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Monday, November 04, 2013

Dare We Hope All Men Be Saved?

Apparently, there's a video created by one Father Barron (who I do not know, nor have I watched his video), in which Father claims that we can hope all men are saved and that hell is empty.

Many "traditionalist" Catholics are up in arms. Much heat and very little light is being shed. Names are being cast around.

Let's make this simple so no one can reasonably argue.

According to the rules of logic:
If       A=B    (Major Premise)
and    B=C    (Minor Premise)
Then  C=A    (Conclusion)

According to the pious Christian tradition established by all the saints, Fathers and Doctors of the Church it is appropriate for every Christian to consider himself or herself the most miserable of all sinners. So, if I consider myself the most miserable of sinners - more miserable than Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Che Guevera, even more miserable than Barack Hussein Obama - then I am following a great and laudable Christian tradition.

Furthermore, according to Church dogma and doctrine, despite my miserable sinfulness, I have the right to hope in God's mercy and hope that I will be saved and attain heaven.

Thus, if I (who am the most miserable of sinners) can hope to be saved, then I can certainly hope that all sinners less miserable than me will be saved. That is, I can hope that all men be saved.

In short, according to the rules of logic:
If     Of All Men Who Have Ever Sinned (A),      I am the Most Miserable Sinner (B)
and  I, the Most Miserable Sinner, (B)                 Have the Right To Hope To Be Saved (C)
Then  I Have the Right To Hope for Salvation (C)  For All Men Who Have Ever Sinned (A)

The only way to avoid the conclusion is to insist that either:
(a) the Major Premise is an error, when I certainly know that it is not in error, 
(b) that the Minor Premise is an error, when the Church infallibly tells me it is correct.
I cannot hold either premise to be in error.
Thus, there is no logical way to avoid the conclusion.

So, yes, Catholics have every right to hope that all men be saved and that no human being is in hell. NOTE: Even if no human being goes to hell, hell will still be populated with persons - angelic persons. Hell was made for the devil and his fallen angels, not for man (cf. Matthew 25). Thus, the Church teaches that (a) we know hell is filled with persons AND (b) we have the right to hope and even to pray that none of those persons are human. 

Now, some people don't like this conclusion because they think "hope=belief". That is, they think that by saying we have the right to HOPE that no human being ends up in hell, we mean that we BELIEVE no human being ends up in hell. This is completely erroneous because "hope" does NOT equal "belief."

Theologically, belief is certain knowledge, while hope is merely possibility.

I BELIEVE in heaven because I know it is there. I HOPE I go to heaven, but I don't know that I'll make it. I have BELIEF in the possibility of my salvation, therefore I believe in HOPE, or if you prefer, I believe with HOPE. 

I BELIEVE, or I have trust, in a person. 
Because I have trust in that person, I HOPE in his message.
Thus, because I believe in God, I can hope in God. Hope is built upon belief. 

Belief is about the trustworthiness of a person or thing.
Hope is about the trustworthiness of the message. 

So, I believe in God. Because God has given me a message of salvation, I also hope in God - my "hope in God" is a short-hand way of saying "my hope is in His message based on the certainty of knowledge concerning the trustworthiness of His being."

Belief is most certainly not the same thing as hope.

There is no rational way to break the argument. 
I don't care if you like the conclusion or if you hate the conclusion - none of that matters. You cannot escape the conclusion and remain rational.
God is pure love.
God is pure rationality.
The only rational thing to do is love.
Holding to the hope that all men are saved is both rational and an expression of love.
It is well within Catholic doctrine.
Hans urs von Balthasar was correct - those who disagree with him are not.

There is nothing more to be said on the matter.

Don't even attempt to bring up Fatima. Or Don Bosco. Or any other saintly vision. 
Private revelation is absolutely useless here. We are talking about doctrine. Private revelation has absolutely no place nor brief in a discussion of doctrine. It should never be brought forward as evidence of doctrine. Either the Church teaches it or She does not. A vision is not a teaching. A vision is not relevant.

Insofar as you think any council or papal statement lays out a doctrine other than the one laid out here, you have misunderstood the council or papal statement. Magisterium cannot be set against Magisterium. The Magisterium says we have a right to hold this hope. All other statements have to be read in this light. 

