Everything you always needed to know about Hell

Courtesy of Saint Thomas Aquinas, as explained by Msgr. Charles Pope

The teachings of the Lord on Hell are difficult, especially in today’s climate. The most difficult questions that arise relate to its eternal nature and how to square its existence with a God who is loving and rich in mercy.

1. Does God love the souls in Hell? Yes.

How could they continue to exist if He did not love them, sustain them, and continue to provide for them? God loves because He is love. Although we may fail to be able to experience or accept His love, God loves every being He has made, human or angelic.

The souls in Hell may have refused to empty their arms to receive His embrace, but God has not withdrawn His love for them. He permits those who have rejected Him to live apart from him. God honors their freedom to say no, even respecting it when it becomes permanent, as it has for fallen angels and the souls in Hell.

God is not tormenting the damned. The fire and other miseries are largely expressions of the sad condition of those who have rejected the one thing for which they were made: to be caught up into the love and perfection of God and the joy of all the saints.

2. Is there any good at all in Hell? Yes. Are all the damned punished equally? No.


In this season of joy, some profound insights into the value of suffering


Saint Pope John Paul II
– All of those who suffer, especially the innocent, may feel themselves called to participate in the work of redemption, carried out through the cross
– The suffering of the innocent is especially valuable in the eyes of the Lord
– Even when the darkness is deepest, faith points to a trusting acknowledgment: ‘I know that you can do all things’

Sacred Scripture
– Is it not logical that we accept suffering?
– Taking up the cross is the obligation of whoever follows Jesus
– The sufferings of Christ are a cause of rejoicing
– The future glory surpasses all suffering

Saint Thomas Aquinas
– Death and all consequent bodily defects are punishments of original sin

Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church
– Original sin subjected all human nature to suffering
– Sufferings: a means of cooperating with God
– Means of purification and of salvation
– From the greatest of all moral evils God has brought forth the greatest of all goods

Catechism of the Catholic Church
– A new meaning for suffering – participation in the saving work of Jesus
– Makes a person more mature, helping to discern what is not essential

Saint John Chrysostom
– The remedy against pride; the power of God in weak men

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The danger of subscribing to the falacious “prosperity” Gospel


Greed is often downplayed today where accumulation and ostentatious display of wealth is often celebrated.  Great rooms with cathedral ceilings, 72″ flat screen TVs and even private home theaters (entertainment centers), fancy cars etc., are shamelessly flaunted.

But greed is at the root of a lot of evils and suffering. Scripture says,

For we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world; but if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs. (1 Tim 6:7-10)

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Abortion advocates are essentially no different from Nazis or Soviet Communists. All of them have picked a class of humans to sacrifice.

Let’s take the Nazis for example: over a period of time and by a series of complex political and social occurrences and maneuvers  the Jew became Germany’s scapegoat. Getting rid of Jews (and priests, and gypsies, and homosexuals, and the mentally and physically disabled, etc.) was a necessary sacrifice to make Germany better, more prosperous, and safer.

The exterminations took place somewhere else, where the average Berlin shop girl couldn’t see and wonder at the clusters of buildings surrounded by barbed wire, the oily smoke rising from the chimneys.

“How can you possibly write that?” some of you are screaming at your monitors. “How dare you diminish the suffering of the Holocaust?”

I’m not diminishing anything. You are. Because history repeats itself, and denial is very human.

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In spite of his suffering, Roger Ebert reportedly claimed to be unable to believe in God.

Ebert said of his faith, “I consider myself Catholic, lock, stock and barrel, with this technical loophole: I cannot believe in God.” Despite his Catholic upbringing, Ebert said he has long struggled with God’s existence.

In a April 2009 blog, Ebert noted that though his wife’s faith was strong, he has found that over time “the reality of God was no longer present in my mind.”


Understood By God Alone: The true story of St. John of God.


I think that you will be enthralled by the passages below as the life of Saint John of God reminds us that to serve God and Him alone as He has revealed Himself to us exclusively through His Catholic Church will cause us to be misunderstood and maligned by even our closest relatives and former associates.

