beings eternal in the heavens perhaps the damned are becoming increasingly insignificant–mere ciphers of what they could have been–drones with empty souls and empty hearts. All glory has been withdrawn from them and they are dwindling into ash, falling into trash, descending into being mere shadows of the stars they were meant to be. If this is the case, then the Scriptures which talk about the wood, hay and stubble being burnt up make sense. This is the fire that purifies and burns up all that is trash. We do not hold to hell as obliteration of the eternal soul, but perhaps the eternal soul shrinks into so insignificant an identity as to be what ash is to a piece of wood?
The judgement therefore is not made on quantitative terms but qualitative. As harsh as it may sound, does it matter that the trash is thrown on the fire? This is actually the image the Christ uses when he speaks of Gehenna–which was the trash dump outside Jerusalem. The chaff will be thrown away and burned. The potter throws the broken pot onto the trash heap. The waste is a tragedy, but nature is prodigious. There are many acorns but from them few oak trees. There are many seeds and few flowers. There is much coal but few diamonds.
I realize in this egalitarian age where we judge by quantity not quality such a thought is horrendous, and my own heart is heavy at the thought of so many being damned. Indeed it is heavy at the thought of one soul being damned. I wish that all would come to salvation and hope that many will see Christ at that moment and say “yes” to Love, “yes” to Life “yes” to Goodness, Truth and Beauty, “yes” to Christ.
However, I cannot help but believe that there will also be many who will continue to hate Christ and reject his love. St Faustina saw that each soul would see Christ and he will ask each one three times if they love him and only those who reject his love three times will depart from him. That is the sort of speculation that inspires me for it combines hope and mercy with the reality of the everlasting consequences of human choice. This is truly a severe mercy, but the only one which grants man true dignity in the image of God for part of that image is that God has granted to each soul a portion of his own omnipotence–which we call free will–and this free will cannot be violated or man is no longer in God’s image.
It must therefore be respected, and for that free will to be respected it must receive the consequences of its choice.
Originally Posted at: Standing On My Head
What is a Pelosi Catholic Anyway?
Fr. Dwight Longenecker created this article about why liberals love Pope Francis (or hope to love him.) He coined a phrase the “Pelosi Catholic” which “Magesterial Catholics” liked so much he decided to fully define it. Here are both of Father Longenecker’s articles.
Why are progressive Catholics and the secular press so in love with Pope Francis? Not because they love the Catholic faith, but because they see Francis as a vehicle for their own agenda. The Crescat has a couple of interesting posts about how the press is handling Pope Francis here and here. She says what I feel–that we don’t have a problem with Pope Francis and his simple style. What we dislike is the implication by the press that he is the opposite of Benedict. A typical example is a little phrase in an article in the Daily Telegraph today about Francis using a 20 year old Fiat Popemobile rather than the bulletproof Mercedes that Benedict used. The Fiat is contrasted to the other popemobile which had “a white leather seat with gold trim.” Never mind that the Mercedes company designed, made and gave the safe and efficient and modern popemobile (which cost $450,000.00) to the pope.
Why this love affair with the new Pope from those who have for years hated the Catholic church and branded Pope Benedict as some sort of secret Nazi? If you want to see what all the schmoozy love talk for Francis is about check out this article in the HuffPo by John Sweeney. In it he showcases Matthew Fox’s book which ‘gives advice’ to Pope Francis. You want the Todd Unctuous version of the new Pope? Here it is then in a nutshell:
Because he is poor and comes from a poor country and loves the poor Pope Francis is a secret liberation theologian. Yay! a Marxist Pope! He hasn’t said it yet, but he’s going to go back to Vatican 2 which the last two popes did everything they could to dismantle. He’s going to listen to the people and not be the Pope. We know this because he calls himself the Bishop of Rome and not “Pope”. He is going to reverse that rule against contraception and allow pre marital sex. He’s going to allow women priests and married priests and when he gets the chance he’ll probably allow same sex marriage too!
