Does the Catholic Church actually teach that Hell cannot be empty?


#1

There is an active thread on this forum titled Apokatastasis which started out discussing the salvation philosophy of a certain Catholic theologian, but has broadened to a general discussion of the population of hell. I feel the thread has gone somewhat off-topic, but in a manner that may interest more people. So I decided to open a new thread on this particular issue.

So the question is: Does the Catholic Church actually teach that Hell CANNOT be empty?

I say the Church teaches no such thing (although I believe hell is quote crowded - but I think that is my own personal opinion, and NOT Church doctrine).

It will be assumed that everyone understands that the Catholic Church categorically teaches the following dogmas:

[list]
*]Hell absolutely DOES exist.
*]Anyone who dies in a state of mortal sin goes to hell.
*]If you go to hell, you remain there for ALL eternity.
[/list]It is further understood that the Catholic Church teaches the following doctrine:
[list]
*]Nobody can know for sure if s/he is presently in a State of Grace (for this would be the same thing as an absolute assurance of salvation)
[/list]So I submit that, if nobody can be sure s/he is in a State of Grace, then it stands to reason that nobody can be sure s/he is NOT in a State of Grace. For a Christian, being “not in a State of Grace” is the same as being in a state of mortal sin. So, just as a Christian cannot be sure s/he is in a State of Grace, likewise no Christian can be sure if s/he is in a state of mortal sin.

I concede that the Church has a general test of the mortal nature of sin (ie: a serious matter, awareness of the serous nature of the sin at the time, freewill consent to commit the sin), and a person who acts in any way according to that definition is fully and truly guilty of mortal sin (and this person will be condemned to hell for all eternity if s/he dies unrepentant). But I submit that the Church cannot say (and that She does not even claim the competence to say) whether any particular sin of any particular person truly meets all the criteria of mortality. So the Church cannot say (by Her own admitted limitations) that any particular person actually IS in a state of mortal sin. She can maintain that it is POSSIBLE that somebody somewhere is in a state of mortal sin, but She cannot say that any particular and specific person actually IS in a state of mortal sin.

So I submit that it is POSSIBLE under orthodox Catholic doctrine to suppose that NOBODY is specifically and actually in a state of mortal sin at this very moment (or any/all moments).

If the Church cannot say for sure that anyone is actually in a state of mortal sin, She cannot say for sure that anyone actually *dies *in a state of mortal sin.

The only (known) way to go to hell is to die in a state of mortal sin. But, if the Church cannot say that anyone actually dies in a state of mortal sin, the Church also cannot say that anyone is actually in hell.

So I submit that it is perfectly Catholic and orthodox to suppose that hell does exist, and anyone who dies in a state of mortal sin does go there and can never leave, but that hell could actually be empty, and nobody is actually in hell.

Some may claim that hell has at least one resident - namely Judas Iscariot (based on Our Lord’s words that “it would be better for that man had he never been born.”) But many theologians would not regard Our Lord’s words in this dialogue to be a condemnation to hell. After all, Judas took his own life in SORROW for what he had done (repentance). And, although suicide MAY be a mortal sin, the Church teaches that it MIGHT NOT be mortal because the mental disposition of the person may not allow for rational freewill consent to the sinful nature of the act (and, without informed freewill consent, the sin cannot be regarded as mortal). So even Judas may not be assumed to be in hell.

Given these points, does anyone wish to advance a position that the Church teaches that hell CANNOT be empty?

Just to clarify - the question is NOT, “Does the Church teach that hell MIGHT have residents?” because the answer to this question is obvious (‘yes’). The question is, “Does the Chruch teach that hell absolutely DOES have residents?

I say the Church teaches no such thing, and has never taught any such thing (though I personally believe it to be true).


#2

Actually, I think you can be sure that you are in a state of grace - if you’ve just been baptised or worthily recieved the sacrament of Reconciliation then you are in a state of grace. I think that there’s something in the CA Library under Salvation which says that Catholics can tell whether they’re in a state of grace or not. I can’t look that up for you atm but maybe you can have a look (probably under the sub-article ‘assurance of salvation’).

Hell is not empty though - at the very least there is Satan and the other fallen angels. Whether or not anyone else is down there keeping them company is another matter, I’m not sure (someone else can probably answer this question better than me).


