Hell is Modernist Catholic Theologians

In Heaven there is no beer,

That’s why we drink it here.

From the beginning Heaven and Hell have been as deeply embedded in the Christian mind as Law and Gospel.  Under the Law, we are slaves condemned to death and and destruction, and in the Gospel we are set free to enjoy eternal life.    A skeptic would say that Hell is a practical necessity for a religion promising salvation:  It is the stick that must back up the carrot in any struggle for making the best of this bad lot, the human race.  Take away the threat of Hell and replace it with Epicurus’ notion of death as complete extinction, and you have accomplished a good deal for the Epicureans and all their materialist disciples.  (Marx, let it ever be remembered, did a thesis on Epicurus!)

Epicurus was not the crude hedonist he is sometimes imagined to be.  He was a basically decent man, who accepted and promoted an entirely materialist understanding of the universe (nothing but atoms and void) as a means of liberating men from the terrors of the supernatural.  Cultivating pleasure--particularly the higher pleasures of contemplation, but also the sensuous pleasures of the flesh--and avoiding pain, that was the secret of happiness.  Scientific explanations of phenomena had to be accepted, whether they were true or not, on moral grounds, much as Epicurus' much cruder modern disciples insist upon man-made global warming as an article of faith.

Pope Francis is happily above all the Christian myths and superstitions preserved in the outmoded symbols of the Nicene Creed and two millennia of Christian experience.  In an interview—or “conversation,” as the Vatican prefers—with Eugenio Scalfari, the atheist co-founder of La Repubblica, he is asked, "You have never spoken to me about the souls who died in sin and will go to hell to suffer it for eternity. You have however spoken to me of good souls, admitted to the contemplation of God. But what about bad souls? Where are they punished?"

Pope Francis replies:

 They are not punished, those who repent obtain the forgiveness of God and enter the rank of souls who contemplate him, but those who do not repent and cannot therefore be forgiven disappear. There is no hell, there is the disappearance of sinful souls.

Almost immediately, believing Catholics were up in arms.  (By believing Catholics, I mean Catholic Christians faithful to the traditions of the Church rather than blindly obedient to the most recent antics of the current pontiff.)  The Vatican issued a measured response.  Rather than deny Scalfari’s account of the interview, the Vatican press office insisted it was only a conversation and not an interview, adding:

What is reported by the author in today’s article is the result of his reconstruction, in which the textual words pronounced by the Pope are not quoted. No quotation of the aforementioned article must therefore be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father.

In the Vatican cared one way or another—or respected the intelligence of the hundreds of millions of Catholics around the world—they would have to fish or cut bait.  Either confirm Scalfari’s obviously accurate account and call for silence and obedience until the Pope makes an ex-cathedra denial of the Church’s teaching or deny it and call Scalfari a liar.  They have done nothing except to release a deliberately misleading statement that stops short—but only just barely--of being a bare-faced lie.  There is the problem that, if Scalfari is a scoundrel, why is he the Pope's confidential friend?

Once again this Pope and his staff have proved themselves not only indifferent to the Catholic Tradition and to the beliefs of the faithful but—and in their position, what is almost worse—incredibly stupid.  Obviously, their only concern is with advancing secular improvement and enhancing their own prestige and power in the secular world.  But their prestige and power rests on the respect and monetary commitment of ordinary Catholics in the pews.

In teaching the sheep that there is no magic in the shepherd’s staff and no teeth in the mouths of the sheepdogs, they are divesting themselves of every pretense to authority. Even they don't believe they speak with any greater authority than the editors of La Repubblica or The Washington Post.  Liberals who want political gurus and social workers can give their money to the Open Society Foundation.  Who needs a church?

This was something King James VI & I understood, when he told a delegation of Puritan divines asking him to eliminate the episcopacy, “No bishop, no king.”  It is a lesson the Shah of Iran did not learn, when he secularized Iran and attacked its religious leaders.

The silly German drinking song “Im Himmel gibt’s kein bier/Drum trinken wir es hier” (composed for a movie) teaches the ancient lesson that since life is short, we had better enjoy it.  There is a more truth in the sentiment than many Christians might like to think, but it is not so much beer or even wine, women, and song, we have to cultivate, but virtue and right living.  When modernist Catholics like Hans Urs von Balthasar (and more recently Robert Barron), in whose footsteps this Pope is walking, eliminate Hell, they are in effect changing the rest of the verse to

In Hell we have no fear.

