Saturday, March 29, 2008

Popes in Hell

So, Catholics confirm that there are likely some Popes in Hell.

I am still wondering why God would attribute such high responsibility and honors to a man who would end up in hell for eternity. This does not sound like an understandable spiritual end for the visible leader of the flock of whom the following has been said said:

Catechism of St. Pius X

50 Q: Who is the Pope?
A: The Pope, who is also called the Sovereign Pontiff, or the Roman Pontiff, is the Successor of St. Peter in the See of Rome, the Vicar of Jesus Christ on earth, and the visible Head of the Church.
52 Q: Why is the Roman Pontiff the Vicar of Jesus Christ?
A: The Roman Pontiff is the Vicar of Jesus Christ because He represents Him on earth and acts in His stead in the government of the Church.
53 Q: Why is the Roman Pontiff the Visible Head of the Church?
A: The Roman Pontiff is the Visible Head of the Church because he visibly governs her with the authority of Jesus Christ Himself, who is her invisible Head.
54 Q: What, then, is the dignity of the Pope?
A: The dignity of the Pope is the greatest of all dignities on earth, and gives him supreme and immediate power over all and each of the Pastors and of the faithful.
55 Q: Can the Pope err when teaching the Church?
A: The Pope cannot err, that is, he is infallible, in definitions regarding faith and morals.
58 Q: What sin would a man commit who should refuse to accept the solemn definitions of the Pope?
A: He who refuses to accept the solemn definitions of the Pope, or who even doubts them, sins against faith; and should he remain obstinate in this unbelief, he would no longer be a Catholic, but a heretic.
62 Q: How should every Catholic act towards the Pope?
A: Every Catholic must acknowledge the Pope as Father, Pastor, and Universal Teacher, and be united with him in mind and heart.


Catechism of Trent

"Above all these, the Catholic Church has always placed the Supreme Pontiff of Rome, whom Cyril of Alexandria, in the Council of Ephesus, named the Chief Bishop, Father and Patriarch of the whole world. He sits in that chair of Peter in which beyond every shadow of doubt the Prince of the Apostles sat to the end of his days, and hence it is that in him the Church recognises the highest degree of dignity, and a universality of jurisdiction derived, not from the decrees of men or Councils, but from God Himself. Wherefore he is the Father and guide of all the faithful, of all the Bishops, and of all the prelates, no matter how high their power and office; and as successor of St. Peter, as true and lawful Vicar of Christ our Lord, he governs the universal Church."

If I were a Catholic I would feel a bit discouraged that Popes, with all their "graces" and honors, may not make it to heaven. I would have to have a great deal of confidence in myself to "merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed" when some Vicars of Christ have failed.

15 comments:

Peter Sean Bradley said...

First, the "graces" and "honors" are those necessary for the successor of Peter to carry out the duties of his office.

Second, the fact that the Pope has been given such graces and honors implies a greater culpability for not obeying Christ:

47 That servant who knew his master's will but did not make preparations nor act in accord with his will shall be beaten severely;
48 and the servant who was ignorant of his master's will but acted in a way deserving of a severe beating shall be beaten only lightly. Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.

Luke 12

Third, Popes have the same God-given human ability to refuse to cooperate with divine grace as anyone else.

Fourth, I'm surprised that you weren't aware of the possibility of "Popes in Hell." That certainly is a mainstay of the teachings of the Reformed and Lutheran churches.

Also, the idea figures in the seminal classic of Western civilization - Dante's Inferno.

You should read Dante to expand your cultural perspective.

Saint and Sinner said...

Historically, the Roman Church has likened the office of the Pope to that of the Israelite High Priest, and there are certainly many of them in hell. I can name two right now: Annas and Caiaphas.

Hidden One said...

Carrie, I'm guessing you'd be upset if Catholics dogmatically believed that every Pope was in heaven. We can't win.

James Swan said...

Carrie-

The possibility of a "Pope in Hell" is quite consistent with Rome's systematic teaching. If one is sanctified unto eventual justification, and that process is in "some way" dependent on the free will response of the one who can choose not follow Christ unto that eventual justifiaction, it is indeed possible even the apostles themselves are in Hell.

The only surety (for the Romanists)is that Mary is the only type of Calvinist in Roman Catholicism... in a sense. She was chosen by God before her birth to be completely saved from all sin, and therefore, completely justified this side of eternity....but she's the exception. Of course, the Reformed would never aruge we are completely sinless this side of eternity, but I think it's interesting that when it comes to knowing who the "chosen" are, there really is only one answer for the Romanist....Mary. Everyone else runs the risk of Hell.

Mike Burgess said...

