Monday, March 24, 2014

Yes, Father Barron (and Hans U. B.), there is a Hell to be avoided! says the Pope

Though not spoken 'ex cathedra', the Holy Father, made a statement on Friday in which  real-people-real-catholics-going-to-hell is axiomatic (a foundational position which must be true for a dependent claim to be cogent). 

I only wonder why His Holiness didn't toss us Pelagians in with the mafia hit men :-)  ?  Don't get your hopes up!  I think he certainly has left room in hell for "creed-reciting, parrot Christians," or  "museum mummies,"(I think he probably meant us by that), and we really should thank His Holiness for shaking us out of any presumptous attitudes.  Hell-fire is real and can be a destination for any of us.  I hope the Holy Father developes his 'gehenna-ology' further!

It would be a great relief if a Holy Father would speak ex cathedra on this topic and banish the double speak and the great lie of universalism being peddled by Balthasar and his followers.  (even if the Pope must use us as his object lesson!)  something like...'see, there must be a hell! otherwise where will God put the Pelagians and the Parrot Christians?!'

....."On Friday, before a packed church, the pope said it was in the criminals' own interests to change their ways. "There is still time to avoid ending up in hell. That is what is waiting for you if you continue on this path," he said..... "You have had a father and a mother. Think of them. Cry a little and convert."


  1. Father Barron never says that Hell does not exist or that no one is in Hell. He states that we cannot know for certain who is in Hell, so logically we cannot claim certain knowledge that any particular person is in Hell given our lack of knowledge about each individual's final judgment. It follows that we cannot, then, know how many people are in Hell or if there is certainly anyone there at all. (It's a semantics and spiritual disposition argument.) Therefore, we can hope that all, upon meeting Christ at their final judgment, were converted and avoided Hell. It does a world of good for our own spiritual lives to both fear Hell and to hope for the conversion of all so that we can all come to know the glory of God. (Please read 1 Timothy 2:3-4) Our Lady of Fatima says that, too. "Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, and save us from the fires of Hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy." Was Our Lady a universalist? There is a distinct and foundational difference.

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  3. Hello Rozann!

    First off, let me thank you for your defense of Fr. Barron. I would say you pretty much have him in a nutshell.

    Father does say that maybe Hell is empty, agreed? My difficulty with that is that our Lord said it definitely is not empty. Our Lady of Fatima, whom you mention, also showed the children a vision of Hell which was definitely not empty!

    Father B places himself in opposition to the words of Jesus Christ and the vision presented by our Lady of Fatima. Father is sowing doubt over the Four Last Things where there need not be any.

  4. Thanks for your response, too. I think that what he means is that, for all practical purposes, we cannot definitely point to any particular individual and claim knowledge of their subsistence in Hell, therefore we cannot claim that we know of a group of people are in Hell, and therefore we cannot then hold claim to the *fact* that Hell is populated. That, by no means, means that we can claim to *know* it is empty (by the same logic), but that we cannot speak about its population. This, logically, affords the possibility that "for man it is impossible but for God nothing is impossible" in regard to salvation-- who are we to claim we know the mind and heart of God as it applies to the culpability of particular individuals and their final judgment? When we get down to brass tacks, we have to follow our philosophy to its logical conclusion: it is not our place to speak about specific salvation or condemnation even as we can hold on to the truth made available in Scripture-- that sin leads to death and to Hell. Ispo facto, we can believe that Hell is, in fact, populated. This conversation is really beside the point, and avoiding making claims on it keeps each of us out of a realm that is not ours to occupy. That is what Fr. Barron is attempting to do. Again, the Universalist claim that all are finally saved is a TOTALLY different framework of looking at the Last Things, a totally divergent philosophy from what is mentioned about, a philosophy which Fr. Barron decisively condemns.

