Gustave Dore's image of Satan
Well tomorrow Amoris Laetitia, Pope Francis Apostolic Exhortation following up from the 2014-2015 Synods on the Family is due out and the neo-trads are, fittingly enough, girding their loins for war. For neo-trads Christianity seems to be all about lumbi (Latin for loins), that is when it isn’t all about Latin. But before we get into that fray, let me print some responses I got from a disgruntled disciple of the late Bishop of Ypres, Cornelius Jansen. Jansen (1585-1638) you may recall was the Catholic face of Calvinism. Like the great Protestant Reformer and most unhappy of ecclesiastical campers Jean Calvin, Jansen believed that most souls were damned to hell through no fault of their own but simply for having been predestined to damnation from all eternity through the agency of a rather capricious deity. In this festival of the divine wrath, should Our Blessed Lady be otherwise occupied it might even be hard to get a foursome for bridge (or golf) if such trivialities were even to be tolerated in heaven.
Anyway here is what our own Inspector Javer wrote me
Look at what the church fathers have to say about this. They would know that most people will go to hell. Stop supporting father Barron's and von Balthazar's heresy. You are threatening souls.
Read the church fathers and you would realize that most people are damned. Stop supporting con (sic) Balthazar's idiotic heresy which threatens souls.
I am not really sure what provoked this admonition but let me say that both as a historian and a Christian believer, I believe there is a hell. And despite my confidence in the overwhelming Mercy of God and the Treasury of Merits of Jesus Christ, along with his Blessed Mother, the saints and the faithful, I would never go so far as to agree with von Balthazar’s thesis that, as some people put it, while there is a hell, it is empty. (Von Balthazar gets that idea, by the way, from Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, but then what did she know of theology, a simple girl from the bourgeoisie.) Hell must be an option or the human will is not ultimately free to reject God and grace is no longer free but a prison that takes away our choices.
Besides, the words of Saint John Chrysostom have always echoed deep in my soul: Hell is paved with the skulls of bishops. From experience I am willing to add that to the Creed. So at least there are bishops in hell. But as for others, I would not presume to know just how chock filled with the damned hell is. And in fact I have no idea of what hell is like--the Church does not go into a lot of detail about hell and most of our conceptions are owed to popular mythology or classic literature. But I do know this and believe it with all my heart:
God so loved the World that he sent his only Son that whoever should believe in him might not perish but might have eternal life. God did not send his Son to condemn the World but so that the World might be saved through him.
That is the gospel in a nutshell. You can sum up our entire faith in those two verses.
So while there are those who might reject God and the Salvation he offers, it makes no sense whatsoever that a God who is Love—who is Love, not simply who loves—would create for the sake of destroying the greater part of his creation. I also believe, because it is in Sacred Scripture, that the plan is for Christ to gather all creation to himself and present it to the Father. How that squares with hell I am not sure.
But Jansenism is alive and well and lurking behind this confessional door and that penitential practice and in the sermons of psycho-sexually underdeveloped priests, and in the neurosis of unhappy souls who have not yet found their own peace. All we can do for these poor people is to pray for them that the Lord frees them to accept the overwhelming Mercy he offers us all.
Now back to Amoris Latitia. Love is always a joy and there is no joy without love. There is nothing to fear in the Mercy of God. And I have heard a rumor that one of Francis' hand-picked American supporters at last year's synod is in line to get a significant Archdiocesan See.