Choose a topic from Vol 2:


Proof of God's existence
God's nature
Supreme control over all things and the problem of suffering and evil


Destiny of man
Immortality of man's soul
Pre-existence denied
The human free will
Determinism absurd


Necessity of religion
Salvation of the soul
Voice of science
Religious racketeers
Divine revelation
Revealed mysteries
Existence of miracles

The Religion of the Bible

Gospels historical
Missing Books of the Bible
The Bible inspired
Biblical account of creation
New Testament problems
Supposed contradictions in Sacred Scripture

The Christian Faith

Source of Christian teaching
Jewish rejection of Christ
Christianity a new religion
Rational foundation for belief
Causes of unbelief

A Definite Christian Faith

Divisions amongst Christians
Schisms unjustified
Facing the problem
The wrong approach
Is one religion as good as another?
Obligation of inquiry
Charity and tolerance

The Protestant Reformation

Meaning of "Protestant"
Causes of the Reformation
Catholic reaction
Reformers mistaken
The idealization of Protestantism
The Catholic estimate

The Truth of Catholicism

Meaning of the word "Church"
Origin of the Church
The Catholic claim
The Roman hierarchy
The Pope
The Petrine text
St. Peter's supremacy
St. Peter in Rome
Temporal power
Unity of the Church
Holiness of the Church
Catholicity of the Church
Apostolicity of the Church
Indefectibility of the Church
Obligation to be a Catholic

The Church and the Bible

Catholic attitude towards the Bible
Is Bible reading forbidden to Catholics?
Protestant Bibles
The Catholic Douay Version
Principle of private interpretation
Need of Tradition
The teaching authority of the Catholic Church

The Dogmas of the Church

Revolt against dogma
Value of a Creed
The divine gift of Faith
Faith and reason
The "Dark Ages"
The claims of science
The Holy Trinity
Creation and evolution
Grace and salvation
The Sacraments
Holy Eucharist
The Sacrifice of the Mass
Holy Communion
The Catholic Priesthood
Marriage and divorce
Extreme Unction
The resurrection of the body
The end of the world

The Church and Her Moral Teachings

The Inquisition
Other superstitions
Attendance at Mass
Sex education
Attitude to "Free Love"

The Church in Her Worship

Magnificent edifices
Lavish ritual
Women in Church
Catholics and "Mother's Day"
Liturgical Days
Burial rites
Candles and votive lamps
The rosary
Lourdes water
The Scapular

The Church and Social Welfare

Social influence of the Church
The education question
The Church and world distress
Catholic attitude towards Capitalism
The remedy for social ills
Communism condemned
The Fascist State
Morality of war
May individuals become soldiers?
The Church and peace
Capital punishment
Catholic Action

Comparative Study of Non-Catholic Denominations

Defections from the Catholic Church
Coptic Church
Greek Orthodox Church
Anglican Episcopal Church
The "Free" or "Nonconformist" Churches
Church of Christ
Seventh Day Adventists
Plymouth Brethren
Catholic Apostolic Church or Irvingites
Salvation Army
Christian Science
British Israelism
Liberal Catholics
Witnesses of Jehovah
Buchmanism or the "Oxford Group Movement"
From Protestantism to Catholicism

To and From Rome

Conversion of Cardinal Newman
Why Gladstone refrained
The peculiar case of Lord Halifax
Gibbon the historian
Secession of Father Chiniquy
Father Tyrrell, the modernist
Bishop Garrett's departure
Judgment on lapsed Catholics
Protestant apathy towards conversion of Catholics
Principles for converts to Catholicism
God's will that all should become Catholics


834. What is hell?

According to Christ, it is a state of eternal misery and suffering, the pain of which is best likened to that caused by fire. As there is both good and evil in this world, so do their counterparts exist in eternity. And as evil is the opposite of good, so hell is the opposite of heaven. If heaven is light and happiness, liberty and peace, hell is darkness and misery, servitude and torment. As a man sows, so shall he reap. If a man dies identified with the good, he will save his soul and attain heaven. If he dies identifying himself with evil, he will lose his soul. By God's mercy, however, there is no need for any man to do that. However greatly one has sinned, by sincere repentance he can obtain forgiveness and salvation through the merits of Jesus Christ and by fulfilling the conditions prescribed by Christ. When we speak of Jesus as Our Savior we mean that He saves us from the eternal ruin of the hell we have deserved. Those who deny the existence of hell can find no real significance in the title of Savior which belongs to Jesus Christ.

835. I find hell an awful proposition.

So do I, as well as all thinking men. The best thing we can do is to make sure that hell never becomes anything more than an awful proposition. If a man fell into the awful reality of hell, he would see at once that no proposition formulated by men could possibly do justice to the grim actuality.

