What do we have to believe?!?!


#1

I have a question that has been plaguing me since I entered college. The priest on campus here at USC, Fr. Bill Messenger, is extremely liberal and says that he doesn’t believe in hell. He has also mentioned that there are numerous things we don’t “have” to believe such as angels…etc. I did some research and found that Hell has never been defined at a Church Council. In fact there are numerous things that the Church “teaches” that havn’t been defined. My understanding is that infallible teachings come from both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Magisteriums of the Church. The Extraordnary Magisterium includes Ecumenical Councils and infallible papal statements. These are easily looked up and anyone can see what the Church infallibily teaches in this regard. The Ordinary Magisterium seems a bit more vague in that it’s definition seems to be everything that the Church has constantly held as true. But what are these teachings that the Church has constantly held as true!?! I mean, limbo used to be considered “true”. It was even in the Baltimore Catechism!! What’s more, Fr. Bill says that 3 out of 4 early Church schools taught that there was no hell. I have heard this before, and if it is true, then how can Hell be part of the Ordinary Magisterium??? I have looked all over Catholic Answers for an answer. In short, what do we have to believe, and what don’t we have to believe, and on what church documents do we base this distinction. Can someone please help me out or direct me to an article that would help? :confused:


#2

Liberal dissenters, such as the priest you were referring to, have this tendency to deny one or more aspect of Catholic teaching.

Scripture is quite clear regarding the existence of Hell:

Matt. 25:41 - Jesus says, “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”

Matt. 25:46 - Jesus says, “they will go away into eternal punishment”, in reference to this eternal fire.

Mark 9:47-48 - Jesus refers to hell as where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. It lasts forever.

St. Irenaeus(130-200) states affirms this teaching:

**"[God will] send the spiritual forces of wickedness, and the angels who transgressed and became apostates, and the impious, unjust, lawless, and blasphemous among men into everlasting fire" (Against Heresies 1:10:1 [A.D. 189]). **

The Catechism of the Catholic Church:

**“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.’ 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” **[CCC 1035].


The Catholic Church clearly teaches it. If it wasn’t as “defined” as the teaching on the Real Presence or the Incarnation of the Word, this is perhaps because Scripture is very emphatically clear about it. The Church normally defines[clarifies] a teaching when it is seriously challenged by heretics, like for instance the true nature of Christ, which has often been the subject of serious disputes[Arianism, Monophysitism] in the early centuries of the Church.

Gerry :slight_smile:


#3

These are Dogmas of the Catholic Faith that must be believed by the faithful and hell being everlasting is one of them under the Last Things category. Limbo, though considered by certain Saints of the Church, was never taught definitively by the Pope or the Bishops in union with the Pope at any of the Councils any time in history.

%between%


#4

The Church did not begin with a committee meeting to take minutes, vote and write down all the rules and dogmas. It began with a Person, His saving action, and testimony about that Person from those He chose to testify in His name. As the early Church grew, this testimony, and teaching about it was written down and circulated for the edification of all believers, and these writings “canonized” or judge for validity and listed authoratively some 300 years after Christ’s death by those to whom He entrusted with His teaching authority.

The Church did not and does not definitively interpret or proclaim dogma until it is challenged by heretics and dissenters, and then it does it through its magesterial authority–“the Master’s voice” in Latin. The first time it became necessary for the whole church to deal with a problem was at the Council of Jerusalem when they tackled the problem of “What are we going to do about all these Gentiles who are coming in, throwing their weight around, changing the rules and messing up our nice Jewish Church?”

What we hafta believe is in the Nicene Creed, and the doctrinal explanations of those beliefs so beautifully explicated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. If you profess belief in the One, Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, you profess belief in all that she holds and teaches, received from Christ, proclaimed by the her under the protection of the Holy Spirit, whose infallibility as a guide you also profess in the Creed.

To deny hell denies heaven, and denies the Creed. You Father Bill is preaching heresy. Call him on it, it is your duty. But your bishop cannot take any action unless and until he gets complaints in writing that detail actual errors in formal teaching and preaching, not just gossip, hearsay, casual conversation.


#5

(I’m playing devil’s advocate here) To Des, I’d just like to point out again that NO council has ever defined Hell. Despite what some website or the majority of Catholics might believe the Church teaches, where are the Church Documents that teach that Hell exists? And to puzzleannie, Yes, but where do you get this idea that we have to believe what the Catechism says? It isn’t a Church Council. Who says that the Catechism is definitive teaching? Like I said before, I have heard that the Baltimore Catechism even taught Limbo. (something that is “optional” today) As well…I don’t think you can really say that not believing in Heaven negates Hell. Why couldn’t everyone just be happy with God after they die? After all, He IS God, and can do whatever he damn well pleases.


