Can I get a definitive answer on this?

Support or refute this claim: It is compatible with Catholic theology to speculate that there are no souls in Hell.

A supporting argument:

Though it would greatly injure my faith to find my claim refuted, it is not my intention to hold an unorthodox belief.

Whoops. I posted in the wrong forum. Would a mod move this thread to the apologetics forum please?

Hi Binary,

This should be a short thread. Catholic teaching is that hell exists. Whether anyone has ever gone there yet is open to speculation, private revelations notwithstanding.


In the parable of Lazarus the beggar, Jesus seems to indicate there are souls currently in torment in hell and the* Catechism of the Catholic Church* (as I read it) affirms this:

633 Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, “hell” - Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek - because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God. Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into “Abraham’s bosom”: “It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham’s bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell.” Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.

Here is the parable (Luke 16:19-31):
19 There was a certain rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And there was a certain beggar, named Lazarus, who lay at his gate, full of sores, 21 Desiring to be filled with the crumbs that fell from the rich man’s table. And no one did give him: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. 22 And it came to pass that the beggar died and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom. And the rich man also died: and he was buried in hell. 23 And lifting up his eyes when he was in torments, he saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom: 24 And he cried and said: Father Abraham, have mercy on me and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water to cool my tongue: for I am tormented in this flame. 25 And Abraham said to him: Son, remember that thou didst receive good things in thy lifetime, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted and thou art tormented. 26 And besides all this, between us and you, there is fixed a great chaos: so that they who would pass from hence to you cannot, nor from thence come hither. 27 And he said: Then, father, I beseech thee that thou wouldst send him to my father’s house, for I have five brethren, 28 That he may testify unto them, lest they also come into this place of torments. 29 And Abraham said to him: They have Moses and the prophets. Let them hear them. 30 But he said: No, father Abraham: but if one went to them from the dead, they will do penance. 31 And he said to him: If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe, if one rise again from the dead.

Pope John Paul II discussed this in Crossing the Threshold of Hope [Does Eternal Life Exist?]. Note that this book is his ideas as a theologian, not a definitive teaching as pope.

He notes that this has been frequently discussed - beginning with Origen and extneding to Michhail Bulgakov and Hans Ur von Balthasar in the present day. He notes that Jesus clearly says that some will go to eternal punishment, but dthe Church has never saind who these are. He concludes that there has to be an ultimate justice, wrongdoing must be punished. 'Isn’t final punishment in some way necessary in order to reestablish moral equilibrium i the complex hstory of humanity? Is not hell in a certain sense the ultimate safeguard of man’s moral conscience?"

Though I have great respect for JPII, I would answer his (rhetorical) question with a resounding “no.” Evil imbalances the scales of justice, and while it can be corrected with punishment, balance can also be restored via mercy.

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