LETTER FROM ONE OF OUR READERS
would be much obliged if you could enlighten me
about the following question: The affirmation according
to which God, by eternal decree, has predestined
certain specific persons, in anticipation of their
grave sins, to eternal reprobation; that is to say,
the affirmation according to which a certain number
of human beings are actually languishing and will
continue to languish forever in hell; is this, yes
or no, a de fide truth? If so, it is a matter
of what kind of truth (divine, divino-Catholic,
ecclesiastical, etc.)? Are there any passages in
Holy Scripture or in official documents of the magisterium
which touch on and unequivocally (i.e., doubtlessly
or unquestioningly as to meaning or intention) define
this matter? And if so, what are they?
is, indeed, a de fide truth that God, by eternal
decree, has predestined certain persons, in anticipation
of their grave (i.e., mortal) sins to eternal reprobation,
and this is, precisely, a (yet) undefined truth of divine
and Catholic Faith.
us explain these terms:
A truth of divine Faith, because it is contained
in the word of God (i.e., divine Revelation), both
written and orally transmitted to us.
A truth of the Catholic Faith, because the Church, in
its ordinary and universal magisterium, has always proposed
it to the faithful.
Undefined, because it has not yet ever been solemnly defined
either by a pope or by an ecumenical council (which does
not prevent it from belonging to the "deposit of
us now briefly examine Holy Scripture, Tradition, and the
magisterium of the Church.
of Holy Scripture unequivocally affirms that not all men
are saved, but that some of them are lost by their own fault
and will suffer eternal punishment. It is quite sufficient
here simply to recall the Last Judgment mentioned in Mt.
25:31ff., and especially from v .41 :
when the Son of man shall come in His majesty...and all
nations shall be gathered together before Him, and He
shall separate them one from another...and He shall set
the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on His left.
Then shall the king say to them that shall be on His right
hand: Come ye blessed of my Father….Then He shall say
to them also that shall be on His left hand: Depart from
me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared
for the devil and his angels ...and these shall go into
everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting.
in the same vein, in Jn. 5:28-29:
the hour cometh, wherein all that are in the graves shall
hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that have done
good things, shall come forth unto the resurrection of
life; but they that have done evil, unto the resurrection
of judgment (i.e., condemnation).
in the Old Testament, we need only to refer to Daniel (12:2)..:
those that sleep in the dust of the earth, shall awake;
some unto life everlasting, and others unto reproach,
to see it always.
thus it is throughout the Sacred Scriptures, both in the
New as well as the Old Testament.
the Pelagians and semi-Pelagians, who (as some of today's
modernists) reduced God down to the level of a simple spectator
of man's salvation or perdition, St. Augustine and his disciples
have already defended predestination as a traditional teaching
of the Catholic Faith:
Church has always had faith in this truth of predestination,
a faith which nowadays she defends with a renewed solicitude
against the new heretics (St. Augustine, De dono perseverantiae,
Church, as the divinely authorized interpreter of Tradition
and Holy Scripture: (1) has always and everywhere
taught that not all men will be saved; (2)
has always defended and reaffirmed this truth against new
and renewed heresies in various particular councils (Carthage,
Milene, Orange, Arles, Quierzy, Valence, etc.); (3)
presupposes, and therefore implicitly speaks of predestination
(of which reprobation is a part) in the Ecumenical Council
of Trent, where we read:
anyone, as long as he is living in [our present] mortal
condition, is to so overrate the secret mystery of divine
predestination so as to declare himself absolutely certain
of being counted amongst the definitive and final number
of the predestined [for heaven]….In fact, there is no
way of knowing those whom God has chosen except through
a special divine revelation (Dz. 805). If anyone
affirms that a man born again [i.e., validly baptized]
and justified is obliged by faith to believe that he is
certainly to be included in the number of predestined,
let him be anathema (Dz. 825).
without going into all the details of this great mystery,
it is a divine as well as a Catholic certainty that, although
God indeed wishes all souls to be saved, in actual fact,
not all men are saved. And this is the reason why it is
impossible to truthfully say "hell exists, but it is
empty," nor is it even reasonably possible to even
"wish" that it were empty. Modernists, as we have
already had occasion to point out, have their way so easily
from the fact that the dogma of predestination is so rarely
preached upon in all of its aspects, and is therefore presently
so little known by the faithful. This does not, however,
annul the fact that…:
Church, although opposed to the exaggerations of the "Predestinators"
[who favor a predestination not only for the punishment
but also for the sin] has, however, always professed "the
predestination of the elect to eternal life" (Dz
322 and Quierzy, ch.1, Ez. 316).
