Wednesday, September 7, 2016


Adolph Hitler: One of Three People in Hell.

Robert Barron: Forget About Hell

Fr. Robert Barron had a credible career as the Catholic Carl Sagan, hosting a Catholic Cosmos that had Barron wandering around cathedrals looking goofily amazed.

Then he decided it is ridiculous to have people being afraid of going to Hell in the 21st century. Although he uses circumlocutions, he denies Hell for all practical purposes. The narrow gate has been dynamited, and everybody is going through it these days.

Look. The Bear will always have a trial lawyer's skills and instincts. He lays them out for your assessment every day. Barron could look shocked and say, "Bear, I never said there's no Hell!" and the Bear would look in him the eye and say:

"Yes. You did. You thought you were cute enough to fool the Bear, and to fool God with your lying mouth, but there all sorts of ways to lie. Do you know what Bears do to liars?" (Do you?)

The Hound writes it about Barron here today. The Hound is sort of a running-mate with the Bear. We seem to be simpatico, with significant overlap in our audiences. If you don't know Mahound's Paradise, it is a good day to introduce yourself.

Barron appears to be well-educated and intelligent. Just the kind of fellow the Devil loves. Stupid people are of no use to him, except in large numbers. But get Fr. Barron to tell Catholics they don't have to worry about Hell, and, why, you've scored quite a coup!

Pope Benedict XVI and the Bell Curve Theory of Salvation

But let's not forget that Barron is not the only one who has banged this drum. Nobody believes in Hell anymore. Why this should be the Bear cannot figure out. Dogma does not change with the calendar. Except you know, it does. Which is why every morning the Bear has to tell himself: "No matter what crap you hear today, you will close your eyes and go to sleep as a Catholic." Some days it is not easy.

Pope Benedict XVI's encyclical Spes Salvi is, oh, quite the little gem in this regard. Yes, Hell exists, and we have seen a few people in our very own times who were such slavering caricatures of evil, that yes, they are probably in Hell. On the other hand, there are those who are so perfect, that they are clearly in Heaven. Check out Paragraph 46, where Benedict introduces the "Bell Curve Theory of Salvation."

Yet we know from experience that neither case is normal in human life. For the great majority of people—we may suppose—there remains in the depths of their being an ultimate interior 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. What happens to such individuals when they appear before the Judge? 

So, Hitler, Stalin and Osama bin Laden are playing bridge with the Devil in the vast, echoing emptiness of Hell, but you and me? Don't be ridiculous! Hell is not for the likes of us! Not us ordinary folks of whatever religion who, sure, may fool around on our spouses, but only a little, and, okay, may cheat others in our business deals, but, certainly have not completely eliminated all decency, all hope, and all love.

And, all the nonsense about mortal sins, and worrying about confession? Why, that's just something little old ladies used to believe in. All you need is, somewhere inside, "an ultimate openness to truth, to love, to God!"

The Bear has always been puzzled by those who seem to have forgotten that Benedict was a German theologian, and we know all about them.

Anyway, Hear O Catholic, the consensus among the best scholars and Catholic media personalities is that you don't have to spend a second worrying about Hell. You are guaranteed Heaven unless you somehow manage to become a figure of historical import whose name everyone agrees is synonymous with evil.

So do whatever the Hell you want. You'll get to Heaven. Why? Just because.


  1. Yeah. I'm still not sure what Benedict was getting at there. Barron sites that passage to support his own views, yet I'm not so sure it does. But that's the thing about Benedict. Some people think of him as very upfront, but much of what I've read is full of ambiguity. It's not even clear that it's intentional ambiguity, but, as you mention, he came of intellectual age as a German theologian when ambiguity was the thing, so maybe he just thinks that's what you're supposed to do.

    Or (sorry to go on) it's not so much ambiguity as that he poses questions and fairly considers possibilities - their good points, their bad points - without in the end pronouncing definitively. The passage above could have been saved with one clear declarative sentence at the end. Instead he ends with a question.

  2. I'll have to agree with Oakes. I loved Pope Benedict XVI and it was because of him that I returned to the faith and I wish he never resigned. But I couldn't stomach his writings. They almost always started from the sceptical point of view that mocked the reasonable Catholic position and contained question after question, scenario after scenario that made you wonder if he had any faith at all. He always did bring it back to faith in the end, bit his writings were so tedious and ambiguous at times, raising pointless questions that only post modern philosophers care about, that it wasn't worth the effort.

    If that is what Thomism has become in Germany, no wonder Father Luther rebelled against it. St Thomas Aquinas, in contrast started from the position of Truth, then threw strong sceptical arrows in full confidence that Truth would stand, and then rebuffed them with ease. Ambiguity and doubt were nowhere to be found in his dense writings. I pray for a Pope the return to this sort of confidently clear writing.

    1. I agree. B16's Jesus books were supposed to be great. I couldn't get through the first one. It seemed skeptical to me if I recall correctly, sort of in the way the notes to the NABRE are. At least that is my recollection of my impression.

      But I do not hold Pius XII guiltless, either. He opened the door for Catholic biblical scholars to adopt skeptical methods that liberal Protestants had invented much earlier, i.e. Wellhausen's documentary hypothosis which is presented as fact now. Even the otherwise very good Didache bible does so. You would not believe the femenist claptrap and other nonsense that is taught in Catholic institurions. I know. Much like my very good friend, Michael Dowd, the Bear is a dropout, too.

