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Did Hans Urs von Balthasar teach that everyone will certainly be saved?

Whatever Balthasar’s position is, and whether or not it is correct, it isn’t universalism.

(Patrick Bruchs/us.fotolia.com)

Let me cut to the theological chase: the Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar wasn’t a universalist. Not if a universalist is one who claims for certain all men will be saved. Or, to put it differently, that no one—including ourselves—will be lost. This side of eternity, according to Balthasar, we simply can’t know, either way, whether all people will be saved or whether “two eternal outcomes”—one of salvation and one of damnation—will be realized. Whatever Balthasar’s position is, and whether or not it is correct, it isn’t universalism.

“All of us who practice the Christian faith and, to the extent that its nature as a mystery permits, would also like to understand it are under judgment,” Balthasar wrote at the beginning of his book Dare We “Hope That All Men Be Saved”? Note the words “under judgment.” These are not the words of confident universalism. He continued:

<>By no means are we above [judgment], so that we might know its outcome in advance and could proceed from that knowledge to further speculation. The apostle, who is conscious of having no guilt, does not therefore regard himself as already acquitted: “It is the Lord who judges me” (1 Cor 4:4).

Balthasar went on to speak of Paul’s exhortations to confidence and hope in Christ, the judge who “has borne the sins of everyone,” yet he insisted that we can’t for that reason be “quite untroubled in the certainty of our salvation.”  Later Balthasar declared that “we stand completely and utterly under judgment, and have no right, nor is it possible for us, to peer in advance at the Judge’s cards. How can anyone equate hoping with knowing? I hope that my friend will recover from his serious illness—do I therefore know this?” (p. 166).

Writing of theologians contemplating that people for whom Christ died “may fail to reach their final destination in God, and may instead suffer eternal damnation with its everlasting pain,” Balthasar maintained:

If we take our faith seriously and respect the words of Scripture, we must resign ourselves to admitting such an ultimate possibility, our feelings of revulsion notwithstanding. We may not simply ignore such a threat; we may not easily dismiss it, neither for ourselves nor for any of our brothers and sisters in Christ” (Dare We Hope, p. 237).

Right now, we stand under judgment; the outcome isn’t determined and there is the real possibility of damnation, not just for others but for ourselves as well. We have hope, not certainty, of salvation for all, Balthasar maintained. Nor did he see such hope as inconsistent with missionary work—just the opposite. The Christian must care about the salvation of others as well as his own salvation; he must be an agent, by grace, of salvation for others and in this way for himself as well.

Not everyone shares Balthasar’s uncertainty, of course. Some people are confident at least some people will be damned or are damned right now, even if no one would hazard a guess as to how many or who. Nevertheless, those confident of others’ damnation shouldn’t describe Balthasar’s position as universalism­—at least not in the conventional sense of the term. To claim not to know which outcome will finally come to pass, but to hope for the salvation of all, is not the same as universalism.

True, Balthasar tried to demonstrate from Scripture the real possibility of universal salvation—something that could happen. Yet he also contended damnation is a real possibility—likewise something that could happen. (His description of Hell is among the most chilling, by the way.) Dare We Hope “That All Men Be Saved”? focuses on the possibility all will be saved, rather than on the danger of damnation, a danger both Balthasar and his critics accepted.

Balthasar unhesitatingly affirmed the Bible’s warning about damnation. But he saw two sets of biblical texts: (1) the two outcomes passages (Heaven and Hell) and (2) the salvation of all passages. Theologians often try to synthesize these passages, usually seeing the “salvation of all” texts as referring, in one way or another, to God’s offer of salvation to all and the “two outcomes” texts as proof that only some people will accept the offer. Balthasar rejected combining the two kinds of texts. This he saw as making one or the other set subordinate in order to say for certain which way things will turn out. He saw serious and insoluble theological problems resulting from the effort. He even spoke of the two sets of texts as “contradictory.” Why? Because they speak of irreconcilable possible outcomes—either some will be saved and others lost or all will be saved.

In Balthasar’s view, which set of biblical texts will ultimately be realized depends on how, exactly, human history plays out. Because we can’t be certain which way things will turn out, Balthasar argued, we shouldn’t write off anybody as inevitably damned, nor should we presume everybody will be saved (including ourselves). We must heed the warning of the “two outcome” set of texts while hoping (and working) for the goal of the “salvation of all” texts.

