Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Father John Dietzen gets it wrong, Part II: Intellectual dishonesty

In his article entitled "Can Jews, Muslims be saved," Fr. John Dietzen writes, "Pope John Paul II reflects this Catholic attitude [that non-Catholics may be saved] in his moving and hopeful book, 'Crossing the Threshold of Hope.' God wants to save all mankind in Jesus Christ, he writes. We don't know how God does all this, but we know Christ came into the world for all people and 'has his own ways of reaching them' (pp. 80-83) In other words, God has committed himself to work through baptism and the other sacraments, but he is not bound or limited by them."

It is certainly true that non-Catholics who "..through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience..may achieve eternal salvation" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 847) and that although, "God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism..he himself is not bound by his sacraments." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1257). I have often quoted these passages to refute the errors of the Feeneyites who insist that only baptized Roman Catholics may be saved.

But it does not follow that because "God came into the world for all people" and "wants to save all mankind in Jesus Christ" that all will be saved. Will some souls end up in hell? Fr. Dietzen concludes from his examination of Pope John Paul II's book that, "We just don't know enough about the mystery of God's saving plan to make such a judgment." He then writes, "Perhaps you know of Father Hans Urs von Balthasar, one of the major Catholic theologians of the 20th century, a friend and close consultant to Pope John Paul II. He wrote much about the possibility of universal redemption, including the book, 'Dare We Hope: That All Men Be Saved,' in which he maintains it is our Christian call to pray and hope that all are reconciled with God. He was named a Cardinal but died before he could receive the red hat."

What of this? Was Pope John Paul II in agreement with Hans Urs von Balthasar? The average Catholic, after reading Fr. Dietzen's article, would certainly get that impression. But they would be wrong. For Fr. Dietzen is not intellectually honest and only cites those passages of Pope John Paul II's book which seem to support this notion. A more careful examination of the Holy Father's book will serve to highlight Fr. Dietzen's dishonesty. For example, in a passage responding to the concern of "great thinkers in the Church," [including von Balthasar] who have been "disturbed" by the problem of hell, Pope John Paul II refers to Jesus' "unequivocal" words: "He speaks clearly of those who will go to eternal punishment (cf. Mt 25: 46)."

Pope John Paul II concludes his remarks (which may be found on pages 185 to 186 of "Crossing the Threshold of Hope") with a series of rhetorical questions which indicate that some sinners will end in hell: "Is not God who is Love also ultimate Justice?," "Can He tolerate these terrible crimes," "Can they go unpunished?," "Isn't final punishment in some way necessary in order to reestablish moral equilibrium in the complex history of humanity?," "Is not hell in a certain sense the ultimate safeguard of man's moral conscience?"

Fr. Dietzen conveniently leaves these passages out of his article in an attempt to convince the faithful that Pope John Paul II and the Church are in agreement with Hans Urs von Balthasar. I have already quoted [in part I on Fr. Dietzen] from Lumen Gentium, No. 48 of the Second Vatican Council which teaches clearly that some souls will end up in hell. And faithful Catholics will reflect very carefully on the fact that the Lord Himself speaks about the damned in a form that is grammatically future: "...and those who have done evil will go to the resurrection of condemnation" (Mt 25: 46). Does Fr. Dietzen consider Christ to be a liar? Does he believe Christ to be mistaken?

It's true that Pope John Paul II appointed von Balthasar a Cardinal. But when the Pope appoints someone a Cardinal, he does not authoritatively commend his thought. I call upon Fr. Dietzen to issue an apology to his readers for his misleading article. The faithful have a right to Catholic teaching in its purity and integrity (Veritatis Splendor, No. 113). And Fr. Dietzen has not delivered.


ShewsburyCatholic said...

Neither has The Catholic Free Press delivered. Its masthead qotes from John 8:32 "You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free." Why then does the newspaper publish articles like this one? If it's the truth which makes us free (and I believe this), why publish falsehood?

Margaret Russell, Editor of the CFP, isn't doing her job.

Michelle said...

ShrewsburyCatholic, it doesn't surprise me at all. The CFP has had a long history of publishing articles and/or columns which assault the Catholic Faith. Remember Fr. Richard P. McBrien's column? Fr. Basil Pennington's? The newspaper hasn't always been commotted to the truth which sets us free. It makes me wonder what Margaret Russell does with her time. As editor, shouldn't she be working to ensure that articles which could confuse or mislead the faithful are not published? What sort of screening process is there, if any?

Anonymous said...

From RomanCatholicism.org:

Did St. Therese of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face give us to Hope that All will be Saved?

St. Therese taught a spiritual path that she called “the little way”, in which one wholly and trustfully commits oneself like a child to the love and mercy of the good God. Pope Pius XI canonized her in 1925 and John Paul has made her a doctor of the Church.

She wrote a Christmas play for her sisters, in which the Child Jesus insists, in correction of the Angel of Vengeance, that, “every soul will find forgiveness”. On the last day, the Child Jesus will remain “the God of love” who suffered to recompense all of the sins of the entire human race. The following account is published in French.