    1. >>>Again, the Universalist claim that all are finally saved is a TOTALLY different framework of looking at the Last Things, a totally divergent philosophy from what is mentioned about, a philosophy which Fr. Barron decisively condemns.<<<

      Rozann, could you please give me reference for that? (where Father condemns univeralism).

      To me, he has already taken one giant step away from the One who said

      Matt 7:13 Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat.'

      I don't see any 'maybe' or 'if' in that statement. Perhaps Father thinks our Lord never really said those unhappy things recorded in the Gospels? How else can you reconcile Father's fog with Jesus Christ's clarity or with the Fatima children's vision of hell?

      I really do want to understand and to see if Father is teaching what the Church has always taught.

  5. I am a little confused in my descriptions and understanding, I think. By Universalism, are you referring to the "belief" that all will be saved, or the "hope" that all will be saved? If Universalism is the second, I spoke out of turn about Fr. Barron's writings. He certainly hopes that all will be saved. I think Jesus hopes that, too. I know Mary does. If you mean the "belief" that all will certainly be saved, I think the Church stands athwart this pronouncement, and Fr. Barron stands with the Church.

    Basically, Fr. Barron would refute a claim on knowledge regarding who and how many are in Hell. If you are certain that there are people in Hell, who? And how man? If you cannot answer those questions, then you are not certain. If someone besides Jesus has the authority to list names and numbers, I do not trust that person. That is why this philosophy does not oppose Scripture or the revelations of Fatima-- because it allows proper authority to speak on an interaction that is beyond our human realm. It allows Christ that authority.

    Regarding the Narrow Gate, have you listened to this homily from Fr. Barron?

    Regarding what "the Church has always taught"- have you read the article below? Has the Church always taught with exactitude on who and how many are in hell? No one is disagreeing that there is a Hell and that there are most likely people in it. Like Fr. Barron says, "Don't worry about it, and get back to work. Strive to enter by the Narrow Gate."

    1. Rozann,

      Thank you for your honesty in sending me the link above. I think you realize it obliterates your assertion that Father Barron condemns ‘universalism’. On the contrary, Father has warm words for what he admits are universalism’s 20th Century ‘boosters’, Balthasar and Rahner.

      “Has the Church always taught with exactitude on who and how many are in hell?”…nice switcheroo, Rozann!!

      You are putting words in my mouth. Who do you know who says such things?. NO-ONE!!!. The fact you and Fr. Barron must resort to this tactic, as well as that he never can bring himself to mention Jesus Christ’s own words about hell, while he is pumping out his own fog, should give you pause. I have asked you several times to explain our Lord’s (and our Lady’s) plain words that there are many souls in Hell.

      All I hear are crickets chirping.

  6. Hi Kneeling Catholic--

    Your sarcasm is noted. Let's keep this civil and helpful. Otherwise, it isn't worth anything anyway because we are merely becoming a distraction from the work at hand -- bringing souls to Christ.

    I think are right in pointing out that we both need to get some clarification so as to dialogue about the same assertions. To what are you referring when you speak of the dangers of Universalism-- the danger in "believing all are saved" or "hoping all are saved"? My point above was that I am not quite sure what Universalism is, and I would like to understand what you mean it to be when you condemn it, too. I am not attempting to put words in your mouth, I am just trying to explain where the minor nuances really change the direction of the theological assertions being made.

    One direction says definitively that no one is in Hell (which we cannot claim and which Fr. Barron is not claiming-- I think this is the definition of Universalism that you hold and which I think Fr. Barron decisively condemns). The other direction says we can hope for - and work for- everyone's salvation and leave the final judgment up to God (which seems to not only be harmless, but which allows us to live in a disposition of gratitude, hopefulness, and with a mission of passionate evangelization and conversion rooted in truth, goodness, and beauty. This can happen while we still fear the scripture-revealed consequences of sin).