836. If there is a hell, God can't be there; and if He is not there, He is not everywhere. Therefore God is limited, and not infinite.

That argument begins with the false premise that God is not present in hell. For not even hell can escape God's presence. But whilst God is so present everywhere that even hell cannot be exempted, He is not so present in hell that He could be affected by hell. His very mode of presence is proper to Himself, and different from any notion we can form of it adequately by ideas drawn from created relationships. He will certainly be present there by His being, and knowledge, and power. But it will be a physical presence only, affording no consolation to those enduring the sufferings of hell. We can form a faint idea of what this means by our own present experience. Two persons can be physically present to each other in the same room. But there can be a chasm between them from another point of view. They have nothing in common; feel not sympathy but antipathy for one another; and are, in fact, said to behave distantly to one another. In other words, in the moral order, there is a distance between them which physical presence can but accentuate. In hell, of course, the misery will be on one side only, that of the soul estranged from God. At any rate, God is everywhere, even in hell, however our limited ideas may fail to explain the nature of His presence. And human souls must cry with David, "Whither shall I go from Thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from Thy face? If I ascend into heaven Thou art there; if I descend into hell Thou art present." Psalm 138, 8.

837. God, who is all-merciful, would not wish to torture anything for all eternity.

Correct. Therefore He warns us that there is an eternal hell, and forbids us to do the things that could take us there. If He wanted us to go to hell, He would not do that. If I want a man to fall into a trap, I don't carefully explain its presence and tell him how to avoid it. Also that God does not want us to go to hell is evident from the fact that He sent His only-begotten Son to die for our very salvation from so dreadful a fate. But, in appealing to God's mercy, there is one point you overlook. What if a soul rejects God's mercy, won't appeal to it, doesn't want it? It can't refuse God's mercy and have it. Such a soul will encounter God's justice, and Scripture tells us that it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. And Jesus tells us that the sentence of the wicked will be, "Depart from Me ye cursed into everlasting fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels." There is no hint in Scripture that lost souls will ever cease to exist.

838. Boundless mercy seems to contradict eternal misery, don't you think?

I don't. Boundless mercy supposes the possibility of eternal misery. There is no room for mercy unless there be misery, and no room for boundless mercy unless we suppose boundless misery. Boundless mercy is a mercy which forgives that which does deserve boundless misery. But mercy is not forced upon people. It must be asked for and accepted. It cannot be rejected and at the same time be enjoyed. And if a person is in a state of sin deserving boundless or eternal misery, yet rejects the offer of boundless mercy, what is there left but hell? If you assert that because God is boundless in His mercy, as He is, no one could go to eternal misery, will you say that there is no hell? Or that God has made a hell knowing that it was quite unnecessary as it is to be eternally untenanted? And what will you do with Satan? Is he not in that everlasting suffering prepared for him and his angels? He who proves too much, proves nothing. There is something wrong with an argument which ends in the denial of known facts. God is a God of boundless mercy. He has revealed that there is a hell of eternal misery. There is no contradiction. People can escape the boundless misery by a sincere appeal to God's boundless mercy.

839. Would a man be good if he built a bridge knowing that many would fall through it and get drowned?

If he built a bridge knowing that many would have to fall through it, he would scarcely be good. But if he built a bridge through which no one need fall, and warned people not to fling themselves over, he would be good in providing a bridge. But people who say they do not believe in hell because God is good are talking thoughtlessly. They believe in a good God. Now that God through Christ His Son has taught us that there is a hell. He would not be good if He taught us a deliberate lie. A good God tells the truth. And if there is a hell it is good of Him to tell us. If there is a hell, it is well to know that there is one.

840. I prefer to believe in a good God.

No one can believe in a good God and logically refuse to believe in hell. If love of the good be infinite, it demands an equally intense hatred of evil, the negation of good. Good and evil exist in this world and both have their counterparts in eternity, heaven or hell. To accept heaven because we like it, and reject hell because we don't like it, is going by feeling and sentiment, not by reason.

841. Would it not be better not to create than to punish some souls forever in hell?

Even did that seem better to us, our petty ideas are not the measure of all that is truly wise. Creation is a fact. Hell is a fact. That souls can be lost is a fact if we find it hard to reconcile these facts with our human ideas we can only conclude that our ideas must be limited and inadequate, and that God's infinite wisdom must perceive more aspects than those to which we advert. God has, in fact, revealed this truth in the words, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor your ways My ways." We are too prone to concentrate on individual details and lose sight of the whole scheme. God had not to choose between creating this or that individual, but a race of beings propagating its kind. And He saw that the general good far outweighed individual losses. After all, if my great-grandfather lost his soul, that would be his own fault. There was no need for him to do so. But if he had not been allowed to exist, my grandfather, my father and myself would not have had the opportunity of saving our souls. There is no reason why I should be deprived of eternal happiness (if I attain it) because my great-grandfather chose to throw away his eternal happiness (if he did).

