Just under two years ago, I wrote A vision of hell in which I discussed. I also brought up the subject of Annihilationism in Christian Humanism in the summer of 2016. It would appear that Pope Francis is a partisan of this idea when we read Do Pope Francis and Archbishop Paglia Believe Hell Does Not Exist? I came across this latter article in the small hours of this night whilst undergoing a little insomnia when I looked up a couple of things on my smartphone. I noted it and find it easier to read through on my computer.
People are saying all sorts of things about Pope Francis. For the traditionalists and conservatives, he is heretical like John XXII in the fourteenth century, though the subject is not exactly the same. In some ways, his beliefs and teachings resemble Joachim of Flore and the various movements in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries that fell victim to the rigours of the Inquisition. Recently, he has vindicated Luther, which does not seem to be entirely wrong. Luther was a very angry man in the face of corruption and superstition over things like indulgences. Churchmen wanted a monopoly of the same thing: salvation, a way out of the fear of death. Now, we read (from the above link):
Pope Francis, preceded in this [view] by John XXIII and Paul VI, but, with a more revolutionary force with respect to ecclesial theology, has abolished the places where, after death, souls must go: Hell, Purgatory, Paradise. Two thousand years of theology have been based on this kind of afterlife, which even the Gospels confirm. However, it is with some attention to the theme of Grace — that is in part due to the letters of Saint Paul (to the Corinthians and the Romans) and partly even more so to Augustine of Hippo. All souls are endowed with Grace, and so they are born perfectly innocent and they remain so unless they take the path of evil. If they are aware of it and do not repent even at the moment of death, they are condemned. Pope Francis, I repeat, has abolished the places of eternal dwelling in the afterlife of souls. The thesis held by him is that the souls dominated by evil and not repentant cease to exist while those who are redeemed from evil will be assumed into beatitude, contemplating God. This is the thesis of Francis and also of Paglia.
The Pope is also on record:
And in 2015, Pope Francis was again quoted by Scalfari: “What happens to that lost soul? Will it be punished? And how? The response of Francis is distinct and clear: there is no punishment, but the annihilation of that soul.”
Many atheists do not fear death, but are quite indifferent to the notion of ceasing to exist except in the memories of other people still living. Only the notion of being alive and being tortured would bring fear and susceptibility to being controlled. But, is this what it’s all about? One big problem is knowing where the borderline exists between this soul that will go down the cosmic plughole and never be heard from again, and that soul who was a mediocre person – not evil like Hitler or some serial killer – who goes to the same happiness as a saint. With this kind of tampering, the coherence of traditional Catholic teaching as a whole goes out of the window. What’s it all for if it isn’t a load of bunk? The majority of people in the western world believe exactly that, and churches are as useless as they are harmful. Is Pope Francis aware of this?
Is he a partisan of “cheap grace”? There are arguments for annihilationism, as seen in the above Wikipedia link on this word. I think I would see more light in reading Nietzsche and what he really means by nothingness or the antithesis of metaphysics and ontology. It is a dangerous undertaking, and we encounter the dark thoughts of Wagner’s rendering of German pagan mythology and the use the Nazis made of it. It is possible that some souls are so nihilistic and evil that they become what they are – nothing. If you think about it for any amount of time, the thought is terrifying, just as frightening as the idea of being roasted on a spit and tortured by demons for all eternity amidst the fires.
Francis not only disregards his own Catholic tradition but also the various apocryphal views of the afterlife. Most of those with knowledge of this affirm, like some of the great world religions, the existence of something that is multi-layered between our earthly existence to the highest degree of perfection and divine light. Francis minimises it like some of the “proto-protestants”, and standard Catholic teaching only knows heaven, purgatory and hell (and limbo for unbaptised infants). I tend to imagine a kind of “multiverse” with points of “communication” that can be imagined by comparing this whole with the range of radio frequencies, only one of which can be listened to at a time on a radio set. They all exist at the same time, but experience is confined to one at a time. This notion opens up the idea of a reality that is far beyond our understanding.
Is Francis some kind of medieval heresiarch or the rationalist for whom Christianity is no more than cheap moralism and the good order of society? A good Jesuit confuses everything and makes himself inscrutable! Perhaps he is a puppet in the hand of someone like George Soros, in it for the money, but that is a little conspiracy theorist and risky. Is he a cynic, an evil man, a fool is someone else’s hands or what?
Perhaps Francis wants to be rid of intellectual certitude given by studying and teaching from authority. Is there no certitude of anything? Is everything transcendent and beyond our rational understanding? Again I think of the Spirituals, the Dulcinites, the Fraticelli and the various other gangs of bandits in the hills and towns of Italy in the worst days of the Avignon schism. I have to admit that I am once again reading Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. We all fear fundamentalism, whether it is Christian or Islamic, and we are all conscious that established religion has done incalculable harm to humanity in the name of monotheism. Christians would reply that atheists are worse, as with Nazism and Communism. To me, it is just the worst of human nature.
What Pope Francis is doing is very dangerous, reducing the Church to cheap grace and moral relativism. I have yet to discern whether he is going the same way as the Anglican Communion and most generic liberal protestants. Perhaps he won’t have time before the pendulum swings back to hard-line conservatism at the next Conclave. I don’t really care about the Roman establishment and the whole basket of crabs, but rather about the millions of ordinary people who are likely to turn to atheism once their balloon is burst!
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An interesting addition to this posting is a link to the Vatican-watcher Sandro Magister’s The Showstopper For a Jesuit Pope: To Beatify Pascal, the Archenemy. Quite apart from the absurd possibility of his canonising Blaise Pascal, we see this:
“Sometimes in my interviewers I have noted – even in those who say they are very far from the faith – great intelligence and erudition. And even, in some cases, the capacity to let themselves be touched by the ‘touch’ of Pascal. This moves me, and I treasure it greatly.”
The first is in reality more a confirmation than a revelation. It is his affectionate esteem for Eugenio Scalfari, founder of the newspaper “la Repubblica.” He is, in fact, the interviewer “very far from the faith” to whom Francis is referring.
The two meet once or twice a year, at Santa Marta, and it is almost always the pope who invites his friend. The conversation takes place without Scalfari recording any of it. And in the following days he publishes an account, adhering to the following criteria as he explained once to the Foreign Press of Rome, reporting these words that he said to the pope at the end of the first conversation:
“I will reconstruct the account of the dialogue in such a way that it can be understood by all. Some things you have said to me I will not report. And some of the things I will attribute to you, you did not say them, but I will put them there so that the reader may understand who you are.”
The effect of this liberty of transcription is that Scalfari has confidently attributed to Francis not a few “revolutions,” the latest of which is the abolition of hell, purgatory, and heaven. Without the pope ever having felt it his duty to correct or deny anything.