Professor Ratzinger on Hell

Since there is some talk this Triduum of what Pope Francis may or may not have said about Hell, I wanted to re-post an old post of mine that deals with the article of faith “He descended into hell” (Good Friday/Holy Saturday), being without God and the pain in the verse “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” It’s probably the best description of hell I’ve ever heard, not that I’ve heard many speak of it in detail.

Warning: This post is somewhat “dark”, but remember…darkness can be a kind of light if it helps you to see.

Briefly summarizing several pages from Joseph Ratzinger’s book (now Pope Emeritus) “Introduction to Christianity”, in Part II, The Development of Faith in Christ in the Christological Articles of the Creed:

Loneliness is a region of fear, which is rooted in the exposure of a being that must exist, but is pushed out into a situation with which it is impossible for him to deal. In the experience of utter loneliness, a fear arises peculiar to man which is not fear of anything particular, but simply fear in itself. Man cannot overcome this kind of fear by way of reason.

Example 1:

A child walking alone in the dark woods is frightened even if convincingly shown that there is nothing to be afraid of. The child will lose this fear the moment there is a loving hand to take him and he experiences the fellowship of “Another”.

Example 2:

Someone keeping watch over a corpse will feel somehow “eerie” even when he knows perfectly well the dead body can do him no harm. In fact, there would be more possibility of danger if the person was alive, but logic is of no help. This fear will also recede like the child’s if he experiences the loving nearness of a “You”.

Man cannot stand alone; he needs closeness; he needs unity. If man (and this is the true nature of sin) refuses to recognize his own limits and tries to “be like God”, standing alone on his own two feet, then precisely by adopting this attitude he delivers himself up to death. Scripture about the connection between sin and death is to be understood from this angle. Small wonder the devil wants us prideful. Pride naturally leads to isolation from God (and others), which will lead to a torment of anxiety. It’s the exact opposite of the life of the Trinity.

If a state of isolation were to arise that was so deep that no “You” could reach into it anymore, then we should have a total and terrifying loneliness; this is what theology calls “Hell”….. a loneliness which is as inescapable as it is dreadful!

More to explorer


  1. Hell is not loneliness. Hell is doing and ever doing the sins we refused to surrender while in life. Sodomy for ever and ever. Adultery for ever and ever, Pornography for ever and ever. Murder for ever and ever. over and over ad infinitum, bearing even the contempt and hatred of the demons.
    Maybe then having the loneliness of the eternally damned.

  2. Hell is certainly separation from God, and separation from any one else. One is left alone in the prison of one’s own torment, to be endlessly consumed by fire that can never be quenched. Hence the loneliness.

  3. Loneliness is certainly hell. Doing those sins is an act of loneliness and fear and being consigned to doing them over and over is hell. We have a built in need for communion. Those sins are lies that people fall for, that make people think they are in relationship, but they are all alone. Pray for everyone trapped by the lies/

  4. O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Thy mercy.

  5. Hell is separation from God.

    What other kinds of fuzzy thinking is Pope Francis capable of?
    It’s seemingly endless. A lesson in tethered thought.
    The whole Church is suffering under this Pope.

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