842. Do you think that all serious sins deserve hell?

Undoubtedly they deserve it. But that is not to say that they will necessarily get it. God's mercy is such that sin can always be forgiven. Only unrepented sin can keep a soul out of heaven. Paradox as it may seem, there are mortal sins permitted by God for a man's very salvation. Christ has said, "He who humbles himself shall be exalted." Matt. XXIII., 12. Ever He insists on humility. "Unless you become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." Matt XVIII., 3. Children believe without question, and instinctively obey. We must have child-like faith in Christ, and child-like obedience to His will. Yet where Christ says, "He who humbles himself shall be exalted," He also says, "He who exalts himself shall be humbled." If men exalt themselves, whether by pride of intelligence or independence of will, then God will break them by humiliation after humiliation, if He loves them. Again and again He has ground the intellectually proud down to the very dust, permitting them to fall into the most humiliating sins, whether through drink or sensuality, sins smashing up their self-esteem, and, as I have said, meant for their salvation, not for their damnation. St. Augustine, with all his great intellectual gifts, was thus brought low. Had God not permitted his early sins, he would never have shed his later and saving tears of humility. So I say that all serious sins deserve hell, but through God's mercy, not all serious sins are thus punished.

843. A small boy commits his first mortal sin and dies unrepenting next day. He goes to hell. An old man after a lifetime of sin repents at the last and goes to heaven. Why is this not an injustice on God's part?

Because God's granting of salvation to one who does fulfill the necessary conditions cannot possibly oblige Him in justice to grant salvation to one who does not fulfill those conditions. Apart from your hypothetical description of the differences in ages and the quantity of iniquity, you say in substance that one human being dies in grave sin, and another does not. Keep in mind all the conditions necessary for a mortal sin, clear knowledge, serious matter, deliberate choice, and full moral responsibility. No human being at any stage in his life has any right to be in such a state of mortal sin, and if anyone is in that state when death comes, his blood is on his own head. But in such theoretical cases there is danger of a false idea of God. We must not reason as if God were a God of vengeance only, and not a vigilant and good Providence. He is present at the decisive hour and human beings are under His influence even when they are to give their eternal yes or no. He does not wait to catch small boys in a state of mortal sin. And mortal sin does not create in God the will to damn forever in hell, but to convert. He says Himself, "I will not the death of the sinner, but that He be converted and live." To everyone therefore He offers graces of conversion, and those graces must be refused in a decisive manner, if a soul is to be lost. Your small boy is pure hypothesis. Of its nature one only mortal sin deserves hell. But that God would not give the boy a chance to repent, or that the boy would not correspond with last graces, is pure supposition. However, if any soul does go from this world in a state of unrepented personal mortal sin, that soul goes to hell.

844. You think the offense suffered by God merits such a terrible sentence. But why?

The fact that there is a hell we know by revelation. But it is a mystery just as the revealed doctrine of the Trinity, or of heaven itself. However, we know at least that hell is misery and for eternity. Now why does a grave and deliberate offense against God merit such a terrible sentence? In the abstract it does, because it is the insulting of an infinite goodness and of an infinite majesty. The justice of hell depends on the injustice of sin. And here we must be content not to comprehend. For our ideas of justice are associated with relations of man to man. There is an infinite lack of proportion between human justice, and the justice between an infinite Creator and the finite creature. But all that is a matter of abstract principles. In the concrete, hell is a terribly logical consequence of actual realities. There is but one God, one Savior, one source of eternal life and one salvation. If a man forfeits this, hell alone can be the result. He who dies rejecting an infinite good deserves to experience the loss of that infinite good. In other words, if a man rejects God, he should experience rejection by God. And hell is eternal, not so much because sin is infinite, but because it is without remedy. The lost cannot escape hell because they do not repent. They do not repent because they are out of that state in which change is possible. They are out of time, out of probation, and beyond the reach of grace. They are always punished because always evil.

845. Would not one hundred years reckoned by earthly standards of time be quite sufficient?

Ideas of successive moments according to our experience of time in this world cannot possibly give us an adequate standard of comparison. Hell is a mystery outside our time and space notions. And we must realize that we are talking like children on our own little level and in our own little way. It is as if a child were to go into a shop and ask for eight ounces of misery. Time and eternity are in two different orders of being. But taking your analogy for what it is worth, I would say that the only thing which can destroy sin is repentance with the help of God's grace. For by that one makes his own the expiation of sin offered by Christ on the Cross. And that is the only possible expiation of sin. Without that, sin can never be expiated. Therefore a soul in hell, unable to repent and deprived of grace, never can succeed in expiating his sins, whether in one hundred years or a million. But as I have said, our reckoning by time and years is inadequate. Eternity is a mystery to us, and we can but say that the soul which goes from this world in mortal sin never attains happiness.

