Bishop Robert Barron versus the Magisterium on Hell

See my previous post: Bishop Robert Barron on Hell: May we reasonably hope that all will be saved? In his video talk, Bishop Barron (prior to becoming bishop), summarized his own position in this way:

“We have to accept the possibility of Hell. We have to accept the existence of it as a possibility because of human freedom. But, are any human beings in Hell. We don’t know. We don’t know. The Church has never declared on that subject. And we may pray that all be saved, and may even reasonably hope that all be saved…. It’s a theologically-grounded reasonable hope that all will be saved.”

“Bottom line: we may reasonably hope that all people will be saved.”

His claim that the Church has never taught on this subject is false. The idea that all human persons will be saved, and eventually go to Heaven, is the condemned heresy of apocatastasis.

Second Council of Constantinople, Canon 9: “If anyone says or holds that the punishment of the demons and of impious men is temporary, and that it will have an end at some time, that is to say, there will be a complete restoration of the demons or of impious men, let him be anathema.” [Denzinger 211]

Moreover, many teachings of the Church would be essentially null and void if all go to Heaven: the necessity of baptism, the necessity of repentance after actual mortal sin, the necessity of all the Sacraments and of the Church itself as the Ark of salvation all become optional and nearly useless if everyone goes to Heaven no matter what they say or do. Many teachings of the Magisterium mention Hell. All those teachings become empty if Hell is empty.

Second Lateran Council: “Thus it is written: Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point, has become guilty of all of it; this evidently pertains to eternal life. Therefore, just as a person who is entangled in all sins will not enter the gate of eternal life, so also if a person remains in one sin.” [Canon 22]

The above infallible teaching of an Ecumenical Council becomes null and void if all persons enter the gate of eternal life. All the teachings of the Magisterium, on the path to eternal life, become meaningless if everyone receive eternal life, no matter what choices they make in life.

Fourth Lateran Council: “He will come at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, to render to every person according to his works, both to the reprobate and to the elect. All of them will rise with their own bodies, which they now wear, so as to receive according to their deserts, whether these be good or bad; for the latter perpetual punishment with the devil, for the former eternal glory with Christ.”

“There is indeed one universal church of the faithful, outside of which nobody at all is saved, in which Jesus Christ is both priest and sacrifice.”[Confession of Faith]

The above infallible teaching of an Ecumenical Council becomes null and void if there is no one in Hell. The General Judgment becomes not a judgment at all, if all are saved. The dogma, stated by Saint Paul: “there will be a future resurrection of the just and the unjust.” (Acts 24:15) becomes a lie if there are no unjust souls to be resurrected from Hell.

The Fourth Lateran Council infallibly taught that some of those persons judged at the end of time are “reprobate” (the souls in Hell), and that not all are “the elect” (souls in Purgatory or Heaven). The Council also taught that the reprobate suffer “perpetual punishment”. But if Hell is empty, then that teaching would be false.

The dogma that “Outside the Church, there is no salvation”, becomes a ridiculous tautology if all human persons are saved. It is like saying “Other than everyone, no one is saved.” The profound truths of the Catholic Faith become worthless and meaningless if everyone goes to Heaven, and no one goes to Hell, despite all the manifest grave sins committed by billions of persons.

Council of Florence: “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.”

“Thence he shall come to judge the living and the dead. At his coming all shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give an account of their own deeds. Those who have done good shall go into eternal life, but those who have done evil shall go into eternal fire.”

“Finally, unless they repent from their hearts, perform deeds worthy of repentance and make worthy satisfaction to your holiness and the universal church for the enormity of their sins, may they be thrust with the wicked into the everlasting darkness, doomed by the just judgment of God to eternal torments.”

“It firmly believes, professes and preaches that all those who are outside the Catholic Church, not only pagans but also Jews or heretics and schismatics, cannot share in eternal life and will go into the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels, unless they are joined to the catholic church before the end of their lives; that the unity of the ecclesiastical body is of such importance that only for those who abide in it do the church’s sacraments contribute to salvation and do fasts, almsgiving and other works of piety and practices of the Christian militia produce eternal rewards; and that nobody can be saved, no matter how much he has given away in alms and even if he has shed his blood in the name of Christ, unless he has persevered in the bosom and the unity of the Catholic Church.”

The above teachings of the Council of Florence are incompatible with the claim of Bishop Barron that we may hope that Hell is empty and all are saved. The teaching on the Church as the sole Ark of salvation certainly includes all persons of good will, who unfortunately reject Christianity or Catholicism with a sincere by mistaken conscience due to invincible ignorance. So only those who reject the Church to the extent of an actual mortal sin are sent to Hell for that rejection. But according to the same Council some souls do “depart this life in actual mortal sin … [and] go down straightaway to hell to be punished….” We cannot suppose or hope or opine that maybe no one is actually outside the Church and all are saved, when the Church clearly says otherwise.

