My recent post about Medjugorje let me reflect about the vast amount of ignorance of basic Christian doctrine that might here and there – instead of the willed rejection of Christian teaching – be present. Whilst only the second would get one a first class seat on the Hell Express, it is necessary for every Christian to be informed of the most elementary truths of Christianity. Most of my readers already know this of course, but a couple of messages on my comment box (deleted, as the comment box on the Medjugorje post was closed) have persuaded me that at times it is better to state the obvious, so there we are.
1. There is no possibility of repentance after death.
“There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after death.” (CCC 393)
2. The judgment after death is immediate.
“The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith” (CCC 1021).
“Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven […] or immediate and everlasting damnation. (CCC 1022)”.
Besides this concept being a clear tenet of Christianity, and being clearly stated by the Catechism in several places, common sense tells us that it must be so. If we were allowed, as the alleged apparition in Medjugorje apparently states, to have a last shot at salvation after death the absurd consequences would be – to mention just the first ones coming to my mind – as follows:
1. confession would be devoid of every meaning or purpose in the economy of salvation: I’d just wait that I am asked after death.
2. the portals of evildoing would be open to everyone who believes in this tale: every wannabe Stalin would feel free to do whatever he pleases, just paying attention that he doesn’t do anything stupid when he is requested where he would like to reside.
3. the references of Jesus to a hell clearly surprising those who end up there would be devoid of every significance.
The idea that only those would merit hell, who would choose eternal suffering after death, willingly and just out of a great desire to be miserable in all eternity, is naive to the utmost. No Stalin or Hitler ever showed any desire to be miserable during life. Actually, they had a huge desire to be happy; it is only that this desire was ego-driven (and ego-gratification the way of their illusory quest for happiness) rather than tending to God.
It must be clear to everyone devoting two minutes to the matter that such fantasies make a mockery of Christianity and are only good to endanger the souls of those who believe in them; if someone tries to make you believe that the Christian God revealed to us is not merciful enough and that we now need to change our mind as to the way he acts, be sure that that person is doing the work of the devil.
Similarly – and also here, referring to a message I have received a propos Medjugorje -:
3.Private revelations can never change the truth of Christianity. In this case, the example made was from St Giovanni Bosco, who would apparently have had a vision of hell in which people are allowed to choose between heaven and hell after death. Firstly, this is not true as the dream (which you can read here; alas, sedevacantist site, but the text seems faithfully rendered) makes it perfectly clear that when one dies, the time is up. Secondly, a private revelation can never modify Christian tenets; on the contrary, it is the adherence to Christian tenets that is the conditio sine qua non of the private revelation’s credibility.
The dream of St Giovanni Bosco makes for a beautiful reading, and might be the subject of a separate post. But for today’s purposes I’ll leave the details aside.
Apologies to all those who don’t need to be told these elementary truths. Once again, I thought that – in consideration of both the stakes and the dismal situation of Catholic and Christian instruction – it would be better to, for once, state the obvious.
Interesting blog post on the Domine, Da Mihi Hanc Aquam blog. The blog post makes clear that, whilst Catholics avoid the noisy excess of screaming Protestant preachers, repentance for our sins is still – bar a Divine mercy that we have no right to expect – mandatory to avoid Hell.
The author of the blog post puts it in simple and very clear terms:
…refusing to repent of one’s sins constitutes blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and such a refusal will not be forgiven. In fact, refusing to repent cannot be forgiven. God will not save us against our will. He will love us right into hell.
Foreseeing the scandal of the liberal crowd, the author hastens to add:
This sounds harsh, I know. But this a truth of the Catholic faith that cannot be spiced up or sugar-coated or hidden away.
Everytime I read phrases like this I think of the many priests who have made of “sugar-coating” and “hiding away” an accomplished art – nay, a new religion! – and shiver.
The concept – so difficult to understand for some atheist – is brilliantly explained in more detail:
We have two truths in balance here. First, God wills that all His people return to Him through Christ. Second, He wills that we do so freely. So that all may return to Him through Christ, the invitation to salvation is made unconditionally, without limits, to everyone
Note here that the invitation is made to everyone (that is: even to non-Christians), but the return must be through Christ, with Allah & Co. not giving any entry rights, nor will a generic “I have been such a good chap” be of much use. Salvation is – bar an act of extraordinary mercy, on whose odds no one should ever stake his salvation – the result of a free decision to make the right choice.
Still another perspective is given by making clear that:
….. we send ourselves to hell by stubbornly refusing to repent. Our final refusal, our last rejection of God’s invitation to join Him in love is called “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.”