Thus, to sum up Balthasar’s controlling principles, we see: (1) there are two sets of texts outlining two irreconcilable final scenarios, a two-outcome scenario of salvation and damnation, and a single-outcome scenario of salvation for all men; and (2) we may and should hope for the realization of the latter, while we must take seriously the real possibility of the former, including the threat of our own damnation.

Was Balthasar clear about these controlling principles? Yes. In my view, people who seem—pardon the expression—hell-bent on characterizing Balthasar as a dyed-in-the-wool universalist often take relatively subtle points of Balthasar’s deep theological speculation and try to present him as something he avowedly wasn’t. Sometimes critics use passages (usually from Theodrama, Volume V: The Last Act) in which Balthasar hypothesized about how seemingly damned people might, in the end, wind up saved by Christ. Overlooked or minimized is the fact that Balthasar underscored the speculative-hypothetical nature of what he considered and presented his speculation in the context of his taking seriously the biblical warnings about damnation.

Of course just because Balthasar was no universalist doesn’t mean he is beyond criticism or his exegesis is correct. All theologians are subject to critique; that’s part of the theology business. But many of Balthasar’s critics, in order to portray him as a universalist, simply neglect or minimize, or paint as disingenuous, the repeated and clear statements he made about the real possibility of damnation. They also often fail to appreciate the severe, unfair attacks he encountered and they don’t take these into proper consideration when reading his responses.

Some critics raise the practical concern that misuse of Balthasar’s position, or the position itself, undercuts the missionary impulse. “If we can hope all will be saved, what’s the point of evangelizing?” Concerning misuse of Balthasar I have little to say. Tetzel misused the doctrine of indulgences and created a mess, but the Church has not abandoned the doctrine of indulgences. Abusus non tollit usum. If Balthasar is being misused, then people worried about the harmful effects of such misuse should set the record straight, not add to the criticism of Balthasar.

Does Balthasar’s view itself undercut the missionary impulse? I don’t see how it must. How are hoping and working for the salvation of everyone necessarily contrary to the missionary spirit? Is the missionary spirit aided by the settled conviction that some people will be damned? Balthasar did not title his book We Must Presume All Men Will be Saved and Not Preach the Gospel. Nor did he, alongside of affirming hope for all, warn of possible damnation in order to quell evangelization.

The fact is, Balthasar didn’t say we’re all guaranteed heaven. Hoping for all to be saved certainly doesn’t excuse anyone from evangelizing. When we ask Jesus to “lead all souls to heaven, especially those most in need of” his mercy, as we pray at the end of each decade of the Rosary, do we exempt ourselves and others from evangelizing? Why shouldn’t hoping, praying, and working for the salvation of all be among the means by which God realizes such universal salvation?

Recently, some who think Vatican II’s teaching regarding the possibility of salvation for the non-Christians has been misunderstood have criticized Balthasar. Lumen Gentium no. 16, it has rightly been said, is no blank check when it comes to salvation for non-Christians, even though the Church’s teaching affirms such a possibility. According to this passage, “often” non-Christians are at risk of damnation because they do not respond to the saving grace of Christ mysteriously available to them apart from missionary efforts. “Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these,” the passage declares, “and mindful of the command of the Lord, ‘Preach the Gospel to every creature’ (Mk 16:16), the Church fosters the missions with care and attention.”

We could have an interesting discussion of how much factual weight the Council intends us to put on the word “often.” But, in any case, it is hard to see how Lumen Gentium no. 16’s teaching contradicts Balthasar’s views. Contrary to what some suggest, the text doesn’t assert that non-Christians are “often” damned. It says that they “often” turn away from the various mysterious ways saving grace is present and therefore by implication they often risk damnation. The Church’s missionary efforts, the Council goes on to say, seek to procure the salvation of these “at-risk” non-Christians, through an explicit presentation of the Gospel. They would seem to be included among the “all men” for whom Balthasar holds out hope, but not the certainty, of salvation; and the Church’s missionary efforts seem to be the means by which they may be included in the realization of that hope.

Of course, some such non-Christians may seem to have altogether rejected the Gospel before passing from this life. But how do we know what seems to be the case is the case? Perhaps, in the age to come, we shall discover things were other than they appeared, that in fact these seemingly non-responsive people in the end did respond to grace, however mysteriously. Who can say for certain, this side of eternity? Since we don’t know, shouldn’t we pray and hope for their salvation? Does this possibility imply that the Church shouldn’t do all she can to evangelize here and now, given that such hope doesn’t contradict the possibility of damnation?

