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What is the churchs teaching on hell today in 1998? Some priests tend to give me their own interpretation.

Thank you

Alex Wilson

-- Anonymous, April 08, 1998



There is a wonderful source about what the Church teaches. It is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Here is what it says:


1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: "He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."[610] Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren.[611] To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self- exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell."

1034 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.[612] Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,"[613] and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!"[614]

1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire."[615] The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few."[616] Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where "men will weep and gnash their teeth."[617]

1037 God predestines no one to go to hell;[618] 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":[619] 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.[620]

Yours in Christ

John Gibson

-- Anonymous, April 12, 1998

The CCC is good on the question of hell. This needs to be preached from the pulpit more often or maybe I should say, the silence on the reality of hell from the pulpit should be ended. One should keep in mind that only those who truly deserve to go to hell, do in fact, go there. A fear of hell, is most probably a sign that one will not go there.

-- Anonymous, July 08, 1998

I find this question confusing. And all I have to offer is a layman's opinion and I'd certainly like any clarification from anyone more knowledgable because I've got a lot of questions along this line also.

That said, I remember being very scared as a child about the whole concept of hell. I mean, in school, you don't fail a grade if you fail one question during the year but it sounded like one little sin consigns a person to everlasting hell.

Then, a few years back (sorry I can't be more exact) there was an article in the Western Catholic Reporter (a Catholic newspaper for Western Canada) by a clergyman (Bishop???). It was in response to a reader's question about how come our Loving God could have created a Hell.

The jist of the response was: A palace may be Heaven...for a human. But if you were a fish, you wouldn't be too happy. In fact, you'd consider it Hell. Thus, we are called by our faith to grow and evolve within the church so that we can enjoy the beauty of Heaven. Otherwise, it will seem like Hell. SO, God did not create Hell. He created Heaven. And anyone who hasn't grown in faith will find it their own personal Hell.

Now, is this official Church doctrine? I'd certainly like to hear from someone in the know. But I must admit like this idea better. (Which says nothing for how valid it is.)

-- Anonymous, June 15, 1998


There is a move on to tear down the concepts of Hell and Purgatory in the Church. Usually it starts with "How can a loving God consign someone to Hell"

The answer is simply, he doesn't. We are the ones who consign ourselves there. Through our willful disobedience we are the ones that open the cage, and close the door behind us.

God has given us all the tools we need to get back into his grace, but it is usually out of pride that we do not use them. "I wasn't so bad so I don't have to go to confession..." ect.

There is enternal punishment, to me the idea of being cut off from God's presence makes me shudder. I lived a life like that until my conversion to his Church three years ago. I don't want to ever take the chance that I could go back to that.

Your brother in Christ

John Gibson

-- Anonymous, June 15, 1998

Hi, John. I think we agree on the basic idea. First, it is our own personal actions and decisions which determine whether or not we live in a state of grace. This determines whether or not we spend an eternity in bliss or misery. And of course, the sacrifice of Jesus can save our souls...IF WE ACCEPT IT. We can still be blind and refuse. (Free choice and all that)

I suppose the only difficulty I have encountered with the entire Hell concept is when people from another religion insist vehelmently that if I don't convert to their faith, I'm going straight to Hell. For one thing, they can't all be right. They're either all wrong about that or only one of them is right. (Sorry for the convoluted reasoning. Hope you're still with me here)

Following along those lines, I have a question of my own: Is it true that the kind old grandmother at the end of the block who never hurt a fly and was generous and loving to everyone BUT DID NOT FOLLOW A RELIGION (OR FOLLOWED THE 'WRONG' ONE) will go straight to hell? That's what I've heard many protestants say. I thought they went to purgatory, had a chance to learn the truth about the faith they never experienced on Earth, and then somehow make it into Heaven.

Where does it say in the Bible one way or the other about who goes to Hell, who goes to Heaven, and who goes to Purgatory (and how to get out of it)?

-- Anonymous, June 16, 1998

The Church teaches that Hell really does exist and that this is a Doctrine that Catholics are obliged to believe. The Catechism states "We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love Him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against Him, against our neighbor, or against ourselves. ... 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 definitve self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell" ". It goes on to state that "God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistance in it until the end". Alex, I hope this answers your question-- from the authoritative teaching of the Churc. Not someone's opinion!!!

-- Anonymous, June 22, 1998

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