Read more from  Thomas A. Droleskey

Many who thought Purgatory didn’t exist now know better.

Carnival CEO Gerry Cahill apologized at a news conference and later on the public address system as people were disembarking.

“I appreciate the patience of our guests and their ability to cope with the situation. And I’d like to reiterate the apology I made earlier. I know the conditions on board were very poor,” he said. “We pride ourselves on providing our guests with a great vacation experience, and clearly we failed in this particular case.”

Passenger Ferguson said crew members tried to make the situation bearable.

“They did their best to keep our spirits up,” she said.

Joseph and Cecilia Alvarez of San Antonio said some passengers passed the time by forming a Bible study group.

“It was awesome,” he said. “It lifted up our souls and gave us hope that we would get back.”


It’s OK. I’m back.

by Doug Lawrence

I took a week off to move, and it took the better part of that week to get my Internet service back up and running.

Something about software issues … and components that didn’t work well together.

It will be at least a few days before regular postings are resumed.

There’s simply too much moving yet to be done, and too many details that still require attention!

Look for “Moving As A Type of Purgatory … The Biblical Basis for Suffering On-The-Go” coming up soon.

When evil was allowed to do its worst, even to the point of wearing itself out … only to have God step in and restore all that had been lost!

What is perhaps the oldest book of the Bible grapples prophetically with Satan … the “Mystery of Iniquity” … suffering … human failings … the will of God … redemption … restoration … faith, hope and love.

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Garvan Byrne died at the age of 11 after a long illness, but he left behind an amazing and inspiring video for people of faith.

Click here … and have the Kleenex ready

I don’t know if Garvan Byrnes is worthy of sainthood.  But it seems to me that the Church should consider investigating his life and death to see if he is worthy of  being named a “Servant of God.”  From there, God will decide how high this young man should rise on that scale of sanctity.   It may all come down to whether God permits miracles to be permitted when people petition Garvan in the name of Jesus.

Thanks to Te Deum laudamus!

Sister Euphemia and the education of Mary Grace Parker

Never noticing St. Thomas Hospital during my brief time as a freshman at Belmont University before the wreck, I knew nothing of the rich history, mission, or theology of the hospital.

So lying in one of its hospital beds, without the mobility to explore my surroundings, I could only face straight ahead; and all there was to see on the wall before me was a 10-inch crucifix placed there dutifully by the Daughters of Charity.

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Having a bad day, Bunky? Writer explains why.

Chastisements or trials must never be seen outside of God’s attempts to save us and break cycles of sin so that we can be saved.  Human freedom is so powerful and key that not even God forces it or takes away our responsibility to make good choices.  If he did, then the union between us and God through the virtues, and the very purpose of freedom would not be real.

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Jesus publicly suffered the most graphic, bloody death imaginable–so what’s wrong with graphic anti-abortion displays?

This extraordinary pro-life message appeared in my email box earlier today:

I understand that the Rockford diocese wants nothing to do with graphic signs, so you don’t have to worry about me involving Holy Cross. That said, I’ve given much contemplation to your thought on the Eucharist. This is what I’ve come up with:

God knows full well the effect of graphic, bloody display. It was not for nothing that His Son suffered the most graphic, bloody death imaginable–scourged and beaten beyond recognition and hung on a cross to die. Why? Wouldn’t it have been better that Jesus die by the sword in a remote location at the hands of conspirators, so that delicate sensibilities might be spared? His clean body could then have been brought out for proof to His followers before being entombed. He still would have died and conquered death through resurrection. So why the graphic death?

I believe it was because there is something to be learned through this graphic display. It underscores the ugliness of sin, the hefty price that needed to be paid, and the depth of God’s Love in a way that mere discussion could not. Ever.

In the aftermath of Jesus’ resurrection, it was the cross, the bloody cross, that became the symbol of Christianity. The early Christians knew what the cross meant. They saw it all the time. Crucifixion was a public affair. But Jesus was the only One to conquer the cross and conquer death. He was the Christ. So the instrument of torture and death became the symbol of Life Eternal.

