DAILY CATHOLIC THURSDAY July 22, 1999 vol. 10, no. 136
NEWS & VIEWS
ALTHOUGH NOT A PLACE, HELL EXISTS
"CiviltÓ Cattolica" Reaffirms Doctrine of Eternal Punishment
ROME, JUL 20 (ZENIT).- In answer to challenges posed by many Catholic scholars to the Church's doctrine on Hell, the Jesuit magazine "CiviltÓ Cattolica" has published an article defending this truth of the faith. According to the article in the July issue, Hell exists, even if it is not a place; to affirm the contrary is to empty the Christian message of its meaning.
In particular, the magazine refers to professor Luigi Lombardi Vallauri's thesis that "hell is anti-juridical" because it is "an excessive punishment in relation to the faults committed." Vallaurdi is professor of the Philosophy of Law at Florence's State University. Vallaurdi maintains that original sin is an invention of St. Augustine and that "Jesus was completely dominated by the idea of Hell. Very different from the good news! His news is the worst ever announced to man. It is said that Jesus was good and, if anything, that the Church is bad. Wrong. Jesus was very bad."
Because of his thesis, professor Vallaurdi's annually reviewed appointment at the Catholic University of Milan was not renewed in 1988. The professor is also known for rather eccentric behavior, having been photographed with coat and tie -- and bare feet.
Another intellectual with a very relative idea of Hell, is professor Pietro Prini, who sees in the denial of Hell's existence "a sign that the Christian conscience has made great progress in its twenty centuries of history."
According to Vallaurdi and Prini, "Catholic belief in hell is in conflict with justice and a disgrace to the Church."
The editorial staff of "CiviltÓ Cattolica" attempts to clarify the argument: today, without a doubt, the Devil and Hell are fluctuating concepts in people's imagination. Many are no longer certain of anything. "Hell is not a place but a state, a person's way of being, in which he or she suffers the privation of God. Hell is a state of mind, where the sinner lives eternally the despair of not seeing God's face."
"It is important to clarify that it is not God who condemns man to hell, but man who freely condemns himself to eternal perdition," continues the article. "God does not inflict eternal suffering on man; man inflicts it on himself by rejecting the salvation God offers. God is always and forever only love, and his activity is always and forever saving ... God does not want to compel anyone to love him, because love cannot be forced. But by rejecting God's grace, man condemns himself to the privation of God, which is exactly what Hell is. God is absolutely opposed to man's condemnation, and he uses all his omnipotence to prevent a person from being eternally lost; but, having created the human person free, and wanting him to freely choose his own destiny -- because only free choices are worthy of man -- God respects human liberty."
"CiviltÓ Cattolica" reaffirms what John Paul II has always taught. In a recent Wednesday morning general audience, the Pontiff emphasized that on Judgment Day "those destined to resurrection and life" will be separated from "those who will resurrect to condemnation."
The Jesuits point out that "God is not waiting with a gun to send someone who commits a sin to Hell." No, God has created man free, so that he will freely choose his destiny. Therefore, man can sin, make mistakes every now and then, but this is not the kind of sin that condemns him to eternal punishment.
The fatal sentence is passed for "grave, conscious and voluntary sin." It is the supreme sin of the one who "commits an act of pride and arrogance, preferring himself to God, in a word, a person who denies God to assert himself."
"Like God, the Church does not will Hell," the article concludes. "The
reason it has preached on Hell throughout its history is precisely to
turn people away from eternal damnation. Perhaps the Church has overly
stressed fear of Hell to the detriment of balance with the Evangelical
announcement which is, in essence, the announcement of God's Love.
Today, the pendulum has swung in the opposite direction, because
catechetical preaching scarcely mentions Hell, to the detriment of
Christian people. The Christian message is a message of hope, joy,
confidence in the Father's infinite love, and that of Christ the Savior,
but it must not be forgotten that man is weak and a sinner and always in
need of being called to conversion. Jesus' first words were, 'Be
converted and believe in the Gospel.' "
Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.
NEWS & VIEWS