Balthasar concluded his “Short Discourse on Hell” (published in English along with his Dare We Hope “That All Men Be Saved”?) with the following summary, which also concludes this article:

Let us cast aside what leads to such dead-ends [theologians trying to make sense of things beyond what revelation allows regarding divine judgment and mercy] and limit ourselves to the truth that we all stand under God’s absolute judgment. “I do not even pass judgment on myself”, as Saint Paul says. “The Lord is the one to judge me. So stop passing judgment before the time of his return. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness” (1 Cor 4:3f.). Not forgetting Saint John: “We should have confidence on the day of judgment” (1 Jn 4:17).

• Return to Vatican II, Salvation, and the Unsaved: A CWR Symposium

(Editor’s note: This essay was originally posted on November 21, 2013.)


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About Mark Brumley 61 Articles
Mark Brumley is president and CEO of Ignatius Press.

21 Comments

  1. There are no “salvation for all” passages in Scripture. The passages appealed to by universalists or semi-universalists are consistently misconstrued by the advocates of these doctrines. Balthasar does what far too many Catholic theologians do : he reads a passage of Scripture, assumes that he understands it, and then lets his theological imagination run wild. Getting a text right in the first place would be a useful corrective to this unhappy tendency, and would spare us a lot of bad teaching.

    • So well said, Mr. G. Poulin!! Thank you! Another thing about Balthasar is very reflected so clearly in this article as well: the yes-but-maybe-no-and-no-but-maybe-yes-mentality, one of the predecessors of Pope Francis Weaponized Ambiguity, which I also call the Embraced Total-Opposites Vinegar Of The Soul, softening us emotionally and sentimentally in our minds and hearts, slowly but surely into compromise.

      Artfully articulated, totally self-serving, Absolute Theological Softness is not holiness, does not lead to it, and never will. Balthasar may have tried hard not to look like a universalist but he is definitively a proto-universalist, of which we have many now in the Church and the results are SO obvious. As in the usual Modus Operandi, it looks perfectly safe, innocent and beneficial but it isn’t.

  2. I believe that Our Blessed Mother knew that this debate would be taking place at this moment of time. That is why she SHOWED hell to the children at Fatima. That is why Saint Faustina SAW hell. That is why some of the children of Medjugorje SAW hell.It is my opinion that anyone who suggest the idea, in any way, shape, or form that nobody ends up in hell is doing a tremendous disservice to his fellow Chtistians. If it causes even one sinner to just continue sinning rather than try and reform his life it is a tragedy.

    • Yet is was our Blessed Mother who enjoined us to pray to God: “lead all souls to heaven especially those most in need of thy mercy”. If we are enjoined to so pray are we forbidden to so hope? Or are we to assume that, at the behest of the Blessed Mother, we implore Christ to do that which we know for a certain fact He will not do? If we implore Him to do something are we thereafter forbidden for hoping that He does so?

      The point isn’t whether or not universal salvation is a doctrine taught by the Church, but whether hope of salvation for all is expressly forbidden. If the latter, than does someone needs to correct our Blessed Mother who taught us the prayer quoted above at Fatima; the very same series of apparitions at which she also showed the vision of hell to which you referred?

      • In fact, Balthasar goes even further: his paschal speculation starts with unsurpassable abandonment of Christ at Good Friday and ends with something like: we do not known if human freedom is able to say NO when confronted with Holy Spirit offering and awareness about what can be lost.

        Note that such a speculation does not contain, among others, strong sense of hell which is present in mentioned apparitions. And which forms basis of Fatima rosary prayer.

        • Is it possible you’re looking at his words in isolation, and applying them out of context? The article for example notes: “Balthasar unhesitatingly affirmed the Bible’s warning about damnation. But he saw two sets of biblical texts: (1) the two outcomes passages (Heaven and Hell) and (2) the salvation of all passages.”

          The speculation you referred to may well be only a small part of a much larger whole which needs to be read in proper context. Note, I am far from an expert on Balthasar or theology generally so I’m not really in a position to defend him or his works, only to offer an observation based on this one article.

          • Not applying out of context but Balthasar has tendency to the apocatastasis. Reader of pieces like the one I have provided just completely loss hell from his sight. This is not something usual. But Balthasar also was aware of the “descendit ad inferos”, of course.