Church has declared that God, through His divine grace,
has predestined to eternal life those He has first known
and for whom, first and foremost, He has prepared that eternal
life. As for the others, those who are lost through
their own fault, God has certainly known them beforehand
[otherwise, He would be neither eternal nor all-knowing],
but He has not predestined them to perdition, but only to
eternal punishment, and therefore…...:
regards sin, reprobation is only a foreknowledge while
punishment is in the nature of a divine predetermination
[God, being eternal as well as omniscient, has, from all
eternity, pronounced His verdict: "Depart from me,
you cursed"] (Bartmann, Manuale de Teologia dogmatica,
vol. 2, p.273, and pp.276ff.).
Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, in turn, gives
the following resume of the constant teaching of the Church
regarding eternal reprobation (i.e., damnation):
predestinationism as well as against the Protestant and
Jansenist doctrines which renew it, the Church [in the
above-mentioned councils] teaches: a) that
God does, in truth, and in a certain way, wish to save
all men while making the accomplishment of His precepts
possible to everyone; b) that there is no
predestination to evil, but God from all eternity has
decreed the eternal punishment of damnation for those
future sins of final impenitence, sins of which He is
in no way the cause but which He only permits.
Church has always had faith in this truth of predestination,
a faith, which nowadays she defends with a renewed solicitude
against the new heretics.
Augustine, De dono perseverantiae, 23, 65)
the doctrine of the Church against opposing heresies is
summed up in the profound words of St. Prosper, words taken
up exactly by the Council of Quierzy:
quidam salvantur salvantis est donum [against Pelagianism
and the semi-Pelagians ]; quod quidam pereunt perentium
est meritum [against predestinationism] - That some
men are saved is the gift of the One who saves; that some
are lost is the just salary of those who lose themselves.
is exactly what is expressed in Holy Scriptures:
tua ex te, Israel tantum modo in me auxilium tuum
-Destruction is thy own, O Israel: thy help is only in
me" (Osee 13:9) (Cited in the Dictionnaire de
théologie catholique, word predestination,
To pretend that "hell is empty" or that we may
hope that it be so, is to fly in the face of divine Revelation
and to declare, also, the entire Church to be in error for
two thousand years.
LETTER ON THE SUBJECT
question raised by SI SI NO NO regarding
the lost souls in hell has left me quite perplexed.
Since the liturgy has much to do with theology,
I have always stuck to that which St. Augustine
wrote on the Psalms in the fifth lesson of the second
nocturne of Matins of Holy Thursday, an opinion
which does not seem to me to differ very much from
that of Card. Biffi in this matter, and well-founded
in view of St. Augustine’s authority, and the venerable
antiquity of the liturgy in question. Obviously,
this “opinion” is just as valid as its opposite,
for it is quite disconcerting to see compared to
dogmas (which were clearly and solemnly defined
by ecumenical councils or by popes) those theological
conclusions (even respectable) or the so-called
common sentences (even those approved by the popes).
How then could I be right in refusing certain Vatican
II doctrines (which is pastoral in name only), and
not be right in refusing those doctrines which carry
an equal or inferior theological weight? It is precisely
the experience obtained from Vatican II which has
taught me to base myself solely upon that which
God has directly revealed and which the Church (in
a clearly infallible manner-anathema included) proposes
to our belief, while considering that the infallible
declaration can possibly be poorly worded or expressed
without losing its validity. Among other things
(and always on the subject of hell) I think that
if God has seen fit not to reveal to us certain
details. It is for our own good and it is therefore
improper to rack one’s brains on a matter which
He has not given us to know. Moreover, and unless
I am mistaken, the proposition formulated by the
theologians’ parallel magisterium is ammunition
in the hands of the neo-modernists.