What really gets me going is the fact that suddenly I hear of lapsed Catholics who love the new pope and non Catholics who think the new pope is marvelous. While I rejoice in this obviously successful PR, I’ll believe it when I see them starting to attend Mass and practice their Catholic faith.
I’m with the Crescat. I’m all for the Pope, but I am increasingly nauseated by the hypocritical “devout Catholics” and secularists who care nothing for the reality of the Catholic faith, but are captivated by the Pope’s simple style. What I would like to ask these Pelosi Catholics is if their new found fondness for the Bishop of Rome means they are suddenly converted to being pro-life and pro-marriage and in all things.
Soon enough the progressives will have their knives out for Pope Francis, but before they go against him, they will use him for their own agenda as much as possible. Here’s how they’ll do it: They will showcase everything he does which seems to fit their Marxist, Freudian worldview. They will ignore everything else. They will cherry pick. A new encyclical? Fugeddaboudit. Wearing brown shoes with holes in? Make a headline! A sermon in favor of marriage and family? Don’t mention it. A condemnation of a right wing dictator? Put him on the cover! You see how it goes.
The honeymoon will soon be over and when they see that on their pet issues it is business as usual they will soon get their knives out for Francis, and they will be all the more furious because they will have gotten their hopes up, they’ll do this when he rains on their gay pride parade, reminds them that women priests are impossible and affirms the pro-life, pro-family stance.
It will happen soon enough. Hell hath no fury like a liberal scorned.
What is a Pelosi Catholic?
I coined a phrase in yesterday’s post: The Pelosi Catholic–which prompted this excellent explanation from an Italian reader
Pelosi Catholics is not just correct, it is a terrific – if unintended – pun. In Italian, the adjective “peloso”, of which “pelosi” is the plural, means “hairy”, but it has also the connotations of dishonesty and self-serving pseudery conveyed by the English “greasy”. So: Pelosi Catholics are greasy [pseudo] Catholics.
Here’s a further definition: The Pelosi Catholic’s arrogance is only equalled by his ignorance. A cultural cradle Catholic, the Pelosi Catholic mistakes their tribal ethnicity for the Catholic faith. When they say “the Catholic faith is very important to me” what they mean is “I really like stromboli and when our family gets together we have a good time and grandpa talks about the old country and grandma always said the rosary and of course we have a picture of President Kennedy and the Sacred Heart in our house. Aunt Anna gave them to us.”
Now more American than of the older ethnicity, the Pelosi Catholic has absorbed American culture and integrated it with Catholicism just as effectively as they once integrated their older ethnicity with the Catholic faith. Just as spaghetti and Verdi and vendettas once meant “Catholic” now its the Mall, middle America, the broker, the beach house, abortion, divorce and hamburgers.
The Pelosi Catholic really does believe that he can “be a devout Catholic” and “disagree with my church about important issues.”
The Pelosi Catholic should get on the bus….except it’s crowded with those progressive sisters.
When Being Comfortable Is More Important Than Being Catholic: Complacency
Fr. Dwight Longenecker - I’m continuing a series on things that are destroying American Catholicism. They all begin with the letter ‘C’–as does the solution to the problem.
You can use the ‘Categories’ tool to pull up the whole series as they are written. Here is a link to the first article in the series on Cultural Catholicism.
Cultural Catholicism which blends a particular culture with the Catholic faith is destroying American Catholicism because it keeps the faithful from seeing that Catholicism, by its very definition, should transcend culture and challenge culture.
The second thing that is killing American Catholicism is another ‘C’ word: Complacency. Too many American Catholics are complacent. They are lukewarm, and when a church is lukewarm (as it says in the Book of Revelation) God will spit them out. Why are American Catholics lukewarm in their faith? The problem is not simply laziness. It is linked with the first problem of cultural Catholicism.
Too many American Catholics have soaked up the materialistic spirit of the American age totally uncritically. They have chosen the way of materialism, hedonism, utilitarianism and consumerism, and this has dulled their commitment to Christ and the gospel. What are all these “ism’s”? Materialism is not simply buying lots of stuff at the mall. It is also a philosophy that the physical world is really all that matters. This translates into an attitude about the church in which all that matters is the good works of feeding the poor and doing peace and justice. While these things are important–to focus on them alone makes the church, (as Pope Francis says) no more than an NGO–just another charity.