      This will burst everyone's bubble and cause hate and discontent in the woodlands, but the Bear prefers the latest NIV Zondervan Study Bible to the NABRE. (Obviously, you have to know what you're about.) The old Douay Rheims with Haydock's notes is closer to what I would like to see. I do not want to read s Bible that undermines my faith.

    2. I was so disappointed in Deus Caritas Est that I didn't read anymore of his encyclicals.

      "much filth covers purity"
      There is an echo of Luther here, although in reverse. In both cases there is (and with Benedict at least seems to be) the idea that filth and purity can coexist. That's finding new expression in the gradualism underlying the current pontifical thinking.

      One is in the state of grace or not. There is no middle state, no mingling. There is, of course, venial sin and concupiscence, and on the other side the possibility of God's grace reaching out to the one in sin, but this is not what is being expressed in that paragraph. Rather it is the idea of coexistence within the soul of the person.

      Something I learned long ago is that convoluted writing is indicative of an attempt by the author to reconcile irreconcilable ideas. JPII's writings could get confused, too.

      The problem is we haven't had a well-trained thomist in the papacy in quite some time. Benedict is more Augustinian.

    3. Agree. I think the paradigm of the toggle-switch grace/not grace is being replaced by the "fundamental option" condemned by JPII. But reading Spes Salvi, it's hard to understand what B16 is saying if it is not pure fundamental option. Now, I happen to like fundamental option. It makes an awful lot of sense to me. That's why I need to be told, "No, that is wrong, make no mistake about it, and here is the real Church teaching." Because even things I like can be me wrong, and that's one of the reasons we have a Church. Which is doing a lousy job of correcting people who hold plausible, but erroneous opinions.

    4. Benedict was always considered to be brilliant.
      I won't bash your bible Bear, read on. I drove myself nuts about 8 months ago, wanting a new bible after reading how crummy mine (yours) was. Again and again I read that. After much reading and pondering, I ended up with the Knox Bible, and I really do like it. It reads like a novel, so it's a little different, but what I was interested in was faithful translation, if there is such an animal. Ronald Knox is well respected and he worked ten years on this, alone, before word processing, and it had to be revised again and again. His bible comes with an interesting little book he wrote about the act of translating a bible, and it is fascinating to consider all that goes into it and how wrong it can all go.

  3. No hell is not new. In 1955 I was in the Dominican Novitiate and, one fine day, the Novice Master allowed that he didn't think anyone went to hell. I was astounded at this remark as it renders the whole point becoming a priest or practicing the Catholic rather beside the point. The next year I left.

    1. 1955? Wow. A good illustration of what the Bear has always said. V2 was more of a symptom than a cause. But, Michael, that was probably the workings of Providence. Look at the wonderful mark you have left on the world!

    2. Not to dispute your point on VII, but (I'm sure you know) it goes all the way back to Origen. (or depending on who's defending Origen, his disciples).

    3. Well, there are reasons Origen is just Origen, and not St. Origen :-) The difference is the truth about Hell is well beyond doubt in the Catholic Faith when Barron and others decide to start playing their merry games.

    4. But Gregory of Nyssa is St. Gregory! :-) He certainly seems to teach something like universalism, though not quite the same as Origen. And then there is St. Isaac of Nineveh, who while not formally canonized by Rome, is a saint throughout the Christian East, including the Chaldean Catholic Church. He certainly taught a form of universalism.

    5. East flirted with this much more. Doesn't matter because the Church decisively rejected these speculations.

  4. Great stuff. Everyone should be following this blog.

    1. You are clearly a brilliant and discriminating person!

  5. The Holy See is vacant since the death of Pope Pius XII in 1958.
    All the subsequent elections are null and void by both divine and ecclesiastical laws, for many reasons.
    The last 6 are not popes, and whatever they did and said has no authority whatsoever for any catholic.

  6. I think to read C.S. Lewis' "The Problem of Pain" (especially his chapter on Hell)is called for more than ever, never mind Barron (who got his ideas from Von Baltasar, not BXVI).

  7. My Uncle, who believes in good and evil, but has a weak, worldly, and half hearted faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, believes that most everyone is going to hell, because most everyone has a weak, worldly, and half hearted faith. He knows that God is good and that apart from God, we deserve Hell. He believes that we make our choice, and that most everyone makes the wrong one.

  8. Keith--Many of the great saints believe as your uncle.

  9. Michael,
    Agreed. I hope to see my Uncle in Heaven one day. I hope to see all of the woodland creatures who convene here with the Bear too. I'd love to see everyone in Heaven, but God is Just, and we won't be able to behold His Light if we reject His Life. We've got to carry our crosses, and share our portion of our Lords Passion. Without God we cannot do any good. Whatever happened to the sin of presumption? What's happened to the belief that suffering for our own sins, and the sins of those that we love, for the love of God, is good?

  10. I think what you see in the Modernist is an overdeveloped sense of compassion for humans, and an underdeveloped sense of compassion for the suffering Christ, coupled with a complete lack of an understanding of the gravity of sin and its consequences.


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