#3

[quote=DavidFilmer]There is an active thread on this forum titled Apokatastasis which started out discussing the salvation philosophy of a certain Catholic theologian, but has broadened to a general discussion of the population of hell. I feel the thread has gone somewhat off-topic, but in a manner that may interest more people. So I decided to open a new thread on this particular issue.

So the question is: Does the Catholic Church actually teach that Hell CANNOT be empty?

I say the Church teaches no such thing (although I believe hell is quote crowded - but I think that is my own personal opinion, and NOT Church doctrine).

It will be assumed that everyone understands that the Catholic Church categorically teaches the following dogmas:

[list]
*]Hell absolutely DOES exist.
*]Anyone who dies in a state of mortal sin goes to hell.
*]If you go to hell, you remain there for ALL eternity.
[/list]It is further understood that the Catholic Church teaches the following doctrine:
[list]
*]Nobody can know for sure if s/he is presently in a State of Grace (for this would be the same thing as an absolute assurance of salvation)
[/list]So I submit that, if nobody can be sure s/he is in a State of Grace, then it stands to reason that nobody can be sure s/he is NOT in a State of Grace. For a Christian, being “not in a State of Grace” is the same as being in a state of mortal sin. So, just as a Christian cannot be sure s/he is in a State of Grace, likewise no Christian can be sure if s/he is in a state of mortal sin.

I concede that the Church has a general test of the mortal nature of sin (ie: a serious matter, awareness of the serous nature of the sin at the time, freewill consent to commit the sin), and a person who acts in any way according to that definition is fully and truly guilty of mortal sin (and this person will be condemned to hell for all eternity if s/he dies unrepentant). But I submit that the Church cannot say (and that She does not even claim the competence to say) whether any particular sin of any particular person truly meets all the criteria of mortality. So the Church cannot say (by Her own admitted limitations) that any particular person actually IS in a state of mortal sin. She can maintain that it is POSSIBLE that somebody somewhere is in a state of mortal sin, but She cannot say that any particular and specific person actually IS in a state of mortal sin.

So I submit that it is POSSIBLE under orthodox Catholic doctrine to suppose that NOBODY is specifically and actually in a state of mortal sin at this very moment (or any/all moments).
If the Church cannot say for sure that anyone is actually in a state of mortal sin, She cannot say for sure that anyone actually dies in a state of mortal sin.

The only (known) way to go to hell is to die in a state of mortal sin. But, if the Church cannot say that anyone actually dies in a state of mortal sin, the Church also cannot say that anyone is actually in hell.

So I submit that it is perfectly Catholic and orthodox to suppose that hell does exist, and anyone who dies in a state of mortal sin does go there and can never leave, but that hell could actually be empty, and nobody is actually in hell.

Some may claim that hell has at least one resident - namely Judas Iscariot (based on Our Lord’s words that “it would be better for that man had he never been born.”) But many theologians would not regard Our Lord’s words in this dialogue to be a condemnation to hell. After all, Judas took his own life in SORROW for what he had done (repentance). And, although suicide MAY be a mortal sin, the Church teaches that it MIGHT NOT be mortal because the mental disposition of the person may not allow for rational freewill consent to the sinful nature of the act (and, without informed freewill consent, the sin cannot be regarded as mortal). So even Judas may not be assumed to be in hell.

Given these points, does anyone wish to advance a position that the Church teaches that hell CANNOT be empty?

Just to clarify - the question is NOT, “Does the Church teach that hell MIGHT have residents?” because the answer to this question is obvious (‘yes’). The question is, “Does the Chruch teach that hell absolutely DOES have residents?”

I say the Church teaches no such thing, and has never taught any such thing (though I personally believe it to be true).
[/quote]

You arguments make no sense at all. I read crime statistics which said there is a rape every 9 seconds in Los Angeles, never mind all other crimes there and in all other cities in USA and the rest of the world. To say it is therefore possible now (and in the past) that nobody at any given moment is in state of mortal sin is ludicrous.
To speculate also that Satan and Judas could be the only ones in Hell is also ridiculous.


#4

There are no statistics as to how many people are in Hell. Jesus simply said to strive to enter through the narrow door. “Wide is the road that leads to destruction and many pass through it.”


