PopeWatch: Hell, Damnation and Pope Francis


[41] Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels.

Matthew 25: 41


Yet another fruit of Pope Francis’ policy of giving interviews and then never giving any sort of explanation after the feathers hit the fan.  From Mahound’s Paradise:

On to the Scalfari piece. It’s an editorial reflection in La Repubblica on what the journalist wants to see happen in the Church, so it’s not a new interview, per se. But he includes a part where he describes the Pope’s thoughts on the issue. Here is the relevant passage:

[…] Whoever has had the grace to meet Pope Francis knows that the egoism of the most dangerous enemy of our species. The animal is selfish because it is only guided by his instincts, the most important thing is their own survival. Man is also driven by socializing and he therefore feels love towards the other, in addition to the survival of the species to which he belongs. If egoism wins the upper hand and the love for others is suffocated, it darkens the divine spark which is in him and condemns himself. 

What happens to these extinct souls? Will they be punished? And how? 

Francis’ answer is unambiguous and clear: There is no penalty but the annihilation of that soul. All others live on to share the the happiness in the presence of the Father. The extinguished souls have no part in this feast, with the death of the body is its end and this is the motivation of the missionary Church: to save the lost. This is also the reason why Francis is through and through, a Jesuit. […]

This theological view is called Annihilationism, by the way, and it is the view of some sincere Protestant Christians. In fairness, it has some Biblical support (though I think the weight of Biblical evidence is strongly against it.) But it has never been a teaching of the Catholic Church. Indeed, it is a clear heresy. The current Catechism of the Church states:

(1035) The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, “eternal fire.” (Matthew 25:41) The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

The Scalfari editorial came out a few days ago, in Italian of course. And as far as I can tell, it hasn’t been picked up by many of the Traditionalist blogs, let alone any mainstream sources. We picked it up from The Eponymous Flower through Pew Sitter. Once again, it is vulnerable to the criticism that there’s no proof Pope Francis actually said it. And once again, the usual suspects, many of them well-intentioned, will say that caution is urged. We should be careful when inputing heresy (at second-hand, from an atheist) to the Vicar of St. Peter. And so on and so forth, etc. etc.
We have a bad one here guys, a real bad one. A Dig Up the Body of Your Papal Predecessor, Put His Corpse On Trial, Convict him and Then Throw It Into The Tiber, honest to goodness Bad Pope.

Go here to read the rest.  Annihilationism has always been rejected by the Church for the very good reason that what we know of Hell has been supplied to us direct from the mouth of Christ and He states that eternal fire is the fate of the damned.  This is not congenial to many moderns who tend not to accept temporal consequences, let alone eternal consequences, for evil behavior, but for a Catholic the matter is settled.  If Pope Francis said what he is purported to have said, the Church has a very bad problem indeed.

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  1. “Annihilationism has always been rejected by the Church for the very good reason that what we know of Hell has been supplied to us direct from the mouth of Christ and He states that eternal fire is the fate of the damned.”

    Good point. Just like Christ condemns adultery and Revelation says capital punishment is justified and taking communion in a state of grave sin condemns one. Oh, wait…

  2. This requires a denial–an unequivocal and clear denial–and not by the professional apologists but by the accused…lest the last of the sheep fall.

  3. Donald,
    Just be aware that Aquinas believed that ” fire only” was in Purgatory but was cleansing.
    Hell for him was both fire and cold and other things…read article one at this link:


    There is this danger though. If the physical is overstated, do we lose sight of the primary tragedy…the loss of God who is love. Remember in the rich man and Lazarus parable, the rich man can talk despite the fire and the demons who speak to Christ also can talk despite the punishment that they carry with them. Primarily they must miss God and the creature cannot miss anyone if physical pain is primary. When my forearm was broken in two places and it was being stretched by weights on my bicep while my fingers were in a Chinese handcuff, I didn’t miss anyone on earth because I was screaming in perfect pain. Therefore perfect pain symbols in scripture must have some hyperbole to them because again, the demons and the rich man could talk and were not at scream level.

  4. Not sure we can draw that conclusion, bill bannon. After all, the parable of Lazarus and the rich man is a parable. Just because Jesus told a story about a conversation between a soul in heaven and a soul in hell does not mean that He meant to say that such conversations are possible. His point is only the outcome of such a conversation if it were possible.

    Then again, hell just might have conversations between the souls there, hellish conversations where blame for one’s damnation is eternally thrown around at others. So, you may be right on that score.

  5. I wonder what is really going on.
    A few months’ back Pope Francis spoke about Jesus’ annihilation on the Cross. What did this mean? My guess is that the Pope was describing the viewpoint of an unbeliever, perhaps that of the Roman crucifiers. He certainly did not mean to deny the divinity of Jesus or His resurrection.

    So, here he uses the term again, supposedly regarding the souls in hell. Is it the same kind of backhanded criticism? Is Francis simply alluding to the widespread belief in Annihilationism and implying a criticism of it?

  6. “a real bad one. A Dig Up the Body of Your Papal Predecessor, Put His Corpse On Trial, Convict him and Then Throw It Into The Tiber, honest to goodness Bad Pope.”

    That is really good. I laughed out loud. Not often you hear a Formosus reference.

  7. Re: Formosus. Thanks, Clay. I almost didn’t put that it for obvious reasons. But it was the first time that I had actually said that Francis was a “Bad Pope” (after dancing around it in numerous previous posts) so I figured, why not state it, so to speak, forcefully? I expected hate mail or at least you’ve-gone-too-far-this-time mail, but so far nothing negative. That in and of itself is disturbing if you think about it. 🙂

  8. I had an experience that convinced me beyond any doubt (not that I needed it) that Satan is real, he exists, and there are tormented souls in Hell.