That's why our only Heaven's here!

If they are right, then at least we no longer have to listen to them.


Avatar photo

Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

38 Responses

  1. Raymond Olson says:

    On a tangent, let me recommend the movie, In Heaven There Is No Beer (1984), an excellent documentary of organized polka dancing in the Midwest, from Pennsylvania to Minnesota. It’s fairly short–about an hour long–and there’s little that isn’t cheerful in it, just people enjoying themselves.

  2. Khater M says:

    Dr. Fleming
    Unfortunately, Francis and his buddies aren’t the only ones who think like this. This dismissal of Hell seems common among Christian youth. I attend Christendom College( probably the most “conservative” Catholic college in America) and many students I speak to have serious trouble with the notion of Hell. They see it as grim or “unfair.” Baron is the go to guy for most conservative Novus Ordo Catholics.

    I can’t necessarily blame the Vatican for their response. Francis made these comments, and he’s the one who should clarify what’s going on. He is the Pope after all.

    For me, all of this controversy with the Pope and the Vatican is tiring and not worth following. I have very good Traditionalist friends who discuss these issues every single day, and I don’t see how any of this helps us love God and our neighbor. I’ve been working through several works of Augustine, and a number of St. Thomas’ biblical commentaries. Much more enjoyable and fruitful than worrying about this stuff.

  3. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Once one makes up one’s mind to ignore the jester in the Vatican, it is easy to concentrate on higher things. However, the very circumstances you describe–your unfortunate fellow-students–makes it imperative, from time to time, to draw a line in the sand. But the Vatican bureaucrats and PR staff are to be held entirely accountable. This is their Pope, he represents their point of view, they make their living defending him. It is a good thing, really, that they are so incompetent.

    I don’t believe I need to say, after all these years, that rotten Popes are no new thing under the sun, and if the Church survived the Medici, Borgia, and Rovere Popes, it can survive the Jesuit.

    Thanks, Ray, for the reference. A month or so ago, I watched an entirely silly (and I think misleading) film about the Pennsylvania Polka King (played by Jack Black) who started a Ponzi scheme and while doing time for his crime created Polka Rap. In one great scene, he is being investigated by Treasury agents whom he asks: “In my country we havething called bribes. Do you do bribes?”

    Those happy few who are following the adventures of Anterus Smith in “Born out of Due Time” may be puzzled by the references to Frankie Yankovic, the Slovenian Polka King, but, then, Ched Rayson is from the Iron Range–the real Minnesota, not the Disneyworld reinvention in the Twins! (Sorry, Ray, I can never resist the opportunity.)

  4. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    I think St. Thomas has an answer for all modern (which actually are not new) heresies.

  5. Harry Colin says:

    Dr. Fleming’s reminder that the Church has survived Papal foolishness before is indeed soothing, but I do wonder if in this case we’ve been given the Pope we deserve?

    I’m sure if pressed the Vatican bureaucracy would claim that the reason Francis is speaking with such a newspaper is that it is read by those most in need of his wisdom. That response reminds me of an interview years ago with Bill Buckley in which he justified his appearance in Playboy by explaining that the “readers” of that fine magazine most needed his insight. Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

  6. Curtis says:

    So, do we have a personally heretical pope? How do we distinguish between theological opinions that are merely foolish, and those that divorce the adherent from communion with the Church?

    I’m inclined to think of Hell as a Dantesque hierarchy – flames for the worst, and the more ambivalent condemned to a sad and eternally unfulfilled longing for God. But human souls are eternal and never obliterated.

  7. Robert Peters says:

    Despite the allegations by my Catholic friends (and they may be right) that we are the veritable embodiment of a number of heresies, we sand-hill Southern Baptists, though our number be waning, still know that there is a hell. We know it because that is were General Sherman is. My grandma Peters, whose eternal hope it was to meet Jesus and Robert E. Lee, used to say of men whom she deemed to be worthless at death: “He’s kicking cinders with General Sherman.” Martha Louise Elizabeth Peters would set the Good Pope straight.

  8. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Thanks, but I’d rather your grandmother set a bad Pope straight.

    Curtis asks a thorny question. My ultra-Catholic friends have a convincing argument I do not accept. It is a deceptively simple syllogism. Popes are infallible on questions of faith and morals, This Pope is wrong, therefore, he is not the Pope.