“She has various angels assemble around the crib: the ‘Angel of the Child Jesus’ and the ‘Angel of the Holy Face’ (the Passion) sing of the infinite love of the Son of Man in anticipation of his coming suffering but also of his Resurrection and triumph.

“Then there appears the ‘Angel of the Last Judgment,’ armed with a sword and a pair of scales.

“The following excerpt from the ‘Angel of the Last Judgement’s’ lines may be cited here:

‘The day of reckoning is coming soon; this impure world will be forced to go through fire. We will see the radiance of his glory, no longer concealed beneath the features of a child; we will extol his triumph and acknowledge him as the Almighty. You will tremble; the inhabitants of the earth will not bear the wrath of this Child, who today is the God of love. He chooses suffering and demands in return only your frail heart. At the time of judgment, you will recognize his power and quake before the avenging God.’

“The ‘Angel of the Holy Face’ speaks, requesting of the Child the promised mercy for those sinners whose conversion gives God greater joy than do the ninety-nine righteous who have no need of repentance.

“After this comes the voice of the Child:

‘I will listen to your request: every soul will find forgiveness.’

“The Angel of Vengeance once again objects:

‘Do you forget, Jesus, that the sinner must be punished; do you forget, in your exceeding love, that the number of the godless is endless? At the time of judgment, I want to punish the crimes, to destroy all the ungrateful; my sword is ready, well will I know how to avenge you!’

“Then the Child Jesus:

‘Beautiful angel, lower your sword. It is not for you to judge the nature that I desired to set in being and to redeem. I myself am the Judge of the world, and my name is Jesus.’

“The Angel of Judgment kneels down and, ‘quite beside himself, wonders at your unutterable love.’

“At the end, all the angels together say:

‘How great is the bliss of the lowly creature. Despite their rapture, the seraphs would like to forsake their angelic nature and be changed to children with you.’

Theatre au Carmel, Paris: Cerf, DDB, 1985, p. 108

Therese taught in her autobiography, “Story of a Soul”, that pagans can be saved without Christian belief, saying that “vast numbers of poor savages [who] died before they had even heard the name of God” are “much lesser saints” and “wild flowers whose homeliness delights Him”.

“I had wondered for a long time why God had preferences and is by all souls did not receive an equal amount of grace. I was astonished to see how He showered extraordinary favours on saints who had sinned against Him, saints such as St. Paul and St. Augustine. He forced them, as it were, to accept His graces. I was just as astonished when I read the lives of saints to see that Our Lord cherished certain favoured souls from the cradle to the grave and never allowed any kind of obstacle to check their flight towards Him. He bestowed such favours on them that they were unable to tarnish the spotless splendour of their baptismal robe. I also wondered why such vast numbers of poor savages died before they had even heard the name of God.

“Jesus saw fit to enlighten me about this mystery. He set the book of nature before me and I saw that all the flowers He has created are lovely. The splendour of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of its scent nor the daisy of its simple charm. I realised that if every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness and there would be no wild flowers to make the meadows gay.

“It is just the same in the world of souls—which is the garden of Jesus. He has created the great saints who are like the lilies and the roses, but He has also created much lesser saints and they must be content to he the daisies or the violets which rejoice His eyes whenever He glances down. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being that which He wants us to be.

“I also understood that God’s love shows itself just as well in the simplest soul which puts up no resistance to His grace as it does in the loftiest soul. Indeed, as it is love’s nature to humble itself, if all souls were like those of the holy doctors who have illumined the Church with the light of their doctrine, it seems that God would not have stooped low enough by entering their hearts. But God has created the baby who knows nothing and can utter only feeble cries. He has created the poor savage with no guide but natural law, and it is to their hearts that He deigns to stoop. They are His wild flowers whose homeliness delights Him. By stooping down to them, He manifests His infinite grandeur. The sun shines equally both on cedars and on every tiny flower. In just the same way God looks after every soul as if it had no equal. All is planned for the good of every soul, exactly as the seasons are so arranged that the humblest daisy blossoms at the appointed time.”

Story of a Soul

Ellen Wironken said...

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1034, teaches that: "Jesus often speaks of 'Gehenna,' of 'the unquenchable fire' reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost. Jesus solemnly proclaims that he 'will send his angels, and they will gather...all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,' and that he will pronounce the condemnation 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire.'"

But a lot of Catholics no longer believe in Jesus or his word. Nor do they accept the authoritative teaching of the Church. They are losing or have lost their Catholic faith.

Paul Anthony Melanson said...

I'm sure Saint Therese's Christmas play was very beautiful. And theologically speaking, hoping for everyone's salvation is, of course, compatible with taking Jesus' statement that some human beings will end up in hell to mean exactly that and believing that some will.

But some are not satisfied with such hope. Those who insist that sinful (and free) choices will - or may be - in the end, ineffectual, and may be reversed after death, cannot reconcile such a belief with the Church's definitive teachings as summarized in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: "To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him forever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called 'hell.'" (CCC, 1033).

It's one thing to hope and pray for all. This is what we do in the liturgy. But one cannot reconcile universalism with the Church's definitive teaching. They are incompatible.

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