    Atheists have no idea what they are in for.

  9. bill bannon: yes indeed, but wasn’t that here on earth? And yes, I’m aware of Satan’s appearance before God in the Book of Job. The question I have is how in heaven “every tear will be wiped away” if the blessed have sensory access to the souls in hell. Is it possible? I’d say no, unless the blessed experience some kind of divine fortitude. Perhaps they do.
    Penguin Fan: me too. I can tell everyone that demanding compliance in the name of our Savior really works. Begone!

  10. Oakes Spaulding wrote:
    “But it was the first time that I had actually said that Francis was a ‘Bad Pope'”.
    I do not believe that Pope Francis is a bad Pope as in an evil Pope, as was Pope Alexander VI. I do believe that he intends well as perhaps most liberal progressives think they intend well. But he is saying and doing things that I think are very harmful to orthodoxy and orthopraxis, but he believes just the oppositely and that is why liberal progressives are so harmful.
    That said, we have to remember 1st Samuel 24:1-7
    1 When Saul returned from following the Philistines, he was told, “Behold, David is in the wilderness of En-ge′di.” 2 Then Saul took three thousand chosen men out of all Israel, and went to seek David and his men in front of the Wildgoats’ Rocks. 3 And he came to the sheepfolds by the way, where there was a cave; and Saul went in to relieve himself. Now David and his men were sitting in the innermost parts of the cave. 4 And the men of David said to him, “Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.’” Then David arose and stealthily cut off the skirt of Saul’s robe. 5 And afterward David’s heart smote him, because he had cut off Saul’s skirt. 6 He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put forth my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed.” 7 So David persuaded his men with these words, and did not permit them to attack Saul. And Saul rose up and left the cave, and went upon his way.
    Now King Saul had become really evil and yet David said, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord’s anointed, to put forth my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord’s anointed.” I remain critical of the Pope’s liberal appointments to the Episcopate, and of his positions on economics and environmentalism. But he is no King Saul, and no Alexander VI, yet he remains by virtue of his office the Lord’s Anointed for that office.
    As I wrote elsewhere, this brief moment of sanity and clarity has now passed. I shall return to being the ultra conservative fanatic to the right of Attila the Hun.

  11. Tom D,
    According to Aquinas, once one is in Heaven, one wills what God wills in relation to the damned thus one will regret nothing even concerning a relative and I’d add that IMHO one will see the thousands of graces God sent that damned person but to which he or she said no again and again and again. One gets hints of that here if one is close to a heavy drinker etc. for years and sees them reject help.

  12. Annihilation. An easy “out” for people who want to not worry about hell. But- wanting to believe it doesn’t make it so!
    These kinds of comments, if this is true, can’t just come from sloppy thinking! It’s rebellion. What is in our hearts eventually comes out of our mouths.

  13. Pope Francis has a 95% approval rating. Those that like him will be most joyous to find out his understanding of hell as this means there is little downside to a sinful life. Of course, if that is the case, why would anyone want to bother with the Church at all? Eliminating fear of God doesn’t seem like a smart way to increase church membership. In fact, nearly everything done since Vatican II has had a debilitating effect on both piety and membership. It’s time for some radical reformation if there is a desire that the Church be here when Christ comes again.

  14. Repentance out, General Absolution in. Annulment out. Pauline Privilege in. Fear of the Lord, that virtue of wanting to die rather than to offend God, never articulated/. “Pope Francis isn’t a bad Pope”. Pope Francis isn’t a good Pope either. Pope Francis is lukewarm.

  15. The idea that man ceases to exist when they die in mortal sin is simply a bunch of bologna. Can someone tell me if this is something that all Jesuits believe (Or is it a predominant Jesuit belief?). Have they always believed it? If so why?

  16. Barbara Gordon,
    I had Jesuits for 8 years ( and Dominicans for the other 8) and if any thought that….they never taught it…or even seemed to believe it. We don’t know if Francis even said it. John Paul II and Benedict stated we could not be certain Judas was in hell….and that’s not three light years away from this error. Augustine and Chrysostom were certain that Judas was in hell…without the Church ever declaring it. Judas is in hell..read Christ on Judas.

  17. Just a point of order, or honest questions I have had come to mind on several occasions in the last two years. IF a person is elected Pope, who does not believe in the office of the Papacy as the Church has taught, is he then really Pope? If I get married with certain erroneous ideas about marriage, it would mean the marriage never existed? Correct? So, If I became pope with certain erroneous ideas concerning the papacy, am I pope? And even if I am pope, but I don’t really believe in the authority of the office, how can I exercise the power of the office, that I do not believe exists? Is this not hypocrisy? Sorry, I do not mean to say this is the case here, but it sure comes to mind by what has been transpiring lately.

  18. This is an interesting question Tom, and I can see how the diverse considerations as to whether or not a marriage is valid can seem to open the door for similar contraindications for other sacraments. Someone more educated than me will have to answer you about whether those same things that could affect the validity of marriage could affect the validity of orders (bishop) or pope.

    It is important to note though that my belief in whether or not God is truly present when I receive Holy Communion does not effect His Presence. He is- whether I believe it or not. If my sins are forgiven in confession, even if somehow I don’t feel it, my sins are forgiven. My understanding of Holy Communion does not change its reality.

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