    It seems that the concept of Universalism that we both fear is one that makes lukewarm the eternal consequences of sin by blanketing them with a salvation of "intellectual assent," i.e., if we believe we are saved, we are. The entire Catholic Tradition refutes this over and over again. Faith is not mere intellectual assent, nor is it mere action/deeds. It is an unapologetic both/and.

    And you didn't answer my question, either. Has the Church always taught with exactitude on who and how many are in Hell? No one is denying the existence of Hell or the likelihood that there are souls there. We all know what we have to do to love and serve God, and it isn't easy! But, it seems to be more effective when we begin by calling people into fullness of life by way of truth, goodness, and beauty. Notice, I said "Truth"-- that should cover all of your fears regarding a potential watering down of the Gospel by those who hope for the salvation of all. The Truth is a sword. It will take care of itself. We really needn't walk around speaking about the population and nature of Hell at all. Jesus has done that. We know what it is, we know what we do that will get us there. But we don't know for certain that anyone in particular has earned their way there or has condemned themselves to Hell. So we don't know for certain who is there. I am in a temporal realm, and Christ is not. I do myself no good to contemplate constantly who is in Hell-- I must, again, strive to enter through the narrow gate, which is exactly the shape of Christ on the Cross. If I do that, I am fulfilling my vocation, and as St. Catherine of Siena said, I will set the world on fire. If I do any less, then these back and forth conversations about Hell are about as exciting as my experience of Christ will ever get.

    The very subject of your post is a moot point. Of course there is Hell to be avoided! Fr. Barron's statements about it don't negate that doctrine. They simply say that it is better for me to live in a disposition of hope that all will eventually receive and capitalize on the opportunity to know Christ, and to act on that hope by embodying his teachings during my time here on earth. These conversations are hair splitting and semantic finger-pointing, but I take issue with your mudslinging, so I felt compelled to enter in.

  7. Dear Rozann,

    I apologize for the sarcasm. Thanks for staying tuned in and not just throwing up your hands, or washing them of me! please say a little prayer for me if you have the time.

    you could have pointed out my erroneous claim (that Father doesn't mention our Lord's teaching about hell). Fr. Barron did indeed mention the Lord's hard sayings about Hell....I totally missed that. Albeit he only mentioned them because that is what Dr. Martin focuses in on his book, which Father was criticizing in his round about way. Father does not treat Christ's assertions directly head on.

    Father and you both spend time refuting the idea --which no one espouses--i.e. that we can presently know hell's specific roster of names. I can only assume that it is because you would rather not contemplate that

    1 Jesus Christ said: Many souls are in hell.
    2 Our Lady of Fatima said: Many souls are in hell.
    3 Father Barron says. We cannot know that any souls are in hell.

    Do you not see the divergence here? Father puts a question mark where Jesus Christ put a period.

  8. Thank you for this generous response. I really think this is helping me to understand where you are coming from and to outline exactly where our perceptions differ. I would argue that the subjects of each of your three statements prove my point from above.

    1. Jesus Christ says it.
    2. Mary says it.
    3. Fr. Barron does not speak definitively about it except to cite both Jesus and Mary. And he states #3 above within the context of a theological, deductive argument, not as an axiom for self-help or for justifying sin.

    I think that is fair.

    But I think the further clarification of Fr. Barron's statement would make it work even better: "Because we cannot know if any particular soul is in hell, we cannot know that any are, in fact, in hell." That is "we" in reference to all of us, which does not do damage to the statements made by Jesus and Mary, both of whom CAN know about the fate of humanity. Again, this is more of a paradoxical statement that frames our spiritual lives and our disposition both toward Christ and our neighbor than it is a philosophy that attacks Catholic doctrine on the Last Things. How we talk about Hell—beyond knowing that it exists, that it is eternal separation from God, and that mortal in will get us there-- the rest of our statements are all theological conjecturing anyway. It doesn't do us good to conjecture about the end times as they relate to our neighbor-- better to conjecture about Christ in the here and now.