#5

I agree with the comments of Pryority7.
Jesus said the Road to Perdition is wide and well travelled while the road to eternal Life is cramped, narrow, and few find it in comparison to those who travel the broad road.
That certainly doesn’t support any “hell may be empty” notion.
Love, Jaypeeto3


#6

the rich man Jesus spoke of, who was begging
Abraham to let Lazerus warn his brothers was
in hell…

Merry Christmas all…

:slight_smile:


#7

To address Flopfoot’s suggestion, here is the link to the CA article “Assurance of Salvation”.


#8

I for one know at times when I am in a state of mortal sin. In essence, there are certain things that I know to be of a grave matter and I would know if I willfully participated in them with full mental capacities in tact. For instance, If I looked lustfully at pornogrgaphy right now, I know I would have sinned mortally. the point is, that many people know when they have sinned mortally. The other point is an early Church father- and forgive me I can’t remember which one, maybe someone can help me out there- said “the roads of Hell are paved with the skulls of Bishops.” I remember seeing the quote in “This is the faith” by Francis Cannon Ripley. This would indicate there are a lot of people there. I think the quote also points to the danger of sin when one is clergy within the church.


#9

[quote=johnshelby]the rich man Jesus spoke of, who was begging
Abraham to let Lazerus warn his brothers was
in hell…

Merry Christmas all…

:slight_smile:
[/quote]

I beleive Scott Hahn used this to point to the existence of Purgatory rather than Hell. If the rich man was in Hell, he would have no love or compassion for anyone and would not be capable of caring for his brother or anyone else for that matter. Obviously he was distressed and wanted to warn his brother, showing love and concern. If he were in Hell, this would be impossible.


#10

i think the ‘bosom’ of Abraham was probably the purgatory
analogy… since they weren’t in heaven yet, because
heaven wasn’t opened until Jesus’ …

the rich man must have been in hell…

or was there another place that Lazerus and Abraham
could have been??

Merry Christmas

:slight_smile:


#11

The Lazarus story was a PARABLE. I don’t believe Our Lord intended to teach that the characters or situations in this parable were literally true, any more than the characters and situations in any other parable.


#12

[quote=thistle]You arguments make no sense at all.
[/quote]

That’s because you don’t get the question.


#13

[quote=DavidFilmer]That’s because you don’t get the question.
[/quote]

I do get the question. You are trying to put the Church on the spot!! You are wording your question the way the Da Vinci author does and makes conclusions. If the Church or Scripture does not say something then the opposite must be true (like the bible does not say Jesus was single so by default he must have been married).
Of course the Church does not teach as a doctrine that Hell cannot be empty because its already obvious from what is said the CCC and Scripture that Hell is not empty.
To even speculate on Hell possibly being empty is nonsense.


#14

[quote=thistle]I do get the question. You are trying to put the Church on the spot!!
[/quote]

I’m asking what the Church teaches. The Church is never “put on the spot” by any such question, because the Church’s teachings will never implicate Her in any negative way.

Of course the Church does not teach as a doctrine that Hell cannot be empty because its already obvious from what is said the CCC and Scripture that Hell is not empty.

I must have mised the post that demonstrated from either the CCC or from Scripture that there is anyone who is actually in hell. Prehaps you could refer me back to it?

To even speculate on Hell possibly being empty is nonsense.

I’m not asking (or speculating) whether hell is empty. I’m asking if the Church has defined the question one way or another. It is my belief that the Church has not; I’m asking if I’m wrong. I’ve seen nothing yet that indicates I’m wrong.

I hope that now you understand the question.


#15

I do not think there is anything wrong with hoping or believing that all will be saved(of course satan is in hell). The Church does not claim anyone to be in hell. They also claim that you can not know the state of their souls. Who says that before their death they did not recieve the grace to repent and make a perfect contrition? Only God knows the state of a soul.


#16

[quote=DavidFilmer]I’m asking what the Church teaches. The Church is never “put on the spot” by any such question, because the Church’s teachings will never implicate Her in any negative way.I must have mised the post that demonstrated from either the CCC or from Scripture that there is anyone who is actually in hell. Prehaps you could refer me back to it?I’m not asking (or speculating) whether hell is empty. I’m asking if the Church has defined the question one way or another. It is my belief that the Church has not; I’m asking if I’m wrong. I’ve seen nothing yet that indicates I’m wrong.