In the expression “theologians” used above, it is
evident that I do not include the Fathers of the
Church, whose unanimity is approximately equivalent
to Holy Scripture. But the era or age of the Fathers,
unless I am wrong, ended in the seventh century.
fact that hell is not empty is not simply an "opinion,"
but a de fide truth. For example, Ludwig Ott, in
his Précis de théologie dogmatique (ed. Marietti
Herder, p.402) writes:
by his eternal decree, has predestined certain persons,
in anticipation of their [unrepented mortal] sins, to
eternal reprobation [or punishment].
is followed by the theological qualification "de
fide means that it is a truth immediately revealed by
God Himself and not, as you have wrongly supposed, a "theological
conclusion" or "a theologian's common sentence"
(which do, however, have their value, especially those "theological
conclusions" which, if defined by the Church, do have
the same degree of infallible certitude as have the veritable
dogmas). Therefore, that passage of St. Augustine's to which
you have referred can in no way be interpreted in opposition
with dogma; and any opinion or other contradicting dogma
should be rejected out of hand because contrary to the true
patrimony of the Catholic Faith is not limited, as we shall
see, to those "dogmas which were clearly and solemnly
defined by ecumenical councils or by popes" and - which
will certainly surprise you - dogmas are not limited even
to defined dogmas.
dogmatic Vatican Council I (1869-1870) has infallibly declared:
to the divinely revealed Catholic Faith, we are solemnly
duty-bound to believe everything contained in God's word,
be it written [Holy Scripture] or transmitted by word
of mouth [Tradition], and which the Church has proposed
as divinely revealed for our belief, either by a solemn
judgment or by its ordinary and universal magisterium
The Church’s divinely appointed authority to infallibly
teach the truths of religion (DZ. 1972).
are precisely those truths proposed by the Church for our
belief as an article of "divine and Catholic Faith."
In order to have a dogma, there must, therefore, be two
that this truth be contained either explicitly
or implicitly in the sources of revelation (Holy Scripture
that this truth be proposed by the Church for
our belief (cf. L. Ott, op. cit. pp.13, 22). Contrary
to your expressed opinion, it is not necessary that dogmas
be "already and solemnly defined by ecumenical councils
or by popes," given that the proposition of the Church,
as resulting from the above-quoted text, can occur in
two different ways: either through the extraordinary channel
of solemn papal definitions or solely through the ordinary
and universal magisterium of the Church. The dogma of
eternal reprobation is found in the second category and
is, nevertheless, a true dogma indeed.
Ott, as a matter of fact, after having declared the doctrine
of reprobation to be" de fide" (e.g.,
Catholic dogma), adds:
reality of reprobation has not been formally defined,
but does constitute a common teaching [semper et ubique]
of the Church.
in turn writes:
reprobation has certainly not been formally defined, but
it is, in truth, part of the general doctrine of the Church
and can be proved through Holy Scriptures,..
Scriptures refer to the condemnation of the unrepentant
sinners from the very beginning (Manuale di Teologia
dogmatica, ed. Paoline, vol. II, p.277).
the Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, basing
itself upon the Holy Bible as well as upon the constant
magisterium of the Church, concludes: "The fact that
some souls are [eternally] condemned is therefore absolutely
certain and constitutes a certitude of the Faith (vol. XII,
col. 3007. Refer also to the Encyclopédie catholique,
We are entitled to refuse Vatican II, or, better,
certain texts of Vatican II, not because they carry a "theological
weight" inferior to infallible declarations, but simply
because they are interpreted in contradiction with that
which the Church has "semper et ubique"
(always and everywhere) proposed to our belief or
with the extraordinary magisterium (solemn definitions),
or again with the ordinary and universal magisterium, which
is that "common teaching" referred to by Ludwig
Ott, or that "general doctrine of the Church"
mentioned by Bartmann.
