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.