Pope: Not Know whether Humans in Hell?


#1

Pope:
4. Christian faith teaches that in taking the risk of saying “yes” or “no”, which marks the human creature’s freedom, some have already said no. They are the spiritual creatures that rebelled against God’s love and are called demons *(cf. Fourth Lateran Council, *DS 800-801). What happened to them is a warning to us: it is a continuous call to avoid the tragedy which leads to sin and to conform our life to that of Jesus who lived his life with a “yes” to God.

   Eternal damnation remains a real possibility, but we are not granted,     without special divine revelation, the knowledge of whether or which human beings are     effectively involved in it. The thought of hell — and even less the improper use of     biblical images — must not create anxiety or despair, but is a necessary and healthy     reminder of freedom within the proclamation that the risen Jesus has conquered Satan,     giving us the, Spirit of God who makes us cry "Abba, Father!"     (Rm. 8:15; Gal. 4:6).

(Italics are mine.) It seems pretty clear here that Pope JPII is saying that not only don’t we know which humans are in hell, but we also don’t know *whether *humans are in hell. Demons are (or will be) in hell, yes. But humans? – that’s not known.


#2

(Italics are mine.) It seems pretty clear here that Pope JPII is saying that not only don’t we know which humans are in hell, but we also don’t know *whether *humans are in hell. Demons are (or will be) in hell, yes. But humans? – that’s not known.

That is correct. There’s a reason why we canonize saints but we don’t canonize the damned, not even Judas. The Holy Father was not addressing the likelyhood that people are in Hell, but rather the infallible knowledge of it. This is absolutely in line with 2000 years of Catholic teaching.

To put it another way, our God is the God of the Living, not of the dead. Those that are spiritually dead are removed from our sight, just as we are removed from theirs. They are cut off, and we can neither see them nor know them. We can speculate, based on what we have seen in life, that certain people fit the description of those who likely cut themselves off from God in the final moments, but we can never see beyond the veil and know which people actually did until we see completely who is in Heaven. We have not been given that knowledge, but rather only knowledge of specific people in Heaven, so we’re working with an incomplete set of data. You’ll notice that even in Scripture it is shown that certain people are definately with God, such as Enoch.

I’m sure the Holy Father believed that some people, and perhaps certain people, are in Hell, but he was humble enough to realize that belief is not knowledge, and that we are not told to have faith that certain people are in Hell, only that Hell is very real and Hell is the place of the Damned. He simply didn’t allow hubris and arrogance to push him into certainties that were not his to have.


#3

Let me take this occasion to clarify a further point. I reported that Pope John Paul II, according to the English text of one of his General Audience talks, said: “Eternal damnation remains a possibility, but we are not granted, without special divine revelation, the knowledge of whether or which human beings are effectively involved in it.” By now I have been able to get my hands on the official (Italian) version of the talk in the Insegnamenti di Giovanni Paolo II. It agrees with the English except that the words “whether or” are omitted. Thus the Pope cannot be cited as tending toward universalism. On the contrary, he teaches here as elsewhere that some have in fact said “no” to the divine invitation to everlasting life. I believe this to be the case, though the Church has never taught under pain of heresy that anyone is damned. (Avery Cardinal Dulles, First Things, October 2003, Reply to Correspondence)


#4

Maybe I should learn Italian. :smiley:


#5

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