    It seems to me that Fr. Barron would have no problem with saying, " Jesus Christ said there are many souls in hell," or affirming the Message of Fatima that "Hell exists. Hell is eternal and we will all go into Hell if we die in the state of mortal sin." He is just saying that he doesn't know who, if anyone, has died in the state of mortal sin.

    One question I have is this: what qualitative difference does it make if Fr. Barron says that he knows definitively that many souls are in hell? What positive effect does that have on his and our message? Again, remember than he stands with the Church's teachings on the existence and nature of Hell.

    1. Hello Rozann!

      I'll answer back in about 10 hours. Sorry :-(

      I think we have worked thru talking past one another. Thanks for your patience!

  9. Take your time! This is great. I am enjoying talking with you about this. Thank you, too, for your charitable responses.

  10. Hi again, Kneeling Catholic--

    I was just looking up an altogether different bit of information about Hans Urs von B, and I found this on wikipedia: "Balthasar expressed some sympathy with a "hope" for salvation for non-Christians, and even believes that it is possible that all human beings will be saved (but warns against asserting it)..." - I think this "but" hints at the tension you expressed: that there is a remote possibility that all would eventually be saved, but that asserting that all ARE saved is dangerous. The distinction between your assertions and Fr. Barron's is the presence of the "possible," which Fr. Barron would allow so as to also give Christ the sole authority to speak about the final state of particular souls, and ipso facto, of the entire Body of Christ at large.

  11. Good evening toe you, Rozann, and thanks for ‘staying tuned’!

    You ask what difference it makes if Father Barron says he knows many souls are in hell. well, here goes....

    First off Father would confirm in my mind that he doesn’t think he knows better than Jesus Christ! He could say something like…..

    [FATHER B] ‘it is not been my experience that nagging people, or restating the obvious is a very good way to win souls to Christ. I personally dread hell and the whole topic of someone being cut off from God forever with no hope makes me puts me in bad mood. I think Christians walking around with hell on their minds would convince most people that it is better to –eat, drink, and be merry now—than to live with such morose people for all eternity.

    [FATHER CONTINUES] But then the other night I had a dream where I found myself walking along a superhighway and came upon a bridge that had collapsed. It was night. I had no paper or marker, no cell phone, all I had to warn oncoming vehicles was me screaming and waving my arms like a crazy person. So I ran back up the highway to the crest of a hill to assume my lonely post. There, to my amazement, was a bright warning sign lying on the side of the road. It said ‘BRIDGE OUT!!!!’ Some guy, for some reason, had knocked it down! I awoke.

    Friends, I am afraid many of you have gotten the wrong idea about some of the speculative things I have said. I never intended to make you think that Hell might be empty. If our Lord and our Lady are to be taken seriously, then there is such a thing as eternal perdition or damnation as both of them made it clear that many souls have already ‘fallen off that bridge’. I do not want to be ‘that guy’ that knocked down the warning sign! I only wanted you to dwell on the Love of God and not to lose your hope of heaven.

    (back to ‘me’) I think theologians who put it people’s minds ideas like ‘Hell is so passé!’ or ‘Hell MIGHT be passé ‘are very much like ‘that guy’ who for some reason took down the warning sign. Furthermore I am afraid their ‘more winsome Gospel’ –which is what we de-facto have been hearing for the past few decades--has even failed as an advertising strategy. It hasn’t brought more people into the Church.

    Maybe Pope Francis is going to clarify these things for us. I pray he does.

    Rozann, I will let you have the last word on this 'string'. you have certainly earned it!

  12. Hi Kneeling Catholic--

    I am so grateful for the way this dialogue has gone. You did a great job at illustrating your perspective in the paragraphs above. Thank you for taking the time to respond at length.

