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Who Will Go into the Eternal Fire?

Who Will Go into the Eternal Fire?

In “Christian, Yes . . . But Why Catholic?” (October 1999), Fr. Joseph M. Esper states that “countless individual Protestants . . . can look forward to a place in his [the Lord’s] Kingdom.” For all I know that may be true. However, it is also true that over the centuries many saints and popes have taught otherwise.

For example, Pope Pius XII wrote that “some reduce to a meaningless formula the necessity of belonging to the True Church in order to gain eternal salvation” (emphasis added). John Chrysostom wrote that “no one can partake of Christ or be saved outside the Catholic Church and Catholic faith.” The Council of Florence said that “no one, whatever almsgiving he has practiced, even if he pour out his blood for the name of Christ, can be saved unless he abide within the bosom and unity of the Catholic Church.”

The oath taken by all the bishops of the world at the councils of Trent and Vatican I emphasized that, “I will firmly retain and confess . . . to my dying breath the true Catholic faith . . . outside of which no one can be saved.” St. Fulgentius wrote that “all pagans, all Jews, and all heretics and schismatics who end the present life outside the Catholic Church will go into the eternal fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels.” Pope Gregory XVI wrote, “You know as well as we with what constancy our Fathers endeavor to inculcate this article of faith which innovators dare to deny; namely the necessity of the Catholic faith and Catholic unity to obtain salvation” (emphases added).

Moreover, the Athanasian Creed states that “whoever wants to be saved must, before all other things, hold the Catholic faith, which, unless one preserves integral and inviolate, without doubt he will perish eternally.” And Pope Leo XIII wrote, “This is our last lesson to you: receive it, engrave it upon your minds, all of you. By God’s commandment, salvation is to be found nowhere but in the Catholic Church.”

Many other saints and popes have made similar statements throughout the history of the Church, so my belief will continue to be that this doctrine, usually expressed as “extra ecclesiam nulla salus,” is de fide. Comments?

Lloyd Hysan
College Park, Maryland

Editor’s reply: A few. Vatican II’s
Constitution on the Church says otherwise than extra ecclesiam nulla salus (“no salvation outside the Church”). Section 16: “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation. Nor shall divine providence deny the assistance necessary for salvation to those who, without any fault of theirs, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God, and who, not without grace, strive to lead a good life.”

Even if, like some radical traditionalists, you were to deny Vatican II was guided by the Holy Spirit, the writings of the Church Fathers show that the early Church held this belief as well. On the topic of salvation, the Fathers tended to focus their attention on heretics and schismatics. However, they also recognized that those who were outside the Church through no fault of their own could also be saved. In A.D. 151 Justin Martyr taught that, “Christ is the first-begotten of God, and we have declared him to be the Logos of which all mankind partakes. Those, therefore, who lived according to reason [in Greek, logos] were really Christians, even though they were thought to be atheists, such as, among the Greeks, Socrates, Heraclitus, and others like them. . . . Those who lived then or live now according to reason [logos] are Christians. Such as these can be confident and unafraid” (First Apology 46).

The passage from the Council of Florence you quote was speaking of those who were responsible for knowing the truth of the Church yet refused to enter it, relying instead on their own religious acts to save them. The statements concerning the Catholic faith in the bishops’ oath from Trent and Vatican I, as well as the Athanasian Creed, do not apply to those who are innocently ignorant (e.g., small children), as the Church has always taught.

Pope Leo XIII’s admonition that “salvation is to be found nowhere but in the Catholic Church” has always been the teaching of the Church. Even non-Catholics who are saved under the conditions set forth by Vatican II are saved through their union with Christ’s Church, whether or not they realize it on this earth.

Extra eccelsiam nulla salus is indeed a de fide doctrine of the Church. However, it is wrong to interpret it as rigorously as do Feeneyites and some radical traditionalists.


Few Psychologists Would Deny Free Will

I was quite interested to see Professor Ronald Rychlak’s article on modern psychology and free will (“Nothing is Ever Anybody’s Fault,” October 1999). He presents an interesting history of causation theory, but his analysis of current psychological theory regarding free will is mistaken. While his description of behaviorism is basically correct, though overly simplified, he incorrectly presents it as the leading force in current psychological theory.

Behaviorism was a dominant school of thought earlier this century, but it has been superseded by cognitive-behaviorism, which integrates the internal decision-making processes Rychlak believes to be missing from psychology. Current psychological theory does not state that human behavior is mere reflex to stimuli but instead proposes that behavior is influenced by multiple internal and external factors. Indeed, many current psychologists have written widely on personal responsibility and accountability, and few would deny the existence of free will.

