Theological Q and A

Did Jesus literally descend to the Hell of eternal punishment or to the limbo of the Father or to Purgatory?

All three. Jesus went to the gates of Hell, so that all the denizens of Hell would now know the reason for their eternal punishment, that (before the time of Christ) they had implicitly rejected Christ by their unrepented actual mortal sins. This gave a new order to Hell, and was absolutely required by the justice of God. Persons who are punished morally must be informed as to the reason for the punishment.

St. Thomas in the Summa Theologica says that Christ visited Hell, Limbo, and Purgatory, though each place in a different manner. “For going down into the hell of the lost He wrought this effect, that by descending thither He put them to shame for their unbelief and wickedness.” That is why I say that He visited, figuratively, “the gates of Hell”. He did not enter and visit each soul individually. But he gave them knowledge that He was the Messiah they implicitly rejected, thereby putting them to shame for their sins.

Every angel and soul in Hell knows what they did wrong, and that is even part of the punishment: the worm of conscience. The know that they deserve the punishment.

Jesus visited Hell, though He did not visit each soul personally there. Jesus then visited limbo and Purgatory, and in this case, He did visit each soul personally, teaching them:
[1 Peter]
{3:18} For Christ also died once for our sins, the Just One on behalf of the unjust, so that he might offer us to God, having died, certainly, in the flesh, but having been enlivened by the Spirit.
{3:19} And in the Spirit, he preached to those who were in prison, going to those souls
{3:20} who had been unbelieving in past times, while they waited for the patience of God, as in the days of Noah, when the ark was being built. In that ark, a few, that is, eight souls, were saved by water.

Is the 14th of Nisan always on a Friday?

Jesus died on the preparation day of the Passover, which is always Nisan 14. Nisan is the name of a month in the Jewish calendar. The 14th of Nisan is not always a Friday.

As a result, in the early Church, there was a controversy as to which day should be celebrated as the day of the Crucifixion of Christ. Most Christians kept the observance of the day Christ died for us on a Friday, no matter which day of the month it was. But many Christians in Asia Minor kept the observance of the Crucifixion on the 14th day of the lunar month, i.e. the Jewish month of Nisan. This group of Christians were called “quartodecimans,” a name which means “the fourteeners.” Eventually, the Church decided to keep the observance of this day always on a Friday, hence the name Good Friday. This controversy tells us something about the day of the Crucifixion.

Is it a sin not to fast in Lent?

Fasting is required during Lent on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. If you have a good reason, such as a health problem, you may substitute some other penance. Persons who have passed their 59th birthday are no longer required to fast, nor are children under the age of 14 required to fast.

If you fail to fast, without a just reason, it may be a sin. Usually, such a failure is a venial sin, provided that the person has fasted on other days, abstains from meat on Fridays of Lent (and on Ash Wednesday) and otherwise fulfills the precepts to worship God and keep holy the Sabbath. A substantially limited failure to fulfill a grave obligation is not a grave sin. Only a substantially full failure to fulfil a grave obligation would be a grave sin.

Should people be allowed to repent their sins and leave Hell?

One a fallen angel or human soul is sent to Hell, they can never repent. They are not given the prevenient grace to allow the possibility of repentance. They are not offered the actual graces so as to possibly accept the grace to repent. They do not have the state of grace, and they lack the supernatural virtue of love. So they do not truly love God or neighbor.

They cannot repent. Should they be given the graces needed to repent? God is just and merciful, and He has decided not to do so, therefore they should not. Why? When a criminal is committing a crime or a set of crimes, the justice authorities do not permit that criminal to continue offending indefinitely, in case he might repent. Justice requires intervention and action to stop the crime.

All the angels and souls in Hell are absolutely unable to sin in the least, by the prevenient grace of God. That is part of their punishment. When Satan is sent to Hell, he will be unable to hate, to blaspheme, to speak maliciously, to harm anyone unjustly. And the same is true for all the souls and devils in Hell.

The souls in Hell are not punished by devils; however, it is part of their suffering to have the company of devils as fellow prisoners in the prison of Hell.

The angels and souls in Hell are prevented from hating and blaspheming, and are preventing from all sin. But they are in a state of blasphemy, as they have rejected God utterly.

Are the few who are saved only the Catholics?

No! That claim is a heresy called Feeneyism.

Pope Saint John Paul II:

“The universality of salvation means that it is granted not only to those who explicitly believe in Christ and have entered the Church. Since salvation is offered to all, it must be made concretely available to all.” [Redemptoris Missio 10]

Persons can be saved if they “do not know the Church” and sometimes they can be saved if they “even outwardly reject her.” [All Salvation Comes through Christ, General Audience — May 31, 1995]

Non-Catholic Christians, non-Christian believers, and non-believers can all be saved, without converting, if their failure to convert is not an actual mortal sin (or if they repent of that sin), and if they enter the state of grace by a baptism of desire or blood, and then die in that state.

Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian
* My books of theology
* My translation of the Bible
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4 Responses to Theological Q and A

  1. Sunimal Fernando says:

    Pray for us, from Sri Lanka.

  2. Ron Conte says:

    What is happening there? What can you tell us, Sunimal?

  3. BP says:

    Please compare very briefly your CPDV with the RSV 2nd CE.

    • Ron Conte says:

      CPDV: translated from the Latin. RSVCE2: translated from Greek and Hebrew.
      CPDV: a Catholic edition from beginning to end, every verse. RSVCE2: translated mostly by Protestants, later updated by Catholics.
      Both are not afraid to translated verses condemning “homosexuality”, rather than using vague terms. Both avoid inclusive language. CPDV is somewhat more literal than the RSVCE2, I think.
      CPDV: in the public domain, with no restrictions. RSVCE2 is copyrighted.

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