#6

The best place to look (besides the Bible)is to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
In the begining you will find an apostolic letter promulgated by the Pope in which he states that the CCC is a full, complete exposiotion of the Catholic doctrine, enabling everyone to know what the Church professes, celebrates, lives and prays in her daily life.
The CCC is to be shared by EVERYONE.
You will find an answer to every question that deals with what we believe as Catholics in this book. It’s the best investment I ever made! :thumbsup: There isn’t a priest out there that can poo poo on this book,… but they do try.

My Pastor told me that this book was not inteded for “us” to read and that I shouldn’t be reading it!

We also have an associate that tells the kids at our school that Hell does not exist. Go figure.

Mary, Queen of the Clergy…Pray for us


#7

puffin raises an interesting technical question, which I hadn’t thought about before.

Does the Baltimore Catechism, apparently put together by American theologians back in the teens, lack the authoritativeness that is characteristic of the current CCC, which was commissioned and endorsed by the pope and clearly represents the teaching of the full magesterium?

And, can someone verify that the BC teaches about limbo unequivocally?

Finally, in case anyone else got this question in their head, the name of that beach game where you try to walk under a stick has a different origin:

Etymology: English of Trinidad & Barbados; akin to Jamaican English *limba *to bend, from English 3limber

(courtesy of Merriam-Webster)


#8

[quote=jackpuffin](I’m playing devil’s advocate here) To Des, I’d just like to point out again that NO council has ever defined Hell. Despite what some website or the majority of Catholics might believe the Church teaches, where are the Church Documents that teach that Hell exists? And to puzzleannie, Yes, but where do you get this idea that we have to believe what the Catechism says? It isn’t a Church Council. Who says that the Catechism is definitive teaching? Like I said before, I have heard that the Baltimore Catechism even taught Limbo. (something that is “optional” today) As well…I don’t think you can really say that not believing in Heaven negates Hell.
[/quote]

Despite popular demand, the church has not declared an official interpretation of every verse in the bible. Re: Hell, there a enough references in scripture, the wedding guest who is not properly dressed, the rich man who doesn’t help Lazarus goes there, that no additional definition is required.
Re: Catechism, if the chuch is meant for our salvation then we ought to heed what is taught in the catechism whether it is dogma or not. It doesn’t have to be definitive. If it does not deny any truth, and helps us become holy, why does it have to be “definitive”? So the catechism used to teach about Limbo, is this wrong? Was it not used as attempt to explain God’s mercy, in absense of the ability of the person to act on their behalf, after “coming of age”?

Why couldn’t everyone just be happy with God after they die? After all, He IS God, and can do whatever he damn well pleases.

Because that is not how He made us. We are to love Him and serve Him and our neighbors. We are not forced to do so. So, if we disobey, we suffer the consequences of our choice.


#9

How about this?

“…the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go down straightaway to hell to be punished, but with unequal pains” (Ecumenical Council of Florence, Session VI).


#10

Well, if anyone wants to skim through the on-line version of the Baltimore Catechism let us know what you find.


#11

[quote=Vincent]How about this?

“…the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go down straightaway to hell to be punished, but with unequal pains” (Ecumenical Council of Florence, Session VI).
[/quote]

That sounds pretty definitive on the existence of Hell.


#12

Another one, this time from an Apostolic Constitution:
"[W]e define that according to the general disposition of God, the souls of those who die in actual mortal sin go down into hell immediately (mox) after death and there suffer the pain of hell" (Benedictus Deus, Benedict XII).


#13

The most that the Baltimore Catechism says about limbo is,
"[Limbo] does not exist now, or, if it does, is only for little children who have never committed actual sin and who have died without Baptism. They will never get into Heaven or see God, but they will not have to suffer pains as they who are in Purgatory or Hell endure."

(emphasis added)
“If” doesn’t sound very definitive.


#14

Thanks for the link, JimG.

Here’s all it has to say about Limbo. .

86. Q. Did Christ’s soul descend into the hell of the damned?
A. The hell into which Christ’s soul descended was not the hell of the damned, but a place or state of rest called Limbo, where the souls of the just were waiting for Him.
** 87. Q. Why did Christ descend into Limbo?**
A. Christ descended into Limbo to preach to the souls who were in prison-that is, to announce to them the joyful tidings of their redemption.
** 88. Q. Where was Christ’s body while His soul was in Limbo?**
A. While Christ’s soul was in Limbo His body was in the holy sepulchre.

(Questions 86-88 here are also repeated verbatim as questions 402-404)

**Q. 416. Who were present at the ascension and who ascended with Christ? **
A. From various parts of Scripture we may conclude there were about 125 persons – though traditions tell us there was a greater number – present at the Ascension. They were the Apostles, the Disciples, the pious women and others who had followed Our Blessed Lord. The souls of the just who were waiting in Limbo for the redemption ascended with Christ.

** Q. 632. Where will persons go who – such as infants – have not committed actual sin and who, through no fault of theirs, die without baptism? **
A. Persons, such as infants, who have not committed actual sin and who, through no fault of theirs, die without baptism, cannot enter heaven; but it is the common belief they will go to some place similar to Limbo, where they will be free from suffering, though deprived of the happiness of heaven.