      • Then do we hope against Christ’s very words in Matthew Seven, for instance, regarding trees that bring forth evil fruit? Is it not contradictory and/or dangerous to imply that Christ was just threatening us, like a father who tells his children the consequences of their actions over and over but never follows through? That’s absurd.

        And that actually cuts to what is, for me, the entire problem with von Balthasar’s speculation: he sites two passages, claims they are contradictory but non-contradictory because there is a possibility A and possibility B and the outcome will be dependent upon, essentially, whatever God decides? As if God doesn’t give us clear and easy teaching to understand. This doesn’t deny the aspect of hope—I get it—but it’s like holding a position that we really hope we’ll win the Super Bowl and we might win it without practicing but we might not so we should practice. Just practice and do your best and don’t worry about speculating about whether you could or could not win without practicing. There’s nothing good that can come from that speculation.

        Frankly, von Balthasar’s entire exercise in speculation and his attempt to have it both ways–cover his own rear–by claiming that we can hope but don’t believe is a tree that bears bad fruit (not von Balthasar himself but this idea). There was absolutely nothing to be gained by offering his baseless speculation that cuts against 2000 years of Church teaching. He would’ve served the Church and Christ better with one simple sentence: let us pray for the salvation of all men while preaching Christ in and out of season.

        “But let your speech be yea, yea: no, no: and that which is over and above these, is of evil.”. We don’t need more speculation: we have the Catechism of the Council of Trent, the Baltimore Catechism, Catechism of St. Pope Pius X and plenty of sound doctrine upon which to base our beliefs.

  3. What is sure: Balhasar tended to the Apocatastasis teaching. Of course, this tendency does not have banal form of “teaching that everyone will certainly be saved” written in some theological treatise.

    So what is the the proper way to understand Balthasar? What is the answer which leaves this article unanswered and probably even unnoticed?

    There is need of serious work to be done but as of today, in absence of such a work (or at least I’m unaware of it), it can be imagined in analogy to WWII “theatre” looked upon from safe Swiss bed. From such a point one is able to write brilliant treatise – even treatise about apocalypse of the German soul. But what is missing is the sense that this “theatre” is in fact not safe for anybody. This false illusion of guaranteed safety – illusion imposible in Poland, for example – inevitable leads to some sort of happy-end. Even the tragedy turns into comedy when we turn on the lights and go home…

  4. An inability to distinguish between opposites, the mark of intellect mars current opinion as is clear with the condemnation by some traditionalists of von Balthasar’s viewpoint on salvation. Hope, desire are distinct from conviction of what is hoped for. Nowhere has anyone shown evidence that Urs von Balthasar was convinced, believed, was certain that all will be saved. When I pray for the salvation of souls I exclude no one include all. What apparently antagonizes those borrowing from the word of an Italian traditionalist Fr Crespi that there are some who perceive themselves as more traditional than Tradition. As if compassion can be excessive. True the Novu Ordo was in error in citing the words of consecration of the Precious Blood as, “it shall be shed for you and for all”. Instead the actual words of Christ are in the revised Ordo under Benedict, “which will be poured for you and for many”. Although it’s conditional for many, it’s difficult to presume we cannot as did Moses, who twice intervened with God, ameliorating his wrath to destroy the entire unfaithful nation of Israel – for us as priests to mediate and implore for the salvation of all. As a hopeful desire rather than a conviction of fulfillment.

    • Addendum to clarify and confirm that my thoughts are not parallel with Balthasar on Universal Salvation. Despite the valid comparison of salvation texts w condemnation we cannot reasonably presume one might cancel the other even if hoped for. Reference to Lucifer, demons contesting Christ’s presence cannot be dismissed. They are scripturally definitive. Added are references to Judas Iscariot and the wide path to damnation. Apocalyptic retribution and Final Judgment are part of the Deposit of Faith. It’s illogical to presume Final Judgment implies universal forgiveness or even temporal reparation for sins. It would be dismissive of the integrity of revelation to think that Christ was being hyperbolic, using fear as a tact rather than revealing truth. It must be believed there is a Hell and that’s where Balthasar falls into error. At least error in the presumption that all men from time immemorial are subject to having been or will be saved. Universal salvation can only be understood as all persons within some time frame can possibly be saved. As said in my initial comment we hope and pray for the salvation of all.