make of this a question of a more or less great "theological
weight" is an extremely grave error. In fact, the "deposit
of Faith," that is to say, that doctrine entrusted
by Jesus Christ to His Church, cannot simply be reduced
solely to defined truths of the Faith (which would be very
few and which would exclude numerous...dogmas), but is,
in reality, much more wide-ranging, embracing everything,
that God has revealed and which the Church has constantly
believed and revealed (implicitly or explicitly). Our act
of Faith, in reality, is not limited to defined truths of
the Faith, but is open to a general and universal act of
God, I firmly believe everything which Thou hast revealed
and which Thou teachest us through Thy Church [the Holy
Church - obviously, but nowadays it is important to make
this point unmistakably clear - is not to be identified
with the presently reigning Pope who is not speaking ex
cathedra and who is not proposing the constant doctrine
of the Church, but only his own "opinions" which
are at variance with that doctrine].
a Brief dated December 21,1863, to the Bishop of Munich,
Pope Pius IX summed up the situation in these words, where
if it were a question of that obedience which we owe (concretely)
to divine Faith, that obedience should not be limited
to those truths expressly defined by decrees of ecumenical
councils or of Roman Pontiffs or of this Apostolic See
[i.e., defined dogmas], but should also extend
to truths which, springing from the ordinary magisterium
of the Church, have been propagated throughout the world
and have been transmitted as being divinely revealed;
and therefore, by a common and universal accord of Catholic
theologians [note: Catholic and not modernist]
these truths are to be considered as being a matter of
Faith [undefined dogmas].
clarifying statement coming from Pius IX was later solemnly
ratified by Vatican I (1870) in a dogmatic declaration reported
above in no.2. It follows from this that a Catholic must
not limit his Faith solely to defined dogmas, but, over
and above those dogmas expressly professed in the Credo,
he must embrace, in a general and universal act of faith,
the "deposit of Faith" in its entirety. Vatican
II or, more precisely, the errors coming from Vatican II,
cannot be included in the "deposit of Faith,"
because God does not contradict Himself, and it is an absolute
rule that Catholics must believe only that which does not
stand in contradiction with the doctrine always and everywhere
taught and believed by the Church [Cf. Origen, PG., vol.
XI, col. 116, and St. Vincent of Lerins, Commonitorium
(See sidebar on facing page)].
With regards to the question of hell, God has never
revealed the number nor the names of the damned, (except
for Lucifer, the multitudes of fallen angels or demons,
as well as for Judas, for whom - Jesus tells us - "it
would have been better for him never to have been born,"
which can only be said of an eternally lost soul), because
it would certainly be proved to be "improper to rack
one's brains" on the subject of the existence of hell
as well as on the fact whether it be full or empty, since
God has clearly revealed to us that it does indeed exist
and that it will be eternally inhabited not only by demons,
but also by men damned through their own fault:
from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared
for the devil and his angels (Mt. 25:41).
The so-called "parallel magisterium"
of the modernist pseudo-theologians has absolutely nothing
to do with Catholic theology, which respects the rules of
Faith and which does not fly in the face of the true magisterium,
but is led or guided "under the vigilance of the holy
magisterium," by authorities of great minds and holiness,
and to whom "the magisterium of the Church has given,
with its special authority, a so noteworthy approbation."
This is so true that to scorn it [i.e., Catholic
theology] is tantamount to despising the magisterium of
the Church itself (Pope Pius XII, Humani Generis - available
from Angelus Press: Price $1.95).
unanimity of the Fathers of the Church testifies in favor
of Tradition, which, together, with the Sacred Scriptures,
forms one of the founts of divine Revelation. But, following
the Fathers of the Church, there came the Doctors (i.e.,
teachers) of the Church who have, in common with the Fathers,
an outstanding holiness together with an eminent doctrine
as well as the (implicit or explicit) approval of the magisterium.
Such is the great theology, that theology "canonized"
by the Church, and upon whose mark authentic Catholic theology
has always aligned itself (e.g, St. Thomas Aquinas
first of all) and according to the will of the Roman pontiffs
themselves. This same authentic Catholic theology is presently
being tragically and openly contradicted and opposed by
the proponents of the "new theology" precisely
because of its unswerving attachment to Tradition and the
magisterium of the Church, which the neo-modernists, on
the contrary, hold in the utmost contempt (cf. Pope Pius
XII, Humani Generis).
friend, you are now in a position to fully evaluate the
importance and gravity of the present crisis in the Church.