    This is one of those propositions like “There is no salvation outside the Church.” First off, I don’t know that that is true. The Patriarchs rescued from Hell only prefigure the Church, and, if they can be considered part of the Church, then why not Aristotle? Second, supposing it is true, the Church should include every sincere believer who does his best according to his lights. The idea that an Arian went to Hell simply because he was a dumb German who had been taught mistakes is monstrous and reduces faith and salvation to an IQ test. So in this case, everything hangs on what we mean by “Church.”

    In the case of infallibility, it was a theory with ups and downs not codified till Pius IX. It was a bold move that inspires awe, though perhaps in the long run dangerous. Were Popes infallible who did not claim infallibility? Was Boniface VIII infallible, as he dragged the Church and himself into ruin as he claimed the universal empire of Rome? If infallibility is restricted to formal ex cathedra statements on faith and morals, how many have been made? On a formal level, only one or two it would seem, though sedevacantists and others would claim many more. Me., I keep my own counsel and look at the broad tradition of 2000 years and at anticipations in the prophets and in the contributions of Greek systematic philosophy. If some chump, elected by the crooks called cardinals, were suddenly to proclaim the earth flat, Jesus a mere man, and marriage a relationship between any two consenting mammals, I think we should all laugh and not worry too much about infallibility. Frankly, I don’t regard most American bishops as even remotely Christian–not even in their aspirations–let alone Catholic. They are fools who have capitulated to the reigning culture, which is not that of Thomas and Dante or even of Petrarch and Pico. It is the culture of Marx and Freud, the culture that produced people like the Trudeaus and the Clintons. They cannot think, much less express themselves clearly and honestly. They don’t even pretend to speak with authority. Listening to them would be like a man who had a record library stretching from WW I to the present but preferred to listen to JayZee and Kelly Clarkson.

  9. Khater M says:

    Dr. Fleming
    It’s funny we have a small group at Christendom called “RadTrads” by the rest of the student body. They’re a handful of guys who focus on the crisis and talk about random Church documents daily. I sympathize with these folks, because I think they have good hearts and good intentions. ( I even find myself agreeing with these guys more than I agree with most students) However, these guys are very, very sectarian. They hold that unless one is directly a member of the Catholic Church, he can not be saved. When I ask them why they believe this, they point to documents like Unum Sanctam ( written centuries ago by Boniface VIII) When I try to argue that this document needs to be read and understood in context( because it was written for a very specific purpose with very specific aims) they tell me I’ve been influenced by Modernism. They want to read these documents literally( with absolutely no development or nuance whatsoever) I don’t realy see the difference between these RadTrads and Fundamentalists who insist on 6 day Creationism. I do believe that explicit faith in Christ is absolutely necessary for salvation ( as did Augustine and Thomas. As Thomas points out however, this does not mean that a decent Pagan before Christ can not be saved, because the standard before his coming was lower) These RadTrads would argue that men like Richard Hooker and Bishop Butler can not be saved simply because they weren’t in union with the Pope. I can’t help but think of Mathew 7:1-5

    “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”

    Sedevacantists are interesting, and again, they probably have good intentions. Their idea rests on too many problematic positions though. I’d agree with them that Francis is a heretic, but they go much further than that. Most I’ve encountered will say that the Novus Ordo Mass is invalid, and so are all NO priests. A good number will also say that Traditional groups who chose to remain within the Church( like the FSSP) are not Catholic. If the Sedevacantists are right, then not only are most of the worlds practicing Catholics attending an invalid Mass, but even the Traditionalists within the Church aren’t realy Catholic. If this is the case, then God has abandoned his Church( there’s just no way around it) That’s why I’ve more or less stopped following this stuff and arguing with these folks.

  10. Robert Reavis says:

    Mr. Peters, I have no idea what Sand Hill Baptists profess. Or what post Christian Catholics profess for that matter . ” More Catholic than the pope” has taken on a lot of different meanings over the years but not much of anything any more. I have always enjoyed your posts and wish you a Good Friday, a Holy Saturday and Happy Easter.

  11. Robert Peters says:

    Mr. Reavis, a sand-hill Baptist baptizes in colder water than does a clay-hill Baptist because sand-hill creeks are considerably colder than clay-hill creeks. Even with in-door baptistries, the water in congregations with sand-hill traditions is colder than those with clay-hill traditions. There are also some doctrinal implications. Because sand-in congregation lost so many preachers in quick sand, they allow deacons to baptize. Since the waters of clay-hill creeks were murkier, the clay-hill folks are said to have more faith, having traditionally baptized in waters in which water moccasins may lurk. There are some other differences, but they are too profound for this forum, I fear. I, too, wish you a Good Friday, a Holy Saturday and Happy Easter and extend it to all of those who frequent these cyber climes.

