All of that was just taking too much energy, and I have been trying to work towards a more positive and persuasive blog, with mostly family posts.
However, recently I have found that I am thinking an awful lot about some issues that I am afraid I just can't ignore, because they are being ignored by the very people that need to be bringing them to light.
I read this post a few days ago...Hurts and Hopes, By Monsignor Charles Pope, a very special priest that I greatly admire and respect. His post states his concern with the lack of belief in the very real possibility that a whole lot of people are on the way to an eternal destination that is going to be, shall we say, less than optimal. This one of his many points is, I think, a very important one.
Devastating – It does not require an advanced degree in sociology to understand that, to remove the unambiguous biblical teaching on the very real and possible outcome of Hell, is to remove strong motivation to seek a Savior and salvation. It is therefore no surprise that as the teaching on Hell has been largely set aside by the modern world, that recourse to the sacraments, prayer, Church attendance and any number of spiritual remedies have suffered significant declines during the same period.
He is responding, in his article, to comments made by another priest that I respect and admire, Fr Robert Barron.
In his recent critique of Ralph Martin’s book, Fr. Barron states his fundamental objection to Martin’s reiteration of Church teaching and of Lumen Gentium 16. In effect Barron references Spe Salvi, 45-47 wherein Pope Benedict seems to suppose that few are in Hell and that the great majority of humanity will ultimately be saved.
Father Barron concludes,
It seems to me that Pope Benedict’s position — affirming the reality of Hell but seriously questioning whether that the vast majority of human beings end up there — is the most tenable and actually the most evangelically promising.
Now, it is not my place to question or criticize either one of these men. Both are very qualified theologians and both are people that I believe are concerned with the culture and the times that we face.
What I feel needs to be said, however, is that we don't have the luxury, in this day and age, to assume that many sheep in the fold are going to go looking for the Shepherd. Many of them have very happily gone through the gate and off to frolic with the wolves, with no interest in the Shepherd and His desire for them to follow Him. If the love of Christ isn't enough to bring people to their spiritual senses, then the fear of Hell may be the only thing that can bring them back.
Now I know that it's unfashionable and downright mean to make people aware of their sin and it's consequences. It makes them unhappy and burdens them with responsibility. That's just no way to go through life.
This makes the position of a parish pastor one that is either unpopular or disingenuous. As a rule, people don't tend to take the road less traveled voluntarily, and they tend to balk at being told that they are on the wrong path. So what is a pastor to do? As the Spiritual father of a parish full of children that don't want to hear the hard truth, isn't it just better to get them in the door some Sundays and make them feel like they are doing all they need to do to be "good" Catholics?
Well, it may be more comfortable on this side of the end times, but isn't it more responsible to make them aware of the possibility of damnation? If you have a child, and you take them to the doctor, and the doctor says, "Well, I'm not sure, but I think it's possible that this child has a deadly form of cancer. It may not really be what it looks like. It may just turn out to be a cold." Isn't it the parent's gut feeling to do everything possible to find out, and take measures to ensure the best chance for a long life? Isn't it that "pit-of-the-stomach" fear of loss that motivates the parent to seek whatever is necessary, no matter how painful or difficult it turns out to be? What kind of parent says "Oh, well I don't really think that that kind of cancer exists, and even if it does, I don't want to make my child uncomfortable, so we'll just go home and eat ice cream and play video games. Maybe he'll just get over it on his own."
We live in a spiritually cancerous culture. Every single soul in our society is living the spiritual equivalent of a two-pack-a-day smoker. Isn't it more urgent than ever to make people aware of the risks to their spiritual health?
Death due to cancer is a horrible way to end life. It is painful and undignified and ugly, but it can be redemptive. Death for eternity would really suck. No chance of anything but pain and ugliness. Forever. That is truly terrifying.