As I have mentioned, a few weeks ago an interview with Pope Francis by a Freemason atheist newspaper magnate in Italy was published in which the magnate, Eugenio Scalfari, wrote that Pope Francis had told him that souls who do not go to heaven, that is achieve the Beatific Vision, are annihilated. Not a peep of denial, correction or clarification has come from Francis or any of his toadies.
Let’s use this as an opportunity to discuss some rarely-discussed concepts regarding hell that are widely misunderstood and confusing to even the most devout Christians.
1. It is essential to know and understand that you will never, ever, ever, ever cease to exist. Most people, it seems to me, don’t really process or understand this. Last week the topic of the heresy of soul annihilation came up in conversation in the context of the massive, massive damage that Francis is doing to souls. The person I was talking with argued that the notion of “ceasing to exist” is abhorrent to most people, and thus the words attributed to Francis in the most recent Scalfari interview probably didn’t do too much damage. I disagree vehemently. I think that the lie of “soul annihilation” is one of the main manifestations of satan’s tactic of “convincing the world that he doesn’t exist”. To have this idea attributed to the Pope is horrifying.
The temptation in the mind of sinful man is to quietly assume, without really giving it much thought because thinking about eternity can become very frightening very quickly, that when we die we just fall asleep and it’s “lights out”, baby. Easy-peasy, lemon squeezy. In other words, the heresy of soul annhialation is a soothing lie that we tell ourselves so that we don’t have to think about sin, judgment, and the possibility of ourselves or people we know actually being consigned to an endless, eternal damnation. I think that the average post-Christian, post-modern man, deep down thinks that when he dies he will simply cease to be. We all experience “lights out” when we sleep without dreaming, or when we are anesthetized and have no memory of the time we were unconscious. It is a tantalizing temptation to think that when we die, no matter what we have done, we will simply slip into nothingness and none of it will really have mattered.
You can see why satan is FULLY onboard with and not the least bit offended by a planet full of human beings who deny that he, or hell, exist. Because if it is just going to be lights out someday, why not fornicate? It feels good. Why not lie? It makes life so much easier. Why not cheat and steal? Everyone else is doing it. In the end, whether we screw around, lie and cheat won’t make any difference. It’s just going to be lights out and that’s it, so we might as well go for the most carnal pleasure and the path of least resistance and work in life. This is, I think, the way the majority of people convince themselves to commit and persist in mortal sin, and is also how most people convince themselves that they need not correct their family and friends who are in mortal sin. Deep down, none of it really matters anyway because “lights out”.
And, sure enough, polls show that roughly half of Novus Ordo Catholics, which is to say almost all Catholics in the western world because “Traddyland” is microscopic as a percentage of the total, happily deny the existence of hell. Well of course they do. Ah, the New Pentecost….
Here is the blunt reality. God created you, and every human being, out of the abundance of His love. Because God loves you personally, He holds YOUR EXISTENCE and your FREE WILL SACRED. Think about that. God holds YOU sacred. Could He snuff you out of existence? Oh yes. But He never, ever, ever will, no matter what, because if He snuffed even one human soul out of existence, then ALL human souls would then be nothing more than meaningless chessmen, plastic toys being played with by a capricious deity for nothing more than his perverse entertainment. That is not what God is. He is infinite, perfect love, truth and beauty, and He made you so that you might know, love and serve Him in this world and be happy with Him forever in the next. That is why you exist. That is the meaning of life. And life is SACRED not because WE hold our own lives sacred – life is sacred because God holds it sacred.
Sadly, most people reject God in various and sundry ways, and when they die, since they never repent of their sins and believed to the end of their earthly lives that their sins weren’t sins, or that they need not cease their sinful ways and instead presumed upon God’s mercy, these people simply cannot achieve the Beatific Vision, because God is also perfectly just. And, so, people go to hell.
So what IS hell? Hell is that “place” outside of the Beatific Vision, completely separated from the Holy Trinity where these wretched souls will continue to exist FOREVER. There are several things about hell and the damned that must be understood.