    • And what purpose does that hope serve, Father? Just get on with the business of witnessing, praying and providing the sacraments and don’t worry about hoping for everybody’s salvation. von Balthasar’s only possible conclusion is that this a matter for Christ to decide. That being the case–and it always HAD been in Catholic teaching–we needn’t concern, indeed have no right and commit sin if we do, ourselves with looking at any person and deciding if he’ll be saved. We simply operate under the assumption that all us need to be saved and that Christ, by His passion and death, gave us the means through His One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church–the new ark–by which he dispenses graces in and through the sacraments.

      Hoping for the salvation of all is fruitless. Get out there and do what you can to save them and forget assuming–leave that to Christ. TO spend time speculating on the matter does not an ounce of good and as has been proven is simply a matter of controversy and leads many into error (whether that error be dogged insistence that people go to hell or a false and banal comfort believing we’ll all be saved). This tree bore no good fruit. To wit, it was a tree that didn’t need to be planted.

      I go back to my analogy: would it do any good for an NFL player to wonder about whether practice was necessary in order to win the Super Bowl, which he hoped and had reason to speculate his team could win? What would be the point of that speculation? Would he eventually decide that perhaps he should try out his method, not practice and see what happens? Or should he bury the stupid thought and practice as hard as he could? Again, what fruit does even entertaining the thought bear? It’s a speculative waste of time that no faithful person should bother entertaining. But we’ll see the result because just this kind of thinking which has led to priests telling everybody that their loved one is heaven has emptied out the pews. Look around at the graying priesthood and graying faithful.

      Dare we hope? Ironically, I end this by saying I guess we better hope so because the confusion of the last 60 years and the ecumenism and he Balthasarian speculation and several other things have emptied out the pews.

      • Brian Hope is a theological virtue. Hope is empty if not embedded with the other two theological virtues, faith and especially charity. Prayer and sacrifice for the salvation of souls is preeminent in the life of a priest [Laity are not at all excluded in this sharing in the priesthood of the faithful] as mediator between God and Man. Charity, divinely inspired love knows no bounds. “To get on with it” meaning sacramental ministry and prayer. Prayer for oneself alone? Love of God exclusive of our brother? Impossible. The closer we come to Christ the more our faith emulates, indeed must emulate Him. Like Christ who suffered and died for sinners. Who prayed long hours during the night that the Father show us mercy. Open your heart to this dimension of charity and join all the saints and martyrs, all who interceded for sinners and whose witness is essential Catholic doctrine.

        • You’ve misunderstood me, Father. Of course I pray for people. I’m fully open to faith, hope and charity. The former two I have in abundance, the latter is sadly lacking. A frequent subject with my confessor whom I’m trying to gently lead into being my spiritual advisor.

          That being said, hoping that all men be saved is pointless. Of course we hope that–anybody who has mediated on Hell and doesn’t hope that nobody ends up there is dead himself. But that doesn’t mean that it’s worth contemplating that hope in our day to day lives. Following the Ascension Christ didn’t send the apostles back to the upper room to pray for everybody. That doesn’t deny the value of prayer because prayer doesn’t entail sitting around and hoping.

          • Good Brian. As I now understand what you’re saying it’s not an issue to pray for others, as in our Lord’s words that we lay down our life for our brothers. Rather it’s the notion of universalism implying that all will be saved that you take issue with.

    • Death imminent for some is existentially impacting us all. While Balthasar can hold to his interpretation based on strict logic, common sense leans toward tradition. I wish to post here a most poignant response to our present face to face with death. “Death from coronavirus is our death. The one that at any time and in spite of all caution could touch me and you. The invisible and ubiquitous virus brings about, as a universal possibility, the constant imminence of my death. That is, precisely what modernity has systematically claimed to exclude from its horizon. What is unbearable, for us moderns, is in fact the condition of substantial defenselessness in which we have found ourselves overnight. The instinctive and general use of the metaphor of war to represent the present condition of humanity also betrays our unconscious need to have weapons in hand. Which we probably will have, perhaps in the near future, but not now. This condition, however, as much as it is abhorred by modernity, belongs essentially to human life in its relationship with death, and this must be said. Does the Church have a word to say about death? Yes she does, and she is the only one who holds onto it because she has received it from Christ, who is the only one able to pronounce it because he is the only one who knows what death is, through having undergone and defeated it. In recent days I have returned to a book that is very dear to me and that, half a century after its publication, seems to me more timely than ever, ‘Cordula’ by Hans Urs von Balthasar, from which I draw these illuminating sentences. ‘Immediately after charity comes joy, joy in defenselessness, a defenselessness without worry, in which a mysterious superiority becomes visible. There is nothing negative except sin, which however is carried in the heart of the Lord. Every suffering, even the darkest night of the cross, is always enveloped in a joy, perhaps not felt, but affirmed, known in faith. Death gives form to life. This was not known before; but after the good thief it will be known until the end of the world. Does the Christian therefore have the unprecedented possibility of giving form to life on the basis of its final form? What matters is the defenselessness, the defenseless exposure of the Church to the world’” (Magister on Balthasar in L’Espresso).

