Today's iteration is a meditation on the new Bill Murray movie -- which looks good -- St. Vincent. Murray plays his usual lovable rogue. An adulterer, a drunkard, and a thief. But, you see, he has some good qualities, too. He's not bad enough for Hell, but he's no saint, either. He's what Aristotle would call the incontinent man, according to the contributor, Fr. Damien Ference.
Catholicism knows what to do with people like this, he says. It's called Purgatory.
Think about this. You can revel in mortal sins, but if you're kind to dogs and visit your mother on occasion, you're not all bad. Surely Hell is out of the question.
Purgatory is becoming the routine layover for those not saintly enough for the nonstop flight to Heaven. Hell is occupied solely by a few Nazis of the absolute worst sort, and perhaps Osama bin Laden. You know, the very people our culture happens to condemn the most. (Imagine that.)
The road to Hell is narrow and few travel it. The road to Heaven is wide and nearly everybody makes it through the pearly gates, although there is a bad stretch through Purgatory.
This is quite different from the historical understanding of Heaven and Hell, as readers of this blog will know. The question is, why does Fr. Robert Barron, the Carl Sagan of Catholicism, promote this error?
The article quotes Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's Spe Salvi, which always reminds the Bear that he was a German theologian, after all.
For the great majority of people -- we may suppose -- there remains in the depths of their being an ultimate openness to truth, to love, to God. In the concrete choices of life, however, it is covered over by ever new compromises with evil -- much filth covers purity, but the thirst for purity remains and it still constantly re-emerges from all that is base and remains present in the soul.
(Emphasis added.) Certainly, the tone of Catholic discussion over the last fifty years supports Fr. Barron and practical apokatastasis. Did the Church of yore overdo Hell? It would be so easy to drift along the lazy current to Paradise, secure in the knowledge the Bear managed not to be Hitler.
But, if that's all there is, life becomes a routine journey on a conveyer belt: birth, a not-too-horrible life, death, some Purgatory, then Heaven. What does that mean? Right or wrong, at least old Catholicism had some drama to it.
And it had something else: motivation. To be good. To spread the gospel. To fight for the truth.
Is it coincidental that the Church lost its supernatural motivation just as it nailed shut the door to Hell?