While this was an interesting article, Rychlak is somewhat dilatory in his call for reform in psychology.

Michael Maples
Iowa City, Iowa


Maybe I Was Dreaming

I love This Rock and Catholic Answers. So does the Holy Spirit, and I know He is going to help spread the Good News by increasing the subscriptions. Wait a second, according to the last This Rock, I just made a grievous error—you said that we are not to capitalize pronouns referring to God (“Letters,” October 1999). I’m sorry, but I think I speak for all reverent Catholics, over the age of 40 for sure, that pronouns for God/Jesus/Holy Spirit are always capitalized. ALWAYS—FOREVER AND EVER!

I can’t believe that a writer for This Rock would say it’s not necessary to capitalize the “H.” I can see some liberal or New-Age Catholics saying it doesn’t matter, but it does matter. And of all Catholic magazines, a good conservative, evangelistic, apologetics magazine like This Rock says the “H” doesn’t have to be capitalized? I can’t believe I read that. . . . Maybe I was dreaming. . . . I will be amazed if you don’t receive at least 50 e-mails or letters regarding this.

Otherwise, keep up the great work.

Bob George
Cincinnati, Ohio

Editor’s reply: To your amazement, Bob, we received only two others. Read on. . . .


A Small Matter?

I must agree with the letter from Regina J. Goerss (“Letters,” October 1999) in reference to the use of lowercase pronouns when referring to God. While in the process of rediscovering my Catholicism and trying to be an informed defender of the faith, I too was dismayed at the lowercase pronouns in missalettes at church. It struck me as quite irreverent and just one more attack on tradition.

This Rock
magazine is a true and most powerful tool for defending our faith. As such I think the use of uppercase pronouns is appropriate without going overboard. You are all quite intelligent and can easily distinguish between excessive usage and practical usage of capitalization.

A small matter? Perhaps to many. Important? All reverence to our Lord is important: “. . . every knee shall bend . . .”

Bill Rodgers
Holland, Pennsylvania


A Battle We Are Not Going to Win

Regarding Regina J. Goerss’ observation about diminishing respect (“Letters,” October 1999). Thank you, Regina, for noticing. It’s a battle we probably are not going to win, so have a pencil or pen in hand when reading anything.

Excluding caps at beginning of sentences and anything in bold type on pages two and three of the October issue, there are at least 202 capital letters, so seven more (where divine pronouns appeared) would not have affected the readability of the pages. I doubt that on judgment day anyone is going to be asked if they “religiously” followed the Chicago Manual of Style.

Great magazine anyway, and those of us sensitive to this issue will continue to make our own corrections in spite of the fact that it greatly “slows down” our reading.

Fern L. Deschenes
Sierra Vista, Arizona


Irony So Subtle It Didn’t Occur to Us

Was a mistake made in the illustration on the cover of the October 1999 issue of This Rock, or is it meant as a subtle form of irony? It struck me as rather peculiar that under a headline “Christian, Yes . . . But Why Catholic?” one is presented with a view of the interior of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, England. It is true that the old St. Paul’s had been built as, and for centuries was, a Catholic church. The current structure though, which replaced the old after the great fire of 1666, was designed by Sir Christopher Wren as an Anglican cathedral and intended for Protestant worship.

I don’t mean to be picky. I was just trying to figure out what you wished to communicate by the photograph.

Jim Anderson
Logan, Ohio

Editor’s reply: Regarding your question, Jim: Would we look smarter if we said it was intended to be ironic? Actually, our magazine designer used a stock image, and it was so attractive it simply slipped by us. But these types of things
never slip by all our readers.


Many Beliefs Present at the Altar Rail

James Akin was too kind in his response to the letter “Tend Your Own House” (October 1999) regarding Episcopalian belief in the Real Presence. Traditional Anglican (Episcopalian) doctrine is summarized in the Thirty-Nine Articles. James neglected to clarify his claim with the content of article 28:

“Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions” (Book of Common Prayer, 1979)

I was sorry to see it left out, since it makes it pretty plain. However, the Thirty-Nine Articles are not binding. The Episcopalians have no mechanism of magisterial teaching. Given that any Episcopal church is likely to have many disaffected Catholics (since there is little or no Episcopal condemnation of birth control, divorce, abortion, homosexuality), it is common to see many beliefs present at an Episcopalian altar rail. Yet if you ask an Episcopalian, point blank, “Is that consecrated host Jesus Christ?” the answer will most often be “no.”