When your friend or colleague or relative says to you (with the shamelessness of our times) that “there is no God”, you can calmly tell him that he is being blasphemous and endangering his soul; when he replies that he doesn’t care as he doesn’t believe in any God, feel free to point out that the fact that he doesn’t believe in God doesn’t make him any less blasphemous, nor his soul any less endangered.
He’ll probably still not agree with you; but it is still a free choice that he makes. Put in front of a clear hypothesis of damnation, he can’t say that by not believing in damnation he has not chosen it.
Given the choice whether to believe, he has chosen not to; given the choice whether to be blasphemous, he has chosen to be; given the choice whether to choose Christ, he has chosen to ignore Him. Therefore, “but I truly, truly didn’t think that you existed!” will, one day, not go very far.
Until the last moment before death, there is still time. Until the last moment before death, Christ may still fish a soul out of his self-inflicted destiny. But if one really insists in refusing His help, then it is not logical to demand from Christ that help that one has always refused, nor can it be reasonable to demand that Christ saves one against one’s own free will, after one’s free will has been given God’s rank.
At death, rien ne va plus.
Truly beautiful contribution (on the Archdiocese of Washington’s internet site) of Msgr. Charles Pope. The contribution comes in two forms: the excerpt from the funeral sermon held by himself and the very insightful, crystal-clear reflections posted on the Internet site of the Archdiocese.
I allow myself to suggest that you listen to the sermon first. It is nothing shocking for those accustomed to this blog but certainly unusually clear for those who are not. For people not even accustomed to darken the doors of a church on Sundays – and told all the time that “their heart is in the right place” and therefore everything is fine – it must be outright shocking.
Msgr. Pope delivers truth in copious quantity and without any meaningful dilution. I will mention here only some of the many brilliant statements he makes:
[..] the usual approach at funerals has been to be “nice” and if sin, or purgatory, or judgment (or, God forbid, Hell), are mentioned at all it should be subtle, so subtle as to barely be noticed. Vague attestations of ”we at the parish will surely pray for Joe’s happy repose and for you the family.” Somewhere the doctrine of purgatory is lurking in the saying but only a trained theologian could really see it.
I had tried the more subtle approach for years. It didn’t really work and no one really took it seriously, if they even understood what I was “getting at.”
I think prophecy needs to be clear, strong and unambiguous. I get a much better result that way. I can surely attest to the fact that more have returned to Mass on a regular basis as a result of strong words than ever happened in the years when the usual reaction to my ministration was, “Oh Father, you’re such a dear. What a heart-warming and consoling message!
I have over 50 funerals a year. And for most of them the Church is packed with people I will only see once, or perhaps not until the next family funeral. I cannot wait for a “less delicate” time
Preaching is about saving before it is about consoling
A lot of times powerful preaching takes people through a cycle of: mad, to sad, to glad.
I think we have long enough tried the “nice guy” preaching that is extolled by many, as the model. But all through these past 40 years with that model largely operative, Mass attendance has steadily dropped.
Fr. Bill Casey defines superficial preaching as: “watered-down, filled with generalities and abstractions, devoid of doctrinal content and moral teaching, more akin to pop-psychology than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is not scriptural, it does not move, it does not inspire, it generates no enthusiasm for Jesus Christ, his Church or the Gospel and it has got to change”.
The fact is, I think there is a general hunger for a return to vivid and strong preaching. I think this is more common among younger people, many of whom have had enough of polite but abstract sermons that preach ideas more than unvarnished Catholic and Biblical truth.
Mgr. Pope hits the bull’s head so many times that there’s no space for the darts left. Not only does he get the nature of the problem (as, I am sure, many others do), but he has the nerve to speak it out, and to do so when the majority of lukewarm priests with oversized political antennae would not dare to do it. He reports (and chastises) the thinking of colleagues of him who say that they wouldn’t be able to get away with talking as he does.
Get…. what?! Since when has a priest been ordained to reflect about what he can “get away with”? Since when has a priest seen it as his job to avoid saying what his parishioners don’t want to hear? What kind of priesthood is this? These questions seem to escape Mgr. Pope’s colleagues: you picture them smiling and saying “aahhh, I could not do that…”
If the trumpet gives an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for the battle? In the modern age what we see is that many shepherds (often Bishops or Archbishops) are very well aware that their trumpet is barely audible. But you know what? They just don’t care! They’d never allow the Truth to come in the way of their popularity among the crowds, making them acceptable to vast cohorts of, often, non-Catholics or even non-Christians.
What a difference between Mgr. Pope and many of our shepherds.
I wish he were Archbishop of Westminster.