    P.S. Dr. Flemming, I should have put “good Pope” in scare quotes like I always to “Honest Abe.”

  12. Harry Colin says:

    I would like to thank Mr. Peters for his incredibly enjoyable statement earlier …”I know there is a hell because General Sherman is there!” My Easter basket arrives early! This line can also be applied to a few other creatures, making it versatile as well as humorous.

  13. Robert Reavis says:

    Khater M,
    Take a look at Archbishop William Laud. He tried to find a middle way in troubled times too and ended up another English martyr like so many others. Usually there are saints on both sides like the late Archbishop Lefebvre and his family. Thank God you have a school where the controversy and conversations are at least about relatively serious historical subjects among naive adolescence instead of insane political issues among inane and perverse adults. Poetry is also a good cure for politics if you can find the time. But good posts today and I thank you for them.

  14. Vince Cornell says:

    God bless you, Dr. Peters, and your grandmother!

  15. Christopher Check says:


    I’m certain you know by now that there are two very fine professors on your faculty there I am honored to call friends: Brendan McGuire and John Cuddeback. I have never met Chris Shannon, but I know him by reputation. Be sure to take classes from these men.

  16. Robert Peters says:

    Mr. Check, a Blessed Easter to you and yours from the folks with whom you fellowshipped in Louisiana some years ago.

  17. Khater M says:

    Christopher Clark
    I’m taking classes from both Dr. McGuire and Dr. Cuddeback this semester. Both great men and professors.

  18. Dot says:

    I think I am the only skeptic here and am very glad. Plants and not only botanical.

  19. James Kabala says:

    I sometimes speculate/hope that perhaps at the very moment of death there is a flash of insight, and the person who is about to die will have perfect knowledge of God and the truth. And they will react as they lived – almost all murderers or rapists or child molesters or war criminals, and probably the great majority of thieves, adulterers, other sexual sinners, drug addicts, etc., will react with instinctive revulsion, and down to Hell they will go. But in any individual case, those left behind can say “You never know” and pray for that person with a sincere hope.

    And more importantly, those who were not great sinners, but faithful Protestants or Orthodox Christians or perhaps even non-Christians who tried to follow God sincerely, will embrace the actual truth with joy. I am sure that once in a great while there might be an anti-Catholic so bigoted he would rather go to Hell as a Protestant than to Heaven as a Catholic, but I assume such cases would be quite rare.

    I am kind of afraid to voice this speculation out loud, because I am afraid that some erudite person will pop up and say, “Don’t you know that this very idea was explicitly condemned by such-and-such obscure council of the seventh century?” But this is at least what would I prefer to believe.

  20. Khater M says:

    James Karbala
    St. Thomas does say that if a man, through no fault of his own, has had no opertunity to hear and accept the Gospel, God will give them some sort of chance at explicit faith before death( either a preacher or an angel) So you can certainly hope.

    However, I tend to agree more with Augustine on this. For Augustine, ignorance is no excuse. In Chapter 5 of “On Grace and Free Will” he says
    “But even the ignorance, which is not theirs who refuse to know, but theirs who are, as it were, simply ignorant, does not so far excuse any one as to exempt him from the punishment of eternal fire, though his failure to believe has been the result of his not having at all heard what he should believe; but probably only so far as to mitigate his punishment. For it was not said without reason: Pour out Your wrath upon the heathen that have not known You; nor again according to what the apostle says: When He shall come from heaven in a flame of fire to take vengeance on them that know not God. “

  21. Khater M says:

    To clarify, I do believe that a good Protestant or Orthodox Christian can(and will) be saved.( accepting Christ is the most important thing) I have very little hope for non-Christians however.

  22. Robert Reavis says:

    Mr. Kabala,
    Your Hope and Charity has never been condemned. Marx did think it was an obstacle but he had no voice for such gifts and knew them not..
    ” Christian love is an obstacle to the development of the revolution. Down with love of ones neighbor. What we need is hatred. We must know how to hate ; only then shall we conquer the universe. ”
    For a Christian to practice the love of God and neighbor has nothing to do with perfecting the secular city. Some protestants I know would jeer at my aunts for praying the rosary at their relative’s graves on memorial day (They called it Decoration Day ) or All Souls day,or once lit a wooden cross on fire on my uncles farm to let him know where Catholics stood “in these parts” but it was never serious hatred just a ignorant and naive prejudgment on what they had heard and thought about Catholics. It works both ways of course and to love your neighbor as yourself does not requiring everyone pretending to be another, or something other than they are, rather more like recognizing a broken thing when you see it.

