This little sermon from Pope Francis is very unusual given the times. It really speaks for itself.
In brief the Pope pleads with the Mafiosi in Italy to covert otherwise quite simply they will end up in hell. Now what is so unusual about this you may ask? Well when was the last time anyone heard a priest suggest explicitly someone would go to hell if they should not repent? It has been a very long time to say the least.
Now granted these are Mafiosi, I know, they are steeped in all kinds of mortal sin, murder, extortion, human trafficking, drug dealing etc etc.. If these guys are not headed to hell, well no one is right? Still there is something to praise here. The fact is that up until recently we have been hearing a lot of theology suggesting just the opposite. That no one actually goes to hell. I think the late Cardinal Hans Urs von Balthasaar’s theology of “dare we hope no one is in hell” is still very popular in many circles.
At Catholic Xray we have had a problem with the Balthasaar theology for a few reasons:
1) It is not obviously consistent with anything in scripture or anything that Christ says ( for example : see “And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,where ‘their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched, Mk; 9 :47-48 “
2) It is not consistent with the prior historical teachings of any theologians or doctors of the Church.
3) It is potentially spiritually dangerous as it undermines the drive to convert or at least its urgency.
4 It is theologically disturbing in some sense. Not that we relish the idea of anyone suffering eternal torment ( The prospect of this catastrophe is horrifying which is why we work out our own salvation in fear and trembling.) On the other hand it is difficult to imagine a just God allowing say the Gestapo who carried out the holocaust ending up with an eternal destiny ultimately not distinguishable from those they killed. This would be unjust and incomprehensible.
It would appear that Pope Francis has demonstrated that he rejects this theology and in fact implicitly endorsed the general concept that mortal sin is to be feared as the ultimate catastrophe. Now I again concede that the mortal sins he has in mind are so awful that I imagine even the among the leftist in the Church they will concede “OK.. maybe Mafia hit men and drug traffickers end up in hell but no one else..” For today this is not half bad. We will gladly accept this concession, and we will consider it a positive event that the Pope has asked someone to call to mind their sins and repent for the good of their eternal salvation. Let us pray that some listen to him.