May Catholics Endorse Universalism?

How can doctrine that seems to prevent universalism birth it? Here’s a thumbnail sketch, however rough and ready.

Suppose for a moment that the logic of hell obeys the illogic of the sin that constructs it. I say “illogic” because of the curious way sin exists. If evil be the privatio boni , then sin’s existence is exhaustively vampiric. That is, it feasts and depends entirely upon the blood of its host—the good. Sin therefore has no proper act, only a perversion of a good act. The sinner, it follows, is at once sin’s creature and its host: the one on whom, both with and without her consent, sin feeds. In this frenzy discerning sin’s creature from its host will be nearly impossible. She will do what she hates—only not she, but rather the sin courting and colonizing and consuming her (Rom. 7). Only death, natural or baptismal, brings division and therefore clarity (Rom. 6:21–23). And when it arrives, the sinner descends immediately into hell’s eternal flames.

What smolders there? Her “works” ( opus arerit ), for she herself shall be saved by fire ( salvus erit … per ignem ) (1 Cor. 3:15). What are these works? Presumably the opera carnis , works of the flesh: sins (Gal. 5:19-21). Together these incarnate the corpus peccati , the body of sin, which Christ must destroy to free us from sin (Rom. 6). This is vetus homo noster , our old man, the one who sinned in Adam and dies on Christ’s cross (Rom. 6:6; 5:12), the very same whose members Paul exhorts us mortificate, to slay (Col. 3:5–6). Christ himself parables a splitting-in-two (Matt. 24:51; Lk. 12:46), an uprooting of plants not planted by God (Matt. 15:13), an amputation of a traitorous eye to save the body (Mk. 9:43; Matt. 5:29–30). So construed, the dominical division between sheep and goats divides not sets of persons, elect versus reprobate, but rather very selves (Matt. 5:32–33). What descends to hell, that is, is not she—not, that is, her hypostasis which binds body to soul. No, it’s rather the sinner: the shadow or wraith or false self her sin has fashioned from whom purgatory’s flames have painfully rent her. More, the shadow’s eternal destruction guarantees her beatitude; as Ambrose knew, Idem homo et salvatur ex parte, et condemnatur ex parte .34 Only when the former things are passed away ( prima abierunt ) shall God dry all tears and pronounce death no more.

Short answer: “No.”
Long answer: “Nooooooooooooooooooooo!”


Pope Vigilius, Canons against Origen. Book against Origen of the Emperor Justinian, 543 A.D.:

Can. 9. If anyone says or holds that the punishment of the demons and of impious men is temporary, and that it will have an end at some time, that is to say, there will be a complete restoration of the demons or of impious men, let him be anathema.


This anathema if it is legitimate isn’t what universalists believe anymore anyway

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I would ask, what follows from endorsing universalism? Is it the conclusion that anything goes, and that nothing we do matters since we’re all going to be saved? This is absolutely the wrong reason to endorse universalism, and the very reason why so many of us resist doing so without reservation.

Better, I say, to maintain the hope that all will be saved, while actively evangelizing and living in accord with God’s will as the Church teaches.


Nothing happens, we continue to love God and work mercy. If someone would abandon love of God because universalism was true they never had it in the first place

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I can accept that, but too many of us see it as an excuse for licentious behavior. You’re seeing it from our higher nature, if that makes sense, while others see it from our lower nature.

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Universalism is heretical if what is meant is that all will be saved no matter what or that the damnation is temporary (apocatastasis).

There is a certain potentiality that logically flows from the universal salvific will of God, who, antecedently, wishes all to be saved and therefore offers all the possibility of salvation. In that sense, God has made it possible for all to be saved.

However, He consequently wills some to be damned on account of their sins and impenitence. Given the words of Christ Himself (“many are called, but few are chosen”) it would be rash to assert that the potential will be achieved universally. But we should still work and pray to bring as much as possible to completion in obedience to the command and antecedent will of the Lord.


We may hope that all be saved, and good case can be made that it is part of the Christian vocation to cultivate that hope.
The theological virtue of hope goes beyond what seems likely. Theological hope is “hope beyond hope”.
This theological virtue is embodied in Christ our savior, who did not stop when faced with the choices we make for damnation. Rather than stop hoping, God became flesh in pursuit of us, and that is our hope beyond hope.

It is legitimate. Universalist thought is that all are certainly saved, which is contrary to Catholic dogma.

Also see Matthew 11

20 Then he began to reproach the towns where most of his mighty deeds had been done, since they had not repented. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And as for you, Capernaum:

‘Will you be exalted to heaven?
You will go down to the netherworld.’

For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”


I got in trouble once with a theology professor, who asked us whether “all might be saved.” I answered ‘yes’, under the following (somewhat mathematical, inductive) logic:

  • Look at each human from Adam and Eve (H1 and H2, as it were), through the last person to be born on earth (Hn).
  • We can ask ourselves, “Is it possible that H1 is saved? Is it possible that H2 is saved?” The answer, of course, is “yes”.
  • In fact, for any human (Hi), we can ask “Is it possible that Hi is saved?”, and we’d have to answer “yes!”.
  • Therefore, if it’s possible that each human in the set {H1, … Hi , … Hn } is saved, then we can say “it’s possible that all humans are saved”!

Now, here’s the rub: universalists want to say “all (corporately) will be saved”, and that’s what the Church rejects. However, the claim being made here is that it’s possible that “each (individually) will be saved”. That’s something that we can hope for, legitimately.


The individual hope I get, but why not all corporately? It amounts to the exact same thing. If we can hope for it, then the hope has to be based in something real, so we should be able to have some non-infallible certainty of it happening. Similar to how I know with certainty non-revealed facts about the world (non-revealed in the sense of not being part of Infallible Revelation). Why does the Church reject a non-infallible certainty (“it is possible for me to be wrong but I don’t think I am, so I say I know xyz will happen”)?

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It does not.

In the former case, each individual is judged on his or her merits. (That’s exactly what the Church teaches.)

In the latter case, all humans are given a ‘free pass’ and are saved. (That’s precisely what the Church rejects.)

The number of souls in heaven ends up being the same number, but it’s not “the exact same thing”).

Not sure what you’re trying to say. It sounds like you’re saying “I know with certainty that all will be saved” or “I know with certainty that all will not be saved”, but neither of these are true. So… what are you saying that you know with certainty?

I thought I read on a CAF essay that under present canon law, all previous anathemas are no longer valid?

Oh! I was misunderstanding then, if universalism is true I wouldn’t think it would be a free pass but judged on merits, the only thing is that everyone would be saved, but still give an individual account for all their good and evil and receive different glories in heaven. I see now thank you

It is not 100% revealed that all will be saved, I know we can’t have the “certainty of faith” of our own salvation, which Trent says, but that was explained to me as having infallible certainty. So we can have other types of assurance/certainty in our salvation, so we could have the same in the salvation of all

Do you believe it is possible for someone to go to Hell?

No. As I understand it, universalism (as such) posits “all are saved. Period. Full Stop.”…

That would be the certainty of the sort that is conditional, right? Along the lines of “if I persevere to the end, then I am certain of my salvation”. Right?

We can say the same thing about this notion of hopefulness, then: “if everyone perseveres to the end, then we can be certain of everyone’s salvation.”

Of course, that latter view isn’t “universalism”, as it’s been proposed.


And just because you can hope that all are saved doesn’t make it any less possible.

Better to hope for your own salvation, which is possible, than that which is not possible.

Universalism is possible but not likely. Massa damnata is more likely than Universalism, IMO.

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Dogmas of faith are not merely anathemas.

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