Friday, April 24, 2009

"It is not I who condemn you; it is you who have damned yourselves..."

Jesus assures us in Sacred Scripture that, "it is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish" (Mt 18:14). This truth is found in paragraph 1037 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want "any to perish, but all to come to repentance":Father, accept this offering from your whole family. Grant us your peace in this life, save us from final damnation, and count us among those you have chosen."

It is not the will of our heavenly Father that any should perish. But this does not mean that none perish. It is not God's will that any should sin either. But we do sin. Matthew 18:14 does not refute hell but only a double predestination; the idea that God wants some to go to hell. Some people [wrongly] assert - or believe inwardly - that hell is not possible because God would have to be a monster, a God of wrath, hatred and vengeance, to permit some to suffer there eternally.

Not so. And this is explained beautifully by Father Charles Arminjon in his book "The End of the Present World and the Mysteries of the Future Life": "Finally, we may say, love is all-powerful, with its own secrets and excesses, of which our hearts can have no inkling and, whatever may be said, cannot consent to condemn forever a creature made by its own hands, redeemed by its own blood. Ah! We might indeed set love against justice if it were justice that punished. But justice was propitiated nineteen centuries ago, on Calvary; at the foot of the Cross, it forgave men the debts they had incurred for their crimes , casting away the sword of rigor, never to wield it again. Let us listen to St. Paul: 'Who shall bring a charge against God's chosen ones? God, who justifies? Who shall condemn them? Christ Jesus, who died, or rather, was raised up, who is at the right hand of God and who intercedes for us?'

But it is because damnation issues from love that salvation is not possible. If it were justice that punished, love might intervene once more on the mount and say, 'Mercy, Father, spare man and, in exchange for the death that is due to him, receive the homage of my flesh and blood!'

However, when it is the very one who is to us more than a brother, more than the most affectionate friend, who tightens this heart consumed with tenderness and turns it into an abode of inexhaustible hatred, how can the ingratitude of the man who has wrought this transformation (all the more terrible as it is unnatural) dare to expect hope and refuge?

O you who, at one time or another on this earth, have loved with a love that is sincere, ardent, and boundless; you know the demands and the laws of love. Love offers itself for a long time, insistently and abundantly; it suffers, dedicates itself unreservedly, humbles itself, and becomes small. But one thing that renders it implacable, and that it never forgives, is obduracy in contempt, contempt maintained until the end.

Go then, ye cursed, the Savior will say on the day of His judgment: Ite maledicti. I did everything for you; I gave my life, my blood, my divinity, and my person for you. And in return for my infinite generosity, I asked only for these simple words: I obey and I love you. You have constantly spurned me and have responded to my approaches solely with these words: Go, I prefer my gross interests and my brutish sensual pleasures to You.

Be your own judges, the Savior will add. What sentence would you pronounce against the most dearly beloved creature who displayed the same indifference and same obstinacy toward you?

It is not I who condemn you; it is you who have damned yourseves. You have chosen, of your own free will, the city where egotism, hatred, and revolt have established their dominion. I return to heaven, where my angels are, and thither I bring back this heart, the object of your insults and scorn. Be the children of your own choice, stay with yourselves, with the worm that does not die and the fire that is never extinguished." (pp. 199-200).


John Ansley said...

New Advent Encyclopedia has this to say about the impenitence of the damned:

The damned are confirmed in evil; every act of their will is evil and inspired by hatred of God. This is the common teaching of theology; St. Thomas sets it forth in many passages. Nevertheless, some have held the opinion that, although the damned cannot perform any supernatural action, they are still able to perform, now and then, some naturally good deed; thus far the Church has not condemned this opinion. The author of this article maintains that the common teaching is the true one; for in hell the separation from the sanctifying power of Divine love is complete. Many assert that this inability to do good works is physical, and assign the withholding of all grace as its proximate cause; in doing so, they take the term grace in its widest meaning, i.e. every Divine co-operation both in natural and in supernatural good actions. The damned, then, can never choose between acting out of love of God and virtue, and acting out of hatred of God. Hatred is the only motive in their power; and they have no other choice than that of showing their hatred of God by one evil action in preference to another. The last and the real cause of their impenitence is the state of sin which they freely chose as their portion on earth and in which they passed, unconverted, into the next life and into that state of permanence (status termini) by nature due to rational creatures, and to an unchangeable attitude of mind. Quite in consonance with their final state, God grants them only such cooperation as corresponds to the attitude which they freely chose as their own in this life. Hence the damned can but hate God and work evil, whilst the just in heaven or in purgatory, being inspired solely by love of God, can but do good. Therefore, too, the works of the reprobate, in as far as they are inspired by hatred of God, are not formal, but only material sins, because they are performed without the liberty requisite for moral imputability. Formal sin the reprobate commits then only, when, from among several actions in his power, he deliberately chooses that which contains the greater malice. By such formal sins the damned do not incur any essential increase of punishment, because in that final state the very possibility and Divine permission of sin are in themselves a punishment; and, moreover, a sanction of the moral law would be quite meaningless.