  5. Many cultures throughout the ages have believed in Heaven and Hell and it could be said that this belief is innately known; as we hide in the bushes so to say, to cover our nakedness (Sinfulness/evil) before God (Goodness). The teaching given by Jesus Christ on Hell induces righteous fear, which is the beginning of Wisdom. So, yes, Hell is real, but thankfully only God decides and knows who goes there.

    In the 1970’s I attend mass at St Michael’s on the Isle of Eriskay, in the Outer Hebrides. The pulpit was in the shape of a sailing ships bridge with balustrade and a large wooden ships wheel, which the priest held while giving his sermon in Gallic to about thirty plus members of the congregation, who stood at the back of the Church, the majority of whom were men, shabbily dressed in black and poorly fed ( Who stood ‘very rigid, and upright), they appeared to be pressing their backs against the backwall of the Church, while perhaps half a dozen people sat in the pews, which included my wife and myself. This was probably due to some heretical doctrine (Can someone enlighten me), as their actions demonstrated an unhealthy extreme form of unworthiness, most probably emanating from fear, conveyed by the doctrine of Mortal Sin. Which the priest obviously had not address in the past and we must assume that this situation would continue into the future.

    Many None’s perceive Christianity, as in, when you visit many Conservative Websites, there appears to be a self-righteous obsession with ‘Mortal Sin’, especially in others, inciting words to the effect of, ‘they will burn in Hell’ etc. Rather than seeing the full person, as with many cultural Catholics, some of whom are looking for a way back.

    Over the last fifty years many of the laity have left the Church for various reason some will be in situations (entangled in evil) where there is no HOPE of reconciliation through the Sacrament of Absolution many of these will still have a memory of the Penny Catechism and reception of some of the Sacraments, are they to be left abandoned?
    Please consider continuing this theme via the link
    https://www.catholicworldreport.com/2019/11/18/enough-none-sense-lets-settle-for-nothing-but-truth/#comment-166240

    Many years ago, I knew someone who over many years sent money to a Monastery in France, for masses to be said for the dead, the two people petitioned for were Judas and Hitler. At one point many years later I asked why? The reply was “Someone has to” The reflection of this heart before God, was something beautiful to behold as one can only bow one’s head before this act of humility, in humility.

    The reality of Hell must never supersede the reality of God’s Mercy “Father” we only have to turn to you and always you give the morning dew,
    your heart is nailed to a tree, so that we dance free, when we bend our knee.

    “Jesus I put my trust in thee”

    kevin your brother
    In Christ

    • The reality of God’s mercy is empty if one doesn’t concretely and doggedly contemplate the reality of hell first. There’s no mercy if there’s no negative consequence. It’s not merciful for a man with both hands amputated not to spank his children. The people who’ve sinned knowing the Church said it was a sin are not to be left behind but it’s for them to repent and return: it’s not for the Church to soft-sell the mortal danger to their souls. We’ve seen too many movies in which mom and, more often, dad are staunchly opposed to <> only to tearfully embrace <> after a tearful reunion with son/daughter following an embarrassing and painful lesson for mom and dad.

      It would seem some think the Church ought to be that mom and dad. In its least charitable form this takes on the form–James Martin, S.J. style–not of effacing the sin from the books (the sin remains a sin) but from seeing the whole person except the sin….and allowing them to continue engaging in said sin. This is most uncharitable. I always have our younger, faithful and orthodox priest telling me what he cannot or will not preach from the altar because “it won’t do any good” or “will drive people out”. I ask what of bringing people in: he’s convinced that mercy will bring them back. And when I ask him at what point you begin telling the truth that you won’t tell now because “it will not do any good”…..I’m met with a puzzled expression. “Hmmm…at some point”. “Yes, but there will always be people who’ll will be driven out or for whom it will do no good. So when do these people continuing to live in sin hear the truth? When is a good time?”. “Hmmm…not sure. At some point though.”.