Carrie,
May I ask what could appear to be a rhetorical question? Were the Apostles infallible when they taught the nascent Church?

Lvka said...

I am still wondering why God would attribute such high responsibility and honors to a man who would end up in hell for eternity.

Matthew 7:11; Luke 11:13
. Parents are not Saints; but children should nevertheless harken to their parents, because they never give bad advises to their young ones, even when they themselves may sometimes fall very short of following them.

Oh, yeah, and Matthew 23:3.

Alexander Greco said...

James Swan, why do you say "Romanists" when not all Catholics who believe in the office of the papacy Roman Catholic? Do you understand the difference?

Peter Sean Bradley said...

James Swan,

Characterizing the Catholic church's view of Mary as idiosyncratically "Calvinist" seems to be fundamentally mistaken.

The Church teaches that Mary had freedom of choice with respect to her participation in God's plan of salvation. Hence, for example, in Redemptoris Mater, John Paul II wrote:

Mary consents to God's choice, in order to become through the power of the Holy Spirit the Mother of the Son of God. It can be said that this consent to motherhood is above all a result of her total self-giving to God in virginity. Mary accepted her election as Mother of the Son of God, guided by spousal love, the love which totally "consecrates" a human being to God. By virtue of this love, Mary wished to be always and in all things "given to God," living in virginity. The words "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord" express the fact that from the outset she accepted and understood her own motherhood as a total gift of self, a gift of her person to the service of the saving plans of the Most High.

The doctrine of Mary's preservation from original sin - which is not as unique as you may think (See John the Baptist was "filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb." Luke 1:15) - served the divine plan putting Mary in the same position as the original Eve in making her decision to "let it be done unto me."

Thereafter, the Church teaches, Mary was provided with a special grace that preserved her from committing sin.

Could Mary nonetheless have committed sin? This involves some speculation, but the answer would probably be "yes." Mary had free will.

Admittedly, God knew the outcome of Mary's life from the beginning, but knowing something isn't the same as predestination in the Calvinist sense.

James Swan said...

James Swan, why do you say "Romanists" when not all Catholics who believe in the office of the papacy Roman Catholic? Do you understand the difference?

Because I mean "Romanists" and not all Catholics.

Matthew Bellisario said...

Must we ask why God made Satan one of the highest angels in heaven, and yet allowed Satan to chose to go against Him and ultimately be condemned to hell? It is called freewill. Just because one is Pope does not mean that he cannot sin.

James Swan said...

James Swan,Characterizing the Catholic church's view of Mary as idiosyncratically "Calvinist" seems to be fundamentally mistaken

I would suggest reading my statements carefully. I stated, "The only surety (for the Romanists)is that Mary is the only type of Calvinist in Roman Catholicism... in a sense." Note the words "type" and "sense." These are crucial to my point. I then stated, "Of course, the Reformed would never aruge we are completely sinless this side of eternity, but I think it's interesting that when it comes to knowing who the "chosen" are, there really is only one answer for the Romanist....Mary. Everyone else runs the risk of Hell."

The doctrine of Mary's preservation from original sin - which is not as unique as you may think (See John the Baptist was "filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb." Luke 1:15)

To my knowledge, Roman Catholics do not argue John the Baptist was kept from sin his entire life, hence there is not a parrallel.

Thereafter, the Church teaches, Mary was provided with a special grace that preserved her from committing sin.

Patrick Madrid states, 'Christ indeed saved Mary from sin- from all sin- but he did this for her prior to her contracting sin. We on the other hand, are saved after we fall into it" [Madrid,Pocket guide To Apologetics, p. 30]. Karl Keating states, "But by a special intervention of God, undertaken at the instant she was conceived, she was preserved from the stain of original sin and certain of its consequences" [Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism, p. 270]. On p. 271, Keating states, "It took a positive act of God to keep her from coming under [sin's] effects the way we have." "...she enjoyed certain privileges we never can, such as entire avoidance of sin." Keeping Mary from the stain of origininal sin, in effect, keeps her from all personal sin. So much for Mary's free will according to Catholic apologists.

Could Mary nonetheless have committed sin? This involves some speculation, but the answer would probably be "yes." Mary had free will.

Now, not all sin is an outward act. I agree with Augustine, whom I think it was, who argued the fall of man occurred before the eating of the fruit, with the pride of Adam and Eve craving for undue exaltation. In fact, the worst of all sins is the sin of unbelief- it's at the root of all sins. In a certain sense, when we sin, we don't believe God's ways are the right way, we think ours are, hence, we commit unbelief against God with each of our sins. In Roman Catholicism, Mary was preserved from even these inward sins. I would argue, if Mary was kept from sin, she was kept from the desire to sin as well. So much for free will.