Nowadays we don’t want to be reminded of the ugliness of sin. Protestants abandoned the crucifix for the plain wooden cross. Catholics have cleaned up their crucifixes to make them bloodless, except for the wounds in His precious hands, feet, and side. The marks of the scourging have been removed, as well as, in many cases, the Precious Blood drawn by the savage thorns. We have made His beaten body pretty.

And why? We don’t want to see the truth of what our sin–my sin, your sin–has done. It’s far easier to look upon the pretty Jesus, the best friend Jesus, the “I’m OK, you’re OK” Jesus. We’re not unsettled that way. We can remain complacent in our sin, thinking, “It’s not that bad. At least I didn’t kill somebody.” Well, it is “that bad”. Just look at a bloody crucifix, if you can find one. Look at the images from the movie, “The Passion of the Christ”. That’s what MY sin, YOUR sin, has done.

Yes, we have the unbloody bread and wine which become the Body and Blood of Christ through transubstantiation. But Jesus’ disciples didn’t know that’s what He intended the day He told them, “Unless you eat my flesh…for my flesh is real food…”. The Bible says many left Him that day. Notice that Jesus had let them go.

So what if we today were presented with a bloody piece of Jesus’ flesh to eat at Mass, and He told us, “Unless you eat my flesh, you will not have life within you”? Many would undoubtedly leave Him. Why? It would still be the same Body that we now receive in unbloody form. I myself would eat it, because I want Life. I want Jesus. A piece of Jesus’ bloody flesh would only remind me more sorely of His great sacrifice.

But how many others approach the table now unworthily, in the state of mortal sin? Would Nancy Pelosi still receive Communion if she were offered Him in the form of a bloody piece of flesh? Or would she leave Him, physically carrying out what she has already done spiritually? If we were offered a bloody piece of flesh, would only 30% of Catholics believe in the True Presence as they do now? Or would 100% of Catholics believe, though there might be 70% fewer of them? How many might leave?

One thing is certain, as Jesus let his disciples go, we are not to compromise the tenets of our faith to placate those who would leave the Church because the teachings are too hard. And in actuality, God has given us that bloody flesh from time to time, in Eucharistic miracles, to strengthen our faith. God understands the effect of graphic displays. If some are revolted, so be it.

Like Jesus’ death on the cross, graphic displays of the child killed by abortion remind us of the ugliness of sin. We don’t want to see it, because it makes us uncomfortable. We don’t want to acknowledge that our selfishness can lead to death. So we take Jesus off the cross, we turn our eyes from the aborted baby. We show pictures of smiling babies and ultrasound images–good things, for sure, but we sweep the reality of abortion under the rug. We let people hide behind pretty words like “choice” and “rights”. Humanity is stripped by “fetus”, “tissue”, “products of conception”. We are left with the empty brace of the wooden cross.

But when we come face to face with the aborted child, we cannot deny the horror of abortion; it is no longer abstract. The child’s humanity becomes real. The effects of sin are obvious. We see the blood and it sickens us, as sin should. We can’t hide any more. And we don’t like it.

We want the pretty. Pretty doesn’t demand anything from us. Pretty lets us think everything is OK. But it’s not OK; it won’t be OK as long as babies are dying out of the sight of those who might take pity on them and put an end to the barbarity, were those people to know the reality of what goes on behind clinic doors.

When I look at the picture of the aborted baby, I don’t see something disgusting. I see something intricate and beautiful that has been profaned, tortured, torn apart. I see the face of Christ. If some are revolted, so be it. —Sylvia K.

Editor’s note: Amen!

Forget PETA! How about PETH (People for the Ethical Treatment of Humans)?