Question: Why do people fight this idea?
Because none of us really want to be holy. Look, all the Fathers, Doctors and saints attest to the fact that I MUST consider myself the worst of sinners. But I don't like making that part of my self-image. I want to insist that Barack Hussein Obama or Hitler or Jeffrey Dahmer is a lot worse than I am. But the only way to enter the path of holiness is to admit that I am probably worse than any of these people are.

After all, they may have been operating out of insanity or ineradicable ignorance. They may not be fully responsible for what they do. I know I am. Thus, even though my sins may look objectively less than theirs, my sins are most likely objectively worse than theirs. C.S. Lewis discusses this problem - I may not be as good as Mr. A, but I'm certainly better than that blighter Mr. B. That's the kind of spiritual buffoonery that landed the Pharisees in such trouble.

One test of whether people recognize the path of holiness is to see if they recognize the force of this argument. If they don't admit the possibility, then they don't fully recognize the path to holiness. If they do, they are not yet saved, but they at least have.... hope.


Steve Dalton said...

Steve, have you seen Voris's video on this? He does a pretty good job of showing Barron is in error about hell, just like he's in error about Adam not being a historical figure.

Also, Christ taught there are folks going to hell, so I think Fr. Barron is in danger of being a material heretic.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

I have not seen any video on this, nor read any blog on it at any depth, except for Mark Shea's. Now you who have read me for a long time know full well that I don't always agree with Mark, but he is dead-on correct about what lies within the pale of orthodoxy.

I have no plans to watch either Fr. Barron's video nor Michael Voris' response. The doctrine is quite clear, there isn't anything to discuss or think further about.

People reject this doctrine because they don't like to think of themselves as the worst of sinners. It's an emotional and spiritual block that keeps them from admitting the logic.

I'm not a counsellor, so I have no ability to help anyone with emotional blocks or spiritual problems. A man's GOT to know his limitations. :)

carolyn said...

"But the only way to enter the path of holiness is to admit that I am probably worse than any of these people are."

That sounds a bit dogmatic, no? The ONLY way? Perhaps even bordering on the neurotic?

I'm all for the Supernatural Virtues of Faith, Hope and Love. As an earth walker the practicality of the Cardinal ones of Prudence, Justice, fortitude and temperance seems to have a more 'rubber hitting the road" application.

"Dad, if I rape my teacher will I go to hell?" "Don't worry about it Son, Fr. Bannon say's nobody goes to hell anymore."

As the internet age gives rise to doctrinaire theology of the everyman is it best to be stick to our own domain and stay away from God's?

"I'm not quite sure Son, but God is the one who decides on our eternal salvation."

Is a far better answer, and I suspect was in some ways was Mr. Voris's point.

Understandably taking pleasure at the prospect of anyone burning in a lake of fire in the spirit of God's justice seems a bit uncharitable to today's average self satisfied American.

I think it would be consolation and venial sin if the subject had just burned your church down, raped your wife and sold your daughters into slavery.

Sure the pillager could get to heaven, but I doubt it. Our opinions on the matter can differ because it is in God's hands. Is the pride in your superiority of position due to holiness or vanity?

There is a tip to the sword of our faith, just as there is a sharp point at the end of a Bishops crosier to kill the wolves that still prowl the earth seeking the ruin of souls.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Carolyn, I see that you flawlessly skewer positions no one holds.

Do you have anything to say about the content of the doctrine under discussion?

carolyn said...

Thanks for asking.
Nobody on earth knows who is in hell.

As Catholics we must believe there is such a place.

Luke 24:16
And he cried, and said: Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, to cool my tongue: for I am tormented in this flame.

Sorry - some people go for sure.

Oh, thanks for the insult.
Go to hell. (just kid'n)

Steve Kellmeyer said...

The rich man has affection and concern for his living brothers. He is generally considered to be in purgatory, not hell.

If you read the essay, you would know that no one is denying the existence of hell, nor is anyone denying that there are persons in hell.

carolyn said...

Its your blog.

"Apparently, there's a video created by one Father Barron, in which Father claims that we can hope all men are saved and that hell is empty."

this is what I responded to.

Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, not logic 101. The story of the rich man with the desire for a drop of water from a righteous man's finger is powerful. If you recall he does not get the droplet. It sounds like hell to me based on that. His 'affection and concern' is a warning - don't burn like me. One we should all take regardless of what Fr. Bannon suggests.

