DAILY CATHOLIC     FRI-SAT-SUN     July 30 - August 1, 1999     vol. 10, no. 142

NEWS & VIEWS
from a CATHOLIC perspective

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PROFESSOR OF FUNDAMENTAL THEOLOGY ON HELL

Fr. Severino Dianich: "Both Terror and Silence Must Be Avoided"

          ROME, JUL 29 (ZENIT).- In spite of the heat and holidays, yesterday's papal catechesis on Hell has sparked great interest. Among the various reactions, Fr. Severino Dianich, Florentine professor of Fundamental Theology, said to the Italian newspaper "Avvenire," that "terror and silence are two extremes to be avoided."

          In teachings on Hell, there seems to be an alternation between these two extremes. "There was a time, when there was a veritable 'pedagogy of terror.' Suffice it to think of part of the liturgy for the dead, the 'Dies Irae,' a splendid, but terrifying, hymn. Later there was a move to virtual silence on the matter of responsibility. Nonetheless, from a pastoral point of view, it is important to form the conscience to understand that we risk our life once and for all."

          The Holy Father said that punishment does not come from outside or from God, but rather from the sinner himself. We have the reflection of two great Christian thinkers -- Ss. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. "The former gave us that famous phrase: 'Although God created you without you, He cannot save you without you.' Salvation, therefore, is an interpersonal relation between man and God. It cannot but be conditioned by my liberty, decision and intention," noted the theologian. "Moreover, St. Thomas interprets the category of the eternal, of reward and punishment, precisely in the sense that a time arrives when what I am, I shall continue to be forever. Whereas in life I can change for better or worse, be converted or perverted, at a certain point this way of living stops: it is the leap to eternity. I go where I will to go. A mysterious leap and, in certain aspects, terrifying."

          In regard to the modern view of a vengeful God, a description used by some to criticize the Church's doctrine, Fr. Dianich said, "I do not see how, given contemporary sensitivity and language, one can speak of God as rewarding and punishing. It is true that the Bible speaks this way. But it does so by way of comparison with human justice, simply to tell us that at the end, we are truly responsible before God. But not in the sense of punishment, in other words, obliged by a superior justice to give us a congruent punishment, as in the penal code."

          Regarding the question of who might be in Hell, Fr. Dianich replied that "what happens in the secrecy of conscience between men and God, no one can know from outside. No one can say what might have happened in the final meeting of the man Stalin, the man Hitler, or the man Judas with God. This is the point: the relation of the human conscience with God." ZE99072905


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July 30 - August 1, 1999       volume 10, no. 142
NEWS & VIEWS

DAILY CATHOLIC

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