846. If a man were born a lunatic, was never baptised, committed murder, and would murder again, yet dies without repenting, would he go to hell?

Such a man could not go to hell. If he has been a lunatic from birth owing to defective brain-formation, he has never really attained the normal use of reason, and therefore has never been responsible for his conduct. Murder would be a crime for one in possession of his faculties. But a lunatic is not responsible for, and guilty of, what would constitute a crime for others. Lunatics from birth, who have never been baptized, meet with a fate similar to that of unbaptized infants, who are debarred from entering heaven because they lack Baptism, yet who cannot be sent to hell, because they lack responsibility. They attain to a state of eternal natural happiness. I have said that the brain cells do not make a man good or evil, although they do condition the activities of the soul. An imperfect brain lessens both the capacity of the soul for good operations, but also the responsibility of the soul before God. A completely disordered brain which involves straight-out lunacy, does not make a man morally good or morally evil. It leaves him without any moral responsibility at all. And such a lunatic ranks as an infant which has never come to the use of reason.

847. Why base our religion on fear?

There is no need to do so, and it would be wrong to do so. Our religion is based upon faith, hope and charity. But these very virtues make you believe in hell, hope to escape it, and do all you can to help others escape it. In other words, the mere fact that we are not obliged to be thinking day and night of hell does not give us the right to deny it. Hell is not the sum total of the religion, taught to Catholics, at least. Out of three hundred and fifty-seven questions in the ordinary Catechism, three deal directly with the doctrine of hell. Hell is one doctrine of the Christian religion; a doctrine not to be viewed in isolation, but in the light and perspective of the whole Christian economy. There is no need for any soul to go to hell, but one of the surest inspirations to make use of the means to avoid hell arises from the thought of its existence.

848. I have heard Roman Catholic talks and sermons several times, and each time they essentially pertained to hell fires and how to avoid them.

I do not think you could have heard many sermons by Catholic priests. For sermons on hell are certainly rare. Indirectly, of course, priests will stress the necessity of saving one's soul and the inevitability of each human being's judgment by God with the twofold possibility of either heaven or hell for eternity. But, whilst the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, there is no need to remain in that fear without rising to the wisdom and the love of God which is so much more positive and precious. The Christian life does not consist only in avoiding sin. It requires also the practice of virtue. Not only salvation, but sanctification of one's soul is important. Still we must never lose sight of the bedrock necessity of saving our souls. When the rich young man said to Christ, "Master, what must I do to possess eternal life?" Lk. X., 25. Our Lord replied, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." He did not warn the young man about any overanxiety as to the saving of his soul. In fact, again and again He Himself stressed the necessity of retaining very serious views on the subject.

849. This factor naturally makes me, an outsider, think that priests attempt to instill fear into their parishioners.

Catholic priests must preach the Gospel of Christ, and all of it. And I certainly do not think they preach the severer truths of the Gospel out of proportion to their place in the preaching of Christ Himself. Again and again our Lord, who said that He came to save that which was lost, dwelt on the dread fate of those who continued in their sins. To the Pharisees He said, "Ye fools, ye blind guides, ye whited sepulchres, ye serpents and generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" He spoke of the worm of remorse that dieth not, of weeping and gnashing of teeth, of the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels, and declared that it would be more tolerable for Sodom in the day of judgment than for those who rejected Him. And to all of us His question stands as a challenge, "What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul? What will a man give in exchange for his soul? Better go blind and lame to heaven than seeing and whole to hell. Fear not those who can kill the body, but cannot kill the soul. But I will tell you whom to fear. Fear ye Him who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Yea, fear ye Him."

850. By this means priests force their people to go to Church.

That is not true. You must not judge Catholics to be so devoid of the love of God that they do not personally want to go to Church for the positive spiritual blessings He gives them, and the consolation of His special presence. If, however, some individual Catholic had not enough personal love of God to induce him to attend Mass, and did so chiefly from the fear of losing his soul, that would certainly be better than not going at all. Nor could you say that the priest forced him to go by preaching the severe doctrine of hell. It is the faith of that individual man in the doctrine preached by the priest that takes him to Mass. As a matter of fact, the priest no more forces a Catholic to be faithful by preaching the doctrine of hell than Christ can be said to have forced His disciples to be true to Him by so insisting upon that doctrine in the first place.



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