I’ve seen cars with a bumper sticker on one side saying ‘Pro Choice’ and a bumper sticker on the other side saying ‘The question is not, can they reason? nor, can they talk? But, can they suffer?’ with a picture of a cow.  This same person is worried about a cow suffering and not a human baby that was ripped apart in the womb, or worse yet, born alive and then stabbed with a pair of scissors to make sure it doesn’t survive.

If you think I’m kidding or making this up, you’re dead wrong.

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Priest: Corapi’s actions causing scandal

Briefly… in the hope that I might post more thoughtfully on the subject:

  • priests function only by faculty of their respective Ordinaries;
  • we all hope for justice in the Church;
  • sometimes the innocent suffer;
  • this applies to priests;
  • priests are ordained to a special consecration unto Christ the Head
  • Who was the Innocent Victim
  • and if we priests become innocent victims…
  • we must be prepared to embrace the suffering involved
  • and in humble obedience
  • die to ourselves
  • even while pursuing the legitimate recourses to which we have a right in Canon Law
  • no matter how slowly these may proceed
  • or how unjustly we may think we are being treated.
  • So Corapi should do the same.
  • He should die to self rather than refusing to die (as he puts it on his new website) by “resigning” his priesthood and leading people away from their pastors by the scandal that such a public defection is causing in the Church.


Brief editorial in light of the recent Father Corapi announcement and all the other sad, weird things transpiring in the Catholic Church, these days.

by Doug Lawrence

If I thought the Catholic Church was just another corporate entity, I would have “sold all my stock” and “washed my hands of it” many, many years ago.

It’s not. So I didn’t.

I think Father Corapi has indeed been wronged, is suffering from some sort of illness, is not in his right mind, and is in need of our continued prayers, assistance and support … not in starting up a new organization … but in being once again reconciled with the church, his religious order, and the Catholic ministerial priesthood.

It would be a real shame and a grave sin to do anything less.

I have faith that someone in authority will step up to champion this process. And at this point, it doesn’t matter whether the allegations against Father Corapi are ever substantiated or refuted. Reconciliation is what’s necessary … and in the Catholic Church, reconciliation has never required judgment, or even a definitive finding of fault.

In fact, the opposite is true.

God is willing to forgive as soon as we admit that we may have fallen short, that we are truly sorry for all of our failures, and we resolve to make a good faith effort to try to do better, in the future. Reconciliation eliminates the need for judgment, clearing the way so grace can supernaturally operate, for the benefit of the whole church. That’s the beauty of it!

Why should we, who are encouraged to imitate Jesus Christ in word and deed, even attempt to apply any other standard to the Corapi affair?

The man Corapi has been a good and faithful priest for twenty years. Preaching the truth in a particularly effective way, he has brought countless souls to Jesus Christ. The allegations made against him are not particularly outrageous or grievous. Certainly not unforgivable! How is it then, that we all seem to be willing to throw in the towel, pridefully retreat to our respective corners, claim victory, and simply walk away?

If all parties involved in this mess can’t get together and sign-on to a joint, traditionally Catholic reconciliation strategy, then perhaps my assessment of the supernatural nature of the Catholic Church is wrong after all, the Body of Christ is in much worse shape than anyone ever suspected, and it’s time to do some strategic short-selling.

God, help us gracefully recover from this terrible scandal. Please!

Complete article summary and chronology of the Father Corapi affair

St. Francis of Assisi: A saint for our times

St Francis lived as one of the poorest and lowest in society, and worked as a day labourer. This was hard, menial, low-paid work, yet he never passed a collection plate when he preached, nor asked the public for money.

His life and message were uncompromising and simple: greed causes suffering for both the victims and the perpetrators.

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This Week’s Ask Alice: Praying for “lost sheep” can be a test of one’s own faith.

Send A Question To Alice

She’ll answer as many questions as possible,
right here, every Thursday.

Email responses will also be provided, as time permits.

Sally C writes: Funny how Providence opens up windows…thank-you for your website. I have a dilemma:
Two sons have defected in different degrees from their Catholic faith. Both are married, and with children. I have been praying for them long and hard, pray to Saints Philomena, St. Dymphna, St. Monica, St. Joseph, Mary….pouring my heart out to “heal” my sons in their individual great deficiencies.

