Heresies on Hell

All of the following claims about Hell are heresies against the true Catholic Faith because they contradict the infallible teachings of Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium on the doctrine of Hell as a place of eternal punishment created by the Justice of God.

1. The claim that Hell does not exist is heresy.

Jesus Christ: “Then he shall also say, to those who will be on his left: ‘Depart from me, you accursed ones, into the eternal fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels…. And these shall go into eternal punishment, but the just shall go into eternal life.” (Mt 25:41-46).

Christ taught that Hell exists as a place of eternal punishment. His repeated clear definitive teachings prove that Hell exists. Whoever says otherwise, in effect accuses Jesus of teaching a lie.

Pope Benedict XII: “Moreover we define that according to the general disposition of God, the souls of those who die in actual mortal sin go down into hell immediately after death and there suffer the pain of hell.” (On the Beatific Vision of God)

If Hell does not exist, then this teaching would be null and void, and entirely false. But the teaching is infallible, and so it cannot be false. Rejection of an infallible teaching is heresy.

2. The claim that perhaps no human persons go to Hell is heresy.

Jesus Christ: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate, and broad is the way, which leads to perdition, and many there are who enter through it.” (Mt 7:13).

Many persons die and thereafter enter into perdition, that is, into Hell. The teaching of Jesus cannot be false in any way. Whoever says otherwise commits heresy by accusing Christ of teaching falsehoods.

Jesus Christ: “But I will reveal to you whom you should fear. Fear him who, after he will have killed, has the power to cast into Hell. So I say to you: Fear him.” (Lk 12:5)

If Hell were empty, then there would be no reason to fear being cast into Hell by God. Many souls are sent to Hell to be punished forever, and so, in the grace of God, exercising both faith and reason, we should fear Hell.

3. The claim that after death, we are not judged by God, but rather we judge ourselves, is a heresy.

{7:9} The Lord judges the people….

{7:12} God is a just judge, strong and patient.

{11:28} For it is easy, in the sight of God, on the day of one’s passing, to repay each one according to his ways.
{11:29} The affliction of an hour causes one to forget great delights, and in the end of a man is the uncovering of his works.

{2:16} unto the day when God shall judge the hidden things of men, through Jesus Christ, according to my Gospel.

{14:12} And so, each one of us shall offer an explanation of himself to God.

Immediately after death, the soul is judged by God. This judgment is called ‘the particular judgment’. It is a teaching of the ordinary and Universal Magisterium that God judges each person after death. To say that we literally judge ourselves, as if God were not to “judge the hidden things of men” is contrary to the constant teaching of Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium and so is heresy.

The works of the person are uncovered, so that the soul then knows the good and evil in his life in the light of truth from God. For God is the Just Judge over all Creation and over all created persons. It is false to say that each person judges his own life, and makes his own decision as to whether or not he goes to Hell or to Heaven. God shows the soul the truth about good and evil in that person’s life. And the soul cannot deny this truth. But whether or not the person’s life was good or evil depends on the truth about love of God and neighbor, moral truth, virtue, vice, sin and imperfection. And this truth is understood in the light of Jesus Christ, the perfect man, who is the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life.

{9:3} And when the hearts of the sons of men are filled with malice and contempt in their lives, afterwards they shall be dragged down to hell.

Now if anyone is dragged down to Hell, then he did not go there of his own free will; he was sent to Hell against his wishes. Therefore, the damned in Hell did not literally send themselves to Hell, nor did they literally decide, after death, to go to Hell. In a sense, they decided to go to Hell by deciding to commit actual mortal sin and by deciding not to repent. In a sense, they sent themselves to Hell by the way that they lived their lives.

4. The claim that Satan and his fallen angels are either in charge of Hell, or are in charge of dispensing punishments to the souls in Hell, is heresy.

In the parable of the Just King, our Lord said:

{25:41} Depart from me, you accursed ones, into the eternal fire, which was prepared for the devil and his angels.

God prepared Hellfire to punish both the fallen angels and human persons who die unrepentant from actual mortal sin. God created all that exists; only God is uncreated. Hell exists. Therefore, God also created Hell. If Hell is considered under the analogy of a prison, then Satan and his angels are not wardens or guards, but rather fellow prisoners there, along with condemned souls.

The ordinary and universal Magisterium has always taught that the devils are sent to Hell to be punished, and that Hell is a place of the Justice of God. It is not only heresy, but also an absurdity, to claim that the graceless wicked fallen angels dispense the just punishments of Hell. However, it is true that one of the punishments of Hell is to have to endure the company of the fallen angels, just as one of the rewards of Heaven is to have the joy of the company of the holy Angels.

5. The claim that Hell is a place of extreme punishment, without any relationship between the suffering and the sins being punished, is heresy.

To the contrary, God is a just Judge, and so the punishments of Hell must be just and merciful punishments, exactly fitting to the unrepentant actual mortal sins of the persons in Hell. To portray the punishments of Hell as not merely severe, but extreme and without any proportionate relationship to the sins that are being punished, is to accuse God of injustice.

The Council of Florence, and also Pope Innocent III and Pope Pius VI, both taught that the punishments of Hell are unequal (see below). Tradition, Scripture, Magisterium have always taught that Hell is a place of just punishments from God. But just punishment is always proportionate to the offense.

