|Michaelangelo's 'common misconception'|
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)
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!
Fr Armand de Malleray, FSSP
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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