Hedonism is the pleasure principle. If it feels good do it. You needn’t be a debauched drug addict to be a hedonist. Your a perfectly good candidate for the hedonist party with your dedication to a nice, comfortable middle class lifestyle. If you live for pleasure–even if it is a refined and tasteful pleasure–you’re a hedonist.
Utilitarianism is putting practicality first. It is relying on worldly common sense rather then the Holy Spirit. It is making choices according to the bottom line, efficiency and practicality. Most American Catholics choose birth control, for example, because it is a practical, seemingly common sense decision. While we should be practical and efficient and choose wisely–we are also called not just to be practical, but radical. The saints are never utilitarian. Instead they are devoted to the wild and wonderful and unpredictable love of God.
Finally, consumerism is not just soaking up just as much of the world’s resources as possible. It is also a mentality that one is a customer. It’s Frank Sinatra’s theme song, “I Did it My Way”. It’s the attitude, “I’m paying. I’ll choose.” When this attitude comes into the church everybody is the loser. It breeds discontent, disorder and dissent.
Together these “ism’s” produce a kind of lethargy in the American Catholic Church. There’s a deadness and torpor. Eyes glaze over. Parishes become like yesterday’s porridge: cold and hard to stir. The fire is gone. The Church is complacent.
How to counter complacency? By another ‘C’ word: Compassion. By ‘compassion’ I don’t simply mean feeling sorry for people. Instead I mean what the word means: “Passion With”. Passion is emotion that is disciplined and informed and active. “Compassion” is emotion and fire for God that is disciplined, informed and active. Compassion in this sense is an active nurturing of the love of God which is put into action to counteract the consumerism, utilitarian, hedonism and materialism of our society.
This “Compassion” starts not with a movement or a sermon or a new rule or regulation for religion. It starts in the human heart. It starts in each individual human heart.
It starts now. With my heart. It starts now with yours.
Read the first article in this series here.
When Being an American is more Important Than Being Catholic:
by Fr. Dwight Longenecker: Reading Sherry Weddell’s excellent Forming Intentional Disciples: The Path to Knowing and Following Jesus is making me think about the American church and what ails her. Can anybody deny that there is a sickness in the body ecclesia? When 50% of Catholics vote for a man who stoutly defends same sex marriage and partial birth abortion can we say that Catholics in America are okay?
Catholics Voting for Staunch Defenders of Partial Birth Abortion and Homosexuality
I don’t think so.
Thus a series of posts on what’s killing Catholicism. All the words begin with the letter ‘C’. I can’t help it. I was brought up as a Biblical Evangelical and our pastors always used alliteration to make their points memorable.
The first problem is cultural catholicism. The Poles, Italians, Irish, French, Czech, German and more Catholics came here from the old country and the bishops reckoned the best thing to do with them all was to allow cultural parishes. So in the same town the Irish Catholics went to St Patrick’s and the Poles to St Stanislaus and the Italians to St Anthony of Padua. Geesh, a man in my parish who grew up in Reading, Pennsylvania said that when he was a boy a girl from his Czech parish fell in love with an Irish boy and the Irish priest wouldn’t marry them because it was a mixed marriage.
I’m all for cultural customs and so forth, but the problem is that the immigrant Catholics–in a foreign land–clung to their culture for security and happiness and part of that culture was their Catholicism. The didn’t distinguish their culture from their Catholicism. Then, after a few generations, when they were all really American and stopped being Italian or Irish or German they also stopped being Catholic. The Catholic faith wasn’t much deeper than Mama’s special spaghetti sauce or stories of the Blarney stone.