Admittedly, God knew the outcome of Mary's life from the beginning, but knowing something isn't the same as predestination in the Calvinist sense.

Well, once again, let's note that Catholics don't all have the same opinion on this, nor are there infallibly defined answers on predestination, nor are the Biblical references on Predestination dogmatically defined. So much for Catholic certainty.

I picked up a little book a few years back, Mary Immaculate In The Divine Plan by Michael D. Meilach, O.F.M., who argues for Mary's predestination: "...we maintain that her predestination to be the Mother of Jesus Christ is absolutely fundamental- the single factor that explains everything else about her" (p. 58). The preface states that "Christ and Mary emerge as holding an absolute and universal primacy over the rest of creation...the Savior and his Mother must have been predestined first, and hence independently of Adam's fall" (pp. v- vi). So, there are indeed those who see Mary as predestined with the Roman sect.

Insert all the free will you want- Catholic apologists still argue Mary was kept from sin throughout her life. This means that in terms of salvation, Mary was given something special. She lived a completely sanctified, and hence a completely justified life. By God's miraculous predetermining act of the immaculate conception, Mary (and Jesus) become the individuals in Roman Catholicism kept from sin, and completely justified, their entire lives.

Peter Sean Bradley said...

I would suggest reading my statements carefully. I stated, "The only surety (for the Romanists)is that Mary is the only type of Calvinist in Roman Catholicism... in a sense." Note the words "type" and "sense." These are crucial to my point. I then stated, "Of course, the Reformed would never aruge we are completely sinless this side of eternity, but I think it's interesting that when it comes to knowing who the "chosen" are, there really is only one answer for the Romanist....Mary. Everyone else runs the risk of Hell."

Well, obviously, if you don’t define what you mean by “type”, “sense” and “Calvinist”, I have to rely on context.

I take it from the context of your speculation that you believe that Catholicism idiosyncratically takes a “Calvinist” position with respect to Mary in that she was predestined to Heaven in the sense that she had no choice in the matter – that God’s grace was for her uniquely “irresistible” in the Catholic view of things.

The problem as I explained is that this misrepresents Catholic teachings on the subject which affirms that Mary had a free choice in her decision to participate in God’s plan of salvation. I quoted John Paul II on the subject. Here is the Catechism:

Mary's predestination

488 "God sent forth his Son", but to prepare a body for him,125 he wanted the free co-operation of a creature. For this, from all eternity God chose for the mother of his Son a daughter of Israel, a young Jewish woman of Nazareth in Galilee, "a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary":126


The Father of mercies willed that the Incarnation should be preceded by assent on the part of the predestined mother, so that just as a woman had a share in the coming of death, so also should a woman contribute to the coming of life.


Hence, although it was predestined that Mary would be the one to make the choice and would be the Mother of God, the Catholic church teaches that her choice involved her "free cooperation."

If you can fit this into a “type” of Calvinism, in a sense, please explain.

Nonetheless, my point has been to outline what the Church actually teaches.

To my knowledge, Roman Catholics do not argue John the Baptist was kept from sin his entire life, hence there is not a parrallel.

The parallel was with the notion that John the Baptist was born without original sin, something which Catholics may - but are not required - to believe.

Further, why are you so certain that Catholics don’t argue that John the Baptist was sinless throughout his entire life. St. Catherine of Siena believed that to be the case, and evidence of the Bible – once we set aside our presumption that everyone sins – seems to indicate that John the Baptist didn’t sin.

Patrick Madrid states, 'Christ indeed saved Mary from sin- from all sin- but he did this for her prior to her contracting sin. We on the other hand, are saved after we fall into it" [Madrid,Pocket guide To Apologetics, p. 30]. Karl Keating states, "But by a special intervention of God, undertaken at the instant she was conceived, she was preserved from the stain of original sin and certain of its consequences" [Keating, Catholicism and Fundamentalism, p. 270]. On p. 271, Keating states, "It took a positive act of God to keep her from coming under [sin's] effects the way we have." "...she enjoyed certain privileges we never can, such as entire avoidance of sin." Keeping Mary from the stain of origininal sin, in effect, keeps her from all personal sin. So much for Mary's free will according to Catholic apologists.

Nothing you’ve quoted vitiates what the Catholic Church teaches about Mary’s free cooperation.

Now, not all sin is an outward act. I agree with Augustine, whom I think it was, who argued the fall of man occurred before the eating of the fruit, with the pride of Adam and Eve craving for undue exaltation. In fact, the worst of all sins is the sin of unbelief- it's at the root of all sins. In a certain sense, when we sin, we don't believe God's ways are the right way, we think ours are, hence, we commit unbelief against God with each of our sins. In Roman Catholicism, Mary was preserved from even these inward sins. I would argue, if Mary was kept from sin, she was kept from the desire to sin as well. So much for free will.

I’d be interested in seeing where Augustine said that.

To answer your point about grace and free will in a Catholic context, it is necessary t understand what the Catholic Church teaches about the effects of original sin and the way in which grace keeps a person from sin.

The effect of original sin is “concupiscence” by which our intellect is made subject to our bodily appetites. Prior to the Fall, according to Augustine, human intellect ruled the bodily appetites so that all decisions were deliberate and rational.

Hence, the grace that preserved Mary from sin was that grace which spared her from concupiscence by either restraining her bodily appetites or subjecting them to her reason as was the case with Adam and Eve before the Fall.

However, none of that means that a person in that state cannot sin by making a knowing, deliberate choice – Adam and Eve sinned, after all.


Well, once again, let's note that Catholics don't all have the same opinion on this, nor are there infallibly defined answers on predestination, nor are the Biblical references on Predestination dogmatically defined. So much for Catholic certainty.

Well, the Catholic Church does dogmatically define that Mary made a free choice in participating in the divine plan of salvation and we know that God exists in eternity and sees all of time at once.

Hence, we have to fall back on human reason to explain how those two points fit together, and we find in Rationes Fidei that Aquinas compared divine foreknowledge to the situation of a person on hill observing the journey of a caravan. The observer sees it all, but that knowledge doesn’t make the decisions for the caravan about what particular course it takes.

Since we are discussing the Catholic view on whether God forced Mary to participate in His plan or whether her consent was free, I think that we ought to go with Aquinas on this one.

I picked up a little book a few years back, Mary Immaculate In The Divine Plan by Michael D. Meilach, O.F.M., who argues for Mary's predestination: "...we maintain that her predestination to be the Mother of Jesus Christ is absolutely fundamental- the single factor that explains everything else about her" (p. 58). The preface states that "Christ and Mary emerge as holding an absolute and universal primacy over the rest of creation...the Savior and his Mother must have been predestined first, and hence independently of Adam's fall" (pp. v- vi). So, there are indeed those who see Mary as predestined with the Roman sect.

By “Roman sect” I assume you mean the Church that has existed for two thousand years and has over a billon members and historically has constituted something like 80% of all Christians who have ever lived?

If that is the case, then sure, and I’d up the ante and say that that view is shared by the other great Christian tradition – the Orthodox Church.

As I pointed out above, Mary was certainly “predestined” to be the Mother of God, but that fact doesn’t obviate the fact that the Catholic Church teaches that she had a free choice in the matter. Hence, unless you have a type of Calvinism that allows for humans to refuse to cooperate with grace, Catholicism doesn’t go “Calvinist” concerning Mary.

Insert all the free will you want- Catholic apologists still argue Mary was kept from sin throughout her life. This means that in terms of salvation, Mary was given something special. She lived a completely sanctified, and hence a completely justified life. By God's miraculous predetermining act of the immaculate conception, Mary (and Jesus) become the individuals in Roman Catholicism kept from sin, and completely justified, their entire lives.

None of which means that the Catholic Church denies that Mary had a free choice in cooperating with her salvation, something which I've shown in two official documents.

I assume you disagree with the position of the Church. Fine. My only point has been to correct your error about what the Church teaches, you may certainly argue against it all you like.

I just think that you ought to fairly represent what you are arguing against.

Carrie said...

The possibility of a "Pope in Hell" is quite consistent with Rome's systematic teaching.

Yes, I realize this.

But by admitting this I think it is more clear that for the RC, salvation is dependent on the person and their choices/works throughout their life. For I would expect the Vicar of Christ to be abounding in "graces", yet that grace won't necessarily save him.

Carrie said...

Historically, the Roman Church has likened the office of the Pope to that of the Israelite High Priest, and there are certainly many of them in hell.

Yes, but I don't recall the honors bestowed on the Pope ever being bestowed on the High Priest.

L P Cruz said...

Carrie,

For I would expect the Vicar of Christ to be abounding in "graces", yet that grace won't necessarily save him.


Right and true, because that is not really the "grace" of God the Scripture speaks of.

What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul.

If I may say, from the Lutheran side of things, there is no other grace we should speak of except the grace found in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for sinners, all other graces are not real graces at all. Rather they are puny compared to this grace, and into this grace God wants us to look to.

In the RC view there are a heirarchy of graces, in the Classic Protestant view, there is not many but only one grace -- located in Jesus Christ.

LPC