The Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma
- Book 5: God the Consumator
- Section 1: The Doctrine of the Last Things
- Chapter 1: The Eschatology of the Individual Human Being
- The Reality of Hell
- The souls of those who die in the condition of personal grievous sin enter
Hell. (De fide.)
- Hell is a place or state of eternal punishment inhabited by those rejected
- According to God’s general ordinance, the souls of those who die in a personal
grievous sin descend immediately into hell, where they will be tormented by the pains of hell.
- It is only in the Later Books that the Old Testament provides a clear assertion
regarding the eternal punishment of the godless.
- According to Dn. 12:2, they will rise again “unto reproach, to see it always.”
- According to Judith 16:20 et seq., the Lord the Almighty will
take revenge on the enemies of Israel and will persecute them on the Day of Judgment.
“For He will give fire, and worms into their flesh, that they may burn, and may feel forever
(that they cry with pain).” Cf. Is. 66:24.
- According to Wisdom 4:19, the godless shall “be a reproach among the dead
forever”; “They shall be in sorrow and their memory shall perish.” Cf. 3:10; 6:5 et seq.
- Jesus threatens sinners with the punishment of hell. He calls it Gehenna
(Mt. 5:29 et seq.; 10:28; 23:15, 33; Mk. 9:43. 45, 47 orginally=valley of Hinnom), Hell of
the fire (Mt. 5:22; 18:9), Hell where the worm does not die and the fire is not extinguished
(Mk. 9:46 et seq.), everlasting fire (Mt. 25:41), unquenchable fire (Mt. 3:12; Mk. 9:42),
furnace of fire (Mt. 13:42. 50), everlasting pain (Mt. 25:46). There will be darkness there
(Mt. 8:12; 22:13; 25:30), wailing and gnashing of teeth (Mt. 13:42. 50; 24:51; Luke 13:28).
St. Paul attests “They (who do not know God and do not obey the Gospel) shall suffer eternal
punishment in destruction, from the face of the Lord and from the glory of His power”
(2 Thess. 1:9). Cf. Rom. 2:6–9; Hebr. 10:26–31. According to Rev. 21:8, the godless
“shall have their portion in the pool burning with fire and brimstone”; there
“they shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever” (20:10). Cf. 2 Peter 2:6; Jud. 7.
- “Now this is eternal life: That they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus
Christ, whom Thou has sent” (John 17:3).
- According to St. Ignatius of Antioch, the person who “corrupts the faith of
God, for which Jesus Christ was crucified, by evil teaching, will go into the unquenchable
fire; and so will the person who listens to him” (Eph. 16:2).
- St. Justin bases the punishment of hell on the idea of the Divine justice,
which does not allow those who transgress the law to escape free.
- Nature of the Punishment of Hell
- Scholasticism distinguishes a double element in the punishment of hell: the
poena damni (pain of loss) and the poena sensus (pain of sense).
- The poena damni, which is the essence of the punishment of hell, consists
in exclusion from the Beatific Vision. Mt. 25:41: “Depart from me you cursed!” Mt. 25:12:
“I know you not!” 1 Cor. 6:9: “Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom
of God:” Luke 13:27; 14:24; Rev. 22:15. St. Augustine, Enchir. 112.
- Poena Sensus consists in the suffering which is caused by outside material
things (it is also called the positive punishment of hell). The Holy Scriptures speak often
of the fire of hell, to which the damned are consigned; they describe hell as a place where
there is wailing and gnashing of teeth—a picture of sorrow and of despair.
- The fire of hell was conceived by individual Fathers such as Origen and
St. Gregory of Nyssa, and by later Theologians, like Ambrosius Catharinus, J. A. Mohler and
H. Klee, in a metaphorical sense as a symbol for purely spiritual pains, especially for the
torments of the gnawing of conscience. This opinion has not been formally condemned by
- Properties of Hell
- The punishment of Hell lasts for all eternity. (De fide.)
- The Caput Firmiter of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) declares:
“Those (the rejected) will receive a perpetual punishment with the devil.”
- ... the word “eternal” is not to be understood in the sense of a duration
which is indeed long, but ...without end. Rev. 20:10.
- The “restitution of all things” announced in Acts 3:21, does not refer to
the lot of the damned, but to the renewal of the worlds which is to take place on the
coming-again of Christ.
- On the ground of the teaching of Revelation it is to be inferred, that the
will of the damned is immovably hardened in evil and is, therefore, inaccessible to any true
repentance. The reason is that God refuses all further grace to the damned.
- Inequality of Punishment
- The punishment of the damned is proportioned to each one’s guilt.
- The Union Councils of Lyons and of Florence declared that the souls of the
damned are punished with unequal punishments.
- This is probably intended to assert not merely a specific difference in the
punishment of original sin (poena damni) and of personal sins (poena damni and poena sensus),
but also a difference in the degree of punishment for personal sins.
- Jesus threatens the inhabitants of Corazain and Bethsaida, on account of
their slowness to repent, with a stricter judgment than the dwellers in Tyre and Sidon
(Mt. 11:22). The Scribes are to be subject to a particularly strict judgment (Luke 20:47).
- St. Augustine teaches: “In their wretchedness the lot of some of the damned
will be more tolerable than that of others”.