I hope that now you understand the question.
[/quote]

If you read my post you will see I agreed with you that the Church does not teach us that Hell is not empty and if that is your only point then we agree.
It does not have to specifically teach that because of other teachings.
For the other posters who debate if Hell is empty or not see the CCC. It is very obvious anyway that Hell is not empty because that would mean everyone in history, past, present and future would have to be in a state of grace when they die and frankly that is not possible.

HELL

1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: "He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."612 Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.613 To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called “hell.”

1034 Jesus often speaks of “Gehenna” of “the unquenchable fire” reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.614 Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,"615 and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!"616

1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire."617 The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few."618

Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where "men will weep and gnash their teeth."619

1037 God predestines no one to go to hell;620 for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance”.


#17

Does anyone really believe that God created hell only for the devils? And why would the devils try to tempt us if hell was not created for us too on the principle that misery loves company?

Lastly, if there is no one in hell, this would be great news for the atheists who love to thumb their noses at God.


#18

I think I did a very bad job of asking this question, because nobody seems to understand it. Please accept my apology for asking it so poorly, and let me put it another way:

I do not believe the Church teaches that hell cannot be empty. I do not believe it’s logically POSSIBLE for the Church to make such a statement as doctrine, because it would be logically incompatible with other doctrine. This is why:

The Church says that we can never know with absolute certanity if WE are in a state of mortal sin. Thus, we cannot know with absolute certanity if ANYONE is in a state of mortal sin, so if we cannot say this, we cannot say with absolute certanity that anyone actually dies that way.

I contend that IF the Church maintained as a point of doctrine that anyone was actually in hell, the Church would logically contradict her teaching that we can never know if we are in a state of mortal sin.

Nothing in the Bible or the CCC says that hell is not empty (the CCC affirms that hell exists, and it’s possible we may go there, and if we go there, it is for eternity), but NOTHING in the CCC actually says this HAS happened to anybody. And, if the Church ever DID teach this, the anti-Catholics would have an absolute field day because the Church would have contradicted Herself.

It would be logically contradictory for the Church to maintain that hell was not empty. I’m glad that nobody has managed to point out such a Church doctrine, because it would undermine the nature of the Church.

So if somebody asks me, “Does the Catholic Church teach that hell exists but is empty?” I believe I can correctly respond, “The Church has no doctrine regarding the population of hell, so it is not opposed to Catholic doctrine to believe either that hell is empty or populated.”


#19

[quote=DavidFilmer] “The Church has no doctrine regarding the population of hell, so it is not opposed to Catholic doctrine to believe either that hell is empty or populated.”
[/quote]

I would agree that the Church has no doctrine regarding the population of Hell but certainly nobody could conceivably think Hell is empty.
Yes only God knows the state of our soul at time of death but I think its a good bet, for example, that if someone murders a person during a bank robbery and is immediately killed by police that the murderer could not be in a state of grace when he was killed and would therefore go to hell.


#20

[quote=DavidFilmer]I think I did a very bad job of asking this question, because nobody seems to understand it. Please accept my apology for asking it so poorly, and let me put it another way:

[/quote]

Maybe you did ask badly… but I think people have giving adequate response for you to infer an answer.

Where does the church teach that WE cannot be certain that we are in mortal sin? I believe you are mistaken on that first opinion… maybe I just misread. As for judging the state of other people souls… to an extent, the Church does say… “don’t worry about it”. It is not for you to really bother with.

This argument is not logical. Just because a person cannot judge (like God) another person… does not conclude that the Church “cannot teach that there are souls in Hell.”

This logic is not sound either.

Here is something to think about: Christ (quoted in the bible) spoke of those souls who would suffer eternal punishment. Either Jesus was just making up a story about souls that souls suffer eternal punishment… or He is God, and knows that there would be souls to suffer eternal punishment. If there were never going to be souls in Hell, would He have talked about it? Granted, my logic has some holes in it too, but I do not think anyone is “in the clear” to believe that hell is empty.

There may or may not be some formal Church teaching out there. If there is, it would not pose the contradiction that you imagine. The Church could formally teach it for many other reasons… like because of Tradition… passed on from teaching Jesus, Apostles, and the Fathers!


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