I have been reading about both Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy and read that the Orthodox believe hell is an experience of God’s energies, God’s love, but it is painful because of the state of the souls therein. Heaven is being able to experience that love joyfully. (If I got this wrong on the Orthodox side please correct me.) Is this compatible with the Catholic view?

From my understanding, this is where Catholics and Eastern Orthodox Christians differ. We believe that Hell is eternal separation from God and therefore they can’t feel God’s anything. They can’t feel God there period.

But God is always present. That doesn’t mean there is not a spiritual separation.

What matters to us to know is that hell is eternal suffering and once there, there’s no turning back; and that heaven is eternal bliss.

Whatever kind of imagery we use to imagine what hell looks like is one of those “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin” questions, as long as the imagery reinforces that hell is bad. Really, really bad, and once there you’re past the point of no return.

I had been doing a lot of thinking on this subject recently. I almost wondered if the suffering in purgatory was from our souls not being able to properly handle God’s presence, hence the need for purification. I wonder about this, because on Holy Thursday I was really having a lot of difficulty in getting past just an intellectual level with faith. I had a sudden, overwhelming feeling at the moment of the consecration. It was wonderful, but I almost burst into tears because I just couldn’t handle it. I have since reflected on whether or not the reason it seemed so overwhelming was because I am just a man, or more specifically that my soul has a great deal of healing and purifying it needs to undergo.

God is everywhere; we cannot exist without Him.

Hell is spiritual separation from God. People who die with their wills contrary to his own. Very few people will go straight to Heaven (will perfectly conformed to God’s will at time of death). Most of us I think will go to Purgatory, sort of a spiritual shower and change of clothes before entering Heaven. Wills who are close to God’s will but not yet perfectly conformed (e.g. unrepented venial but not unrepented mortal sin). The time in purgatory will depend on how much needs to be changed. The degree of pain in Hell will depend on separation from God’s will (degree of unrepented mortal sin). Those in Heaven no longer desire to sin. Those in Hell no longer desire to be forgiven.

Good point, I have often thought this myself and it would make a lot of sense. The burning hell fires may be the pain of God’s love which the person rejected.

Considering that the demonic “burn” in God’s loving presence, and to get to Hell the person chooses to be more in the image of the demonic through sin rather the image of God. So God created a place (where God is present but not as felt) for the creatures that he made and loves even though they rejected him and Christ completely (in body, heart, mind and soul). This is just speculation on my part however. It would be a dreadful place though, full of fallen sadistic angels and the realization of what you willingly gave up. :blackeye:

There’s nothing incompatible with the Catholic view in that statement. In fact, I’ve read some Catholic writers and saints speculate this exact thing.

The Catholic Church doesn’t have any definitive teaching on the nature of the sufferings of hell. The only thing the Church teaches definitively is that it exists, and it’s constituted by the definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed. (CCC 1034) In other words, no one goes to hell that didn’t choose it.

That’s about all the Church teaches officially about it. Like I said, different Catholic saints and writers have speculated about the suffering of hell, and some have held something similar to what you describe. Catholics are free to hold to that position or not to.

Personally, that view makes the most sense to me, since it’s impossible to be out of the presence of God, since He’s omnipresent. But it’s not impossible to cut off communion with God and refuse to receive His love.

Father John Hardon’s Modern Catholic Dictionary:

FIRE OF HELL. The physical reality, outside the person, by which those in hell are punished besides their loss of the vision of God. It is called fire in the Scriptures to emphasize the excruciating pain it causes, and to identify it as some external agent tormenting the lost. But it is not ordinary fire, since it does not consume what it burns, and, although material, it can affect the purely spiritual substance of the soul.

When I teach small children about heaven and hell, I tell them that heaven is 100% love and hell is 0% love. Heaven is the “the best day ever times 100” and hell is the worst day ever times 100.

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