  23. Dot says:

    I am not a skeptic regarding belief in the eternal first cause of all. I am a skeptic regarding the motives of those of influence. There are five main religions that express the divine – the Hindu, the Buddhist, the Tao, Jewish, Christian and Islamic. I don’t think it’s right to cast people who belong to other faiths, even different Christian faiths to suffer eternal damnation. We are not that judge.

    I like the following translation from the Tao Te Ching, in Chinese by Grahame Davis. This is in the CD by Karl Jenkins called Gloria.

    The Way that words can tell is not the eternal Way.
    The name that words can name is not the eternal name.
    The nameless is the source of heaven and earth.
    The named is the mother of myriad forms.

    Free from desire: behold the unknowable.
    Filled with desire: behold the visible.

    Being and non being springing from the source,
    and differing only in their name:
    this is the deepest mystery.
    the darkness of the dark,
    this is the gateway opening to the All.

  24. John Seiler says:

    The news articles on this should be headlined, “Pope Francis insists Hitler definitely not in Hell.” See then how he reacts.

  25. Joe Porreca says:

    Regarding “There is no salvation outside the Church,” much depends on what is meant by “Church.” In the Breviloquium St. Bonaventure, the Angelic Doctor, said, “The just of all times and places constitute the one mystical body of Christ [the Church]” (As a Latin student of the Fleming Foundation, I’ll be so bold as to directly quote Bonaventure himself: “omnes iusti, ubicumque sint et quandocumque fuerint, unum efficiunt corpus Christi mysticum .“)
    St. Thomas Aquinas, the Seraphic Doctor, made the same point more extensively in the Summa Theologica in discussing whether Christ is the head of all men, or only of the baptized (Part 3, Question 8, Article 3 — http://www.newadvent.org/summa/4008.htm). Aquinas wrote, “the body of the Church is made up of the men who have been from the beginning of the world until its end (corpus Ecclesiae constituitur ex hominibus qui fuerunt a principio mundi usque ad finem ipsius).” Aquinas also gave various means of union with Christ, one of which is charity.
    St. Augustine may have gone overboard in some of his polemics, as in his view of the damnation of unbaptized babies, of which St. Bonaventure says in the Breviloquium, “In his [Augustine’s] effort to bring the Pelagians back to moderation, he himself went somewhat to extremes.”

  26. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Thanks to Joe Porreca for sensible and timely observations.

    On skepticism, let us be clear about the meaning of words. Skepticism is an intellectual posture, which, for good or ill, insists upon not accepting evidence of the senses, tradition, etc. The wisdom of Lao Tse, which has many fine insights, has little or nothing to do with skepticism. I have no idea who this Grahame Davis is, and, unless he is an accomplished Chinese scholar, it would be very wise to ignore him. In my teens and 20’s, I spent some time reading and rereading standard translations of the Taoist texts, but I would politely and humbly suggest that they are not to be quoted lightly in translation as an alternative to our own traditions.

  27. Robert Reavis says:

    “The Saint is a medicine usually mistaken as a poison who will often be found restoring the world to order by exaggerating whatever the world is neglecting. ” G. K. Chesterton
    Thanks for the good post, Mr. Porreca. You seem to have acquired the gist of Bonaventure and The Dumb Ox and maybe even their spirit.

  28. Harry Colin says:

    Just one small, fraternal correction to an otherwise insightful post from Mr. Porreca … Saint Bonaventure is the Seraphic Doctor, and Saint Thomas Aquinas is the Angelic Doctor.

  29. Khater M says:

    I don’t think Augustin went overboard at all. Note that St. Thomas does say that explicit faith in Christ is needed for salvation

    “On the contrary, Augustine says (De Corr. et Gratia vii; Ep. cxc): “Our faith is sound if we believe that no man, old or young is delivered from the contagion of death and the bonds of sin, except by the one Mediator of God and men, Jesus Christ.”