Of course, this lack of belief is providentially proper, if you consider that Anglican orders are not valid, and an Episcopalian priest cannot confect the Eucharist anyway, his own belief notwithstanding. Objective reality prevents him.

Mark Gross
Via the Internet


The Problem with Saying Peter Didn’t Write 2 Peter

I have a problem with the consensus of “critical” Scripture scholars—reflected by Fr. Edward Bayer in his letter “Did First Clement Predate First Peter?” (September 1999)—that Peter was not the author of the second canonical epistle that bears his name. In fact, my problem extends to similar revisionist theories regarding the authorship of certain other New Testament books that claim to be written by apostles.

How can one reconcile such theories (which have their origins in liberal Protestantism) with the Catholic dogma that these books, like all others of the Bible, are divinely inspired, in the sense of having God himself as their author? I am understanding these expressions in the sense taught by Vatican Council II, in line with perennial Tradition—namely, as signifying that “everything affirmed by the sacred writers must be held as affirmed by the Holy Spirit” (Dei Verbum 11).

In the case of 2 Peter, the apostle’s name does not appear just in the title of the epistle. The text itself begins with the author’s forthright affirmation that he is “Simon Peter, servant and apostle of Jesus Christ” (1:1). He goes on to speak of Paul as “our brother, who is so dear to us” (3:15), implying that Paul is his friend and colleague and is still living. He affirms that “our Lord Jesus Christ” personally gave him a prophecy (1:14); claims that he saw for himself the Lord’s majesty (1:16); and, as if to leave his readers no possible doubt as to whose letter they have before them, the author solemnly asserts that on the occasion of the Transfiguration he heard God’s own testimony to Jesus’ identity “spoken from heaven, when we were with him on the holy mountain” (1:18).

Now, if in fact these affirmations were not really written by Peter but by someone living around A.D. 130, as Fr. Bayer suggests, then I do not see how to avoid the conclusion that they must be classified as lies.

The stock answer to this objection, of course, is to appeal to the theory of literary genres. As the editors of the Jerusalem Bible put it, attempting to justify their belief in the non-Petrine authorship of 2 Peter, “This is what we would call forgery, but what in those days literary convention found permissible” (1966 standard edition, NT section, 395).

But whose “literary convention” are we talking about here? Who, precisely, found this alleged convention “admissible”? If popes and bishops in the early centuries were so indulgent toward what we today “would call forgery,” then why were they so rigorous in excluding from the canon various apocryphal works—including other works ascribed to Peter—precisely because they judged those works to be forgeries? Why was true apostolic authorship (as distinct from simple doctrinal orthodoxy and/or spiritual value) treated as the criterion of canonicity?

Biblical critics point out that among some Church leaders in the earliest centuries there were doubts about the authenticity, and therefore the canonicity, of 2 Peter (and some other New Testament books). But this only goes to show that those leaders certainly did not regard it an “admissible literary convention” for post-apostolic writers to pose as apostles in order to gain credibility for their own ideas.

Regardless of those initial doubts in some quarters, 2 Peter was eventually accepted into the New Testament canon by the fourth-century Church as authentically Petrine. Now if, as the critics tell us, Peter did not write the document after all, then its inclusion in the canon was due fundamentally to a dishonest (and successful) attempt by an unknown author to deceive his Christian readers by means of the affirmations in chapters 1 and 3 that I have cited above.

And of course it would be not just erroneous but blasphemous to ascribe dishonesty and deception to the Holy Spirit.

Rev. Brian Harrison
Ponce, Puerto Rico


I Have Written Every Word That Bears My Name

In my debates with Karl Keating, he often attacked me rather than my arguments. In your July/August issue he calls me “an inveterate anti-Catholic” (“Are Catholics Wrong?” July/August 1999). Is it really fair to label those who disagree with you as “anti-Catholics”? We don’t retaliate by calling you anti-Evangelicals, because we want to believe you are motivated by a sincere concern for truth rather than prejudice. Can’t we have the same courtesy and respect from you?

Karl then says, “Dave Hunt . . . has written many books . . . (Actually, I should rephrase ‘written’: He has his name on books that were ghostwritten for him).” I will try to maintain my high view of Karl’s integrity and assume that someone has led him to believe this lie. Never have I or would I pretend to be the author of anything I had not written. The truth is that I have written every word in every book or article that bears my name as author.

