Hell, Sensus Catholicus and XXI Century England
I grew up in a Country whose sensus catholicus led most people to believe that, certainly after a due sojourn in Purgatory, an awful lot of people are saved in the end. This may sound strange to ears raised in Protestant Countries, but it actually seems perfectly orthodox to this little intelligence. It was also a Country in which strong hyperbole was an ok form of communication. The faithful reading the saint’s thundering about hell took the threat as an encouragement, and expected it as a rhetorical instrument and teaching device.
However, we must also consider the following:
1. Catholicism was dominant, and I mean dominant. Whilst the V II Church had already begun the atrocious work of dismantling of Catholicism, the population at large was proving fairly resilient. It was, if not automatic, absolutely normal even for Communists to send their children to doctrine. This is how dominant Catholicism was.
2. The idea that many are saved did not come from the dumb idea that God loves us, in our unbaptised state, because we are such wonderful, perfect, unique snowflakes. It came from a widespread fear of the Lord. Sinners they all were, but – for the most part at least – they did not think that they were right and the Church wrong and took care to do things halfway right. Were there, in those times, also inveterate sinners and vocal atheists? Certainly. But far less in number than today, and far less vocal in their attitude.
I compare with today, and wonder what those people – say: those who were 50 in 1971 – would think of the chances of salvation of the average person in 2019 England. It is not only that atheism is so spread that it has become the new normal. What is possibly even scarier is the casual attitude with which even those who have a shred of faith make their own religion and think it smart. It seems to me that the English religious landscape has become an immense dumping ground, with only here and there some little islands of cleanliness in the midst of an immense ocean of dirt and stink.
What a difference there is between even a prostitute in 1971’s Italy, who still prayed the Lord to have mercy on her soul, and the average, law-abiding, well-combed, “wife, dog and mortgage”- accountant in 2019’s England, to whom the entire Christianity is a superstition, never even thought of having his children baptised, and is absolutely positive that he has no more of a supernatural life in himself than than the squirrel in his garden.
We know that God will save whomever He has decreed that will be saved. However, we also know that that signs of predestination underpin the economy of salvation. Baptism in the first place; confirmation, church attendance, prayer habits, participation in the sacraments, even very infrequent confession are still, however imperfect the person, signs of the right attitude towards God. Even the occasional reflection about one’s own sinfulness might be a start to a developmeng in the right direction. But what shall we think of those who start from a position of complete and utter refusal, and many times even mockery, of God? What signs does God give us to indicate that they might be welcomed in the fold in the end? Are we not, in fact, put in front of a massive revolt against God, made even more atrocious because now become mainstream?
Think of this: the person that would horrify the faithful Italian in, say, 1969, and which was – sinner as everybody was – pretty rare to find, is now the average Brit below Forty.
Let that sink in.
From solidly Christian to indifferent to hostile and mocking in 2 generations.
I think the traditional perception of how many are saved need to be revisited.