    I answer that, As stated above (Article 5; II-II:1:8), the object of faith includes, properly and directly, that thing through which man obtains beatitude. Now the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation and Passion is the way by which men obtain beatitude; for it is written (Acts 4:12): “There is no other name under heaven given to men, whereby we must be saved.” Therefore belief of some kind in the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation was necessary at all times and for all persons, but this belief differed according to differences of times and persons. The reason of this is that before the state of sin, man believed, explicitly in Christ’s Incarnation, in so far as it was intended for the consummation of glory, but not as it was intended to deliver man from sin by the Passion and Resurrection, since man had no foreknowledge of his future sin. He does, however, seem to have had foreknowledge of the Incarnation of Christ, from the fact that he said (Genesis 2:24): “Wherefore a man shall leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife,” of which the Apostle says (Ephesians 5:32) that “this is a great sacrament . . . in Christ and the Church,” and it is incredible that the first man was ignorant about this sacrament.

    But after sin, man believed explicitly in Christ, not only as to the Incarnation, but also as to the Passion and Resurrection, whereby the human race is delivered from sin and death: for they would not, else, have foreshadowed Christ’s Passion by certain sacrifices both before and after the Law, the meaning of which sacrifices was known by the learned explicitly, while the simple folk, under the veil of those sacrifices, believed them to be ordained by God in reference to Christ’s coming, and thus their knowledge was covered with a veil, so to speak. And, as stated above (II-II:1:7), the nearer they were to Christ, the more distinct was their knowledge of Christ’s mysteries.

    After grace had been revealed, both learned and simple folk are bound to explicit faith in the mysteries of Christ, chiefly as regards those which are observed throughout the Church, and publicly proclaimed, such as the articles which refer to the Incarnation, of which we have spoken above (II-II:1:8). As to other minute points in reference to the articles of the Incarnation, men have been bound to believe them more or less explicitly according to each one’s state and office.”

    Non-believers are members of the Church in some sense, but they can’t be saved unless they accept Christ before death

  30. Joe Porreca says:

    Mr. Colin,
    Thank you for the correction.

    I think there is some ambiguity here. In the article you cite, in Reply to Objection 3 St. Thomas writes, “If, however, some were saved without receiving any revelation, they were not saved without faith in a Mediator, for, though they did not believe in Him explicitly, they did, nevertheless, have implicit faith through believing in Divine providence, since they believed that God would deliver mankind in whatever way was pleasing to Him, and according to the revelation of the Spirit to those who knew the truth, as stated in Job 35:11: ‘Who teacheth us more than the beasts of the earth.’” So St. Thomas seems to regard implicit faith in Christ as sufficient for salvation. One might contend that everyone in the modern world has received the explicit revelation of Christ, and that they have no excuse not to believe, However, if explicit revelation of Christ is diluted with constant and compelling disbelief, as in our culture, I’m not sure that we can say that the explicit revelation has been fairly received by all those who reject it.
    St. Augustine is questionable concerning the afterlife. His teaching about the damnation of unbaptized infants is not orthodox Catholic belief.
    In any case, Happy Easter.

  31. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    There are subjects on which it is unwise for the unwise to pass judgment, [There is no typo in the preceding sentence!] Indeed, it may be not entirely wise for the wise themselves to pass judgment on who can be saved. It is not up to us. The tendency of any church is to restrict salvation to dues-paying members in good standing. In an important sense, neither Augustine nor Thomas is right all the time, and if one is going to err, it is better to err on the side of generosity. There are two good reasons for this. The first is supplied by Augustine, who, in surveying various types of Scriptural interpretation, including those that might be literally true but not conducive to honoring the two Great Commandments. Better to be factually incorrect than to use a correct interpretation as a hammer with which to strike down a neighbor! Calvinists are every bit as guilty as Catholics of this evil tendency to consign outsiders to Hell, and an Orthodox convert friend of mine once said people who failed to revere icons were damned. We had all drunk too much that evening–and I do remember Sam Francis turning to me and saying he had no dog in this fight. I suggested that my Orthodox friend would be committing the sin against the Holy Ghost, if he persisted in arguing that God could or would not save whom he wanted to. And that, of course, is the second reason.

    The Catholic Church, as I have complained for years, is so fond of definitional clarity that it can induce a kind of smug complacency in those who learn how to recite the correct formulas. This is a tendency especially noticeable among the young and among converts. It is a temptation to be stoutly resisted.

  32. Khater M says:

    Dr. Fleming
    I make no claim to wisdom or expertise on this topic, and would agree with all that you said. God will judge.