      Do you see the problem with that train of thought? God is merciful because he forgives us for any sin for which we are sorry, repent, do penance and commit to amending. And that amendment might last two hours after confession. And we can go back to confession one hour later. And keep going back because God is merciful. But he’s not merciful by virtue of ignoring sins that he says are sins. He is perfectly merciful. And perfectly just.

      • Thank you, Brian, for your comment
        The reality of God’s mercy is empty if one doesn’t concretely and doggedly contemplate the reality of hell first”

        Basically, true but the complete picture of sin also includes the unknown and known damage we have done to ourselves and others, while also offending God.

        “The people who’ve sinned knowing the Church said it was a sin are not to be left behind but it’s for them to repent and return:

        In the past and probably so today many Catholics move away from the Church as they commence their working life, never having truly committed themselves to the faith, they drift along. The Church is universal many Baptized Catholics (Cultural) know little of their religion, but a process/path has commenced that encompasses Hope, and for this reason I believe that any child presented for baptism should be baptized no matter what the circumstances of their Parents/guardians as it confers on the child, led by the Holy Spirit, an acknowledgeable recognition of given grace (Calling), within their own heart later in life, no matter how broken that life may be.

        I believe this stirring of the heart often occurs in life’s confounding moments of significance as in death/birth/loss etc. But sadly, this stirring (Hope) is stifled almost immediately, as they are often entangled within a sinful situation (Mortal Sin).

        Our life circumstances tend to influence our thinking and behaviour, in my era many poorly educated people left school a very young age, with the basic rudiments of Christianity, many without making a true commitment to Jesus Christ. I remember one instant when some of the boys in my class, who came from a Children Home were about to be Confirmed, they were told that “if you are not Confirmed you will have to leave the Home”, at thirteen years of age, possible for some the only home they had known. Then as school finished for them at fifteen years of age they would have to go out into the real world, often with no family connections what so ever.

        Many cultural Catholics are poorly educated ones, but a man/woman can have a calling to the faith at any time in their life, in the early Church many converted to Christianity as adults. Indoctrinated uneducated children leaving school at fifteen were comparable to lambs without a Shepherd. If mistakes have been made Divine Mercy (an Image of Broken Man) demands a way back for the indoctrinated, as in an open door, even if they are entangled in an evil situation, (Mortal Sin) to lay damnation on these lambs (Now older) is a travesty of justice.

        The Church has tried to remedy the situation for some with Amoris Laetitia, which is flawed as it dismisses Christ’s commandment of the indissolubility of marriage, whereas it should be vigorously defended and reinforced. While understanding that God’ Divine Mercy cannot be codified. As

        “a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise”

        What I am proposing gives the Church the means to call all of her Children (Cultural Catholics, seen by some as the spiritual undeserving poor) no matter what their present state (Entangled in sinful situations). Many of whom never truly committed themselves to the faith. To embrace publicly in humility their brokenness, in the present moment, before God and the faithful. If this act of humility is sincere (I believe for many it would be so) spiritual growth (Virtue/Grace) will accrue.

        Does not the Church accommodate the broken condition of Man presently via The Sacrament of Reconciliation as it heals/leads that brokenness in calling it (The sinner) to a life of virtue.

        I have read that the final words of the Code of Canon Law are these: “the salvation of souls, which must always be the supreme law in the Church, is to be kept before one’s eyes” (Can. 1752)

        I have been advocating that The True Divine Mercy Image is an Image of Broken Man, given by our Lord to the Church and has within itself, the capacity to draw in to communion, in humility, all those outcasts who our Savior came to save.

        Perhaps you may consider reading my posts via the link
        http://www.catholicethos.net/catholic-teaching-assault-amoris-laetitia/#comment-192

        kevin your brother
        In Christ

  6. I think everyone should read HvB’s “Primer for Unsettled Laymen.” And ignore “Dare We Hope…” if it’s a trigger for them. Having willingly slugged it out in this debate for years, I finally realize it’s impossible not to acknowledge the goodwill and real gifts and insights of all the players. And the mystery of the afterlife. I think HvB is off base here, sure. He overreaches, and it’s highly speculative theology. But he’s no dogmatic about it, and he is terrific in other places. No theologian is perfect.

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