From what has been said it follows that the hatred which the lost soul bears to God is voluntary in its cause only; and the cause is the deliberate sin which it committed on earth and by which it merited reprobation. It is also obvious that God is not responsible for the reprobate's material sins of hate, because by granting His co-operation in their sinful acts as well as by refusing them every incitement to good, He acts quite in accordance with the nature of their state. Therefore their sins are no more imputable to God than are the blasphemies of a man in the state of total intoxication, although they are not uttered without Divine assistance. The reprobate carries in himself the primary cause of impenitence; it is the guilt of sin which he committed on earth and with which he passed into eternity. The proximate cause of impenitence in hell is God's refusal of every grace and every impulse for good. It would not be intrinsically impossible for God to move the damned to repentance; yet such a course would be out of keeping with the state of final reprobation. The opinion that the Divine refusal of all grace and of every incitement to good is the proximate cause of impenitence, is upheld by many theologians, and in particular by Molina. Francisco Suárez considers it probable. Scotus and Vasquez hold similar views. Even the Fathers and St. Thomas may be understood in this sense. Thus St. Thomas teaches (De verit., Q. xxiv, a.10) that the chief cause of impenitence is Divine justice which refuses the damned every grace. Nevertheless many theologians, e.g. Francisco Suárez, defend the opinion that the damned are only morally incapable of good; they have the physical power, but the difficulties in their way are so great that they can never be surmounted. The damned can never divert their attention from their frightful torments, and at the same time they know that all hope is lost to them. Hence despair and hatred of God, their just Judge, is almost inevitable, and even the slightest good impulse becomes morally impossible. The Church has not decided this question. The present author prefers Molina's opinion.

But if the damned are impenitent, how can Scripture (Wisdom 5) say they repent of their sin? They deplore with the utmost intensity the punishment, but not the malice of sin; to this they cling more tenaciously than ever. Had they an opportunity, they would commit the sin again, not indeed for the sake of its gratification, which they found illusive, but out of sheer hatred of God. They are ashamed of their folly which led them to seek happiness in sin, but not of the malice of sin itself (St. Thomas, Theol. comp., c. cxxv).

Alzina said...

At Fatima, Our Blessed Mother said that: "More souls go to Hell because of the sins of the flesh than for any other reason." And yet, so many today refuse to accept this. They promote homosexual acts as a legitimate "alternative" and will not accept the seriousness of adultery and fornication. My pastor never preaches on hell. Probably because he doesn't believe in its reality. I think many pastors have lost their faith and this is why they don't preach on the subject of hell. I recommend Fr. von Cochem's book "The Last Things."

Betty said...

Paul, keep reminding people of the hard truths. This will no doubt ensure that you will continue to be ostracized within your Diocese. A short meditation on John 15 and Jesus' discourse on the world's hatred will suffice to comfort you as I know it already has. Many of those in the Church who enjoy titles and positions of influence have become children of Belial as they go from bad to worse, promoting abortion, homosexuality and other items of dissent from the Church's Magisterial teaching. But the day is coming when their works will be made known and they will b held accountable for their apostasy.

Jerry said...

Love is by nature voluntary: you cannot force someone to love. Therefore, since God is Love, and gives us the power to voluntarily love Him in return, it must be possible to reject that love. The truth of free will and the truth of what love consists in means this: that Hell (where God is absent) must exist for those who freely reject God, i.e., Love.

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

Betty thank you. By the grace of God I will. May we all persevere in the Faith of our Fathers right to the end: sanguis martyrum semen Christianorum!

Jerry, well said. I knew a seminarian who, during the course of a conversation, actually denied that men have free will. And after this conversation, he asked me for my advice on a matter. He scratched his head when I told him that his request for advice was actually an acknowledgement of the reality of free will. He gave me a perplexed look as I explained to him that men make free decisions. Otherwise, advice and encouragement, directives and prohibitions, rewards and penalties would all be pointless and have no meaning. After we shared a good laugh he agreed.

Needless to say, philosophy was not his subject.

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