    I think you identify that there needs to be a great emphasis on the Catholic "both/and" in regard to Hell-- that we should do everything we can to avoid it, but the only truly efficacious and meaningful way to avoid it is through an indirect avoidance, the "being swallowed up" in the very person of Christ, his Truth, his Goodness, his Beauty. Fr. Barron's technique is to draw people into the very person of Christ and, ispo facto, lead them away from the threat of Hell. Again, this is not an passive journey or an "easy out"-- it is a daily, albeit beautiful, carrying of the cross. If you are fearful that Fr. Barron preaches a "winsome Gospel", I strongly encourage you (not in a patronizing way:) to listen regularly to his weekly homilies and put his statements about Hell into context.

    A couple more things: I feel that the differences in approach we have identified can be encapsulated in another analogy: the difference between an "imperfect act of contrition" and a "perfect act of contrition". First of all, here are the words:

    O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee,
    and I detest all my sins because they offend Thee, my God,
    Who art all good and deserving of all my love.
    I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace,
    to confess my sins, to do good, avoid evil,
    and to amend my life. Amen.

    An imperfect act is when one recites the words above motivated by a fear of hell and a concern about the state of one's soul (justifiable-- not a bad thing). A perfect act is when the words are spoken out of sorrow for offending Christ and for separating oneself from Christ, the great and true love of one's life, by sinful acts. While one should rightly be concerned with the state of one's soul, it is better to be motivated by true (not emotional, feelings-based) love. The very words "imperfect" and "perfect" obviously indicate a qualitative difference. Would you agree? Apply this to a marriage: isn't it qualitatively better to apologize to your spouse out of deep regret for having hurt the love of your life than to apologize so that you don't have to sleep on the couch?

    Does this make sense?

    Fr. Barron's message and approach, in my estimation, is to form souls that would, automatically, speak perfect acts of contrition because they know and love Christ. Therefore, the mysteries surrounding the afterlife are rather unimportant apart from the incredible desire to be united to Christ. Basically, he intends to make sanctity a possibility by introducing people to the irresistibility of Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, not by "starting with" the infusion of a healthy fear of consequences. BOTH are important, of course, but the timing of their presentation can help people to accept or reject God altogether when they are at the precipice of Faith.

    (to be continued)...

  13. I would argue, as well, that this Scriptural passage helps illuminate the issue that you outline above, the need to post a "sign keeper":

    "Jesus said to the Pharisees: “There was a rich man who dressed in purple garments and fine linen and dined sumptuously each day. And lying at his door was a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, who would gladly have eaten his fill of the scraps that fell from the rich man’s table. Dogs even used to come and lick his sores. When the poor man died, he was carried away by angels to the bosom of Abraham. The rich man also died and was buried, and from the netherworld, where he was in torment, he raised his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. And he cried out, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me. Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am suffering torment in these flames.’ Abraham replied, ‘My child, remember that you received what was good during your lifetime while Lazarus likewise received what was bad; but now he is comforted here, whereas you are tormented. Moreover, between us and you a great chasm is established to prevent anyone from crossing who might wish to go from our side to yours or from your side to ours.’ He said, ‘Then I beg you, father, send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they too come to this place of torment.’ But Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the prophets. Let them listen to them.’ He said, ‘Oh no, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ Then Abraham said, ‘If they will not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone should rise from the dead.’“ - Luke 16:19-31

    In so many words, the Sign Keeper is still at his post. We don't need to be street corner prophets, we need merely to introduce people to Christ, and if they will accept him out of their own free will, they will take heed of his signs. If they don't accept him, no sign will ever ever be convincing. No priest waving his hands at the bridge will turn anyone around. No sandwich board is going to convince someone that hell is real.

    Thank you again. I have enjoyed this. Please feel free to respond again!

  14. One more allowance-- you are VERY right that there are preachers who propagate a winsome Gospel, and this is very dangerous. I would side with you that this is a tragic approach. But, I would argue, again, that Fr. Barron is not one of them. I would argue that he proposes an approach that is in line with the paradoxical, both/and beauty of the Church in all its glory.