Indeed purgatory is the place that we should hope and pray for especially is this month dedicated to these souls- or did we toss that tradition out as well?

Assisi said...

Firstly, to read Mark Shea is to drink a fool's brew entirely. The Saintly admonition to consider oneself "the greatest of all sinners" is a plea for an interior disposition that acts as a safeguard against judging oneself on a curve (For all of us CAN be the greatest of sinners) and to provoke charity for our neighbor who shares the same poor state (A great fan of the zombie genre, I look at a zombie-causing sickness, sin, that can turn us into monsters when we perish, an apt allegory, but I digress..). It is not a dogma or doctrine. It's as if St. Teresa of Avila, St. Francis, or St. Catherine of Sienna could peer into the Heart of God and say, "Knowing I am the WORST of all sinners Lord, and having forgave me, now you MUST forgive all the lesser sinners.." Pretty bold blasphemy to demand The Most High do anything! God can forgive the GREATEST sinner IF he repents satisfactorily. What The Universal Salvationists, Origen-rehabilitating heretics need to do is to speak to souls of repentance. They don't because they do not love God or souls enough to preach repentance. They prefer the party of universal acceptance. The whole world, immersed in sin, presuming on God's Mercy, a SIN AGAINST THE HOLY SPIRIT, then love anyone or anything, but their own sorry ideas forged in cowardice. VIVO CHRISTO REY! SALVE REGINA MATER MISERICORDIA ORA PRO NOBIS!

Mike said...

Steve -

You're not getting to step one ... in refuting the latest "theological" break from reality of non-Catholic apostate Barron.

Here is step one ...

The Catholic truth from Heaven isn't "philosophy" sprinkled with a little logic ...

It is the Sources of Dogma of the Holy Spirit through the Catholic Church.

- - - -

On this issue of Justification we see Dogma (one example) of the Holy Spirit as follows ...

Vatican Council of 1870, Session 3, Chapter 3 On Faith, Paragraphs 8-9 -- Ex-Cathedra Dogma >
"Wherefore, by Divine and Catholic Faith all those things are to be believed ... which are proposed by the Church as matters to be believed as Divinely revealed ... no one can ever achieve justification without it, neither can anyone attain eternal life unless he or she perseveres in it to the end."

More > Section 1 >

- - - -

A few Sources of Dogma that the truths from Heaven ... is that which is formally defined by the Pope in union with the bishops of the world ...

More > Section 3.3 >

Council of Florence, Session 2, 15 February 1432 A.D. -- Ex-Cathedra Dogma >
"“For the extirpation of heresies and errors, for the reformation of morals in head and members of the Church of God, and for the pacification of kings and kingdoms and other Christians in discord among themselves through the instigation of the author of discords, the Synod, legitimately assembled in the Holy Spirit, decrees, establishes, defines, declares and ordains as follows ..."

Note: The Pope in union with the Bishops ... defining the Catholic Faith.

~ ~

Council of Vienne, Decree 1, 1311-1312 A.D. -- Ex-Cathedra Dogma >
"We, therefore, directing our Apostolic attention, to which alone it belongs to define these things (...) In order that all may know the truth of the faith in its purity and all error may be excluded, we define that anyone who presumes henceforth to assert defend or hold stubbornly that the rational or intellectual soul is not the form of the human body of itself and essentially, is to be considered a heretic."

Note: The Pope in union with the Bishops ... defining the Catholic Faith.

~ ~

Council of Trent, Session 25, 1563 A.D. -- Ex-Cathedra Dogma >
"The calamitousness of the times, and the malignity of the increasing heresies demand, that nothing be left undone which may seem in any wise capable of tending to the edification of the people, and to the defence of the Catholic Faith. Wherefore the Holy Synod enjoins ... they publicly receive all and singular the things that have been defined and ordained by this Holy Synod ... (and) publicly express their detestation of and anathematize all the heresies that have been condemned by the Sacred Canons and General Councils."

Note 1: The Pope in union with the Bishops ... defining the Catholic Faith.

Note 2: The Pope in union with the Bishops ... defining the Catholic Faith ... in the condemning of heresies.

~ ~

Council of Florence, Session 6, 6 July 1439 A.D. -- Ex-Cathedra Dogma >
"In the name of the holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we define, with the approval of this Holy universal Council of Florence, that the following truth of faith shall be believed and accepted by all Christians and thus shall all profess it: that the Holy Spirit is eternally from the Father and the Son, and has His essence and His subsistent being from the Father together with the Son, and proceeds from both eternally as from one principle and a single spiration."