In bygone times (before Vatican II), the faithful could
sleep peacefully in the loving arms of their Holy Mother
the Church; nowadays, the specter of neo-modernism presents
Catholics with a false and horrible caricature of the Church
while trying to treacherously convince them that such is
their true Mother. Nowadays, Catholics are obliged to face
up to problems and questions that they could formerly (i.e.,
before Vatican II) ignore without blame. What, then, is
the remedy for this tragic situation? It is quite a simple
one, and within easy reach for those of good will: Let us
stick to and be well content with that Faith professed by
the Church before the Council (i.e., Vatican II,
1962-1965) in less suspect times (such is the rule propounded
by St. Vincent of Lerins) while utterly and prudently rejecting
all of the post-Conciliar novelties as we implore our Lord
Jesus Christ to hasten the hour of His mercy, seeing that
the "little ones [such as all of us are] beg for the
bread of Truth, and there is no one to give it to them in
these tragic times."
from Courrier de Rome, March 1997.)
to God, then, they that now exercise us were converted
and exercised with us: but let us not hate them, thought
they continue to exercise us; for we know not whether
they will persevere to the end in their wickedness.
And many times, when you imagine that you hate your
enemy, it is your brother you hate, though you ignorant
of it. The holy Scriptures plainly show us that the
devil and his angels are doomed to eternal fire. It
is only their amendment we may despair of, with whom
we wage an invisible war; for which the apostle arms
us, saying: Our conflict is not with flesh and blood,
that is not with the men you see before your eyes, but
with the princes, and powers, and rulers of the world
of this darkness. And lest by his saying, of the
world, you might think perhaps, that the devils
are rulers of heaven and earth, he added, of this
darkness. By the world, then, he meant the lovers
of the world; by the world, he meant the impious and
the wicked; by the world, he meant that which the Gospel
speaks of; And the world knew him not (St. Augustine).
Detail from Appearance of SS.Jerome and John
to St. Augustine, by Matteo Di Giovanni.
men of this type traveling through provinces and cities,
hawking their venal errors, came also to the Galatians.
These, after having listened to the travelers, became lukewarm,
towards the truth, rejecting the manna of apostolic and
Catholic doctrine and delighting in the dirt of heretical
novelty. On this occasion, the authority of the apostolic
power asserted itself and decreed with utmost severity:
“But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel
to you besides that which we have preached to you, let him
does he say: “ But though we”? Why not rather: “But though
I”? Because it is his understanding that even if Peter,
or Andrew, or John, even finally, if the whole community
of Apostles “should preach a gospel to you other than that
which we have preached to you, let them be anathema.” What
tremendous strictness! To assure firmness in the loyalty
to the “first faith,” he is ready to spare neither himself
nor his fellow Apostles. But he is not satisfied with that,
for his words are: “Even if ‘an angel from heaven should
preach a gospel to you besides that which we have preached
to you, let him be anathema.’” For the preservation of the
traditional faith it was not sufficient for him to look
only on the condition of human nature; he also included
the eminent angelic nature. “Though we,” he says, “or an
angel from heaven.” Not that he thinks that holy and celestial
angels could sin. What he really means is: If that happened
which cannot happen, let whosoever may attempt to change
the traditional faith be anathema.
perhaps he pronounced these words incidentally, uttering
them out of a quite human impulse rather than forming them
under divine inspiration? This is far from the case. He
continues, and emphasizes his point with the whole weight
of reiterated assertion: “ As we said before, so now I say
again: If anyone preach to you a gospel besides that which
you have received. Let him be anathema.” He did not say:
“If anyone announced to you something besides that which
you have received, let him be blessed, praised, welcome,”
but: “let him be anathema.” That is, let him be separated,
segregated, excluded, so that the horrible contagion of
a single sheep may not infect the innocent flock of Christ
with its poisonous virus.
of Lerins, The Commonitories (Commonitoria), Translated
by Rudolph E. Morris, J.U.D. (Marquette University). New
York, Fathers of the Church, Inc (1949) pp.281-282.]
Courtesy of the Angelus
Press, Kansas City, MO 64109
translated from the Italian
Fr. Du Chalard
Via Madonna degli Angeli, 14
Italia 00049 Velletri (Roma)