I was all set to submit this, then saw what Vincent wrote. It appears that the link I followed may not be to the BC itself, but to a series of lessons about it. Oh well.

[Edited to conceal my ignorance:o]


#15

I’ve founf this much so far in the Baltimore Catechism:

  1. Q. Did Christ’s soul descend into the hell of the damned?

A. The hell into which Christ’s soul descended was not the hell of the damned, but a place or state of rest called Limbo, where the souls of the just were waiting for Him.

  1. Q. Why did Christ descend into Limbo?

A. Christ descended into Limbo to preach to the souls who were in prison-that is, to announce to them the joyful tidings of their redemption.

As well I have found this:

Q. 632. Where will persons go who – such as infants – have not committed actual sin and who, through no fault of theirs, die without baptism?

A. Persons, such as infants, who have not committed actual sin and who, through no fault of theirs, die without baptism, cannot enter heaven; but it is the common belief they will go to some place similar to Limbo, where they will be free from suffering, though deprived of the happiness of heaven.

I guess this doesn’t really definitively teach anything anyway, but only says

It is the common belief

Anyway…I have read the quotes from the Councils, and they still do not say what Hell is or define it’s eternity. Couldn’t this Hell simply be temporary? There stil lacks any definition of Hell.


#16

Actually, now I see Vincent also posted a link, and that leads to the same questions I posted, with explanations after some of them.

So perhaps JimG’s link is to the unvarnished Baltimore Catechism, while Vincent’s link is to the BC with explananatory notes?


#17

Canon I of the Fourth Lateran Council has this:“We firmly believe and openly confess that…[Jesus Christ] will come at the end of the world to judge the living and the dead and will render to the reprobate and to the elect according to their works. Who all shall rise with their own bodies which they now have that they may receive according to their merits, whether good or bad, the latter eternal punishment with the devil, the former eternal glory with Christ.”

(emphasis added)


#18

[quote=digitonomy]So perhaps JimG’s link is to the unvarnished Baltimore Catechism, while Vincent’s link is to the BC with explananatory notes?
[/quote]

Yes, it comes from BC #4, which is something like a teacher’s manual for BC #1-3.


#19

[quote=jackpuffin]I have read the quotes from the Councils, and they still do not say what Hell is or define it’s eternity. Couldn’t this Hell simply be temporary? There stil lacks any definition of Hell.
[/quote]

The Church doesn’t make up doctrines out of whole cloth. They are based on Scripture and Tradition (not meant as a definitive statement):

That being said, here are the basic “features” of Hell as found in Scripture (and Catholic teachings):

Eternal punishment:
Dan 12:2> everlasting shame, contempt
Jt 16:17; Mt 18:8> eternal fire
Mt 25:41> eternal fire prepared for the devil
Mt 25:46> eternal punishment for cursed
2 Thes 1:9> punishment: eternal destruction

“Eternal” means “forever” (i.e., it doesn’t mean “a very long time” but still short of “forever”):
Mt 3:12; Lk 3:17> c.f.: unquenchable fire
Is 66:24, Mk 9:43, 48> unquenchable fire (a non-time-related feature (fire) has a quality (unquenchable) that is consistent with an eternal time duration)
Mt 25:46> cf.: righteous to “eternal life” (the righteous obtaining eternal reward is compatible with the unrighteous obtaining eternal punishment)

Punished by separation from God:
Mt 25:12> become unknown to God
Mt 25:41> exclusion from God’s presence
Lk 13:27> sinners driven from God
1 Cor 6:9> exclusion from heaven
Rev 22:15> sinners excluded from heaven

Punished by sensory pain:
Jt 16:17> fire, worms, pain for ever
Is 33:14; Is 66:24> eternal fire
Mt 5:29> body and soul destroyed
Mt 8:12, 22:13, 25:30> thrown into outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth
Mt 13:42> furnace of fire, weeping
Mt 18:8; Mk 9:48> eternal fire
Rev 20:10; 21:8> lake of fire, brimstone

Unequal punishment in Hell:
Mt 11:20-24> greater punishment for some
Lk 20:47> greater condemnation for scribes

A good summary can be found in “Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma” by Ludwig Ott.

The Councils tend to rule on controversies, identifying the true branch from the dead.


#20

[quote=Vincent]Canon I of the Fourth Lateran Council has this:“We firmly believe and openly confess that…[Jesus Christ] will come at the end of the world to judge the living and the dead and will render to the reprobate and to the elect according to their works. Who all shall rise with their own bodies which they now have that they may receive according to their merits, whether good or bad, the latter eternal punishment with the devil, the former eternal glory with Christ.”

(emphasis added)

[/quote]

This seems to be the definitive statement from a Church Council that we are looking for as their can be no punishment in Heaven.


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