A.) God still loves the damned souls. He still delights in their existence, because He made them and God neither makes mistakes nor does He create souls predestined for hell because that would be wicked, no matter what your Calvinist heretic friends might tell you. Precisely because He loves those souls and holds their existences and free wills sacred, He does NOT annihilate them. Just because those souls rejected Him does not change His love for them. Remember how I explained that true love is never contingent upon reciprocity?
B.) Those souls who do make it to heaven, the Beatific Vision, will not miss, be saddened or mourn for the souls in hell. In fact, because God is perfectly just, and because perfect justice is infinitely good and beautiful, the souls in heaven will rejoice at the perfect justice of the damnation of the souls in hell. I know this is EXTREMELY difficult to hear for the first time, but it is true. The thought of your loved ones in hell while you rejoice at the fact (or your loved ones in heaven rejoicing at your damnation) should serve, while we yet live, as a motivation to do whatever we can to work out our salvation, as St. Paul said, and also to help our loved ones to know, love and serve God.
C.) Why are human souls tormented in hell? Isn’t being excluded from the Beatific Vision for all eternity enough? Why the demonic tortures? How could a loving God permit eternal torment?
This question is actually the reason why I wrote this piece. Please pay close attention because this is of desperate importance.
The demons are allowed to torment the souls in hell AS A MERCY. The worst torment of hell is the knowledge of the lost soul that he will never see God, and that he could have achieved heaven, and achieved it EASILY, and that he lost heaven over stupid, trifling, fleeting carnal pleasures. Further, the damned souls fully realize how much God gave them in their lives and how He bent over backwards and rolled out the red carpet for them, squandered opportunity after squandered opportunity, until it was too late and there is now and forever NOTHING that can be done.
Imagine that. Imagine the feeling of “waking up” in hell after dying and going through your Particular Judgment and realizing that you will never see God and there is nothing you can do and no hope. It will just go on forever and ever because of your choices, and you will never cease to exist, precisely because Perfect Love Who created you to be with Him still loves you, but you rejected Him, literally to your dying breath, and so He honors your choice.
The demons are allowed to torment these souls as a DISTRACTION from the greater agony of their realization that they will never, ever see God.
Which brings us to satan and the demons. Their top priority is NOT the tormenting of damned souls. Their sole concern and driving motivation is to see to it that as many human souls as possible do not see God, JUST AS THEY WILL NEVER SEE GOD. The demons don’t want souls to go to hell as entertainment for them. Their entire motivation is that they themselves will never see God, and they don’t want anyone else to see Him either.
And so, the “lightbulb moment” that came to me during Tenebrae this Holy Week as I thought about these things was this: The Beatific Vision, heaven, which is dwelling INSIDE the Trinity, is so ineffably good that the agony of its deprivation is worse than the cruelest tortures of the demons which are permitted as a merciful distraction.
Heaven is THAT GOOD. God is THAT GOOD. The Beatific Vision is THAT GOOD.
We have all been mislead by the depictions of heaven as a frankly boring place where souls and angels float about in a benign Stepford-esque stupor, wiling away eternity. I cannot tell you what heaven is like, obviously, but I can tell you that it is so far beyond anything we can possibly imagine here on earth that God Himself became incarnate and suffered and died for our sins so that we might have a chance at it.
And so, we realize that the statement “I don’t want to go to hell” is not itself a base premise, but rather a corollary of the ACTUAL premise, “Oh God, please, I do, I do, I do want to see You and be happy with You forever. Have mercy on me, a sinner.”
Your soul, dear reader, will NEVER be annihilated, no matter what ANYONE tells you. You exist, and will exist forever, and will spend all of eternity either with God, or in hell where you will welcome your demon torturers as a distraction from the agony of the realization of what you chose to reject. If you only fear hell qua hell, you are missing what should be the main motivation: INDWELLING IN THE TRIUNE GODHEAD IS THAT GOOD.
But, as it is written: That eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man, what things God hath prepared for them that love Him.
1 Corinthians 2:9