Fifth Lateran Council: the Lord “promises eternal rewards and eternal punishments to those who will be judged according to the merits of their life” [Session 8]

The Council forbid anyone to teach the contrary. The Council also taught that “subjection to the Roman pontiff is necessary for salvation for all Christ’s faithful”, just as Pope Boniface VIII taught in Unam Sanctam. But if all are saved no matter what they believe or do, then nothing is necessary for salvation and every teaching of the Magisterium on things that lead to eternal life, or to eternal punishment would be empty.

The Council of Trent infallibly taught on the usefulness of the fear of Hell [Decree on Justification, Canon 8]. But if no one is sent to Hell, then there is no need to fear Hell, and that teaching becomes null and void.

The Council of Trent also admonished priests and all who have the care of souls to “feed the people committed to them … by teaching them the things which it is necessary for all to know unto salvation, and by announcing to them with briefness and plainness of discourse, the vices which they must avoid, and the virtues which they must follow after, that they may escape everlasting punishment, and obtain the glory of heaven.” [Decree on Reformation, Chapter II]

But if no one goes to Hell, then it is a lie to say that one must avoid vices and follow virtues in order to escape everlasting punishment. In fact, teaching the faithful that they must be careful to avoid everlasting punishment would be a cruel deception, if all are saved.

The Council of Trent infallibly taught that, after actual mortal sin, “eternal punishment … is, together with the guilt, remitted” by contrition and Confession (or the desire thereof). [Decree on Justification, Chapter 14]. But if there is no eternal punishment, then the teaching that eternal punishment is remitted by Confession would be false. The idea that all are saved is incompatible with the Sacraments of Baptism and Confession. For if all are saved, regardless of whether they receive some form of baptism, regardless of whether they repent and confess, then these Sacraments are needless.

The First Vatican Council taught: “Since, then, without faith it is impossible to please God and reach the fellowship of his sons and daughters, it follows that no one can ever achieve justification without it [faith], neither can anyone attain eternal life unless he or she perseveres in it to the end.” [Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, Chapter 3].

Second Vatican Council: “The Christian who neglects his temporal duties, neglects his duties toward his neighbor and even God, and jeopardizes his eternal salvation.” [Gaudium et Spes 43]

Both the First and Second Vatican Councils taught that eternal salvation can be lost.

Given all of the above teachings of Ecumenical Councils, how can anyone propose that Hell is empty, or that all human persons go to Heaven, even if he adds the words “maybe” and “perhaps”? If there is no eternal punishment of any human person in Hell, then the above infallible teachings, which are required beliefs under pain of heresy, would be false and meaningless. So either you believe the infallible teachings of multiple Ecumenical Councils on the punishment of the damned in a very real Hell that is not at all empty, or you depart from the teachings of the Catholic Christian Faith.

Essentially, what Bishop Robert Barron is saying is that he hopes and prays that all the infallible teachings of the Magisterium on salvation and Hell are false. So it is in no way faithful or reasonable for any Catholic to hope or to pray that all are saved, or that Hell does not exist or is empty, or anything similar. In fact, this type of claim implies an utter rejection of multiple infallible teachings of the Magisterium, and is therefore abject heresy. If Hell is empty, then our Faith is in vain.

It is very unfortunate, but also very clear: Bishop Robert Barron is a heretic who has rejected numerous infallible teachings of the Magisterium by claiming that perhaps no human persons will suffer eternal punishment in Hell.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and translator of the Catholic Public Domain Version of the Bible.

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4 Responses to Bishop Robert Barron versus the Magisterium on Hell

  1. Francisco says:

    Bishop Barron would also be hoping and praying that the vision granted by the Blessed Virgin Mary at Fatima of the many souls going to Hell to the little shepherds who, by the way, were terrified (literally “scared the Hell out of them”) by this vision, was nothing more than a wicked and mean joke and that all the Popes who approved of this apparition have erred.

    • Ron Conte says:

      And at Fatima, Mary said: “More souls go to Hell because of sins of the flesh than for any other reason.” That statement would be a lie if Hell is empty. In fact, it only makes sense for Mary to say that if many souls go to Hell.

  2. Francisco says:

    I think that the problem with Bishop Barron’s assertion is that he is reasoning it too much, putting his reasoning above Faith. There are things that go above our limited mind, but we live by Faith. People go to Hell and yet, God is Love. One proof that God is love is that He has made us free. There is no love (true love) without freedom.

    • Ron Conte says:

      Oh, I think he is reasoning too little. Consider all the many grave sins committed in this life, and how few sinners show any indication of repentance. His position is based on what he wishes were true. It would be easier, in a sense, if there were no Hell.

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