Virtues in hell

I’ve heard it said that damned souls, being utterly separated from God (the source of all virtues), possess no virtues. Is this an official Catholic teaching? If so, that means that the damned have zero prudence, justice, fortitude, temperence, faith, hope, or charity.

What about gifts of the Holy Spirit - wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord?


How could they have these gifts and virtues? For example, Hope: those in Hell are without Hope, all they experience is eternal despair; Charity: there is nothing in their souls that corresponds to Divine Charity, etc., etc., etc…

Can they really be said to “experience” anything, in the total absence of understanding and knowledge?


I cannot quote exactly what CCC says on hell but the gist is " Hell is the total separation from GOD" In fact when Jesus cried on the cross saying “Abba Abba why have you abandoned me”, It was not because he was abandoned by Father, He went through the Hellish experience of being Abandoned by God for we don’t have to experience that.

I welcome correction on what I mentioned above, if it is utterly foolish.

When Hell being a total separation from God and all his gifts and graces, I don’t think we can have some of it with us.

Also I am afraid, I have no theological knowledge to substantiate what I am going to say, Its just my personal opinion, that When one soul is cast into hell after judgement, I am sure that sould knows and understand where he landed up and also wish if he could go all the way back and change it but with the knowledge that it is not possible. Or else why laser was asked by the rich man to go and tell his family and friends to change ?

Throw some lights on this to me too… I feel utterly misinformed.

You are confusing the natural attributes of knowledge and understanding with the Knowledge and Understanding which are Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Briefly, the Gift of Knowledge pertains to right judgment in relation to created things, seeing their harmony and their meaning in the light of God and thus how they must be respected and loved - an ordered Love since they are not the Creator - as creatures of God. The gift of Understanding differs from the gift of Knowledge in regard to its object. While Knowledge has for its object knowledge of created things, the Object of Understanding is God Himself which calls for daily fidelity in order for the soul to be transformed through the light of Faith into an image of Christ. Both of these gifts are a function of the soul in relation to the Theological Virtue of Faith; this Virtue the damned do not have. Thus their knowledge is limited to the despair they experience in separation from God, eternally bereft of Hope of coming into a relationship of mutual love with Him.

I think I see what you’re saying.

How does it relate to those who say that the damned are incapable of any charity whatsoever, because of their separation from God? They don’t seem to make an exception between “natural attributes of charity” and “the theological virtue of charity”. It’s said that the damned simply have no charity, period.

Of course, these people might be just speaking without precision, or they might just be wrong. :slight_smile:


Happy to help. :slight_smile:

Actually they are speaking correctly since the damned have nothing in their soul that corresponds to Divine Charity. Since all natural gifts as well as all supernatural gifts are from God and are given us (both natural and supernatural) as “vehicles” that call us to communion in Christ with the Most Holy Trinity us, the natural gifts are perverted in the soul’s lack of response to or falling away from the supernatural gifts (both the Theological Virtues and Gifts of the Holy Spirit, i.e.).

A person can be devoid of the virtue of justice and still perform a just act. Keep in mind that the definition of a virtue is a habit of right action. It is true that none of the souls in Hell have the habit of justice, fortitude, prudence, etc. The Theological Virtues are a little more specific such that one cannot perform an act of that kind without have the virtue.

There are also non-moral virtues which those in Hell can retain, such as intellectual virtues of science.

When we die in the flesh, our souls don’t die. Our souls don’t sleep after death, they are awake and alive, and live forever. Our souls have memory intellect and will just as God created us to have. Otherwise how could we experience heaven? The same is true for experiencing purgatory which is temporary, or experiencing hell which is permenent.

We assume that we will be able to experience, but since it is proper to human beings only to experience through the senses, and the senses are material, we will not be able to experience in the way that we are used to. It is certain a valid question for NaturalEnquirer to ask.

All I know after reading these replies, is that hell is complete and utter absence of God and all virtues. It stands to reason that with the absence of all virtues, then you have, naturally, the presence of all that is evil. Hell sounds like a terrifying place and it’s a shame more people don’t realize the reality of the distinct possiblity of going there.

Incidentally, and this may be off the subject, if you are in the state of mortal sin while you are living, you cannot and do not receive any of God’s graces going forward until you have proper contrition and sacramental confession.

So, you see, it is much easier for a soul to get to hell than many people would like to admit.

You actually still receive God’s prevenient grace, which helps you return to confession and repent of your sins.

Think about memory intellect and will. Those qualities don’t die.

Was the parable of the rich man & Lazarus [Lk 16:19…] told by Jesus, real or imaginary? Was the rich man suffering in his condition after death or was it just imagined suffering? Was Lazarus in peace or just imagined peace? Were they BOTH fully aware of their circumstances? You bet. There is another side to the equation. It is the eventual resurrection of all the dead (bodies) at the end of time, both good and bad. EVERY body is resurrected, and reunited with their souls from the 1st Adam to the last person ever born. Souls that were in heaven return to heaven body and soul. Those in hell, return to hell body and soul. Those in purgatory at that time, are reunited with their bodies and go to heaven. Purgatory at that point will be empty and no longer exists. Only heaven and hell at that point remains.

We require physical organs to excercise our intellect and will (it can be argued that the memory is primarily material). These qualities do not die, but our ability to use them seems completely hindered.

I am saying that even before the general Resurrection we will be able to “experience” in some way, but that it will be a new way and one which we could not really know from natural reason. We are body/soul composites and although we know we continue to exist without a body, we also know that we were not designed to operate that way.

Not true. The parable I used as an example, shows intellect and will are fully intact and in use.

Not true.

Think about it. After death, one can’t be purified if they have no memory of even who they are, what they profess, or what they did.

That’s why God gave us His revelation. Without that, it’s all guess and imagination on our part.

A body can’t operate without a soul but the soul CAN operate without the body and does (for a time) between death of the body and it’s eventual reunion at the end of time wih the soul.

So a person in mortal sin has no virtue and cannot do anything good out of love?

steve b,

We are talking about two different things. I am talking about what is proper to our natures as human beings and from that what we can know by the light of natural reason. By nature, men are body/soul composites. The functioning of the body is a necessary (by nature) requirement for the operation of man’s spiritual powers. That isn’t to say that God could not have some supernatual means of man being able to excercise his spiritual powers while existing as a separated soul, but my point is that such a situation involves a special and supernatural contingency.

St. Thomas treats all of this in the Summa. I am not trying to lead you into novelty.

You are talking about the content of Revelation which indicates that indeed God has some kind of supernatural means planned for us to excercise our spiritual powers.

Charity by definition is loving ones neighbor out of love for God. A man in mortal sin does not have the Theological Virtue of Charity and is incapable of loving his neighbor out of love for God because a man in Mortal Sin does not truly love God.

Once our soul is created it lives forever without interruption. Not so for the body. When the body dies, that doesn’t stop the operation of the soul. Look at Revelation. How could martyrs for example [Rev 6:9], interceed for us in heaven if they had no **memory of anything, intellect to process memories and new knowledge received, or the ***will ***to act on what God requires of the soul? Is the body necessary at that point for any of that to transpire? No

No disagreement here. The fact we are even here is supernatural.

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