The Council of Florence defined: “But the souls of those who depart this life in actual mortal sin, or in original sin alone, go down straightaway to hell to be punished, but with unequal pains.” (Sixth Session, 6 July 1439, Pope Eugenius presiding)

Pope Innocent III: “The punishment of original sin is deprivation of the vision of God, but the punishment of actual sin is the torments of everlasting Hell….” (Denzinger, n. 410)

Pope Pius VI: “that place of the lower regions (which the faithful generally designate by the name of the limbo of children) in which the souls of those departing with the sole guilt of original sin are punished with the punishment of the condemned, exclusive of the punishment of fire” (Auctorem Fidei)

See also: Heresy on the Limbo of Hell

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and Biblical scholar

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6 Responses to Heresies on Hell

  1. Matt says:

    What do you make of this message from the Blessed Virgin Mary in Medjugorje. She states that persons in Hell have committed grave, unpardonable sins. I thought all sins can be pardonable if the person is repentant and confesses before death.

    July 25, 1982

    Concerning Hell: “Today many persons go to Hell. God allows His children to suffer in Hell due to the fact that they have committed grave, unpardonable sins. Those who are in Hell no longer have a chance to know a lot better.”

    • Ron Conte says:

      The souls in Hell have each and all committed one or more actual mortal sins. Now in one sense, any act that is gravely disordered is a grave sin, objectively. But only if the gravely immoral act is committed with full knowledge of its grave immorality and full deliberation is it an actual mortal sin. So actual mortal sin is what Mary means by the grave sins committed by those in Hell.

      What makes any actual mortal sin ‘unpardonable’ is final impenitence — the refusal, through the last moment of life, to repent from actual mortal sin. Only final impenitence can make any actual mortal sin unpardonable. And so blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is nothing other than final impenitence. Mary’s description is a very succinct expression of Catholic doctrine on the loss of salvation. So this is one of the things that indicates that the private revelations at Medjugorje are true.

  2. Stephen says:

    It’s amazing how our secular world teaches differently on Hell.

    Question: I watched a priest on television (I cannot recall his name or what the program was) once say the punishment of Hell is merely the absence of God. It appears to me Jesus tells us we will also experience tortuous pain, as if being burned on the skin. Can you elaborate on the actual punishment and/or pain experienced in Hell?

    • Ron Conte says:

      The separation from God — the absence of the Beatific Vision and Beatific Union of God — is the worst punishment of Hell. But there are certainly other punishments:
      {9:42} And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off: it is better for you to enter into life disabled, than having two hands to go into Hell, into the unquenchable fire,
      {9:43} where their worm does not die, and the fire is not extinguished.

      The ‘worm’ that does not die is usually interpreted as the affliction of conscience. The souls in Hell know their own sins, due to the particular judgment, and they know that they are responsible for doing evil and for refusing to repent. This knowledge torments them, and they are unable to look away.

      The suffering called ‘fire’ represent other torments inflicted on some of the souls in Hell, but not all, depending on how severe their unrepentant actual mortal sins were. Some persons in Hell do not suffer active torments (those who die in original sin alone). Many souls in Hell suffer active torments, i.e. punishments in addition to deprivation of Heaven and the interior rebuke of their conscience.

  3. Joshua says:

    Is the Council of Florence saying that all in original sin, including pre born babies and non Christians who live good lives according to the law written on the heart, will go to hell or limbo? Has The Church ever defined limbo as a dogma? I understand some say that aborted children are “baptized in blood” and that some non Christians are “babtized by desire” because of their goodness. St. Faustina mentions Jesus appearing to the soul three times asking him/her to repent and accept Him, if I understand that right. I would really appreciate it if you could clear this up for me. Thanks!

    • Ron Conte says:

      Two Councils, Lyons II and Florence, infallibly taught that all who die in original sin only are sent to Hell, to the same place that those who die in actual mortal sin are sent, but to be punished with different punishments. However, the Magisterium has never defined that any prenatals, infants, or little children die in original sin or are sent to Hell. My view is that all these children receive a baptism of blood, or of desire, prior to death.

      The Limbo of Purgatory, or ‘Limbo of the Fathers’ exists. It is a fringe, and upper level of Purgatory. Perhaps prenatals who die in the womb go here first, to be given the development that they were unjustly denied in life, and as a way to prepare them for Heaven.

      The Limbo of Hell exists. It is the part of Hell with the least punishments, where those souls go who die in original sin alone.

      Limbo as a third final destination, where those souls go who die in original sin alone, is not compatible with the teaching of the Church, at this point in the development of doctrine. Lyons II and Florence defined that those who die in original sin alone go to Hell, with those who die in actual mortal sin. Those who die in a state of grace go to Heaven. There are no other states in which one can die, so there are no other final destinations. Limbo as a third final destination is not heresy, but is currently an untenable theological position, due to recent teachings of the Magisterium, that man, in order to be happy, needs grace and the vision and union of God in Heaven.

      My theological opinion is that no children die in original sin or in actual mortal sin. All little children go to Heaven. For the offer of salvation is universal. Those persons only go to Hell who die unrepentant from actual mortal sin. The CCC states the same; mortal sin and persistence in that sin through death is necessary for someone to be sent to Hell. Therefore, I believe that those who die in original sin only are those persons who die unrepentant from the actual mortal sin of omission of never having found sanctifying grace despite ample opportunity.

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