    I hold my view as a pious opinion, and could certainly be wrong. My fear is that if we start saying that explicit faith in Christ is not needed, it will have really bad effects( especially when it comes to evangelism) A few months ago, the Vatican encouraged Catholics to stop evangelizing the Jews. ( a position contrary to Scripture and the Tradition of the Church) This seems to be the effect of modern sentimentalism and laxity, and seems to be the logical consequence of arguing that one can be saved without faith in Christ. It is best to err on the side of charity, but that can only be taken so far.

    Happy Easter!

  33. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Khater, I am suggesting that you and other students, primarily for your own good. might do well to speak less of your “pious opinion”–indeed, of any opinion that does not arise from experience. Rhetorically, the topics of youth should be what you like, dislike, and what your family has told you. I also would not worry too much about what effect an attempt to speak the truth might have. The Vatican is not going to listen to any of us ever. I once went through the charade of presenting a paper on children’s moral development at a so-called “Papal Encounter.” Pope John Paul II was, of course, going to study the papers of the presenters–many of them served on various commissions, but the notion was preposterous. The Vatican staff had prepared the usual liberal-leftist pap they always put forward. On that and on at least one other occasion, I was offered the opportunity of meeting the Pope in a small group–primarily the lecturers and a cardinal or two. I couldn’t imagine any good reason for wasting his and my time.

    Popes are at best the Church’s front men–the “face man” as they used to say on the A-Team. They are not much at theology or philosophy and we are lucky when they are sound and strong as Pius IX was. A Leo XIII who knew his own mind and was courageous–such a man comes along once a century, and scholar like Sylvester II or brilliant intuitive writer like Gregory I, it is too much to expect we shall ever see their like.

    I visit Rome every year, and despite my best efforts to stay away from the hierarchy, I have not always succeeded. I quite liked Cardinal Lopez-Trujillo and most of his staff and advisors, with the exception of Father Frank Pavone–perhaps that name is cursed–who struck me very unpleasantly as an operator. His subsequent history back in the States validated most of my suspicions.

    My advice to the young is to stay in shape, read the best and oldest books you can get, keep your nose clean, and stay far away from churchy people. The good priests are all on the verge of greatness, especially the most humble. Of the rest, the less said the better.

  34. Robert Reavis says:

    .”I couldn’t imagine any good reason for wasting his time..”
    This made me smile inside as it reminded me of Mr. Belloc refusing worldly papal honors out of a real humility.

  35. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Belloc had displayed both greater arrogance and greater humility than I have been capable of. Robert, I’m not sure I ever told you about my friend Marcel Boiseau, who received very high decorations from both UK and France for his exploits in WW II. We corresponded a good deal, and I saw him in Paris several times and once with his daughter in London. His exploits were amazing, but, the first time I met him, he arranged for me and my daughter to join a tour of Versailles, for wealthy German bankers, conducted by an art historian who was a German baroness. The tour was narrated in French with explications in German. The whole thing was amazing–all the private apartments one cannot ordinarily see. Marcel lived in Saint Cloud and took us for an amazing lunch at his English-style club. The whole day would make a wonderful essay, but, to get to the point, I asked him about St Cloud’s famous son, Belloc, and this conservative Frenchman had never heard of him.

    Alors, we had wonderful cheese, and he called my older daughter Madamoiselle Souris, because she loved the cheese.

  36. Robert Reavis says:

    Chesterton recounts the story of American visitors, perhaps Henry or his brother William James, inquiring about the location of Bellocs home with one of his neighbors. His neighbor responded, “Mr. Belloc? He farms a little doesnt he?” Belloc delighted in Chestertons account of the story. When asked to attend Rome for some Defender of the Faith medal/award, Belloc responded “Why should I want to go meet a greasy Monsignor and what if I changed my mind.”

  37. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    Regarding the authentic position of the Orthodox Churches, I believe it is that they do not pass judgement on other churches but maintain that Orthodoxy encompasses everything necessary to attain salvation.

  38. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    It is usually the converts who create these distractions. I would agree that iconoclasm is a spiritual and moral disease, but such an opinion would not necessarily condemn any particular Christian who believed, advocated, or practiced iconoclasm.

    Not wishing to sow any dissension, I would point out that from the Catholic perspective, the Orthodox are merely separated brethren, rather than heretics. From my perspective, as party of one, I refuse to acknowledge the schism, much less its consequences.