Monthly Archives: May 2016

Whether Judgment and Condemnation Accord with the Gospel?

Objection: It seems that judgment according to works, especially condemnation of the evil-doers, conflicts with the Gospel. For the Gospel seems to preach only mercy and to condemn pharisaical self-righteousness.

On the contrary: St. Paul preaches, in Rom 2:

Who will render to every man according to his works. To them indeed, who according to patience in good work, seek glory and honour and incorruption, eternal life: But to them that are contentious, and who obey not the truth, but give credit to iniquity, wrath and indignation. Tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that worketh evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Greek. But glory, and honour, and peace to every one that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.

St. Paul preaches that this judgment is according to his Gospel. Furthermore, our Lord himself is the source behind the Gospel, and he preaches that he will judge the living and the dead. We confess this, furthermore, in the creed.

Judgment is the good act of the righteous ruler doing his duty. To fail in judgment is rebellion against the law. “But who cares about the pharisaical law”? Not all law is pharisaical. Rather, true law is the right ordinance of reason, directing those who must reach their end towards that end. Thus, it is an act of loving concern to lay down and point out the law, for those who are not already the end must achieve it by their actions. If they fail to achieve it by their actions, they will remain in the loneliness of their sin. Not to preach to them, to awaken them from darkness, to illumine their path towards true righteousness, not to apply the salve, not to dress the wounds, not to move them towards the good, is an act most hideous.

“But it is more hideous to yell at them about how guilty they are.” That too would be a cruelty. But listen: We do not achieve the proper virtue by a falsely balanced caricature. We achieve it by the correct via media. And that is this: The one unbreakable law is the way and condition for salvation. The medicine is informing the sinner how destructive are his wicked deeds, and how powerful is the remedy of grace, available in the saving Mysteries Christ left his Church.

Not to avail oneself and not to open to the poor sinner these saving remedies is a crime most vile, a cruelty than which a greater is difficult to fathom.

Whether Anyone Can Be Condemned Forever?

Objection: It seems that no one can be condemned forever. After all, God is Love, and love never wrongs someone. But to punish someone everlastingly is to wrong him. Therefore, no one can be condemned forever.

On the contrary: “The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity.” But all things that exist are created by God. And God is not evil but good. Therefore, by God’s authority, an eternal hell exists, and it is good that it exists. Therefore, it cannot be wrong to punish forever, since God does this for whoever is damned.

Objection: But perhaps no one is damned.

Response: Your first statement — with its “no one can” seems to imply the very possibility of condemnation would be an affront to God’s mercy. We have already argued against such a claim, on the authority of God’s one true Church. You seek an explanation. We will give one in a moment. But first, it is False and Heretical to say, “No one is damned.” Because the devil most certainly is damned, and all his evil angels. And he is a “one,” a person. Now, what is actual most certainly is possible.

The explanation is this. God creates rational beings with dignity, able to forge their identity, either for God or for something else. God makes them for himself. Therefore, if they choose to order themselves to themselves rather than to God, as they were made, they become flattened, deformed, muted, blinded, narrowed, constrained, monotoned, monolithic, boring, repetitive. Yes, all those who seek not to climb to God by way of the grace he lets down from the mountain peak, all these find their way lower to the center. And the center is but one little point. Littler, therefore, must they become. Darker. Narrower. Constricted. Un-breathing. But those who climb towards God with the grace he lets down from the peak, each of these becomes more unique, startling, amazing, beautiful, individual, free, glorious, committed, determined, actual. Each gains more substance. Why more unique? Do not the rays from a center expand outwards? This is the way creatures go “up” to God. Each becomes more unique, more what it was to be. Yet, also, more bonded, intimate, close. You cannot cleave to yourself. You can only cleave to an “other.” As we grow towards God, we each embrace more and more our true uniqueness. There is more “otherness” and at the same time, through the communion of love, more intimacy. The damned all return to their navel. They seek to return to the nothingness from which they arose, at God’s quickening call. Thus, they converge in the slime of undifferentiated chaos, the limit of the point of the center. Nothingness. And yet, enough of them remains that they are justly punished. Only, they are nothing much to write about any more, except to awaken the slumbering pilgrim to his possible fate.

Now, part of the dignity of this self-determination, under God’s inviting grace, is the capacity to define the self. The clay is wet for a while. There is time before the cement dries. But the essence of “to choose” is to commit, to define, to set, to become this or that. It is true that until the clay has been baked in death, there is time to repent. The pilgrim is not damned. Nonetheless, one thing is a sin of weakness. Another thing is a sin of habit. Yet another is an impenitence that refuses to leave an objectively sinful situation. Such impenitence is well nigh the pit of eternal wrath, for it participates in the very rebellion of the Damned themselves, the “NON SERVIAM” of each isolated and narrow, self-proclaimed “automaton”. Not yet condemned, those in this situation drive themselves towards it.

Hence, there is but limited time, O Man, for you to choose your way. Your self. Your end. Those who are damned have done so. Justly, then, does God execute his retributive judgment on those who choose not him.

Therefore, it is most false to say that no one can be condemned forever. It is no truly merciful and dignifying thesis. The merciful thesis is one based on truth that can be contravened by no one.

On the other hand, if we are speaking of an act ecclesiastical, such as ex-communication, then there are a number of different stories to tell. Excommunication is the sentence of punishment the Church issues in order to protect the common good of the Church. Thus, the good is real and very crucial and important to defend. But the Church does not “condemn to hell” the excommunicate, so far as I know. It is simply a juridical act within her competence. It is not in her competence, but only in God’s to send to hell. One can even say that the act of excommunication is for the good of the excommunicated, since he thereby knows how serious was his act that incurred such a woeful sentence. In short, the very act is still an act of hope. In that sense and in the sense that the Church does not judge the quick and the dead, the excommunicated is not condemned forever.