The existence of an eternal Hell is a truth of the Faith, defined by the Church in councils, symbols of Faith and documents of the Magisterium.
A Condemned Prostitute
Saint Francis Jerome (1642-1716) was a great preacher. Born of a noble family, he entered the Jesuits and developed his ministry in Naples.
Through his sermons, he converted innumerable sinners, convicts and fallen women.
Among the extraordinary facts in his biography the following excerpt is particularly pertinent since it refers to eternal damnation.
His sermons were commonly followed with the repentance and conversion of five, six and even ten fallen women, who appeared with their hair undone and shedding many tears, asking permission to enter into some convent in order to do penance for their sins.
One day, the servant of God preached in front of the home of one of those unfortunate women. Rather than repent, however she did everything she could to interrupt him, even letting loose great yells, but nothing she did suceeded to distract the attention of our saint, who continued his sermon until its end.
Some days later, Father Francis passed in front of the same house, and seeing it closed, asked those who were nearby: "What happened to Catherine?" That was the name of the unhappy woman.
She died suddenly yesterday," they answered.
"Dead!" exclaimed the Saint. "Let us go and see her."
He entered the home, and climbed the stairs. There he saw the body laid out according to the custom. Then, in the midst of the profound silence that reigned over the place, in spite of the large number of spectators, he exclaimed: "Tell me, Catherine, what has been done with thy soul?"
He asked this question twice without getting an answer; but, when he repeated it a third time, in a tone of authority, the dead woman opened her eyes, moved her lips in sight of everyone and, with a weak voice that seemed to come out of a great depth, answered: "In hell; I am in hell!"
Everyone left frightened and, upon withdrawing, the Saint repeatedly said: "In hell! In hell! All-powerful God, terrible God! In hell!"
The event and words of the saint caused such an impression that many did not dare return home without first going to confession.
Hell as Seen by Saint Teresa of Avila
Saint Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) is one of the most extraordinary saints of the Church. As a reformer of the Carmelite order, she led a life of intense activity. Burning with love, and given greatly to prayer, her life was deeply mystical9. She described this life in detail in her books, which became basic works for the study of Catholic mysticism.
In her autobiography, she recounts being taken alive to Hell, and attests to the good that this did for her. Here are her words:
Some considerable time after our Lord had bestowed upon me the graces I have been describing, and others also of a higher nature, I was one day in prayer when I found myself in a moment, without knowing how, plunged apparently into hell. I understood that it was our Lord's will I should see the place which the devils kept in readiness for me, and which I had deserved by my sins. It was but a moment, but it seems to me impossible I should ever forget it, even if I were to live many years.
The entrance seemed to be by a long narrow pass, like a furnace, very low, dark, and close. The ground seemed to be saturated with water, mere mud, exceedingly foul, sending forth pestilential odours, and covered with loathsome vermin. At the end was a hollow place in the wall, like a closet, and in that I saw myself confined. All this was even pleasant to behold in comparison with what I felt there. There is no exaggeration in what I am saying.
But as to what I then felt, I do not know where to begin, if I were to describe it; it is utterly inexplicable. I felt a fire in my soul. I cannot see how it is possible to describe it. My bodily sufferings were unendurable. I have undergone most painful sufferings in this life, and, as the physicians say, the greatest that can be borne, such as the contraction of my sinews when I was paralyzed, without speaking of others of different kinds, yea, even those of which I have also spoken, inflicted on me by Satan; yet all those were as nothing in comparison with what I felt then, especially when I saw there would be no intermission, nor any end to them.
Those sufferings were nothing in comparison with the anguish of my soul, a sense of oppression, of stifling, and of pain so keen, accompanied by so hopeless and cruel an infliction, that I know not how to speak of it. If I said that the soul is continually being torn from the body it would be nothing - for that implies the destruction of life by the hands of another; but here is the soul itself that is tearing itself in pieces. I cannot describe that inward fire of that despair, surpassing all torments and all pain. I did not see who it was that tormented me, but I felt myself on fire, and torn to pieces, as it seemed to me; and, I repeat it, this inward fire and despair are the greatest torments of all.