Meanwhile, I am doubting the active presence of God in all this. My trust in God is slipping more than I care to admit, tho I go to Mass and Confession often.

Have you ever seen the picture of the man sinking in the water, reaching out his hand ? And, as a hand reaches out to save him, I sink. I slip from the grasp.

My worries have slipped into a no trust in God, scenario. Trust is essential to living a faith life, as air is to breathing… is there any possible reason why God is allowing me this “trust-less” period in my life? It is very hard. How do I continue to pray?


Alice Answers: Welcome to the Moms-Praying-Ceaselessly-for-Our-Children-Network!

Although we’ve never met, there are scores of us in every neighborhood praying day and night for our sons and daughters. If I had a nickel for every faith-filled mom who has confided that her child stopped going to church, I could purchase Trump Tower … in cash! Our youngest daughter is named Monica, and the Christian Community that meets at our home is called, “St. Dymphna.”

Sally, as a persevering, praying mom, you’re in good company. In 1984 a mom, with two sons entering junior high school, started praying weekly with her friend that their children would stay close to the Lord. The fruits of Fern Nichols’ prayers for her children was the birth of Moms in Touch International. Twenty-seven years later, the prayers of two mothers have blossomed into a worldwide organization, with groups in more than 120 countries.

“Pour out your heart like water to the Lord. Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your children, who faint from hunger at the head of every street.” (Lamentations 2:19)

One of the most challenging aspects of praying for children who have strayed from faith is that their dark assessment of life tends to dampen our own resolve. When we pray week-after-week, year-after-year … with no fruits of our prayerful labors in sight, we become discouraged.

But consider Jesus’ words of consolation to St. Faustina:

“You always console Me when you pray for sinners. The prayer most pleasing to Me is prayer for the conversion of sinners. Know, My daughter, that this prayer is always heard and answered.” (Diary of St. Maria Faustina Kowalska:1397)

Please remember, Sally, that you are special to God. He chose you to be the mother of His precious sons because He believed that no other woman would love them more faithfully or bring them home to Him, better than you would.

“Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb?” (Isaiah 49:15)

Here are my “secrets” for loving my children, even when they challenge my faith and love:

1) Find a favorite photo (baby picture, First Communion, graduation, etc.) of your son(s). Think of how much you loved him the day the picture was taken. Hold the photo in your hands and say a prayer for him. When you finish your prayer, give him a hug and and say, “I love, you,_______,” in your mind. Repeat this practice every day.

2) Live what you teach. Don’t preach. If we keep prodding our adult children to go to Mass and the sacraments, they sometimes pull further away from us. Just keep loving your sons unconditionally. Express your love for them often, with embraces, words, emails and cards.

3) Ask your sons to attend one Mass with you, as your birthday present. They can go to Mass with you on either the same or two different days. Invite your sons and their families to attend Sunday Mass with you followed by lunch at your home or a restaurant. Ask your sons and their families to meet for Mass on Christmas, Easter or Thanksgiving.

4) When you feel your own faith weakening, go into an empty church and pour your heart out to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. He’s always there and loves to listen to your every thought. From what you wrote, you are doing a wonderful job of bringing all of your heartaches to God. When you think He’s not there, Jesus’ heart is beating in unison with yours and His tears are intermingled with your own. In the times we feel most alone, God is closest to us.

“A suffering soul is closest to my heart.” (Diary:1487)

In Christ’s Love,


Doug Lawrence adds: Sally, it may be comforting to know that God even permitted the Blessed Mother to suffer, in order to complete the work that his superabundant grace first began in her immaculate soul. In some mysterious way, suffering has a way of honing the human spirit to a very fine edge. God knows and appreciates this. So he permits such things to occur.

Just as Easter always follows Good Friday, and Divine Mercy Sunday always follows Easter, there’s absolutely no chance that any of your prayers will ever go to waste. What better time to once again affirm, “Jesus, I Trust In You!”

Hebrews 11:1  Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen.

Click here to see all of Alice’s other columns

Catholic Scriptures on Suffering

By Lisa Graas

One of the most useful sites on the internet is Scripture Catholic which offers Scripture references for Catholic teaching in a handy indexed format. The site was put together by Catholic apologist and author John Salza. I strongly recommend that you bookmark it.

Below are the references Mr. Salza put together for Catholic teaching on suffering.  Unless we know what actually happened on the Cross, we cannot know the fullness of what God has done for us, so I’m offering these references here for those who suffer and who are having trouble understanding the meaning and value of their sufferings. Also recommended: “Love Beyond All Telling” at the website of the Passionist Nuns of St. Joseph Monastery.


Matt. 10:38 – Jesus said, “he who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.” Jesus defines discipleship as one’s willingness to suffer with Him. Being a disciple of Jesus not only means having faith in Him, but offering our sufferings to the Father as He did.

Matt. 16:24; Mark 8:34 – Jesus said, “if any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Jesus wants us to empty ourselves so that God can fill us. When we suffer, we can choose to seek consolation in God and become closer to Jesus.

Luke 9:23 – Jesus says we must take up this cross daily. He requires us to join our daily temporal sacrifices (pain, inconvenience, worry) with His eternal sacrifice.

Luke 14:27 – Jesus said, “whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.” If we reject God because we suffer, we fail to apply the graces that Jesus won for us by His suffering.

John 7:39 – Jesus was first glorified on the cross, not just the resurrection. This text refers to John 19:34, when Jesus was pierced on the cross by the soldier’s lance.

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Editor’s note: Jesus calls on us to voluntarily take up our own individual crosses and follow him. I doubt he ever intended for the institutional church to involuntarily impose the heavy crosses of scandal and corruption on the faithful, but he certainly knew such things would occur.

Evidently, any cross suffered for the cause of Jesus Christ is worth carrying.

If God truly loves the souls in Hell, then why does he make them suffer?

Questions to ponder – Beyond this though there are other questions to ponder, based not only on what the commenter says, but also what I have said. I want to say that I do not write these questions glibly or merely to tweak. They are not rhetorical (merely argumentative) either. What I am trying to do is take up the voice of a questioner who is authentically trying to wrestle with a difficult topic. I think many of the questions I raise have a clear answer, and propose one at the end. But I merely raise them to paint a picture of what might go through the mind of one pondering the matter. So here are some questions that might occur in terms of God and the souls in Hell:

1. Is it really a sign of hate or vengeance, rather than love, that God sustains the souls in Hell?

2. Does he really keep them alive merely to torment them?

3. What is more loving, to sustain them or to slay them?

4. Is the description of hell advanced by our commenter over the top or is it accurate? Granted, the torture of my family for “my mistakes” would be wrong since, theoretically they are innocent of my mistakes and would not be in hell.

5. But what of the torture of guilty in hell? Is our commenter’s description accurate in this sense? Jesus after all, uses some pretty vivid descriptors of hell where the fire is never extinguished and the worm dies not (Mk 9:48). Where there is wailing and grinding of teeth (Matt 13:42) and where there is torment and thirst (Lk 16:24).

6. Are these images of Jesus just allegory (figurative)?

7. Are they Jewish hyperbole (exaggeration)?

8. Or are they to be interpreted in a literalistic way?

9. In other words, is Hell really this bad?

10. Are the Biblical descriptions as understood literally the only way to see Hell?

11. And if it is, is our commenter right that it would be better for God to slay the wicked?

12. If it IS better, is God despotic and vengeful in keeping them alive in this condition?

13. Is “killing the patient” ever good therapy?

14. Should God just cancel the reality of hell and bring them to heaven?

15. If He did, would this also cancel justice?

16. If He did, would this violate the freedom and the choice of those who preferred not to live in his Kingdom?

17. If it does violate their freedom, is killing them only thing left?

18. Is THAT just?

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