Note: The Pope in union with the Bishops ... defining the Catholic Faith.

~ ~

Vatican Council of 1870, Session 3, Chapter 4, Articles 7 and 8 -- Ex-Cathedra Dogma >
"We define that every assertion contrary to the truth of enlightened faith is totally false. Furthermore the Church which, together with its Apostolic office of teaching, has received the charge of preserving the deposit of faith.

Note: The Pope in union with the Bishops ... defining the Catholic Faith.


Anonymous said...

Steve: You have made an error. You begin with a categorical syllogism, but then present an argument using material implication.

If p, then q. P, therefore, q.

This is material implication, and the form of the argument that you presented. You have not given a valid categorical syllogism because those only deal with the categories by which things are identified. You are working with propositions, not categories. If you were working with categories, you would be equating A and B so that you would be "equating all men who ever sinned" with "I am the most miserable sinner". See your correct description of the major premise, and then substitute sentence A and sentence B. It becomes "Of all men who have ever sinned" equals "I am the most miserable sinner". It doesn't work because you're not really engaging in a categorical syllogism. You're engaged in deductive reasoning using propositions.

I don't disagree with your conclusion, that we can hope that all men can be saved. You just haven't presented a valid categorical syllogism. You also haven't presented a valid syllogism using material implication. This is because the propositions you used change in form between the premises and the conclusion. Both C and A change in meaning between the premises and the conclusion. It ends up committing the fallacy of equivocation because of the change in meaning. It's subtle, but it's there. You go from "Of all men who have ever sinned" to "For all men who have ever sinned". Different meanings. You also go from "Have the right to be saved" to "I have the right to hope for Salvation". C in your conclusion is linguistically the same as B and C in your minor premise. You combine the two into one in your conclusion.

I've tried correcting your argument to provide a valid deductive syllogism, but without success because no matter what I end up having to change the meaning of the terms. Essentially we need to rely on revealed truth that the most miserable of sinners can be saved, and so we can therefore hope that all are saved. There's no real logical argument to prove it from other premises because it is a rather compact proposition that stands on its own. Either it's true, or its false.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

The syllogism is fine. Thanks for playing.

Anonymous said...

No, it's not fine. I've explained why it's not fine. It may be persuasive rhetoric, but it's not a valid logical argument. I have a degree in philosophy with an emphasis on analytic philosophy and logic. The errors you made are common errors, but still errors. That's not to say the premises or conclusion are false. It's also not to say that the premises aren't evidence for the conclusion. It only means that the premises do not lead to the conclusion with mathematical certainty. You should read my post again and take it point by point if you wish to understand. But if you don't, that's up to you. God Bless.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Alpha, the essay is fine. I get that you don't like it for certain technical reasons. That doesn't bother me. I'm fine with the essay as it is.

Hildebrand said...

Let's look at the words of Christ himself. In Matthew 7:13-14 Jesus was rather specific when he said "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."

I agree with your logic that we are right to hope for salvation, and to hope for the salvation of others, but we can't discount the words of Our Lord Himself who says that many enter by the gate that leads to destruction. Hope is one thing, Truth is another.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

The theological virtues cannot be set against each other. Hope cannot be opposed to Truth.

Hildebrand said...

Mr Kellmeyer, I did not say that truth and hope were set against each other. We are entitled to hope that we might be saved, but we can not ignore the words of Christ who is the Way, the TRUTH and the Life, when He speaks on the matter. He, Truth Himself, said that many enter the way of destruction. Hope does not contradict truth, and as such it is not possible to hope that Hell is empty or that all will be saved. We can hope in our own salvation and the salvation of others but we must fear our own concupiscence and weakness and hope in the strength that Christ gives us. We must as St Paul counselled work out our own salvation in fear and trembling. Otherwise we can fall into the sin of presumption.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Well, your interpretation of that verse is clearly not Pope John Paul II's interpretation.

I think I'll back the Pope over you on this one.

Hildebrand said...

Oh how I enjoy dismissiveness and condescension. If there is a flaw in my interpretation of the Gospel don't you have an obligation to engage in the spiritual work of mercy to instruct the ignorant? Or does your smug sense of superiority forbid you to do such a thing? Is that why you employed the fallacious Argumentum ad verecundiam and appealled to an authority without providing an actual rational argument?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Cast not your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot then turn and attack you.