Left in that pestilential place, and utterly without the power to hope for comfort, I could neither sit nor or lie down: there was no room. I was placed as it were in a hole in the wall; and those walls, terrible to look on of themselves, hemmed me in on every side. I could not breathe. There is no light, but all was thick darkness. I do not understand how it is; though there was no light, yet everything that can give pain by being seen was visible.
Our Lord at that time would not let me see more of hell. Afterwards I had another most fearful vision, in which I saw the punishments of certain sins. They were most horrible to look at; but because of I felt none of the pain, my terror was not so great. In the former vision, our Lord made me really feel those torments, and that anguish of spirit, just as if I had been suffering them in the body there. I know not how it was, but I understood distinctly that it was a great mercy that our Lord would have me see with mine own eyes the very place from which His compassion saved me. I have listened to people speaking of these things , and I have at other times dwelt on the various torments of hell, though not often, because my soul made no progress by the way of fear; and I have read of the diverse tortures, and how the devils tear the flesh with red-hot pincers. But all that is as nothing before this; it is a wholly different matter. In short, one is a reality, the other a picture; and all the burning here in this life is as nothing in comparison with the fire that is there.
I was so terrified by that vision - and that terror is on me even now while I am writing - that though it took place six years ago, the natural warmth of my body is chilled by fear when I think of it. And so, amid all the pain and suffering which I may have had to bear, I remember no time in which I do not think that all we have to suffer in this world is as nothing. It seems to me that we complain without reason. I repeat it, this vision was one of the grandest mercies of our Lord. It has been to me of the greatest service, because it made me strong enough to bear up against them, and to give thanks to our Lord, who has been my Deliverer, as it now seems to me, from those fearful and everlasting pains.10
On July 13, 1917, in Fatima, Potugal, Our Lady showed Hell to three shepherd children.
Hell Seen by the Fatima Children
On July 13, 1917, Our Lady in Fatima, appeared the third time and showed the three children hell. Sister Lucy tells what happened:
[Our Lady] once again opened her hands as she had done in the two previous months. The reflection [which streamed from them] seemed to penetrate the earth, and we saw, as it were, a great sea of fire; submerged in that fire were demons and souls in human shapes who resembled red-hot, black and bronze-colored embers that floated about in the blaze, borne by the flames that issued from them together with clouds of smoke, falling everywhere like the showering sparks of great blazes - with neither weight nor equilibrium - amidst shrieks and groans of sorrow and despair that horrified us and made us shudder with fear.
The devils stood out like frightful and unknown animals with horrible and disgusting shapes, but transparent like black coals that have become red-hot.11
All this happened in an instant, and was so shocking that the three children would have died from fright if Our Lady had not promised to take them to Heaven.
Proofs from Revelation
The existence of an eternal Hell is a truth of the Faith, defined by the Church in councils, symbols of Faith and documents of the Magisterium.
In addition, scriptural references to it are countless, including this impressive sentence of the Divine Savior: "Depart from Me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels" (St. Matthew 25:41).
In this affirmation the existence of Hell is unquestionable (the fire prepared for the devil and his angels) as well as the interminability of both the fire and the separation from God (depart from me, you cursed into everlasting fire).
The same Evangelist recounts other statements of the Savior in which the sensible torment in hell is illustrated with the loss of the Divine Presence, exterior darkness and the weeping and gnashing of teeth.For example Jesus describes in this way the fate awaiting the Jews who refuse him, "they will be cast out into the exterior darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (8:12).
Likewise, in the parable of the wedding feast of the King's son, referring to the man without a wedding garment (that is, without innocence), Jesus says, "Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the exterior darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (22:12-14) and again concerning the unfaithful servant of the parable of the talents Jesus says, "cast him into the exterior darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (25:30).
In the parable of the wheat and the tares, Our Lord explains: "The Son of man shall send his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all scandals, and them that work iniquity, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (13:41-43).
In the Gospel of Saint Mark we find another severe warning about Hell. There, Our Lord insists on the fire that never goes out and the worm that does not die. These symbolize the eternity of the two main torments of Hell: one of the senses (fire) and one of loss (the worm, which represents continuous remorse and the privation of the presence of and hope in God):
And if thy hand scandalize thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life, maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into unquenchable fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not extinguished.
And if thy foot scandalize thee, cut it off. It is better for thee to enter lame into life everlasting, than having two feet, to be cast into the hell of unquenchable fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not extinguished.
And if thy eye scandalize thee, pluck it out. It is better for thee with one eye to enter into the kingdom of God, than having two eyes to be cast into the hell of fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not extinguished.
For everyone shall be salted with fire; and every victim shall be salted with salt. (9:42-48)
These terrible examples sufficiently demonstrate how the Divine Savior insisted on eternal punishment to prepare his listeners for conversion, and ultimately eternal salvation.
The Sufferings of Hell
Hellfire differs from earthly fire. While earthly fire only affects the souls by means of the body, that which the wrath of God enkindles directly tortures the spirit.
In this chapter, we will describe more systematically, the two fundamental punishments of Hell: the pain of loss and the pain of the senses.
The Pain of Loss
The pain of loss is suffering par excellence and the greatest punishment that man can suffer. It consists in his definitive exclusion from eternal life and the irremediable loss of his highest happiness, namely the privation of the beatific vision and possession of God.
Hell essentially consists in this most frightening punishment, and all the others are only a mere consequence of it.
One could object that the pain of loss can not be that terrible, because, while on earth we are deprived of the beatific vision without much affliction.
However, on earth this deprivation is simply the privation of a good not yet due to man, and whose possession is still possible. However, for the damned, it is the privation of a good which should but can never have, and thus he suffers immensely.
In this life, we understand immeasurably less about God as our sovereign good, and the vision and possession of the creatures that surround us serve as a distraction from the thought of the Highest Good, thus calming our innate desire for happiness. We find entertainment and joy in creatures.
However, after death, we are deprived of all goods, and only the vision of God will make us happy. More than a fish needs water, we feel an urgent, imperious, constant and uninterrupted need of God, about Whom we will not stop thinking even for an instant.
While the companionship of other souls will be a joy for those in Heaven, for the damned those that surround them, far from bringing relief, or even distraction, will only augment their torture.
Furthermore, the punishment of damnation is not equal for all the condemned. The affliction of each reprobate, differs according to his culpability. The more culpable he is, the more tortured he will be for having fallen more deeply into the dark and terrible abyss of sin.
The Pain of the Senses
The torments of the senses consist above all in the fire of Hell. It is a real fire, but mysterious, similar and different from earthly fire.
Because we can know about the afterlife only by comparison with things of earth, we could assert that the fire of Hell is analogous to our earthly fire. However, at the same time, it is different. The exact measure of this is impossible to specify.
The law of analogy asks that the difference in the nature of the fire be established, both in its properties and effects. Fortunately, revelation clarifies these points:
Similarities: While the Church has not defined the fire of Hell as material, it is designated by the term of fire or flame around thirty times in the New Testament, at least eight times of which are in the Gospels. This language would not be used if the punishment of fire (the most terrible punishment here on earth) did not have an intimate connection with the punishment of Hell, and if it were not the most appropriate illustration of its severity.
Differences: All theologians recognize the differences that separate hellfire from natural fire:
- Natural fire is produced as a result of certain chemical operations while the fire of Hell owes its origin and its subsistence to the wrath of God.
- Natural fire only operate on souls through means of their bodies while infernal fire directly tortures the spirit.
- Natural fire will extinguish itself while that which the wrath of God enkindles, will burn forever.
- Natural fire illuminates while the fire of Hell produces darkness.
- Natural fire consumes what it burns, the infernal flame burns and tortures its victim without destroying him.
How does the fire of Hell work? How can material fire burn a pure spirit like the devil or a damned soul before the final resurrection?
Beginning with Saint Thomas, practically all theologians are in agreement that this action of matter over spirit is naturally impossible. The material fire of Hell can only act over spirits through an action of God whereby the fire produces a special effect that reaches the soul. In order to act over souls, this effect must also have an immaterial nature.
The eternal fire does not burn the soul of the reprobate or demon, but shackles the spirit, impeding it from moving freely. This enslavement is not just local, extrinsic to the spirit, but is a modification that is incorporated into the faculties of the soul, preventing the free use of the intelligence, memory, imagination and will.
For example, the imagination cannot free the soul from present torments or entertain it with agreeable thoughts and pleasant memories.
Even when the demons leave Hell temporarily with divine permission, they do not escape the imprisonment of this fire. Even outside of Hell, they remain under its action which directly impedes the use of their spiritual powers. Thus, owing to this continual action, they suffer the lack of freedom that the fire of Hell causes them, as if the fire were near to them. This is analogous to a blessed Angel who, leaving celestial places, retains the vision of God (the light of glory).
* * *
The opinion that there might be ice and water in Hell, whereby reprobates go from the heat of fire to the frigidness of ice and water, is not supported in Scripture. Theologians also explain that the reference Our Lord made to gnawing worms signifies the remorse experienced by the damned and demons.
Although we cannot know where hell is with certainty, the opinion of Church Fathers and theologians has always been that Hell is in the center of the earth.
Can we know where Hell is?
As the theologians point out, by natural reason we cannot know where Hell is. Revelation did not speak clearly enough on this nor was it defined by the Magisterium.
Still, the opinion of the Church Fathers and theologians has always been that Hell exists inside the earth. Not only does the language of the Scriptures support this, but because there is space and fire in the interior of the earth, nothing is reasonably opposed to it. Besides, the Latin word for Hell, Infernus, indicates an inferior place, and therefore reinforces the common belief that it is subterranean. But all this is mere speculation which cannot be verified and does not hold real importance.
Can Reprobates ever Leave Hell?
Before the resurrection of the body, the souls of the condemned and the demons are imprisoned in Hell by the infernal fire, as was already explained.
While the demons can leave Hell to tempt men, the question is more difficult to answer with regard to the reprobate. While it is reasonable to think that some reprobates appear on earth through Divine permission to benefit living, it is something rare, extraordinary and, except in extreme situations, a great punishment for men.
While sociability is the source of much happiness in Heaven and on earth, in Hell it greatly increases the torment of the damned.
Social Interaction, a Source of Suffering
Being together with demons and the damned in Hell is also a cause of suffering. Their unspeakable depravity, creates the odious condition in which they exist. Also, the horrible punishments of the reprobates are a frightening spectacle. Therefore this continual, eternal society is an additional torment.
This torment runs counter to the reprobates need of sociability and cordial treatment, which, here on earth, is a source of much happiness and joy when in a good society, and causes much displeasure and annoyance in a hateful and depraved one. Therefore, Hell is not a solitary-confinement regime in which the vision of pious soul causes grief, but a great abyss of fire, where the demons and damned constitute a community which torments them.12
The infernal darkness is not so dense that it prevents corporal sight. Imagine the horror of Hell, and the frightening disorder caused by the hateful tyranny of the demons and eternal and universal hatred in relation to others, which exists to such and extent that no good feeling ever exists between one condemned and another.
Hating God, the final cause, they are filled with hatred for one another. They consider everyone, including themselves, contemptible and repulsive.
Moreover, there are special sufferings resulting from the interaction between the sinner and his accomplices, corrupters and those he corrupted during life. For example there is a special torment for the relations between fornicators, adulterers, members of a gang, totalitarian parties or sects, or bad professors and their corrupted students.
Suffering in Everything
Is everything in Hell a torment?
Yes. In this cursed place, about which Dante wrote, "abandon all hope ye who enter here," the damned do not receive any of the sweet and intense satisfactions the joy of living on earth affords us: lights, breezes, reasoning, rest and comfort. None of this, which is loved so much here on earth exists among the damned. They feel the privation of corporal freedom and the sensations of immensity, variety and changing ambiences. All this is consumed by the fire of Hell.
Even the imagination and memory are a source of torture, since these merely feed their irremediable despair.
The degree of refusal provides the measure of suffering
To understand well why the torments of Hell are so terrible, we must compare them with the immensity of Divine Mercy that a reprobate refused. In choosing Hell, he rejected the Creation, elevation to the state of grace, Incarnation, Passion and Death of Our Lord, intercession of Mary Most Holy and the Saints and institution of the Church and Sacraments.
God loves all men more than the most loving mother loves her son. Consequently, He surrounds them with affection and exceptional care. Our Lord went so far as to compare Himself with a hen that gathers her chicks beneath her wings (Matthew 23:37) to demonstrate this affection. The degree of refusal of this love corresponds to the amount of suffering in Hell.
God is the cause of all good, beauty and truth. When one breaks with Him, he retains evil, ugliness, falsity and error. Physical and mental health depend on this ordering element of everything, Which is God. To be separated from Him is to be separated from the source of all health, well-being and sweetness. Only disease, hideousness, and suffering remain.
Responding to Objections About Hell
Although God's mercy is infinite, in no way can it contradict His infinite Justice.
In this chapter, using theological arguments, we will strive we will refute the most common objections made against the existence and eternity of Hell.
The objections are numbered and followed by the refutations.
1. Because God is good, He cannot wish evil on anyone
- Obviously, God does not wish evil on anyone. He created all men for Heaven, and does not want anyone to go to Hell. His universal love and kindness offer everyone superabundant means for salvation. However when men refuse this kindness, preferring Hell over Heaven, they render it ineffectual.
Furthermore, although God is good, He is also just. His kindness cannot contradict His justice. Among men, kindness can degenerate into weakness and justice into hardness of heart, but, being perfect, God's virtues exist in an harmonic balance such that one cannot prevent the exercise of the other.
2. Why does not God prevent man from practicing evil, or force him to do good?
- God endowed angels and men with intelligence and will. Because the capacity to choose between good and evil is a characteristic of a rational being, God had to make every rational being free. This freedom differentiates us from irrational beings, who are uncontrollably guided by their instincts and thus unable to modify their actions. Since God cannot contradict His own work, He cannot create man free and then prevent him from using his freedom.
Freedom is also necessary for actions to have merit. If God forced angels and men to do good, their actions would lack any merit.
3. Why did God create Hell?
- God created Hell to avenge the Divine justice offended by sin. Hell's punishments atone for the offenses committed against Him and re-establish the order of the Universe, which demands that good is rewarded and evil castigated.
Thus Hell's existence is a powerful (and often the only effective) incentive for the practice of good. Fear of Hell has served to turn countless souls from the path of vice to love of God and virtue. Saint Augustine reputedly said that because of Original Sin, if Hell did not exist to punish evil, life here on earth would be transformed into a Hell because without fear of future punishment, most men would selfishly seek their own advantage, and few would restrain their passions for the sake of love.
Finally considering the mercy of God, Who grants so many graces for salvation, one sees more clearly the necessity of Divine Justice and Hell.
4. Since God knows that certain men will be damned, why does he allow it?
- This common objection, expresses an implicit error by which God is spoken of in human terms.
In human terms, when a man sees the future, he sees something that still has not happened. On the other hand, for God there is no time, everything is present. He sees past, present and future simultaneously. Thus, God does not foresee, but simply sees, and if He prevented something from happening, since it would not happen He would not see it. Therefore, God sees actual reality in the exact moment it takes place, not something that yet is going to take place.
Perhaps a comparison will help illustrate this point.
If an apparatus existed that would record a future reality, we would be able to see the future without being able to alter it.
If an apparatus existed that was capable of filming a future event as though it were the past, we would see the event, but would be unable to change its outcome, because the apparatus would have registered a future reality, not a future possibility.
Furthermore, knowing the future is different from being the cause of an event. Thus God's knowing that a man is going to damn himself, does not make him the cause of it, nor does it mean that He desires it. A father who sees that his son does not accept his advice and change his lifestyle may know that his son is going to be lost, but in no way does he desire it.
5. If God is Love, why must He avenge himself against the reprobates?
- God does not desire the perdition of the reprobates. When someone dies as God's enemy, persevering in evil and forever refusing the divine grace, their perdition comes from themselves, not God.
Concerning vengeance, there is another play on words. In this sense the term vengeance is different from the way it is used in relation to men. In our case, vengeance is the fruit of an imperfection, which is impossible in God. Here, the word is understood in its juridical sense meaning the re-establishment of justice, which God exercises within the bounds of His perfect impassibility and supreme equilibrium.
6. Why can man not repent after death?
- Because the mutability of human nature comes from the union of soul and body, man can only change his will while he is alive, during which time he perceives earthly things imperfectly. However, the soul, separated from the body, comes face to face with eternal truths. Thus it loses the ability to see something imperfect as a good. The eternal goods are evident, and attract or repel the soul without its free choice.
Man's last act of will decides his final choice and fixes his destiny forever. The soul enters into eternity with a will unchangeably fixed, in good or evil. Thus man's psychology and God's sentence are both eternally immutable. Such a change would imply an uncertainty in God, contradicting His Justice and Wisdom. God treats everyone with impartiality, rewarding or punishing each according to his actions.
7. If all souls see God and His perfection clearly, why does not the irresistible attraction they feel towards Him keep them from choosing Hell?
- Upon dying, the reprobate sees God in His infinite perfection, and himself in the hideous moral condition in which he died simultaneously.
When the reprobate sees God in His Infinite Perfection, feeling himself repugnant in His sight, he flees, prefering Hell's torments to Heaven's delights.
The stainless Divine Purity contrasts with the reprobates moral ugliness to an unbearable degree. This contrast crushes him; making him feel repugnant in face of the infinite sanctity and perfection of God and the moral beauty of the elect, to such a degree that he prefers Hell's torments to Heaven's delights. Thus infinite beauty of God, that attracts him also repels him.
8. Is it the reprobate that willfully flees God's presense?
- According to most theologians, reprobates willfully flee God's presense. Since God, the supreme Beauty for which man was made is unbearable to him, he detests, blasphemes and curses God, Whom he has lost forever. This can be compared to an obsessive relationship in which love, becoming impossible, is transformed into dominant, unsubdued hatred, heightened fury, rage and despair.
Thus, in spite of his natural tendency towards God, the reprobate, knowing that only God can satisfy his insatiable thirst for happiness, still willingly flees from this sovereign Good.
9. Could a reprobate desire Heaven while he is in Hell?
- As shown above, by the characteristic psychology of a reprobate, he will never desire Heaven. Let us take a closer look at why this is so.
On earth, the sinner chooses a created good, a deceiving and finite pleasure, as his ultimate end, instead of God. If he could remain in sin forever, without punishment, he would never turn to God. His transitory plans of amendment are fickle and indefinite. When satiated with sin he wants to regularize his affairs, out of fear of Hell, not for love of God. He hates only the punishment due to sin, not the intrinsic disorder and offense to God.
Thus, the sinner, chooses sin and Hell over God and Heaven. Although he may not desire the torments of Hell, he does wish to remain in a state of life that leads to Hell and the definitive separation from God. Through attachment to sinful pleasure or the satanic pride, the hardened sinner sells his Heavenly patrimony, like Esau sold his inheritance. Saint Gregory the Great stated that sinners would like to live eternally only to practice their sin forever.
In this light one sees clearly that a person who dies such, forever binds himself to the disorder of sin, and thus throws himself into eternal damnation.
10. Is it not unjust for God to condemn someone for having committed a single sin of weakness?
- Although, in justice, God could condemned someone for a single mortal sin of weakness, Hell is only for those who persists in evil, since those who sin through weakness usually do not persist in sin.
The habitual sinner closes his soul to the solicitations of grace, purchased at the infinite price of the crucifixion.
The habitual sinner, thinking he has great pleasure in sin, closes his soul to the solicitations of the grace, and repentance, deciding only to convert in his last moment.13
Certainly, he who sins through weakness, without falling into habitual sin, finds the sinful condition painful. Therefore, he is sensitive to the graces of repentance that God always communicates to men. Even so, sins of weakness can be the symptom of a condition leading to the soul's definitive separation from God, through a disordered attachment to creatures.
Therefore, Hell is the punishment for a condition of persistent disdain towards the Divine Love and Mercy.
11. If a reprobate wanted to go to Heaven, could he?
-Heaven consists in love of God, and the happiness of sanctity, while Hell is the rejection of God and radical moral disorder. Mortal sin is an act of radical disorder against the ultimate end of man, Which is God. A person who dies in this state is fixed definitively in this rejection, and is therefore incompatible with Heaven.
From the supernatural view, eternal life is sanctifying grace. In destroying this grace, mortal sin also destroys eternal life.
Sin, in itself, is naturally irreparable. Only divine grace can remedy it. Since, the grace of conversion does not exist after death, neither does conversion itself.
12. Is not God's Mercy eternal?
- Undeniably, God's Mercy will always exist. However, because someone is damned not due to a lack of mercy on God's part, but rather a lack of acceptance of this mercy on the reprobates part, God's eternal mercy will never free him from Hell. His will, perverted by the refusal of Divine Mercy during life, would not accept the grace of conversion after death, even if it were offered to him.
Saint Thomas illustrates this point with the following example: if someone blinds or kills himself, does he have the right to ascribe responsibility to God for his blindness or death? Similarly, the sinner who voluntarily destroys in himself the principle of supernatural life does not have the right to protest against his perdition. On the contrary, it is perfectly just that he who wanted to sin eternally against God, be eternally separated from Him.
Sin is evil and disorder. Since it can never become good or order, the enmity between good and evil must endure forever.
13. Aren't earthly punishments enough?
- Evil is not always punished on this earth. In fact, sinners often wallow in honors and wealth here, while the just suffer trials and afflictions. Because God cannot remain indifferent to crime and virtue, a postmortem punishment must exist to re-establish justice.
14. Must Hell be eternal?
- To be useful, every sanction must be efficacious. According to human psychology, man really fears only an eternal punishment, while temporary ones insufficiently impress him. Man's fallen nature is so attracted to sin that, in face of the intense, immediate sinful pleasure, the possibility of a temporary future suffering, is inadequate to restrain his passion. Put plainly, man prefers a transitory, distant suffering, to the denial of a present joy.
15. Is not an eternal punishment disproportionate for sins that were committed over a short time?
- According to justice, the time it takes to commit a crime does not determine the length of sentence. Rather the consequences and seriousness of the fault committed decide the length of the punishment. Therefore, a murder, committed in the blink of an eye, because its effects are everlasting, can merit an everlasting punishment.
16. Would it not be nicer to believe in an eventual general pardon, in which the demons themselves would convert and general happiness be reestablished?
- What is nicest is to accept God's Will and conform ourselves to His Wisdom.This hypothesis, so full of kindness and sweetness at first glance, is absurd. This idea, defended by romantic men of letters of the nineteenth century, like Victor Hugo, Lamartine, Paul Valery and others, is founded in a false concept of kindness and love, in which sentiment dominates reason. When defended by Origen in the early Church, it was condemned.
Only a god moved by sentimental reasons, and not Divine Wisdom could thus contradict his justice. The divine will, like every rational will, is guided by the intelligence, producing infinite mercy while maintaining perfect justice both of which are expressions of the Divine Wisdom.
Furthermore, it is not reasonable for God treat the reprobates and demons with mercy. A general pardon would overturn the foundation of justice, which demands that each one receives what he earned, reward or punishment.
This foundation corresponds to the moral responsibility of each one for his actions. To pardon the demons and reprobates is to reward evil. It is unimaginable that Heaven would be shared by Lucifer and Saint Michael, hangmen and martyrs, apostates and faithful, prostitutes and pure virgins, heresiarchs and apostles, or innocent victims and cruel assassins!
According to this view, Judas and Saint Peter, Luther and Saint Ignatius and Messalina and Saint Agnes would forever enjoy the same reward!
Truly, sin is evil and disorder. Since evil can never become good or disorder, order, the enmity between good and evil, order and disorder must endure forever together with their consequences: happiness and sorrow.
Even the possibility of Hell's punishments ending would destroy one of virtue's main attractions. It would make good and evil, truth and error meaningless, producing a complete moral and doctrinal relativism.
The effects of this line of reasoning are evident in the absurdly relativistic world of today.