Of course they didn’t all stop being Catholic. Something else happened which was even more subtle and insidious. They became Americans and because their mindset was that their Catholic faith was something which blended with their culture, instead of being Italian-Catholics or Polish Catholics they became American Catholics. Just as nationalism and love of culture blended with their Catholic faith when they were ethnic minorities, now it blended seamlessly with their new American culture. Just as Catholicism gave their former culture God’s approval, not their Catholicism gave American values and culture God’s approval.
Thus we have what I call AmChurch: the American Catholic church which is happily and blissfully blended with everything wonderful about America. Except that the “wonderful” values of most Americans are unapologetically materialistic, hedonistic and self centered. Thus at least 50% of American Catholics live like their American neighbors–going to the mall, getting as much stuff as possible, giving as little as possible, having a neat and tidy two children and a double income, and basically smiling their way to success like everyone else.
Now this grates with me because I was brought up as an Evangelical fundamentalist and I realize the roots are deep. More than that, I come from seven generations of sturdy Pennsylvania Dutch anabaptists–Mennonnites, Amish, Brethren and such. These people had exactly the other point of view. They were first and foremost Christians. They considered it the default setting that each person had to hear the call of Christ and leave their nets and follow him. The church was a pilgrim people–a people set apart. They were suspicious of the surrounding culture and very suspicious of officialdom of every kind. If the Catholics absorbed culture the Mennonite were deliberately counter cultural.
The Mennonite approach, however, has it’s problems. The gospel says we’re to be “in the world but not of the world”. We’re not actually supposed to be totally counter cultural. We’re supposed to be yeast in the dough, a light set on the hill. You get too counter cultural and you become a weird sect like the Branch Davidians
Being a happy Benedictine oblate I see the solution as being something more than both of these ways. The problem with cultural Catholics in America is that they have never come to realize that the Catholic faith transcends every culture. That’s what Catholic means for goodness sake! It’s universal. The Catholic faith is therefore embedded in every culture and takes from every culture what is useful and good, but because it transcends culture it is also automatically counter cultural in the right way.
The Catholic should always be in a constant tug of war with the culture around him. Here affirming what is good–there condemning what is bad. Here supporting all that is full of life, love, truth beauty and goodness and there condemning and avoiding all that is full of death, hate, lies, ugliness and evil.
The answer to Cultural Catholicism, therefore, is what I call Comprehensive Catholicism–a Catholicism that embraces all things for their essential worth. If their value is precious and eternal the more highly we love them. If their value is trash–well we love trash for what its worth too: to be thrown on the rubbish pile and burnt. This sort of constantly discerning Catholicism is what is needed at the individual and local level, but the reason people opt for cultural Catholicism is because it is easy.
This is the core problem with Cultural Catholicism: by its very nature it goes with the flow. In its love and acceptance of the ethnic culture it is uncritical, and because individual cultural Catholics are uncritical of their culture they are also uncritical of the level of their Catholic faith. They chortle along quite happily living the unexamined life.
When the test comes this kind of Catholicism will simply wither and die in the heat. “When the test comes?” We are in the middle of the test already. What I see in the American Catholic Church is a huge “F” on that test. The opportunity to stand up and be counted and to stand against the culture of death in this country has already been lost by the majority of so called Catholics because so blinded by the love of their culture, they didn’t even realize there was a test to start with.
They Have Not Voted For Equality! They Have Voted To Destroy Marriage!
Matthew 7:13: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.”
Fr. Dwight Longenecker-Today the UK Parliament took the first legal steps to sanction same sex marriage. The implications of their re-definition of marriage are very ominous indeed, and the ignorant arrogance of their lawmakers is breath taking.
Think about it for a moment. Nowhere, not in any time or any place, not in any culture or civilization from the most primitive jungle dwelling tribe to the most sophisticated society has marriage between two people of the same gender ever been contemplated. Some societies have accepted homosexuality or been lenient toward such practices, but no one has ever suggested that marriage could ever be between two men or between two women.
The idea that British lawmakers can take it upon themselves to change such a fundamental understanding of what it means to be human is simply incredible. I realize that they believe they are simply voting on an “equality issue”. This is not so. They have voted on a historic and fundamentally different definition of marriage. They have not voted to open marriage up. They have voted to destroy marriage.