I have explained why you are wrong. You refuse to hear. Let those with ears, hear. You say that you see, yet you refuse to accept the facts, so your sin remains.

I have placed our dispute before the Church and I have let the Church rule. The Church, in the person of Pope John Paul II, has affirmed that we may follow von Balthasur's lead. You should listen to the Church.

Jordanes551 said...

In what magisterial declaration has the Church affirmed that Han Urs von Balthasar's speculations are an acceptable position, reversing what the Church previously taught magisterially that it is a doctrinal error that "Good hope at least is to be entertained of the eternal salvation of all those who are not at all in the true Church of Christ." The prior condemnation of the Balthasarian opinion came in a papal encyclical. In what formal teaching document did Blessed John Paul II approve of it?

Have you considered the possibility that you and Urs von Balthasar and, yes, even Blessed John Paul II, could be wrong on this point, and that the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and the Church's ancient and perennial liturgy across rites, and the sensus fidelium, could be right?

Steve Kellmeyer said...

It's not an "either-or" situation, Jordanes. It's "both-and". Fathers, Doctors, JP II, von Balthasar - all saying the same thing, just with different emphases appropriate to the different cultural situations they faced.

S said...

The widely distributed Hollywood quality Jesuit production of Fr, Bannon say's according to you.

"...we can hope all men are saved and that hell is empty."

Isn't it simply missed placed charity by way of presumption by proxy?

What kind of hope is it anyway when ones own soul is not on the line, but somebody else.

It makes we wonder is it really the supernatural virtue of hope or is it modernist wishful thinking in disguise.

I understand it is your blog so feel free to correct me if I am right as I am sure you will.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

I think the essay above explains it.

Andrew said...

How does the idea of no human persons going to hell reconcile with Jude 1:7? Thank you.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Read the preceding verses. Does verse 5 indicate that God entirely annihilates some persons? Jehovah's Witnesses think so. JWs are wrong.

Reading verse 7 to mean that there are DEFINITELY human persons in hell is also wrong. Look, do you REALLY think you are the first one to notice these verses? You think Balthasar and JP II were unaware of these Scriptures? Seriously?

5 I will therefore admonish you, though ye once knew all things, that Jesus, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, did afterwards destroy them that believed not. 6 And the angels who kept not their principality but forsook their own habitation, he hath reserved under darkness in everlasting chains, unto the judgment of the great day. 7 As Sodom and Gomorrha and the neighbouring cities, in like manner, having given themselves to fornication and going after other flesh, were made an example, suffering the punishment of eternal fire.

Andrew or Elizabeth said...

Greetings Steve,

I made no claim to be the first person to notice James 1:7. I simply asked how you reconcile it with the idea of there might not be any human persons in hell. If the residents of Sodom and Gomorrha were consigned to suffering the punishment of eternal fire, where else would they be other than hell?

On another point, what are your sources for the claim that the rich man in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man is "generally considered" to be in purgatory? Considered by who?

Thank you.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

CCC 633 Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, "hell" - Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek - because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God.480 Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into "Abraham's bosom":481 "It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham's bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell."482 Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.483 .

Pope Benedict: "
In the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (cf. Lc 16,19-31), Jesus admonishes us through the image of a soul destroyed by arrogance and opulence, who has created an impassable chasm between himself and the poor man; the chasm of being trapped within material pleasures; the chasm of forgetting the other, of incapacity to love, which then becomes a burning and unquenchable thirst. We must note that in this parable Jesus is not referring to the final destiny after the Last Judgement, but is taking up a notion found, inter alia, in early Judaism, namely that of an intermediate state between death and resurrection, a state in which the final sentence is yet to be pronounced."

See the commentary on Hades at:

Hildebrand said...

I have taken your advice but will now cast one final pearl. The late Avery Cardinal Dulles gave a much clearer and certainly less arrogant overview of the subject of this discussion with a very fair critique of Von Balthasar's contribution.

One could hardly accuse St John Chrysostom, Ireneus, Augustine, Aquinas or Pope Benesict XII of not thinking with the mind of the Church, an accusation you easily toss at anyone who may take a contrary position to your own.

An article by Dulles can be found at: