Monday, August 22, 2016

Fr Armand de Malleray FSSP on Fr Rolheiser

Michaelangelo's 'common misconception'
Not for the first time, Fr Armand de Malleray has written to correct a school-boy error on the part of Fr Ronald Rolheiser in the Catholic Herald. For my money, Fr Rolheiser's articles are the next-worst source of theological error in the dead-wood Catholic media in the UK after those of Mgr Basil Loftus. How a priest of good will could have failed to grasp the fundamental reality of the doctrine of hell as a point of no return is mystifying, but that is what he has done. He even presumes to correct the teaching of our Lord in the Gospels, writing as follows.

And yet, the Gospels can give us that impression. We have, for example, the famous parable of the rich man who ignores the poor man at his doorstep, dies, and ends up in hell, while the poor man, Lazarus, whom he had ignored, is now in heaven, comforted in the bosom of Abraham. From his torment in hell, the rich man asks Abraham to send Lazarus to him with some water, but Abraham replies that there is an unbridgeable gap between heaven and hell and no one can cross from one side to the other. That text, along with Jesus’ warnings about that the doors of the wedding banquet will at a point be irrevocably closed, has led to the common misconception that there is a point of no return, that once in hell, it is too late to repent.
Yes, it has led to that impression: because that is the teaching of both Testaments of Scripture, the Fathers and Doctors, and of the whole Church.



Fr de Malleray's letter is as follows. (Catholic Herald 19th August 2016)

Sir,

Fr Rolheiser deplores "a common misconception...that once in hell it is too late to repent" (August 12). But Francis told mobsters the opposite: "There is still time not to end up in hell, which awaits you if you continue on this world." This would be a bad joke, rather than a fatherly and solemn warning, if hell were not a permanent destination. The Catechism confirms: "To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from Him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusions from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell" " (#1033).

Fr Rolheiser rightly stresses that God's mercy knows no bound, so that if a damned person showed the least sign of contrition, God would responde. But precisely, the Church clearly teaches that once our soul departs from our body, our time to merit -- or demerit -- is ended, so that we cannot become better or worse. Consequently, the soul of a damned person is utterly incapable of regret or love, and it will never want to improve, whatever God may try. How seriously then should we take our time on earth, since it determines our eternity!

Yours faithfully,

Fr Armand de Malleray, FSSP
Warrington, Cheshire

It is mystifying that the Catholic Herald continues to give Rolheiser a platform. Letters correcting his fundamental errors are published a few times a year, but have no effect on him, no dount in part because it is a syndicated column which appears in a number of Catholic publications, and can be read on Rolheiser's website. Does that make it cheaper than a specially commissioned article, I wonder?

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18 comments:

  1. I gave up reading his column many years ago.

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  2. You might correct your headline which names a Fr Martin Rholheiser! While Fr Martin Rhonheimer might well merit criticism for some of his stranger positions, he is at least a little more serious a theologian than Fr Rolheiser.

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  3. Yes, then at some point later, Francis told an interviewer that no one goes to hell, but instead are annihilated. Quoting this pope to support any opinion whatever, whether orthodox or heterodox, is a losing game, since he clearly does not consider a day well spent in which he has not contradicted both himself, the doctrine of the CHurch and the plain words of Holy Scripture at least twice before breakfast.

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  4. If Fr Rolheiser were correct about the "Get out of Hell" card, a certain schismatic encountered in Canto XXVIII would have had time to play it by now. He’s been there for over a thousand years:

    Già veggia, per mezzul perdere o lulla,
    Com’ io vidi un, così non si pertugia,
    rotto dal mento infin dove si trulla.
    Tra le gambe pendevan le minugia ...

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  5. I'm sure the Catholic Herald could find someone better and cheaper!

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    1. They need look no further...

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  6. I'm so pleased to read this. I thought I was the only one around who thought that Fr R's column was almost worthless (the letters page of the CH doesn't seem to include any criticisms of Fr R).

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  7. I agree with Bruvver Eccles - I stopped reading the column years ago.

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  8. I imagine many Catholics who find the traditional teaching on hell to be absurd agree with Rolheiser.

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  9. My condolences on hearing that even people on that side of the Atlantic have to read Rolheiser in their diocesan publications. His quasi-heretical columns have been published in nearly all diocesan publications in North America for years, and years.

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  10. Both Pope Benedict and before him Pope John Paul said in their teaching that hell was not to be thought of as a physical location (nor heaven for that matter), a place to which one could go. One wonders then what exactly it is.
    If there are people who want to cut themselves off definitively from God, can we not believe that God will have some means of bringing them back to himself and desire to do so?
    We cannot know anything after the afterlife, we can only make pictures and images of it, so all "doctrine" here is really only speculation. How, then, can anyone say Fr. Rollheiser must be wrong?
    What we need to hold on to surely is our faith in a God of universal love and compassion? Only such a God is worth believing in and speculation about hell and eternal punishment must be seen in that light.

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    1. What we *know*, Savoranola, is indeed limited. It comes from Revelation. Rolheiser contradicts this knowledge.

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  11. Savonarola whether Hell is a place or not a place is irrelevant. Jesus spoke about Hell and warned us that there would be those who would be lost in Hell. It is easy to see his meaning it is an existence without God. To dismiss Hell is to dismiss the teachings of Jesus himself and call Him a liar. Fr Rolhiser should at least have the humility to keep what is his own teaching to himself rather than destroy the faith of others.

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  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  13. Revelation does not always supply a simple answer to the questions we must raise about our faith. Scripture is often self-contradictory. Neither JS or JK address the issue I raised, so I repeat my question, will not God want to bring back to himself those who have cut themselves off from him and can we not imagine him having some means of doing so? As I read it this is all that Fr. Rohleiser is suggesting. I think many people like him find the idea of God punishing people by condemning them to eternal hellfire (for something like missing Mass on Sunday) does not cohere with our idea of him as a God of love and justice. But it seems that some cannot tolerate any speculation about articles of belief, even when human experience suggests it, and want certainty where none is to be had. Faith is not certain knowledge: it is surely inter alia the ability to live with unanswerable questions.

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    1. Sure Revelation needs interpretation, and it receives authoritative interpretation from the Fathers and the Magisterium. And it is this interpretation, which sits perfectly naturally with the text of Revelation itself, which Rolheiser is contradicting.

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  14. Well you are still evading the question. The Fathers and the Magisterium (with their resounding capital letters) have worked it all out and there is nothing more to do except obey them. Human life and our experience of God is not as simple as that, Mr. Shaw, as I think you really know well, but it seems there is no point in saying so here.

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