Dave Hunt
The Berean Call
Bend, Oregon

Karl Keating responds: Each time I debated Dave Hunt, whether on radio or in person, he grossly mischaracterized Catholic beliefs and Catholic history, and he always tried to make hay by seizing the last word and leaving the audience with a misrepresentation.

For instance, he ended one radio debate by saying, “Why should you believe anything taught by a Church that counted Hitler and Mussolini as members in good standing?” The topic of that particular debate had nothing at all to do with politics, World War II, or any related subject. Hunt, who had the last few seconds of the show, simply threw in that line to confuse things. Since the time was up, I had no chance to respond on the air. After the show the Evangelical host of the program joined me in complaining to Hunt about his unfair tactics. Hunt repeatedly has used this kind of cheap tactic, and even prominent Evangelicals, such as Prof. Norman Geisler, have thrown up their hands in frustration and will have nothing to do with him any longer.

Any fair-minded person reading Hunt’s books will conclude that he harbors a marked animus against the Catholic Church and either is incapable of stating facts accurately or has no interest in doing so. What he surely does not have is “a sincere concern for truth.”

If Hunt has “written every word in every book” that sports his name, why do many of his books carry the name of T. A. McMahon, his ghostwriter? I understand from Prof. Geisler, who once worked closely with McMahon and was in his confidence, that the latter used to complain that he didn’t receive credit for other writings of his that appeared under Hunt’s name. However that may be, it is a simple thing to verify that Hunt was not the sole author of all of his books: Just look at the covers.



  1. Patrick Gannon Reply

    1. “”Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience—those too may achieve eternal salvation. Nor shall divine providence deny the assistance necessary for salvation to those who, without any fault of theirs, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God, and who, not without grace, strive to lead a good life.”
    This reminds me of the Eskimo who asked the Catholic missionary – if I had not known of your Jesus, would I go to Hell, and the missionary, answers, “No." “Why then did you tell me about him?," the Eskimo asks. Once we know about Jesus, then we have to follow all these rules we didn’t know about before, and if we fail to do so to the expectation of the Catholic god – then He punishes us for eternity. However if we never knew about Him, we would not need to be concerned about all those silly Catholic rules and could live our lives in joy and peace and have no fear of an eternal punishment. In what way is Jesus the “good news" here? Hell (Sheol) wasn’t even a place of punishment till Jesus came and sent the sinful to Gahanna (Jerusalem town dump – Hell #2 of 4). Of course you won’t have to wait long till someone writes an article here that stresses how it’s practically impossible for a non-Catholic to go to heaven.
    2. Few Psychologists Would Deny Free Will
    Maybe so, but a bunch of neurologists would debate it!
    3. ” Now, if in fact these affirmations were not really written by Peter but by someone living around A.D. 130, as Fr. Bayer suggests, then I do not see how to avoid the conclusion that they must be classified as lies.
    ” Now if, as the critics tell us, Peter did not write the document after all, then its inclusion in the canon was due fundamentally to a dishonest (and successful) attempt by an unknown author to deceive his Christian readers by means of the affirmations in chapters 1 and 3 that I have cited above.
    And of course it would be not just erroneous but blasphemous to ascribe dishonesty and deception to the Holy Spirit.
    Well first you have to prove the existence of the “Holy Spirit” before you lose any sleep over this.
    4. As for Keating and Hunt – do you guys want cheese with those whines?

  2. Patrick Gannon Reply

    Note that the original word was “aionion" which means ‘of an age’ and not “eternal." Note as well that there are four words the Church translated to the pagan word “Hell."

    Sheol – OT, everyone went there, good and bad alike. It basically meant “dead." Many Jews thought there might be an afterlife and at the end of time you’d come out of this holding pen and be judged and either rewarded or destroyed. For the concept of eternal torment we had to wait for the “good news" of Jesus who brought us…

    Gehenna – the Jerusalem town dump that Jesus referred to allegorically. You really have to want to turn Jesus into a monster to insist that he was speaking of a literal Hell. For the Jews of the time, being thrown in the dump instead of having a decent burial was the ultimate insult. The dump is closed.

    Hades – clearly pagan, given Hades, lord of the underworld is brother to Zeus and Poseidon. Also referred to allegorically for those in the west who knew of this pagan concept rather than Sheol

    Tartarus – bottom layer of Hades.

    None of this means “Hell" as we understand it, which is more a product of Dante’s “Inferno" and Milton’s “Paradise Lost" – which are completely unbiblical.

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