Already “marriage” in our society is practically meaningless. Easy no fault divorce and multiple marriages, weddings that take place most anywhere with people writing their own ‘vows’ with their own ‘ministers’. The whole thing is a charade–a grotesque and hideous mockery of marriage, and the result will be that marriage will be meaningless. Weddings will be nothing but a sentimental display of self indulgence and the marriage itself will be a sham.
Same sex marriage actually destroys marriage, for in re-defining what marriage is, it is no longer marriage. It is something else. Furthermore, the erosion of marriage into meaningless sentimental clap trap or some sort of politically correct statement is not only the fault of the gay militants. It is also the fault of those people who break their marriage vows, divorce and then re-marry. It is also the fault of all those who co-habitate and then turn up at church anyway for their wonderful wedding. It is also the fault of all those family members who are too nice to disapprove. It is especially the fault of those so-called Catholics who condone the cohabitation of their family members, smile kindly on the divorced and re married and run rough shod over marriage in every way imaginable.
What no one has stopped to ask is what exactly is marriage in our society now anyway? It is a lifelong commitment? Clearly not. Is it for procreation? Clearly not. Is it for better for worse, richer or poorer, to love and to cherish til death do us part? Clearly not. So what on earth is marriage anyway and why on earth do homosexual people want to be married? Only because they demand recognition and some sort of false, government mandated ‘equality.”
It is time now for the Catholic Church to withdraw completely from the civil side of marriage. A man and woman who wish to be married should go to the civil authority to sign necessary papers, then if they want to have a sacramental marriage let them come to the priest.
Most of the Protestant churches have caved on divorce and re-marriage long ago. They will also cave on homosexual marriage. Within a very short time now, the Catholic Church will be the only place to receive a truly Christian wedding.
When the time comes to stand up for marriage as God intended, what I dread is not so much the attacks from those outside the church, but the attacks from those within. Already there are numerous voices among the Catholic clergy who are quietly in favor of homosexual “marriage”–and they will turn their ruthless guns of kindness on all who stand firm.
I can hear them now with their weasly words and their sickly self righteous smiles of artificial kindness, “We really must offer a warm welcome to all of God’s children and grant them the love and acceptance of the sacrament…”
It makes me want to puke.
Read to Find Full Context . . .
By Fr. Dwight Longenecker: When I was first ordained as an Anglican priest I dropped by to see Fr Richard–a retired priest of the old school. He would regularly celebrate the early morning Eucharist. When I asked him how many were at Mass he smiled and said, “Millions! But I could only see four.”
As I celebrated Mass today–only seeing twelve–I thought how secretly God works in the world. In the midst of the hurly burly, hurrying world God’s priests quietly go to church to say Mass. Here an ancient priest who can barely walk hobbles into a drafty church and celebrates the Mass faithfully with love and simplicity. There a young African priest strides to celebrate Mass in a church that is little more than a thatched hut. Here an Archbishop celebrates Mass in his cathedral or there an imprisoned priest huddles secretly over a little table to recite the words over a scrap of bread and a thimbleful of smuggled wine.
And the hurried, harried world goes on, and God works behind the news.This is always his way–to work secretly in the world. A young girl in a backwater village receives the message of an angel and says “yes” and the course of history is changed forever. An uneducated shepherd girl receives the apparition of that same woman who reveals herself to be “the Immaculate Conception” and the course of history is changed. A Mexican peasant receives an apparition of that same woman who, in time, becomes the Empress of America and the patron of a great superpower. So God works secretly–always behind the scenes.
And it is the same with the Mass. In millions of churches all over the world, with a simple unity of expression and an amazing unity of voice the priests of Christ faithfully celebrate these holy mysteries, and as they do they bring the Lord of the Universe into the present moment. They make him real in their own community, their own church, their own hands and in their own tabernacle. In millions of locations around the word Christ is made present by priests who are gifted and priests who are not so gifted, by priests who are saints and priests who are still a work in progress, by priests who stumble and fall and priests who always get up.
If the Mass were to suddenly stop . . .
if all the priests on the world went on strike or if some malignant power were to stop all Masses from being said, I firmly believe that in a very short time the worst kind of violence would break out. War would erupt, killings would burst forth, hatred and violence would flare up in every corner of the world. The demonic rage lurking just beneath the surface would be unrestrained. The enemies of the Light would burst from their secret lairs and wreak havoc on the world. Chaos, anarchy and the dark forces of hell itself would be unleashed.
Why is there a shortage of priests?
Because this understanding of the priesthood has been forgotten. The Catholic priest has become just another social worker–a counselor — a feminized neuter in society– an ineffectual twit–a Mr. Bean who seems worthless and whose real role and identity cannot be understood by the worldlings.
Even this seeming foolishness of the priesthood in society’s eyes is part of God’s secret plan, for in today’s Mass reading for St John of the Cross we hear St Paul proclaim like some saintly Don Quixote on a hopeless quest, “We preach Christ crucified! Foolishness to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews…for the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men!”
If you believe this to be true as I do–if you believe that it is only the Mass and Christ present there which keeps our fragile world from falling into chaos and darkness, then support your priests. Give them a break. Love them and pray for them. Share these truths with your sons and grandsons and pray for them to be priests.
Does God Punish Eternally?
Father Dwight Longenecker-Someone once asked the famous mystic Padre Pio, what he thought of modern people who didn’t believe in hell. His terse reply was, “They will believe in hell when they get there.”
Is It Possible To Believe In Hell?
Is it possible to believe in hell? Surely, when faced with Auschwitz, Hiroshima, the Gulag and the killing fields, the question should be, “Is it possible not to believe in hell?” I don’t simply refer to the fact that concentration camps were a kind of hell on earth. Instead I wonder how one can deny the existence of a place of severe punishment when faced with Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Pol Pot, Idi Amin and African soldiers who chop off little girls hands for fun. When faced with such monsters can we really cry with a good conscience, “God would not send anyone to burn forever in the fires of everlasting torment!” After a century that has witnessed more genocide, religious martyrdom and brutality to children than ever before in human history, can we really dismiss the only punishment left for the dictators, abortionists, terrorist bombers and genocidal maniacs who have got away with their crimes? If it were true that there is no hell I, for one, would be howling with rage at the insanity and unfairness of it all. Yet those who deny the existence of hell calmly assume that their denial shows how enlightened and humane (and therefore fair) they are.
These are good people. They dismiss the possibility of hell not because they deny the wickedness of human beings, but because they affirm the goodness of God. They believe in a God who is so very good that he would not send anyone to hell. It would certainly be nice if there were a heaven but not a hell. But can you believe in one without the other? What I mean is, how can someone believe in heaven, which must after all, be a place of goodness, (and if goodness, then justice) while denying the fact of hell which makes justice possible? Therefore it seems to me, that if you believe in heaven you must also believe in hell. Hell is somehow written into the constitution of heaven.
Nevertheless, good-hearted people insist that a good God would not possibly send anyone to be tormented in hell for all eternity. This is a laudable sentiment, but I worry that that’s all it is: a sentiment. Nevertheless, the conviction that God would could not send anyone to hell is a feeling I myself incline to—especially after a warm day in May followed by a very good dinner with four glasses of claret. Furthermore, at that moment I am not usually thinking about Pol Pot or Stalin. I am thinking that God would not send an ordinary, decent fellow like myself to hell.
Can Ordinary, “Nice” People Go To Hell?
But this is exactly the point where the possibility of hell is meant to knock me down and shake me up. We are told that the road to hell is a wide smooth, downhill highway, while the road to heaven is a narrow and hard mountainous climb. What if hell were populated with hordes of overweight complacent people just like me who never really did anything magnificently evil, but also never bothered to do anything spectacularly good? Why should we imagine that heaven is reserved for the mediocre?
When I look at it this way I have the dreadful suspicion that perhaps those who deny hell because God is too good to send anyone there are really proposing that God is too good to send them there. It is ironic that people who believe in heaven are sometimes blamed for wishful thinking. Isn’t it that more likely true of those who disbelieve in hell? I say this because the person who disbelieves in hell doesn’t really believe in heaven either. He believes in oblivion. He desperately hopes that he will cease to exist after death. In other words he hopes he will get away with it after all, and this, it seems to me, is real wishful thinking.
Does The Prospect Of Eternal Punishment Make God Seem Angry And Vengeful?
Others protest that the concept of eternal punishment makes God out to be an angry, short-tempered disciplinarian of the worst sort. But is God such a nice middle class English gentleman that he would not be angry enough to send anyone to hell?
What if God were more like a passionate and hot-tempered Mediterranean papa? That is not to say that God is petulant and petty. He isn’t angry with wickedness the same way our fifteen-year old is angry, so he refuses to tidy his room. God does not slam the door and stamp his foot. Neither is God angry the way we are when we don’t get our way. He does not sulk, dish the ice and then pretend nothing is wrong. If God is angry with the wicked it is not because he is an arbitrary and babyish tyrant who loses his temper when is disobeyed.
God’s Just Anger Is Not The Anger Of Spoiled Teenager!
What if, instead, God’s anger is the sort we feel when we hear of a young boy being abducted, raped, killed and chucked into a ditch? What if God’s anger is the sort of anger and revulsion you feel when you see a young African woman whose hands have been cut off by rampaging soldiers, and who cannot cuddle the child those same soldiers gave her when they raped her? What if God’s anger is the disgust you feel when you hear of a dowager who leaves her vast estate to her poodles, in a world of starving children? When you hear such news don’t you respond with an element of rage as well as disbelief, horror and grief? Aren’t you righteous to do so? Perhaps God is angry at the wicked in the same way. He sees the everlasting beauty of goodness, the vibrant potential of each human being and the stunning radiance of his creation and when it is soiled, trampled, raped and chucked into a ditch by humanity’s folly, greed, stupidity and violence he is full of fury, frustration, sorrow and compassion.
Does that mean God would cast someone down into hell to be tortured forever? Perhaps this too, can be seen the other way around. Is God too good to send someone to hell? It could be that God is so good that he actually gives everyone exactly what he or she wants. If we have spent our whole lives pursuing love, goodness, beauty and truth, then after death we may get exactly what we always wanted and find ourselves in a land where love, goodness, beauty and truth are as natural and abundant as light. On the other hand, if our whole lives are spent in an insane flight from all that is good, beautiful and true, then perhaps God in his goodness will also give us exactly what we always wanted; and that would be existence in a madhouse with no exit where love, beauty, goodness and truth were unknown: an existence in the outer darkness with gibbering maniacs like ourselves.
Life pans out, and despite our greatest efforts, we almost always end up getting what we really want. In fact, this sort of justice is built into the system. We will get what we want just as naturally and certainly as an acorn becomes an oak tree. Giving people what they really want is natural justice. To do otherwise would be cruel. We think everyone ought to go to heaven, but can we imagine that a person who hated God, goodness, truth and beauty all his life would actually enjoy heaven? If they could visit that place of eternal beauty and laughter they would howl with serious terror and run with all their might in the other direction. We know this is true because there are people in this life who hate truth, beauty, and goodness and do everything in their power to flee from the light.
Is Hell An Actual Place?
Is hell a real place? Now this is where the topic really starts to interest me. I find it interesting because down through the ages human beings from every culture and time have recorded fascinating stories about their visits to hell. I wish I could recount them all because they are far more fun and interesting than philosophical speculation on the topic. Here is one story: The philosopher A.J.Ayer (who was a noted rationalist and atheist) choked on a piece of smoked salmon and “died.” His heart stopped for four minutes before he was revived. Once he came back he recounted his experience. His biographer writes, “He had been confronted by a bright red light, painful even when he turned away from it, which he understood to be responsible for the government of the universe…. Ayer became more and more desperate…when he regained consciousness he spoke about crossing a river—presumably the river Styx—which he claimed to have crossed.” In subsequent interviews Ayer admitted that the experience had made him feel “wobbly”, but he soon reverted to type and labeled himself as a “born again atheist.”
Witches, exorcists and mediums tell us how they have summoned or wrestled against the inhabitants of hell. The famous sixteenth century magician John Dee summoned a demon and described him thus, “He appeared in his red apparell: & he opened his Clothes & there did issue, mighty & most terrible gastly Flames of Fire out of his sides: which no mortall eye could abide to looke upon any long while. And in the marvelous raging Fire, the word BRORGES did appeare tossed to and from in the fiery flames.”
The visionaries at Fatima were given glimpses of demons and hell as well. One of them described the sight,
The rays of light seemed to penetrate the earth, and we saw, as it were, a sea of fire. Plunged in this fire were demons and souls in human form, like transparent burning embers, all blackened or burnished bronze floating about in the conflagration, now raised into the air by the flames that issued from within themselves together with great clouds of smoke, now falling back on every side like sparks in huge fires, without weight or equilibrium, amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair…the demons could be distinguished by their terrifying and repellent likeness to frightful and unknown animals, black and transparent like burning coals.
“We Are A Nation Of Little Herod’s–Willing to Slaughter The Little One’s Who Threaten Our Prosperity And Power.”
By: Father Dwight Longenecker
Mark Steyn comments here about the left wing Mainstream Media being so crass and cruel as to mock the death of Rick Santorum’s newborn child. He says how the left are all big on “empathy” in order to defend abortion, but they are quite willing to mock Sarah Palin’s child who has Downs’ Syndrome and the behavior of the Santorum’s after the death of their child. I wonder if anyone else noticed how sneering they were toward Sarah Palin’s daughter being a teenage mom who kept her baby while at the same time they are full of ”empathy” for teenage moms who choose to kill their baby.
Robert Royal also comments over at The Catholic Thing. It reminds me of another feast in the Christmas Season which did not get enough attention. Each year we celebrate the Slaughter of the Innocents on December 28. This feast, it seems to me, ought to be used more by the Pro Life Movement as a national day of prayer and reparation for the crimes against the unborn in our land. We’re a nation of little Herods–willing to slaughter the little ones who threaten our prosperity and power.
Later this month I’ll be in Washington for the March for Life, and will join thousands of others in the campaign against the slaughter of the innocents in our land. I’ll be blogging and tweeting from the MFL, and hope you’ll follow me there and I hope to meet many of you if I get the chance.
In the meantime, ponder how the liberal media would have reacted to the news in Judea around 4BC: Todd Unctuous would have written something like, “Have you heard some snotty nosed farm workers came in from the hills to Bethlehem the other night? Geesh, what were they smoking? They come shuffling down with stories about “angelic hosts of heaven” appearing to them. Not likely. Haven’t they ever heard of group hallucination? Then they turn up at a little shed where a homeless couple are camping out for the night. The unwed mother is being looked after by this old guy, and that’s kind of creepy in itself. What’s he after??? She gives birth (the anti aborts would say she ‘chose life’) and all I can see is that there is another squawking mouth to feed, and who’s going to pay for that I ask you? The taxpayer as usual…Not only that, not long after these three aristocrats show up looking for ‘the King of the Jews’. Quite sensibly they go to Herod’s palace.
We have to admit that Herod is not everyone’s cup of tea, but hey, nobody’s perfect! At least he’s a strong ruler. He’s canny. He’s nobody’s fool. We can respect that in a ruler. He’s calm under fire. He has the backbone to make tough choices for the sake of peace. These three foreigners tell him a new king of the Jews has been born and Herod takes the tough, but sensible decision. There’s no room for two kings, so he weeds them out. You can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs, and if we can avoid a civil war or a rebellion a few years down the line–who’s complaining–anyhow, what about the famines we’ve been having? Those children were likely to grow up in poverty and misery. And the women? Why should those women be punished by having a child? They’ll look back on it in a few years and realize that Herod did them (and all of us) a favor.”